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Battlefield 3: Limited Edition
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Ive had BF3 for a month now and I like it. It's got everything I like about a Bf game. But I feel like this game is over hyped. I was expecting a huge leap forward like what BF2 did for the franchise but there isnt much here that really innovates like the developers seemed to promise. I felt Bad Company 2 was a decent console effort but still lacking due to the shoddy controls and dull campaign.
The campaign here is a massive disappointment. After the trailer way back in March the campaign looked like a great modern combat simulator with great set pieces and heart pounding game play. Instead its just boring. Doing the exact same thing as Call of Duty. Something Infinity Ward did better 4 years ago. It's linear, lacks any choice like you would get in the Multiplayer, heavily scripted, predictable, slow, sometimes cheap, and has a cliched forgettable story.
Co-op is here and it's similar to Call of Dutys Spec Ops mode from 2009. (Its hard to write a review for this game without mentioning Cod because there are some blatant similarities). You can play with 2 players online ONLY. Why is there no splitscreen?? because it would degrade visual quality?? Come on Dice there are more important things than graphics. Anyway once you team up with a friend its fun and does a better job of preparing you for MP (which is what anyone buys Bf for) than the campaign. Theres some good variety like stealth missions and a helicopter level. But, there are only 6 missions with little incentive to replay after you beat them. There are weapons you can unlock for the MP but its very tedious.
Now the Multiplayer is the reason we all play BF and reason this franchise exists. So what we have here is 9 maps and the exact same game modes as Bad Company 2 (TDM is not a new game mode and it's been around since the 1990s). We also have enhanced destructibility and jets. Making their first appearance since 2005. Well, it's fun. There are only 24 players but it's got everything I want from a BF game like good customization, tonnes of unlocks, big maps, vehicles and solid gun play. The class customization has been tweaked so there are 3 attachments for each primary weapon. Added bullet damage, body armor and explosive damage are gone to help balance the game and new equipment increase the variety for each class. Vehicles have been nerfed somewhat which make the game more balanced. No more idiotic strafing helicopters. The gunplay is more like a twitch shooter. Controls are solid and near identical to the previous game and make everything fast paced and you also die very quickly. Unusual for a Bf game. One major problem here is it does feel like a grind to unlock new equipment and attachments. I only play maybe an hour or so a day and I'm getting really bogged down.
So here's the problem. Where's the leap forward? Where's the innovation that was promised? I enjoy this game but its very similar to BC2 with a new engine. For anyone who has experienced a 64 player BF game will know this isn't the same with 24 players. No new game modes, some new gadgets and tweaked customization dont really warrant the hype this game received. There have been 4 BF game since Battlefield 2 (7 if you include downloadable titles) and none of those games have pushed the envelope like BF2 did. Battlefield 3 is the same. It is fun, good looking, sharp to play and rewarding. We were promised that this would push the boundaries of FPSs forward. It doesnt. Its a great game. Game of the Year sadly it is not.
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First off the good points. The setting is portrayed in such a grisly fashion it really gives you a reason to fight. With a great tagline of home is where the war is, the chilling opening bus ride and portrayal of modern America with baseball stadiums used as mass graves and schools used as detainment camps is outstanding. Everything feels very visceral and even though Im not American but I ultimately wanted to start shooting right away. I had fun with the single player as there are some excellent set pieces and scenes of destruction amid the chaos. The drone like tank known as goliath is great fun to use. The last level in particular is very enjoyable.
The gun play feels solid and very connected. Its not as heavy footed as BF but not as twitchy as COD. So it falls right in the middle of the two. It has a pick up and play feel to it (not to mention the controls are identical to COD). There are some excellent additions in the multiplayer notably battle points, where you earn points from capturing flags and kills to earn bonuses such as air strikes, drones, armoured vehicles and helis. The battle commander feature gives you a bounty for long kill streaks as well as additional points for eliminating the top or dominant player.
I enjoyed the campaign but felt the execution was too linear even compared to Call of Duty. The amount of times I had to wait for my team mate to open a door or move to progress was infuriating. The characters could be interesting such as you being a former marine pilot and having a Korean American fighting for you. But the dialogue is flat and I didnt care if they lived or died. The missions felt repetitive with you slogging through the Korean army in each mission and you can even see where your enemy respawns. There are some vehicle sections but feel very tedious and predictable and the heli level in Black Ops was much more fun.
