Thoughts On… Left 4 Dead 2

(Old review – from the original HNTDAAB)

 343030ps_500h

Publisher: Valve/EA
Developer: Valve
Year of Release: 2009
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360

Remember almost a year ago? Valve had just released a certain Zombie shooter, which the critics had loved and everyone was spending their evenings running around a north eastern USA infested with zombies. After a year and constant tweaks by Valve, many people are still playing it. Enough people to blow a gasket and attempt a boycott of the rather rapid sequel.

Instead of being set back in the area around Pittsburgh using several of the horror staples such as farms, airports and hospitals, the new game is instead in the Deep South, in a sprawling line from Savannah, Georgia to a finale in New Orleans. Along the way, you’ll trek though a mall, fight through a zombified fairground, have a walk through a swamp filled with mudmen and move through flooded village in order to find vital gas. The game also has a new set of characters to play as, replacing Bill and Co. with Coach, Nick the gambler, Ellis the Southern mechanic and Rochelle the stuffy broadcaster. One of the good things about the plot this time is the fact it actually follows as opposed to being 4 randomly stuck together campaigns. It’s also funny to listen to some of the new dialogue, as the characters (although lacking some of the same personalities we loved in the first game) are designed to play off each other with Ellis being the main aim of the contempt, while Nick acts as the main source of sarcasm.

 Mud Men!

Based on the gameplay, Left 4 Dead 2 has refined a lot of the main features of the original. The whole setup of running into an area, stopping and shooting the hordes of zombies before carrying on still carries on being brilliant, especially with 3 of your mates. Special zombies still turn up, hordes still pour out at various intervals and all the time an evil all knowing AI director is controlling proceedings like some kind of sadistic crazy film creator. However a few minor things have been tweaked with a new version of the evil mastermind. This time around, the director can change the layout of levels, the weather and unleash new special events such as a crippling fog that appears in one of the later campaigns. The director also seems to have a mean strike a mile wide, as hordes and crazy combinations of special seems much more common than in the original. Part of this is the new special zombies, which are designed to break apart tactics that were considered cheating in the first game. Spitters throw burning goo to force people to move away from where it lands, while the Jockey allows the zombies to split one person away from the rest of the group and take them into a crowd of gibbering infected. Finally, the Charger is another method to split up the pack, by grabbing someone and running away with them before bouncing them up and down. These new specials make for some interesting combinations if used with the old.

Additionally a major flaw of the original game, the lack of weapons, has been fixed. There is a smattering of new firearms available at various tiers. Available from the start at many points are all of the original weapons as well as two new ones, a chrome shotgun and a silenced smg. Both of these have subtle differences from the first games guns, but the real surprise comes later on in the tiers. The new desert combat rifle is a 3 round burst weapon, ideal for longer range while its counterpart is the AK47 (mysteriously appearing in the Deep South by methods unknown) which loses accuracy at longer ranges. The automatic shotgun now has a new friend, the combat shotgun which fires a little faster than the original. Finally, there is now a better version of the sniper rifle with a larger magazine which is closer to the assault rifle than the little pea shooter of a hunting rifle. On top of this there are two other new firearms. To replace your pistol is a desert eagle, which can’t be dual wielded but can rip arms and legs off. Occasionally, you may also find M79s lying round the map. You can’t refill the thirty rounds its starts off with from any ammo pile, but for any finale its ability to destroy entire crowds of zombies with a single shot. There has also been a shift in the items. As well as the pills (PEELZ HERE) and the med kits, there are now defibrillators for reviving dead players as well as adrenaline shots, allowing players to move fast and provide the same health boast of the pills. And now you can throw boomer bile at people as well, although it does deprive you of a Molotov or pipe bombs. Instead, boomer vile attracts zombies to anyone it hits and makes them attack it. Use it on the tank and sit back to watch.

 Flame Proof Zombies!

