Category Archives: PS3 Reviews

Review: Metro 2033 (Xbox 360)

By Daniel Lipscombe

Metro 2033 is an ambitious game, not because it really tries to do things differently but because it is a title venturing into a crowded market. Post apocalyptic games or those containing mutants of some kind are becoming a frequent “go to” when creating a game world and Metro 2033 is attempting to wow an audience that has seen it all before.

This is a problem. In this generation of games we’ve been treated to such rich and involving worlds and environments that it would be hard to compete. Metro 2033 has a ‘hook’ of sorts as the game is played in the underground train system, or Metro of Russia. Whilst initially appealing, the game suffers from a lack of inspiration as you trudge down hundreds of deep and dark tunnels carrying out missions.

When first venturing out into the tunnels, the game impresses with great lighting and atmospheric sound but this soon becomes tiresome and loses its spark. Monsters lurking in the shadows or spying on you from unseen corners are a dime a dozen in current gaming worlds and nothing ever really stands out as being different.

When the game does push you above ground, things become a little more interesting as your eyes scan the ruins of Moscow and new dangers present themselves. A constant threat is the lack of breathable air, forcing you to rely on a gas mask and monitoring its filter usage. It is a great mechanic that adds a sense of fear that your air may run out and leave you as carrion for the creatures that await you.

The story is intriguing and genuinely interesting. As we follow the story of our protagonist, Artyom and his interactions with “the dark ones” an enemy that attacks your mind rather than your body. There are several great sequences that feed off of your fears and disorientate you as you play, each of these moments pull you further into the plot and leave you wanting to know more.

Metro 2033 has strong leanings on the horror side of gaming and is always making you think twice about venturing into sections and causing a genuine fear. Although the enemies are a bit bland and cliché Metro goes to great lengths to create a sense of doubt in your abilities by throwing several of these beasts at you at once and heightening the panic.

To add to this is the distinct lack of ammo. In fact ammo is actually used as currency in this game, you can use military grade ammo to buy or trade weapons at metro stations or if things become really tight and you run out of regular ammo, these bullets can be used dealing slightly more damage than usual. There are many small touches that try to pull Metro out of the crowd such as a mobile generator that is used to recharge your flashlight and cracks appearing on your gas mask to indicate that it is taking damage and you could be left without one.

All the positive nuances in the world can’t help you though if your basic shooting mechanics are clunky and poorly implemented, something that Metro also brings to its audience. None of the guns feel as if they carry any power, when faced with five or six enemies at once only precise shots will drop your foe in only a couple of bullets whilst at other times you’ll pump 30 shots into them before they expire. It doesn’t help that the hit detection isn’t always on target, when aiming for a headshot and seeing the bullet hit home only for the enemy soldier to spam you with grenades.

Oh yes, there are human enemies too most of whom cower behind cover and relentlessly spawn soaking up more and more of your ammo as you tirelessly try to kill them. It’s another aspect of Metro 2033 that soon wears down the player and makes you rethink your stance on the game itself. It’s only in the final quarter of the game when you’ve become accustomed to the weaponry, that you can begin to have real fun with them.

It would’ve been nice for Metro 2033 to deliver more on the fear of its world and concentrate on scaring the player, during my time with the game I often felt that my time would be better spent in the Capitol Wasteland or on Pandora, rather than in the darkened tunnels of Moscow. Therein lies one of Metros biggest issues, aside from minimal moments of imagination the game is already quite stagnant due to how many post apocalyptic games on the market.

There are only so many times that we can venture through poisonous gas clouds, take on mutants and deal with disgruntled NPCs, Metro 2033 shines with its story and original game mechanics but falls short on gunplay that leaves a lot to be desired and a game world that we’ve seen a dozen times before.


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Batman: Arkham Asylum Game of the Year Edition

By Matt Carey

Some of you may have missed it (or maybe it was just me not paying attention) but Eidos have released a “Game Of The Year” version of their, umm……game of the year, Batman: Arkham Asylum. Sneaking onto the shelves like the Dark Knight sneaks in the shadows, this extended package features not only all the DLC that has been released over the 8 months since its first release, but also features the entire game in stunning 3D!

