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First off, the camera is awful - playing this for more than 10 minutes at a time makes me sick as a dog. The camera is also prone to getting caught in the scenery so you can't see what you're doing some of the time. Secondly, the maps are all the same. This is perhaps the most disappointing part. Sure the levels vary slightly and there's different things to do, but really, when you compare this to most AAA release titles, you start thinking that this should really have been an XBLA release. I wanted to like this game so much for being hyped up as something different and fun, but its just repetetive with lame graphics to go with the same boring map repeated x7......humph......
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For some reason, the critics were widely divided over this offering from Pandemic. Admittedly, I was hesitant about playing it because of the reviews, however, a massive price decrease since its release meant it found its way onto my xbox......and to my surprise, it turned out to be a couple of weeks worth of damn good, fun, addictive gaming.
The Saboteur starts well enough, throwing XP at you like its going out of fashion, and giving you a quick flash of what's on offer - however, it soon settles down after the intro to give you a handsome helping of driving, racing, shooting, blowing stuff up, escaping, and, for fun, a good plot with some good characters - oh, and a war time Paris occupied with plenty of Nazi's!
It's pretty much a mix of Grand Theft Auto and Assassins Creed in my opinion - the climbing part of AC, and the panoramic shots of famous monuments as you reach the top are a definite steal - however AC doesn't let you plant bombs on sniper nests, and it definitely doesn't give you an array of weaponry to fight the hun with! The GTA "do something naughty and run / drive away" part is also a steal but is still good fun, and a must for fans craving for more of that type of gameplay.
The main plot could be finished in a weeks worth of steady gaming, however, to clear all of the Nazi outposts / tanks and other military parafinalia out of Paris and its outer countryside regions could take you a decent fortnight - with the scenery turning from black and white to colour as you take out a certain number of the enemy, it certainly inspired me to turn on and blow-up......
So try The Saboteur - its good fun - and a little different - even if that difference is a combo of GTA and AC, those are still two mighty games to pilfer from.....enjoy!
Mass Effect 2
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I love Mass Effect. I really do. The story is great, and the gameplay involving and varied. However, having completed in in around 35 hours, and done with my fair share of planet scanning to boot, I'm left feeling slightly half-full. The gameplay / combat is a little dumbed-down, as reported in the wider media, but its still engrossing, although, without the Mako that little bit of open-ish world exploration is gone. The RPG element seen in the original is also reduced in ME2, and has certainly taken something out of the experience. The new planet scanning is tedious unless you get the upgrades early, and even then, the upgrade system as a whole didn't really do much for the characters. I was interested to see if I would be able to have some kind of shooting game with the upgraded Normandy guns, but alas, no....shame....
Another bone of contention lies with the achievements. The first games were quite wide ranging, but ME2's can all be achieved through one if not 2 play-throughs.....leaving me wondering how much has been held back as DLC. I was also sad to see that the Paragon / Renegade decision-making only affected face scarring and wasn't rewarded / recognised in any other way.....again, disappointing from a fan-boy perspective.
As a whole, I liked ME2, and yes, the graphics are (slightly) improved) and the storyline still as compelling as you'd expect - its just not everything I expected it to be. I think the 100% scores splashed on Metacritic have made it over-hyped to a point, suffering slightly from the Halo-experience, where everyone said Halo 2 was the greatest thing ever, when sadly it wasn't.......ME2 is good, its just not epic like the original. ROll on ME3, and the conclusion of a very decent series.
Assassin's Creed II
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I absolutely detested the first Assassins Creed and lampooned it for being boring and repetitive. However, a change of setting and time period has done wonders for it, and Assassins Creed 2 is now a more well-rounded product. There is still the repetetive element to the gameplay, and the climbing part in particular still grates a little, however, its not so bad as the scenery makes up for it...and what scenery it is! The graphics really are gorgeous thoughout, which when combined with the slick character movement from the first AC make it a wonder to behold.
The storyline is pretty decent. A number of reviews cited a crumbling and daft storyline, but I think it holds good. There's even room for some DLC which is more good news.
I do have a bone of contention with the controls still though. Working my wat through the Assassins tombs was a nightmare. And why the devloper chose tomb 5 to make you learn a new jump technique is beyond me.....in fact, some of the random leaps to nowhere in the open game left me cursing the loudest I have in a long time.....