Of course what everyone is really excited about is the melee weapons. With cricket bats, crowbars, police batons, machetes, samurai swords, frying pans or even guitars you can now have the true zombie film experience and go in swinging. They are all great fun to use, if a little overpowered. They also make great use of Left 4 Dead 2’s new gore system, which means zombies can now loose limbs and expose internal organs. The chainsaw is the king of the melee weapons, and is as horrible and gory as you could possibly imagine.

But co-op isn’t the only mode. As well as the singleplayer, versus mode returns (on all campaigns from release) as does the DLC added Survival mode. These have both seen some refinement and slight touch ups and the new specials now make versus even more mental than it was before. A new mode has also been added based off the finale of the first campaign. In scavenger mode, the survivors have to fill up a generator with gas cans lying around the map. Unfortunately, the zombies appear to recognise the plan and so will do everything possible to kill the survivors in as short a time as possible. This mode is brilliant for a quick competitive blast (as opposed to the bite size co-op of survival and the mega-length versus of co-op campaign) and it much more interesting than survival ever was for me.

 Zombies!

Left 4 Dead 2 still uses the same Source engine as Left 4 Dead, but with a few incremental upgrades. The game looks a lot better with little or no loss in framerate, with some of the weapons and items having seen some improvement. The zombies also look more revolting than before, with blood and inchor pouring out of them. The smoker seems to have had a lot of work done on him, while the new Spitter is the most horrifying zombie you will ever see apart from the female boomers. The sounds are also pretty good, with the new character’s dialogue being some of the snappiest and most human I’ve seen in games ever. The sounds for the weapons are as satisfying as ever, with the frying pan providing the most mirth. But what really impressed me was the new level design. Valve have made a selection of perfect maps designed for zombie killing and each campaign is around a specific theme which goes all the way from the incidental music announcing an attack of the horde to the finale.

Post release, Valve released a DLC pack that brought the two sets of survivors together. Its shorter than the rest of the campaigns but it is great fun. The added M60 and golf club are both great weapons as well. Its a bit of shame that the same survivor dies each time, but its still a great thing to get for free. They are also (as of 09/09/10) planning to add another pack that includes a brand new campaign as well as a new converted version of Left 4 Dead’s first campaign, No Mercy. This is just what I’ve been wanting – the conversion of the original’s levels up to the new tech and weapons of the sequel.

The main flaw of Left 4 Dead 2 is the fact it is just a lot more Left 4 Dead. If you didn’t enjoy the last game, then this won’t bring you round. However, if you loved the first game or want to get into the co-op sensation that is one of Valve’s major triumphs then this is something you may want to pick up. Valve are the new kings of how to make killing zombies brilliant.

Thoughts On… Far Cry 2

(Old review – from the original HNTDAAB; also one of the first review I wrote)

Boxart-FarCry2

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Year of Release: 2009
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Far Cry 2 is one of the best games I’ve played this year. But ever time you think about giving it ultimate greatness the niggling doubts come and change your mind

You play as one of nine mercs sent to Unnamed African Country Number 4 to kill an arms dealer called The Jackal. You need to work for both the factions and your buddies in order to gain diamonds needed to buy weapons needed to continue fighting the war. So far so standard fps. However, when Far Cry 2 was made someone at Ubisoft hit it with the free roaming stick. So now you can drive around a 50km square world burning, shooting and knifing anything in your way.

First up a bit of clarification. Far Cry 2 has nothing to do with Far Cry, made by Crytek who now make the Crysis series, which makes the same mistakes as Far Cry 1. The only thing in common between the two Far Crys is the idea of a magic observation tool, which can tag and track any resupply points, defences or vehicles you find in the camps around the map, and the hanglider. So you have no obligation to play through Far Cry all the way through. Just up until before the bloody trigens appear.

Pre-release screenshot

So, the good points on Far Cry 2. The graphics are amazing. Not only do they look spectacular, and help to set the scene, but they actually work properly unlike Crysis’s system killing looks. When your driving around, you’ll often stop to look across a perfect sunrise, or stand looking up at a cloudless sky in the dessert.

