Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Xbox One) - Review

I live with two HUGE Spider-Man fans, my 5 year old son and my partner. There is nothing they enjoy more than wiling away a Saturday playing with Zach's numerous superhero toys. Except maybe if they could play on the Xbox. Well now they can! They were very excited whilst we were downloading the game, and I have to admit, even I was. I had enjoyed the first in the series on the 360, not overly mind, but it had been a good few days of bonding with my son over the web-slinging hero.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this game, I have to admit I normally find games that are born from a film fairly dull. They usually feel forced, a way to maximise earnings. Saying that though there have been a few games now that step away from that and this game definitely leans more that way, it isn't completely focused on the film so doesn't feel quite so repetitive as say Lego Movie the Video Game. My God was that DULL! I was hoping for some really cool bits in that game, a chance to really be a master builder. Boy was I disappointed and as someone who has to watch the film about once a week I really don't need to 'play' it too. Anyway I digress...

Looks nice, just don't get too close...
On the surface I felt that this game looked fairly impressive. The city from above looks beautiful, and swinging through the streets is pretty gorgeous. But get down on the floor - which lets face it we don't really wanna do anyway, we are playing a SUPERHERO game after all - the facade cracks a little and shows the game visuals up as a little dicey to say the least, the cars look particularly bad in my opinion. But we all play this game to swing around off buildings anyway so this doesn't pose much of a problem. What does though is the camera seemingly randomly switching angle at really inopportune moments i.e as you are attempting to swing up to a comic book page. You suddenly find yourself spiralling through the air as you shot your web just as the camera moved. This does grate quite badly, and really ruins any sense of immersion you might have felt.

This game features a lot of side quests but unfortunately not very many different types of side quests. They start off as quite fun, and it feels good to get your Hero meter to the top, until you realise that it is nigh on impossible to keep it there and still have fun. I found a lot of problems with the side quests - they seem to enter the 'red' territory very quick, these are the ones that need immediate attention otherwise you'll lose some of your heroic progress. That would be fine if it didn't feel like the ones that were going red were ALWAYS on the other side of the map, so then they would end just as I got to the block that they were on. This lead to very annoying cat-and-mouse type chase around the city as I went from end to end attempting to get to these things on time. Until I gave up. The final straw was the 'Save civilians from a burning building' type of side quest. I'd get there and start and deliver the last person to the little blue circle just in the last few seconds or so I thought. Until the FAILED sign came up and I heard a snarky news report about Spider-Man failing to help out. That riled me up no end (WHERE are the firefighters who's actual JOB it is to save these people? Do it your goddam self!) so I had to give up to save me throwing my controller at the TV. I did enjoy the side quests that saw you rescuing civilians from a car though, for about the first five. But I was good at them so I had more patience for them. The other type of heroic side quest was the beating up of gangs, which is a lot of fun and plays a lot like the Batman Arkham series of games. Actually I daresay it's a little better, due to Spider-Man's acrobatic skills. As fun as it is to beat up a few thugs, this is done a lot in the main story, so you do end up getting a little tired of doing it over and over. If you do not keep your heroic status high you enter the 'Menace' stage, which sees you targeted as a menace to society by the Enhanced Crime Task Force. These super-powered police men get really annoying REALLY fast, therefore they pushed me back into the tedious side quests just so I could avoid these annoying things, that basically follow you and shoot you down.

The main story quests in this game are pretty good, and I really liked the fact that you lead the dialogue between the characters, albeit in a fairly linear way. You can basically just decide which of the three questions to ask each character first, something I like because you can make the conversations happen in a more cohesive manner, in my opinion anyways. The story doesn't blow me away but it didn't bore me to tears either and the gameplay is pretty fun. The web-swinging does take some getting used to, and for a good while I was constantly bumping into things, be it buildings or cars. But soon you get the feel for it and I was soon swinging around NYC like a seasoned pro, even managing to swing around corners! (I know, I am easily impressed!).

The combat is where this game really shines I feel. It feels intuitive, like I'd imagine it would feel to be Spider-Man which can only be a good thing when I'm guessing that is the point of the game. I loved web rushing into an enemy and subsequently knocking them all out. I loved being able to stick weapons to the floor, telling myself that I'd really be peeing my enemies off now. I completed battles with ease, which in most games would lead me to moan a little about lack of challenge, but I'm playing a Superhero game, of course I want to feel invincible. Boss battles were a little more of a challenge, needing a little more thought into the best way to defeat your foe. But it was really good fun no matter whether it took two minutes or 15.

