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From the leading South Korean Electronics giant, the LG 50PQ6000 boasts some of the most crisp, most detailed and beautiful visuals available.
I won't bore you by bombarding you with jargon and contrast ratios and all the other little picky details that make tech nerds giggle into their milkshakes (no offence intended to any tech nerds who read this), that sort of information is freely available for those who are really interested in it. No, this review I will present is for those of use who just want to know, in laymans terms, how this TV will perform day to day and if it's suitable for our needs.
Well, in a word, yes, it is. However there ARE some issues.
The big issue with this TV is that it is HD ready, meaning it ONLY outputs HD quality. Now, I know you're probably wondering why that is a problem, and in my personal opinion, it isn't, however HD ready TV's all have the same inherent problem. A HD ready TV is designed purely for catering to the HD generation, modern gaming, Digital TV, Sky HD, Blu-Ray etc, and it is when used with these that the true brilliance of HD technology shines through. However it has it's drawbacks. It can't upscale older technology, so analogue TV (not a problem much longer), older gaming consoles and normal DVD's don't benefit from the HD technology. Indeed, they tend to look worse.
This is not an issue specific to this TV though, rather it is a problem with HD technology in general, so if you are considering making the change to an HDTV be aware of these drawbacks.
However, please don't let this discourage you from making the move into HD, and certainly don't allow it to dissuade you from buying this TV, because it's a cracker.
The first thing you notice about this TV is it's sleek and elegant design. It is surprisngly small considering it carries a 50" screen, however, despite this, it is actually very heavy, around 75 lbs, meaning you will need a reinforced unit or stand to support it, so be aware of that if you decide to take the plunge. When I bought mine, it came packaged with a stand, but I wasn't confident that it would support it long term, so I opted not to use it.
The 50PQ6000 provides 1 USB, 4 HDMI inputs, 2 Scart, VGA input for computer, component input, S-Video input, RGB input and output caps, allowing you a great variety when choosing your audio and video input. I personally use HDMI for my Xbox 360 and a Blu Ray player, which also enables me to use a high quality surround sound system. Needless to say I even giggle into MY milkshake occasionally when I sit back to watch an epic movie, or play my favourite games. When used in conjuction with modern game consoles or a Blu-RAy player, the results are nothing short of astonishing. The depth of the colour is sublime and the visuals are crisp and clear as crystal. No blurring, smudging, darkness or anything that was quite common with pre HD TV's. Watching a HD visual on this TV is like looking out of your window on bright summers day. Truly beautiful.
Incidentally, there are 2 versions of this TV, one with a built in Digital TV reciever and one without, the one I have comes WITH the reciever, and let me tell you, it too is sublime. Admittedly I enhance my viewing pleasure with the previously mentioned surround sound system, but even so, this TV is no slouch on it's own.
As standard, the TV tunes into PAL TV, although SECAM and NTSC is also possible, just in case you want to take your heavy 50" Plasma Screen TV on holiday with you I guess. Default image setting is 16:9 although 4:3 and 14:9 are also available, along with a couple of levels of zoom. Audio is supported by 2 10 watt stereo speakers which produces a surprisngly thick sound. Usually TV speakers tend towards being tinny and hollow sounding, but these speakers handle the audio beautifully allowing for a fuller, more satisfying sound.
The expected features, teletext, subtitles, mute etc are all here, and for the parents among us parental controls and childlocks come as standard to restrict and monitor the viewing of your little cherubs.
And now to be a total hypocrite I AM going to talk about contrast ratios. Sorry, but there's a reason for it. I use this TV primarily for gaming so the depth of the colour etc is of some interest to me, and let me tell you know, it is BEAUTIFUL.
The most impressive part for me is the scope of the black. I know, it sounds stupid as hell right? Well let me try to explain it briefly. I have a friend who works in the gaming industry and from what he tells me, black is difficult to work with as it contains differen shades of colour to represent depths of light and shadows and all kinds of details that make me go cross eyed. The long and short of it though is that for PC gaming, this isn't much of an issue because PC monitors are tailored to deal with this, and the individual games have graphical adjustments available to compensate. Console gaming does not, and the quality of TV's available play a factor. If a TV doesn't have the depth of colour then there's nothing that can be done, it just doesn't show up. Fortunately, this TV has an amazing depth of colour, particularly in the blacks, meaning when I play darker games, the shadows and the contrasting colours show up much more clearly.
Without question this is a premier TV choice for HD gaming. I put a lot of time into gaming every week and I never fail to be impressed by the resulting visuals.
However, there is one big issue this TV suffers from with regards to gaming, it suffer's from terrible 'burn-in'. For those not in the know, 'burn-in' is something that many TV's suffer from when used in conjuction with games consoles. I don't know exactly how it works in detail, but essentially what happens is that, with gaming, the images produced on screen are created differently to images on TV and DVD, which are reproductions of real life. The difference in how these images are created can cause images to become burned into the Black of the TV screen.
Fortunately, with this TV 95% of the times it's unoticeable, and the level of severity depends on how you have used the TV. If you keep the same image on the screen for too long it will become burned in quite severely and will persist for days, however if you are constantly playing, and the images are constantly changing, they don't have time to become burned in and the effect is minimal.
In truth, even the more severe 'burn-in' is barely noticeable during normal use, it is only on occasions when the screen gets particularly dark that you can see it. Having used this TV for a few months now, I can honestly say that, even though it suffers quite badly from the problem, it has never dones so to such a degree to affect my gaming or film watching enjoyment. However, if you're considering buying this TV, this is something you must certainly be aware of.
Right, I hope I didn't lose you there. Just to recap the pro's and con's specific to the 50PQ6000;
+Surprisingly slim and small with a nice sleek design.
+HD ready with beautiful, crisp visuals and hearty audio.
+Plenty of input variety that supports all modern audio and visual input.
+Nice selection of features.
+Fantastic depth of colour and that is GOOD, especially so for gamers.
-Suffers from 'burn-in' issues.
All in all I can't recommend this TV highly enough. Yes it has some problems, but if there is a perfect TV out there I am yet to hear of it, and the pros by far outweigh the cons.
As someone who enjoys watching films in a home cinema style envrionment, this TV is close to perfect, it's impeccable visual output and support for HD audio and video input being the real highlights for me.
As a gamer it is even better. The depth of colour truly shines through in HD TV and it allows input for you to use the TV with your PC if you so desire, meaning it is not restricted to console gaming. And even the dreaded burn-in is nothing more than a minor, passing inconvenience.
Considering this TV currently comes priced at between the £5-600 mark, it is certainly one of the better options out there.
There you are, it's all in the title, there's really nothing more to be said.
Somehow, I think I'd be right in saying that you'd like some evidence to support that statement, so let me say it again, and this time, in big letters, because we all know that big writing in big letters makes something true; BATTLEFIELD: BAD COMPANY 2 IS BETTER THAN CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2.
Is that better?
Still not enough? Really? Even with the irrefutable evidence of the big letters? Damn.
Hmmmm, OK, well I'm sorry but that's the most relevant piece of information that this review will contain. The reality is that pretty much anyone who is reading this review with a real intent to buy it will have played Modern Warfare 2 at some point and THIS is what they'll be wanting to know, so I'm not going to beat around the bush, it's right there for everyone to see.
However, in the event there are some people who will want more detail about WHY this is the better game, I will take the time to be more thorough
Since the birth of the Xbox 360, the gaming market has become awash with First Person Shooter titles. In the last generation of games, Halo was the daddy, and indeed, it still has it's place, however it has been overtaken in the stakes by the Mastodon that is the Call of Duty franchise. However, the latest instalment in the CoD series, Modern Warfare 2 has met with mixed reaction and the shine on the series has been seriously worn down. Despite critical acclaim marking it as supposedly one of the greatest titles of this generation, a large number of players have been disappointed and angered starting with Activision (the publisher for the CoD games) choice to charge £55 rrp for the basic edition of the game, through the sub standard single player and the bug and glitch ridden multiplayer leaving the game at times utterly unplayable (which has still not been entirely fixed) to the most recent issue of them charging £12 for 5 multiplayer maps, 2 of which were ripped from previous games, and then upon release there was ANOTHER problem leaving these new maps unplayable. Straight fact, MW2 has been a monumental cock up from the start and consumers have been becoming increasingly fed up and looking for a change.
In truth Battlefield: Bad Company 1 was an excellent title but was sorely over looked as Call of Duty was in it's ascendancy, it was incredibly tough for any other shooter to break that. However it was a fantastic platform for a continuing series of games within the franchise, and this is exactly what happened.
Bad Company 2 ticks all the right boxes. It's campaign is longer than that of MW2 and is much more enjoyable from start to finish. From the opening level set during World War 2, through the Jungles of Bolivia and the Andes mountains, right to the very end of the game, the campaign is filled with a fantastic script and voice acting of the highest quality eliciting laughs a plenty.
The game is visually stunning, superior to MW 2, your first glimpse at the jungle setting early in the game is breathtaking, and sets you up nicely for what is to come. It is an interesting dichotomy that there is so much beauty in the pristine settings of the Jungle when later in the game, and especially prevalent in the multiplayer it is the technical prowess of the games physics engine when applied to the real time destruction which takes precedence.
As good as the visuals are, the sound is perhaps even more so. Dice, (the developers behind the Battlefield games) have taken the time to put some neat little touches to the audio. First of all is the sound in general. Excellent. Every gunshot sounds meaty and real, every footstep crunches or mushes suitably depending on the environment, every vehicle sounds suitably massive. But there is much more. The subtle sounds of the rustling leaves as you move through bushes, the soft or heavy splash of water depending on how you move all adds to the ambience that marks Battlefields audio above the competition. My personal favourite however is the difference your environment makes to the sound of your weapon. Out side you have a suitable boom, inside your weapon thuds and echoes accordingly. Beautiful. And yet there is still more. Dice has allowed us a number of different audio types depending on how we listen to our games. Options optimized for through the TV, headsets, and surround sound are all present, but the real daddy is the option called 'War Tapes'. The sound is enhanced to make each element, every gun shot, every explosion, every scream louder and more profound. The idea is simply to make you feel like you are within a real war zone, and in truth, there are no words to do justice to how good it is, all I can do is suggest in the strongest possible terms that you try it for yourselves. It is truly special.
In terms of actually playing the campaign, you play through the campaign as part of a small company of soldiers (hence the name and subsequent game title 'Bad Company')and for me the true joy of playing came from the script and the character development. There is a real sense of camaraderie present in all the characters, as you play you can't help but feel part of the team, rather than an outside spectator or an individual within group of loosely connected soldiers, something CoD has never successfully managed. The script itself is at times hilarious. No opportunity to poke fun at the competition (mostly CoD) is passed up, from a passing line that says 'Snow mobiles are for sissies' right through to the last level which is a complete mockery of the infamous 'mile high club' mission from CoD 4. For gamers who have played these titles, and particularly for shooter fans in general, the references and little pokes toward other games come thick and fast and are always well received and entertaining.
The game play itself is standard shooter fare, follow the path, shoot everything in your way, but what sets it apart is the choices the game presents you. Call of Duty fails to compete her because all it amounts to is a corridor shooter, you MUST follow the path laid before you, Bad Company 2 doesn't ask this of you. It tells you where to go, and it occasionally gives you specific mission parameters such as killing this guy with a knife, or the truly brilliant section where you have to snipe the guards under the cover of a thunderstorm, using the thunder to mask your shots. However, for the most part you are left to your own devices, and this is where the game sets itself apart, above and beyond the CoD games.
Battlefields party piece is in its physics engine which is designed with only one goal in mind, complete and utter destruction of everything. Everything from buildings to trees, vehicles (military and civilian) everything can be shot to pieces, blown up and generally destroyed. The change this makes to the game play is huge. You can never rely on any type of cover to protect you, as any of it can be destroyed leaving you vulnerable, but it also means that you can create cover in a hurry by destroying something close by, shoot out the wall of this building to quickly get out of fire, or destroy this wall to make yourself a protected firing position, the possibilities are only limited by your own imagination. In the campaign this means that every section of combat is less of a corridor shooter, and much more of an open area pitched battle with the flow of battle always being dynamic and uncertain as you can never be sure what is going to happen. It keeps the game exciting and fresh, again something CoD sorely lacks.
The destruction physics are not unique to the Battlefield series, many other games also use them, however few of them can boast the pure glee of seeing your enemy flee for his life as his well thought out cover position is summarily destroyed around his ears, or the laugh out loud entertainment value of crashing through a building in a tank a driving over a closeted group of enemies. This is something that is particularly prevalent in the multiplayer, and is subsequently even more satisfying knowing that it is a real life player trying his hardest to get away from your suicidal helicopter ride directly into their base. It can at times be unpredictable, I've seen moments where a quad bike took such a horrendous barrage that it flipped up into the air and managed to get stuck, perched upside down on a wooden fence, and times where a boat has driven too fast up a beach, over a mound and driven through air into a wall and got stuck in true Dukes of Hazzard style. Occasionally these can be glitches, the quad bike certainly was, but at other times it is just the nature of the physics that allows the unpredictable and the hilarious to happen.
The game has an excellent difficulty curve, at no time is it too steep, rather it gradually increases as you become more acclimatized to the game, keeping the challenge consistent . Of course, playing on lower difficulties will make the game substantially easier, and the hardest difficulty will require a lot of your skills, but it is not impossible by any stretch of the imagination. The AI that controls the enemy is smart, they are constantly looking for cover, and always looking for an opportunity to destroy yours, but your friendly AI is equally as smart and they too will search out cover and look for ways to reach the enemy.
Without question though, the true highlight of Bad Company 2 is it's multiplayer, and it is here more than anywhere else that it truly shines and puts Modern Warfare 2 to shame.
The first, and arguably most important thing to know about the Bad Company 2 multiplayer is that it is inherently different to that of the Call of Duty games. CoD focuses on death match game types. You either play solo, or as part of a team and it is the first to reach a set number of points from either kills or from capturing certain points on relatively small maps. That's it.
Bad Company doesn't do this. The game is focussed on team battles, up to 24 players, 12 per team fight across huge open landscapes. You can choose to play solo if you wish, but the game really opens up when playing is part of a squad. Squads consist of 4 players and the game is set up to promote cooperation between squad mates. You earn extra rewards for assisting your squad, and a good squad will complement each other and learn to assist one another, make them a more effective team. Playing as an individual is not actively discouraged, and it can still be fun to do so, but where CoD has no benefit in team mate cooperation, and the game is set up to promote individual players being better then everyone else, Bad Company does not, it promotes and rewards cooperation, and the game is infinitely more fun because of it.
There are 4 game types. The 'Conquest' game mode sees you capturing and holding set flag locations until the enemy team runs out of spawn points. 'Rush' is an attack/defend game type where one team is assaulting specific bases on a map with the objective of blowing them up, whilst the other team has to defend the points by disarming any charges set to destroy them and by continuing to kill the attacking team until they run out of spawn points. 'Squad Rush' is the same as 'Rush' except the maps are smaller and it only allows for 8 players, 2 squads of 4, one attacking and one defending. Finally we have 'Squad Deathmatch' CoD likes to pride itself on the quality of it's death match game types, but in truth it can't compete with Battlefield's. As I mentioned earlier, CoD promotes the individual surpassing everyone else, whereas Battlefield promotes cooperative game play, and its Squad Deathmatch mode benefits because of it. 4 squads of 4 players each fighting over the control of the single military vehicle and trying to be the first team to score 50 kills. Very similar to the death matches so typical to the CoD games, however the presence of a vehicle adds a whole new dynamic to the game, and the squad based cooperation adds a level of tactical thought and play unheard of in the CoD games. For my money, it is a far superior death match type than anything CoD has produced.
The most noticeable difference between MW2 and BC2 is that MW2 allows you to pick and choose virtually any combination of weapons and items you like to take into the game, whereas BC2 does not. Instead, BC2 has 4 set character classes: Assault, Medic, Engineer, Recon. Each class serves a specific purpose, assault is your basic infantry type, Medic is exactly as it sounds, his primary job is to heal injured players and revive ones who have been 'killed', Engineer is a specialist at dealing with vehicles, he can repair friendly vehicles and destroy enemy ones swiftly, the Recon class is your Sniper.
It sounds very regimented, but it is actually surprisingly varied. Yes each class has a restricted weapon preference, but there is also a pool of weapons that all classes can draw from, plus you are not restricted to a set number of 'load-outs' as you are in CoD. At any time during the game you can pick up the gear of any other class that happens to be lying around if you need to use it. This is especially useful if ,for example, your medic player has been killed, you can quickly snatch up his gear and revive him. It is also possible to change class after every death, and more, you can also take the time to choose the exact weapon selection you wish. So whilst it seems more regimented than CoD on the surface, during actual play, it works much better. The dynamic of the game is such that you don't NEED to play as an Assault class with it's selection of assault rifles, as every other class carries good weapons and are perfectly able to defend themselves, also the ebb and flow of the game creates situations where, at times, you may NEED to pick a specific class to deal with a situation, and the game allows for those situations.
One area in which the Battlefield is similar to CoD is in it's use of experience points earned in game to reward you. As with MW2, as you play, you earn points, although as I've mentioned already, Battlefield rewards you far more for cooperative play than it does for solo valour.