The guns also look good reflecting the lights in the world as a real gun does. In fact the graphics help to bring across another one of FC2′s good points, the weapons reliability. As you use a weapon its starts to age and rust, until it can’t take it anymore and blows itself away to gun heaven. You start to pray that a gun doesn’t jam just as you run into an enemy camp even though you know sods law says it will. The whole system knocks up the tensions a notch making every battle a fraught affair. Thankfully a quite well implemented buddy system means that if you go down, you’ll be right as rain in 2 seconds flat. The buddies also add the games emotion. You start to become more attached to buddy that’s saved you 5 times, and feel gutted when you have to mercy kill them because you made a mistake

Immersion is another place where FC2 shines. The camera never, ever snaps to a view. When you climb in a car, you see yourself hauling your body over the back seats, or sliding under a roll cage. When you fix yourself up after taking a critical wound, you will actually see some of the best animations ever as you cauterise a wound with a cigarette, put a dislocated arm back into its socket with a sickening crunch or yank a rifle round out of your wrist with your teeth. These animations and other little touches like them, make this game like no other.

Jungle

Unfortunately FC2 does shoot itself in the foot with a shotgun. The AI is sadly lacking, not as clever as it should be with the amount of smart technology used on the elements surrounding it. Enemies will run around in a panic even if you stand around sedately. Also the factions are always pissed off at you making checkpoints on the roads less about checking papers, more about checking you’ve wasted around 50% on a bunch of prats before you even reach your missions. The amount of travelling around is also annoying, especially when you have just started the amount game. The only fast travel is the buses which have 5 stops per map all of which are miles from anywhere useful. This forces you to travel down the pissed off men infested roads. The story and its associated voice acting is also appalling. The casual chatter is alright, but receiving a mission, especially from the UFLL, is down right painful due mainly to the worst South African accent have ever heard. The story only appears at the start, middle and end making it shallow and almost feel forced upon you. The whole flexible story thing sounds good, but is only used to its full potential at the very end. Also most of the time you are doing nothing to help in your hunt for the jackal. And the guy who decided it would be cool to give the player malaria at the start is an idiot. Instead it just forces you to waste time doing transfer quests between the cities and random shacks filled with refugees.

There are many missed opportunities with Far Cry 2, but it is impossible to come off a quick session not smiling, be it at the scenery, the funny moments or the crazy maps people have made online. Maybe a sequel might take the ideas further.

Thoughts On… ArmA II

(Old review – from the original HNTDAAB and Geeks.co.uk)

Arma-2-cover

Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Bohmeia Interactive
Year of Release: 2009
Platforms: PC

Anyone who is used to the conventions of other FPS games, its recommended that you leave your normal playing style at the door. This is because you are entering the world of the Milsim.

ARMA 2 is the latest version of a game idea stretching back to 2002. Operation Flashpoint was released by Codemasters and developed by Bohemia Interactive (a company who also makes games used to train soldiers in both the UK and US military). Then, Bohemia and Codemasters had a falling out which lead to Bohemia taking the tech back the the Czech Republic and Codemasters keeping the name. Bohemia then produced ARMA (released 2005) and now ARMA 2.

ARMA 2 is set in a fictional ex-soviet bloc state called Chernaus where a civil war between the democratic government and communist insurgents has been taking place. In the singleplayer campaign you take the role of a US marine special forces team sent in to assist the locals alongside a Marine force. As well as this there are some other self contained missions of varying levels of enjoyment (the mission Eye for an Eye is the best example and requires a very specialised technique to play properly). Overall they are reasonably good. But not the main reason for buying ARMA 2.

Tank!

