Tag Archives: Ubisoft

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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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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Review: Red Steel 2 (Wii)

By Daniel Lipscombe

All young boys want to be cowboys or ninjas, I was that boy. I could have easily been one or the other on a warm summer’s day; better yet you could be both rolled into one. Imagine a plastic six shooter in your pocket and a cardboard tube sword tucked through a belt loop. Whilst the fictitious bandits dart left and right the six shooters arid gun smoke wafts through the air as the blade is unsheathed.

If only someone could make this fantasy into a videogame – in steps Ubisoft. Brandishing a Wii remote with a fancy new motion plus you can live that dream, although the fantasy didn’t arrive unmarred.

This sequel is beyond better than the first iteration and it shows with every step. The new graphics engine is the stand out winner of this new step in the franchise. With a similar look to Borderlands, the colours are vibrant and each part of the Wild West world appears to be full of character. The characters ooze a charm that is reminiscent of the Sergio Leone movies mixed with a Sci-Fi twist that Hollywood would beg for.

Our mysterious hero is the Clint Eastwood of the plot, a man with no name and a world on his shoulders. His clan is wiped out; you fill his shoes as the last member of the Kusagari and must eliminate the threat of the Jackal gang that has taken over the city. The story opens up in an impressive fashion with our hero being dragged behind a motorbike and is genuinely exhilarating, the downside to this wonderful opening is the monotony that follows.

As the dream of being a samurai cowboy floats out of the window, a reality of mundane questing and repetitive training sets in. Your first training mission is simple, here’s how you swing a sword and guard. It is a little off putting that Ubisoft felt the need to add a young woman in the stereotypical white outfit in a video boxout to teach you how to play. It jars you from the game world and reminds you that you really are a grown man standing in your lounge swinging a piece of plastic and not a katana after all.

The worst part of this training is that it takes forever to end; in fact the first few hours of the game sees you trudging back to the training grounds in order to learn a new move. This becomes such a chore that the idea of swinging a sword becomes dull.  Admittedly the motion plus does a great job of making the swordplay fun and the precision of the Wii remote guarantees a wealth of headshots. So the combat should be great and at times it is, but every once in a while the attachment to the game world is broken again when the calibration goes wonky and you r sword is not following your movement.

The sword fighting is enjoyable though, when it works, as each scrape of metal clangs from the Wii remote speaker it brings a smile to your face. The same can be said for the mini game like additions, a favourite would be the safe cracking. Holding the remote up to your ear as you turn the dial on screen and listen to the pins dropping in, it feels like a clever and intuitive mechanic rather than the forced “waggle” that we’ve seen in other games.

The whole game sets out to prove that “waggle” can work and it almost makes it. Red Steel 2 looks and sounds great on the Wii, the waggle works for the majority of the time but with so many promises it’s hard to keep them all. The biggest disappointment has to be the story, it lacks any real focus and with a topic that should be ever so endearing it feels vapid and lifeless.

After your interest has piqued the plot becomes trite under the strain of boring characters and cut scenes. It doesn’t help that the actual mission structure is repetitive and you dread checking the mission board for your next trip around the city. The structure of the game is simple: walk, kill bad guys, train, mission board, walk, rinse and repeat. I was hoping for more from such a rich looking world, in fact the QTE sections were reasonably impressive and I, for once, wanted more of those.

Red Steel 2 is a flawed game, but it keeps you entertained throughout if only because of the shooting and occasional sword fight. The story may be a little bland but the world is absorbing and looks lovely. You may not be living out your childhood dream, but it’s as close as you’ll get.

There was one thing that did hinder my experience and was no fault of Ubisoft. It should be noted to anyone who experiences motion sickness when playing a first person shooter may want to either steer clear of this title or at least give it a try somewhere first. The sickness forced me to take a break every 15 minutes which, of course became a problem.

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Ghost Recon Future Soldier – Ubisoft – Live Action Trailer

Live Action Trailers – you either like them or loathe them.

Ubisoft have recently released a live action trailer for Ghost Recon Future Soldier. Have to say its quite impressive and revealed a few details about features we can expect to find within the game.