I liked the inclusion of Stan Lee in the game, and particularly enjoyed the fact that he owned the comic book store, where all of your collected comic book pages go. This is something I thought was brilliant too, seeing as everyone seems to believe that a game isn't complete unless you run around the game world collecting 100 random bits of crap, it was good to see that this game put some thought into it's hundreds of collectibles and actually gave you something tangible for your efforts, and not just an achievement.

Overall I'd say that even though there are a lot of little problems with this game, there is nothing that would stop me from recommending it. It was fun. I'd say grab it as a digital download so that you can load it up if you have a spare five minutes, just to have a swing around NYC. Yes it was repetitive in parts, but it had a certain charm. And who doesn't dream of donning an extremely tight suit, swinging around and beating people up?

6/10 TRY IT!
A code was provided for the purpose of this review.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Pinball FX 2 (Xbox One) - Review

So we all now about the addictive pinball game that graced the last gen. Now it has made the leap over to the Xbox One, bringing with it the opportunity to move any of your past purchased tables over too. There's also been the release of the new Walking Dead table to look forward to, so thanks to the great guys over at Zen Studios I've had the chance to do a write up of a few of the tables gracing the Xbox One version of Pinball FX 2. Read on for reviews on the following tables: Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy, the four Star Wars: Heroes Within tables and the new The Walking Dead table!


The Deadpool table seems a little busy...
I have to admit, whilst I love Marvel films I'm not really a comic lover so Deadpool is someone I don't know much about. I am sure that as my son grows bigger this will probably change but for now Deadpool isn't really on my radar.

This table is loud, brash and in your face, which (I am told) kinda fits the character well. Deadpool himself can be seen flitting around the table, muttering to himself A LOT and occasionally sending grenades at your ball. He gets in the way a fair bit too.

I am not the best pinball player fact I pretty much suck at it. But I'm a trier. My son, rather annoyingly, is pretty good at this (and insanely good at Angry Birds!) but I rather meanly put it down to dumb luck. So we both had a go at this table and Zach did do much better than me. Although the table does look really busy I found it quite hard to get a decent score, but this could be down to me being rubbish.

The general feel of this table is good though and it appealed to my son because of all the action. There does seem to aways be something happening on screen and the voice acting and soundtrack is really good too. Overall I'd say it's probably worth a punt for any comic book fans or pinball aficionados, but otherwise I'd overlook it for some of the better ones.

 Guardians of The Galaxy

The Guardians of the Galaxy table stood out for me!
This table really stood out for me. When I first got it, I hadn't seen the film yet (we went to see it this week and LOVED it!) so I did worry that I wouldn't 'get' it. But I needn't have worried as I really enjoyed this table.

The music to it is great and just adds to the fun of this table. I found it easy to see what was happening too, much easier than the Deadpool table, but it didn't feel sparse either. The voice acting was good, although Quill could get pretty repetitive and doesn't have the presence of Chris Pratt, but I feel like I'm nitpicking there really.

All the characters have their own ball and each is seen right at the beginning of the game as the table starts with a multiball. The beginning of the table does feel a little bit mental, but this is not foreshadowing the rest of it, as for the rest of the table I felt it was pretty clear what you had to do to trigger special modes.

I feel that this table has plenty to keep anyone happy but is especially good for any GotG fans out there. And Groot fans. And who doesn't like Groot?!

Star Wars - Heroes Within

There are four tables included in this pack - Han Solo, A New Hope, Masters of the Force and Droids. My partner and son are both huge Star Wars fans so they dived right into it, without even a backwards glance at me! 

This table felt a little tedious.
The first one we put on was the Masters of the Force table, which is Sith vs Jedi and features Count Dooku, Darth Sidious and Darth Maul pitted against Yoda, Qui-Gon Jin and Obi-Wan Kenobi. The table is set out with the Sith on one side and the Jedi's on the other. 

Each side of the table is the same as the other but themed to either the Sith or the Jedi, so that at the top there is Yoda's hut on the Jedi side and Darth Sidious' throne room on the side of the Sith. Both of these open up into mini tables that really can add to your score.