Once again, the phenomenal editor which was featured in ARMA returns. It is easy to use and yet exceptionally powerful if you delve into the dark arts behind it.  A casual player can use the wizard mission creator, allowing most of the common mission styles (such as defence or assassination missions) to be constructed with a few clicks of the mouse. Put a bit more work in on the full editor and add waypoints yourself and missions close to some of the single missions can be created. However, if you start using the scripting then missions at the level of the campaign or better can be made. And all of this is done inside the game making it very easy to tweak and test. Multiplayer is another key part of the package that is ARMA 2. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Sectors and Warfare (a mode involving base building and point capture) are included, but the main method of ARMA 2 multiplayer is co op. The main campaign is almost designed for co op play with your four man squad. This is the best option for people not wanting to get extra maps, but other maps from the community promise to be better than the stock ones. ARMA 2 acts more as a platform for community addons rather than a complete game

Another thing ARMA 2 does well is the sheer amount of units, weapons and other objects that appear in the game. There are men and machines for the USMC, the Russians, the CDF, the Communist Insurgents, the National Party Guerrillas and the civilians. There are even playable versions of the local wildlife. So yes, you can run around a war zone as a small rabbit. All the vehicles and weapons are detailed to the extreme (showing the obvious training tool routes) and all sound, react and have the feel of the real thing. The same applies to the gameplay. In ARMA 2, bullets and other projectiles act like they would in real life. Aiming is affected by stance, breathlessness, wind, weather, distance… The list goes on. It requires the skills needed by real life shooters to be able to get kills at long range. Another difference between COD and ARMA 2 is the command system. In my opinion its a bit clunky, as it has hardly been changed since Operation Flashpoint. The changes that has been done is a quick commands menu which makes it easier to lead troops, but not by much. Another addition is a step over key allowing you to cross obstacles like fences easily, as opposed to having to trek around it. There are countless other changes between ARMA and ARMA 2.

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One change that, unfortunately, hasn’t been made is the number of bugs. ARMA 2 still has some problems, even after a few patches. Quite a few of these are random, and will take place at any time. Admittedly its a lot better than ARMA at this stage, but the bugs are still there. Also the learning curve is quite steep; expect to put a long time into learning how all the different weapon systems work. Another flaw is the engine itself. It is in need of a bit of optimisation and so runs sluggish on almost any PC. However, the visuals are, in many cases, well worth a drop in performance. Some of the views over the main island could be called picturesque while a battle in full swing when rendered is a sight that will stay in your mind for a long time.

ARMA 2 is a bit like a slightly crazy girlfriend. Its beautiful, its nice to be with but at any time, it might turn round and rip your face off or fall over dead. Its also a vast improvement over Armed Assault I’m looking forward to seeing how the community can improve and add to this amazing experience of war.

Thoughts On… Call of Duty: World at War

(Old review – from the original HNTDAAB and stitched together from two articles)

Boxart-CODWAW

Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch
Year of Release: 2008
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Treyarch gets a really bad name. Call of Duty 3 messed up their reputation gained from other console Call of Duty’s like Finest Hour, which had some of the best moments ever seen on a console. Now they are back, in World War 2 with Call of Duty: World At War.

In this entry in the series, you play as alternately a US Marine in the Pacific and a Russian Private on the Eastern front and for one mission, apping the C130 mission from CoD4, a gunner in a flying boat. The campaign is of a similar number of missions to COD4 but each mission is much shorter. Its also quite easy. I’m not the best at FPS’s but i played through the missions in around 5 hours on regular with only a few deaths. At no point did i sit there going ”how the fuck do i do this!?!”. Thats nice as I feel really clever, but it seemed really easy. Even the climatic last US mission seemed like a walk through the park.

However some of the levels are gold. The first Russian mission, creeping through the ruins of Stalingrad. The first time you get the flamethrower. The fight through the subways of Berlin. Clearing the Japanese tunnels under Peliu. Every mission, though short, seems really memorable. You’ll be sharing stories of your fights in COD5 for a long time to come.

flamethrower

The weapons in COD5 are brilliant. That said, the staple Thompson and Springfield don’t have the same visceral kick they had in CoD2. But some of the more obscure weapons get thrust into the limelight. The M1 gets a nice upgrade in the form of the grenade launcher or bayonet. More importantly, you can reload midclip! Finally a mainstream shooter corrects the genres biggest flaw! The Japanese weapons are quite exciting but the rifle sounds horrible and weak. Russians get the PPSH which is perhaps one of the best gun in any game ever. Germans, well they get the FG42, the first true assault rifle. In this, it can rip dudes in half (more on that later). Of course you really want to know about the flamethrower. It really, really cool. You’ll love using and hate it when you don’t have it.