Have a look at the video and please post in the comments what you think about the new features.

One important thing mentioned at the end is that buying Splinter Cell Conviction will gain you access to an exclusive Ghost Recon Future Soldier Beta.

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Splinter Cell Conviction – Story Trailer

An interesting story trailer has gone live for Splinter Cell Conviction.

This game cannot come soon enough – Sam Fisher has been away too long.

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Splinter Cell: Conviction Box Art and Screens Revealed

Coming exclusively to Xbox 360 on the 16 April 2010, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction is the highly anticipated sequel in the multimillion-selling Splinter Cell series and one of the most critically acclaimed Xbox franchises of all time.

An investigation into his daughter’s death unwittingly leads former agent Sam Fisher to discover he’s been betrayed by his prior agency, the Third Echelon. Now a renegade, Fisher finds himself in a race against time to thwart a deadly terrorist plot that threatens millions.

Uniting revolutionary gameplay enhancements with a high octane, no-holds-barred storyline, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction arms you to the teeth with all the high tech weaponry and lethal skills of an elite operative and invites you to enter a dangerous world where justice means making your own rules.

Key Features

NEW LEVEL OF ACTION FOR SPLINTER CELL

A full arsenal of cutting-edge innovations allow you to outflank foes with the Last Known Position™ system, tag and eliminate enemies using the Mark and Execute™ feature, and much more.

BLOCKBUSTER EXPERIENCE
A unique storytelling style keeps you on the edge of your seat as you navigate the explosive world of a renegade agent where trust is impossible and justice requires you to go above the law.

A NEW LEVEL OF IMMERSION

A revolutionary new graphic direction delivers an utterly seamless gameplay experience that’ll keep you totally engrossed in the story of Sam Fisher.

EXPLOSIVE XBOX LIVE PLAY
Brand-new addictive multiplayer modes amp up the dramatic intensity like never before.

SCREEN SHOTS

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James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game – Campaign Review, XBOX 360, PS3

By Neil McCormick


In the earliest days, from E.T the Extra – Terrestial in 1982 to the modern day with Terminator Salvation , movie spin off games have had as sure as night follows day, one common denominator, the reputation of not being very good.

However, when Avatar the Game was announced that it was in development and with James Cameron saying he would have a lead role in the game’s development to ensure it played a vital role in sharing the Avatar experience with the player / viewer, hopes had to be high that things would be different. In fact i even remember reading an interview in which the developers said to forget about Halo 3 ODST for what they had planned for the multi-player would be nothing short of special.

Unfortunately whilst it is undoubtably a great improvement on the average movie game, it doesnt quite tick all the boxes to be the awe inspiring game that was promised.

When I first started playing, I have to admit to being bowled over by the gorgeous scenery, the floating cliffs in particular, being some of the most visually stunning scenary I had seen in a game to date. The Farcry 2 engine has been tweaked to great aplumb, vegetation looks as good as in the actual film, it looks as wild as you expect an alien world to look like.

Unfortunately scenery alone is not going to make a good game, gameplay has to be crucial. And that is where Avatar:The Game stumbles.

The controls are in a word clunky. Little things you now expect as standard in a shooter are missing, no cover system, no scope on any of the weaponry, let alone even the simple option of looking down an iron sight. It is all the more bizarre when you consider that this game was developed by Ubisoft Montreal. So its not as if they do not have the experience, if you look at their past catalogue of games. After all this was the team that developed the Rainbow Six games for one. The Vegas games use a wonderful cover system and have the scope and iron sight options as standard.

When things get up close in Avatar the Game, it soon becomes a case of spray and pray. Having just came from playing Modern Warfare 2 it felt too big a step backwards to not have these options.