Not to mention a pretty terrible stealth level where you can only kill enemies your team mate picks out for you. This game is heavily scripted and it almost breaks up the flow of the entire game. I also died very cheaply a number of times. Such as Korean soldiers shooting at me when an ally is standing right in front of them and being killed by RPGs which land in the doorway where Im taking cover. I dont want to hate on this game but the Single player is seriously flawed and far too short even by Black ops and Bad company 2 standards. With an abrupt ending where the credits roll as soon as you finish the final mission.
Coming off of Crysis 2 the single player is very weak. The linear level experience such as CoD is indeed getting tired but Black ops and MW2 did the same thing ten times better, with more interesting plots (barely) and characters with more charisma. I dont want to spend too much complaining about the graphics but they are ugly. Graphics dont make a game but they are noticeably bad. I have definitely been spoilt by Crysis.
Overall, a uninspiring campaign and a decent but limited multiplayer component means I am seriously let down at this game. It has some good moments and the multiplayer is fun. But so far this is probably the biggest let down of 2011. And this could be a statement that modern military FPSs are getting rather tired. There will be a sequel so heres hoping, as there is a lot of room for improvement.
Call Of Duty: Black Ops
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I have been playing call of duty since day one. Since 2003 when the original launched. The trade in for a different developer hasn't been kind to Treyarch as infinity Ward manage to stay ahead of the game. But Treyarch have pulled out all the stops to create one of the best Call of Duty's yet.
The campaign is short and sweet. The controls are the same asevery other COD since 2007 so anyone familiar with the series will be right at home. As usual there's lots of explosions, a plot for another World War and a lot of the main character will die. The story starts off well with you assassinating Castro, and you move between fighting the Vietnamese and the Soviet union - this is the cold war after all. Sadly the jumping around between different characters means you grow detached and the story becomes insignificant and more about revenge than avoiding war. Ultimately it's well crafted and you will want to see it through to the end. While this is based on real events there's no way of telling what is true and what is fiction.The ending also left me pondering but in a very good way.
The variety is good, although you feel each segment wasn't utilised correctly. For instance the stealth segments are short, and one great part has you directing your squad through a blizzard only to zoom in and control a soldier on the ground. It's a great change of pace but only last for 5minutes which is shame. The voice acting is good and it be over in 6 hours, it's all killer no filler.
I'll try and be brief about the multi player. It's undoubtly better than MW2. Thanks to Treyarch listening to constant feedback and correcting any problems like quickscoping, one man army and commando which are long gone. It's very well balanced and the COD points mean you can find your favourite weapon and attachments in a matter of hour. This does reduce experimentation but it's up to you how you play. They played it safe , but in a good way. I'm still playing since launch day and I'm still enjoying myself. Which I blatantly can't say the same about MW2.
If there's anything to be disappointed by it's the Zombie mode. There's only two maps and a few new features but nothing ground breaking. I expect more maps down the line but I would expect more as it was the finest part of WAW. Here it's the weakest. Still Fun of course I was just expecting more. The graphics are great, but MW2 did look better. The engine is showing it's age with an ugly amount of pop-in in the multi player. Sometimes the graphics look superb, other times not so much. The palate is more muddy and gritty (like WAW) but the lush levels in Vietnam will change your mind.
Overall treyarch have made a fun Co-op game, a well balanced Multi player and a strong if short Single player Campaign. I never pay full price for a game, but this is the exception. It feel and plays like COD, and as a fan of the series since day one this is the first Treyarch game I feel is worthy of the COD name.
It is getting a bit old with Activision rehashing the same game play every year, but ultimately I'm having a blast. Which is what gaming is all about.
Crysis 2: Limited Edition
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As a fan of the original Crysis I have been eagerly anticipating this game over the last year or so. Thankfully I didn't have to worry about the ridiculous system requirements hampering PC gaming.