Treyarch have decided to do two brave things with COD5. One is to include gore. This makes the game more realistic to a point. However there are some over the top moments. Because of this, I don’t recommend you give this to a kid, just because he played COD4. Another factor is the storyline, influenced by the theatres of war they chose. It seems really dark with both the Americans and the Russians out for revenge. The Russian missions really have an atmosphere that both sides hate each others guts. Your sergeant character is completely consumed by the need for revenge against the Germans, executing prisoners and burning a German casualty alive in one scene. Gary Oldman’s outstanding voice acting at one point switches effortlessly from murderous lunatic to a man who is very, very scared by the situation he is in, revering you as a lucky totem that will safeguard him through the war. I applaud Treyarch for the balls to have this massive change in tone from the last games. This and Brothers In Arms are the only WW2 FPS’s to actually make me realise ”shit, I just killed a guy”.

Treyarch also threw in the obligatory vehicle level, which is alright. At least they are driveable. What is not all right is bloody invisible walls. Obvious invisible walls. The first level is a nightmare because of it, however in later ones they are fixed, covered with actual walls or bushes. But I was a second away from quitting the game at the end of the first level. Also i had to do a driver update before it would get past the start of the second mission.Treyarch has obviously messed with engine to get the new effects.

Its Gary Oldman!

However its the multiplayer that’s the crack cocaine. I never got into COD4 multiplayer as people were always too good. But COD 5 has brilliant weapons, maps and constant challenges. Unlike the weapons in COD 4, WW2 weapons have a heavy punch. The trench gun is hilarious and sounds awesome. The added gore means online is even better, with fights leading to flying limbs and pools of blood. Molotov’s and flame throwers show off the COD4 engines power. The combined experience of it all mixing together makes perfection in gaming form.

Co Op is also worth a mention. Xbox live means it is so easy to get into the game, and Nazi Zombie mode is one of the best things to happen to the Xbox 360. Each player must work together or die under the horde. And what games allow you to shout “this..is..my..BOOMSTICK” whilst capping zombies with a double barrelled shotgun.

Unlike the other COD games, World At War isn’t serious. Its a raucous jaunt through Russian and Asia, behind a pretence of the horror of war, but with exploding limbs and addictive multiplayer. I love it but I still see some flaws, such as grenade spam and poor level design.

Thoughts On… Darkest of Days

(Old review – from the original HNTDAAB)

Boxart-DarkestofDays

Publisher: Phantom EFX
Developer: 8Monkey Labs
Year of Release: 2009
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360

When you see a game from a developer who has no proven track record, you can feel a bit apprehensive in playing their game. In most cases this is a false feeling and instead the game is brilliant (see Spelunky). However in Darkest of Days that feeling is right on the money.

Darkest of Days pits you as time travelling trooper, sent back in time to fix mistakes made in the time stream. You go back to various periods, most notably WW1 and the American Civil War to save people who weren’t supposed to be involved in the wars and to discover who is tweaking the past. Although the general idea is good, the execution is less so.

It is indeed the Darkest of Days

First of all I should say the game isn’t completely terrible. Its a passable first person shooter, feeling like it was made pre-COD 4, with a few clever ideas. First of all, the different time periods lead to masses of weapons. Also, the plot is a good idea but unfortunately is let down by some major holes (for example, if you were brought forward in time and told to fire a futuristic gun you’d probably have some questions). It does have some quite funny characters such as Dexter, you cowboy hat wearing pizza loving squad mate. The biggest flaw in regards to the story is the fact the last few levels are really, really good fun but all the levels before them feel increasingly generic.

