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Any videogamer that's worth their controller will know about the Sega Rally series - first developed for arcades in the early 90s, the first title became a smash hit and soon became a much wanted game for Sega's flagship console of the time - The Sega Saturn. A few years passed and the company decided it was time to develop the much anticipated sequel. With the Dreamcast now being their moneymaker after being introduced in 1999, the game was quickly ported to the console after the arcade version once again became a smash hit with gamers.
The series was one of the first to actually have several different types of terrain to drive on and to have each of them affect car handling. Nowadays that's seen as a given but back in the 90s this was a revolutionary feature! Sega Rally 2 kept the basic premise and controls the same but added more into the mix and tightened up faults in the original.
The graphics are pretty good, with several locales being presented stunningly on the Dreamcast. Having played the arcade version, I can safely say that graphics-wise nothing has been lost in the conversion. Although dated by today's standards, by no means is the game ugly. The cars are well rendered and resemble their real life counterparts and handle reasonably realistically too.
As far as sound goes, there's nothing to complain about at all. There's a bit of music but that's just there for background noise. What everyone likes here are the sound of the cars as they splash into big puddles and drive over tarmac. There's a sense of satisfaction in hearing these noises, especially if you've kept your car under control throughout. The co-driver gives off directions to you so you can avoid ploughing into a wall at 90mph! His voice isn't anything spectacular but then again, you're not looking for Michael Caine here but realism. The voice does the job and I can't really criticise it.
Gameplay is as solid as ever and is definitely the highlight of the series. The car controls are tight while still offering you lots of freedom in movement. When you turn into a corner, you feel like you did it and it was all your own work and not the controller. I love this aspect of driving games and it's always good to see this feeling being transfered to a console port. The number of cars has been increased from the original so there's plenty of variety from Toyotas to Subarus to Fords and many other car makes. Several levels have been added to the game including Riviera Muddy and Isle, offering you a great selection of race locations to win at!
I absolutely love this game and without a doubt this is the best title in the Sega Rally Series. It's just everything you could want from a car game without losing the arcade feel or becoming too serious for it's own good. For any Dreamcast owner out there, this is a must have title! You can get it for a few pounds online so there's no reason to not snap up a copy and enjoy!
Anyone who had even a decnt library of Nintendo 64 games knew about Perfect Dark and owned a copy. The original was a classic for the console and was essentially a spiritual sequel to Rare's previous title Goldeneye. The game used the same engine and mechanics but with a lighter sense of humor and a futuristic setting. Perfect Dark Zero lay in development hell for a while but in 2005 it became a launch title for the Xbox 360 and was hyped by the press at the time as a game that showed the power of the machine. Also developed by Rare, the title has a similar style of gameplay to the original while introducing some new elements.
The story takes place a few years before the original and focuses on Joanna Dark going through her first few missions as a bounty hunter under her father. She's tasked with stopping evil corporation DataDyne from discovering an ancient power created by the Maians that would give humans superhuman powers and allow them to destroy the world. There's little resembelance between this game and the original in terms of plotline other than the Datadyne connection, which make a change from just rehashing a storyline.
The graphics are certainly beautiful, with everything having a shine to it and looking stunning and futuristic. Mind you that is a bit of a problem as 'everything' looks shiny, including trees and rocks. It's not a big issue, but it's one that can annoy some gamers who like realism. Mind you, if you like realism then you're not bound to be a fan of Perfect Dark in the first place. The original had talking aliens and spaceships! The characters look pretty good but pale in comparison to advances made to the console in recent years. Face details are nothing compared to Heavy Rain for example. For a launch title though it is surprisingly polished, and it is important to remember that launch titles are made under a lot of pressure and so should be judged less harshly than conventional titles.
Sound wise it's a mixed bag - the soundtrack is good enough although pretty forgettable at the end of the day. It's just background noise and doesn't really give any of the locations much character or suspense. The voice acting though is pretty good, although Joanna Dark sounds just a little young for her own good, coming across as a 16 year old who overeager and hyper. The rest of the characters are reasonably good, although there are no stand out performences here.
The gameplay is solid although can be nightmarishly difficult at times. One level involves you having to take on a battalion of soliders in a jungle with limited weapons and health. It can be hellish to complete if you make one slip up or are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. For the most part the game is fun and not too hard on the gamer. There are some changes from the original which are a mixed bag really. The gadgets given to help you hack terminals and keypads are a novel touch and make a change from just run and gun action. However the ability to only carry 4 weapons max at once compared to having all the weapons in the original is a poor show and makes the game just that little bit more difficult. It seems as though Rare were trying to be realistic for those gamers who like that - bit late don't you think with all the aliens and futuristic hovercraft around the game.
The other major change is that you can drive occasionally in the game with the main vehicle being a hovercraft that you use to escape a facility part way through Zero. It's pretty fun to play although the controls can be a little sluggish at times. These are kept few and far between though which stops them from overstaying their welcome. In the easier modes you are given a checkpoint per level which helps when you die part way through so you don't have to start again. The original didn't have this so this is a nice addition. Harder modes don't have this though so beware!
Overall this is a good and solid title, especially for once that was designed for the launch of the console with little time. It doesn't compare to the original though, even though this was the first of the two I played! There are many worse FPSs out there and this can be found for just a couple of pounds now which makes it a decent purchase for any Xbox 360 gamer. It certainly makes a change to everyone playing Call of Duty these days!