As you progress you earn experience on 2 levels, one to raise your general rank, which sees you unlock new weapons and items as you progress, the other to raise your rank with each specific class which sees you unlock class specific items and weapons, such as the medkit and defibrillator for the medic.
One of the most rewarding elements of the game, and something that CoD just cannot compete with, is the use of military vehicles. Modern Warfare 2 introduces them as rewards for excellent play in the form of differing varieties of air strikes which you have little direct control over. In truth, they only serve to reward the better players, giving them higher kill streaks and increasing the gulf between the best players and everyone else. It is one of the elements of MW2 that many players are most disgruntled by. Bad Company 2 puts MW2 to shame by allowing all players access to any vehicles in the game, whenever they want to, and the reward for using them is in learning how be increasingly more effective at doing so. Nobody who plays the game begrudges anyone else using them, as everyone has the opportunity to do so. The vehicles bring a whole new level of enjoyment to this already stellar game. They are fun, and can be brutal and dangerous, but are not in any way over powered, it is just another avenue for the dynamic between players to venture down. It is entirely possible to take down a heavy tank by yourself, and indeed is very satisfying when you do so, but that is extremely rare and it is far more rewarding when you work with your squad to deal with the situation. The cooperation between players also benefits you when using the vehicles. A played a game recently where myself and a friend were in a small light tank, and between us took out 4 enemy tanks and 58 enemy soldiers before our tank was destroyed, and that was down to our simple use of tactics which had us drive to certain places on the map with my friend controlling the tank and the main gun, and I was using the secondary mounted gun and jumping out and repairing our tank frequently, with my friend quickly driving to a safe spot whenever we took a certain level of damage. It was simple, but our working together, and the distinct lack of cohesion between the enemy players made that game an absolute joy to play. Nothing Call of Duty has ever done can come anywhere near to the sheer level of enjoyment we got from that game.
There is no question in my mind, nor should there be in anyone else's that Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a total FPS package, and is THE shooter to own right now. It is in every way possible superior to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The more entertaining campaign, the beautiful visuals and sublime use of sound, the truly spectacular physics and the near perfect multiplayer, all of this combined makes this the ultimate FPS game. The perfect package for anyone who loves shooters, and is fed up with the endless waves of disappointment and irritation that makes up Modern Warfare 2. If you're in shooter hell, try this and you'll find your road to gaming heaven.
Oh, and one final little tidbit of information. Activision (the publishers of the CoD games), as I mentioned earlier, recently released a map pack for Modern Warfare 2 that costs £12 to buy, contained 2 recycled maps from previous games, and didn't work properly. On the same day, Dice released a map pack for Bad Company 2. The cost? £0.00p. That's it. Nothing, the pack was free, and it also worked immediately without any issues. And just to rub it in a bit more, Infinity Ward (the developers of MW2) have come out and claimed that the £12 price tag on their map pack is good value for money, within a few days Dice released a statement saying that they will NEVER charge anything for their map packs.
Makes you wonder doesn't it?
So I have to ask, why play Modern Warfare 2 with it's inferior multiplayer that will continue to cost money when you can be playing Bad Company 2 with its infinitely more satisfying game play that will be supported at no extra cost to us?
There is a side of me which is undeniably geeky. I grew up enthralled with High Fantasy, Swords and Sorcery, Lord of the Rings and Conan the Barbarian. I never thought I'd need anything else. Then I stumbled into the Warhammer 40,000 Universe.
I started by playing an old High Fantasy board game called Hero Quest, it was produced by MB games, but the plastic figurines were crafted by Games Workshop, the company who created 2 distinct universes, one High Fantasy simply called Warhammer, and a Science Fiction based universe called Warhammer 40,000 (so called as it was based 40,000 years into the future).
This was 18 years ago, and I've never looked back.
To give you a brief history so you know what we're dealing with, Warhammer 40,000 (or 40K as it is commonly known) is a 'Table Top Battle Game'. Essentially what this boils down to is grown ups playing with Cowboys and Indians.
Well, obviously it's NOT Cowboys and Indians, but it's the same principle. Players pick their preferred army and they set too in a nice big battle involving lots of rolling of dice of measuring distances with tape measures.
Does this sound suitably geeky yet? Well make no mistake, it is, but it is also a fascinating hobby that involves buying the small figurines (usually called miniatures)and then painting them in your chosen style, then playing wth friends to make the most exciting games possible. Tanks, monsters, aliens, psychic powers, soldiers in huge armour, soldiers with huge guns, all prevalent and all reinforced with a truly astounding body of lore from which dozens of novels have been produced.
In due time, video games were also made, starting with Space Crusade way back on the days of the old Amiga computers (Space Crusade was actually a game much like Hero Quest, also made by MB, but using some Warhammer 40,000 models). A number of games were released over the years to mixed success until 2004 when the first Dawn of War (known as DoW for short) was developed by Relic and released by THQ to critical acclaim. A Real-Time Strategy (RTS) game, DoW ticked all the right RTS boxes, base building, resource collecting, and big battles. The fans of the table top game loved it, and PC gamers loved it. It brought a whole new generation of players to Games Workshop's games.
Across the next 4 years, 3 expansions were released building upon the original game with improved gameplay, more armies and units, a deepening story and an improved campaign system.
Then in 2009 Dawn of War 2 was release, the first genuine sequel to the series.
Dawn of War 2 kept a large degree of familiarity whilst making a great number of significant changes.
The familiarity is predominantly around the Blood Ravens, a Chapter of the Space Marine army (Briefly, the Space Marine's are the poster child for the 40K universe-that's a Space Marine gracing the games boxart shown above, essentially they are Warrior Monks, split into individual groups of 1000 called chapters) created by Relic specifically for the game, they'd never been used by Game Workshop in the 'official' game Lore before. Across all the Dawn of War games, the Blood Raven's have been the main focus with the predominant stories, and these stories have carried over into the campaign for Dawn of War 2, and many recognizable names and faces are seen or mentioned.
This familiarity lends itself to a nice feeling of continuity for anyone who has played teh previous games. There is a feeling that you are participating in a growing and branching story, seeing events unfold, much as you would see in a great series of novels.
The game is also familiar in that it is an isometric game that requires you to move around the map and kill innumerable enemies, and it is still in essence an RTS game. However this is where the familiarity ends. Relic has used a whole new engine for Dawn of War 2 and both the Campaign and multiplayer battles have been completely overhauled making for an entirely new experience.
The new engine for DoW 2 is based largely on the engine they developed for their RTS game Company of Heroes, including more intelligent AI and destructable environments as key components. The Destructable environments is a particularly notable change for the DoW series as it brings in a whole new level of tactical gameplay that was never available before. It also proves to be hugely necessary to successfully play through the campaign.
The campaign has undergone a huge makeover. Gone is the linear stroy progression form the original game, and also gone is the fantastic Risk style campaign map system introduced in the last 2 expansions for DoW. In it's palce we have a story driven campaign that allows you an element of freedom in choosing which missions you want to pursue and when. It is NOT fully free, the story missions still need to be played out, but there is no generally set order for them, and there are always plenty of side missions available which reward you with new weapons or armour (called Wargear) for completing them.
The biggest change however is in the gameplay itself. Whilst familiar in that it is still isometric view, it can no longer truly be called on RTS game, rather it is now a Role-Playing Game (RPG). There is no base building at all, no resource gathering, all there is is a lot of enemies to kill, earn experience, find Wargear, and level up your squads, all hallmarks of a solid RPG'.
The level of customization for each individual squad is excellent. You are given enough different characters (most of whom lead a small squad of or 3 men) to suit your own personal style of play, and others can be specifically kitted out with Wargear to complement. If you want to take a stealthy approach to the game, you can take a squad that can become invisible, a squad with jetpacks to jump in and out of combat with swift assaults and a squad designed to take heavy damage. If you want an in your face heavy hitter, you can load up a squad with heavy weapons, your leader with a massively powerful close combat weapon and take a huge robot called a 'Dreadnaught' with you to power through any enemy. The variety is huge. With experience you can specifically improve certain skills to gradually strengthen each squad with specific abilites to complement your play style and reinforce them with specific Wargear you come across during the game.
In every way imaginable, the DoW2 campaign is an RPG. This is a huge departure from the first game that was RTS through and through.
Is it a good thing? Well that's hard to say. The campaign for DoW2 is certainly excellent and has plenty of variety, but in my opinion it lacks replayability. Relic claimed the campaign had massive replayability due to making certain in game choices, but they, lets say, exaggerated. I won't say the outright lied, because they didn't, however the replayability amounts to little more than a few missions you wouldn't have played previously, nothing substantial, and certainly nothing that is worth replaying. It has been about a year since I first finished the campaign and it took me until Sebtember of last year to start again, and only then I did it because I was playing the campaign in Co-op with a friend. The Co-op is probably the best part of the campaign, it makes playing it through a far more rewarding experience.
Despite this, I DO think the campaign falls flat. Indeed it is well made and entertaining but it's lack of replayability is to it's detriment, far more than would be the case in many other games. DoW 2 gives us a total of 4 different armies to play as, but only the Space Marines are playable in the campaign. This is hugely dissapointing given how the last 2 expansions of the previous DoW game gave us the Risk Style campaign map which allowed you to play as any army you chose. It allowed for infinite replayability that DoW 2 sorely lacks. In my opinion, despite how good the DoW 2 campaign is to play, it would have been better served by being a Risk style map again rather than this story driven RPG.
Herein though, perhaps, lies the biggest problem with DoW 2, it is NOT an RTS game. The original DoW is an RTS, and as such it fits beautifully within a Risk Style map whereas an RPG would struggle. I accept this, and I understand that Relic wanted to try a different approach with this game from the original. However not catering for players who prefer other armies, or for people who want to keep playing the game but are bored of the same campaign is an appalling oversight, if indeed it IS an oversight and not just a plainly bad choice.
Personally I think it was a conscious decision as ini the 14 months since the games original release, there has been numerous updates for the multiplayer system but only a few small tweaks for the campaign. There is no good reason why Relic didn't put campaigns for the other armies in the game, and no good reason why they haven't released any in the past year. Even their first expansion for the game, Chaos Rising, which introduces another new army, adds nothing but an extension to the Space Marine campaign. This is truly poor.
It has been clear of the past year or so that Relic's only real interest has been with it's multiplayer for DoW 2 as it has released numerous patches and updates for it, even going so far as to heavily change much of how the game played.
It needed it.
Without question the Multiplayer aspect of Dawn of War 2 is the singularly most god awful gaming experience I have ever had on any RTS game. Gone is any semblance of base building, only a small token gesture to it remains and it is wholly a waste of time even being a part of the game. In a nutshell, the Multiplayer can be described as being nothing more than a game of tag with resource markers. all you do is run around the map trying to capture resource points and getting into occasional little skirmishes with enemy players. It is intensely dull and it boggles the mind as to why Relic thought this was a good idea. it wasn't it fails miserably and there is not one single thing about it which is good or rewarding. Nothing at all.
The original Dawn of War had things perfect, you captured resource points and built your base and played your own style of game. You could rush the enemy with lots of basic units, try to overwhelm them, or you could stay within the confines of your base area and build a large powerful army, all the while defending your base. You could choose to capture a small number of resource points and protect them or expand across the map, capturing many, but leaving them largely unprotected. There is plenty of scope for play style, and the game is always rewarding to play, particularly when you get a battle going where all armies have large numbers of units and a full scale fight is going on, it's tense and exciting. None of this exists in the multiplayer for DoW 2, chasing around after a couple of units and forver go back and forth capturing resource points is not at all fun.
Ultimately this game is a hugely mixed bag. Yes it is graphically superior to the last game, and it has new elements in it's engine which are fun, such as destructable environments. But the changes in gameplay are questionable. The RPG focus of the campaign works very well, but the game has limited replaybility and his hugely hampered by not having campaigns for all the armies. The multiplayer component is an unmitigated disaster. Technically it works fine, no problems finding or playing matches etc, you can still design your own army colours and patterns if you want, but the gameplay is redundant, reduced to nothing more than just running around a map. When you come from playing a multiplayer that provides you with massive battles of hours of fun, this is truly hugely dissapointing.
At the current price of £16.99 at Amazon, I WOULD recommend trying it out. If you like RPG's you may well get some enjoyment out of the campaign, I certainly did the first time I played it, and the campaign is a good length, easily 40 or so hours of gameplay. It also plays beautifully in co-op with a friend, so it is worth playing for that reason also. You may also find you enjoy the multiplayer, although if you do I would recommend you book yourself in for a head exam to make sure you're not ill. A full psychiatric evaluation may also be beneficial.
For the campaign, it is worth the money, but if you're looking for a multiplayer RTS game, buy the previous DoW game and explansions instead.
Welcome to SAW the videogame, as the title says, a diabolical game and it can't even use the excuse of 'rushed production to match film release' excuse so many poor film to game conversions use.
I say its bad, but I really need to qualify this statement by saying it's bad, as a video game, HOWEVER, it is an excellent representation of the film series.
This game sees you play through as Detective Tapp (Danny Glovers Character froma couple of the movies), who has been taken by Jigsaw to be part of 'the game'.
I won't go into too much detail about the story etc as, just as with the films, the plot that unfolds is the most rewarding part. Suffice it to say, that even though the game itself is poor as hell, the story is excellent, hugely worthy of the series and brilliantly written and played out.
It is in the faithfullness to the series where this games high points lie. A number of characters from the films return, the traps are very true to the 'lethal but fair' ideal Jigsaw believes in, and the atmosphere is suitably dark and menacing as you would expect from the Saw licence.
I started off really liking the game. I personally think the puzzles are excellent, but they soon become repetitive, then they become boring and redundant in swift order. Even the 'big' traps in which you rescue characters are just eloborate looking versions of the puzzles you've already played, and this is dissapointing. Yes the puzzles that solve the traps are excellent in and of themselves, having to do them dozens of times over during the game is just too much. There is also the problem of the time limits. Yes this is very true to the films, no doubt, but some of the time limits the game gives you are extremely harsh requiring multiple retries.
The combat is incredibly poor fair. Slow, unresponsive and incredibly redundant. There really isn't anything more to say about it. Yes this game isn't primarily a combat game, but combat being present with reasonable frequency means that the developers should have taken some time to make it at least serviceable. As it is, the combat is very very poor indeed. There are a plethora of weapons ot choose from, but they all work in exactly the same way, even the ranged weapons are essentially the same. After a couple of hours playing it I was only using weapons to inlock achievements and the rest of the time I was fighting unarmed as it was faster and better.
More than anything though, right now what I'm hating the most is the targetting.
A trap a lot of games fall in to is making its targetting system haphazard, on the one in SAW is no different. You spend a lot of time looking for items, keys, health, wepaons etc and the problem is that there is no way to move through items in the game world one at a time, or to focus specifically, all you can do is just move around in an awkward little dance with the scenery hoping you manage to focus on the thing you need. It quickly gets very irritating, especially when combined with traps and their timelimits.
A good example of this (minor spoiler, nothing important) is from early in the game. There is a room you wander into which starts to vent poison gas into the atmosphere. You have to find 2 items by rummaging through about a half dozen containers, then beat the puzzle on the trap before your timer runs out. I tried the puzzle a couple of times and realized it just wasn't going to happen unless I got insanely lucky, and it wasn't worth the effort. I was fortunate on this occasion that there was a weak wall in the room I could break down. I dropped the revolver to punch down the wall (didn't want to waste the bullets and there is no inventory system to allow me to 'unequip' the weapon) but whenever I tried to pick the revolver up again, it keeps swapping between it and the hole I'd just made in the wall for me to crawl through. I didn't have time to faff about because of the awful time limit and faffing is exactly what was on the cards because of the poor targetting and the rapidly dropping time limit.
Admittedly it's a small thing really, but it is quite frequent and these little things build up to become hugely annoying after a while.
Overall I find it difficult to recommend this game.
If you're a fan of the movies, then I DO think it's worth playing at some point as it is a hugely faithful representation. Also despite the flaws in teh game, the achievements are hugely easy to earn, so if you're of the mind to play a game just for it's achievements, this is one of those games that you will appreciate.
However, based on it's own merits as a video game, there is very little to recommend this at all. The poor gameplay and bad design choices totally undermine the effort put in to be faithful to the source material.
It's a shame really as this game could have been spectacular had the game engine and design choices been up to scratch. As it is, it's one for the fans and few others.
Without question one of the worst games I have ever played.
Lets start with the good things.
Moving along to the bad things. Everything.
Thanks for reading my review, I hope you found this useful :)
Oh, wait, you were expecting more? Would it be more helpful if I put more detail into why this games is such a travesty? Ok, sure, why not, if it'll help you to not waste your hard earned money on this utter pile of gash than by all means, allow me to wax lyrical about this games expert attempt at complete and total failure.
I'll start with a simple description of the game. It's a 3rd person action game, melee combat based, much like games such as Darksiders, Dante's Inferno and Dynasty Warriors. The game sees you play as a Ninja called Ken who is a Ninja in a family of Ninjas who go around the world Nanja'ing stuff secretly like some sort of Ninja SAS.