As for serious problems, well the game has many. For a start, the game is ugly.  It has a look that is a lot worse than even the Source engine on its release back in 2004. The textures all look really low resolution and the models lack in detail. Worse they miss out animations for many things, leading both ally and enemy to glide along or bu out at certain points. The maps not only look terrible but also play badly. There are more invisible walls in this game than in WaW and they can be really frustrating. The AI is also appalling. It appears to use a design from the very early 3D games, with AI only activating once they reach certain areas. Additionally the AI uses the old trick of constantly respawning enemies in certain areas, making your kills worthless. The game also struggles with some of its mechanics such as the enemies in blue auras (ones you can’t kill but AI friendlies will it seem hunt after) and the active reload system it nicked from Gears of War. Finally, the audio design is rather lacking – most of the gun sounds are flat and the voice acting is terrible.

The thing to remember with all this is that Darkest of Days is the first game from the developers, but that’s no excuse for the state this game is in. The entire game stinks of a rushed product and unfortunately wastes the clever premise. To make it clear – This Is A Bad Game. If you need to play a time traveling game, go play Braid

Thoughts On… The Sims 3

(Old review – from the original HNTDAAB)

Boxart-Sims3

Publisher: EA
Developer: Maxis
Year of Release: 2009
Platforms: PC

I’m going assume everyone reading this has played the Sims at some point. It’s become such a cultural thing that if you were to even mention gaming in a public conversation, this is the game most people would think of. So what does this latest upgrade bring to the series? And is it really worth buying at all?

For the non-existent person who is sat on the internet and hasn’t got a clue what the Sims is, let us enlighten you. The Sims is a series of effectively life management games where you control the lives of one or more Sims though their lives, including relationships, jobs and doing all of your fantasies to the poor innocent people you control on the screen, you sicko. The other thing with the Sims was the huge number of player made content available to the rest of the community.

Guitar Playing Douchebag

So what has EA added to the formula in order that they won’t get lynched by the hordes of fans? Well one of the main changes to the game is the introduction of a two layered wishes system. The upper layer is the lifetime wishes, which are chosen when you create a sim. This is the Sims overall aim in life, be it to become a rock star or even the leader of the free world. As well as that, there are also everyday wishes which pop up regularly during the days in the game. By achieving these they add to your lifetime happiness which allows you to then give your character lifelong buffs. Another new idea is opportunities, effectively quests that also contribute towards your lifetime happiness. Speaking of buffs, the game also gives you buffs and nerfs based on your Sims mood. These bonuses are known as moodlets and can be either devastating to your Sims life or make them last for even longer.

The games also had another major improvement in the world. EA has knocked the walls down and made neighbourhoods linked together, requiring only one load time. This makes visiting the community lots a lot more interesting and worthwhile, as there is no risk that maybe there will be nothing useful there and you have to sit through another huge load time to go home. As part of this, Sims can now buy transport such as cars and bikes to store them on their lots. Additionally, there are now more items that Sims can stash in their inventories such as stereos and guitars.

Scary Thing

Sims 3 have also seen a big improvement in its graphics. Your Sims are now approaching Uncanny Valley territory, and look slightly scary roaming around their world. This can be seen most in the updated create a sim which now includes more sliders to make customization easier and a new styles tool, allowing you to theme your clothes to your wallpaper and furniture. This is a great new feature, making it a lot easier to make a good looking set without having to have a million different downloads. In terms of modabilty, the game also includes much greater integration with both the community downloads and a new micro transactions store set up by EA. Both of these are great but the

So overall, is The Sims 3 actually worth it? Well it really depends on how much you spent on the Sims 2. If you only picked up the main game or maybe one or two expansions then yes the Sims 3 is a lot better and should be a purchase. However, if you bought all the expansions for the Sims 2 then the sheer drop in content between a fully expanded Sims 2 and a copy of Sims 3 means the newer game isn’t actually better. But if you’re a new player then this is the edition for you – its closer to a game than ever before. Overall though, its just the Sims but slightly updated.

Thoughts On… Street Fighter IV (PC)

(Old review – from the original HNTDAAB)

841138-sf4

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Year of Release: 2009
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360

The Street Fighter series dates from a time where arcades where the kings of the console wars, the place where us gamers crowded into to play games, often with our parents loose change in the UK. Those days have passed and now the home consoles stand triumphant. Street Fighter IV did well on them last year, but does it work on the PC, the platform least friendly to split screen play?

