Monday, November 9, 2009

Modern Warfare 2 Review

Considering I was lucky enough to get this early I thought I'd post a 'quick' review. Although I'll try not to spoil anything too major, there might be information in here you haven't read elsewhere so hit the back button if you don't want to see it.
I'm going to split this review into three sections as you are essentially getting three separate games for your hard earned. First up is the Single Player Campaign.

This is basically your typical Infinity Ward affair, that is to say you can expect excellent level design, graphical prowess, jaw dropping set pieces and polished gameplay. A few levels stand out in particular, those being the Favelas, for its tight corridor alleys and multi tier design, and the levels wandering about a decimated America. At the beginning of the game you are asked if you are easily offended and if you would like to skip a particular mission. I won't spoil this for you, but DO NOT skip it, and DO NOT watch it on youtube. This is definitely something you'll want to experience yourself and will test your moral fibres like never before.
The storyline is a direct sequel to COD4, where a badass named Makarov has filled the power vacuum left after you killed everyone in the previous game. Needless to say, he's doing a good job of sending the world out of control. Here in lies the problem. The OTT nature of the plot leads to some very odd sets of objectives, one level in particular sees you defending a suburb and has you running between a burger joint, restaurant and cafe picking up Stingers and Predators (your average Cafe menu then!) and there were a lot of times I wasn't really sure WHY I was doing the things I was being asked to do.
Add to this a campaign is easily finished in less than 6 hours and I was left somewhat disappointed after.
But that's not really why we play COD is it...


From the outset a number of things are notable. Namely the Americans already well into Prestige, the level cap of 70 and the complete reworking of XP. If you have any skill at COD4 at all you will find XP lavished upon you at every corner. Kills net 100XP, headshot for a further 50, if you stop his killstreak you get more, if you get revenge you get yet more, in fact I managed to obtain almost 700XP from a single headshot. Obviously, gaining levels has been made harder to counter this, but you never feel like you're not making progress. In addition to in-game XP, the challenges have been re-thought. There are now many more unlockables per weapon, including Red Dot and ACOG sights, plus shotgun, thermal and heartbeat sensor attachments. You can now gain XP on secondary sidearms and there are even challenges for using different Perks and equipment.
As you level up you will unlock weapons and perks as normal, but you will also open up nicknames and emblems for your new call sign. This effectively your COD gamercard, and can be changed in the menus to anything you've already unlocked.
The maps are well designed, offering options for all the classes and yes, the sniper levels are still a pain in the arse.
Talking of classes, the defaults are very interesting. They offer you options that are not readily available until much later in your levels, giving new players both a fighting chance and a glimpse of what they can hope to obtain given the time effort.
My favourite part of MP is the Deathstreaks, a new mechanic which let people like me (who spend a large amount of time getting shot in the face) a fighting chance at a kill. If you die a certain amount of times in a row with no kills you are given a little boost to help you out, like the ability to copy your killers class, give a large temporary health boost or get access to our fabled friend, Martyrdom.
This mode will definitely have you busy long after SP is done.

Special OPs

Multiplayer not enough for you? Good.
Spec Ops is a separate mode designed to be played coop on or offline (thought you can play it single player) where you and a mate take part in self contained challenges, some based around events of SP and some not, to obtain stars and highscores.
Unfortunately, I haven't delved into this mode too much yet as I really want to experience it with the rest of the country on Tuesday night. So I'm afraid you'll have to wait and see what this mode has to offer!

So far I'd give Modern Warfare 2 8.5 out of 10
Although the MP is highly addictive and very well designed, I found the SP experience to be more centred around extravagant set pieces than well thought out mission objectives and plotlines. For this reason it feels like a Multiplayer game with a single player campaign tacked on to justify the pricetag

Monday, August 17, 2009

Trials HD XBLA Review

Like many people, my first encounter with Trials was a few years ago on one of the many Flash game websites. The aim of the game was get your 2D bike and rider to the end of each level using only accelerate, brake, lean forward and lean backwards. Levels varied in difficulty from easy to pull-your-hair-out difficult.

Following a popular sequel, we now get Trials HD. Red lynx have taken the original formula, added 2.5D graphics, explosions and realistic physics to create a title worthy of XBLA.

When you first load up the game, you'll notice that the levels are banded under different difficulties. A word of warning to all, do not underestimate these titles, extreme actually means your controller won't last the night. Conversely, the easy levels are exactly that, easy. I found myself breezing through these levels, only really hitting problems on medium and even then it was one or two faults before finishing.
I started having major problems at Hard onwards; I once had to restart the level because I hit the fault limit of 500 and the time limit of 30 minutes. There is a saving grace though, the top 5000 leaderboard replays are saved, complete with a little graphic showing exactly how that person is better than you. You can then attempt to replicate this on your own run.

On top of the 50 or so levels, are also Skill Games. These involve completing tasks such as going as far as you can in a wheelie (because your front wheel falls of), or breaking as many bones as possible in crash. These games are truely brilliant when you have a few people together who can compete for bragging rights or just save anyone one person from the madness of infinite repeat.

The final mode is the User Content. Essentially, this is a map creator which you can share with friends. This creates some strong competition between you an your buddies as you strive to create a truly diabolical run to stump your friends, therefore causing embarrassment on their part. The only shame of it is, there seems now way to share levels with the masses, not yet at least.

To summarise, this game will make you angry, very angry. You'll want to through the controller down. BUT you won't. You'll keep playing it, and keep trying it, over and over. Why? Because your mate beat you by a 500th of a second and you don't want to be 2nd. You're a winner, and you want recognition by being on top.