For me, the single player is one of the best campaigns I've played since Half Life 2 or Bioshock. It took me nearly 15 hours to beat it but it will depend on how you play. But don't take any notice of anyone who says it took them 6 hours to beat. The Story is rather forgettable and the characters are your typical gruff army captain and edgy scientist type. There isn't much of a bridge between Crysis 1 and anyone unfamiliar with the first game will be clueless to who Prophet is. There's also little explanation to what happened to the protagonist Nomad and Psycho, which is unfortunate. The alien Invasion escalates as you progress, with a good variety of enemies and set pieces that are simply awe inspiring.
The game play feels much more focused and there's less micro managing of the suit abilities. The controls feel a little overcrowded but you get used to them pretty quickly. Armour and Stealth can be activated with the shoulder buttons and the power and speed are combined to be the default mode. A huge improvement. The levels are smaller but more unique and the tactical visor gives you multiple options to use the environment. For me this was the best part, by using cars to crush enemies, performing stealth kills, throwing enemies at one another and doing parkour to explore. It starts off a bit slow but things begin to escalate into thrilling spectacles and more enjoyable set pieces than the first game. Overall it feels tighter and more streamlined, making for great tactical encounters and gunfights. The gunplay feels very authentic as you can't pop someone with a headshot from 200 yards away.
I Originally played the MP demo in January and it sold me on the game. There were a few problems but the customization and use of the nano suit were so much fun. Sadly I feel the finished product is somewhat unbalanced and very frustrating. The tap of the armour button can determine whether you live in gunfights. Players who are level 50 will have a significant advantage of new comers. There are some great modes and levels but I can't see myself playing this for months to come. The first Crysis had a great 32 player vehicle based mode which is completely absent here, instead Crytek have opted for a COD clone. Which is a disappointment.
Of course it's a Crytek game so the graphics are outstanding. The console versions suffer from some off putting object pop in. But the weather effects, lighting, texture work and sheer scale make it seem like a minor complaint. PC gamers need to learn graphics aren't everything and I don't need to worry about system requirements. Also the soundtrack is one of the best I've heard in a video game. The enemy AI is not terrible but will sometimes get stuck in the environment and may even be oblivious to a teamate who has fallen over dead next to them. It doesn't ruin the game and it's actually rather funny.
So the Multi player was a disappointment for me. But the length and quality of the game play and single player more than make up for it. It's one of the best FPS I've played in recent years, and even better than the original.
Red Dead Redemption
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After playing GTA 4 and after being dramatically let down I was very apprehensive about this game despite the positive reviews. I got this game for Christmas, and played 47 hours in around 2 weeks.
You play as John Marston, who is sent to bring in (or bring down) members of his former gang after his wife and son are kidnapped by the government. You meet a range of colourful characters who offer you money in exchange for doing tasks. So its GTA in the Wild West. Yes, but its better. The story is great as you feel sympathy for Marston on his quest and the voice acting is exceptional. But you will run into a bunch of cliched Mexicans, straight from a Spaghetti Western.
As an open world game this is brilliant. In between following the story you can complete hunting challenges, collect herbs, find treasure, take on bounties, tame horses, gamble and do night watch missions among others. There is a huge variety of side missions which make this feel like you are in the Wild West. Not to mention the random encounters where you may find someone being hung, small gunfights, stage coach assaults, help people from animal attacks and many more. Theres so much to that if you chose to follow the story you are missing out on so much. I could talk about the design and content of this game for hours, but Ive only got a certain number of characters.
The gunplay is similar to GTA4 but more forgiving, and the inclusion of checkpoints makes things less painful. There's no health and instead you regenerate it over time. But you cant take ungodly amounts of damage. Your dead eye makes taking out groups of enemies a breeze and can seem overpowered if you use it too much. Its fun and accessible but not too challenging to begin with. Hardcore gamers may find it too easy as there isnt skill needed. The horseback riding may not be as fun as driving a car, but the fast travel options mean you wont have to undergo riding from one end of the map to the other. So a lot of potential annoyances have been ironed out.
While the graphics, story, voice acting, game play and open world are great this game isnt perfect. Its a long game and missions become repetitive by the time you enter Mexico. No matter what missions you do you will have to kill someone. This shows a lack of creativity and some missions in the middle of the game feel like filler. I did feel sympathy towards Marston but he is somewhat aggressive, and I cant count how many times he said Ill put a bullet in your head during a cut scene. At times he is somewhat unlikeable. The ending, while astonishing, made me somewhat angry and annoyed. It was a hard hitting ending and one of the best Ive seen in a video game but as a personal preference I hated it. I just didnt find it satisfying.
