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Damn it, I don't have time to write a book.
Ok, I'll give it a shot. I was born and I'll die.
Best South Park game yet does not make it a great game.
South Park games in general have been pretty awful over the years.
From the terrible FPS South Park on the N64 to horrendous Chef's Luv Shack and South Park Rally. Even the newer games like South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play! and Tenorman's Revenge with there mediocrity game-play hardly stood out.
Then onto The Stick Of Truth.
This really, really, really looks and feels like South Park. The animation is there, the tone is there the original voices are there. This is the most accurate South Park game made to date. The presentation is spot on and you do feel like you are interacting with the TV show.
You can tell time and effort has been put into this to make it look and feel like the TV show.
They seem to have forgotten this is a game as the game-play is so trite and stale this plays like a game from the early late 90's. Many of the game-play mechanics are so archaic they would have been outdated 15+ years ago. From not being able to sell stacked items as a stack and having to go though each individual item separately....tiresome. To tired old fighting mechanics that RPGs from the late 90's learned just do not work.
This is an RPG first and foremost...and RPG with only about 8 hours of game-play as the story is so short and the side quests even shorter. Plus it only has a level 15 cap, which you will hit WAY before you even get close to finishing the game, leaving you with very little to do in terms of ROLE PLAYING in this ROLE PLAYING GAME. This is an insult to RPG gamers. This game did not "need" to be an RPG and would have suited a simple button mashing beat em' up...which it essentially is as most of the battles you have do resort to simple button mashing. There really are little to no RPG elements in this supposed RPG game.
The map you can explore is only done so on a faux 3D plane, meaning you are really playing within a 2D environment...which does make sense given the show it is based on. But this also means the map itself is not very explorable with very few places to access. It's just not a big enough map for an RPG to be set in and does become very tiresome when you are back tracking over the same locales over and over and over with nothing to do to keep the exploring fresh.
The difficulty setting in this game is unbelievably easy, even on the hardest setting. There is no challenge to this game at all, so much so it may as well have just been an episode of the show you could just sit and watch.
Overall, it's a very dull and uninspired game...South Park or not. This should have been an arcade style game downloadable from XBLA or PSN, etc as that is what it feels like. It's most definitely not worth the full retail price being asked.
For a South Park game, it's full of references and jokes you can relive if you are a fan of the show...or you could just watch the show. For an RPG game, it's just so flat it's not really worth looking into as there are FAR better RPGs out there and cheaper.
Batman: Arkham City (2011)
The tricky sequel is hard to pull off.
The original game (Arkham Asylum) was a surprise hit. It came from pretty much no where and blew people away with it's dark tone, great story and characters and real feeling of "being Batman".
So now here is the sequel...and it's a disappointment. From a disjointed plot that goes no where, to it's (wrong) bigger = better attitude.
First the good:
They have left the satisfying combat alone, but still added new animations and moves to "open" up the already open or "free flowing" combat.
The voice acting is just as good if not better than the first game.
It's a Batfan's haven. With many obvious and subtle references, back stories and easter eggs to discover.
Now the bad:
A pointless story with multiple strands that have no pay off. Not really a spoiler here as the original trailer makes this it's selling point: Strange knows who Batman really is. This is a HUGE plot point with many interesting connotations, and where does this lead to in the game? No where, nothing is made of this at all. One of the many plots that actually have no reason to be part of the story at all...there are others.
The map is "5 times bigger"...but also 5 times more dull than the original. Once the initial "enjoyment" of the openness subsides you realise the map is pretty "empty". Remove the many...WAY too many Riddler bits and there is nothing going on and no point in the map being "5 times bigger" at all. Exploring is more a chore than an enjoyment. Part of the enjoyment of 'Asylum' was "building Batman", gaining the gadgets and opening the map. Here you have (pretty much) everything from the off and the map is open. No build up, nothing to look forward to.
It's a shorter game than the original. Just as a personal test I did a speed run of both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. Bearing in mind I've played through 'Aslyum' many times and know the game inside out, yet only played 'City' once before and know it not as well. Yet it took me 2 hours less to reach the end of 'City' than 'Asylum' when only sticking to the story. "Bigger" map yes, but not a "bigger" game.