It may seem to some that the spy genre has been done to death since James Bond first came to the big screen with Dr. No. There were the Flint films which gently mocked the cliches of the Bond films, and we can't really forget the Austin Powers films. In video games it isn't really the same as Bond titles haven't always captured the feel of the movies well. Goldeneye is of course a classic and Everything or Nothing was a Bond movie in game format but none captured the feel of the early films. Not even Sean Connery appearing in From Russia With Love could save the game from average reviews. A brilliant alternate to the Bond titles and a worthy contender is No One Lives Forever, a Monolith title for the PS2 and PC.
As far as the plotline goes, you really can't ask for a more Bond feeling scenario. Evil organisation H.A.R.M has stolen a weapon that turns humans into ticking time bombs and have destroyed several locales. On top of this, the majority of agents working for good guys U.N.I.T.Y have been murdered by a mysterious Russian assassin with an eyepatch. This leaves only one agent that can save the world from certain doom, and it just so happens that it's a female! Sexy but strong agent Cate Archer is on hand to save the day on her first big assignment!
Graphics-wise the best way of describing it is primitive but entirely effective. The game captures the swinging sixties feel tremendously and you really do feel like you've gone back in time and are about to see the Beatles perform a gig and see the Ed Sullivan Show on the TV screens! It's very rare for a game to just capture a moment in time so well, especially 40 years after it. It's kudos to the developers that they have managed to create a world that is both realistic but contains the over-the-top Bond elements that we know and love.
Another area where the developers have clearly been doing their homework is in the music department. The game sounds 60s in every way shape and form. The best example of this is the game's theme tune, also called "No One Lives Forever" and is a classic piece of British themed pop which evokes images of The Avengers from the opening chords. The in-game music is at the same standard and captures the whole 60s feel incredibly well. There's no synths here so no doubt Queen would be proud of them!
The voice acting is also top notch in every regard. Cate Archer is played excellently by Kit Harris who gives Cate both elegance and attitude throughout the game. Her one-liners are in some cases better than Bond's. Several missions after falling out of an aeroplane at 30000 feet, she's asked whether she likes heights - she responds "Anything under cruising altitude." I thought that was a brilliant line, although there are plenty of others to choose from throughout. The enemies are also played effectively too - Jock Blaney gives a chilling performence as Dimitri Volkov and David Staler portrays Scottish anti-hero Armstrong with a great deal of humor and affection. The actors may not be well known but their performences are excellent and if there's any justice, they'll be getting lots of work for years to come!
It's hard to criticise the gameplay either when clearly a lot of work has gone into it! The levels are very well designed and look beautiful - there's a wide variety of locales including the Alps, Morocco and in Outer Space! Clearly there were no boundaries here. The controls are nice and simple so you'll be a master in minutes. The excellent training level helps a lot in getting to grips so I recommend going through it all and making sure you know how to do everything before you start! The novel feature of the game are that they include many brilliant gadgets. There are the obvious and smart ones, like a lighter that doubles as a welder and a belt that acts as a zipline. Then there's the more amusing ones like a Poodle that emits horomones to keep dogs subdued! It's a pretty novel idea and is quite fun and useful in practice.
The diffculty level is usually pretty good, although trying to defeat the final few bosses even on Easy mode is a challenge. It makes a change through from games that you just sail through and the plotline just keeps you engrosses throughout. Although it's sort of a parody of 60s spy films, the game takes itself serious which makes it all the more effective because of it.
In truth, there are few FPSs that are as solid or as unique as this one. It's a genuinely fun and witty title that has been spectaculairly put together by the people at Monolith and Sierra. There isn't anything else quite like this which is sure to give it a place in gaming history in the future. The fact that the game is near perfect only adds to the joys of the whole spy experience. I hope that No One Lives Forever 3 will get made somepoint in the future as this is one series that has a lot of life in it yet and doesn't deserve to die! Cate Archer, we need you to save the world again!
My last review was on Resident Evil Outbreak, a spin-off series from the main storyline of Resi. If you want to know what I thought if that, just check out my profile reviews. A few years afterwards, Capcom got round to making the sequel - clearly the first managed to sell enough despite the backlash against it. A slightly more subdued affair publicity wise compared to the original, the game didn't sell much and therefoe Capcom gave the spin-off series a quiet burial and decided to mess around with Resident Evil 5 instead. But there's one main question everyone asks about this game - "Is it any better than the original?" Good question, why don't we delve in and see what's what?
On the surface nothing has changed - it looks the same, plays the same and hell you play as the same characters. I can't say that it's off to a great start here. Visual-wise they couldn't do any wrong with the original so I've no complains here either. The range of characters to choose from is exactly the same so there's really no surprises here. Once again there are only five levels to play with the occasional difficult as hell time challenge that annoyed me so much in the original! There's a major sense of deja-vu here which is the most apparent problem with this game. As I stated in my previous review, Resident Evil Outbreak was originally meant to be a lot longer but Capcom decided to get rid of most of it so they could meet a deadline. You can't help but feel that this is just an expansion pack to the original rather than a full-fledged game.