The world and its dog seem to be going 3D crazy at the moment, which isn’t really a bad thing. Especially if you have seen Avatar in all its glory. 3D in video games has been discussed, rumoured and mentioned for the best part of 3 years now too. It seems that there are two kinds of 3D tech; the first is the one made famous by Avatar, stereogram, and the one that we remember from years ago, in films such as the appalling Jaws 3D. However, Batman implements a new one, TriOviz, a clever bit of programming which can be applied to existing titles easily with no messing around with the original code.

So how does this translate to the game? Well, I’m happy to say that the effect is fantastic. Arkham is the perfect environment for this to work. From sitting top of a gargoyle looking down on your enemies, running down a lengthy corridor, to getting outside for the first time, you cannot fail to be impressed. And as for some of the set piece boss battles, the only word that comes to mind is “wow”. It really does add a whole new dimension, if you pardon the pun. I was a bit dubious as to whether it would be that noticeable, and at first you may be forgiven for thinking “hardly worth the effort”. Believe me though, it really is. And to top it off, because this is tacked onto an already existing game, it isn’t littered with pointless “Ooh. Look at this coming out of the screen towards your face” moments. This is great, because it wouldn’t work anyway.

It isn’t one hundred percent perfect, and I wouldn’t expect it to be. It isn’t at Avatar levels either, although I would have been shocked if it was. But as a cheap and easy way for video game companies to utilize the technology without having to mess around too much, then I have no complaints.

Yeah, shelling out another 32 quid is probably a bit much to ask. I have, and that’s my choice, but I don’t regret it. As my first foray into the video game world of 3D, I’m a happy camper. The only people I can really recommend this to are those that didn’t buy Batman in the first place. And if you fall into that category, what the hell were you thinking?

If you are interested in finding out a little more about this technology, as told by people that understand it all far more than I, then check out the following link.

It has already been announced that this years’ E3 trade show will feature the new 3D DS from Nintendo, but I’m willing to bet that a whole slew of games will be announcing 3D updates via DLC, as well as some new titles too. As a demonstration of what can be achieved, Batman is a great choice and has me positively salivating at the possibilities. Modern Warfare 3D anyone?

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Review: Final Fantasy 13 (Part 2…)

By Matt Carey

Alternative Title: I’ve Finished It Now So I Can Tell You A Bit More

Some two or three weeks ago, I delivered a first impressions review of Final Fantasy 13, the latest instalment of the Square Enix uber franchise. I made a point of saying that I was only 10 hours or so in, still in the tutorial phase, and would report back upon completing the game for overall impressions rather than initial ones. So, here I am. I will keep the dreaded spoilers to a minimum, but I may let slip the odd thing here or there.

The first thing to point out here is that my first instalment was quite a positive one, and in some respects, I want to continue the love.

The visual feast on offer just gets better and better. Whist, as I mentioned before, the character models are beautifully rendered, I neglected to state that this extends to the enemies too, with a large diversity of beasties and bad guys all supremely realised. And the moment later in the game where the whole world opens up and you see gigantic dinosaur-esque creatures wandering the lush environments is truly a sight to behold.

And, yes, the world does open up, and removes the rails you have been steadily traversing to enable you to go exploring.

No game is flawless, however, and Final Fantasy 13 has more than a few problems. I mentioned in the last review about the story being slightly confusing. That doesn’t change. IT continues in exactly the same vein. Sure, there might be certain occasions where your objective is clear cut – get to Hope’s house, for example – but the wider picture is not so obvious. In terms of the characters themselves, we get to know ‘where they are coming from’, so to speak. The driving force that has put them on the path they are on. The story does the meat and bones of the story very well. Unfortunately, and keeping with the little butchery imagery I just used, I’m not entirely sure what animal the meat and bones came from. There is, as mentioned, a log of everything that happens, a full history of planets and people and governments and so on, but I don’t want to have to sit reading all this. If I wanted to read things like that, I would go and buy a book. But I don’t. I want to play a video game. This leaves you in a weird position where you actually like and identify with the characters, but couldn’t give a toss what they are doing or where they are going. Which is the exact opposite of almost every Final Fantasy since number 7.