Avatar takes place on the planet Pandora, which Resources Development Administration (RDA) is stripping of its resources–much to the dismay of Pandora’s indigenous population, the blue-skinned Na’vi. Meanwhile, the RDA has established a way of transferring a human’s consciousness into an artificially created human/Na’vi hybrid called an avatar. You play the part of Ryder, an RDA operative who soon finds himself (or herself, if you choose a female persona) in over his head as he discovers the consequences of the RDA’s destructive presence on Pandora. About an hour into the campaign, you’ll be faced with a choice: side with the RDA, or live as an avatar and take your chances with the Na’vi. Unfortunately as the game is really only getting started at one hour in, it really is a case of choosing A or B, you have not developed any affinity with the characters be they human or Na’vi.

The game assumes a familiarity with the nature of avatars. Cutscenes are abrupt, and moments that should carry weight, such as the first time you take control of your giant blue avatar, it just happens, not even a decent cut-scene. With few exceptions, humans come across as resource-hungry idiots, while the Na’vi are reduced to native stereotypes. The blend of sci-fi and fantasy seems conceptually solid, but the ideas were given such a cavalier treatment that it’s impossible to care about either the fate of this world,or that of its people, and unfortunately you never seem to develop any emotional attachment own character.

Each of Pandora’s explorable regions is relatively large, and missions often involve traveling long distances to get to your next objective. Along the way, you’ll run into a number of different types of enemies that seek to destroy you. If you side with the Na’vi, you have a few instruments of death to keep you well protected. Your default bow will likely be your default weapon. It snaps to targets when you hold the trigger, which is a real boon in the busy environments, given that it can be tough to spot camouflaged RDA foes. In fact, melee combat leads to Avatar’s most consistently enjoyable kills: it can be a lot of fun to cartwheel toward your target and slice him up with your dual blades. You equip four weapons at a time, but you can switch them out for other available options, and over time, your weapons level up and you gain access to better armor. Leveling up is not implemented as well as I would have liked. As you advance through the levels you earn exp for doing things. So when you have enough exp the game levels you up. Unfortunately rather than let you choose how to use your exp, the game automatically assigns the exp and gives you upgrades as it sees fit.

If you go the way of the RDA instead, you won’t wield any melee weapons and will instead shoot your way to victory. You’ve got a pair of pistols to get you through if the better guns run out of ammo, but they’re all but useless; luckily, your shotgun, flamethrower, and other weapons seem appropriately powerful, if not exactly satisfying to use.

Of course, what fantasy game would be complete without special powers? You get a number of skills to play around with no matter which side you choose, though it’s odd that these abilities are never given any context–you just have to accept that they exist. Nevertheless, they’re good to have on hand, and like weapons, skills become more effective as you level up. Your healing ability will become the most useful, because though you regenerate health quickly when not in battle, you’ll need to heal yourself when engaged with enemies. There is some overlap between the factions aside from health regeneration. Both sides can sprint for a short period of time, and both can activate camouflage to remain hidden for a short time.

In spite of these special skills, Avatar soon becomes tragically predictable: shoot a group of enemies, travel toward the next hotbed of activity, and shoot some more. The pace rarely varies, so Avatar feels like it drones on for far too long. There’s never a sense that the action is ramping up, and the few boss fights sprinkled about are as challenging as fighting your way out of a paper bag. For example, you take on a huge beast in a large clearing, which is easy to avoid,when it dies, the creature falls to the ground with little fanfare and dissipates seconds later. Talk about an anticlimax.

The most interesting, but under utilised feature in Avatar is the minigame Conquest you can access from the fast travel stations. Playing the levels earns you funds to use in Conquest to purchase units to attack and defend territories. In theory, taking a territory that gives you a boost such as increasing your experience or do more damage would be a good thing. But when such an action does not seem to have any real impact, it quickly gets ignored. After an initial use, I think I only accessed the mini game two more times during playing the campaign.

On a technical point, Avatar has enabled 3d graphics. So if you had a tv or monitor capable to display 3d you could enjoy this game in glorious 3d.

It may seem reading this, I hated the game, that is not totally correct. It is more a case of being disappointed at what could have been implemented in other words it feels like it was a missed opportunity. A few simple tweaks and Ubisoft would have had a great game on their hands. Whilst I would not be proclaiming that you should rush out to buy it, I think it could be a game to consider picking up during the next gaming drought.

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