Category Archives: Games

Review: The Settlers 7 (PC)

By Daniel Lipscombe

The Settlers 7 is a game about waiting, well; actually it’s a game about settling your people in a comfortable town and protecting them. But mostly it’s a game about waiting. I found myself waiting for much of my time with The Settlers 7. I started by waiting for hours while the game tried to install onto my PC.

Then once I’d installed the game I had to create an Ubisoft account and only then could I actually see the title screen. It’s a wistful one at that, full of hope and prosperity. Venturing forth from this moment I grinned from ear to ear at the wonderful character design and animations. Everything about the visual style of the game oozed charm, from the colourful cut scenes to the portly little men scurrying around town.

The same can be said for the games aural standing. The lilting bird call is only interrupted by the tutorial style voiceovers or occasional sounds emanating from your villagers. It’s all very pleasant, exactly what you want from an RTS style game. Although here’s where The Settlers differs so wildly from a game such as Age of Empires. There’s a lot of waiting around.

In a standard RTS you would have to monitor each of your villagers and make sure they stay on their path. If you point a citizen at a berry bush they will stay until there are no more berries, then you can point them elsewhere. In The Settlers they just sort of, well, get on with their lives. Which is great but it leaves you just watching.

If you want to build something that requires ten pieces of stone and you don’t have enough, you wait. But not just for a few minutes, for some time. Watching as the stone pile slowly increases and then you wait as the constructer waddles his way to the building site. Granted once he’s finished you have a lovely export office, but during those ten minutes, there is little else to do but watch and drum those little fingers on the desk.

There is a way to make them move and build faster, by giving them a better quality of food. To be honest I didn’t notice a vast difference and I learnt to watch snatches of DVDs whilst I waited. The overarching issue with the game is that, whilst it’s all very entertaining actually building these villages, once you’ve built what you want they just get on with things.

In a world with games such as The Sims, The Settlers flaws stand out far too well. These moments of down time could have been solved with a speed up button. Zipping through these waiting sections could have kept my attention for a lot longer. Another want would have been direct control over some of the people.

In one instance I found myself literally screaming at the monitor as the constructor stood outside his shack tapping his foot rather than working on the buildings I wanted. And it wasn’t even a lack of resources; he just stood there looking all smug.

When everything is running smoothly, The Settlers ticks along nicely with achievements popping up and the game congratulating you when you do something well. The mechanics of the game are deep and inspiring. It’s exciting to look through the build menu and see what will be coming up soon. It may be quite sad but I was genuinely excited to see that I could raise sheep, farm their wool and tailor clothes for trading overseas. But even when you open up more options later in the game, there’s more waiting and toe tapping than ever.

It’s only in skirmish mode that the waiting ends as you can move at more of a pace that you choose rather than one the computer dictates. And seemingly skirmish mode is a little more fun than the campaign. Given an expanse of land opponents of your choice and plenty of time, you can create lovely battles or devastating wars.

I could have enjoyed my time with The Settlers 7 a lot more if some mechanics had been implemented, but I was still blown away by how cute and approachable the game was on the whole. So would I recommend it? I’m torn by this game very much, whilst on one hand The Settlers is a solid game that is deserving of your time, on the other hand we have Ubisofts new DRM plan.

Now this is not the place to debate about such issues, but it needs to be considered. Playing on a desktop I only lost my internet connection once. The game froze and asked if I wanted to save the game in case the connection didn’t re-establish. Once the broadband had come back to life, the game continued. Now this isn’t an issue to me but a laptop user may struggle, Wi-Fi signals aren’t the best and constant drops in connection will hinder your progress.

This without even mentioning the Ubisoft servers going down leaving you with nothing more than a shiny coaster for your tea whilst you, once again, wait for the servers to reignite. Be aware of this when you approach this charming little game; remember that you can never play this game without your internet connection. But whilst the technology obeys, you can experience a gem of a strategy game.

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Splinter Cell Conviction Competition – Win a Copy of the Game

Thanks to the wonderful folks at Ubisoft, electro-candy are pleased to be  able to run a competition to win one copy of Splinter cell Conviction for the xbox 360 and three runner up prizes of a Splinter Cell Conviction projector torch.

In order to win the competition all you have to do is be over 18 yrs of age and able to give the  answer to the following simple question.

In Matt’s review, which you can find here, what quiz show does he make reference to ?

Please email your answer to electrocandy@hotmail.co.uk

The winner will be chosen on 30 April 2010 at 7pm

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Splinter Cell : Conviction (xbox360)

By Matt Carey

When Hideo Kajima brought the “stealth” genre to the forefront in video games way back in 1998 there was, predictably, a whole slew of games jumping on the band wagon like a randy bijon frise jumps on a leg. Over the years Mr Snake inspired many a rip off, from Tenchu with little stealthy ninjas, to Manhunt and its snuff movie themes, and they all had varying degrees of success. One of the most successful franchises have been the Tom Clancy games developed by Ubisoft.