The combat is strangely pointless. It is a nice, intriguing system, and a nice evolution of what has gone before, but it does have its limitations. The first problem we arrive at is the fact you can control but one of your characters. This makes for a faster paced battle, but it does limit your options. Later in the game, when some of the more powerful attacks open up to you, you will find yourself in a situation where you want to swap players rather than paradigms. This is exacerbated by the fact that the characters in your team, but not in your control, will not attempt to use some of the more extreme assaults. So, Vanille may have her handy ‘death’ power, but if you are not controlling her, she will never use it. You do feel, later on, that you have all the power in the world, but you’re not allowed to fulfil your potential. This makes the ensemble cast pointless. Everyone that has ever played a modern FF game has their own nice little ways of going about things, but this system negates that completely.

The second problem with the scraps is the lack of challenge until much later in the game. Far, far too often I found myself hammering the ‘auto attack’ option whilst I played about on Facebook. The enemies were of no challenge, and the AI was perfectly adequate at throwing out the necessary punishment for me. Once in a while, sure, I may have had to switch paradigms, but for the vast majority leading up to the latter stages of the game, I was just plodding along from one easy bout to the next.

There are other things I could pick up on here, like the lack of towns, or the oft confusing upgrade system, but these things are far more subjective. I, for one, like the change of pace from other Final Fantasy games, where the linearity is brought more into focus than you would otherwise notice. I didn’t mind the lack of towns, for example. Whereas before you would reach a town, check out the buildings, steal some items from them, shop, go to the inn and watch countless cut-scenes before resting and being on your merry way, now the shopping can be done whenever you reach a save point (although for the most part shopping is pointless as you can find nearly every single item you need in treasure orbs), and cut scenes are sprung on you when you least expect it, rather than whenever you reach a new locale.

There are many that declare this not to be a true Final Fantasy game. In truth, it is as much of a Final Fantasy as any other, with its desire to try a great many new things. The series has never rested on its laurels. It could have simply remade the seventh instalment ad infinitum, with just different characters, stories and worlds, but they never have. Every year, something new is tried, and every year something that has worked before is retained. Some things don’t quite hit the mark, but at least this is a company that are devoted to at least trying, and for that I applaud them. The game does have its faults, and some pretty big ones too, but at the end of the day, when I find myself a couple hours to go and play a game of my choosing I cannot help but to pop this in and try to finish off some more side quests. Games like Lost Odyssey may do the classic JRPG better, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t get enjoyment or your money’s worth from this. When this generation of console shuffles off its mortal coil, Final Fantasy 13 will be viewed as one of the highlights.

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Review: God Of War 3 (PS3)

By Andy Marsh

God of War 3 is the latest instalment in the hit franchise from SCE Studios Santa Monica. This finale has been a long time coming for fans of the series. A shameful admission of mine would be that I have never played a God of War game, largely thanks to SCEE not releasing the God of War collection for PS3 in Europe at the time of writing.

I find myself in a bizarre situation to review this third iteration. On the one hand I have no preconceptions of how the game should play, but on the other I have no idea what has gone on before in the previous instalments. This leaves me in a unique position to play and judge the game based on it’s own merits, so here goes.

Starting with the overall presentation of the game, the opening sequence of Kratos riding on the back of the Titan Gaia who is climbing towards the summit of mount Olympus is stunning. From this grand start, you know you’re going to be in for a visual treat. Graphically the game is gorgeous; the high definition visuals are some of the best I’ve seen. Characters are for the most part beautifully realised, with Kratos particularly highly detailed. Unfortunately some characters pale in comparison to the brooding and scarred hero, looking a lot less elaborate and kind of flat.

Locations are full of grandeur and incidental touches, like the Pit of Tartarus with its fallen souls raining down from its cavernous roof or Hephaestus the blacksmith working away with his tools in the forge. Camera control has been taken away from the player for SCE to best show off the epic locations. This can be a double edged sword, while some of the camera shots are great for showing off parts of the world, other times it makes some platforming sections difficult, ending in a lot of unnecessary deaths. A free look mode would have made a lot of difference, to be able to take in the views when you wanted is something that’s sorely missed.

God of War 3 sticks with what it made famous in the first place, brutal fighting intermixed with mind bending puzzles. The combat forms the main part of the adventure and it’s easy to pull off large combos with the square and triangle buttons. There is also a large comprehensive list of moves to use, most of which are not needed on the easier difficulties. Button bashers are well catered for on easy and medium settings and will find themselves pulling off a large variety of flashy and devastating moves. On the higher difficulties things become a lot more intense and a good knowledge of what is available in your repertoire is necessary to overcome the games challenges.