That's pretty much it. You follow the level from start to end and bash everything that gets in your way. There's nothing else to be said for it really. The story is, frankly, mind boggling and I stopped paying attention fairly fast as the cutscenes were redundant, drawn out and boring.
So what of the game itself?
Well I'll be honest, whilst this game is an offence, it isn't actually an offence against ALL the senses. Visually it's quite nice. Nothing special, but nice all the same. It is the upper middle class of modern gaming visuals, a solid B, the 75% ish of grades. I will also admit that some of the monster models are particularly nice, the giant spider boss on level 1 is suitably creepy and immense.
That really is all this game has going for it though. Truly and honestly.
The audio is awful and it's on screen counterpart is equally bad. for some reason the developers thought it'd be a good idea to randomly mix and match English spoken and Japanese with English subtitles. It's not done artfully such as to show that two characters are talking privately using a different language, it just flip flops at random.
With the voices themselves the audio is just simply too quiet, drowned out by all the ambient noise which truly is a cacophony of stock 'city sounds' just thrown together then left as a simple 'it'll do'. No, it won't. The only thing it'll 'do' is slowly drive you mad.
The level design is horrendous, taking linear to a whole new stratusphere. The levels are stupidly long, and there is no variety or sense of progression during each level at all, it is literally just follow each path that opens up, forwards, as that's the only direction you can go.
The devs have thrown in all the expected wannabe platformer moves, wall running and jumping, sprinting, dodging etc, and in truth, they work. They're serviceable if uninspiring, but that's not enough either. They do nothing to help the game along at all. Frankly I'd have preferred the obstacles being removed and just being allowed to run through the level then running and jumping around walls just for the sake of some 'variety'.
The combat is very poor fair, it is true button mashing at it's best. now, to be fair, I don't usually mind that. I'm a long time fan of the Dynasty Warriors games, and tehy are a masterclass and button mashing. But wth those the game is laid out in such a simple manner that the game becomes carcrash entertainment, brainless, automatic and fun on some basic level. Ninja Blade doesn't have this quality. You come to a combat situation and you mash the X button. That's it. Sure you can use the Y button as well if you like, but doing so doesn't really unlock combo's depending on how you mix the buttons together. There's no block and counter system of any sort to shake things up a bit, it is just mash mash mash on the X button, until.........
..........The dreaded QTE's. The single worst creation in modern gaming, the Quick Time Event (QTE) is back and it is back with a vengeance my friends. Oh yes, no moment is too small in this game, the QTE will do anything. Jumping over a gap in the floor? Why not. Killing a standard enemy? Sure, what the hell. Jumping out of a window? Well duh, that's a no brainer. Oh and not forgetting the boss fights. I mean, serously, how can you havev a boss fight without dozens (not exaggerating) of QTE's one after the other? Where would be the fun in that? I'll tell you where, it'd be bloody present, not on a long vacation.
Yep, this game is nothing more than one long vacation, for fun. Audio, appalling. Level design, redundant. Gameplay, evil. QTE's in abundance.
Even the presence of some measure of RPG tendancies in the collecting orbs to level up weapons and collectibles for health etc goes any way to improving the game. Sure, these things make the game easier to progress through in terms of general game difficulty. But the game is inherently infuriating that it doesn't make a difference.
Truly, if I had to sum this game up briefly, it would be to tell you that this game is 1 long Quick Time Event broken up by the occasional outburst of redundant wall climbing and button mashing combat (which also still has QTE's in it).
And if you can believe it, there is something even worse in all this.
The length of the levels is such that the game becomes draining, especially after going through QTE after QTE, you would think that the liberally spaced checkpoints would be a good thing wouldn't you? That they would be good for people who wanted to take a break mid game? Well sorry, no can do, if you stop at any time during a level, all your work is lost and you have to start the whole level again. Yes the QTE's are bad, no question, but not allowing saves during levels is just plainly idiotic. Eventually the boredom and the frustration because of the QTE's plus the plainly stupid saving situation proved too much for me. I stopped caring and stopped playing the game.
I can't recommend this game at all, not for any reason, there is nothing at all good or worthwhile about it.
I give it a one start because I couldn't find a way to give it a negative star.
Lynn Barber is a British born and raised journalist who has worked for many of the top publications in Britain inlcuding the Broadsheet newspapers inlcuding a 13 year run at 'The Observer'.
In June 2009 she released her Autobiography, also called An Education, which grew from a semi autobiographical short story she wrote along similar themese for Granta magazine. It is THIS short story that was in fact the inspiration for Nick Hornby to make the adaptation to a screenplay.
The setting is London in the early 60's before the Hippie movement and the 'free love' the Era is now known for become a staple part of the British music and social culture.
Our protaganist Jenny (played by the lovely Carey Mulligan) a brilliant but erratic 16 year old who leads a somewhat sheltered and protected lifestyle wth her parent Jack (the ever brilliant Alfred Molina) and Marjorie (Cara Seymour). Together, the 3 of them all represent everything synonymous with 1960's Britain.
Jack and Marjorie are quite stuck in their ways, Jack is something of an Alpha Male, used to women being seen as 2nd class citizens and struggling to come to terms with the encroaching change, despite having an intelligent whom he supports with designs on Oxbridge. Marjorie pushes at the boundaries of the stereotypical 40's housewife. for her part, Jenny is willfull and headstrong, fuelled by her intelligence and the changes in 1960's Britain, reinforced by her seeing her mother tied to her old fashioned ways. It is these things that drive Jenny throughout the course of the film.
The plot is a mysterious one. On the one hand we have a story about a young girl and the cusp of womanhood learning how it feels and waht it means to be free, a somewhat typical coming of age story. On the other hand we have suggestions of seduction, abuse, even rape and arguably paedophillia.
Yes, none of these more startling themes come shining through, and are certainly debatable as Jenny is 16 years old. now I can't comment on 1960's law, but in modern law that means a person is legally allowed to choose how to conduct a reltaionship, including sex. The difficulty in this film lies with the ostensible 'hero' of the piece, David (played by the criminally underrated Peter Sarsgaard). He is a mid 30's, refined, upper-middle class gentleman who takes what can easily be argued is an unwholesome interest in Jenny.
The story plays out much like a romance at times, from Jenny's perspective, and the film never really plays up any sinister angle regarding David, however these themes are still an undercurrent to the film, and questions must be asked. Why is this 30 something 'gentleman' taking such an interest in a schoolgirl? Is a question top of the list. AS the story unfolds we get increasingly concerned by David's interest in Jenny, which is made much worse, despite her being 'legal' so to speak, by Carey Mulligan (who is in actuality 22 years old) often seeming like a vulnerable young girl, even at times looking much more like the teenager that character is than the young adult woman Carey Mulligan is.
Yet despite this concern, we also can't help but LIKE David, he is witty and urbane, with an easy going style that puts people off guard and draws them too him. We can recognize the appeal in this Handsome, cultured man who in truth asks nothing of Jenny openly, it is only really upon reflection or conciously choosing to keep it in mind do we once again begin to concern ourselves with David's intentions.
For the men who watch this film, there is also an added difficulty. Just as Carey Mulligan can appear as a vulnerable child at times, she can also at times in the movie appear as a beautiful young woman, and this is somewhat disturbing when we take this person in context of the character, NOT the actress. Yes Carrey Mulligan is 22, but Jenny is 16, and yet seeing her on screen looking remarkably beautiful and mature is appealing. We begin to understand why David has an attraction to her, and that makes things all the more difficult when it comes time to pass judgement on David.
It is an ultimately wonderful film. The whole cast is absolutely stellar. Any film that can boast Emma Thompson in a minor SUPPORTING role is truly a film that has great things going for it. Alfred Molina is at his very best, which is saying something as the man seems to never have an off day. Carey Mulligan is a revelation, beautiful, brilliant and hugely talented, she brings a calmness and grace even when playing a character who is somewhat erratic at times.
In many and all ways, she reminds me of a young Audrey Hepburn, which is the biggest compliment I can give as I personally believe Audrey is the greatest of all time. Indeed, so much so that I could happily sit back and watch a remake of My Fair Lady with Carey Mulligan in the role of Eliza (interestingly I think Alfred Molina would be an excellent replacement for Rex Harrison... I wonder who I can pitch this idea too......).
However I think the ultimate accolades have to go to both Peter Sarsgaard and the Director, Lone Scherfig. Sarsgaard deserves all possible accolades for playing this character in such a way that he is both endeering and worrying, and managing both together flawlessly, never once letting anyone side diminish in the face of the other. Similarly, Scherfig deserves credit for not moving the film in one direction or another. The film could just as easily played out as a Lolita-esque style story as it could have as being a sexual thriller about the seduction and abuse of a young girl. Scherfig does none of these things. Instead the film plays out as a coming of age story with a much more mature and realistic angle, never truly suggesting something disturbing was taking place whilst at the same time never hiding the truth of what was happening.
Scherfig allows us to see the events and decide for ourselves rather than forcing a direction upon us, in many ways the quality of the directing of this film lies in how directionless a lot of the subtext is. It is there, and it is clear, but it is up to us to define it. It is much the same as the ultimate relaity of this film, that Jenny's life is there, and the events are clear, but it is up to her to take control and define it. In giving us a choice in how we define the course of the events Scherfig gives us a chance to identify with Jenny, to ultimately seem to be a part of these events, if just for a moment, and perhaps that is the real moral of this story, that you must live a life to truly be able to define and judge it.
Not even one for the fans this, even if you're a loon and a fan of those redundant Alien vs Predator films that so insult the original movies.
On the good side is is quite a pretty game in a chunky/ dark and creepy kind of way. The character models for the Predators and the Aliens are very faithful to the source material, indeed the Aliens are so good that they look just as rubbery and fake as the body suit from the Alien Films! The Marines are unusual in that they lean toward realistic, but have a slightly too colourful and shiny tint, sort of like real life thats been coloured using enamel paints and then laminated. Very odd, but also quite satisfying when you happily tear their heads off as the Predator.
Oh yes, there is gore, lots of it, and it's lovely fun gore that WILL have you cackling maniacally, but only whilst playing as the Predator, the Aliens and the Marines have their own share of gore and yuck, but its the Predators that really take it to the extremes, and is probably the only truly satisfying part of the game. For about an hour.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. What is this game should be the first question asked and answered. Well, in a nutshell, it is a game that gives you Aliens from the Alien movies, Predators from the Predator movies, and Marines from the Alien movies (however, there is no sign of the marines from the Predator film, which is hugely dissapointing). The game is split into 3 campaigns, one for each species, and of course the obligatory Multiplayer.
Let's begin with the campaigns. In a word, diabolical. You can finish them all in one sitting with no trouble and no enjoyment! Say what you will about the game, Rebellion (the developers) have really thought about the gamers and decided NOT to burden us with decent sized campaigns with interesting stories and well conceived levels and gameplay. Noooo of ocurse not, why would we want that, its so much more satisfying to have nice, linear, midgety little campaigns that we can breeze through without any trouble or thought. Even the presence of the until now ever awesome Lance Henriksen lending his voice to the game can't save it. Indeed Lance seems like he was roughly woken in the middle of the night and had a tape recorded shoved under his nose to do his lines. Very very poor indeed, and it only gets worse. Cliche riddled distinctly un amusing dialogue that does nothing to advance the 'story' and only serves to irritate. The 'story' is infact mostly played out through audio logs which appear to have been read out from a scrap of paper by a drunken hillbilly as the dialogue stumbles through one whole sentence at a time telling us......nothing interesting at all.
The use of music, which should really have been a key point in adding to the suspense and creating mood just serves to irritate (notice a pattern yet?). Regular and sensible use of music in such set pieces serve to slowly build to a crescendo that will fray on your nerves and keep you feeling edgy. Instead it plays out like the composer(s) and the developers played a game of pin the tail on the donkey with the tail being the crescendo and the donkey being the entire campaign. The end result is that the music raises, pitches and slumbers and crescendos seemingly at random only serving to confuse matters rather than build a suitable and necessary tension.
And then we get to the gameplay.
In a move that is so utterly idiotic that it leaves you questioning whether the developers were YTS hirelings rather than professionals, they leave out an ability to crouch and an ability to aim down the sights. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first FPS game in a Decade if not more that has done this. Why? It doesn't add anything to the game and takes away a great deal. Hipfiring weapons is hugely outdated and greatly unentertaining.
Another ridiculous move is that at the start of every tunnel, excuse me, level (I say tunnel because the linearity is so bad that playing the game feels walking down a tiny little tunnel shooting anything that walks towards you), rather than carrying over weapons from previous levels, you'll just be handed whatever weapon the game feels you should now have. So you get into a rhythm with an assault rifle and expect the next level to throw a Flame Thrower at you for no identifiable reason.
And would you believe that the Marine campaign is the best of the 3?
The Alien campaign is truly 'special'. To begin with the controls for the Alien are clunky and unresponsive, plus actually playing the LAien is a very jarring experience. You'd think transitioning across walls to the ceiling would be an interesting game variant, but it fails, miserably. As your Alien crawls around growling and hissing like a dog and a cat having a wrestling match in a cactus patch, it is forever getting stuck on random bits of scenery which sees you constantly running at walls you should have no problem climbing and instead just butting your head against it repeatedly like a braind dead moth to a big shiny light. Oncce you DO get on the ceiling, the game is so dark and the celing so cluttered with random bits of wire and god only knows what else that you can't see what on earth you're doing. It certainly doesn't help mattters that the Aliens move exceptionally quickly. It's been years since I had motion sickness form playing an FPS game, I was 13 or 14 the last time it happened, about half my lifetime ago, and yet it happened again playing as the Alien. Not a pleasant experience to say the least.
The Predator is by far the most entertaining of the 3 species to play as, but its campaign is very poor. Nothing especially any more wrong with it that with the others except it is very boring and commits the biggest sin of not really embracing the Predator gameplay and letting you feel like you are playing a predator on the hunt. I won't go into any more detail than that as I would have to move into spoiler territory. Suffice it to say, the Predator is the most faithful of the 3 species, and for the most part does a very good job of representing it in game.
However, this was clearly never meant to be a single player experience (not that that excuses the hugely lacklustre attempt at the campaigns) and as such the Multiplayer is the the real meat and bones of the package, and to be fair it's not too bad.
The gameplay problems from the campaign are still inherent in the multiplayer, but the fact of the multiplayer being much more open in an arena style rather than being funnelled down a linear tunnel works greatly in the games favour.
It is a familiar if uninspired and poorly represented shooter as the Marines. The aiming issues are still abundant, but the atmosphere is much greater here as the utterly pathetic AI that riddled the campaign is replaced by the (usually) suitable intelligence of a human player, and playing as the Marine is a tense experience. Until you learn the maps and learn where the best places to camp out are, then you are perfectly fine. It is quite against the spirit of the game to do that of course, but the fact is, by on large players play to win, not to play the game in the spirit of things. Although with that said, I have been in free for all matches and seen the Marine players cooperating anway, which if you were to assume this was all real, that is what would actually happen, as is hiding in a corner where you can see the enemy coming, so on that respect these players are actually embracing the spirit of the Marines if not the game itself.
The Aliens are more at home in the Multiplayer, but it still takes a lot of time to get to grips with traversing the walls and ceiling. Only time playing the game and learning the maps can do that for you though really.
The Predators are also much more at home in the multiplayer, and it is here where the game actually becomes entertaining, for a while. You feel much more like a Predator in these games as the maps are open enough to allow you to stalk around picking your spots to pounce and gleefully eviscerate someone. It is very satisfying. Until you've seen all the animations dozens of times over, then they get tiresome. Soon after tehy get downright annoying when you realise you can't skip them but you CAN still be hurt during them meaning a wily player will wait for an unsuspecting Predator to gank one enemy then calmly step out behind them and kill them whilst they're helplessly locked in a kill animation.
I could continue to tear this game apart if I really wanted to, I could tell you how irritating the random disconnections are, how unplayable the lag can make the game, how disjointed teh screen tearing can get, I could ocntinue to question numerous design choices, the repetitive nature of the game in general because of its huge lack of customization. But I won't bother.
Let me summarise for you. As a game, this is about as poor as modern gaming gets. It is badly planned, badly executed, limited in every way and a huge waste of an otherwise truly stellar couple of franchises.
But then again, I have to ask, just how interesting could we really expect a game aimed largely at multiplayer with Aliens and Predators to be? The Aliens have no weapons, there's no way to improve or customize them, the same goes for the Predators, so it's all about the gameplay, and even with the greatest gameplay of all time, the limits inherent in the source material would quickly cause this game to become stale and tiring to play.
Plus it doesn't have the greatest gameplay of all time, it is somewhat closer to a travesty, just like this game in general.
Darksiders (referred to as DS from this point on) is a 3rd person action game, the 2nd of 3 released this year (the other 2 being Bayonetta and Dante's Inferno). The core game is simple, move through the story and hit things. There are also a few puzzle elements thrown in to shake things up, but they're not especially complex so tehy don't bog down the progress of the game.