I liked that the launcher was a lightsabre and I thought the music and the voice acting were generally good but I couldn't shake the feeling that there was something missing with this table that I couldn't quite put my finger on. I guess it felt a little empty, which in turn made it feel pretty tedious. It is just one part of the whole though, and I do feel like this table is possibly the weakest in this pack.

The biggest challenge of the pack.
A New Hope features Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan, C-3PO and R2-D2. I really struggled to get anywhere on this table and found it really quite difficult to rack up any semblance of a decent score. My son however, did not struggle quite as much and did activate some pretty cool modes, he especially enjoyed the multi ball that activates the Death Star.

We all soon got a little tired of trying on this table too, it proved itself a little too difficult for our rookie pinball skills (or lack thereof!). But for all those people that seem to have an innate ability that allows them to excel at Pinball this table may offer a bit of a challenge that doesn't result in feeling completely inept.

C-3PO's comments really make this table.
This table features the brilliant duo that is R2-D2 and C-3PO. This table looks really cool and is set inside of a Sandcrawler with Jawas supervising the action. The Jawas can interfere in your game too, which - whilst it could be frustrating - did introduce a fun gameplay mechanic.

This table was my sons favourite, mostly because of the Jawas, but I found it enjoyable too. The setting of the table is perfect and C-3PO's comments are hilarious and get the character spot on. This and the Han Solo table are by far the stand out tables of this pack, and really do make the pack worth buying for everyone who loves Star Wars.

Who doesn't love Han Solo?!
This table was my favourite, not least because it revolves around my favourite character, Han Solo. This table features the song from the Mos Eisley Cantina which immediately brings a smile to your face. The voice acting was really good too, and fit Han Solo's character well.

I found that the modes were pretty difficult to activate, but it wasn't frustrating like some of them are. You can just coast through this table as it is easy to keep the ball afloat, but in doing that you are never going to get the high scores.

This table was by far the most enjoyable of the pack in my opinion. It's brilliant for any Star Wars fans and presents enough of a challenge to the seasoned Pinball players without alienating the ones that aren't as good.

The Walking Dead 

Honestly the best table I've played
On hearing that there would be a table for The Walking Dead I was pretty sceptical of how it would work. How could they take the amazing story that Telltale games wove and transfer that to a PINBALL table?!

Well I don't know how they did it but they did, and most importantly they did it REALLY WELL! The table manages to seamlessly join the brilliantly fun gameplay of Pinball FX 2 with the tear-jerking moments and horrible heart-rending decisions that players make in The Walking Dead.

There are some really good special modes to unlock on this table, but I won't go into how you get them. There was one mode that sees you sniping zombies which was really cool. Zombies invade the table and hitting them with your ball does feel really gratifying.

I felt like this table was set up way better too, in that the ball seems to fly nearer to the flippers more often than some of the others. I found this table to be a fair bit easier than many, but at the same time just so much more fun and engaging. This table is an easy 'must-buy' for literally anyone.

Codes were provided for the purpose of this review.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Sniper Elite 3 (Xbox One) - Review

Sniper Elite III is available now for multiple formats. The price on the Xbox One Marketplace is around £40/$50.

Sniper Elite v2 was my gift to my Dad for Father's Day the year it came out. He has always loved playing games, but has found himself becoming irritated with the fast paced, run and gun mentality of  the newer releases (CoD I'm looking at you!). He likes to be methodical and wants to be able to take his time and take the shot he wants to, rather than the shot the game makes you unless you wanna die.  He LOVED Sniper Elite v2 so much that my partner and I bought it for us too. He has played it, but I am ashamed to say that I STILL have not gotten round to it - I'm still pretty immersed in Skyrim on the 360. 

So when we got the One and found out that there was going to be a Sniper game released for it shortly after I was pretty excited. This gave me the chance to play it on the next gen and given that there are still not that many games out for the One I was unlikely to be distracted by another game. I was excited to see what they could do with the increased power of the One and eagerly awaited release. 

For me I think that being available digitally is a brilliant idea for this game, merely because I feel like this game is a good drop-in drop-out title. Don't get me wrong, there is a story, it's just not particularly immersive or - dare I say it - interesting. I am the type of gamer that once playing a story has to continue with it, for fear of getting them mixed up if I try and play too many narratives at one. So with that in mind it is great to just load up, do a mission and go onto something else. No disc changing required. Whilst I was playing this I was also attempting to 100% Watch Dogs (I'm around 97% now and just SO bored with it!) so to mix things up when I felt like Watch Dogs was just getting far too dull I loaded up Sniper Elite III and made myself feel better, before going back to my disc and boring myself to tears (seriously WHAT IS WITH ALL THE FIXER MISSIONS!). 