The game is mostly filler. From the WAY too many Riddler bits to the multiple villains that have there own separate strands. The game is VERY fragmented and more like a collection of mini games than one complete, overall experience as was Arkham Asylum. It's just padding after padding after padding. Clearly included to fill the gaps of the empty story and pointless "5 times bigger" map.
Still this is not a "bad game". It's still an enjoyable experience. It's just such a disappointment after the genius that was Arkham Asylum and living proof that bigger does not mean "better". Where as 'Asylum' was one, organic game play and story experience. 'City' is more like a patchwork quilt with lots of little pieces stitched together, and you can really see the stitch work here. If they changed the menu selection and added an option to play any of the villain's stories at will, they really could repackage this as a party game collection like Mario Party, etc.
Molyneux does it again.
Peter Molyneux can pretty much be credited with creating a whole new genre in games. When he made and released "Populous" in 1989, he changed the way games were made forever.
Shame he has not made any truly great games for a while though. All Mr. Molyneux is famous for now is hyping up games so far that when you do get to play them, you feel "robbed". "Fable" is no exception. I'll go back to when this game was called "Project Ego". We were promised an open world that would be fully explorable. Branching missions that changed the story. An exact quote from then was "If there is a fence in your way, just simply jump over it and keep exploring. We won't restrict the gamer's options."
When the game became "Fable"...it lost around 90% of what was said to make the game unique. There is no open fully explorable world, there are no branching missions that change the story, etc.
Fable is a VERY linear RPG. You walk around confined areas with little to see and do. The towns are small and almost unpopulated with very few buildings to use. The only thing kept from "Project Ego" to "Fable" was the fact you could be good or bad, and that is hardly all that interesting either. Other than having NPCs react to you differently, there is no point in being good or bad at all. Still the same story...just the last seconds at the end of the game will be different.
Now don't get me wrong, "Fable" is not a bad game. It's just not the game we were promised. There is still fun to be had, but it's restrictive fun. Being good or bad is pointless and gets tiresome FAST. The story is cliché ridden with no surprises. The side quests and mini games are tedium defined.
From the dictionary...Fable: an untruth; falsehood. Yup, that pretty much sums up the game perfectly.
Fable 2 is being worked on and looks "good". It seems to have more in common with what "Project Ego" was said to be than what "Fable" became. But knowing Peter Molyneux, don't hold your breath.
Licensed games are terrible...
It's true they are. Lend a famous (or infamous) game it's rights and you'll end up with a horrible game that sells purely off the back of it's name *cough* Matrix. Even worse are games that are made as sequels to great films. Stranglehold is the "sequel" to Jhon Woo's masterpiece of film-making that is "Lat sau san taam"...or "Hard Boiled". "Hard Boiled" was the film that proved just how great Mr. Woo is at directing action, it is also the genesis of films like The Matrix, etc with is revolutionary action sequences and use of ballet like slow-motion. So why make a "sequel" to a great film...but make that "sequel" a game? Well, mainly due to the fact it was a great idea. This game is non-stop action from start to end. You are promised a "John Woo experience" and that is exactly what you get. It's over the top, it's inordinately violent, it's..it's, well it's John Woo.
There is a story in the game somewhere...but it's irrelevant and not actually connected to "Hard Boiled" so I'll not dwell on it. The important thing here is game-play...and there is lots of it. You play as Inspetor Yuen or as he is also known "Tequila", and yes that is Yun-Fat Chow (AKA Chow Yun-Fat) reprising the role via lending not only his voice but also his likeness. You can pretty much do anything you have seen in a John Woo action picture and more besides. The game is a straight up shooter viewed from a 3rd person point. But it's the action and the moves you have that make the game standout over other games of this genre. Want to run down or up a banister while blasting away with dual sub-machine guns? Well you can. Want to shoot a fuel tank and destroy a building and all it's occupants? Well you can. Want to dive over, under, between scenery in slow motion and take out the bad guys, well you can. Even better you can string moves together to look super cool. From swinging on light fittings to diving on roll carts, you can play the same level over and over and yet play it differently every time. You have the freedom to take the action in any direction you really want to. Anything you have seen in a John Woo film in terms of gun-play can be pulled off in this game. Which ultimately leads to some of the greatest action sequences I have ever seen on film or in a game. Occasianly the action will take a short break just in time for a Mexican standoff, in which you have to take out everyone around you in slow-motion while dodging bullets at the same time.