Overall, this game is stellar on so many levels. The combat is somewhat easy and the missions can become repetitive. But as a single player adventure its one of the best of the year and maybe even Rockstars best game to date. Even if you are not interested in the Wild West this game may change your mind. Giving this game one star shows a substantial amount of ignorance. I cant recommend this game enough. A Must Buy.
P.S. Play would not let me upload this review with apostrophes, so my punctuation looks bad. I cant help it.
Mass Effect 2
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Theres not much I can say about the game that hasnt already been said. I did play the original Mass Effect and found it to be a massive disappointment as the reviews were positive, but found the combat to be abysmal. I bought this a few months ago and I am on my second play through.
First off, the story is epic. Following on from ME1, the Normandy is destroyed and Shepard is revived over a two year rehabilitation process after being killed. Under orders from a shady organisation called Cerberus you must assemble a team to fight a race known as the collectors who are abducting human colonies. You will run into a number of memorable characters from ME1 as well as new characters. Such as the assassin Thane who is probably one of the coolest characters I have ever encountered.
The presentation is also exceptional. The music is epic, the graphics are superb, the voice acting is stellar and the animation is brilliant. I rarely get sucked into story in video game. Only a few games do it for me such as RDR and Bioshock. The character development is also a highlight as you build your squad and take on loyalty missions where you learn about their past and relationships with relatives. You can also choose between being good or evil resulting in you unlocking new conversation trees and receiving rewards and XP for you actions. In terms of storytelling alone, this game could be made into a movie without any effort.
The combat has come on leaps and bounds since ME1 and the tedious micro managing is gone. The inventory is no longer a hassle and your squad mates are actually capable in combat. It plays similar to Gears as you press A to take cover and lean out to shoot. A huge improvement over ME1s atrocious cover system. The biotic abilities and ammo types add much variety to the combat as you must tailor you approach for each race you fight. Overall its much more streamlined and plays more like a third person shooter than an RPG. And no Mako which is an instant win.
There are a handful of slight annoyances. Such as the cover system being too sticky where I would be sprinting and take cover behind an object I didnt even see and being completely exposed. The mini games are tedious notably the scanning game. The lack of planet exploration and small number of planets you can return to is unfortunate (although it was repetitive in ME1) and instead of finding missions scanning random planets they are found in the same place every time. So I found a list off the internet instead. The levels are very linear and the indoor locations are a bit samey. And once you finish a mission you cant return to explore. The DLC is overpriced; you pay 7 pounds for a 90 minute mission.
Overall its actually game of the year. Which I didnt expect as the original Mass Effect was somewhat overrated. The combat is vastly improved and less RPG the story is more dynamic and the presentation draws you into a rich and exciting world. Its been a year since ME2 and I cant see why anyone hasnt played this game. A worthy game of the year if I ever saw one. Mass Effect 3 will likely take 2011s. Buy this now.
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I bought this game simply due to the heavy comparisons to Bioshock, and I'm glad I did. While it may not be original or anywhere near perfect I believe this didn't receive the attention it deserved.
The singleplayer is by no means your standard FPS affair. Taking place in present day you investigate an abandoned island once used for research by the Soviet Union. In the 1950s a massive explosion known as the Singularity caused chaos meaning the island was evacuated. As a result of the fallout many people were left behind and mutated in to monsters. You jump between 1950s and present day in order to change the past to correct the future. The gunplay feels solid and there's a good variety of weapons (albeit somewhat limited) with some really creative ideas. Such as grenade launcher where you steer the projectile and a rifle where you control the flight of the bullet. There's a challenging array of mutants and bosses to fight, which are extremely difficult on the hardest setting.
The gameplay is similar to Bioshock in a number of ways. You collect E99 to level up your character and TMD used to manipulate time. With this you can cause enemies age faster, turn into into mutants and freeze them for example. The controls are slightly confusing at first as some powers take more than one button to perform. But the TMD lets you run riot on you enemies which leads to alot of gruesome deaths and also fun.