The story is surpisingly not that straightforward. It's not complicated by any means, but it is also not a simple tale of Good vs Evil. The game sees you take control of 'War' the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In this game the hourseman are still teh harbingers of the apocalypse, but their origins are somewhat different. The game presents Heaven and Hell as being warring worlds (spiritual, rather than literal planets), with 'Earth' being the 3rd piece of the puzzle, the world that balances out the other 2. The role of the horsemen is that they are enforcers who are there to maintain the balance between the 3 worlds, and when signalled at the appointed time, to lead the apocalypse (which it is hinted at having a specific purpose in a much larger scheme).
The twist in the story comes when the apocalypse is unleashed at the wrong time and War is set up to take the blame. Stripped of most of his power, War is sent back out into the world to seek out the truth, and it is here where the game begins.
Fairly striaghtforward really. The ambiguity of the situation comes from actually playing as War. Despite portrayal as the hero of the piece, War is not a heroic figure. Indeed his very purpose is to cause war wherever he steps and to lead the destruction of earth. Not a nice chap really. On top of this, during the game War will speak to and deal with both Angels AND Demons in his quest to find the truth. He has no qualms about dealing with anyone and will fight and kill anyone who gets in his way (yes, even human civilians are fair game during the first level).
The art style s very reminiscent of World of Warcraft, which is no bad thing in my mind. The bulk of the characters and monsters, the shape of their limbs is highly similar to WoW, indeed 'War' bears more than a passing resemblance to Arthas from the Warcraft games. What I particularly like is that the weapons and armour are all suitably over the top in appearance, again much like in WoW. They are very stylized, more in the nature of someone thinking 'If I could make any kind of sword, it would look like this', and throwing it in the game than any actual nod toward reality and if a weapon would actually be feasible. This is pure fantasy in its look and art design, even the colours are WoW like. No dirty brown scenery like in Fallout 3, despite also being a post apocalypctic setting, instead everything is nice and bright and colourful like the Apocalypse was designed by Disney, hell it's so colourful and lovely I was half expecting to see Tigger bound up in a cameo somewhere. Yes its bright and chintzy, but it is also quite charming, in much the same way WoW lures you in with its appealing, child friendly art design and colouring, DS has done the exact same thing.
However, after the truly awesome cutscenes, and only slightly less impressive in game graphics of Dante's Inferno (called DI from here on), DS just doesn't stand up in comparison.
The settings are quite varied. The game sees you travel from a post Apocalypse ruined city to a cemetery, through to a huge Cathedral, into a beatiful countryside by a lake and later into a dusty arid desert setting. Plenty of environmental variety, but they just aren't a patch on DI's imaginative a gruesome representation of the 7 circles of hell.
DS maintains the WoW style visuals in its environments, including being as equally cookie cutter, again, NOT a bad thing in my mind, but it doesn't compare to the relity based approach (if a game that sees you fight in hell could ever be considered 'real') of DI.
The combat, which is the core of these games, just doesn't compare either.
It's good, but I find the controls as mapped to the pad are a little clunky, it can be easy to get muddled at times when you are surrounded by a lot of enemies or rapidly losing health. By comparison DI had it set down perfectly, and the actual combat was crisper and smoother. And a big thing for me, the block/counter system is excellent in DI and frankly a big steaming barrel of turd in DS.
The problem with the combat in DS is that it doesn't really know what it want's to be. It seems to tend toward out and out hack n slash mechanics, but there is very little in the ways of combo's rather their are a number of different 1 trick attacks for you to acquire and learn. Also, every enemy form the basic Zombie right up to the last boss has a pattern to beat it, and once you find that pattern, any pretense at pure hack n slash goes out of the window as you find yourself repeating the same series of attacks over and over.
Is this a good thing? Well for me it's average. I don't dislike it. I find it serviceable, despite the controls being clunky, but it is also nothing spectacular.
I've played the vast majority of the 3rd person melee combat games of this generation, and they all have different merits. For me, the best ones are the ones that don't rely on combos which involve you mashing buttons furiously, rather they require you to learn different simple attacks the can see you swiftly move through enemies, the Conan game released a couple of years ago is a fantastic example of this. Another excellent system is what I call the 'block and counter system'. The best example of this is in the Assassin's Creed games (more so the first game than the second). They excel at using a system where you don't learn different button combinations to execute an attack such as in Conan, rather you rely on timing on your attacks and your blocking, good timing means you press an attack or block, perfect timing means you break through someone elses defence or counter their attack with one of your own, Batman Arkham Asylum also uses this method.
This is where DS really falls down. Whilst it's combat is good and works well enough, it doesn't live up to what it could and indeed SHOULD have been. It doesn't use any kind of block and counter system, it doesn't ask you to learn button combinations to use a host of different looking attacks. Instead you learn a pattern to beat your enemy or you mash your buttons until they are near death then finish them with a one button attack.
It's a serviceable system, but it should have been much better.
Difficulty is bizarre. Easy is frankly the easiest game I've ever played. Normal is the 2nd easiest game I've ever played. 'Apocalyptic' (the hardest difficulty) is also incredibly easy. Which I don't mind really, but the problem is it's not hugely fun either. There's no sense of accomplishment by playing it that you get from beating other games, such as with completing the Call of Duty games on veteran. You NEED to play it on 'Apocalyptic' to get a reasonable challenge, but the problem is, the challenge isn't always reasonable. It spikes here and there and can be bloody frustrating.
The main problem though is that, even though it's still essentially incredibly easy, enemies just take too long to kill, the combat becomes a bit of a chore as you are either mashing the buttons for a while, or repeating the same pattern over and over and over again. It's an inherent flaw in the combat style that Darksiders uses, which again is why I say it's not a sgood as it should be. The core focus of this type of game is the combat, and in this game it actaully brings the game down a bit because it does become tiresome after a while.
Don't misunderstand me. Despite my criticism of the game, and comparing it to other games that are better than it in some way, it IS still a very good game, and it IS enjoyable to play. It's cheerful art design is appealing, and some of the actual designs are very nice indeed (the weapons/armour and the demon Samael in particular). It just doesn't have anything about it that pushes it higher and makes it special in any way, whereas, by comparison, DI has an awesomely realized setting, excellent combat and the best cutscenes this in this generation of gaming so far. Despite being good, it's NOT as good as Dante's Inferno. It's a much longer game, running at about 30 hours to get all achievements compared to the 10 hours needed for Dante's Inferno, which is in it's favour, but that's pretty much all it has in advantage over DI.
If you're looking to buy the game, it's very new so you will be looking at paying full RRP of around £40 for it, but it is good value for it's money if you enjoy the game. However, the one thing you need to consider is that when it comes down to actaully playing the game, even though it is a much longer game than Dante's Inferno, the 10 hours you put into DI will be far more entertaining and satisfying than anything you get from Darksiders.
As an RPG fan I have years of experince playing these games, I have played the best and the worst, and because this is my genre of preference my interpretation of what constitutes good and bad tends to differ form the mainstream.
I consider other factors the paid reviewers in magazines and on websites, for example, the makings of a good RPG are somewhat different to that of a shooter of any kind. If you play Halo, you expect crips, clean visuals, weapons to feel weighty, the action to be fast and meaty, but an RPG has different requirements. Unfrotunately many reviewers don't stop to take this into consideration and as such a good RPG is deemed bad because it doesn't meet this check list of requirements.
Divinity 2 is a perfect example. It is an excellent RPG, but as a game it definitely has it's problems.
To begin with, Divinity 2 is a port of a PC game. For the uninformed, that means that the gae was originally made to run on PC, then once completed and released, the developers went back to the game to make some changes so it could run on a console. The problem with this is that the different hardware in use between PC's and consoles, whilst getting ever more similar, is still somewhat different. Consoles have hardware especially optimized for itself, PC's tend to be more generic, and as such a video game needs to be optimized to suit the console. Unfortunately that very rarely happens and as such, whilst the game may work, it is inevitably not without flaws, and Divinity 2 has it's share. Some I personally have experienced are disappearing game saves, corrupted game saves that start you at a different part of the story, numerous bugs and crashes, disappearing objects and characters, the list goes on.
For some reason a lot of these problems can be fixed by simply resetting the game, which is a good thing as it meant I was able to finish the game AND get all the achievements, so whilst it has its problems, they are not ultiamtely game breaking. Even the save file issues can be circumvented my creating multiple saves. My method was to have 3 save files and I would switch to a new one every tim my character levelled up.
So, to the game, and is it a good game? Well, as I said earlier, as a game in general, not great, but as an RPG, yes, it has all the hallmarks of a great RPG. Quests, rewards, experience points, levelling up, branching storyline, all the things any good RPG needs, it also throws in its own interesting twists along the way.
Of particular note is the rewards system. Typical RPG's give you experience and a reward, thats it, but Divinity has a nice little system in place that lets you pick your reward from a list. The list isn't always the same, which makes the rewards process something of a surprise and also a strategy, do you take that nice piece of armour now and forgoe the experience, or take the experience and see if you can find another piece of armour elsewhere?
The character creation is also well represented. The actual creation of your character is not particularly deep, male or female, pick hair colour and style and a voice, and that's pretty much it. It is the choosing of class and building that character which is really the high point. Divinity uses what is called a 'classless' system, meaning you don't pick either a mage or a warrior etc and are stuck with that type, you can mix and match skills as you please which allows you to create quite unique characters to some degree.
You begin the game in a small village and this whole village is nothing more than a training area teaching you how to play the game and allowing you to test out the 3 character styles of combat, magic and archery.Once you have practiced all 3 you pick one you want to start with and then you set off into the game proper. But that's the last time you are forced into any kind of character path. There's nothing stopping you picking a mage to begin with, then at level 5 deciding you dislike the mage and choosing to continue on in the game as a fighter, or choosing to be a half and half, a mage that's good at archery, a fighter who can summon demons etc.
It's an interesting system that will feel familiar to anyone who has ever played World of Warcraft. The skill trees are all there for you to mix and match, and the way skills work is quite remeniscent of WoW.
The training Village also introduces you to one of the games 'features', the mind reading system. An interesting inclusion, the mind reading system does exactly what it says on the tin, however the information you glean is pre set, and to use the skill you run up an overdraft of experience which will be worked off before you start increasing you experience towards gaining a level again. The system is very simpl.e, but badly implemented as the trade off for spendinig the money to use the mind reading is never worth the reward. There are times when it is necessary to use it which I feel is quite redundant, like the game s forcing you to use its features.
The gameplay is not the best, however, the skills/spells etc are well mapped to the pad, you have 4 for the face buttons and 4 for the D-pad. Not enough to compare to the PC version with it's hotkeys system, but it is serviceable and works well regardless. This is also reinforced by being able to push the right thumbstick and pause the action so you can get your bearings and plan ahead if you wish. Despite that, the game is very much a traditional button mash, just keep hammering the buttons to hit things. Serviceable, but nothing special.
Except for the Dragon. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that you can TURN INTO A DRAGON, which pretty much makes this the best game ever by default.
Except it doesn't, because being a dragon, whilst interesting, is pretty redundant. Just repetetive 'attack the base' missions. Don't get me wrong, it's fun, and works well, and you can even level up your dragon and give him his own skills to make him even more badass, but all you do with it is attack bases, taking out ballistae and magic/archery towers. Very limited.
The biggest problem with the game is its difficulty. Im not adverse to difficult games when they're fair and progressive. If they get progressively harder to match your groing experience, that's cool, it keeps a constant challenge, but Divinity starts off overly difficult then has unpredictable difficulty spikes that move into outrageous and stupidly hard sections. No question, to get any true enjoyment from this game you NEED to play it on easy. But you also need to plan ahead. You NEED to spend time learning the skill trees and waht works best. It took me 2/3rds of the game to work out that I could use a combination of Health rgeneration and health leech (damage done to enemy is transfered into health gained by player). If I had sat down and worked that out at first, I'd have had a much easier run through, as the combination of those 2, plus a 3rd skill allowing me to reflect damage back onto my enemies made me incredibly difficult to kill.
Ultimately this IS a very good RPG. The story is interesting with some nice twists along the way, the setting is traditional high fantasy and beautiful to look at, and the gameplay, whilst at times difficult, is ultiamtely entertaining. It has all the hallmarks of a good RPG, but its biggest problem is that it is a game only RPG fans will appreciate, and then the learning curve and difficulty spikes can make this otherwise very pleasing RPG quite unappealing, which is unfortunate.
There are two more minor points to make regarding this game. Firstly, price, wherever you look you are likely to be paying around £30-£40, I picked this up off of amazon myself for £30. The other factor to note is that it is one of those rare sort of games that is difficult to find, and as such it will likely retain its price for a long time, as these rare games often do. So keep that in mind, if you do have some interest in it, if you see it for under £30, consider grabbing a coppy as it'll be the lowest you'll likely see for a good while.
Dark Messiah: Elements of Might and Magic got a bad rap when it first came out for being a bad port of the PC game (which to be fair, it is) but never really got appreciated for what it was. It also got heavily compared to Oblivion because they are both First Person perspective games, both traditional High Fantasy, both have quite stereotypical medieval architecture, so for the purpsoes of this review I will continue that trend.
It is very trimmed down from PC version, but apart from controls feeling a little heavy at first, the game is actually well ported and plays very well on console. Yes there is a lot of stuff missing, the game isn't anywhere near as in depth as the PC version, and the levels are somewhat shorter in places, but the actual gameplay is quite fun.
Interestingly, the game presents itself to you as an FPS game, when you pick a difficulty it actually suggests them based on the players ability with FPS games.
This is echoed to some degree in the character selection and RPG elements. Frankly, the RPG elements are none existant. Yes you gain experience and level up, but that is so common place in games now that I can't really classify it as being an RPG element anymore, at least not on its own.
Gone from the PC game is the character creation process and being able to level and make your own choices an skills etc, you just pick 1 of 4 characters and the game does the rest. You level up and get a set new ability at each level.
Sounds very boring, and in a way it is, but here's the interesting part, the story and progress of the game is excellent, a hell of a lot of fun. The level design is beautiful. Sure the game may not be the best looking game in the world, but it's a lot better than it was given credit for when first released, and the size and scope of the buildings and dungeons is excellent. I'd even go so far as to say that it puts Oblivion to shame in some respects. Oblivion, for as awesome as it is, always dissapointed me because it's dungeons were dull and uninspired, and the castles were only slightly bigger than a bungalow. One thing Dark Messiah has is rightly HUGE dungeons and castles etc. The story of the game I will not divulge so as not to spoil things, suffice to say however that it is on par with anything Oblivion did, and better than it's direct counterpart (Oblivion has a mildly similar story for it's mages guild). The game, however, is very short, about 10 hours all told for a first run through, so that is a problem, and I can't shake the feeling that this whole game feels like one lengthy sidequest that was ripped out of Oblivion. It wasn't obviously, however the length of the game, the art design and teh quality of the story is such that the whole package FEELS like it belongs in Oblivion.
The gameplay is also a huge plus for me. Not quite as fluid as Oblivion, to continue that comparison, but where Oblivion makes a half assed attempt at including traps and things, DM does them well. Being able to set off traps and lure enemies into areas where you can drop something on them, or boot them into a fire or off the edge of a building is fantastic and works incredibly well. It sets me in mind of the Thief games in many ways, the way you could interact with your environment.
The characters available are cookie cutter, Fighter, Mage, Archer, Assassin. Not hugely original, but when you are being forced to pick from a selection of pre-mades, you pretty much have to expect archetypes. The question becomes 'are they any good?', well, yes.
The Fighter is much on par with his Oblivion counterpart, there is so little difference in fact that if you've played as a fighter in one, you know exactly what to expect from the other. You block, you swing your sword, rinse and repeat. One thing Oblivion does have in it's favour is weapon variety. You can only use swords in Dark Messiah, where as Oblivion lets you pick and choose Axes, Daggers, Maces, Swords etc. With that said, Oblivion was never particular strong with magical weapons, and the weapons you can use in Dark Messiah are often magical and the effects are well implemented. So they both have their pro's and con's in that respect.
The Mage, again is very much like Oblivion, but I find him very underwhelming to play. You spend most of the game just using the one fireball spell you begin with because it's fast and enough to take down anything, other spells take time to cast and are quite useless because of it. It also reinforces the suggestion that the game is 'FPS like' as firing these fireballs is somewhat agkin to unloading a barrage of bullets into an enemy and your mana potions with which to restockyour magic power become more like extra magaines for guns. Again, Oblivion is somewhat similar, however the variety of spells is immense and spell casting does tend to be slightly more measured compared to the frantic blasting of Dark Messiah.
The Archer. Again, very much like Oblivion, again so much so that if you've played an archer in one, you know what to expect from the other. Everything, right down to being able to 'zoom in' to make your shots more precise, it is all essentially identical to Oblivion, and is excellent implemented. Oddly though, despite being a projectile weapon, being the ARcher and using the Bow and Arrows does not make the game feel like an FPS game. You tend to be slower and take time to be more precise with your shots to try and make every shot count, especially if you can hit a headshot which does HUGE damage.