While there are a lot of GoW pretenders out there, one thing that does set the combat apart from it’s imitators is the finishing moves. Wear an opponent down enough and you are prompted to start a over the top, brutal and gory take down of your foe. These are handled with quick time events, while not normally my favourite addition to modern videogames, QTE’s in God of War 3 are intelligently handled. Button presses appear on the screen in the corresponding locations they are on the pad, so if you need to press triangle it will appear at the top of the screen, and so on. This makes a lot of sense as you are able to concentrate on what Kratos is doing to some poor fool rather than watching what the next button press will be. It also helps that the button symbol never gets in the way of the action.

Mini games range from fun little Guitar Hero style rhythm action stages to rather repetitive flying sequences. It’s not that these flight sections are badly designed it’s that they are repeated a little too much and in the end it becomes insipid and dull. Some sections can get your blood pumping for entirely the wrong reasons, these usually revolve around trial and error. Running through a collapsing city is exhilarating but needs to be attempted a few times to get what you are supposed to do next. Checkpoints are thankfully sensible and you’ll never have to go far back to try a section again.

There’s a wealth of lovable and loathsome characters in GoW3. Hephaestus is by far one of my favourite and charismatic characters and is voiced brilliantly by Rip Torn. Hermes is wonderfully camp, egging you on to catch him through the streets of Olympus. It’s a shame that Kratos comes across as such an unlikable hero, caring for nothing other than his quest to destroy Zeus. This reaction is likely due to my lack of knowledge regarding the story from the previous games and what has happened to Kratos along the way.

That being said he still holds a great presence with his gruff and menacing voice work. It’s the bosses though that you’ll be remembering for years to come. A stand out moment for me was the fight against Chronos the Titan. This gigantic fight takes place upon the huge Titan himself, working your way around his different appendages it’s up to you to find his weak spot and ultimately triumph. The feeling of being an insignificant speck on the Titan is a great feeling and when he’s defeated just adds to the elation. It’s not just the boss fights later on in the game that have such a sense of scale, even the very first boss Poseidon is a massive and intricate creation for you to destroy.

God of War 3 will take you around 10 hours to finish depending on the difficulty level, but that is just the start. Upon completing the game you open up the challenges of Olympus, these comprise of different arena fights with varying rules. Starting off fairly easy but soon ramping up in difficulty, these challenges are a great for the adding to the games longevity. There’s also plenty of collectibles to find during your journey through the games locations. Taking the form of items of the gods you have bested these can then be used in subsequent playthroughs as modifiers, from the amount of health and magic you have to the number of orbs you collect.

God of War 3 is not without it’s annoyances, the trial and error parts can begin to get frustrating after a few restarts. But for every section that lets you down there are a wealth of epic and stand out set pieces to make you forget about them. I can thoroughly recommend God of War 3 to both established fans of the series and newcomers alike. Although for the uninitiated it may well be worth waiting for the GoW collection to be released at the end of April so the story in this third instalment can be properly enjoyed.

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Review: Final Fantasy XIII (Xbox 360 / PS3)

By Matt Carey

    Alternative Title

: I’m Only 10 Hours Into The Game And Didn’t Think You Guys Would Want To Wait For A Review Till I Finish The Game In Another 80 So I Thought I Would Do A Mini Review.

Phew. Long subtitle. But yes, I thought that, rather than make you all wait, by which time there would be other games piquing your interest, I would do this initial, first impressions type mini-review. Although, 10 hours into a game by anybody else’s standards would indicate I have finished the main story and am ploughing my way through the multiplayer, in the world of Final Fantasy games it means that I am still in tutorial mode, so to speak.

Final Fantasy 13 is a bit of a landmark title. It is the first Final Fantasy game of the current hardware generation – odd considering it is now 5 years old – and the first new Final Fantasy to appear on console that isn’t stamped with a Playstation logo. Those that have been playing computer and video games will have some, or great, knowledge of the series humble beginnings back in the 1980’s, and will know how, over the years, the titles improved steadily before the seventh title in the series changed the face of not only rpg’s, but games in general. High production values and an intricate storyline, coupled with superb game mechanics ensured that the game was held in high regard, many claiming it as the greatest of all time. And so, over the years, instalments continued to come out of Japan, all commercially successful, with varying degrees of critical acclaim. Even without the multi-platform hype, this title has its own legacy to live up to first.