Seriously, if you bought this instead of Resident Evil Outbreak, you would not notice a single difference except the levels. The level choices are more inspired this time than in the original which rehashed a few from Resident Evil 2 and 3. That's not to say this game doesn't commit the same sin - the RPD is recreated here and once again is slightly different to previous incarnations. Once again the hardcore fans were slightly annoyed but it's hardly this game's biggest flaw. The other levels are actually rather interesting which Capcom deserves kudos for - The Raccoon Zoo, the Subway Station, a hospital in the forest and the city's main Umbrella Lab offer a variety of locales and show even more just how screwed up the city has become due to the inflection. And try not being scared when a zombie elephant tried to crush you. Resident Evil 5 didn't have a zombie elephant and it was set in Africa!!
The one main change between one and two is that two did offer online gameplay as promised! However note I said "did" and not "does" - Capcom shut down the servers two years ago. The only way you can play online is if you find a private server for the game. I'm afraid I haven't been able to do this so for me File 2 has no real distinguishing features.
This is a pretty short reviews and I'm sorry for this, but it's hard for me to just restate 'everything' I said in the review of Outbreak! It truthfully is exactly the same in every way shape and form and is an even lazier effort than the original was. Combined they do make a half decent title worth playing but alone File 2 just seems empty. If you see both titles together for a cheap price then you might as well give them a shot as there are glimpses of genius here. Sadly, along File 2 just isn't worth your time or money as it is essentially an add-on rather than a proper full game.
If Dawn of The Dead is the standard for zombie movies, I think it's safe to say that Resident Evil is the standard for zombies in videogames. No other title has ever managed to capture the initial horror of meeting that first flesh eating freak, not even newer zombie titles like Dead Rising. It's clear Capcom knew they were onto a winner and so made Resident Evil 2, one of the few cases where a sequel was better than the original. However while developing Resident Evil 4 for the Nintendo Gamecube, they decided to release a spin-off title for the Playstation 2 that would feature multiplayer action and the zombie action we all know and love. This game would eventually become known as Resident Evil: Outbreak.
The premise is pretty simple - once again set in the necopolis of Raccoon City, you get to play eight seperate characters (each with their own skills and disadvantages) who get caught up in the initial outbreak yet avoid infection. With little to no outside help, you are forced to traverse through five locations in Raccoon City as you attempt to escape the ruined city before the bombs strike and the city becomes a burning crater!
So eight potential characters to play as...why don't we count them down? There's Alyssa the journalist who's tough as nails and handy with a lockpick, Cindy the waitress who's a magician when it comes to herbs and there's George the doctor who also has handy healing skills. Kevin the RPD officer carries a gun and David the plumber is good with melee weapons. Jim the subway employee has the ability to play dead with zombies while Yoko has a few more places to store items due to her bag and Mark the elderly security guard who is hard to take down. They're a pretty realistic bunch which adds some credence to proceedings. It's hard to believe at times that people like Leon and Claire would be so good at killing B.O.W.S and zombies. These people are capable but they are mostly civilians and so therefore are only so effective.
Graphically the game impresses with high quality FMVs and beautiful maps to explore. The world of Raccoon City here is a lot more detailed than those in Resi 2 and 3 which ultimately leads to retcon when it comes to the map of the city. Judging by some of the locations and landmarks looking a bit different from the older games, it's clear Capcom has a bit of a rethink about the city for the purpose of this game. This will no doubt be a niggle of the hardcore fans but as far as gameplay goes it really doesn't make much difference! There's a general tone of grey to everything which makes everything seem a bit duller than it should be. This could be a deliberate effect though to try and make the locales seem more bleak and dark to the characters and the player.
There's some great music pieces here and the voice acting is pretty decent throughout. The best music track here though is the opening theme which is an incredibly melancholy piece of classical music that is both beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. It's rare for me to ever get moved by a piece of music whether in a game or not, so this is quite an achievement I have to say! The zombies offer their usual moans and groans effectively enough, although sometimes it's the time limits that are more scary than the zombies.
That brings us neatly to the gameplay section and I feel I should talk about these time limits. They don't appear often it has to be said, usually when something big is about to explode. This occurs in the final level and is a nightmare to complete due to it. You're in a University and it's going to explode in X minutes. Do you wait and try and grab some antivirus and escape in the nick of time or just take one and run lke hell? This decision has ramifications when it comes to the ending so you had best choose wisely. Usually I end up getting blown up so it doesn't affect me. I can see why it's there but it's bound to aggrivate more than challenge.
The other main problem with the game is that it's incredibly short. There are only 5 scenarios to go through, five different locations for you to explore. Apparently there was originally meant to be 20 but Capcom decided to get rid of the other 15 due to having to meet a deadline. Now to me that's a bit lazy, especially since this isn't the only shortcut Capcom made. The game was meant to have online features so players could survive the outbreak together. However for the UK (and possibly other territories) this feature was removed just before the game hit the shelf. Now considering that was meant to be the big selling point of the game, I have to say that Capcom sure pulled a fast one on their fans. Perhaps this is why the game failed to take off as much as it could of. Mind you it did get a sequel which I shall be reviewing later for everyone's enjoyment!
There's even more to criticise - the AI. The characters can be woefully dumb and annoying at times, occasionally both at one. Trying to get positive responses out of them so you can be saved from death is like trying to get Darth Vader to wear white. It ain't ever gonna happen and you'll probably die in the process. When your allies are nearly as stupid as the zombies chasing them, you do wonder whether the zombies are the stupid bad ones here. However fellow survivors have one use - they can collect valuable items for you which you can get from them like ammo or keycards. This saves you a lot of legwork in the long run scanning each room with a fine tooth comb for a tiny red card on a desk.