Then there is the destructible scenery, I don't think there is a game that comes close to a rival in these terms. You can do the standard shooting out windows, etc. But you can also take destruction to a whole new level. See a bad guy standing under an awning? Just shoot the supports and watch it crash down on him. You can also bring down neon signs varying from small to huge billboard style and take out large groups of thugs. Stone pillars and statues are no match for the John Woo action either. Basically, if you can see something, you can pretty much destroy it, and it's not always pointless destruction either. You may find a few hidden secrets and alternate routes by being destructive.
There are also the "Tequila Bombs" which are worth a mention. These are essentially special attacks that range from the ability to heal yourself (and you'll need that on the harder settings) to Presision Aim, which let's you fire a single bullet and snipe and enemy (or scenery) from a great distance. There is also the "Barrage" in which Tequila just loads up whatever gun he is holding and you get to unleash some fast and frantic gunfire without stopping. To finally the "Spin Attack" which is a John Woo trademark, take out all the bad guys around you with 1 swift and yet visually stunning move.
The graphics are simply beautiful. From run down slums to up market casinos. The visuals in this game amaze.
This game IS action at it's best...and it's tough too. There are several difficulty settings in which to enjoy this game. From "Casual" (easy) to "Hard Boiled" (insane), there is a setting that I'm sure you can find that will suit. Also, keep an eye out for the Woo trademarks like the white doves and even Mr. Woo himself.
While this is a "sequel" to "Hard Boiled" it's also stand alone in the sense that you need not have seen the film to follow this game. But I do urge you to see the film if you have yet to, it really is the pinnacle of Hong Kong action cinema. It's a great action game that let's you be "Tequila". If you are a long term John Woo/"Hard Boiled" fan or a new comer this game will keep you entertained for a while. If you like you action fast and frantic, then this game WILL "Woo" you.
I just hope John Woo lends his name and style to more games in the future...A Better Tomorrow?
The Darkness (2007)
Comics + games = bad mix.
I have never read any of the comics this game is based on...but I do know of them. But this game was my first proper introduction to The Darkness, so I write this as a game fan, not a comic fan...and it's very disappointing.
Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad game. Just a dull one. Here we have the tried and VERY tested First Person Shooter (FPS) game. With so many FPS out there, it's hard to do anything interesting or new with the genre...and this game also fails. It really is nothing more than another FPS, it offers nothing new to keep the genre alive. The missions are sub-standard stuff, and with a character that has the abilities Jackie does have you'd think they could inject some life into the mission design. Then there is all the pointless walking between locations, getting on and off trains....it's tedious. This game does not know if it wants to be a free roaming explorable game world (al-la GTA) or a restrictive FPS. So they tried to mix the 2 and fail. Yes you can ignore the missions and go off and explore, but with such a small game map and and lifeless empty one too (I'll get to that next)...why bother? There is nothing to explore anyway. The game is set in New York, though you would not believe that unless you were told as much. The streets are empty, you are lucky if you see more than 2 pedestrians at once. Also, it's such a small part of NY you do get to walk around that it beggars belief that the developers did NOT include more life and interaction.
The basic gameplay is just that...basic. Nothing really to keep a gamers enjoyment alive. It does have an interesting story...but this is a GAME, and GAMES require GAMEPLAY to make them enjoyable. I'm sure this would make a fine film (if done right), but it makes a dull, repetitive game.