As with most Final Fantasy titles, we begin with a beautiful cut scenes before you are thrust straight into the action. These initial few fights bring you up to speed with the new battle system and help you get to grips with it. Everything seems very familiar; you have a choice of attack, a slightly different attack, and use of an item, such as a potion. Added to the list is auto-attack. This handy little button saves you a little time and effort. For instance, if you want to do nothing more than swing your sword a couple times, then it will do just that. As you fight more of the same enemy, you and your characters understanding of said enemy increases. So, if the enemy in question is susceptible to fire, then the auto attacks will adapt to exploit the bad guys weakness.

It is not too dissimilar, though, from the system used in its predecessors, but there are changes. First, you only control one character in your party. Any other members will automatically go through the motions, their actions again dictated by familiarity, or lack there-of, of the enemy. There are noticeable and discernable classes this time around though, ranging from attack minded to defensive or healing. During the course of a fight, you are able to switch to a different combination of these classes. The ‘Paradigm Shift’ can be used as often as you like, meaning that whilst you may start a battle with 2 or 3 ravagers – attack minded – you can quickly change things around to make sure you have a medic in your squad when needed.

The other major addition to the battles is a little gauge on the enemies. This gauge increases the more you wallop the enemy. Fill it up, and the enemy becomes “staggered” meaning that not only do your strikes hurt more, but they continue to increase in strength for the length of the “stagger”. It is a clever, intuitive little system, and one that works well, throwing up some nice little tactical conundrums on occasion.

The last method of pummelling available to you is one that you attain very gradually, and it is that of Eidolons, FF13’s version of the summons we all know and love. This year, the number available is stripped down, but attaining them is a trial in itself. The Eidolons will only side with you should you prove yourself in combat, but victory is not as simple a process as just beating the crap out of them. There are conditions to adhere to, and displaying adequate proficiency will reap the reward you want; a transforming (yes, you read that right) uber-demon.

Previous Final Fantasies have adopted strange grid and sphere type systems for learning new abilities, and the same is true here. However, this time around we find that the different classes are brought to play in this as well. The Crystarium, as it is called, is a much simpler version of what has been used before, with the classes breaking it down further. Progression along it is straightforward – using points earned in battle – and the choice is yours as to which of each characters potential classes gets developed and how quickly. The Crystarium is defiantly a welcome change from the sometimes baffling methods for progression that has come before, and the player is able to flit in and out of it, rather than spend hours wondering which direction is most beneficial.

As expected, and keeping with tradition, the graphics – especially the cut-scenes – are eye-candy of the highest order. Square Enix have much experience in creating visuals that stand head and shoulders above their peers, and this final move to the current console generation reaps its rewards. Not only is the scenery as mouth-watering as you would expect, but the character models too look more fleshed out and realistic than ever before.

A good job too. Not since Final Fantasy 7 has the series seen such a diverse and interesting group, with barely a bad one amongst them. Sure, they stick to certain FF / Jrpg clichés, but the irritations that have plagued previous incarnations have been toned right down. This year truly does see an ensemble cast. flitting, as the story does, between characters emphasises that there is no true ‘main character’, but instead, the player takes control of each member at some point, and along the way finds out snippets of back story information as they progress. Snow initially seems cast for the role, especially given his boyish good looks and cool demeanour, but you soon come to realise that Lightning, the touted female version of Cloud Strife – although she has much more depth to her, Sazh, the token black Denzel Washington lookalike, Hope, the obligatory young teen hopelessly out of his depth or Vanille, the hot young redhead aimed directly at the crotch of teen boys could all take the reins quite admirably on their own.

As for the story, well at the moment, I cannot comment too much. Normally the general narrative progression follows a set path of twists and turns, but you are never in any confusion as to where you are going or what you intend to do. Here, however, you find yourself deposited in a universe where everyone knows what is going on but you. Whilst, I suppose, this is pretty clever – it gives the illusion that these characters and the universe they inhabit have had lives before you join them – it does mean that everything is fairly confusing. I seem to have spent much of my opening 10 hours wondering who or what everyone was talking about. There is a log of everything that goes on in the game which does offer a bit more of a history lesson, but in all honesty, who wants to sit and read when there is a game to be played?