This game was scheduled for release in 2008, and it shows graphically. It's not ugly but some glitches and poor textures mar the graphics. Although there is an immense sense of atmosphere, and the gun models and effects look outstanding. I love the clean medical look of the 50s until your return to present day to see everything decaying. The story is surprisingly engrossing, the voice acting won't win any awards, but gives you something to fight for.
I whole heartedly recommend picking this game up at the cheap price. At 10 hours you'll certainly get a lot of enjoyment out of it. It's unfortunate this game didn't receive any attention but I truly believe this is a must for FPS fans, and the hidden gem of the year.
Mystery Jets - CD
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The Mystery jets have never been a truly innovative band. Back in 2005 along with the likes of Razorlight and the Arctic Monkeys, the Mystery jets were heavily tipped to conquer Britain's Indie scene. Sadly they didn't quite take off (scuse the pun) Instead they settled in with the dozens of young (often generic) indie bands working today. Of course songs such as Two doors down and Young Love showed what they are capable of. But Serotonin has finally cemented them as one of Britain's brightest and best working today.
Listening through this album I noticed a more grown up sound. gone are the red and blue drainpipes and converse, and I found a much more appealing and memorable album. Alice Springs opens the album with a Radiohead quality to it. Flash a Hungry Smile and Serotonin has the same 80's catchy chorus which is what made Two doors Down so memorable, the beginning riffs had me hooked.
Songs such as Lady Grey has a more hardcore feel to it, and Girl is Gone has a contaigous dance like quality. Offering some variety and not boring us with the same indie guitar riff. There's the odd cliched lyric here and there but this feels much more heartfelt and purposeful.
It's still Indie. But it's it's top draw stuff. It won't reinvent the genre but this album is a definite stand out of the year. I found it very hard to listen to this album without a smile on my face. Undoubtedly the best Mystery Jets album to date, and a worthy Mercury prize nominee at that.
The Pacific (HBO) (With Exclusive Photo Book)
Obviously, this will be compared to Band of Brothers, and yes it's not as good. But it's still better than the 90% of the wretched TV plaguing our screens. The Pacific is Fantastic but doesn't have the spark that made Band of Brothers so memorable.
As with BoB this is brilliantly acted with a fairly unknown cast to reflect the ordinary soldiers thrown into a global conflict. Each episode follows multiple characters with varying battles and fights from the The Pacific Theatre. The action is also the equivalent of a major motion picture making most fights thrilling throughout. Although I wasn't hooked....
First off the Pacific Theatre doesn't interest me as much as the other World war two settings. I can't name enough battles to make me intrigued and want to watch again and again. Also alot of the setting is the same throughout. And I didn't feel a connection with the majority of the cast. As with BoB I wanted every member of easy company to make it home.
It's definately the best Drama you'll find this year. The Pacific is good but I missed an episode or two as it just wasn't quite as memorable as Band of Brothers. Worth Watching: Definitely. A new series maybe: Yes Please.
The Gaslight Anthem - CD
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I've been a fan of Gaslight Anthem since the release of the 59 Sound in 2008. It's the kind of musical quality I listen to and think 'why isn't this band huge?'. It's very different to the usual music you hear in the charts. It's the kind of music which has been finely crafted and not shunted out by the record company to make a quick buck.
Of course the Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty comparisons will be in thick and fast. But it's more than that. The sound varies greatly, from the loud stadium rock of American Slang to the sincere soul inspired ballad of We Did It When We Were Young. The lyrics tell a story, which is what Brian Fallon is an expert at. It's more than just a song about love and loss, It's clearly from past experiences. Which are what work best.
Other stand out songs include Boxer with an extremely catchy chiming bass line and guitar riff. And the upbeat feel good song Diamond Church Street Choir which show Gaslight Anthem have not strayed from their roots. The post punk sound such as Old Haunts and the fast paced punk sound of Orphans offer variety. Which manages to expand on their previous album.
Through the years their music has matured and become better and better. I thought it was difficult to top the 59 Sound, but this album is as good as, if not better. fans of the Gaslight Anthem will adore this album like I do. If your not a fan of the Gaslight Anthem, I feel sorry for you. You're missing out on pure quality.
Recently I've been under the impression that music is more about business. Companies find a someone who can sing, give them a song and watch as they bring in millions and millions. This is the opposite, It's excellent song writing talent coupled with a sense of ambition. To me their's nothing else quite like this band around at the moment.