Archive for December, 2009
Friend of The Reticule, Thomas Senior is a big fan of Dragon Age, in this guest article he talks about Dwarven society in Dragon Age. (more…)
So here we are, at the end of Telltale and LucasArts’ daring resurrection of the Monkey Island franchise. Has the gamble of bringing back much loved characters Guybrush, LeChuck, Elaine and many others paid off? Quite simply: yes! The final episode almost manages to be the exclamation point on what has been a wonderful series. Now before I go any further, it should be blindingly obvious but this review – along with the screenshots – contains MASSIVE SPOILERS to the rest of the series so far. So those of you who are a bit funny about things like this might want to jump to the last couple of paragraphs where I’ll talk about the series as a whole.
So we find Guybrush in pretty much the condition we left him in last episode: dead. Having been slain by LeChuck who has finally revealed himself to be as evil as he always was all along, he seeks to suck the voodoo energy from the pirate afterlife known as the Crossroads. Of course, anything LeChuck can do, Threepwood can do better – and as LeChuck has been resurrected more times than your average soap character – it’s up to the now Ghostly Threepwood to save the day, thwart LeChuck’s plans and save his wife Elaine. But first he must find a way to return to the land of the living to do so.
The entire series has seen some rather brave and bold moves from Telltale, and taking on the pirate land of the dead can be seen as yet another. Although it suffers from a rather dark palette – which is a bit of a theme throughout the episode – the locations are very clear and seem even more attuned to function than previous episodes. In a sense of playing the game, this makes the locations pretty easy to navigate but it does mean there are slightly less incidental object jokes in this final episode. Luckily no such comprimises are made in the rest of the dialogue – as it’s still packed with some great lines from both Guybrush and LeChuck.
The main thing that this final episode seems to drive home is that it is a bit of a ‘best of’ compilation of the previous episodes with some of the better characters and similar puzzles making an appearance from previous episodes. Thankfully the jungle maze having already been used twice in the series does not get a return, but the feast of the Sponge from episode 3 returns with a new twist, along with an interesting yet pretty clever take on the famous insult sword fighting. As has been the case for the entire series the voice acting remains brilliant with all the original cast in their roles, although it is a bit of a shame we don’t see Murray or Stan return for one last time.
However it’s certainly not the strongest episode this series. Some threads in the story are a tied up with slightly too much stretching, once again it makes little sense on it’s own without the previous episodes and it does seem to end a little too abruptly. However, it does manage to round up this first series well enough and it’s safe to say that Telltale should be proud of what they’ve achieved this series. So for this episode I will give it the following score:
HOWEVER it would be wrong of me to not give you a verdict on the entire series. Funny, charming and with just the right amount of brainwork required to make the game fun, Telltale have done the Monkey Island franchise justice. It’s legacy is well known and the series is more than good enough to stand alongside it’s forefathers and dare I say it – is even better than LucasArts 3D attempt, Escape from Monkey Island. As modern day adventure games go, Tales of Monkey Island is a must buy for fans of the genre and comes highly recommended. I’m just hoping there’s a second Telltale Monkey Island series to come, because Telltale have made an episodic series that they and anyone who calls themselves a fan of the Monkey Island series proud.
So Tales of Monkey Island – The Complete Series gets an extremely well deserved headshot:
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is The X Factor of the world of video games. It’s not all that clever, it has a component that divides public opinion masterminded by a savvy businessman who needs to work on his people skills, and is in no way going to move their respective genre forward. Yet it’s very polished, is a great spectacle and is still going to get a massive audience no matter what the critics will say about it. So in a lot of ways, it’s a pretty tricky game to review.
The game is divided into three sections, the Single Player, Multiplayer and Special Ops mode. The first of these picks up from where the single player mode of the first Modern Warfare left off – the story following six months later – and par for the course for the CoD games, you are placed into the boots of various soldiers throughout the warfare of the title. Along with other surprises, the player character from the first game, Soap McTavish returns as one of your commanders, and you follow a very convoluted plot which plays on the fears of the US being invaded. It’s very much on the 24 version of ‘realism’ with plenty of ‘Did you see that?’ moments. Of course there’s your obligatory stealth section, and the on rails shooter bit which are expertly executed and polished to a gleam, a snowmobile chase being a particular highlight.
The thing about the single player is, it’s all very well and good and showy, but it’s firstly incredibly short. You’ll probably scream through the campaign in about 4 or 5 hours, and it’s only certain annoyances with higher difficulties that may cause you to gain a few minutes. Fair play to Infinity Ward, they’ve made the enemies slightly less finite by adding the possibility of them spawning behind you, but it sure is frustrating if you’re taking your time to get somewhere, get into cover only for someone to spawn behind you and kill you while you’re taking a breather. Another massive annoyance for me was the fact that – especially in the latter half of the game, it plays out almost exactly like Modern Warfare 1 did, but with the locations changed. Perhaps I’m getting a bit full of myself, but with the last game it felt as if the scriptwriters were in control. This time it feels a lot more like the scriptwriters were just trying to think of a different plot to tie the levels together, which is a massive shame. And the infamous No Russian level literally adds nothing but controversy – I would say more but it’s pretty much been extensively covered elsewhere.
