Will Preston

First Look

All style and no substance. A First Look at Kane & Lynch 2 Dog Days

by on Aug.21, 2010, under First Look

Giving a new meaning to the genre of “casual shooter”

What the hell is going on with Square Enix today? No longer content with simply releasing JRPGs over and over again, this publishing company has already engulfed Eidos in its blubbery mass in a scene similar to the climax of Akira. A big amorphous blob squeezing more Tomb Raider, Deus Ex and Hitman until it bursts under pressure. Not that it could be a bad thing. Well, for Lara Croft it’s been over for a decade. Style over substance doesn’t cut it, young lady. And here’s another game that’s good on the eyes, but not on the imagination.

I never really got around to playing the first Kane & Lynch game. Every now and again I keep wondering whether I should give it a go, but it just doesn’t seem to present itself in the ways I want it to. On the contrary, the games presentation seems to be its finest point. I say finest point, it looks like its only focus from what I hear. This stopped me from buying it. Not even the £10 price tag in the second hand shop could tempt me. And now the sequel is set for release later this month.

I suppose now is the chance to see what kind of game the first one was like. If anything, the sequel should be a more improved version of it, shouldn’t it? As soon as the introduction movie rolls, I can tell that my standards on good graphics will be further raised beyond the monolithic plinth where they’ve rested nicely since most games began to look the same. It’s amazing. It looks incredible. You can’t mince your words on how well rendered the visuals are. The characters look real, the settings are so grimy you could taste it. For some bizarre reason this also a cameraman (our view on the character we control, I suppose) on the scene. That would explain the shaky cam ‘technique’ being used.

Probably the closest I’ve ever come to motion sickness in a game.

All these expectations came hurtling down faster than Gary Glitter’s record sales at the end of the Twentieth century. The game is a clunky Gears of War. That’s it. You run, hide behind cover and shoot people who, for reasons not adequately looked into, shoot at you. Your partner helps outs at times, but I was so preoccupied with flying shrapnel placing me back at the start every 10 seconds.

I spent 95% of the demo running around and shooting, but all of this was a bit of an uphill struggle. Not a challenge, an uphill struggle. Every now and again, I would die and have to restart that one section again, losing passion to play each time. This may sound a tad hypocritical coming from a FPS player, but at least most FPS’s add a bit of zazz, variety and a reason to continue despite constant death. This was running and shooting in the most linear fashion, where dying became second nature.

The visuals were stunning, but ended up being the scenery of something monotonous like looking out of the window on a long car journey. As well as Clover-cam, the screen was pixelated at certain moving parts to give the further impression that there was a cameraman following you. That’s right; instead of relying on good graphics for presentation alone, they shoot themselves in the foot by smudging all over it with this ‘feels like you’re there’ gimmick. It doesn’t make me feel like I’m there, it makes me question what density the cameraman’s body is.

Christ, it’s just like the second half of District 9.

The other 5% of the demo was spent using a guard as a human shield against nothing and opening doors. At one point after a particularly predictable and frustrating fire fight, my player says to his wingman “The next street is heavily crowded, so play it cool.” I don’t need to tell you that at the next moment on that street, two dodgy and blood covered strangers (our heroes) walk out holstering fully automatic rifles. As if subtlety wasn’t hiding you gun, but merely not shooting it?

The demo ended abruptly, giving me nothing more to want the game. Just a montage of more and more linear gun fights, each more linear than the last. There’s a multiplayer option too, but I don’t hold out much hope for it.

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Are they really going to get away with this?

by on Jul.14, 2010, under First Look

Six tired faces and one redesigned beyond comprehension

One day I summed up everything about the Eighties in a six word phrase: “Really?! They got away with that?!” This can be used on practically every aspect. Margaret Thatcher in power? Really?! They got away with that?! Pastel coloured trousers with loafers but with no socks? Really?! They got away with that?! Rambo III? Really?! They got away with that?! Next time you look at something that came from the Eighties, whether it be the music, cinema, politics, or, especially, fashion, you’ll be using that magical phrase which sums up a pretty ridiculous chapter on Western civilization.

Those of you who know me personally for more than a month have known my past extreme love for the Eighties. If you need proof, look on my Facebook account and laugh at the collage of leather trousers, hair sprayed hair and ripped t shirts. Please refrain from laughing or recoiling in disgust.

Actually it’s probably best you do that to discourage this behaviour again.

During this ridiculous excursion, I listened heavily to a popular band amongst the metal crowd; Iron Maiden. From the name alone, they sound pretty metal. But that was then of course and this is now. And by then I mean the Eighties and by now I mean five minutes ago (at time of writing mind).