The Assassin. Guess what, yep, it's like Oblivion, only this time FAR BETTER. Playing as an Assassin character in Oblivion falls on its ass because you are essentially just a stealthy archer, but in this, the archer and assassin are seperate and indeed the Assassin has no ranged attacks (except for throwing a dagger at a fleeing enemy), so you have to concentrate on stealth. It works wonderfully and you can do things Oblivion should do, but doesn't. As you level up you can become invisible when in the shadows and not moving, then later you can stay invisible when moving in the shadows. For me though, the best bit by far, that Oblivion sorely lacks, is a stealth 'instakill' attack. If you can sneak up behind somebody and hit them with a power attack, you get a backstab and an instant kill. It's simple, but fantastic and a LOT of fun. My most fun moments in this have been from sneaking around and luring enemies into a perfect set up so I can backstab them.
It strikes me that this game was rated harshly because it was considered a bad port, the game is actually very short, and it has obvious comparisons to Oblivion which is somewhat unfair as the game has its own charm and merits. It's not anywhere near the RPG Oblivion is, it's nowhere near as open, but the pure gameplay is very very satsifying, equally as good as Oblivion, and in some cases, much better.
Is it worth RRP of £40 when it was first released? No. A short game (about 10 hours all told at best) and you will likely only play it through once, perhaps twice, and a couple of additional hours to polish off achievements, but thats all the single player campaign offers. It has a multiplayer tacked on, which I tried once when I first played it back when it was first released. It was dire. Went back to try it again now, and its impossible to get a game anyway as nobody plays it. So definitely not worth £40.
However I picked this up for £6 2nd hand, and for that price, it's well worth giving it a shot, especially considering you'll still get a couple of quid for it on trade in. It's like renting a game, except you get half your money back once you return it. Yeah, at £6, it's worth a punt, if nothing else just to mess about and compare it to Oblivion for yourselves.
I will start by saying openly that yes, for the first time, I am more than a little annoyed that I haven't recieved a crown this week.
Yes I fell into the worst of holes, I wrote 3 reviews, all of which I am incredibly proud of and started to believe that at least one of them would have granted me a little gold hat. It's my own fault that I'm bothered by it, I admit that, but in my defence, I've never yet had a crown, and it's never before even crossed my mind, and I never set out to write crown worthy reviews, I just wrote them as I felt they needed to be done. And frankly, for all I know, none of them got nominated anyway, so it is pretty much irrelevant.
I tell you this not because I want to bitch and moan about not being crowned, no, on the scale of things, that 1 or even 3 crowns I could have possibly earned is nothing more than another half dozen reviews, and I have plenty of products to review, so it's not truly an issue. I tell you this because I want people to understand my state of mind after yesterday, and why I decided to look into the crowning process, which is what this review is really all about.
And after that moment of honesty, this will seem petty, but I DO believe that the crowning process is inherently unfair and lopsided. Now, yes, I know, that is going to sound incredibly petty, especially after my openly admitting I was irritated, but I ask you accept that this isn't a kneejerk reaction and that from this point on, unless I state otehrwse, I am not referring to my own reviews at any point, rather I will be talking in a general sense. Please follow along my little journey to see WHY I think this is the case.
To begin with I advise you all, if you haven't done so yet, to read this review by plipplop. http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/discussion/dooyoo-crowns/1291871/
Now then, I will assume from here on that you've read it, so, interesting isn't it? I certainly thought so, and it answered a few questions, but opened up a few more.
Now my review is not an indictment on plipplop's, nor is it a rebuttal to it or anything else, far from it, I'd actually like to thank Plip for that review as it helped me to form and structure some ideas.
After reading that review it struck me that the crowning process is wholly without structure. It appears that crowns are handed out almost without consideration for anything but supporting the most profitable products WHICH IS A SMART THING TO DO, support people writing about those products and the reviews will keep on rolling, thats fine, I won't dispute that and take no issue with it. To a point.
You see what the crowning process needs, at least in my opinion is for products to have guarenteed crowns and for each product type to be scaled in importance. I don't deny that Home appliances are a more important product than DVD's or Video Games, far more people visit this site for consumer opinion on those products, but when phenomenal reviews in a 'lesser' category gets overlooked for some good reviews in a preferred category THEN there is something inherently wrong.
Isn't the crowning system supposed to be in place to reward those people who write the most outstanding reviews, whatever the topic? So why are some getting overlooked?
Well of course first of all a review needs to be crowned, if it doesn't get it, then sorry but that's the way it goes. For that to happen it needs to be read, and no matter what people may say, being a community such as this is, return reads and rates are as frequent as revenge rates, so anyone who writes reviews has really needs to put equal effor tback into reading and rating. As a community of review writers we do thrive on being fair to each other and a 'you scratch my back' mentality does exist. That's not to say anyone goes out of there way to try and help their 'frineds' but we appreciate otehrs taking the time to read our reviews, and we all feel a fuzzy little feeling in our bellies when someone praises our work and we feel obliged, and indeed in my case, I WANT to return the favour.
So we have our community, we have people reading our reviews and we have a truly fantastic crown worthy review and it's even been nominated. So how does it get missed? Well, this is the part where it gets fuzzy.
According to Plip he strongly believes that guide opinion holds sway with the team, but the team ultiamtely just pick whichever ones they want. I don't know about anyone else, but I find that a little shoddy to say the least as, if Plip is right, we have to rely on a stroke of good fortune that a guide will read AND really enjoy our reviews enough to nominate it themselves. But even then, if our reviews are on a product low down the list of importance, our chances dwindle.
In the end it all boils down to the Dooyoo team and the nominations that week. There is no sense of structure at all, and it is that more than anything that makes the process inherently unfair.
I have no resentment toward anyone who earns a crown, anyone who has one has worked hard and deserves it, end of. I also have no qualms about certain products being more important than others, but when you write a review that you put your everything into, and then it gets overlooked, it can be disheartening and perhaps for some people even upsetting, and understandably so.
I can empathize with anyone who works really hard to make a truly outstanding review which then gets overlooked who loses heart. I can tell you from first hand experience from yesterday that it DOES make you question the system and question if its worth putting in all the effort. I couldn't blame anybody becoming disillusioned and for their review quality slipping. I mean, why bother writing a review of 2 or 3 thousand words covering every detail in your own inimitable style if it's going to get overlooked? Well, for me personally, it's how I like to write, so I'll do it regardless, but for others, I couldn't blame them for saying 'to hell with it, I'll just write 500 words a pop and leave it at that'.
No, I DO think the crowning process is flawed, but I think I maybe have an idea how to make it fairer to everyone, the key is for the crowning system to have structure, a structure people are aware of so there is less feeling of random dumb luck and more a snese of opportunity and focus.
As I mentioned earlier, I think product types need to be scaled in importance, then have a guarenteed number of crowns allocated to it for each week. More important products should get a higher crown allocation of course, that's perfectly understandable, but even the lesser products should have at least 1 guarenteed crown every week.
With a guarentee, you know you're in with a shot and it gives you a purpose, gives you something to strive for, making you work that bit harder. I could see the generally quality of reviews increasing if people knew they could possibly win a guarenteed crown.
There are also other things that should be taken into consideration. I write a lot of videogame reviews, so I am often trawling those pages, and I have seen games with a dozen reviews total, and a total of 200 or so readings, and yet it has 2 crowned reviews, and other games with equally as good, if not better, reviews have none. Should there perhaps be a limit to the number of crowns available to individual products within a particular category? Should it be scaled to depend on number of reviews or reads, the more that product gets of one or both, the more available crowns it is possible to acquire?
I certainly think something needs to be done to make things more even and fair.
Now we also have the issue of nominating reviews. I know a few people aho dislike that the guides seem to influence, but I happen to think it's a good thing. I treat guides on here as I would moderators on any internet forum as I consider them to be much the same, and perhaps they SHOULD be. In my opinion, the crowning process would be smoother if Guides had an official part to play in the process whereby they read through the nominations first then pick a number of them to forward to the team to view and pick for crowns. The smaller number of reviews the team have to peruse means they can take more time to weigh up and judge the worthy reviews.
Now I am sure some, perhaps many of you will dislike this idea, but personally I don't see it as a problem. If indeed the guides do have some sway in the process anyway, it doesn't make any difference. So why not allow the guides to be more hands on? Assuming that there is some structure in place for specific number of available crowns etc using the guides as a filter will allow them to peruse all the contenders and fowrward only those most worthy. It also allows all the nominated reviews more time to be considered fairly.
Finally I think the crowning process should be extended to across 3 days, but only in light of my previous suggestions seeing the light of day. If there was structure and a filtering process, then the extra time would be useful so all nominated reviews could be fairly considered and forwarded. Currently Tuesday is the crowning day, wouldn't it be better for Tuesday of each week to be the cut off point, then the next few days until Friday or Saturday are taken to peruse and judge the nominations in depth? I certainly think so, as I think it's fair to say the team are probably exceptionally busy on a Tuesday.
Let me sum up by itemizing my points.
1. I think the crowning process is inherently unfair as certain product types are more important and there is no guarentee of even 1 crown for any product type.
2. The system is unstructured and needs to change.
3. Prodcut types need to be prioritized and crowns to be guarenteed and allocated to each product type, the higher the priority, the more allocated crowns available.
4. Should crowns be limited per product to stop one product recieving too many when other equally important products have none?
5. Guides should have a more official role in filtering the nominations to the team in a more organized and structured pattern.
6. Longer cronwing process to allow prospective crown winning reviews more time to be considered and judged.
I'd appreciate people's thoughts on the crowning process. Is it inherently flawed and unfair? does it need more structure? Other issues I haven't considered?
I'd also love to hear what you have to say about my ideas for improving the process. Anything to ammend? Add? Improve on?
OK, before I begin, just to let you all know, this is another sizeable review from me, so be prepared for a long read. If you're not of a mind to read it all, everything is well spaced out with headers so you can navigate to something that interests you.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (henceforth referred to as MW2) is the 6th game in the main series of 'Call of Duty' (henceforth called COD) games, which first made an appearance on PC in 2003. It is the 2nd of the 'Modern Warfare' branch of the series, so titled as the game simulates real life war situations, weapons etc as opposed to the World War 2 games the series was previously known for. Both Modern Warfare games, and the first COD game were developed by Infinity Ward (henceforth called IW), the others have been developed by a different development studio called Treyarch.
The first in the 'Modern Warfare' branch was released as 'Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare' in November 2007 after a 2 year development cycle. It won critical acclaim and was widely praised for its entertaining yet faithful representation of modern day warfare (hence the moniker now attached to this branch), it's challenging but fair campaign and excellent online system.
Activision, the publisher of the Call of Duty series, originally announced Modern Warfare 2 in December 2008 only to retract it a few days later claiming 'speculation'. They then officially announced the game 2 months later in February 2009.
MW2 uses an in house designed game engine which built upon the engine used in COD 4. It has some significant improvements. Visually, the game is crisper than previously and many of the effects such as fire and smoke are outstanding.
The biggest change however was to the Artificial Intelligence (AI). COD 4's engine used a very limited AI system which saw enemies becoming quite predictable as they were limited in what they could do, where they could go etc. In conjunction with this COD 4 also used an 'infinite respawn' system for enemies meaning that there were endless streams of enemies for players to battle through. This could, at times, become very overwhelming.
MW2's new engine removed the need for 'infinite respawns' as the in game enemies were much more intelligent with less restrictions. Now enemies would use different tactics, move differently and react better to situations. This meant that enemies were no longer predictable, indeed if a player had to constantly repeat one level over and over, the actions and reactions of the enemies would not be the same each and every time.
From the beginning, MW2 was surrounded by (understandably) excessive hype, mostly driven by the gaming community in general. It's predecessor COD 4 was such a roaring success that gamers and critics alike expected miracles from IW with this game. I will openly admit to also being one of those who had very high hopes for this game. However, from the off there was some controversy surrounding the development for this game.
During the development cycle for COD 4, IW opened up the game for a public beta. An open or public 'beta' is a video game that has been released to the public for software testing prior to finalizing the game for release. This helps the developers spot issues that they may overlook in development that could be damaging for the game (such things include games crashing, freezing mid game, items disappearing or not working to name a few). A closed 'beta' works in the same fashion, the only difference being that the developers hand pick a selection of people to test the game rather than releasing it to the general public. For games such as COD and other first person shooter types, the beta's are usually for testing the multiplayer gaming aspect. A degree of controversy arose around this when IW announced that it would not provide an open beta unless the closed beta did not provide sufficient feedback.
At first this announcement was met with disappointment by the general gaming community as it meant they wouldn't be able to get an early hands on look at the game prior to release. Since the game has been released, the decision to not use an open beta has been met with greater criticism from the gaming community as the number of problems and questionable design decisions for the multiplayer game have piled up.
During development for MW2, Infinity Ward announced that they would not be using dedicated servers to run the multiplayer games as they had done for COD4. Primary reason for this was because there was an inherent flaw in the old system whereby if the games host (the host is a player who is 'picked' by the server to act as a host for the match, without a host, matches would not start) left, the match would stop.
At first this announcement was met with approval as IW claimed their new matchmaking system would prevent games from stopping when a host leaves. Since release this decision has been heavily criticised as the reliability of the servers is extremely low.
Release and Critical Reception
MW2 was released on November 10th 2009. According to publishers, Activision the game set a new record for numbers of preorders, a claim that is backed up by its more than 4.5 million sales in the first 24 hours. The revenue from the first day of sales was in excess of $300 million, making the game the most successful launch day in history. Total revenue from the game now stands at around the $600 million mark.
Publicity for the release was huge. As well as all the self generated hype from the gaming community, IW conducted a steadily growing publicity campaign between March and October 2009 starting with simple teaser trailers showing a few small clips of game play and ending with 2 full trailers. The first of these full trailers was particularly note worthy as it was revealed during the NBA Eastern Conference finals in May 2009, a huge platform from which IW could publicize the game.
The game has garnered a 94% average across 99 reviews on Metacritic, including over a dozen granting the game full marks, making it one of the years most successful games.
Packaging and Price
The game was released with 4 different package sets:
The most basic edition of the game, it comes packaged in the standard green jewel case of all Xbox 360 games with the expected packaging insert and instruction manual.
On launch day, this edition was sold at the higher than RRP of £54.99 (yet another controversial move). Now, you will still be looking to pay between £30 and £40 depending on where you pick it up from, so be sure to shop around.
This is the edition I have as the game itself is exactly the same in all of them and I had no interest in the extra bits and pieces in the other editions.
This edition comes packaged in a steel tin case, and along with the expected instruction manual, it also includes an art book containing images of some of the games concept designs from development, and a code which allows you to download a remastered High Definition version of the first COD game (now called COD Classic) from Xbox Live, for free.
On launch day, this edition was sold at £69.99. Now you will be looking to pay between £40 and £50, so again, shop around to find the best price.
This edition is practically identical to the Hardened edition except it also comes packaged with a 12" Action Man-like statue of the in game character 'Soap' MacTavish.
On launch day this edition would have happily set you back 1 whole penny less than £100. To Buy it today you'd still be looking at paying that price in many places, but you can knock the price down to between £60 and £70 if you shop around enough.
This edition is again practically identical to the hardened edition, except it comes packaged with a set of fully functional Night Vision Goggles and a mannequin headstand to display them on based on the visage of Soap MacTavish.
As with the veteran edition, this was also priced at £99.99 at launch. You will now be looking at paying between £80 and £90, so once again, shop around.
Game Menus and Interface
When you begin to play the game for the first time you are presented with 3 game modes, Special Ops, Campaign, Multiplayer (see below for details) picking one is simply a case of highlighting one and pressing A. The control interface for these menus is exactly the same regardless of which game mode you choose.
Entering each mode presents you with a list of options for starting or continuing a game or tweaking game options, looking at game stats and the game credits. It is simply a case of highlighting the option you want and pressing A to choose.
The game play controls are based on the standard First Person Shooter (FPS) layout recognizable to anyone who has played FPS games on console before, and certainly to anyone who has played similar instalments of this franchise.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the typical FPS control layout it essentially breaks down as follows:
Shoulder Buttons: Firing/Aiming/Throwing Grenades
Face Buttons:/Crouching/Jumping/Reloading/Weapon Swapping
The campaign continues on from the events of the previous Modern Warfare game and is set 5 years after those events. The progress of the campaign is typical of all COD games, you play as a number of difference characters throughout the course of the story and, with the exception of occasional missions, you play as part of a moving army rather than as a lone soldier which is the staple of most FPS games.
The campaign takes you through a number of different locales across Russia, Afghanistan and USA. I won't go into too much detail, but suffice to say, the missions based in USA are all quite memorable, and the 'mission' based in a Russian airport has become infamous (see controversies, below).
The campaign is ultimately well structured and plays extremely well. The new and improved enemy AI is in clear effect allowing for a constant challenge. The game is much easier than previous COD games overall, but the progress of the game feels less cheap and unfair. In previous games it was common to use endless swarms of enemies, or for enemies to be programmed with very cheap tactics such as throwing a constant barrage of grenades and nothing else. At times it could make the games frustrating and infuriating. MW2 has none of this. Yes there are moments that are very frustrating and awkward, but you never at any point feel cheated.
The biggest downside for me is the actual settings themselves. The story as it plays out is very weak, but it is excellent for allowing fantastic set piece battles. It does feel an awful lot like IW had some ideas for great looking settings and battles then just put them in and found a way to string them together. Not too bad in and of itself, except that a lot of these set pieces are designed to stack the odds heavily against the player, which is a great source of frustration at times.
