Posts Tagged ‘Review


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


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.


Banjo-Kazooie (XBLA) Review

Back in the days of the N64 there were many games that garnered a certain amount of praise.  Banjo-Kazooie was one of these.  Released in 1998 the game was built upon the same 3D premise that Mario 64 gained infamy for and in some cases was scrutinised for doing so.

Banjo-Kazooie follows Banjo, a bear, and his breagull Kazooie that lives in his back-pack (this fact is still to be explained) on their search to save Banjos sister from evil witch Gruntilda.  The game follows the standard action/platform formula of off-shot worlds inter-connected via a hub from here the player must collect various items to proceed; Jigsaw pieces, musical notes and honeycomb pieces being among them.  Normally too many items would be a point of criticism, however, this was one of the games that was at the fore-front of this genre and there is always an incentive to give into OCD and collect everything.

So, there are a few changes made to the N64 version for the release in XBLA; Character models have been upgraded (although I couldn’t tell the difference), the game is now in Widescreen as opposed to the old 4:3 ratio as well as now being HD, the “Stop and Swap” feature is now fully implemented in the game and of course there’s the usual leaderboards and achievements added.

Gameplay in B-K is still pretty much the same as it has always been.  The controls remain relatively tight throughout, with only a few cases of collision detection causing irritation later in the game (which is negligible given the overall picture).  Moves have been mapped to the controller well too; meaning that abilities can be done instinctively rather than having to look to see what you’re inputting on the pad.  One other change to the controls are that camera control is now controlled on an analogue stick, as opposed to button press on the N64, meaning that rotation can be performed much easier than in the 1998 counterpart but still suffers from getting occasionally stuck on walls or behind objects.

Given how few games Rare have put out over the course of the 360’s lifespan it does beg the question as to whether this should have been a full remake using the “nuts and bolts” engine.  Indeed, the fact that the game seems to have graduated from the Nintendo school of game development where a set of eyes is on every object in the game (or a vision to a horrible future of gene manipulation), it does seem to grate on the eyes.  But then again that might just be purely the age of the reviewer.

Banjo-Kazooie, even casting the rose-tinted glasses aside, remains a great game and at 1,200 MS points is well worth the money spent on it.  Whether you are a veteran to the series or if you missed it the first time around this is definitely one for the download list.



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
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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