More-so than Ghost Recon – a squad based shooter with certain stealth mechanics – the Splinter Cell series has been the one that really focuses in on the concept of hiding in shadows and offing bad guys before they can see you. Launching in 2002, Splinter Cell focused itself very much in the real world, ignoring the slightly futuristic leanings of Metal Gear, and defiantly paying no attention to the fantastical that Kojima’s universe explores. Instead, the plots were feasible, the enemies closer to home, and the gamer felt like a cross between James Bond and a ninja. This is, without doubt, a very good thing.

And so we arrive at Splinter Cell Conviction, the second of the series to grace this generation of consoles, and we also find a new direction for Sam Fisher’s espionage exploits.

Now, whether you love it or loathe it, the Metal Gear series manages to at least be somewhat interesting when it comes to spinning a yarn. Sure, it may be a bit too sci-fi, and yes, those cut scenes go on for so long that by the time they have finished you have grown a beard the length of the Thames, but at least it’s all a bit interesting. They take modern day problems and fears, stick them a few years into the future and envelope them in a ton of technology that, if truth be told, will probably never, ever exist. But, because of al l this you end up with an engaging narrative. SC: Conviction, however, is more confusing than the questions on Eggheads.

It becomes apparent that a full and encyclopaedic knowledge of Sam Fisher – you -, Third Echelon – your bosses – and every single nuance of history for the two would be helpful in understanding what is going on. At first it all seems simple enough; a drunk ran over and killed your daughter at the end of the previous game. You go off the grid and want revenge in this one. This seems great, and sets the scene for a stealth game that doesn’t rely as much on the tech you are used to in games of this type. For about five minutes. What follows is one of the most unoriginal conspiracy storylines ever witnessed in video game history. And all of this is compounded by the assumptions that you are not a newcomer to the series. As it is, the game is filled with meaningless waffle that went so far over my head that it ended up in orbit.

Whilst I wholeheartedly applaud Ubisofts approach of placing Fisher in civilian clothing and taking him out of his gimp suit, along with stripping it back down to basics, I also want to clip them round the ears too. Apparently, “back to basics” means “kill a lot of people”. This pretty much spits in the face of ‘stealth’ and defiles the rotting corpse of ‘sneak’ for it seems that Splinter Cell has turned into “Generic 3rd Person Action Game: Conviction”. Yes, the hiding in shadows and shinning up drain pipes is still present, but it isn’t in any way necessary. Instead, the game seems to be more like Gears Of War, what with its reliance on ‘cover and shoot’ with a sprinkling of ‘choke the unsuspecting guard’ thrown in for good measure.

I’ll give you an example. I rounded a corner to find a little office area with about 5 guards dotted around. A quick inspection told me that I could quite easily scoot onto the roof of said office. And there I sat for half an hour because, whilst a couple of guards were wandering around, the others stayed perfectly still, with no way of getting past them without killing them. This would be fine if the act of silently enveloping a bullet with someone’s brain didn’t alert all the other guards instantly. But it does. And they see you immediately. A gun fight ensues, you murder the meat sacks, and you’re left looking around and wondering why you just sat up there for half an hour surveying the scene when you only really need to wander in like the Terminator, guns blazing.

Previous Splinter Cell games were the other way around; stay out of sight as much as possible because if you get spotted, you will be killed.  I liked that. A battle of wits between you and the AI. For a while I thought the AI here was pretty decent. There is a nice little system in place whereby a white silhouette of you stays at your last known position, and the guards that haven’t been executed by your good self will trot over and have a nosey for you there. Then you realise this is utterly exploitable as you dangle from a window, kill someone, get spotted, wait for the guard to come to the window, pull him out, wait for the next guard, pull him out too, and so on. Unless someone looks out of the adjoining window, in which case you slide along to him and introduce him to the pavement below. The second you realise you can do this with entire rooms and floors full of bad guys is the second the game becomes a walk in the park.

The game isn’t going to win awards for graphical prowess, but that doesn’t mean it is bad. There are some nice little touches, what with the mission objectives printed on the side of walls and such, and certain scenarios have little video clips popping up on various parts of the environment that show what has happened before, or what is going down in the room you are heading to. This is pretty nifty actually, and I like it, but it does fall flat on its face when, because you have dozed off in the cut-scene nonsense, you press the back button to find out what you are supposed to doing. Then, the objective pops up again. However, instead of it being across a nice flat surface, it warps itself across tables, chairs, bins, pot plants, and anything else that happens to be in your line of sight. The next couple of minutes are spent making sure you have a nice flat surface ahead of you so you can read it. A small annoyance, yes, but still a flaw.

As with pretty much every game being released these days, there is a multiplayer mode bolted on too. However, this time the mode is, whilst again not original, bloody good fun. Played either online or via split-screen, the co-op mode is not just the main story with two people, but is a seperate story and stands on its own with its own slightly more logical story going on. In many ways, it is much more preferential than the single player game as you and a bud stealth your way around levels, employing your own tactics, and generally trying to out-spy and out-assassin each other whilst still heading towards a shared goal. Everything from the single player experience is carried over and just seems to work better here. There is a real sense of camaraderie here as you look to protect each other and help each other along. And once the co-op is finished, there are a bunch of stand-alone multiplayer missions in Deniable Ops, where it is you versus the AI in assorted game modes, each equally as enjoyable as they are tricky.

