Author Archive for Mark Gibson

09
Nov
09

Borderlands (Review)

Cross genre games rarely work out well.  In many cases they tend to stick to one area without fully developing the other.  That’s why it’s great to see that Borderlands appears to balance it’s FPS and RPG elements fairly evenly.

First things first, while borderlands may have the words “RPG” on the box it plays like a straight shooter with controls in the vein of COD4, which appear to be the standard nowadays.  There’s no shooting and then waiting around for someone else to take a turn, this is all real-time combat with the RPG elements encompassing the damage, fire rate, accuracy, etc of the weapons.  These stats change pretty much per gun that you find, meaning that in many cases each gun will feel different and you’ll have to adjust the way that you approach situations depending on your fire rate or whether there is elemental damage to consider.  As well as base stats there’s also the inclusion of a character tech-tree which, as from level 5, you’ll receive a skill point that can be put into various character building skills such as improving your characters action skill, or increasing health/ammo regeneration.

The Tech Tree will be different from class to class and thus each different class will force you to play the game in a different manner, the soldier will become a healer that allows for cover and health regeneration through the use of his turret action skill and can also heal team mates by shooting them.  Let me repeat that.  You can shoot people to heal them!  Personally I played through the game as the Siren Class, while she starts of pretty weak at the start, by the time the tech tree had been fully filled she was a bringer of fiery death through the phasewalk skill and nearby enemies would simply ignite if they were in the vacinity.  The Siren Class was pretty fun to play as even in the second play through, getting to the level 50 cap taking roughly 45+ hours, this experience was only heightened by the online co-op in the game.

Artistically, the game manages to separate itself through the implementation of a comic book esq cell shading.  This works really well and suits the tongue-in-cheek nature of the missions and supporting cast of characters.   The wahed out colour allows for objects of interest such as drops and chests to be highlighted better and are easier to notice than a regular FPS style would have.  The Art-style is also a major advantage given the season and the amount of FPS’s that will be released over the next few weeks, this cell shaded look makes it stand out from the crowd so much more.

The main draw of this game though is the sheer amount of loot that you can collect.  Each drop is randomly generating, even in the case of mission rewards with the item varying slightly from person to person.  Meaning that, while there may not be “87 Bazillion guns”, there certainly is well into the thousands.  As well as the amount of loot the pacing of the drops seems to be just right too, with the rarer items coming later into the game, although there can be the occasional super rare orange random drop at any moment, meaning that there is always the incentive to go that little bit farther to see what you can get.

However there are issues that the game has that could be addressed including the lack of a trading system for money or cash, meaning that when you want to trade with someone in your game you need to drop the item in the good faith that the person you want to trade with will do the same and not just run off with it ala PSO style.  Another issues mainly involve MMO standard features that aren’t in the game, such as a mini-map, separate quest logs and bank.  However, this isn’t really an MMO, so adding these features is kind of wierd.  yet, given that many of those people who play these types of games are exactly the crowd that Gearbox would be expecting to be interested in this game then it’s kind of a big oversight in letting these elements not make it into the final product.  Despite these aspects the game does hold its on, indeed for someone who loves the PSO style loot gathering style of gaming this could very well be a serious contender for ‘Game of the Year’.

Borderlands is the first competent step to taking to the FPS genre to a new audience and creating a little variety from the standard faire available.  It remains fun either by playing on solo while being best played on co-op for the most enjoyable experience.  All in all, Borderlands is a great game that constantly keeps you wanting more, more drops, better equipment and when you finish the second play through really makes you anticipate the DLC.  Even those not familiar with RPGs or shooters should really check this out as it is one of the most uniquely fun experiences of this year.

Score: 8.5/10

13
Sep
09

Batman: Arkham Asylum (Review)

Licences and video games tend not to get along.  There’s something about the source material that a game is based on that games developers think that they can get away with releasing something relatively close to it with some added filler to pad out the length of the product, making it seem like it was a justified purchase.  Couple this apathy with the rabid fans that covet these big franchises then it makes for commercial success, so why change?  Why take a break from the norm?

One reason that could be speculated is that making half baked games like the spiderman series, bond licences and various other mediocre movie based games is simply un-rewarding for a developer.  Enter Batman: Arkham Asylum.  While this is based within the Batman universe this is a completely new story written by comic book veteran Paul Dini, something pretty much unheard of in the industry.

So where to begin? 

You play ‘Dark Knight’ himself as you try to prevent The Joker from taking over Arkham island by the many number of gadgets and detective intuition that you have.  In order to defeat the small army of jokers thugs you’ll have to rely on the “free-flow combat system” that despite its simplicity takes a while to get fully to grips with.  After a small learning curve with the combat does become very rewarding and the higher you are able to bring your multiplier then the greater distance and speed batman will be able to charge towards enemies with his fists or feet.  The combat works relatively well, however, there are instances where it can be seen to be a little temperamental and sometimes can result in frustrating breaks in combos with batman limply kicking dead air instead of the enemy at the other side of the room.  while this isn’t really noticable in the story mode this becomes a problem during the combat challenges where chaining a massive combo together can mean the difference between success and failure.

As well as combat Batman:AA also relies on stealth, while it’s fun to charge head first into a group of enemies, if these guys are armed then it will almost certainly result in instant death.  There are rooms where you will have to rely on vents, Coombs and ledges to sneak past or take out enemies without being seen.