Buy this game; it’s a great replacement for everything else in life, including food, drink and conversation.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

'Splosion Man XBLA Review

I'm always skeptical of brand new developers. The people must be skilled to be producing games, but do they really know what they are doing? Can they produce games to the quality of long standing companies?
When Twisted Pixel Games released The Maw on XBLA a while back I was proven wrong. It was the perfect example of what fresh blood can bring to digital media.

The developers’ next title, Splosion Man, is much of the same level of creativity and ingenuity.

Simplicity is key here. Effectively, you have two controls in single player: the ability to move left and right and 'Splode' (which is basically a jump). The aim is to traverse through the 50 single player and 50 multiplayer levels, sploding your way through and past various traps, enemies and puzzles.
Simple often translates as easy, but Splosion Man isn't willing to fall into this category lightly. You see, you can only Splode three times in succession before having to recharge by landing. And add into the equation that you will have to time your splodes very carefully, some of the later levels get very challenging without getting too frustrating and stopping you from playing. At one point, I even died so often the game humorously offered to let me chicken out of the level and skip it.

The multiplayer allows you to romp through an entirely different set of 50 puzzles with a pal. This adds extra depth as you are required to splode with the other person (adding your third control, the ability to countdown to your splode) to propel one, or both of you, higher, or further, through the level. This definitely took some practice, especially section that didn’t allow you to stand together before sploding, and it got a little confusing at time, but practice makes perfect.

So what happens after you complete the 100 levels? Glad you asked! The design of the games leaderboards means that you'll be fighting for the best times on your favorite levels. I found myself thinking of ways to shave valuable seconds off my times, whilst also sploding enough scientists and equipment to boost my score.

All in all, this is one of the more enjoyable XBLA titles I've played this year and at 800 MSP it's a bargain.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday Musing 06/07/09

I’m feeling very music’d out. I’ve played guitar. I’ve played bass. I’ve sung my heart out and beat the crap out of some drums. All of this makes me feel like it’s supposed to, like a Rock Star (or at least someone with musical talent!).
But after all this, I’m not sure I can be bothered any more. I think I’ve finally gotten bored of music games and the endless ‘updates’ are making sure I put the plastic guitar away for good.
I don’t want more peripherals littering my, already full, front room. I don’t want more discs that aren’t compatible with anything else in the past. I don’t want ‘band’ titles. I don’t want ‘greatest hits’ compilations. I want one master game that does it all AND has all the previous songs in one place. I want it to be easier to switch instruments with my gamertag. I want simplicity.

Sort it out developers

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Avatar Xbox 360 Review

Man, this is probably the worst game I have played on a current generation console.
It really does need to be seen to be beleived.

The graphics are truely substandard, being on par with a late PS1 game. The characters barely even move in the cut scenes.

In all honesty, I got the 1000 GS from this (achievable in less than 5 mins, that no joke!) and then I sent it back to the place it was rented from.

If it weren't for the easy gamerscore then I would give this game zero but as it stands...

VAPF Rating: 1/5

Friday, July 3, 2009

TMNT Xbox360 Review

Primarily, this will be a game for the kids, though I played it because of its easy achievement list.

Made by Ubisoft, its easy to see that this game was made to test out some of the acrobatic features that would be later used in Prince Of Persia. There are a lot of control issues that will cause you some major headaches and frequent trips of the edges of the levels, but the infinite respawn at your last checkpoint (which are fairly regular) means a second go isn't far behind.

The platforming sections are very easy, control issues aside, due to the auto camera pointing you in the right direction constantly. These are usually followed by a one-on-many fight that won't be too much off a problem for most people. The boss battles add some element of strategy, but once you figure out the weakness its just a case of rinse and repeat.

All in all, this game if perfect for the achievement hunters out there, but is not recommended for those looking for an enjoyable, engaging experience.

VAPF Rating: 2/5

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Xbox Monday Musing 29/07/09

Here’s a list of people that assumed I’d grow out of playing video games: My parents, all my girlfriends, my work colleagues, my teachers, most people in authority and all of my friends who don’t also play games. But, at 23, I’m still booking days off, closing the curtains, eating junk and not washing or sleeping for three days whenever a new Call Of Duty comes out. Where do these fascinations stem from? Am I destined never to ‘grow up’? Personally, I don’t care. I like being the guy who spends his time after that elusive ‘Mile High Achievement’. Give us more games that remind us of nervously putting in the disc to GTA1 even though we were drastically underage. Balls to growing up, I say.

Slight Change

Ok, so this blog was initially designed to be a place to document my survivalist progress.
But, progress on that front is mighty slow being that it costs a lot of money to learn and time that I don't have.

So, in between survival blogs I will post about things that I deem necessary or cool or whatever (like a normal blog then).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Survivalist Forums

Today I decided to check out the Survivalist Forums and found a really good one at

There's some top quality information in there and some knowledgeable people to boot.

If you're interested in survivalism (and I guess you are if you're reading this) then check it out!

The beginning of my End Game

Survivalism. That's my word of the moment.

The term came to me after a friend suggested I read a book called 'Emergency' by Neil Strauss.

Until I had read this book I had assumed that bushcraft or survival techniques were for people like Ray Mears. I had assumed that if the world were to end that I would be killed in the very instant whatever apocalyptic event took place.

But what if I were a survivor? What if everything I knew changed and I was forced to protect and shelter myself and others around me? Would I be a sheep or a wolf?

It's these what ifs that have led me to start this blog.

I have decided that I am going to learn the fundamentals of survival and try to build on the knowledge over time. The purpose of this blog is to help me track and document my progress, as well as gain the interest of others so that they might also consider starting this path.

Please do not mistake this venture as paranoia. I have no delusions regarding the end of the world. This is simply me being prepared for worst case scenarios, therefore all other scenarios by default.

More to come in the future