With that said, the gunplay is exquisite. The guns feel suitably weighty and pack a realistic punch. Moving and aiming is clean and crisp, and the 'snap' targeting system is excellent.
Of particular note for me also is the audio. The voice work, guns, explosions and ambient sound is all top notch. The guns and explosives have a hefty sound to suit the punch the bring physically and the screams of death echo nicely. A touch I particularly love is the inclusion of the famed 'Wilhelm Scream' always a joy to hear. The voice actors are well selected, Bill Murray of The Bill, Eastenders and 'Injury lawyers 4 U' advert fame, 50 cent, Kevin McKidd and Lance Henrikson all lend there voices to characters in the game and bring a nice touch of the big screen to the proceedings.
Overall it is a mixed bag really. I personally did not enjoy it very much at all, but that really is a personal preference, NOT an indictment on the game as a whole.
The Spec Ops mode is a selection of independent missions that have no bearing on the campaign. The best feature of this is the addition of co-operative play with a friend across Xbox Live. Until now Co-op has been restricted to the Multiplayer.
There are 25 missions altogether, broken up into sets of 5 based on difficulty. You begin with 5 available and playing through the missions rewards you 'stars' which you accumulate to unlock more of the missions. You can unlock more stars by meeting certain parameters, beating the mission in a certain time or on a certain difficulty etc.
These missions get gradually more difficult over all, but there is a range of different mission types, attack, defend, sabotage, collect items, race, plenty of options to keep you interested.
As far as I'm concerned, this is the best of all the game modes and the games biggest redeeming feature. Being able to play the game co-operatively with a friend is invaluable and increases the entertainment value. However, the later of these missions are far harder than anything the campaign has to throw at you and some of the missions NEED 2 payers.
Nevertheless it is still a lot of fun.
There is no other way to say this, the multiplayer on this game is a joke, an utter travesty.
Initially it seems to be excellent. 16 different maps, the same again in game types, chance to play offline and online and an excellent rewards and advancement system.
When you first begin the game you are taken to a 'lobby' where you can adjust your weapon choices, review statistics and browse your rewards and bonuses and check up on your current state of advancement, and pick to start playing a match when you are ready.
With regards to the rewards and advancement, this is one area where the Multiplayer really does get things right. As you play through the multiplayer you will earn experience points for different things, killing enemies, assisting someone else in a kill, saving or avenging a team mate, being on the winning team, the list is huge. As you gain experience you level up which at certain intervals will grant you with a new weapon, bonus rewards, emblems and titles that you can display on your character sheet during match creation.
The list of rewards is huge. Over 40 weapons to choose from all of which can be upgraded in different ways the more you use them, you can also unlock other advantages to help you. Certain perks which you can pick to make you stronger or faster or carry more ammo to name a few, a selection of tactical support from simple ammo drops to calling in a gunship to fight for you. The list of these weapons, perks etc is huge and adds a great deal of variety and tactics to the game.
Before you enter a match you can take the time in the lobby to select your preferred 'load out', which is the choice of guns, grenades and bonuses you want. There is a lot of tactical thought here as different bonuses and perks will compliment your choice of weapons better than others. Learning each weapon and all the perks to help optimize your game is essential to get the most out of the multiplayer.
Sounds awesome doesn't it? Well sorry, but you're about to be thoroughly disappointed, the multiplayer mode is riddled with problems.
To begin with, the Multiplayer is NOT friendly to new players. New players start with the worst weapons, and no perks or bonuses to speak of. Then we have the bonuses themselves.
Despite how well put together the weapon selection and the rewards system is put together, it is inherently bad. One of the biggest draws of the game is being able to call in the different tactical supports. To do this you need to earn a predetermined number of kills without dying. The numbers are so astronomically high that the game invites 'campers' (a camper is someone who finds one spot and just sits there killing anyone who moves past without being seen, good campers will know 4 or 5 spots on a map and will move through them to prevent being caught off guard). Now I won't deny this is a personal preference, however, playing these matches when all you have is a dozen other people sitting around waiting for someone else to move is boring beyond belief, and if you are so bold to move, you inevitably get killed instantly leaving you in a catch 22 position of either sitting around bored or moving around and dying a lot. Not exactly a great choice. To make matters worse, these tactical rewards are inherently flawed as they only serve to reward players who are doing well, by giving them rewards that will make them even better further pushing the disparity between good and bad, experienced and new players apart.
Assuming you are happy with this however, we then come to the matchmaking system. The most diabolical piece of programming I have ever experienced. Seriously, whoever built this system needs to be hung, drawn and quartered.
Playing by yourself, you have by far the greatest chance of playing some games as the first noticeable problem it suffers is that it can't handle groups of 2 or more. If you join together in the lobby as a party of a couple of friends wanting to play together the whole system basically just fills its pants and dies. A friend of mine succinctly called this 'Call of Duty: Lobby Warfare' as we have genuinely spent time in a group of 3 of us and its taken us the better part of an hour to find a working match.
The issues surrounding the matchmaking are very much present when playing on your own, but they ARE certainly far more prevalent in group play. Here is a little list of problems we have experienced
: Games don't load
: Matches time out
: Players randomly booted form the match
: Unable to find a host (despite having a room full of players)
: Being randomly thrown into different teams, or worse different games
: Being thrown into complete different match types
Then of course we have the in match issues which are equally as numerous and equally as frustrating. Here is this little list:
* Extreme lag (where the game slows down and is unplayable)
* Supersonic speed (players move around the map at incredible speeds, uncontrollable)
* Matches randomly drop
* Players randomly kicked from match
* Weapons don't work
* Match events don't match up.
I personally put all the in match problems down to an inherent undercurrent of lag as there are forever moments where you can do such things as stand in front of someone and shoot him in the head with a dozen bullets and he doesn't take damage, then he can shoot you, miss, but still kill you. There are also events where you can be killed after you have moved out of sight, will be spawned in the middle of a fire fight or right underneath an attack helicopter which will then kill you immediately. The list goes on and on, and this is generally known to be the case as the game allows you after being killed to watch a playback of what it looked like form your killers point of view when they killed you, and it shows in slow motion, often it will be clear they are not shooting at you, but still kill you, or the events shown on their screen don't at all match up with what happened on your owns screen during play. All these little problems take any sense of fun out of the experience and make it draining and frustrating. So much so that I am coming to a point now where I don't want to play the game anymore.
To give IW their due, they have fixed some issues. There was a notorious glitch where a player could run around with a missile launcher equipped and act like a small fast moving high velocity explosive. Unscrupulous players would arm this glitch and run into the middle of the enemy, be killed then blow up killing everyone around them for about 30ft, such was the range of devastation. Another fixed glitch was a glitch with a higher level shotgun which when used akimbo style (one weapon in each hand at the same time) they were lethal with incredible range, damage and spread. A common half joke (because it was certainly half true) was that the Akimbo 1187 shotguns could be fired at a wall at one side the map and kill everyone else on the other side of the map. It certainly wasn't quite that bad, but they were ridiculous. I
W fixed bother of these problems for which they deserve credit, however they have stubbornly refused to acknowledge that any other problems exist despite the outcry from their fan base telling them so.
As I said earlier, the multiplayer is so badly broken that its come to the point where don't really want to play it any more. And when I can play for 4 hours and only find 3 good working matches I that time, and then still have to contend with some inherent lag, there is good reason for me to feel this way.
I did consider that it was my internet connection, but that certainly is not the case as I have played hundreds of other games both on Xbox Live and PC on this connection without problems, and 100%of the people on my Xbox Live Friends list have noticed these same problems.
Despite it being critically acclaimed across the board by the gaming public, MW2 has had its share of heavy controversies 2 of which I will highlight below.
The most infamous of them all. The 'No Russian' controversy stems from the mission of the same name. It is the mission I referred to earlier in the 'campaign' section. This mission places you in charge of a CIA agent undercover in a Russian Terrorist cell. You begin the mission in an elevator and the leader of the group tells everyone 'No Russian' meaning no one should speak Russian. Once the doors open, the game opens out into an airport terminal and all the terrorists you are with proceed to massacre the hundreds of innocent civilians with a selection of weapons.
The game offers the player the option of skipping the level with no penalty at any time from prior to the missions beginning to any point during it. Also to note is that the player is not required to partake in the assault at any point either, it is only at the end of the mission when fighting armed guards that the player is required to fight.
Needless to say, this demonstration of absolute violence drew heavy controversy from the media and even made its way into the government, and debate raged over whether this was too much.
I won't try to sway anyone one way or the other as I believe all sides have merit. Yes it is a risky and horrific thing to add, but then it is also a risky thing to add to films, yet it happens, and shouldn't video games with an 18 rating be treated the same as other media with the 18 mark instead of being assumed to be just a child's toy? Does it glorify violence and murder? Doesn't it? I won't answer these questions as I don't believe there IS an answer, however, I will supply a paraphrased response from IW themselves "We added the level to show the brutal reality we face from terrorists today". Now if you believe that or not is down to you, but regardless, that one small level was and still is extremely controversial
Don't ask, Don't tell
Early in the first mission you can hear a small discussion between 2 soldiers about a supposed other soldiers sexuality, and 'Don't ask, Don't tell' is the answer supplied. 'Don't ask, Don't tell' is the tagline for the recruitment of homosexuals into the US Army. Needless to say, IW received a lot of heat and criticism for its inclusion with continued speculation over whether they are pro or anti homosexuality and whether this was and indictment or a support of this policy.
There are a handful of other controversies also to be found in the game, but those two were the biggest and most public.
There are 50 achievements totalling 1000 Gamer Score. They are split roughly 50/50 between achievements for the campaign and achievements for the Special Ops. Once again there are no achievements for the multiplayer. IW rightly decided with COD 4 that players would play the multiplayer anyway, and enjoy it more if they didn't have achievements hanging over their heads. COD4 proved this to be the case, and MW2 continues this trend.
The Achievements are an excellent selection making you experience all aspects of the campaign and the Special Ops whilst also prodding players toward collecting everything and learning to complete the game on the hardest difficulty. In truth the achievements are a little one sided towards playing on the hardest difficulty however the game is not so difficult that it is impossible to do. Indeed it is very possible and very satisfying to do so.
Overall a very good list.
A mixed bag altogether.
On the one hand the game looks fantastic, sounds awesome and plays exquisitely (when it works).
On the other, the story is weak, the missions occasionally boring and frustrating and the Multiplayer is far too broken to be considered good or even serviceable.
In the end what it boils down to is this: COD 4 set a standard that IW tried so hard to exceed that they lost their way and made a game which has all the hallmarks of a truly phenomenal game, but falls down at the last through some poor design choices, and some very shoddy programming. In no way is it as good as it should have been, and it is certainly not worth the high marks it has been receiving. The game SHOULD be beyond peer, without superlatives enough to praise it, instead it is only good, decent.
To begin I would just like to say that this is going to be a LONG review. If you're going to sit through it, I advise you to bring a packed lunch. However if you're not of a mind to sit through my personal Iliad, each section is clearly marked with the information it contains for you to skip through it and find what you need :)
In 1986 SEGA entered the resurgent video game market with the Master System as a direct challenge to Nintendo's NES console. Despite being a superior machine, Nintendo's grip on the market was too strong, and although it had some success in Europe, the Master System was ultimately not a success.
This led SEGA to develop it's next console, the Mega Drive (called Genesis in North America) which was released in 1988 in Japan, 89 in USA and 90 in Europe. It is the games from this console which make up the bulk of the games available on this title.
The Mega Drive was effectively the console which began the 'console wars' with Nintendo (who released their next console, the SNES in 1991). Arguably (and certainly in my opinion) the Mega Drive was the superior console of this generation, and many of the greatest games from this period were on the Mega Drive. Whatever anyone's opinions on the matter, without question, the Mega Drive was Sega's 'golden years' in the industry, and this title showcases many of the greatest games from the Mega Drive.
The 'Ultimate Collection'
Release and Critical Reception
SEGA released the 'Mega Drive: Ultimate Collection' (titled 'Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection' in North America) for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 on February 10th and 20th 2009 in North America and Europe respectively. There was limited publicity for the release however it still garnered a 79% average across 45 reviews on Metacritic (the score was unfairly brought down in my opinion by some very poor reviews).
How it Works
Certainly anyone who has gamed on PC or console over the years knows that at times when hardware changes, older games become incompatible with the newer technology. Some consoles allow for 'Backwards compatibility' allowing you to play older games from the same console manufacturer on its newer systems (Playstation 2, for example, let you play any game from the original Playstation).
However this is not the case here as no modern gaming system has been made to be able to play these older games. Instead, this title uses something called 'emulation software'. In essence, the title contains a small programme that is compatible with the Xbox 360 which imitates the SEGA Mega drive, thus making the games playable. In truth the execution of this software is somewhat more complex than this, but this is the general idea of how this title allows us to play these games.
Packaging and Price
At launch, this title was priced at the RRP of £40, at the time I thought this was a bargain (I still do). Today, this will set you back at anywhere from £10-£15 on average, not a huge difference but for those who want to save a bit of cash, a quick shop around on the internet will help you find the best prices. This title comes packaged in the standard green case for Xbox 360 complete with box art and a surprisingly small instruction manual.
The box art insert, as you can make out from the image attached to this product above, proudly states its Mega Drive origins and that it contains over 40 games. A particularly nice touch is the use of multiple small screenshots of different games meaning that anyone who is of a mind to can take the time to peruse some images of the games held within.
The instruction manual is light and well presented. Inside the manual you will find the usual expected contents, a list of all the games available and simple assistance in navigating the menu. The manual also gives over a reasonable amount of space to provide instructions on how to play some of its games, and information pertinent to the game play of each one. Sonic, Golden Axe, Streets of Rage and Phantasy Star are all present as well as a few others. These instructions cover a number of games as all the games in each franchise are on this set, and each game had basically the same control system, so whilst on the surface it sees the instructions are limited to a few games, the actual number is high. However, there are a lot of the games missing and I do wonder at why. Certainly Sonic the Hedgehog is not more complex than, say, Fatal Labyrinth, a game which by the standards of this generation of games WAS quite complicated, and could really have benefited from having space given to it in the instruction manual. A curious decision to leave so many games without their instructions, one I personally think was a bad decision. One thing the manual does do however is provide us, at the top of page 5, with a URL to where we can view every instruction manual for every game in detail.
Menu and Interface
From the moment you start to play this title, anyone who grew up with these games will be hit by a wave of spine tingling nostalgia. From the SEGA logo with a voice over saying 'SEGA' to the jaunty music that accompanies the small intro movie which provides a short glimpse at some of the games in action, and the music which accompanies the menu, all has a hauntingly familiar feel to it. The music is not taken from any Mega Drive game I am aware of, however it is of that same quality (simple bars of cheerful music) that was common to most games of this generation.
The interface is simple, yet effective. The main menu lists each game in alphabetical order, but a quick press of the left or right bumpers lets you choose a different method of sorting, year of release, genre and favourites (which are chosen by simply flicking the D-Pad or left thumb stick left or right to raise or lower the rating out of 5 of each individual game). Not a huge addition, but for those players like me who have bought this game to keep and go back to play old favourites, it is nice to have the favourites marked as such for quick access.
However you sort the games on the list, moving through each one is an interesting experience. The list of games is on the left hand side of your screen, and on the right is an image of a games cartridge like the ones the Mega Drive games were provided on. As you move through each game, underneath the list it lets you know the genre of each game and the cartridge on the right shows the entrance movie and menu screen from the game itself. Again not a huge addition, but a nice touch that lets you browse all the games and get (re)acquainted with all the games.
Another nice touch is the 'museum'. As you scroll through each game you can hit the B button to bring up the museum. The museum has 2 pages which you again traverse with the left and right bumpers. First page is the History which gives you a nice small synopsis about the game and some interesting facts about each one. The second page is a small gallery that shows you the box art for each individual game and the artwork for the label on each cartridge.
I found the Museum to be one of the most pleasing additions to the game. It was wholly unexpected and for someone like me who is a sucker for nostalgic gaming, I loved reading the different facts about the games. I was a little disappointed that the artwork provided was only taken from the North American versions of the games, meaning every game had 'Genesis' printed on it, but SEGA kindly informs us of this before we reach the main menu, so it was not wholly unexpected. Regardless, it is still a little jarring to see some of the box art which was very different from what we had when these games were originally released.
Another very pleasing addition to this title is the host of extras available. To begin with there are 8 interviews with different Japanese games developers who worked on some of these games. Then we have 9 games taken from SEGA's Back catalogue containing 2 Master System titles and 7 Arcade titles. You also have the option of hitting the Y button at any time to play the credit reel and see who worked to bring this title to us.
All these extras need to be unlocked before they can be used, however this is no great trial as highlighting each one individually will tell you what you need to do to unlock it, and none of the tasks presented are difficult or arduous.
This title comes packaged with a total 49 games, including those unlockable in the extras. All games are accessed in exactly the same fashion, highlight the game of your choice, hit the A button to start the game. The first screen to appear is a control's screen. A useful addition so every player knows the controls for every game without the need to peruse the manual or the website, however it does not give any other information that the manual and website may contain, so be aware that you may still want to read/ visit as appropriate.