So what can I say about Resident Evil Outbreak. For what it is, and considering how cheap you can get the game nowadays, this isn't a bad game. The problem here is that there was so much potential in the Outbreak fanchise and you can't help but feel that Capcom squandered a chance just to meet a deadline. In hindsight they made the wrong choice, and this game is the sad result.
I've always been a fan of the FPS genre - my first introduction to it was playing the Half Life Uplink demo on the PC back in 1999. God that was a long time ago! Since then the Halos have appeared, Call of Duty has become a household name and Half Life 2 and two expansion packs have appeared with a third in the works. There are others though that deserve credit for being a great addition to the genre, despite being overlooked or overshadows by other titles. System Shock on the PC in the early 90s is one of the earliest examples of the horror FPS genre that Doom and F.E.A.R managed to successfully adapt. XIII on the other hands utilised cel-shaded graphics for the whole game to give a graphic novel feel to proceedings. It sounded different on paper and it definitely looks different!
You play as XIII, one member of the XX, a group that was responsible for assassinating the current Presdient of the USA. Just turns out that you fired the bullet that killed him but due to amensia you don't remember a thing! Assassins chase after you as you try and piece together the events of the past few months that have led to your current predicament and stop a potential hostile takeover of the U.S.A! The story is bsed on the Belgian comic XIII which started out in the late 80s, with this game adapting the first and most famous arc of storyline on the elusive XIII character. Parts of the story have been changed in order to fit closer to the FPS genre but is no less effective for it!
I really have to talk about the cel-shaded look as it's one that appears every so often in a videogame and always turns heads. XIII was one of the first to do it, if not the first and has since been followed by Killer 7 and Borderlands. All of these are action titles but each has put it's own stamp on the label. XIII uses comic strip boxes whenever major events happen to highlight what is going on as well as give you important tips as to what to do. The best use of this though is when you use knives to kill an enemy in the head - a box appears showing the knife hitting along with a satisfying caption in a comic font that makes you feel like you've completed an achievement! The cel shaded look suits the game well and is able to convey the sinister undertones of several locations well, particulairly the New York rooftops and the Insane Asylum. It's a mature look rather than a cutesy approach which serves to be a strength of the game.
Acting-wise, Ubisoft had a trump card up their sleeve with getting David Duchovny to play XIII. Star of The X Files, David gives a tremendous yet understated performence as XIII, giving him a mix of guilt, confusion and determination to his thoughts and emotions. Having said that, he is not the only star performence in this game: Eve gives a strong performence as XIII's ally Jones and Adam West nearly steals the show with his performence as General Carrington. Despite being an avid fan of Family Guy and Adam West, I never realized it was him until I checked the cast list. His performence is incredibly strong and gives the plot the important gritty edge it needs. The music of XIII is also very effective and conveys the experience that XIII is going through well to the player.
The gameplay is incredibly fun and solid which makes everything so much sweeter! The controls are your standard FPS fare which does the game no harm. If it ain't broken don't fix it! There isn't anything particulairly new or innovative here but there isn't anything here that detracts from the experience in any way. There are a couple of handy gadgets that I found to be great to use and made me feel like a spy at heart. The best example if the whinch which allows you to grap onto hooks and scale up or down tall surfaces. If you don't feel like James Bond doing this then you never will! There are several game bosses throughout the missions, although it doesn't get really tough until you square off against The Mongoose in the game's climatic battle. The ability to take hostages is a helpful feature as it allows you to get by enemies without getting shot. I didn't tend to use it often though as I prefer a run and gun approach personally!
Overall XIII is a great FPS that deserved more than what dished out for it. It's a great game that boasts one of the strongests plots for an FPS in the last decade easily. The fact that this game has yet to (and most likely won't) get a sequel is one of the crimes of videogames in my opinion. Copies can be found for a pound easily, making this game more than a worthwhile purchase for any PS2 owner!
Known as Disaster Report in other territories, SOS The Final Escape is one of these adventure titles that ultimately slipped in under the radar and mainly stayed there. The same can be said of a Wii title - Disaster Day of Crisis) which also featured several natural disasters yet failed to achieve a wide audience. This game allows you to play as a young journalist called Keith, who on his first day at work on man-made Stiver Island is caught in the middle of an earthquake and is accidentally left in the ruins of the city's airport bridge. With no way back to the Airport, Keith is forced into the city to try and find his way an escape route, and ultimately discovers a conspiracy that started back with the Island's construction.
There's a likeable cast of survivors for you to band with - Karen the University student who is the niece of the island's creator, Greg the Photojournalist and Williams, Keith's Editor all flesh out the story of Capital City as you investigate the abandoned ruins and try and piece together the puzzle. The plotline is reasonably good with a couple of twists that are actually unexpected which were a pleasant surprise. There are also seven different endings to the game which can occur - I've only found 4 so good luck finding the other three!