So, that brings you up to the 10th hour, and my progression and thoughts so far. The game is, as reported, very linear at the moment and whilst some may criticize this, I think this is an example of a game built around a story rather than the other way around. Given the story being told, it suits it. And, in truth, 75% of any Final Fantasy game is pretty much on rails any way. But I am enjoying it. The game is truly a joy to behold and certainly a great reminder of not only how good Japanese role-playing games can be, but also just how far above the competition the Final Fantasy games stand. This title will have its critics, of which I may be one by the time the game is finished, but as for now, 10 hours in, I’m positively salivating at what is yet to come.

See you in around 80 hours then.


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Heavy Rain Review

By Daniel Lipscombe

It’s wrong to call Heavy Rain a game, it isn’t really. Yes it requires inputs from your fingers to your controller, but beyond that, what you’re living is a cinematic experience like no other.  David Cage and his team at Quantic Dream have created an emotional work of art that connects with the player on a level never before realised. It’s hard to talk about Heavy Rain without really giving away any plot points or scenarios, but I will try to make this as free of spoilers as possible.

Playing Heavy Rain is akin to being the editor on a serial drama, it’s up to you to move through each section of the story and reach a satisfying climax. Do you save that person or did you dislike them enough to let them die and ultimately change the fate of the characters? Controlling the fate of the cast is rather daunting really; just one wrong move can see any of the four characters die, for good.

The interactions of the cast inspire real feelings within yourself, push your kid on a swing and you’ll smile as much as them, head into a near death situation and find yourself tense and twitchy. The beauty and simplicity of the control system really goes to highlight that too. When opening a door, just push the right stick in the direction on screen, if your character needs to control their breathing then slow movements of the stick are needed. After time you find yourself moving your thumb with as much caution as the situation needs.

Everything is instinctive and flows wonderfully, the only time you will find the button presses becoming more complex is when your character is struggling. They struggle, so you must struggle, holding down a combination of buttons that would usually cripple your hand. It would be easy to say that Heavy Rain features hundreds of Quick Time Events (QTE) but this the inputs here carry more weight, after all, if you miss that crucial button press, you could have your head smashed in.

This isn’t particularly a tough game and many people will easily stroll through each section, there are however times when you may be left scratching your head as to where to go next or who to talk to whilst trying to push the narrative along. Quick reactions are needed however for fight scenes and it’s worth nudging anyone in the room with you and hushing them whilst you concentrate.

Heavy Rain is so wonderfully engaging, there is a constant feeling of connection with the game world, and even the loading screens display the marvellous visuals of the main characters as they simply exist. And it’s these visuals that help create such a cohesive environment, being able to see a smirk or a furrowing of the brow helps to heighten the connection between player and character. This is let down occasionally by glitches in the graphics such as a strobing of a background character or screen tearing, as these moments remind you that you’re playing a game.

Some moments in Heavy Rain may cause some confusion, why should I need to make Madison go to the toilet? Why does Ethan need to be able to drink from the orange juice carton? Because it goes further in building a real world, adding your own quirks to these people. Does it make a difference to the story? Unlikely, but small increments /can/ change events, will you miss a scene because you didn’t look out of a window, will you find something your friends didn’t? The wonder of Heavy Rain is simply experiencing what it has to offer.

Heavy Rain is, at its core, a murder mystery. We have a killer on the loose – The Origami Killer who kidnaps children and drowns them in rain water. Each character has their own way of tackling this crime, Madison is a journalist who moves outside the law in her own way, Ethan is a father in distress and must test himself, Norman is an FBI agent with a mysterious past and the ability to find any clue and Scott, a private eye who has been hired by the families of the murdered to track down clues on the killer.

Everyone will inevitably have their own favourite character, but each of them shines regardless. The cast is well fleshed out and each twist and turn in the plot takes its toll on them as well as you. Not surprising as they will have to overcome some dreadful situations on their journey, fistfights are plentiful and enjoyable, obstacles are overcome with complex button presses and at times the atmosphere will become troubling and intense.

The story moves along at a frenzied pace to a satisfying conclusion, the playtime itself will run you around six or seven hours depending on how quickly you solve issues or find clues. With many endings possible there’s plenty of scope to replay the adventure, whilst this will still be fun it will of course lack the original spark as you will know the crux of the story. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem as the ending that I personally received left me all warm and fuzzy, but I was left wanting to see the many other outcomes.