From this screen, hit the start button and you are into the game. Rather than take you into each game directly however, pressing the start button actually only initializes the emulation software. On previous Mega Drive/Genesis compilation titles this has taken considerable time, meaning a wait for the software to run before being able to play the game, and on some occasions had visual, audio or interface problems for particular games. Very pleasingly however, this is not the case here, the emulation in this case is instantaneous and flawless. Each game begins as if it were just turned on in a Mega Drive itself, the opening menus, videos, everything is present and you can move through the games options as normal.
One further addition to this title is the presence of a universal options screen that is not specific to any one game, rather it is available to ALL games at any time. Pressing the Back button brings up a simple menu that offers a range of options: return, control, video, save, load, reset and exit. This is a particularly nice addition as many of these older games lumbered you with one particular control scheme and did not have a save game facility. Backbone (the development studio who put this title together on SEGA's behalf) have taken note of this and provided players with this universal system. Whilst universal in respects that it is accessible to every game, each game does is in fact handled individually, so the control scheme and video options you set for one game does not affect the others. The control setup, video setup and Save/load additions are of particular note.
The Control Setup allows you to pick specific functions for each button on the control pad or use the pre selected ones. A nice little addition to this is the option to change the control scheme from their specific functions (shoot, jump etc) to a particular button from the old Mega Drive control pad. A useful option for those older gamers who remembered how to play a game by the specific buttons rather than the functions. Also available is the option to turn on or off 'rapid fire' which allowed you to just hold a button down and get constant function activity (constant jumping, shooting etc) rather than pressing the button every time you want to do something. A useful addition for some games that require a lot of shooting as 'rapid fire' was often faster than what the human hand could produce.
The Video Setup allows you to choose to play each game in it's original 4:3 ratio (a square box in the centre of the screen) or the modern widescreen 16:9 ratio. There is little difference between the two, and certainly nothing is lost form moving to 16:9 ratio, however depending on the size of your TV it can be a little much if your TV is large, or a necessity if your TV is smaller. Personally I feel the 16:9 ratio can make things seem a little bit stretched, but by no means does it stop me enjoying the games. However I do have a TV that is stupidly large and so I personally use the 4:3 ratio. The Video Setup also allows you to choose whether to turn smoothing on or off. Simply, the smoothing was included to soften the edges of the games. Older games, especially on larger TV's, noticeably have very rough, jaggy edges which were common through gaming at the time. Smoothing allows you to change this and take away those jaggy edges. I personally don't use this option as one side effect of it, in my opinion, is that it makes the colour palette a little to bulky, like the colours were added with thick gloss paint. Personally I think it makes the games look smudged and blotted. It has no other effect than the aesthetics however, so there is no harm in using it if you prefer how it looks.
The Save/Load game system allocates 3 save spots to each game and, crucially, allows you to save at any point you like. Hugely helpful on many of the games, particularly the RPG's. You can load the game at any time from this menu regardless of current game progress. The game has no built in autosave system which is common in modern gaming, so you must be aware of saving your game manually if you so require.
The other options are simple there to allow you return to, restart or exit the game in question.
There are 34 achievements worth a total of 1000 points. Not a particularly difficult list, it is nonethless a very well thought out list. The achievements contained aid the player in traying and experiencing everything the game has to offer. Not ever game has an achievement attached, which I DO think is a little bit of an odd decision, however a lot of the important games are covered, and there IS an achievement for playing every game, but its a little bit cheap as you don't actaully have to play, just load up each individual game once. There are also achievements for viewing extra material such as the videos.
Anyone planning on getting all the achievements can expect to get them all done in a weekend at most, but they can also expect to have tried every game and seen everything the whole package has to offer. In my opinion that is the best way to put together an achievement list.
The Fifth game in the Alex Kidd series and the only one to appear on the Mega Drive. Alex Kidd is a platformer with some vague similarities to Nintendo's Super Mario games, however it is very much its own game. Like any platformer, the objective is to get to the end of the level, however there is much more to the progress of the game. You attack enemies buy punching or jump kicking them and they drop coins when defeated. You can also collect coins and money bags through the progress of each level. This money allows you to buy a number o useful items, magic rings and vehicles which all have unique properties to help you progress through the game. A Quirky and colourful title, Alex Kidd is a game I was surprised to find I actually very much enjoy playing.
A side scrolling Beat 'em up similar in essence to Golden Axe and Streets of Rage, Alien Storm sees you playing 1 of 3 characters trying to rid the world of an Alien invasion. The game progresses as those other mentioned games, but at the end of every level the game changes focus into a differing game play style, either a gallery shooter (similar to, for example, Duck Hunt on the NES system), or a side scrolling rail shooter (a game where the level moves constantly forwards and you just move the character around the screen and shoot). Another game I quite enjoy. Not quite up to the standards of Golden Axe and Streets of Rage, still an entertaining game to play.
An early side scrolling beat 'em up that is not up to the standards of Streets of Rage. A port of the original arcade version, there is little real difference between the two. The one draw of this game was the premise that your character could get stronger as each level progressed, eventually allowing you to change into a creature of some kind such as a werewolf or dragon, depending on the individual level. A game with some nostalgic value, and it is fun for an occasional play, but other than that, not a lot to recommend it.
A rather quirky little game, it is essentially a side scrolling platformer, however, it is a truly unique game. The object of each level is to move around the building collecting valuable objects then escaping via the roof. Each building is manned by guards which can be stunned by shooting, avoided and hidden from. Interestingly the game also made use of a simplistic guard warning system, if you fire a gun or make any noise you run the risk of alerting other guards making things much more difficult. A very unique game that is quite entertaining. However, despite its intriguing nature, the game gets repetitive as there is very little to actually do except move around a small level.
A puzzle game that was made to be SEGA's answer to Tetris. The premise is very similar to Tetris, a 'well' into which blocks fall and your objective is to make patterns to remove the blocks. However, where Tetris uses blocks of different shapes, Columns uses columns (hence the name) of 3 gems, each of a random shape and colour. You are able to rotate the column on a vertical axis as it falls to negotiate the 3 gems into a particular pattern, then you can move the column left and right into a desired position. You cannot rotate the column from a vertical to a horizontal state. Ultimately neither as popular nor successful as Tetris, this is one of the games I personally enjoy the most on this title.
Another side scrolling beat 'em up. Arguably equal to the iconic Streets of Rage games as it has somewhat superior graphics and animations, the soundtrack is also excellent. The premise of the game is frankly quite brilliant. You play as a real world sketch artist creating a comic book who becomes trapped in the world he created. Sounds silly, but it is not the story that is clever so much as the progress of the game. At all times you are aware you are in a comic book, you can rip up pages, break the scene panels, enemies get drawn in rather than appear randomly. The use of the limitations of scene panelling in a comic book to be a limit and an obstacle during the course of a level is very clever and does make the game interesting. It's biggest floor however is that the game is incredibly difficult and very very short. Only 6 levels long which the best players can zip through in under an hour, it does only appear longer because of its difficulty. Despite its clever premise, it is not a game I enjoy very much due to its excessive level of difficulty.
An amusing platformer. Decap attack sees you playing the character of a headless mummy with his face in his abdomen. The progress of the game is typical of a platformer, move left and right or up and down the level to progress to the end and collecting necessary items on the way. The game is not graphically especially impressive and it does nothing particularly note worthy, however it also does nothing bad or wrong and as such is a fun platformer and a generally pleasing game to play.
Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
Another puzzle game with a similar premise to Tetris. The game itself is a spin off from the Sonic the Hedgehog game series, the Dr in question being Sonic's arch nemesis (more commonly known today as Dr Eggman, although he'll always be Dr Robotnik to me). The game is similar in principle to Tetris, but with a number of differences. Firstly, the game is 2 player, including the single player story mode which sees you compete against a number of Robotnik's robotic henchman, then finally the good Dr himself. The ebb and flow of the game is essentially just like any other 'well' puzzler however in this game rather than blocks or gems, a linked pair of randomly coloured beans is dropped which can be rotated to be either horizontal or vertical and you can choose which position in the pair to have each bean. Once you link together 4 or more beans in any pattern they will burst and disappear. The larger the number of beans in the link and the longer chain of links (when you burst one link, beans drop to fill the gaps, if they then make a link, that too disappears, and the cycle continues until there are no links to remove) the more 'dead' beans you drop into your opponents well. The Dead beans are beans that cannot be a part of a link and block up a lot of space. The Dead beans are removed when a link is burst adjacent to them. I personally adore this game, however it can be very frustrating as the game is designed to cheat if necessary to keep the challenge going. The usual tactic is to withhold a particular colour or pair of beans that you need to make an important link. This can make the game very frustrating and unpredictable as you can be having an excellent game then 2 minutes later you will have lost through no fault of your own. Still a game worth trying out however.
Similar to Decap Attack, Dynamite Headdy is a fun little platformer that offers little of note except the one small quirk in the use of the characters head. The head has a few uses, a weapon that can be thrown a small distance, and a tool for moving around the map. The head can also be replaced with other, short term special heads that grant particular powers or abilities. Similar Decap attack, the game is not the best graphically, however it is not poor either. When I first played this game as a kid I hammered it to death and completed it, now, whilst I still find it fun, it doesn't stand out for me.
Ecco the Dolphin
This was a truly special game when it was first released. Essentially this game is a platformer, but that is not truly a term that suits this game at all. As the title implies, you control a Dolphin called Echo, and as expected you travel around different bodies of water. The game takes into consideration certain aspects of being a dolphin, for example a dolphin is a marine mammal that requires oxygen to live, this is translated into the game. You cannot breathe underwater for long periods of time and as such need to find regular pockets of air or swim to the surface. Also included is the use of Sonar as a way to speak to other marine mammals, other dolphins, whales etc. It adds a nice touch to the game being able to see what these other ocean denizens are thinking. What I truly love about Ecco though is the music. It is haunting a beautiful, both calming and frightening, an exquisite soundtrack. The game itself is quite similar in that respect as the underwater environments and some of the creatures represented are quite chilling. I remember feeling quite on edge playing this game, having a constant chill down my back. Playing the game now I actually find it to be quite dull, in my opinion it has not aged well. Regardless, I do still think it is worth experiencing for everyone.
Direct sequel to Ecco the Dolphin, the game is basically exactly the same with new levels added. there is a new soundtrack for this game that is also quite haunting.
A side scrolling platform beat 'em up similar to the Shinobi games where you play a very bad Robocop rip off. Graphically very ugly, sounds are dire and it controls badly. Not a game I enjoy or recommend.
A game not well liked by modern audiences, this is in fact one of my absolute favourites from the Mega Drive catalogue of games. It is a role playing game in which you enter a giant labyrinth to reach the top level and defeat the ultimate baddie. Simple premise really. However the beauty of the game is that it is almost entirely randomly generated. Each time you start the game new, every level of the game is randomly created, the placement of all enemies and items is randomly generated and the properties of many items are also random. There are some staples that never change, certain monster types only appear in specific level sets, weapons and armour have constant strength and armour values. But basically everything else is random, and you can only find out what they do by using them or identifying what they do with a spell. Not all items of this sort or beneficial. Another excellent addition is that certain weapons have different damage properties against certain monster types, Axes are strongest but are generally low hit chance, but do great damage to fleshy and jelly like monsters, spears are weak but hit everything with high frequency, hard carapace enemies take a lot of damage from spears and hit regularly whereas other weapons hit rarely against them. This game brings in a number of little additions like that which make the game far more strategic than it first seems. I could go on all day about this game, but I won't, suffice to say that I adore this game, and highly recommend anyone put in the time to learn how to play it and give it a real go.
A stupid game that I struggle to see as being a game from this generation of consoles, it has more in common with a game you'd expect to find on the Sinclair Spectrum or Commodore 64. Simply, the premise of this game is to go through the 50ish 'levels' collecting little birds and avoiding a tiger or a lizard to try and get them to the. A truly stupid and awful game. The only half positive thing this game has ever done was introduce the 'flickies' which are the names of all the little yellow birdies you rescue from breaking enemies in the Sonic games.
If you can believe it, an even worse game than the last. You pick a character than run across the one screen to the next level. That's it. Shoot enemies in your way if you need to, 'rescue' other captive characters on your way through if necessary. Boring, ugly stupid.
Aaah, one of the big guns. At first glance you would expect it to be an rpg with it being set in a High Fantasy world, however the games not an RPG of any kind. It is a side scrolling beat 'em up. Choose from one of 3 characters and move through the levels hacking, kicking, stabbing and throwing the different enemies. Not a huge variety of enemies, and graphically not amazing, but it is simple, addictive fun. Love it.
Golden Axe 2
Essentially exactly the same as the first game in the series except it is graphically quite superior and has far better animations. There is also a greater variety of enemies requiring more tactical thought. MY personal favourite of the series.
Golden Axe 3
A difficult one this. Again basically the same as the previous instalments, however this game introduces new characters to the mix and many completely redesigned enemies. Graphically not quite as good as the 2nd game, but still better than the first. The one addition of note is the ability to choose your own path at certain sections of the game, so you never see everything in one play through. My least favourite of the 3, but still a good game.
A clever an addictive platformer. Kid Chameleon has over 100 levels but not all of them are part of the main game. The game contains points where you can be warped to difference locations or levels making progress very tactical, you always need to be careful where you go. You can't at any point get stuck but you can get to a point where you are wandering around random levels a lot. The game uses a mechanic whereby you collect masks that give you different powers, different health, strength etc, again adding a tactical element. An entertaining but very long and draining game. It is however made much more palatable with the new save system available. Worth a shot.
Phantasy Star 2
The 2nd in a series of 4 games that is part of a much larger franchise. It is much the same as the original game, and has many identifiable game designs to anyone familiar with Japanese RPG's. Heavily story driven, characters fight in random, turn based battles, gather experience and level up. Go around a large map, follow the story and buy new weapons and armour. All the staples of any good RPG, and this is definitely a good RPG. Tough for people who are not fans of the genre, but if you love RPG's, then you'll love it.
Phantasy Star 3
The Same as the last game just with slightly better graphics and a fresh new story.
Phantasy Star 4
Again the same as the previous but again slightly better looking with a new story. All 3 of these games are worth playing.
SEGA's attempt to create a new hero. Never really took off as he never had the appeal of Sonic. A quirky platformer that has a lot in common with Dynamite Headdy, except you stretch your arms rather than throw your head. Graphically much the same as the later Sonic games. Worth a shot.
Another game I truly adore. An RPG but a very different kind. Tee premise of this game is to follow the story around the world map. As you move through the game, rather than face random battles with a party of 3 or 4, you pick around a dozen allies who will fight with you on a battlefield. Much like a game of chess or risk, you move your individual soldiers around the 'battlefield' one at a time based on a grid system that lets you move in any direction a certain amount of spaces dependant on your movement range. combat happens when you get close enough to an enemy (or they you) and choose to attack. A magnificent game. The visuals a cutesy and colourful, but also very eye catching and appealing. The story and the journey you take is interesting. But it is the gathering of allies that is most appealing. you can collect dozen of allies through your travels, some you get regardless, others you have to find and work towards. A rewarding experience and a lot of fun.
Shining Force 2
Exactly the same as the last game but with new story. My favourite of the 2.
Shining in the Darkness
A part of the same videogame world as the 2 Shining Force games, this was released before either of them and has an entirely different game play style. Chronologically it sits in between the 2 games. the visual style is still cutesy, but that is about the only similarity. This game sees you begin fighting alone but soon you get 2 friends and that is it, 3 of you. The game is set in first person and the objective of the game is to enter a labyrinthine maze of dungeons to rescue the princess. What I love about this game is that it is long, the levels are huge and the variety of monsters you have to fight is extraordinary. Sure some model types are rehashed with just different colours, but there are still dozens of different monster types to begin with. As you play you move around this maze in first person, combat happen randomly, so there is a LOT of fighting. You fight, earn experience and gold, level up and buy stronger weapons and armour. Very straight forward but I find the game tremendously enjoyable and is probably my favourite game on this title.
A side scrolling platform beat 'em up. Unusual that this game was chosen and not one of the earlier ones, however still an excellent representation of a fun series of games. Move through the level throwing shurikens at enemies and continue to progress. Straight forward, but great fun.
Well, the daddy. SEGA's mascot and poster boy character, the rival to Nintendo's Mario. The Jury will always be split on which was better at the time, even though nowadays Mario has translated better to modern gaming. Regardless this is still a tremendous game. The principle, if you didn't know, is to move through the level collecting Golden rings to enable you to reach special stages to collect emeralds. The big appeal of Sonic was certainly the cutesy art style and his colour, but more than anything it was the exhilarating feeling of speed you get when playing the game as Sonic hurtles around the levels with wild abandon. If some how you have never played a sonic game, just try it.
Just the same as the last game, but introduces a new character to the mix, and is graphically superior. My favourite of all the Sonic games.
Again more of the same but even more graphically superior.