By the time you are reading this, you have probably listened to the new iron maiden single and watching the new video for a further different song from the unneeded fifteenth studio album. What did you think though? Were you counting away the half arsed film references like I was? It was either that or listening to the dried up coring chug-fest they referred to as the song.

As song writing goes, they’ve been on a toboggan ride downwards since 2003 and have now skidded into an icy abyss of bland structures and clichéd lyrics. There’s quite a bit to shake your fist at so we’ll handle this one at a time. Lets go with what’s going on in the video first to ease the ears in preparation. It’s set in space. There’s a space ship with a dashing pilot. Then there’s a space battle and the rest pretty much goes down the Sci Fi action route. And not a good one either.

It’s like a rushed video game version of a film that no one cares about.

Oh, and Eddy pops up, but it isn’t really Eddie. It’s an Imp from Doom 3 with a crap Eddie mask on. Quite frankly, the protagonist (yes, there’s a simple pursuit story going on) is a twat for calling him Eddie. Eddie is a symbol of how silly and theatrical heavy metal was in the Eighties (Really?! They got away with that?!).

Not only does Eddie look crap, but he moves crap.

The end scene of The Terminator comes to mind in terms of jerky animation for a film monster (Really?! They got away with that?! – OK I’LL STOP NOW!). They could have saved money and just hired the Imp from Doom 3. That game was far more metal than the last three Iron Maiden albums.

To sum up, why bother paying what looks like too much money to film a dull video? Just video the band live on tour. That is where they shine. And the actual song? I could replicate a rough version of it by going “dun dun dun dun dun” over and over again for four minutes. A blundering balls up that would have been considered generic and tired fifteen years ago.

The other song that was released publicly from the upcoming album was El Dorado. Now this one seemed ok on first listen, but quickly deflated into a turgid mash of amateur riffing and muddy sounds. Far cry from the Eighties era Iron Maiden who were just liquid awesome.

Now all we are left with are a collection of musical washouts who should have joined the greatest hits touring direction instead of trying to viciously flog a particularly dead horse. A dead horse that suddenly rises from the dead to view the new Iron Maiden music video to drop dead a second time from disappointment, but not before yelling out in a clear English voice “ Really?! They got away with that?!”

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Surviving in the city of sin. A First Look at Fallout New Vegas.

by on Jul.09, 2010, under First Look

Fallout New Vegas

This is the right moment for the crippling arm pit shot!

There’s been a surge recently with games releasing sequels that look and feel suspiciously like add on packs. The recent Left 4 Dead game is a good example of this. The game mechanics stay the same, but the only new things are extra weapons, levels and characters; bonus content but the game’s the same in all respects. But some games are so near to perfection that bringing a sequel will; not dare deviate from the award winning formula. Call Of Duty comes to mind too often.

 

In my recent look at the new Deus Ex game I mentioned about some games setting the bar so high that it’s impossible for other games to be as good as, thus creating an endless stream of of shoddy copies that keep coming wit only a handful worth playing. Not only did Fallout 3 set that bar even higher for the RPG FPS genre, but also for the series itself.

Before the 3D fancy pants graphics that we have today that makes all games look the same standard of eye groping beauty, a lot more in depth games reverted to older graphic techniques. The previous Fallout games used the same engine, but each game got better and better with an astonishing amount of detail. Now that Fallout 3 has exhausted its run of amazing add on packs, is it time for a step into a new game?

Well yes, but how?

Surely an epic sized add on pack is what the sequel will most likely be? After viewing the trailer for the new game, we could be looking at a nice spice in the recipe. For a start, there appears to be a lot more people on the screen at once (a small detail to add, but that’s always something I notice). They have also adopted the Call Of Duty style iron sights aiming system which every game by law now has to use, as well as giving us some new environments. I say new; we’re still wandering the wastes, but this time, it’s near Las Vegas.

One of the only cities to be minimally effected by the blasts.

There are still super mutants skulking about and other Fallout hazards of course, but the buildings are all intact. Sounds exciting? This will no doubt open for some gambling sub games. Intel suggests that the player will not be a vault dweller, which is a nice change as that story was repeated more than a James Bond movie’s plot.

But out of all the new aspects of this upcoming title, there is one major thing that should give this game a lot more challenge. Behold the almighty Hardcore Mode™; a more realistic take on the game. Now your character requires to drink water, sleep, eat and healing will be a more laboured process.

Also, carrying capacity will be stricter. No it’s not Sims style game play; this is survival game play. The Fallout series is all about survival and I’m shivering with anticipation now that they’ve acknowledged the most basic survival instincts into the game.