For anyone interested in narratives for games moving forward or drama in general, you will revel in Heavy Rains storytelling and marvel at its characters. The latter is slightly hampered by weak voice acting at times, but this can be forgiven in respect of just how much emotion they are trying to deliver.

Never before have I been so moved by a game, by the conclusion of the game I desperately wanted these characters to survive and reach their end. I cared about them, not just because they might die, but because they were real to me. They cared, they got scared at the same time as me and we travelled the same ups and downs as a team. Despite a few minor flaws along the way, Quantic Dream has created a masterpiece of gaming and it’s something that anyone with even a passing interest in gaming should experience.

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MAG Review

By Daniel Lipscombe

256 is a big number, in fact in gaming terms, it’s a bloody big number, 256 different players running hither and thither with large guns across much larger maps. A first for console gaming, to see such a number going to war with each other, doubts have to creep into mind. Will the servers cope? Will there be any latency in the matches? Will there even be enough people online?

Approaching such a title with trepidation is understandable, it’s not every day we see an online only shooter released for consoles and if we do usually they fall into insignificance quickly. Team Fortress 2 is rather empty most of the time in its console outing and Shadowrun failed despite being a robust shooter. So why should MAG succeed where others have failed, perhaps it’s generic war shooter styling is a good thing, pulling people over from the Call of Duty’s and Battlefield’s.

Despite the aesthetics making me feel at ease when I first launched the game, my enthusiasm waned a little as I moved from the robust tutorials and into the real battlefield. Learning the basics is as simple as moving your way through an obstacle course and training how to use your weapons and equipment, but no matter how helpful you find it, you’ll still get your face blown off when you get online.

Now I’ll admit that the following only happened twice out of a week of playing off and on, but the connection can be a little flakey. Playing on an average 4meg broadband connection saw me experience swathes of bullet lag as I shot the opposing team for them to simply walk through the hail of lead and knife me and this was if I could even shoot. Another issue caused me to die but not bleedout or respawn simply lay there throwing grenades and shoot with no kills or harm coming to anyone.

This is a rare occurrence but needs to be kept in mind; if your connection is slightly unstable then you have no single player game to fall back on here. This is also a problem when learning the ropes. Whilst the actual pulling of triggers is enjoyable with each gun feeling weighty and satisfying, it is hard to really get to grips with each weapon as the learning curve is quite steep. With most shooters you can dabble in the single player while you learn which guns you like and what the arc is on the grenade throwing, this is tough when you have six snipers aiming at your cranium.

If you do find yourself getting fragged all the time then getting better will mean an endless assault on your foe trying to dodge headshots and grenade storms. If you do of course manage to hold your own then MAG is a very solid shooter. Starting with a robust character creation section, you can choose whose cause to fight for, SVER, Valor or Raven and then tinker around with your loadout selections too.  Once all of this is decided it’s then time to start ranking up and opening new games modes.

Starting with your basic team deathmatch, you can play until your level is high enough to unlock other traditional online modes, Capture the flag, territories and such. Experience is earned in the usual ways, killing people, assists, healing your squadmates and of course ranking up then means new weapons and quite importantly, being able to become a leader on the battlefield. The latter means that you can use abilities on your teammates and generally lead the team in battle.

This brings me to the most important aspect of the game and one that Zipper Interactive cannot really take fault for, teamwork. Currently when venturing into a firefight the warzone is a scatterbrained event with people running around like headless chickens. Squads with too many snipers and not enough cohesion between people, this is down to one of two things. Either people don’t have a headset in the first place or, and this isn’t meant as a jibe, but they may not speak your language. This is obviously a problem when playing a game so heavily based on teamwork, as running around like Stallone on a power trip will find you bleeding out and waiting for a team member to heal you, thus costing your team the win.

For all its efforts, MAG is a confident shooter, and when it works, it plays very well, when your team is working as a unit, you will win games, but be prepared to slog through countless deaths to get there and be prepared to run around in despair as your team all go their separate ways. If you’ve got a bunch of friends with the game, create a clan and have a blast but as a lone soldier, the battlefield could not feel more cold and lonely.

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