Great looking scenery
But anyway, I digress. Graphically Sniper Elite III is pretty impressive. As with all Xbox One titles to date, I feel that they're not groundbreaking and often times when you look closely they are pretty patchy, but for the most part they will do nicely. From what I have seen of the previous Sniper game graphics have been improved massively, but that is not to say that this games graphics doesn't have it's faults. I've encountered a fair bit of texture popping and the frame rate drops pretty frequently too. The maps are huge, and pretty detailed so I guess I could say this was to be expected. The graphics are definitely not bad enough for this game to lose any points. And let's be honest the graphics we most look forward to in the Sniper games are the gruesome slow-mo bullet trajectory cinematic kills, which are pretty spectacular. Saying that if you're getting a lot of good shots this feature can get tiresome and make you wish you had a 'skip scene' button available. Never-the-less it is a great feeling when you get THAT particular shot! Yes as I'm sure you all remember it is possible to shoot someone through the testicles on this game. And you're even treated to a graphical representation of whats going on internally. Aren't we the lucky ones?!
Hey little fella...
This game has allows you to exercise decent control over your difficulty settings. Custom allows you to independently choose the difficulty setting for your sniping and for the AI which I thought was a nice touch - just because I want to ramp the difficulty of the aiming up to realistic does NOT mean I want the AI to notice a fart from a radius of 20 miles. So for my play through I decided to use the top level of 'realism' for my shooting and just normal enemies, and for me this game was a much more enjoyable experience because of that. 

Gameplay is pretty good. The controls feel pretty intuitive and I like the weapons you have at your disposal, which are easily accessed through the D-Pad. I LOVE that this game allows you to take your time, think about what you wanna do and scope out the competition. It reminded me of Far Cry 3, which was one of my favourite games from last year in that you could hide in a bush with your binoculars and tag the enemies, making them visible through walls etc. Which yeah I guess seems kinda dumb, but I appreciated it! 

The game is basically map after map of clearing out the enemies and maybe their tanks and vehicles. Yes it does get repetitive, but so does every other shooter going. There are sweet points in each map where there is a generator or something that makes a lot of noise, therefore masking the sound of your gunshots. Get to one of these and your golden, line up your shot and wait for the noise to start. I liked this feature and felt it was definitely more immersive for it. 

So up to now this game is coming up smelling of roses really. But the multiplayer is broken, and I mean BROKEN. You can wait forever to actually be put into a match then when you are chances are its a 2v1 which is laggy as hell. It is in desperate need of fixing, but once it is it will be a pretty good multiplayer experience, as when I did make it into working multiplayer games it was great and nothing like CoD. There was real tension when deciding whether making the shot was worth giving your position away. I haven't had a chance to try the co-op modes, as there isn't an option for public matchmaking, and none of my friends have this game on this system. I think this should be changed, as this for me would be a brilliant addition to the game. Don't get me wrong though, even though the multiplayer is broken, it is a game I will be going back to, even solo. The game is pretty easy to just pick up and play when only a sniper will do. Saying that I have encountered the bug which says you haven't left the area when you clearly have a couple of times, meaning I had to redo the mission. That was pretty annoying.

Sniper Elite III is pretty good. Not great nor groundbreaking but pretty damn good. It is what it is I suppose, and makes no apologies for that. You don't like slower paced shooting? Look elsewhere. Hate sniping? Well the clue is in the name. And whilst it is not just a sniper game, it is when using just a sniper and CQC that this game shines. If you're doing it right and sneaking around taking the right shots then there are very few reasons for you to ever break out your MP40. And the CQC is good, like really good. Yeah you could try and run and gun it, but then you may as well have spent your money on something else. 

Overall I would feel happy to recommend this game. I feel that the price point is possibly a little high for the game as it is at the moment, but for what this game can become with a bit of patching it is a steal. If you're tired of CoD but still enjoy a shooter, definitely pick it up.

 8/10 BUY IT!
A code was provided for the purpose of this review.