In case you grew up in a cave and think Frogger is as violent as games should be, let me educate you. Street Fighter is a series of side scrolling beat ‘em ups where you play as one of a roster of fighters and attempt to “beat up” your opponent by pulling off various combos moves, which vary depending on your selected character. Based on the description of a 13 year old back in the ’90′s you “kick them, punch them, break their necks and other stuff. It’s really cool!”

Street Fighter IV has four main modes. These are Arcade, Versus, Live Versus and Challenge mode. Arcade feels like the main focus of the entire Street Fighter, and so is the main mode which is the only mode that unlocks new characters. The fights slowly step up in difficulty until you reach the final boss, Seth. The game recommend multiple playthroughs with different characters, as some of the better ones need to be played through with other unlockable characters, or by performing certain feats (such as achieving perfects in fights). If your wanting to just play a very quick game or take your man on man fighting online, there is Versus mode which is simply a single exhibition match, complete with several different options such as number of rounds or time limit. Finally there is also a Challenge, which forces you to complete certain moves in order to pass them. This leads me onto a problem…

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On the PC, it is excruciatingly hard to play. Don’t even think of using the keyboard controls – they don’t let you pull off many of the moves you need to actually play the game, including its most famous the Hadoyken. The controller isn’t much of an improvement if you want precise control over which moves you use, making it the choice for the casual player. If you want to play SFIV to its best, you NEED to find an arcade stick and buttons set, which can set you back about £60. If you don’t get this then many of the more advanced moves are very hard to perform. For example, in the time I was reviewing it, I only managed to pull off 2 ultras and only got those by button mashing. So yeah, unless you know SF like the back of your hand or actually have 4 million hands, expect to lose.

That said, this is my first Street Fighter.

Anyway, the character roster is big and quite varied, with few characters sharing moves (apart from the series main characters, Ken and Ryu). Each of the characters have a certain look to them, due in part to the games art style and the sheer craziness of the Japanese (just look at Zangief). Also, each character has their own feel to them. Zangief has a feel of much slower attacks than stretchy armed man Dhalsim while Dhalsim himself has a much longer reach. This is the key to Street Fighter, forcing players to master the differences in each character.

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Being on PC, SFIV looks absolutely stunning. As well as the beautiful anime cutscenes, the ingame graphics look really crisp while showing off the style. The backgrounds are also fully 3D, with some even featuring spectators that react to events. My personally favourite has to be the Scottish Distillery, complete with stereotypical ginger worker, wheeling barrels around in the background. The design is good, with good ingame music and dialogue. My only problems were the horrible menu song (which will stick in your head like a tumour) and a bug I encounter on my laptop, where the dialogue was in English, but the lip movement was in Japanese. As part of this the game also seemed to slow down slightly. However do not despair as it works perfectly fine on my main desktop pc. Finally, some issues may arise due to Games for Windows Live integration, which includes one of the hardest set of achievements I have seen. There are no easy achievements. None of them. If you’re a completionist who hates having games with really low number of achievements on them, then do not load this game up on your profile.

Street Fighter IV is THE version of Street Fighter to own. It looks good, runs well, packed with modes (hell it local multiplayer!) and with a still popular online crowd you will get many fun hours out of this, although many will just be learning how to play it. However, I can’t stress enough that you need to pick up either a gamepad or an arcade stick to fully enjoy the game.

Thoughts On… Forza Motorsport 3

(Old review – from the original HNTDAAB) 

Boxart-ForzaMotorsport3

Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Turn10 Studios 
Year of Release: 2009
Platforms: Xbox 360

I never really got Forza 2, despite buying the Limited Edition and trading in a big pile of games for it. It was in my Work Experience and the real reason I bought it was because all the other guys were talking about it. But I found it next to impossible to get into due the fact that at that point I had next to no clue about how to drive a car in real life. Flash forward to 2009 and now I’m learning to drive so I get the whole gearstick-clutch thing. And now I understand how to control tons of metal without introducing it to the roadside shrubbery, it might be a good time to take a look at the sequel.