Graphically it's a bit of a mixed bag - the actual colors and building designs are rather bland and blocky. You get the impression the world was made out of Lego as everything looks blocky. Mind you, what sops the game looking bland is the constant earthquake tremors that have a nightmarish effect on the surrounding area. Early on in the game you arrive at the city and a tremor occurs. This causes the freeway to collapse sidewards; a quick reaction is needed to avoid getting turned into mush by 200 tonne of conctrete and car! These events are incredibly impressive and breath a lot of life into the game and keeps you on your toes throughout. Two other favourites have to be the City Football Stadium which roof decides to collapse in pieces as you make a mad dash for the exit and the city carlot where you have to run up dozens of flights of stairs to avoid being swept away by a torrent of sea water!
The voice acting is reasonably good although it does sound stilted in places. At times you get the impression the characters aren't all that scared of the earthquake that has destroyed the city around them, speaking in a monotone that doesn't really convey that much excitement or horror. There isn't a great deal of music to the game, although that works in its favor as the wind blowing through the wrecked skyscrapers creates a more chilling tone for the player.
Gameplay is reasonably simple with control of the character via the D-pad being simple to operate from the get-go. You also have a bag which is useful to hold onto essential items and equipment. The best options though are the Map which give you a detailed layout of the city and a character chart which shows the relationships between all the characters as you progress through the game. It's a novel feature that helps you keep track of what's going on. The further you go in the game companions will add details to your map to help you find items or destinations to go to. This helps enormously in finding out where to go next since you are in a destroyed world and the roads aren't usually a good route.
The game isn't entirely linear since there are choices that affect the outcome of the game and where you go in the city. Early on you have the choice of going with Karen North to her home or with Greg along the coast Westwards to the Hospital. Each choice presents it's own challenges although eventually the characters meet up again.
There are also some refreshing stealth sections later in the game where you have to avoid armed guards in an abandoned mall. It's a nightmare to cplete and took me a good while to complete but it was well constructed and made for a good challenge. It adding to the tension of the game and I loved it to bits!
At the end of the day ,while not being the best example of natural disaster gaming, it's by no means a poor effort. It just feels like it ccould have been even better than it was, although Disaster Day of Crisis (not releated to this game) improved on it in several departments. This game has spawned several sequels in the last few years and if they're as good as this, I'll be quite happy to buy them soon!
Now if you're an older game who experienced gaming firsthand in the early 90s, you might remember the first two in a series of open world RPGs known as The Elder Scrolls. The games were some of the biggest available at the time and offered you all sorts of tasks to do in the medieval based kingdom. Elder Scrolls III followed on the Xbox in 2003 but the releases of Halo 1 and 2 helped to keep the game masked from the public at large. Elder Scrolls IV finally got a well deserved release in 2006 on the 360 and PC and followed soon afterwards. This is the Game of The Year edition for the PS3 which includes the expansion packs Knights of the Nine and Shivering Isles in all their glory.
The basic premise is that the Emperor of the kingdom has been assassinated and therefore has allowed a hell-like world called Oblivion to pop up around the country and infest areas with evil creatures. You play a former prisoners who has the monumental task of finding a new Emperor and closing Oblivion for good! To show you how well they got this game right, Fallout 3 uses exactly the same game engine and open world exploring! What I have to say though is that if you played Scrolls first then you'll be completely in love with this game. But I've come from Fallout 3 backwards to Elder Scrolls IV and for me it's a bit of a disappointment. I prefered the useful health items the former offered compared to the paltry items that the latter gives most of the time. The speech system is also rather different to Fallout's - In Fallout you get complete sentences whereas in Oblivion you just get the gist which can lead to awkward decisions in-game.
The actually story however is as strong as it could be and it's hard to fault. It's incredibly intriguing and you really do feel for the characters that you are helping. The world is incredibly large, possibly even larger than Fallout 3's or New Vegas and just goes on for miles and miles, with a multitude of locations and side missions to accomplish. Gaining experience is important if you even want to have a minor change at succeeding at the main game. I recommend that you join the Guilds and complete their missions if you want to survive long in this game!
There are a wide variety of enemies for you to face throughout the game, although I have to say that in the beginning enemies are just a bit too difficult for a training mission. And I'm not talking about big enemies I'm talking rats! There is a steep learning curve here along with a difficulty issue that will take you a while to adapt you. Mind you with over 200 hours of gameplay here, you've got plenty of time to improve your character and become a master fighter! There's a wide selection of weapons for you to choose from, but I have to admit I mainly stuck to swords since I found the bow and arrows to be a bit useless when against multiple enemies.
The magic abilities on offer are also a nightmare to master, as least in my experience. Despite being a master of the Mages Guild, my magic level is pathetically low despite using it all the time. I don't know why this is the case but it's clear that a lot of time and effort is needed to gain the benefits that magic spells offer you. Don't expect to become a master mage in a day!
While there are a wide variety of locations, they tend to fall under the same few brackets - town, cave , ruined fort and lone house. There's not a great deal of variety with the locations, even in the hell of Oblivion. All the different portals you enter lead you to vaguely similar maps with the target tower and a couple of dummy towers. The game developers can be forgiven however since there is so much on offer and it's such a big world that repetition was probably the only way they could complete the game without taking an extra five years!
The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion is an incredibly difficult but ultimately satisfying game that can potentially alienate those who were hoping for an easy start to their quest. However for those who persevere, they will discover a beautiful world full of great quests and characters that are amusing, manipulative and likable. Don't give up early, even if you're a Fallout 3 fan - there is a reason that the game was based on Oblivion's engine and gameplay! It's an ace title!