All in all I liked the puzzle solving, array of take-downs and jumping around in general (not the random leaps to death though...). So much so, I will be paying-out for the two further DLC installments, and mkaing a note to look for news of Assassins Creed 3....hell, I may even give the Assassins Creed original another bash.....
DJ Hero (includes Turntable Controller)
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I bought this mid way through December after a long period of time debating over whether or not this would match the success / enjoyment and playability of Guitar Hero / Rock Band. The cost for the new peripheral was also a factor - however, I can happily confirm that DJ Hero is as addictive and good as GH and RB and the price is totally justified (even more so since a few pounds have been knocked-off its release price.
The deck is easy to use and it has been designed well enough to lock into the songs you're playing, making you feel as though you're in control enough of your actions to determine overall success / failure during play. The soundtrack itself crosses a range of song mixes which will ensure many hours of fun!
I've completed easy / medium levels and am currently trying to crack 5 stars on hard - this is super difficult but just as rewarding as Guitar Hero when you break that super hard song thats been buging you for days....the online match-ups are also pretty cool, though its pretty hard to see how this can be expanded on in the future - in fact, the only way I can see this format heading is additional DLC - but thats not necessarily a bad thing - hell, GH and RB have been getting away with it for years!
ANyways, DJ Hero is well worth your time and money - besides, at least its not ANOTHER GT or RB re-hash :) - Happy New YEar all.
Tropico III (3)
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Are you looking for something a little different? Had your fill of shooters and racing games this year? If so, then why not invest your money in a sim game with a latino twist and a large dose of humour!
Tropico 3 is perhaps better known by PC Gamers, however, its now got its first console release, and its pretty darn swell. Sure its a take on Sim City - a take which see's you build a tropical island as your own dictator or one of many other preset figures from history.
The graphics are good for the type of game, and the gameplay itself is engrossing and enjoyable and spans over 15 campaign missions, and several other challenge and sandbox modes. Considering the price its made available, and the amount of stuff to do, its a bargain.
I do have the odd gripe with the camera and the on-screen menus, and road building can be a pain, but these are outweighed by the games other positive traits.
Try it - you might be pleasantly surprised.
Dragon Age: Origins
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I find it interesting that others have reviewed this already and cast it off, or made complaints about cut-scenes. Please ignore these reviews. RPG's, in the most part, are played by people who enjoy in-depth aspects of games, and DO want to explore maps and get involved in a plot line. On that front, I can confirm that the plot is excellent, and the maps are there for hours worth of exploration. 20 hours gameplay since release tells me this. Other reviewers seem to have been discontented after only an hour or two....
So. Is the game any good? I laughed a bit at the excellent mish mash of Fable / Oblivion / Mass Effect storyline and gameplay. Even the map of Feraldon looks a bit to similar to Oblivions own map (note the sea and lake areas). The 'mashing an A button to defeat everyone' isn't quite that simple. as that All buttons are used depending on how you wish to attack. Perhaps 'just pressing A' works on easy-level, but not on hard, that's for sure.....
The graphics are quite good in my opinion. They're not as cartton-esque as Fable 2, but they are a step-up on Oblivion. It's not open-world, but there's still plenty to do. In fact, I would go as far as saying this is a Medieval Mass Effect, and an excellent stop-gap between ME1 and ME2. Those moral decisions are still there to be made, which was one of the more interesting features of Mass Effect. The romantic relationships bit is also still there, which made me chortle!
On the 20 hour mark, I can describe Dragon Age as an engrossing encounter, well worth your time if you're not busy shooting things on MW2. It sits well within the RPG genre, and competes for the spotlight as much as anyone.....and yes, I do have another 20-40 hours, and I'm looking forward to them immensely.
Lego Batman: The Video Game
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For me, the whold Lego series of games is characterised by the joyful smashing up of bricks and THAT special breaking sound effect followed by the coin ring.....its unmistakable....
I enjoyed Star Wars, thought I wouldn't like Indian Jones, and didn't bother buying Batman on release as I thought I'd had enough,but no, tempted I was, and it enjoyed it muchly I did.
Like its predecessors, the straight run through is fun to play, and the comic storyline combined with little touches of humour and standard LEgo game problem solving components made this a worthy addition to the franchise. However, if you'rean experienced Lego gamer, you'll know the real fun begins with the Free-Play - getting those Red Bricks and ALL the cannisters is really where it's at.....here, Lego Batman does not dissapoint....