Think about it: walking through the ruins of the future having to scavenge for sustenance, all the while trying to evade encounters with the monsters of the wastes. If it lives up to it’s promises, this will be more compelling than a deep bath of intrigue and yoghurt.

It may sound depressing and bleak on paper, but this will be the happiest I’ll be with my console until they install the firmware that rubs your head every time you fail at the game.

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In the future everything will be sepia and kick arse! – First Look at Deus Ex Human Revolution

by on Jul.06, 2010, under First Look

Deus Ex 3

Our hero modeling for either a sofa, cigarette, whiskey or army advert...

The problem with great games is they set the bar too high and cause time and energy to be wasted in trying to replicate that moment of glory where a gem was created. One of my all time favourite games set that bar for RPG FPS’s so high, that nothing else apart from that title could satisfy me.

 

Granted, this sounds like the first ramblings of a gaming junkie, but the first Deus Ex was such a marvel for narrative and character building in a game that I will probably attempt to complete it for the 9th time as soon as you’ve read this. If anything, it will quench my gaming lust after the gaming hard-on that’s been cursed upon me; the trailer for the third in the series.

Now the second Deus Ex game was a bit of a mess. It was based further in the future and left a lot of the charm and longevity behind. It was a still a good game, but awkward and felt a bit cold, like seeing a sequel to a film where the lead character has been replaced with another actor and you’re too busy comparing him to the previous actor to notice whether or not he is good in his own right.

As I said, it was a pretty high bar that’s raised.

Anyway, onto this rampaging hard on. After much chit chat and nitter natter, we are now in possession of some hard evidence. There is another Deus Ex game. And it looks too promising to be real. For a start, it’s set before the events that occurred in the other games and focuses on the mechanized cyborgs, whilst the augmented cyborgs are yet to be.

In fact they are a plot point.

It’s the year 2027, only 17 years from now, and there is chaos conspiracy and lots of people acting like they’re on the set of Blade Runner. You play as Adam Jensen, a man with cyborg arms and a reoccurring Icarus-themed dream. His cyborg arms are powerhouses, transforming to inbuilt guns, to turning him invisible when he sees fit, or to impress people.

It’s impressed me.

From the in game screenshots, we could be looking at a Gears Of War style camera view, with some possible great fighting moves if the trailers anything to go by. Detroit of the future takes your breath away on its first look. It’s a future dystopia with some excellent futuristic buildings nudging away the 20th century architecture out of existence.

It’s the closest thing we’re getting a a Blade Runner setting.

Of course, the graphics looks second to none, but that’s to be expected with every game nowadays. Not many details have been shown about the gameplay mechanics, so here’s fingers crossed that they can do a Falloutl 3 and make it more in depth and engaging than the first game.

Reach for that bar, Eidos. Reach for that bar.

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The XBOX has lost weight…and hardware problems. A first look at the XBOX 360 Slim.

by on Jun.19, 2010, under First Look

XBOX 360 Slim

Why always obsidian black? When will the first ever tweed console hit our stores?

If you haven’t got a new console coming out soon, why not flog the old one off with go faster stripes? During the last console generation, the Playstation 2 squeezed out a slimline version of itself for gamers with increasingly shrinking space in their rooms. Not only was the slimline model impressively compressed, but it was sold at a cheaper price. How else would you fob off what is essentially the same thing, but midgetized?

Last year saw Sony playing the same tactic with the Playstation 3. The slimline version consume less power, as well as desk space. Not wanting to be outdone, Microsoft have decided to go in the same direction; making the XBOX more like the Playstation 3.

Speaking as an XBOX owner, I do prefer playing a 360, but I will admit that the Playstation 3 is a superior console in terms of hardware. Built in Wi-Fi connection, SATA based hard drive as well as the console itself operating on a whisper. Famous for its painful red ring, the 360s new outfit sees an end to the console haemorrhaging all over the floor after 3 hours of play, as well as shushing it’s loud operating noise. This has been an ongoing problem that has caused owners to waste money further on external fans that do as much for the over heating problem as giving the console a camp hand fanning.

Now Microsoft have, after a couple of years, ‘sorted’ this problem. One does remain slightly at guard of another side effect occurring. Another fantastic feature is the inclusion of more USB ports. Well, good if you have Rock Band’s many wired instruments.

But believe it or not, this is not the consoles biggest selling point.

As seen at the E3 this year, Sony and Microsoft have drunkenly stumbled into Nintendo’s motion pad waving twat demographic. Whilst Sony went with the ‘copy and paste’ method, Microsoft went with the slightly more subtle ‘borrow’ method.