I've always had an affinity for videogames that don't achieve a great deal of success. Maybe it's the British side of me, the part that always prefers the underdog to the winner? Or maybe it's because, like XIII before it, this is a game that is solid and fun and yet hasn't got the success that it deserves? I think both ring true but perhaps the latter is more fitting. Many titles that could have and should have done so much better have been left in the wicker basket of gaming history to be forgotten. I fear that Alpha Protocol has become one of those titles, especially since Sega have announced that due to low sales there will be so sequel.
Labelled as an espionage RPG, which was enough to get me to buy a copy when I found one in my local Gamestation, you play as a secret agent called Michael Thorton. He's become a member of a secret USA unit called Alpha Protocol and is tasked with stopping an Islamic group from using stolen missiles to down airlines in the Middle East. While on his mission he gets disowned and is forced to do the mission alone, uncovering a conspiracy in the process concerning Haltech, the company whose missiles were stolen.
The graphics are pretty good for the most part, although some areas do lack polish and could have been improved. The cutscenes though are visually impressive showing great detail on the characters' faces, particulairly the protagonist and antagonist during multiple interrogation scenes throughout the game. The levels are reasonably well designed, although there's nothing jaw dropping here. The controls are easy enough to master and there's a comprehensive tutorial at the start of the game that will allow you to master all of the skills that the game needs.
The unique aspect of this game is the RPG elements which completely alter how the game will end for you. You can influence characters positively or negatively in every conversation you have with them depending on the stance you choose e.g confident or flirty. Having a character like or hate you have their own benefits and it's your choice how to handle them. How much one character likes you will affect others around you for better or worse. It's completely your choice but you only have a short timespan to choose these options throughout the conversation. I found this to be a refreshing addition to the genre and made for a unqiue gaming experience compared to other shooting titles. You also influence characters depending on your actions in-game so be careful with what you do.
The other RPG aspect of the game is that you earn points throughout each level and you can use these to level up when you reach a certain number. You can add points to areas like pistol, melee, explosives and so on. It's an interesting element and allows you to decide how you can approach your missions. Guns blazing or stealth agent, it's entirely up to you and gives you a degree of freedom.
There are four main campaigns to get your teeth into, each providing their own obstacles and potential allies for you to influence. There is great acting throughout combined with an intriguing plot that kept me hooked. My favorite character has to be Scarlet the photojournalist who helps you throughout the Taiwan Campaign. It is rather quick to complete though - two solid days of playing it will have you at the end easily.
Overall however this is an overlooked title that deserved better than it got from the gaming public. Still that's their loss and out gain. If you happen to see a copy in your local gaming store cheap, give it a shot. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you get!
To me there are only two types of hoover that exist - The Henry Hoover, and those which aren't the Henry Hoover. No points being given out for which one this is. I thought this was a new hoover on the market but I was mistaken as apparently it's been good for a good few years now! We've only had ours for a little while now after our old one finally packed in after many years of service to the family. And in case you're wondering - no it wasn't a Henry hoover!
This hoover is part of Electrolux's 'Pet Lover' range, designed to be suited for houses with dogs and cats where stray hairs are a commonplace sight. Sadly our dog died not long before we got the hoover so I can't comment on whether my pet would have liked it. Knowing her, she probably wouldn't mind what hoover it was anyway, as long as she didn't have to leave her basket!
As far as the quality of the hoover itself goes, I really have little to complain about. The hoover tube is nice and long allowing you to stand nearly straight while you are cleaning your house. It's surprisingly powerful as it's able to suck away any bits of dirt and much that aren't even directly below the nozzle! Good stuff! This makes cleaning a doddle and saves you time in the long run that's for sure. It's a simple enough device to use, just press the button and you're away. There's also a handy button for an autoreel in of the plug cord when you're done which also saves you on time as the cord can be completely in from full length in 3 or 4 seconds. Talk about quick!
Also worthy of mention is that removing and replacing hoover bags is thankfully made very simple by the manufacturers. Just pop open the lid, remove the old bag, attach the new one and done! I really can't ask for anything more from a hoover really. I don't know how this will handle stairs since my house is a bungalow, but I can't imagine it would be a strenuous task. There was a series of attachments that came with it, however I really can't review them since I have never had the need to use them in the house. Overall this is a handy, powerful hoover that does exactly what you need it to do at a reasonable price. Sorry Henry but you've got competition!
Resident Evil 3 is the third title in the popular zombie series by Capcom and follows one of the most popular characters from the canon - Jill Valentine. Finding herself trapped in her home of Raccoon City after the T-Virus hits the city and turns the population into undead carnivores, she has to search through the city for any potential escape route out of the hellfire. Aside from the zombies and the frequent barricades, Valentine's biggest problem is the behemoth that is Nemesis, a super zombie created by Umbrella that is determined to hunt her down and turn her into mincemeat!
Resident Evil 3 it has to be said is perhaps the easiest of the Resident Evil titles. The main reason behind this is that the game takes place in a reasonably normal city rather than the bizarre Umbrella facilities that feature bizarre riddles you have to solve to get items. These are present too but less frequent, most likely due to the addition of Nemesis to the mix. He is one tough monster who will eat up your ammo like they're made of putty! The first time I played I tried to fight him head on the first time I met him. It's safe to say that the encounter didn't last long and involved me having to load a new game!