Some say Batman is the biggest of the Lego series, and I'm inclined to agree. There are 30 different sections, so when you add the Free Play that's a good 60 sections, plus the Wayne Manor bit (which wasn't working on my copy for some reason), so it's good value for money - even if it is a little easy (hence the 7+ tag on the front of the box).
So what next? Lego Terminator? Lego James Bond? I'd buy it, though really I'd hope that they'd push the boat out and try something a little different aside from the tried and tested brick-smashing, cannister colelcting, prolem solving, character swapping/collecting fiesta they've done 3 times now (4 if you count Star Wars twice)....
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Mass Effect was good. It was big. It was engaging.......and the characters had a stupid way of running that was forever the butt (ha) of jokes around the xbox 360 console fire.....however, when you get past that it's a pretty good buy (i got mine 2nd hand for £9.99!). Best sci-fi RPG on the xbox 360? Mmm....errr....well, yeah, but I doesn't match Knights of the Old Republic on the original xbox...but hey, I'm nit-picking.....
Mass Effect's planet roaming extavaganza is quite big....it has been surpassed since release (Fallour 3, Far Cry 2 etc) but its still pretty big and will give you a good 50 hours on a thorough play-through.
The choice of charater and background is fun, and leaves room for revisits, and the varaition between combat, general planet exploration (bases and driving around) and walking around the main Citadel doing quests is all pretty swell. The graphics are also pretty good (despite the comedy run), and the fact that somebody has had to create other galaxy's and the planets within them is down-right awesome....even the little factual bits on each planet is a nice touch. I enjoyed the buggy rides around those planets you could land on.....even if some of the more rocky ones were a pain....especially when I got stuck (twice) and had to go back to a save that was 10 minutes old(hey, a lot can happen in 10 minutes!)
The storyline was engaging, and my thirst for completing quests so I could level-up made it is highly addictive, but only when you get a grip of the Citadel's layout and how to traverse the galaxy map(prior to this, it is a little slow). I've read reviews that have mentioned the games aimless lack of clarity...but that's only if you don't read the instruction booklet and are one of those gamers that likes to be spoon-fed.....in which case, you shouldn't really be picking up RPG's.....and I also doubt you enjoyed Oblivion and thought that Fable 2 was good.....anyways, I digress....
The 'naughty scenes' mentioned in the news aren't really naughty....it's just, well, a bitt different.....the lead character is fairly cardboard compared to the charcter you interact with to do 'the do", so the whole thing was really rather tepid.....but hey, it gave the game some exposure, and probably helped shift a few units. I was more interested in the YouTube clip showing your character hitting a news reporter and calling her rude names....sadly, I didn't choose the path in game that allowed me to do that particular bit...
All in all, Mass Effect is a worthy purchase that will keep you occupied for a good while. Especially if you're of a sci-fi bent and you appreciate good graphics, an interesting plot and are looking for an RPG which doubles-up as a squad based shooter.
It's been about 3 weeks since I took the decision to trade in Fallout 3, much to my reluctance....such is my policy of trade before you buy, and for the first time in a long time I'm actually missing a game.....Fallout's massive roaming landscape, abundance (and variety) of enemies and the glee of just discovering somewhere new really REALLY got me....
All in all, I put in 100 gaming hours (so my last save says) on this absolute peach of a game. I visited every spot on the map, I did the storyline a few times, I played good, bad, science, thief and gun toting wastelander....it was just such an awesome gaming experience that its virtually left a radiation scar/mark on me.
I played Mass Effect directly from completing Fallout after reading all the good review, coupled with the fact that you can get it for under a tenner now. But you know what? For all its massive stroyline, news-worthy naughty-bits and planet travelling RPG fantasticallness, I actually found it kind of boring.....perhaps, bland(?) in comparison to F3 (..and people say the Fallout 3 landscape is samy and bleak! Duh?!).....in my opnion, Fallout is bigger, has more atmosphere, better enemies, better storyline, better weapons, better everything.....that's just how good Fallout is.....it made Mass Effect look weak.....
...did I mention atmoshpere? Did I......Fallout 3 has night and day cycles.....and whilst my fledgling character had only basic weapons and abilities, I was actually slightly wary of travelling about when it got dark and high tailed it back to Magaton to sleep....(made the hairs stand on the back of my neck....)
In fact, I dare you to buy this game and get to the point where you step outside of Vault 101 for the first time and tell me you're not impressed / phased by what you first see.....for the above reasons, Bethesda have put everything together here to create a work of genius.....hell, I'm even considering by the special lunchbox edition thingy, it was THAT good.....