The Kinect is the Eye Toy crossed with a Wii-mote. A sensing camera that allows the user to get more inside the game. Well, I say game. All that has been demonstrated so far is stroking a tiger. A well rendered tiger, but a one-dimensional concept nonetheless. The new XBOX console will have ‘special ports’ to connect with this motion device.

Oh, and it’s got HDMI, separate optical audio out port and a 250GB hard drive included. The new console is more of an apology than an update.

Here’s to the end of sponging off the XBOX 360s much used warranty!

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Black Ops? More like Beige Ops! – First Look at Call Of Duty Black Ops

by on Jun.17, 2010, under First Look

Call Of Duty - Black Ops - 1

Poor man's Captain Price or his his trademark tash catching on?

Typical of Treyarch. The previous call of duty game tries new territory to the series and it drags it back to the past, kicking and screaming like a messy faced kid in Asda. The next stop on Operation: kill everyone else that isn’t American is Call Of Duty: Black Ops, or Call Of Duty: Not-Quite-Modern Ware as it’s set slightly in the past. Cold War to be exact.

Well not exactly.

In May 2009 Treyarch (Call Of Duty’s B-squad) announced that Call Of Duty 7 would be set in Vietnam. Now it appears it will take up a portion of the game, as if Treyarch are trying to cover the rest of the warfare involved in the 20th century. Of course you can’t really include World War One as you’d be lucky to get your hands on a gun let alone die of trench foot in game.

Now that would be a realistic war experience.

From looking at the teaser for the game, it seems to be a close prequel to the Modern Warefare series. It’s got a similar attitude to jumping through windows in a blaze of cinematic nonsense as well as a soldier gruffly saying his “The truth is written by the victors” shtick. Helicopters swirl out of control and buildings blow up and it all just seems too familiar to get excited over.

As I’ve mentioned previously, a little game called Battlefield Bad Company 2 did all the things that these games should be doing and it only looks like the Call Of Duty series is finally deciding to catch up. You can fly a helicopter, you say? Big deal. We’ve been able to do that before in the Battlefield series. As sad as it is to say, I’ve already made my alignment to the Battlefield games in terms of superior multiplayer, but this will probably end up in my basket at some point.

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Breaking the law, Breaking the law (…of physics). A first look at Crackdown 2.

by on Jun.15, 2010, under First Look

Crackdown 2 - 1

From looking at the forefront zombie, Beadles death was a hoax...

Grand Theft Auto with super human policeman, futuristic technology and a game engine that makes the laws of physics book a session with a psychiatrist. Now that’s putting the ridiculous-o-meter past the Michael Bay limit already, but zombie mutants?! Either the game concept was dictated by a 5 years old on Tizer or Ruffian Games might be treating us to a mouthwateringly epic gaming experience.

The original Crackdown was one of the XBOX 360’s pick up and play launch titles from Realtime Worlds, a company composed of the people responsible controversy-em-up, Grand Theft Auto, before it became a Rockstar. As well as the obvious superhuman moves and endless methods of throwing cars at people, the game was very user friendly and didn’t get itself bogged down with a story.

Unlike the recent string of GTA games, Crackdown pushed you head first in the deep end without so much as a training level for you to make all the wrong decisions on. And it didn’t matter. The game is so retardedly simple that an arthritic horse could get used to the game mechanics in a short space of time. After a barrage of endless sandbox games, Microsoft gave nod and wink for the release of the sequel, Crackdown 2, set for release at the beginning of next month. ‘How in the name of car throwing Jesus are they going to top the first game’ I hear you cry.

Well for a start, they have decided to take the route of improving ways to make cars fly out of their natural tarmac habitat. One of the newest gadgets is a magical energy bungee cord. Like a sticky mine, you place one end to one thing and the other to another and the lighter of the two objects will be dragged to the other point. This has lead to a worryingly large amount of clips involving a string of three cars and a truck being dragged up a building as well as the invention of the worlds first car based catapult.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry of happiness.

Another striking addition is the feature of the mutants. They’re really just zombies for all intents and gaming purposes. If you can remember one of the gangs in the last game were doing some *cough*RESIDENT EVIL*cough* experiments that gave fruition to a gaggle of half-man half-Golem antagonists. For no reason whatsoever. Well this shallow aspect has now been turned into a full feature and will feature hordes of zombie/mutants/scum hoarding the streets at night. If there’s anything zombie games need it’s a more flexible physics engine.

Whilst this could be a fine example of what a sandbox game should be, it could also be a fine example of what a zombie game should be. Either that or a great argument in the case to get the laws of physics banned for being too silly.

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