The controls are essentially the same as Resident Evil 1 and 2 with only one key change. When enemies like dogs try to attack you, you can do a dodge move to avoid taking damage. It's a handy little feature that will save you on herbs if you master it early on in the city. Unlike Resi 1 and 2, this game doesn't have the option to play as two characters from the start and experience their different stories. Here you basically control Jill for the majority of the game except for a little excerpt where you play as her ally Carlos Olivera. The game does feature a trump card though that the others don't. Through the game, apoints come where the game flashes and you are forced to make a split second decision on what to do next, usually when in severe danger. For example, early on you encounter Nemesis at the police station. You can either choose to fight him or run into the station - if it times out then occasionally a third choice is made, and usually it's something you'd rather avoid. This ultimately leads to two different endings which affects the plotline of the game. It's an interesting and novel addition, although I prefer the setup of the previous games.
The graphics haven't been changed all that much for this Dreamcast port, much like Resident Evil 2. It's a bit lazy it has to be said but essentially the game is still as good as the original PS1 version. This game though offers the bonus costumes and weapons from the get-go and the Mercenaries mode too. The Mercenaries minigame allows you to play as one of the three main Umbrella soldiers in the game, and you have to go from the tram car to the warehouse (where you start Resi 3 from) in a set time. Time is added for saving civilians and for killing enemies. It's a nightmare mode and takes a lot of skill to do well. I've only managed to complete it twice, both times by the skin of my teeth!
In conclusion, while lazily ported graphically to the Sega Dreamcast, it is still the fun zombie survival horror game we know and love. It's an entertaining game to play, although you do feel that maybe capcom could've done better with this outing. It's a classic though and should be enjoyed by all zombie fans!
Atari has perhaps the most two faced persona I have ever seen in a videogames company. On the one hand they were known for making some brilliant classic arcade titles and of course the Atari 2600; which was the top dog of consoles in the early 80s. On the other hand...well they made horrible conversions of Pacman and E.T, they went downhill with their further console attempts like the 5200 and 7800. To top it all off, they made this, the Atari Jaguar - perhaps one of the most blatant attempts at lying in videogames history!
Much of the controversy surrounding the console is due to Atari's claims that the console was 64-bit. This would put it on par with the Nintendo 64 in graphics potentially, and several years before it! However the developers had cheated a bit...well a lot! They actually used two 32-bit processors to make up the 64-bit credentials. It was a nice try but the public wasn't fooled for a moment.
The console is made out of cheap plastic and comes across as being cheap plastic. There's no attempt here by Atari to try and make the console seem stylish or sleek. It's safe to say that the Jaguar CD add-on didn't help matters at all, making the console look like a toilet! Look at the picture above and you'll see what I mean!
The controller is reasonably easy to use and is rather big so fits comfortably into your hands. The pad features a number 1 to 9 keypad although the point of this seems unusual. The keypad idea had been dropped mostly by 1985 so there doesn't seem to be any reason to bring the blasted concept back! Mind you this is nothing compared with the two big problems I have with the machine!
Firstly and it will comes as no surprise really - the console lacks many quality games. Most of the titles were generic 3D driving games with bland graphics (Club Drive) or fururistic shooters with bland graphics (I-War). There are only two quality titles I can really recommend for this console - Aliens vs Predator simply for the concept. You can't go wrong with shooting evil aliens can you, especially if you can play as them! The other is a cult classic - Tempest 2000 by Jeff Minter. This is an absolute blast of a videogame powered by early 90s techno beats. The music was so popular they released a soundtrack CD for the game! It's quality arcade fun that is simple yet incredibly memorable. There are hardly any other titles worth yout time though which was a definitive factor in the machine's demise.
The other factor though was that the machine must be the second most unreliable console in history after the first batch of Xbox 360s! A lot of the time, if a wire is slightly out or there's dust in the cartridge, the starting screen goes red and you have to spend ages trying to figure out what's wrong. Sometimes the console has just died and another one is needed! God help...mine has done this several times but has not died yet! The CD drive is apparently even more of a nightmare to run properly - just checdk up the Angry Videogame Nerd's episode on the subject!
Well where does that leave us now? Atari is now a name and no more - now it's part of Infogames and had a hand in the mess that was Driv3r. Considering that this is Atari's final videogames console, it's a pity that the company will probably be remembered as one that died slowly rather than tried to bow out gracefully before that occured.
Sega's last video games console the Dreamcast didn't have it easy: after the disappointing sales of the Sega Saturn, EA stated that they wouldn't be supporting the console with any of their sports titles. This was a massive blow to Sega and they decided to forge forward by making their own titles and getting 3rd Party developers in order to survive. The console wasn't really known for its sports titles but it certainly gave the others a run for their money. Virtua Tennis 1 and 2 were great examples of the sport, Football was covered with the Sega Championship Football game and there were even some Olympics titles released to some acclaim in 2000. As far as golf was concerned however, it never really found a home on the console. Except for this release which crept in under the radar and basically stayed there.
The game is a solid take on the sport the world knows and loves with the developers actually offering a small history lesson on the sport before allowing you onto the World Tour. There are five countries to visit and over 10 characters for you to play as. All of them are in the same cartoony Japanese vein but don't come across as novelty by any means. Each of the countries is basically represented in a cliched form - Australia is set in the desert area, Scotland occurs in a windy contryside moor etc. There's nothing wrong with that; I doubt the developers could do much more with the graphics on offer. They're good but certainly not spectacular, and Sega had proved early on with games like Shenmue that games could look truly spectacular with some effort put in.