The graphics are very nice...but I don't play games to look at nice graphics. I play games for the enjoyment and challenge of the game. As for the challenge, there really is none. I started a game on normal setting just to get a feel for the game. Found it all too easy, so re-started on hard and still found that too easy...and that was with turning off auto aim, etc. There are side missions and collect-ables...but they are just as tedious as the main game.
A rather average game that looks nice but really seems about 8 years old gameplay wise. Wait for the inevitable film instead, I'm sure it'll be FAR more enjoyable than playing this tiresome effort.
As one of the NPC police officers say in the game "Move along, nothing to see here"...yup, that pretty much sums up this game.
Casino Royale (2006)
The first non "Bond", "Bond" film.
I'm a HUGE Bond fan, I am so much of a fan I even like Moonraker. (yes that is how much of a fan I really am.) I love the franchise, I enjoy all the films and I went into this film with a closed "Bond" mind.
What we have here is not just another "Bond" film with a new Bond...we have an all new start to the franchise. This film ignores all those other "Bond" films, this is neither a sequel nor prequel (think Batman Begins). So the producers had a hell of a film to pull off, just introducing a new actor as Bond is tough enough...but to pretty much deconstruct and then rebuild the franchise up to this point is even harder. And this is where the problem lies with this film...it's not a "Bond" film...it's a "James Bond" film. Which is where the split comes in with the questions and opinions of "Bond" fans. As I said before, I went to see this with a closed mind. I was expecting another "Bond" film, I was waiting for Q to hand out the gadgets, see the rockets pop out of the Aston Martin, etc and the first time I did see this I left the cinema feeling "robbed". It's not that I did not like the film...I just missed it's point. And I feel this is the problem with many of the negative reviews of this film. They are mistaking if for a "Bond" film...and it is not.
Anyway I decided to recently give this film another go. This time I understood the film and it's concept. It really is best to NOT compare this to the previous "Bond" films. This has more in common with the Matt Damon "Bourne" series than "Bond". Second viewing of this film...and I REALLY enjoyed it. Now it's not a masterpiece of film-making...but it sure is fun. Removing the whole James Bond character for just a second...it's a great little action/adventure film with just the right amount of "realism" included. It's a good re-intro to James Bond. We even get to see James make mistakes..well this is his first 00 mission. It was great to see a previously flawless character have flaws, it made Bond seem more "human". As for the new "Bond", I personally was not won over. Craig did a good enough job and he is the best of the NEW Bond franchise so far (well he is the ONLY of the new Bond franchise so far), but I do not think he was the best man for the job. But still, he was believable as James Bond and that is good enough for me.
It really is best to leave the old "Bond" mindset at the door if you go to see this film. Go to see it as an all new film...not a new "Bond" film. This is not "Bond 21", this is "James Bond 1" After this second viewing of the film...I can't wait for "Cansio Royale 2" (which is supposedly already written and is to pick up where this film left off). I hope they continue this trend of the films being linked and do not divert back into the old "Bond" setup of just a new adventure each time. It's a fresh approach to a tried and tested franchise, and I for one (now) welcome the idea.
Leave the old Bond series where it is, this is the all new James Bond franchise. Just unplug from the previous Bonds and do not compare them. See this film for what it is.
Bond is not back, he is reborn...and I like it.
Need for Speed: Carbon (2006)
EA take away.
The NFS games are probably the best street racing games around. Over the years they have grown from basic racer to genre defining games...until this version.
EA are removing gameplay ideas and options, not adding them for the next generation. (Also see FIFA) You have less cars, less races, less bosses, less customisations and overall a lesser game from the previous game in the series...yet they charge more for it.
I really would not even bother with this unless you find it in a bargain bin somewhere for less than 10 notes.
If you have NFS: Most Wanted, stick with that, it a FAR better game. If you don't, buy it instead of this version. You can thank me later.
The Simpsons: Hit & Run (2003)
After all these years, they get it right.