Sonic and Knuckles
Both an add-on and a new game in its own right. This game introduces yet another new character to the mix. Graphically equal to Sonic 3, the game play is still the same. One interesting thing about this game on original release was that you could plug Sonic 3 into the top of it to allow you to cross the 2 game over. This is not shown in this title as it would require a lot of time and space to work as it needed its own emulation software, meaning it would have meant sacrificing a handful of other games for it.
A spin-off of the Sonic series, this mixes Sonic game control with pinball. Once in the game you play like pinball, but occasionally you control Sonic directly more like his normal outings. A very odd and quirky game. Not a huge favourite, but enjoyable for a time.
The first real attempt to take sonic into 3D, and not a bad attempt overall. Controls are a little awkward owing to only having 8 directional movement, however it maintains the essence and feel of previous Sonic games. Worth taking a look it.
Streets of Rage
A hugely important game for SEGA and the Mega Drive. In Streets of Rage you control one of 3 characters in a side scrolling beat 'em up, then move through 8 levels fighting enemies and a boss at the end of each level, finally making it to fight the big boss at the end. Hellishly addictive fun, and the ending with 2 players is interesting.
Streets of Rage 2
the best of the series and quite possibly my favourite game on the Mega Drive, its a toss up between this and Shining in the Darkness. Much like the first game except this one is graphically superior. One character is dropped (the search for him is the focus of the story for this game) and replaced by 2 others. A greater variety of enemies, better level design, more moves and a more varied fighting style for each character, this game improves upon its predecessor in every way. Of particular note is the fantastic soundtrack. Worth playing the game to hear it alone. A must play for everyone.
Streets of Rage 3
The worst of the series. Much the same as the previous instalments, not quite as good visually, and the sounds are shockingly bad. Take it or leave, not important really.
Super Thunder Blade
A very very bad game. A rail shooter that sees you control a helicopter. More around the screen dodging attacks and shooting everything. Graphically ugly, sounds atrocious, game play is dire.
A game I'd never heard of before, but was apparently something of a cult hit. Basically just a side scrolling platform shoot 'em up. What made Vectorman so appealing was its graphical style, rather than creating the image as you play, which most game of the time did, Vectorman used pre rendered 3D models. What this basically means is that the images were created in 3D elsewhere on a more powerful computer and then transferred to the game. When playing Vectorman the game essentially plays a recording of this pre-rendered model. The finished product looks and feels much smoother than other. Whilst this is very interesting, I personally find the game to be quite boring. however the game was well received critically for its use of the 3D rendering, its level design and soundtrack, which I must admit is very very good.
More of the same, apart from a much different locale for the game play, the game sis essentially exactly the same as the first one.
The following games are the 9 unlocked in the Extras menu.
Alien Syndrome (Arcade)
A game I'd never heard of before seeing it on this title, it is similar to arcade classic Gauntlet. The objective of this game is to run around a small map shooting any enemies who get in your way whilst trying to rescue a pre set number of allies. The game has only 6 levels, each increasingly more difficult, so it is short enough to not get overwhelming and boring. A decent little game for the occasionally quick blast. The game is presented in a 'top down' style.
Altered Beast (Arcade)
Virtually Identical to the Mega Drive version of the game, except for a few small changes to level progression.
Fantasy Zone (Arcade)
A very misleading title. Understandably, you'd no doubt be expecting some form of role playing game from this, however this game is in fact a side scrolling space ship shooter. The Game is incredibly colourful and cheerful, and when I play it I can't help but think of dolly mixtures and jelly beans. However as a game it is very basic and I soon grew bored of playing it.
Golden Axe Warrior (Master System)
A spin off of the Golden Axe series of games (which began life as an arcade game), the most noticeable difference is the format of the game play. This game is virtually identical to the original Zelda games, indeed there was speculation that this game was to be the first in a series of games to challenge Nintendo's Zelda, but nothing ever came of it. I found the game to be quirky and enjoyable, and equally as enjoyable as any of the Zelda games of the time.
Phantasy Star (Master System)
The First in a vast franchise of games. The game is considered a pioneer of console role playing games for being a story driven game, having a female lead character, and being graphically quite superior to most other games of the time. The game itself is much like the Mega Drive instalments of the series with its control scheme and menu layout.
The original game in the Shinobi series. Allowing for changes in graphical capability and level design etc, the game itself is near identical to Shinobi 3.
Space Harrier (Arcade)
A rail shooter similar to Super Thunder Hawk, Space Harrier sees you control a human as you 'run' through each level shooting everything you can and dodging wherever possible. Considered a SEGA classic but personally I find it ugly, boring and a chore to play
Tip Top (Arcade)
An incredibly poor rip off of Donkey Kong presented in a faux 3D style with isometric view. the game is ugly, sounds horrid and the controls are diabolical. I truly cannot explain just how bad this game is.
A side scrolling space ship rail shooter which is presented in faux 3D isometric view. Popular when first released and considered a SEGA classic, personally I find it horrid to play. It is difficult to see where you are aiming meaning you often crash into random objects and often it occurs that you can't see an obstacle flying at you from some direction.
Simply put, I find this title to be an absolute bargain, and more, a truly essential purchase for any gaming fan with a love of nostalgia or who wants to (re)visit old classics. This title has some truly phenomenal games on it, Sonic 2, Streets of Rage 2, Shining in the Darkness, all truly exceptional games that stand the test of time.
there are some notable absences from this title though. Toe Jam and Earl, Zombies, Soleil are all missing as are a number of other games. Yes this is a Mega Drive only compilation title, so games like Mortal Kombat, FIFA, Street Fighter etc that were released on both Mega Drive and SNES will not be present. And other games, such as those made or published by EA or other major games developers of the time would likely take some serious negotiation between SEGA and said companies, making their appearance unlikely. But there are a few games I am sorry to see lacking. However, whilst it is not a complete compilation, it is still a tremendous package, especially when you consider I owned most of these games at one time or another and they all cost anywhere from £20 to £50 depending on when I bought them. To now get them all for around £12 or £15 is an absolute bargain, hell it's so good its almost theft.
For those not in the know, or those who are new to the world of Professional Wrestling, 'The Monday Night Wars' was a period of time stemming from the mid 90's to the early 00's where the two biggest wrestling companies in the industry, Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and Ted Turners World Championship Wrestling (WCW) which was run by Eric Bischoff, battled head to head on Monday Night Primetime Television. For those of you who are unfamiliar with wrestling and American Television, consider it something akin to Eastenders and Coronation Street airing on the same nights at the same time, meaning you could only watch one at broadcast time. Now imagine, if that were the case, what would each show need to do to win your vote and make you watch their show rather than the competition? Now you have an idea of what was at stake and how important it was to each company and the industry as whole. Throw in dirty underhanded tactics, incredible innovation and you have, in a very small nutshell, what The Monday Night Wars was all about.
But to truly understand what all this means, why this period of time was so important to the industry, you need to go back and understand the earlier years of the industry and the changes in television production, so I will take you on a small journey to help expand your knowledge.
During the early years of the 20th century, the industry was split up into territories which were divided up based on the different TV networks across the country (basically, different areas of USA had its own local, dedicated TV network, often covering 2 or 3 states, rather than a national one like we have with BBC and ITV). This generally meant that there were around a dozen or so different wrestling companies in America and Canada, each of which controlled one territory exclusively. Each territory had its own 'world' champion and would never recognize or acknowledge other companies or their wrestlers or champions, a trend still apparent today in WWE.
The industry at the time was very tightly confined. Each company was intensely protective of it's storylines, wrestlers and champions. This continued on until the late 1940's when the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) became an umbrella promotion. The job of the NWA was to create a real Worlds Champion who would be recognized across the country and could go to each individual territory and perform. The premise was sound, as each champion drew a lot of revenue wherever he went. This is the first real hint that a single wrestling company could be successful nationally. This is something that drove Vincent Kennedy McMahon, the Chairman of WWE (WWF at the time) to start to build his company from another individual territory to the global phenomenon we recognize today.
During the 70's and 80's Vince McMahon bought out many of the individual companies and started to provide his wrestling show to those territories through syndicated broadcast (in a nutshell, selling broadcast rights to local networks). This continued until the early 90's when, in 1993, Vince McMahon started to produce a weekly Television show called Monday Night RAW on cable television (national TV similar to Sky). At around this time, Vince McMahon sold one of the smaller companies he had bought, which in turn was bought by Media Mogul Ted Turner and became WCW.
The events from here on are the core subject of this DVD.
Now then, I hope you all enjoyed that little journey, but I'm sure some of you are wondering at it's relevance, well, I shall explain. There are a couple of events that have happened in the wrestling industry that brought these two companies together, and it IS important for anyone viewing this DVD to understand them.
First of all, the wrestling industry was one which thrived on secrecy and never acknowledging the competition.
Second, the NWA showed to the industry as a whole that a nationally recognized champion could be successful.
Third, Vince McMahon created his company and took it national, showing that a whole company could be successful, not just a Champion.
It is these factors that drove Ted Turner to want to compete with Vince McMahon, thus The Monday Night Wars was born.
The documentary which take sup the bulk of this DVD covers a number of important events during the period form late 1995 to 2001, such things as Hulk Hogan joining WCW, top WWE stars defecting to WCW, the creation of important wrestling groups such as NWO and Degeneration X and the rise of individual new wrestlers such as Bill Goldberg, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. I won't mention too much of this as I wouldn't like to spoil the content of the documentary for anyone, but suffice to say, many of the important events during 'The Monday Night Wars' are dealt with in detail.
The progression of the documentary is for the most part chronological, although it does not openly split events up per year, so at times it can be a little confusing as to when events happened. Often a mention of one event will be made later in the documentary, but it actually happened much earlier chronologically and vice versa, but without being given a specific timeline, it can be difficult to piece these events together. Without a doubt, this was done to allow the flow of the interviews to feel more spontaneous, however not every interview and story told is newly created for this DVD, a lot of stock footage is thrown in at places where it fits, so whilst it is not all fresh, it takes nothing away from the story being told.
This DVD gives a surprisingly large amount of time over to Eric Bischoff, who, as mentioned earlier, was employed by Ted Turner to run WCW. It can be easy at times to think that this documentary is little more than an ego stroke for Vince McMahon, as WWE is painted as the courageous and valiant defender with WCW being shown to be the evil giant, but Eric Bischoff is given a lot of leeway to talk about the things he did, and how he felt about them. In many cases it DOES serve to paint WCW in a negative light, but also at times it allows for the viewer to understand why Bischoff did the things he did.
One notable absence during the course of this documentary is any discussion about the backstage politics and corporate difficulties present in WCW that contributed to its eventual downfall . It has a few small mentions in places, but generally speaking it is wholly left out. The few times it is mentioned only serves to show WCW in a negative light. Fortunately, for anyone who is interested in those aspects, Eric Bischoff's Autobiography 'Controversy Creates Cash' goes into this in great detail.
There is no question that this documentary has seen Vince McMahon's hand. The telling of how WCW seemingly ran rough shod over WWE, but never once mentioning how Vince had done the same to the territory companies when creating WWE, the general painting of WWE as innocent, and WCW as evil, allowing Eric Bischoff his chance to gloat over his successes, all this shows that Vince McMahon has had a hand in this development aimed at showing WWE in the best possible light. However, we cannot take away the fact that this documentary DOES allow a lot of discussion about WCW, it DOES discuss a lot of the important events, and it does so in great detail. For anyone who is or was a fan of wrestling, despite so obvious bias at times, without question this documentary is worth watching as it covers so much of what happened in what is without question the greatest, most entertaining period of time the wrestling industry has ever seen.
Documentary running time: 1 hr 35 minutes.
DVD Extra Features
As well as the documentary itself, the DVD also contains around a dozen supporting features from both WWE and WCW:
4 complete matches, 2 from WWE and 2 from WCW.
5 miscellaneous events from the wrestling shows, 2 from WWE and 3 from WCW.
4 extra interviews and stories related to the documentary.
A solid selection of extra's for this package. All the matches provided are good quality that showcase the talent of every involved wrestler well. Of particular note is the Booker T vs. Chris Benoit match, the 4th in a series of 7 matches they were having, all of which were of excellent quality, and this particular match is an excellent example of them.
The miscellaneous events are a mixture of in ring interviews (part of the storylines of the time, not part of the documentary specifically), and other random events, the most notable of which is showing the NWO invading the backstage area and disrupting the broadcast of the TV show.
For me however, the best of the extras are the stories related to this documentary. All of them are interesting to watch, and add greatly to the experience after watching the documentary itself. I won't go into too much detail so as not to spoil them for you, but one in particular which I enjoy watching s the story about DX (a WWE wrestling group) invading WCW. Now remember I mentioned at the beginning how wrestling was an industry that thrived on secrecy and never acknowledging the competition? Well, with that in mind, it makes that particular story intriguing viewing.
Extras running time: 1 hr 25 minutes (approx).
As a complete package I cannot recommend this DVD highly enough. Yes, a little over 90 minutes is not truly long enough to cover every detail of every important event that happened in the 6 year period designated as 'The Monday Night Wars'. However The documentary provided does a stellar job of presenting what are arguably the most important events from that period and allowing those involved to speak their mind. It makes for very compelling viewing, and if you are of a mind to be aware of slight tampering to make the production pro WWE, you can overlook this and will receive an interesting and revealing look into the real world behind the two largest wrestling companies the industry has ever seen.
Yes it is not a complete account, there are some huge holes and some glaring omissions, but without question it provides enough so both new and old wrestling fan, and interested 3rd parties have enough to satiate their need for information and stories about this period.
The DVD itself is a 1 disc set in a standard plastic DVD packaging, with nothing more than the contents of the DVD on a small insert for company. However with over 3 hours of entertaining content packed on that solitary disc, the around £12 it will cost you to procure this DVD is money well spent in my opinion. Indeed, I have owned this DVD since it was first released and watch it perhaps 3 or 4 times a year because, as a wrestling fan, I find it is always interesting.
If there was any downside to this DVD, then obviously it would be that you really need to be a fan of wrestling, or have been so in the past, and also have some understanding of the origins of Professional Wrestling to appreciate it to its fullest.
However, for the wrestling fan new or old, this is truly an important DVD to have in your collection.
egarding dooyoo miles.
Personally I think the earning threshold needs to be changed, not so much increase or decrease, but needs to be re-evaluated.
My personal major issue with the dooyoo miles is that there is one single threshold for quality of review and everyone earns the same based on that. 150 words of personal review and BOOM you have your 500 miles as basic.
Now that's all well and good, but here's the problem, its too easy. I'll admit, when I first heard about dooyoo my intention was to just come here, write 150 words about anything and everything and earn my miles quickly. At 150 words per review I could easily write 40 or 50 reviews a day, the equivalent of a standard working days earnings at NAT MIN, and the truth is, when you think about it, the number of things you experienced over the years gives an almost unlimited number of things to write about. If I was still of the mind to just write reviews for the sole purpose of earning miles, I could be earning £500 or 600 a month doing this with little effort.
However, since coming to dooyoo I've pretty much reverted to type. I like to talk, I like to express my opinions, sometimes I have a lot to say, sometimes a little, but whatever I feel, I always try to give my best and improve, and I do that because I enjoy it, but also because its for the good of the community and the non members who use this site, I personally no longer have that desire to right little reviews of 150 words just for the miles. Yes I like the idea that I can earn some reasonable income from this, but I find it a worthy trade off for the effort I put in.
But here's the crux of the issue, that 150 word limit for everyone is easy to abuse. Whilst you most certainly CAN have a good, helpful review of 150 words, frankly its not that common.
Now, to be fair, I seem to see the same group of people quite frequently writing and reviewing each others work, as you would expect a community to do, and the vast majority always put in a whole host of effort. There's been a couple of people I've spoken to privately who know I value their hard work, others will know it from comments I may leave on their reviews, and that is a trend I like to aspire too, write what you feel and put in the effort, it improves the community. But then there are also many people who are quite blatantly abusing the service, reviews of barely over 150 words with little thought or effort.
How can those such reviews really be matched to reviews of people I personally respect such as Hishyeness and Jodiestokes who both put in tremendous effort to write the most compelling a fantastic reviews? And they are just two of a plethora of members who put in such solid effort to write truly worthwhile reviews.
This is why I think a change to the earning threshold needs to be applied.
I couldn't honestly say that all 150 word reviews are poor, because that isn't true, and I think the current earnings threshold is suitable. However I DO think it would prove worthwhile to make a more staggered reward threshold, perhaps 500 for 150 words, 750 for 400 and 1000 for 750 or something similar. Just allowing a greater threshold of earning for those who deserve it. Yes they can earn crowns, which is good, but there are many high quality reviews that go without crowns, and the question remains, how can they be judged equal to the reviews of someone who is essentially abusing the system to just earn miles ASAP? I also think it would go some way to improving the reviews of others, those who choose to focus on the 150 for their miles. 150 words is easy to write something reasonable enough to be released by the team onto the site and thus earn the 500 miles, but 400 words, 750 words, they can't. If people wanted to meet those thresholds, they would need to write genuine reviews with effort and thought as a 400 word review filled with useless gumpf would not make it onto the site, and this can only be a good thing. Reviews in general would improve, and those who deserve it would earn from a higher threshold to match the quality of the reviews they write.