The gameplay itself is nice and simple so kids can pick up and play without any hassle. Like the real game there's a selection of clubs, the wind affects where your ball goes and bunkers and rough have an adverse affect on the ball when you take your shot. It isn't aiming for realism so you can forgive it for any issues with an overambitious golf ball. For the most part though the game is solid and fun to play, and was one of the first games I got for my Dreamcast back in 2004!
There's also a bonus mode which still confuses me to hell and back - a form of futuristic golf where you have to hit a ball through several gates and into a beam of light in a set number of shots. It's actually quite difficult at first and doesn't make a lot of sense to me. It seems like a tacked on bonus feature by Acclaim and could have been explained and tweaked better.
Overall however this is a solid and fun golf effort for the Dreamcast that is perhaps overlooked due to it's cutesy graphics. Don't be fooled though, this is a good game at heart. Just don't expect Tiger Woods to be making a cameo in it at any point!
I've got a little story about my previous toaster which I'd like to share. I cannot remember the make of the last model but about six years ago I woke up early on a Saturday to watch some kids TV and put some toast on for breakfast. Spy Kids 2 started and and I got sucked in. About an hour later I realized that I hadn't got my toast yet and looked at the kitchen. A thick cloud of gray smoke was coming through the gaps in the door. Panicking I ran through and discovered that the toaster had somehow managed to toast itself in the process! Minutes later after being cooled by the cold water tap it found a new home in the bin. This prompted my parents to get a replacement; specifically the Breville TT9.
So far we have had this toaster for six years and I'm happy to report that so far it has not set itself on fire or attempted to turn my bread into charcoal! This toaster really is as simple as it gets. There's a lever for you to press down to start toasting, and there's a button marked cancel for you to press if you want your toast out early! As far as toasters go, that's all you really need one to do in this day and age.
It's simple and easy to use, just plug it in and you're on your way. There's a dial setting from 1 to 6 for how crispy your toast can be made. 1 is barely toasted and 6 is 'Oh My God get the fire estinguisher out!'. There is no practical reason for the 6th option to be there! Who would want charcoal toast? God knows I wouldn't!
The optimal setting in my opinion is just between 2 and 3, which makes the bread reasonably toasted but soft enough for butter to be smoothly spread on and sink in. Just the way I like it, yum! What I will say is don't stick in the big bits of bread from the ends of the loaf since chances are they'll get stuck and you'll spend a minute of your time trying to pry it out with a knife!
I really can't fault this little toaster. It's a hell of an improvement on the previous model we had and I've never had a problem with it at any point. It's reliable and easy to use - what more could a guy want? Don't you dare say charcoaled toast!
It's very rare these days to find a game or movie that doesn't come across as being over the top American in presentation and plotline. The new A Team movie is a great example of a great series being dumbed down by big explosions and special effects and lacking any substance. Video games can suffer from the same effect, although usually it's not too bad since games are made for this sort of action to occur! While a heavy action game with a variety of outlandish scenes, Max Payne is a serious attempt at making a mystery game. The plot is gripping and filled with good characters and horrific events that a movie would find hard to create.
You play as the titular character Max who returns home one day to find my newborn baby and wife butchered by several men who are high on a brand new drug. You take control of him primarily three years later when a lead finally appears on this new drug and you're sent to investigate undercover. When your friend (and the only person who knows you're undercover) winds up dead, you're forced to evade the police as you go deeper into the conspiracy and unearth mistakes of the past; things that were best left buried.
The graphics are pretty average in-game although still perfectly capable of creating the mood and environment needed for this neo-noir tale. The trump card of the game is the storyboard cut scenes which detail what occurs between levels and key events. These are incredibly gritty looking and reflect the nature of the story. Several of these are actually disturbing to look at - one features a deranged clown which morphs into a guard who has been beating Max while tied to a chair. Vivid stuff. The game is also similarly graphic in places. While not featuring much blood, Max occasionally has deranged nightmares of the night his wife and child were killed, which occur in empty black rooms with blood on all the floors. It's incredibly emotive and you actually are scared of what might happen as you progress in these levels.
The voice acting for the game is top notch, especially the part of Max played by James McCaffrey who really imbues his character with a rather conflicted desire for revenge with a desire to be tried for all the people he has killed. He isn't your typical action star, he's human, and what's what makes this game tick so well. The rest of the cast are equally of a high standard and help to make Payne's world instantly believable and tangible. The controls are reasonably easy to get a hang of but are clunky in places and it can grate at times.
The game also takes a good while to complete - I'd be surprised if you complete this in less than 30 hours. The game is big due to the intricate plotline and you really get sucked in from the get go. There isn't really a point where you feel you're drifting off and losing the plot. There is a sense of restraint here, even among all the big shootouts that occur throughout.
What can I say about this excellent game? Don't be fooled by the graphics, this game is a excellent piece of video gaming nirvana; although strictly for adults as the majority of scenes are far too disturbing for children. Heck I'm 19 and I'm disturbed by some of these scenes. The world Max Payne lives in is one where there is no sunshine and no hope. And Take 2 have made this turn into an excellent piece of storytelling - good on you!