Where the game shines though is the set pieces leading up to boss fights, the numerous lead ups to the Scarecrow fights being one of the overall highlights of the game.  Boss fights themselves aren’t overly taxing, while there are some that will require multiple attempts to succeed they simply serve as an end point to that particular arc of investigation.  As well as the lead ups and introduction the audio quality in the game rivals that of Dead Space through its ambiance and effects as well as some outstanding voice work.  Batman: AA brings back Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill to reprise their roles of Batman and the Joker, this only adds to the experience.  Indeed there are many VO artists brought back from Batman the Animated Series that not only adds a level of nostalgia but also overall quality as each VO actor has had considerable experience with the character and understands the level of depth required. 

The game is also pushing a serious amount of middleware, built on the UE3 engine and boasting others such as speedtree it would be easy to simply shoe horn these in for no reason however every piece of design, structure and art style appears to serve a purpose and there is very little in the environments that is actually going to waste.  This demonstrates a high level, of not only overall quality, but appreciation for the universe as a whole with streams of references to lesser known Batman villans strewn throughout.  The game also looks fantastic, there are a few instances concerning character faces that look like a waxwork museum left the heat on but that seems to be an issue with the UE3 engine rather than an actual development one. 

Aside from the story there’s also a slew of collectables and challenge rooms to complete to get the 100% complete rating, that will take a good while to achieve.

Despite riding on the coat-tales of the success of The Dark Knight, Batman: AA is a damn good game in its own right.  While there are some minor issues, it is a testament to how good the games quality actually is that these can be overlooked.  Batman: AA appeals not only to Batman fans but fans of good games in general.  Quite simply; you must play this game.

06
Jul
09

Cali-Otaku: SS 06/07/09

Cali-Otaku: SS returns for a summer check in!  This week we cover the usual anime, manga and gaming goodness including; Spice and Wolf, Fate Stay Night, Brutal Legend and so much more.  We Also say goodbye to Mark and Dave as they leave us to go on to other things… what are these things?  You’ll have to listen in to find out!  It’s all very Waja.

Length: 2:13:46 (61.2MB)
Direct Download

23
May
09

Fragments

I would say that it’s been a while since my last update but that would a) be the biggest understatement and b) an insult to you, the reader. I would say that it was out of pure laziness that I haven’t been active on here, nor MSN then I would be lying. Coursework, exams and family matters have taken up the last month leaving me with little time for watching, playing anything let alone writing. However, that is about to change, most of the stuff vital to the success of my MSc is done… aside from my dissertation.

 So, here come the updates:

Otascotia:

Dave and I are beginning to find our feet with the show and it’s beginning to take shape as to what part we’ll actually play in the weekly scope of things. We’re hoping that, as a show, we interact with the community as well as doing more of the ‘Eurovision Commentary’ style things that we had last week.

Unfortunately, that’s going to require a whole lot of investment – not only in time but also financially. We recently came to the realisation that the current setup we have is inadequate for the type of show that we want to do so we’re going to invest in a mixing desk and several microphones, cables etc. So stay tuned as we’ll be making several improvements over the coming weeks.

Cali-Otaku: SS:

Regular readers, listeners will know that the podcast is kind of in limbo at the moment, but with future plans about to be embarked upon there needs to be a shake up of the “podcast”. As a result the last ever SS will be coming to you shortly. Seeing as it’s the last one we’d love for listeners to contact us with questions and comments (cali-otakuss@live.co.uk), as we will answer them on air.

While this is the last ever SS podcast, there are plans in place for a podcast for our future project with a new cast and maybe a new format, we’re still sketching out the details. But I personally want to thank everyone who’s helped out as a guest as well as everyone who has taken the time to listen to the show. We’ve loved doing it so there’s no doubt that there will be something appearing to take its place very, very soon.

The Project:

From the planning meetings and discussions, this could potentially the biggest thing that Dave and I have ever embarked upon, funding and the sheer amount of work required to garner interest from those in and outwith the community is going to be pretty high. This is why we’re reluctant to make an official announcements until we have more of the pieces of the puzzle in place before we give anything away. We’re working away behind the scenes to have more teasers appearing across the Internet soon.

Mark

23
May
09

Stay Tuned

More blogs, updates and a glimpse into “the project” coming soon!

MEGATON!!

Mark

17
Apr
09

Cali-Otaku: SS 17/04/09

Cali-Otaku returns 2 weeks into the new anime season.  This week we are joined by Sephikun from Otascotia where we discuss everything from Fullmetal Alchemist, Dragonball Evolution and the age of the Lucky Star cast.  Dave also calls out the QOTPA and Ally gives us the silent treatment… we wonder why we let him on sometimes.

Direct Download
i-tunes (should be up soon)

links:

http://www.otascotia.co.uk

31
Mar
09

Cali-Otaku: SS 31/03/09

After a week off SS returns with more random-ness than is healthy for normal human beings, luckily we are not! This week we talk To Love-Ru, Resident Evil 5 and take a trip to point and click adventure time. Chloe also introduces us to disturbing sex implements, while Dave just scares us with yiff and his own martial arts.

Length: 1:47:56 (49.4 MB)

Direct Dowload
i-tunes (should be up soon)

Don’t forget, you can contact us at: cali-otakuss@live.co.uk




Welcome

I'm Mark Gibson & this is another one of my blogs where you're likely to find musings of daily life, gaming & just plain rambling.

Currently Playing:
Modern Warefare 2
Borderlands
Forza 3


Currently Watching:
South Park


Currently Listening to:
Cage - Depart From Me
Flobots - Fight With Tools


Currently Reading:
The Wheel of Time (again)


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