This isn’t to say it’s a bad game. Special Ops and Multiplayer are the real heart and indeed meat of the game, and are probably where you’re going to get the most enjoyment. Spec Ops mode can be played solo or co-operatively, and challenges you with a series of missions ever increasing in difficulty in order to earn stars and unlock more missions. It’s certainly addictive for those with the obsessive tendencies, and the missions picked are certainly the best ones from the single player game – with a few twists. But if you really like showing off your skills, multiplayer is certainly where it’s at.
Like the last game, MW2 comes with a persistent stats system. As you play more, you gain experience points which in turn helps you unlock new weapons, perks and entirely aesthetic – but also entirely awesome – badges and titles for your ‘callsign’. The popularity of hats and unlocks in games like TF2 is taken to it’s natural evolution here, and there’s something deeply compulsive about completing the massive list of challenges on offer. Covering all the game modes available – Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Domination – there’s literally something for everyone, and even the worst players can rack up the experience (you still get some even if you lose) and still complete challenges. The main advantage MW2′s multiplayer has over the first game is the amount of accessibility to all skill levels, there’s even Deathstreaks which give a perk to those players not doing as particularly well as others and customizable killstreaks so you can pick what you can aim for. The first Modern Warfare’s major problem came in the very best players would get enough kills for a devestating helicopter, which would then keep racking up the kills and usually resulting in the weaker players leaving as there was no chance for them to retaliate. The scales have been massively pushed in their favour now, as the randomly dropped bonuses in an airdrop package require far less kills and could contain rewards usually reserved for much better players. I cannot stress how much more accessible this has made the game for inept players like me.
As for negatives for the MP, well – here I was going to decry the lack of dedicated servers for the PC. It still is a massive shame that you’re unable to host true custom matches, with all the rules set how you want, disabling Killcams etc and the other benefits that dedicated servers provide. But to be quite honest I’ve not really had massively debilitating problems with IWNet. It does work – even if it’s claims of stopping cheaters are still dubious even to today – but functionality wise it at works on a broadband connection, and fairly well about 90% of the time. Be warned though, on the other 10% it’s incredibly irritating to see everybody lagging except the host. So yes, knock some marks off for the rather poor idea and thought processes behind it, but probably not as many as you’d think.
So overall it’s a bit of a mixed bag really. If you’re only buying this for the single player, wait until it’s much – MUCH – cheaper. But if you want a deceptively addictive and engrossing multiplayer, and are willing to put up with rare technical issues, then Modern Warfare 2 does come recommended. But despite all of this if you wanted this game you’ve probably got it already, and like the viewing figures for The X Factor prove, it’s not budging from the top for a while.
Football, it is here to stay isn’t it? As if one football game wasn’t enough (looking at FIFA) another one has to come along and shout ‘play me! play me! I’ve made improvements since last year!’ Unfortunately for the latest Pro Evo the improvements have not made their presence felt in any meaningful on the actual football pitch.
The trouble with the FIFA/PES rivalry is that fans of both sets of games can at times be so entrenched in their ideas about which title offers the most realistic football experience. I won’t get into that, but it soon becomes clear, having played both games, that Pro Evo is missing that little bit extra something that you find in FIFA.
That extra something? The full 360 degree movement that you get with FIFA, in comparison Pro Evo feels extremely rigid, it is certainly an improvement on last seasons edition but it doesn’t feel a free flowing as you would expect. It comes down to more than just the movement of the players, it is their interaction with the football and other players. It all looks forced and very rigid, you don’t get the feeling of fluidity that you should be from a football game.
At times things do start to feel better, but you will find yourself wondering what is happening when the ball lands in the middle of a hoard of players in the box none of which seem to react to your input fast enough, many a chance has gone begging because a player just would not shoot when the ball was at his feet.
I have scored some beautifully created goals created with some sharp passing and movement only to find myself wondering what the hell the opposition ‘keeper was doing rooted to the spot throughout it all. The difficulty levels also need tweaking, goalies seem pretty dumb all the time while the ‘Regular’ difficulty level seems pathetically easy, in my Master League season I was romping to 5-0 victories constantly at this level, moving to Professional offered a greater challenge which was still undermined by the poor AI.
Master League, and to an extent Become a Legend are what save Pro Evo from being totally outplayed by FIFA, Master League is a great time sink with plenty of squad management features present and the knowledge that you can take your team to the pinnacle of the footballing world by winning the Champions League. While there are plenty of quick matches and other tournament modes in the game, the Master League is where you will spend the majority of your time.
Pro Evo 10 is a solid, if not spectacular football game. The matches may not be as good as what you will find in FIFA 10 but the overall presentation is very slick and smooth. It isn’t a world beater, but not many footy games on the PC are these days. Worth a punt if you need a footballing fix.