Not the most positive review in the world so far, I’m sure you will agree. But here is the good news. This is a good game. Ubisoft have a nice little notepad somewhere filled with, well, notes. These notes are taken from their experiences from building their own games; the Ghost Recon’s, the Assassins Creeds and the Prince Of Persias’. They have also paid heavy attention to games like Modern Warfare, Hitman and Batman: Arkham Asylum. All these notes have been used and a great many of the things that made all these games great has been applied to this new, less furrow-browed Splinter Cell. The game is way ,way, way off perfect, despite all the nice bits. But it is good fun. For all my protestations about the dumbed down stealth and the increase in gun-play, it is executed perfectly. I don’t doubt for one second that this is exactly the game Ubisoft wanted to make. Whilst it may veer too much in one direction for my liking, there is no question that this was intentional. The story is shoddy beyond words – probably not intentional – but it doesn’t matter. The game, whilst short, is fun, and more so with a friend. Not quite the amazing game that the critics would have you believe, but it certainly is worthy of your time and money.

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Gears of War 3 Announced for April 2011

The spectacular conclusion to one of the games industry’s most memorable and celebrated sagas, “Gears of War 3,” is poised to take the world by storm next spring. At this time next year, fans around the world will experience the epic story finale to the “Gears of War” trilogy when the third instalment in one of the biggest franchises in Xbox history arrives in stores April 8, 2011 in Europe.

“When we released ‘Gears of War’ more than three years ago, we set out to tell the world an unforgettable story of bravery and sacrifice in the face of insurmountable odds, and a year from now, players will get the chance to experience the final chapter in the story of Marcus Fenix and his companions in Delta Squad,” said Cliff Bleszinski, Design Director at Epic Games. “This is definitely the biggest and most dramatic chapter yet in the ‘Gears of War’ saga, and we can’t wait to deliver it.”

Developed by acclaimed studio Epic Games and available only on Xbox 360, “Gears of War 3” plunges players into a harrowing tale of hope, survival, and brotherhood that will conclude the current story arc for “Gears of War.” With the last human city destroyed and the remaining survivors stranded, time is running out for Marcus and his comrades as they fight to save the human race from the jaws of extinction.

“Gears of War” is a blockbuster entertainment franchise that has inspired a full line of toys and collectibles, apparel, an upcoming film, graphic novels and a book series by New York Times best-selling author Karen Traviss. The award-winning video games have sold more than 12 million units worldwide, and due to their riveting multiplayer action, are some of the most popular games ever played on Xbox LIVE.

To accompany today’s announcement, Microsoft and Epic Games unveiled “Ashes to Ashes”, the first trailer for “Gears of War 3.” Created in Unreal Engine 3 by the same team behind the iconic “Gears of War” video spots (“Mad World,” “Rendezvous,” and “Last Day”), the video captures a desperate three-way battle between Delta Squad, the Locust Horde, and the fearsome new Lambent.

Additionally, fans who want to share their excitement on Xbox LIVE will be able to choose from new Avatar items, available on Avatar Marketplace starting April 20, including the new COG armor introduced in “Gears of War 3.”

For the latest developments on “Gears of War 3” and a video stream of the “Ashes to Ashes” trailer, visit www.gearsofwar.xbox.com or share updates with your friends on Twitter with #gears3.

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Splinter Cell Conviction – Tom Reed Video

Ubisoft have released a new video for Splinter cell Conviction, introducing Sam’s enemy in the game- Tom Reed.

Check it out here

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Train 2 Game

Ever played a game and thought my word I could have done a better job?

Maybe you have had an idea for a game and cannot understand why it has never been made into a game.

Well perhaps a Train 2 Game course might be the answer. These are courses designed by the Industry for the Industry and fully endorsed by TIGA.

Catch the full trailer during The Gadget Show on Fiver tonight

If you want to find out more information http://www.train2game.com/

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Trials 2 SE Only £1.30

RedLynx, the creators of the award-winning Trials HD, are practically giving away it’s predecessor, Trials 2 SE, on their site as a thank you for Trials HD winning Best Arcade Game of 2009.

They’re not giving it away, but at $1.99 (£1.30) until April 14th, it is bloody cheap, too cheap to miss out on. Just click the picture at the top of the screen to be taken directly to the game’s page.

For a big Trials HD fan, like myself, it was a must-buy. The game plays just like Trials HD although the controls are not as polished, needing a good hour of practice to master the jumps. The game does give you plentiful tutorials and even has a great feature that gives you an example run of every level, showing the keys being pressed in the bottom right of the screen.

It does lack the medal system that made Trials HD horribly addictive, but it does have an online leader-board with over a hundred thousand players on it – hopefully more after the sale is over.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and buy this great little game, it’s cheaper than a Starbucks!

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