This is an "old" game in the gaming world as I write this...but I just re-installed it on my PC and was reintroduced to how good the game was and still is. There have been several Simps based games over the years and every single one of them has been TERRIBLE. This is the only one that get's the right balance between the Simps universe and actual decent gameplay. Many call this The Simpsons meet GTA...not quite. This game bares no relation to GTA other than you can get in and out of cars and run around on foot. Vastly different gameplay styles in this and GTA. What you do get is Springfield split into various sections, so you can't explore the WHOLE of the great city in 1 go. You get 7 levels and each level is based on a separate part of Springfield...some repeated more than once. The basics of the game have you running or driving around completing various tasks for the residents of Springfield (driving, racing, collecting, etc), all of you faves are here in one form or another, and voiced by the original actors too. The story is unimportant, but it involves aliens and cameras hidden in robot bees...who cares? There is plenty to see and do, many references to past Simpsons shows to keep even the biggest Simps fan happy. Hidden missions and side quests aplenty.
My main gripe was, it was too easy. First time I ever played this game I finished each mission first time around, no real challenge for the hardened gamer. Even the side quests and finding "hidden" items/cards was easy as the levels are pretty small really. You can explore, but it won't take long to learn each level inside out due to the lack of size each level is. But it was still fun to play. I had a smile on my face all the way through due to the in jokes and references.
It's not a GREAT game, it just seems great as all the past Simps based games have been so bad. It's just good. The gameplay is nothing really new or revolutionary, but it works just fine. The side quests will give you something to do even if you finish the game and didn't cover them first time around.
But my main query is this...why no sequel after all these years, the only good Simpsons based game and they don't want to follow it up? They were on to something with this game, they could take this idea and improve it vastly now.
Scarface: The World Is Yours (2006)
Oh dear, another licenced game. (PC version)
The licecned games tend to be pretty poor as the developers know it will sell purely on the fact it's based on a popular film/TV show. Then adding to that the dreaded "GTA clone", cos let's be honest here NO ONE can pull off a GTA -esque game other than Rockstar North. So it already has a lot to live up to.
Quick, the backstory....You play as Tony Montana in events set after the end of the film. Fans of the film will know that is pretty much impossible. But this game goes the "what if?" route by offereing what could have been if the film had ended differently. So this works as a kind of "psuedo-sequel" to the picture. Anyway, Tony has lost everything he built up in the movie and is now left back where he started, at the bottom of the pile. Tony wants vengeance on those that wronged him, and he wants his empire back too....game on!
While this will be compared to GTA (mianly Vice City)...I think that is unfair. This does have the bare basics gameplay that GTA has...but at the same time it's also very different. GTA has always had a very cartoon, over the top style to it. This game is much more realistic as it takes place in the same universe invented by the film. Your basic GTA standard clone style gameplay is here, run around a free-roaming city, steal cars, etc. But it also adds some nice "new" ideas too. I'll not bore you with the basic gameplay style, if you have played 1 GTA clone...you have played them all. So I'll get straight into some of the interesting features this game offers. The side missions are very varied. As you lose everything Tony "earnt" in the movie, you have to rebuild his empire from the ground up....including his mansion. When you do finally get it back...it's a dump (due the the events at the end of the film and the start of the game), so you have to renovate it and get it back up to a high standard. And you do this by spending money on items and furniture which you can place around the mansion. A nice little diversion on the violence the game does contain. You can also buy new cars that you keep and can call a driver to deliver to you as and when you need them. Adding to these you can also hire staff in the shape of henchmen, hire an assassin and even take control of them too...makes a change from being Tony. All of these things help build you reputation and respect so you rise from the gutter back to the top. There are also things like street racing sub-missions and others (just like every other GTA clone). Drug deals, deliveries, etc...all here too. Take out rival gangmembers to "clean up" the streets leaving them open for Tony to take over. You can even buy bussineses as "fronts" for what is really going on, but these are left open for attacks from rivals...so you can upgrade them with added security.