So what is Forza? Well its the Xbox’s version of Gran Turismo except coming out on time (ohh burn). Its a racing simulation with various levels of difficulty from assists heavy and auto breaking all the way up to nothing at all (including manual gear shift). However it is not just about racing – Forza is designed that anyone who is even interested in cars at all can take part in a new online car enthusiast culture, allowing tuning and painting of cars to be a valid way of participating.

The games career mode is split into four years of driving challenges, increasing in both difficulty and race length as the months go by. There are various types of challenges with different conditions for each events. These differing races make every event different be it an endurance race round the Nurburgring or a drag race in souped up hatchbacks. It also presents you with the new events at the end of the last one allowing you to keep driving without having to go back to the menu system. However, if you wish to cherry pick certain events, there is also an event selector on the main menu.

 Yep, 4x4's are in the game

Once you start racing, the driving model feels just right. The sheer range of difficulty options allow anyone to race without feeling that the game just doesn’t make sense. To make this even easier, the game includes the rewind feature from other driving games like Dirt or Grid. This can take place at anytime in single player, allowing you to correct that mistake you made on the last corner of a two hour race (every Forza player has done that unless you’re a freaking robot). I love this new system and helps to make Forza 3 the most accessible of the simulation driving games I’ve every played.

The guys at Turn 10 love cars, and they have put 400 of the finest machines available spread over two disks. These range from cars like the Clio or Focus, all the way up to racing cars while stopping off at supercharged Land Rovers, Ferraris and the Bugatti Veyron. All of the cars look amazing, especially on a big HD tv, and are all available to be painted up in almost in colours you want. They are also upgradeable, either manually by selecting the right parts or in a single button press before an event if you are rather lazy. It should be pointed that most of the truly famous cars do cost a bomb in credits so much of the cooler vehicles will only be yours several hours into for career mode. The tracks to race these vehicles bring back some of the best from Forza 2 but also add some new ones, including a brilliant race track in the Japanese hill country requiring you to use the drift skills that were pioneered there.

On top of the competent singleplayer, there is also a fully fleshed out multiplayer. Up to 8 players can race online (only two in splitscreen) over any of the tracks using any of the cars. These can be any type of event from a single race up to a series or even special races such as drag racing or drift contests. This is done by a system very familiar to any Modern Warfare 2 players, with special playlists for each of the different types. This is a massive improvement over the last game, making the online a lot easier to enjoy.

 Confirmed: Cars

I mentioned that players didn’t have to drive to enjoy Forza 3 – players can now act as specialist custom tuners and artists in a much improved marketplace system. It is now a lot easier to find and download the best of the decals, designs, tuning setups or even full cars people have uploaded. Players can also create their own storefront and sell their designs with a personalised touch, letting players limit the amount of a certain product is available. For the first time, items can become limited edition very easily. This setup has been jumped upon by the community and its now possible to download amazing designs for cars or decal groups for pretty much anything.

Forza 3 has amazing graphics in both artistic terms and in the technical side. The cars are joyful to look at, and is a perfect screensaver if you just leave it on the main menu with panning views around your chosen car. The most exciting thing about it is that it is locked at 60 frames per second in any viewpoint, including the new cockpit cam. The cars also look good in motion showing just the sheer amount of research the guys at Turn 10 did. The UI is now a clearer white making it a lot easier to get to the stuff you want to as opposed to the clunky dark version of the last game. The music is another area of improvement as the ingame soundtrack is a hundred times better than the crap of the last time. However, the announcer who acts as the helper between races is very annoying. In fact, most of the time I played I simply turned on a custom soundtrack and just drove.

Forza Motorsport 3 quite simply took the first game, which had the right ideas , and made them work together. Its a lot better package, with more cars and tracks to enjoy as well as better mechanics. If you want a simulation driving game, this is the one to choose.