Speaking of attacks, the aiming system is really good too. You don't just lock on and shoot at the enemy. You can aim at individual body parts and each part has a different effect. Shot the leg and the guys will be limping, shot the arm and you'll find their aim impaired, shoot the head and well...you get the idea. You can even aim low and shoot their "cojones"...oww. Then there is this thing called "balls"...which Tony has in spades. Kill some bad guys and do a Tony -esque taunt, you get "balls". Do some dangerous but skillful driving, you get "balls". Once the "balls" meter is full, you can unleash it in only a way Tony can do, a screaming, rage fueled blowout of a bender "Say hello to my little friend". Something else done differently (and better) than GTA are the police chases. The AI of the police is very good. And you can actually out-run and out-drive them via skill. Makes the game much more interesting as well as the chases.
But one of the things I LOVE about this game is Tony himself. The developers not only make him look and sound like Tony from the movie (dispite no Al), but he also "acts" like him too. Every mannerism Movie Tony had, Game Tony also has. The way he walks, talks, his taunts. Everything that made Tony Montana such a great movie character has been duplicated in game form....right down to little details like the tattoo on his hand. All of which just adds to the charm of this game. You can even have really impressive converstions with the endless NPCs within the game...and each converstion will be different. Go to a bar and try to pick up some girls in the way only Tony Montana can pull off..."You want some Ice cream?". It's pointless...but really good fun. They have even included Tony's "morals" from the film. Yes Tony is a bad man...but he still had standards, like not killing random people and only those that desereve to die. So in the game, you can not go around on a murderous rampage killing inoccent bystanders...well not as Tony anyway. Another little touch I like.
Overall, this is a great game. Sure it has it's flaws, all games do. But for the chance to play as Tony Montana...this game is pure genius just for that alone. It's by far one of the better GTA clones and also one of the better licenced games too. Gamers will love the game. Fans of the film and games will just adore it even more. There is plenty to see and do outside of the main story, you really get your money's worth here.
The Movies (2005)
What happened Pete?
Peter Molyneux, the very same gaming God that brought us Populous, Powermonger, Theme Park & Hospital. Just a shame his more recent games have been poor - average at best. Since starting his own game company (Lionhead), he had released nothing but tat. Just look at games like Fable and Black & White for proof.
Now don't get me wrong, The Movies is FAR from a terrible game...it just that is's FAR too simplistic. Often I feel like I'm playing a game designed for 10 year olds.
The basic plot is that you have to run a film studio starting from 1920 right up to 2000. You start off making VERY low budget films using the technology that was around in 1920...which was not much. But as you play, you get to research all sorts of new technology from colour films to CGI and everything in between.
The game is really 2 games in 1. You get a basic management style game, not too dissimilar from past Pete game like Theme Park. In which you get to place various buildings and hire various staff. The main problem with this part of the game is that it's too much like Theme Park and has a very similar style and set up too...Theme Park was great in 1994, The Movies was released in 2005, and nothing much has changed. So you are really just playing an 11 year old game with new graphics. The 2nd part of the game is the most fun (which is not saying that much). You get to actually "write" film scripts. You do so by first selecting your film genre from 5 types (including Sci-Fi, Horror and Action). But where as this is the best part of the game, it's also the most flawed. again, it's just TOO simplistic. All you do is select certain scenes, then select which "actors" play which parts...and that's about it. It hardly stretches the old grey matter. There are too few scenes to choose from and not much difference between film genres other then different scenery. So you end up making films with the same old scenes over and over and over. As you research new tech, you films do get better and eventually you can even edit them yourself. You can even add your own soundtracks and dialogue too, then upload them to the official The Movies site for all to see and comment on...but as I said before, there are too few scenes to choose from so you do end up with a LOT of repetition, no matter who made the film. There is now a Stunts & Effects add on around...it does not add anything really worth shouting about, and why were stunts and effects not in the game in the first place...other than to try and ween a bit more cash from the paying public?
The Movies is a average game that has been made FAR to simplistic just to cater for a wider and more casual audience.
The Movies is a game with great ideas...just not implemented well. Instead of working on poor "add-ons" for the game, get working on an all new The Movies sequel, and this time add some decent gameplay and cater for more than 10 year olds with the intellect of a gnat.
Maybe one day Mr.Molyneux will once again become the gaming God he once was. Just that NOTHING released by Lionhead recently has even come close to the game he once used to produce.