Tag Archives: Xbox

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (PC, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, PlayStation 3 Xbox 360 & Game Boy Advance)

Developer(s) – Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher(s) – Ubisoft

Director – Patrice Desilets

Producer – Yannis Mallat

Developed largely by the same team that created the original Splinter Cell, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time critically and commercially went leaps and bounds ahead of the earlier attempt from both Red Orb Entertainment and Avalanche Studios to bring the franchise to the realm of 3D gaming. The intention behind the game’s creation was not only to revive one of gaming’s most recognizable franchises, but also to breath new life into the action adventure genre; and they certainly did just that.

Graphics – 8/10

Aside from the FMVs, which look particularly good for a sixth generation game, the game also excelled in terms of conceptual design, as well as in-game visuals. It’s interesting to witness how Ubisoft’s prolonged incorporation of Middle-Eastern culture in video gaming possibly began, which would eventually lead them to establish a base of operations in Abu Dhabi, and in turn, increase the presence of the industry on the continent in general. In this respect, the game has had more of an impact than what people may realize.

Gameplay – 8/10                

The game is a action-adventure 3D platformer, with a quite a heavy emphasis on stylised combat and puzzle solving. The combat system is incredibly enjoyable, with players being able to perform a vast amount of excellent-looking combos overtime. The dagger of time weapon also provides an extremely unique twist on gameplay. Some say the inclusion of it merely over-simplified it, but I disagree. The game still provides a pretty stern challenge regardless; especially as many of the puzzles in it can be quite testing.

Controls – 9/10

The platforming element of the game can take some getting used to at first, since the game also introduced a lot of new mechanics concerning the character’s acrobatic skills, including the ability to run across walls; this idea, among others, serving as precursors to Ubisoft’s own Assassin’s Creed series. Otherwise, however, there are no other issues regarding the controls. The way the combat was handled is also particularly reminiscent of Ocarina of Time, which to me, was an extremely positive thing.

Lifespan – 8/10

The game can be made to last about 15 to 20 hours, which for a linear game, is fairly impressive. Normally, games like this can seemingly only be made to last for not even 10 hours, regardless of how many side quests developers may add. But what makes this even more impressive is that there are only one or two side quests. But it also makes me think that if there would have nothing wrong with adding more than that.

Storyline – 9/10

The story follows the young prince of Persia, whom whilst warring with a rival nation, comes across a dagger giving him the ability to manipulate time. When he, his father and the royal vizier discover a huge hourglass known as the sands of time, the prince is tricked into releasing the sands and infesting an entire palace with monsters. The prince resolves to defeat the monsters and somehow undo the damage he has done. The story is wrought with twists and turns, making it one of the most interesting that I’ve ever experienced in any video game before. It also deals with many major themes, including love, betrayal and the impact that time itself can have.

Originality – 8/10

With gameplay mechanics and a combat system extremely unique to gaming at the time, it’s no surprise to find just how influential a game this was. It would also go on to spawn not only two sequels, but also a live-action film published by Disney, and starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the prince, and whilst it wasn’t a critical success, became the highest-grossing film based on a video game. Some, including me, would also argue that it went leaps and bounds ahead of the classic games, which is a viable opinion, since they did merely follow the trend of what was popular at the time.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Prince of Persia: The Sands Of Time is an extremely strong gaming experience, and I would highly recommend anyone who may not have played it to give it a try; especially as it is has since been re-mastered for seventh generation consoles. It’s an influential classic of the sixth generation, and worth any gamer’s time.

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Legacy of Kain: Defiance (Xbox, PlayStation 2 & PC)

Developer(s) – Crystal Dynamics & Nixxes Software

Publisher(s) – Eidos Interactive

Director – Amy Hennig

Producer – Rosaura Sandoval

Developed at the back end of the sixth generation of gaming, and the last game in the series to be released pending the full version of Square Enix’s MOBA Nosgoth, Legacy of Kain: Defiance offered a pretty different take on gameplay compared to the rest of the series, whereby the player would assume control of both the central characters of the series as opposed to them being alternated between games. To me, although it is the worst game of the series, that isn’t to say that it’s bad; not by a long shot.

Graphics – 8/10

The visuals are about as extremely varied and as wonderfully disturbing as any other game in the series. Taking place across multiple time frames, like Soul Reaver 2, it portrays the land of Nosgoth from a multitude of different perspectives, from the time before the pillars collapsed to the time before Moebius would revive the Sarafan order and proceed to extinguish the vampires. The game also still maintains the dark and morbid atmosphere associated with the prior four games, as well as a feeling of isolation and helplessness, adding a great deal of tension to the overall experience.

Gameplay – 6/10

Though three of the five games are generally linear in their style of play, Defiance took this to a whole to level; largely to my disappointment. The combat is still quite varied and there exists a very strong puzzle element reminiscent of the other games in the series, but there is considerably less to do than in the likes of the original Blood Omen or Soul Reaver. From a gameplay perspective, it is indeed the least enjoyable in the franchise, but in retrospect, the basic premise does have it’s strong points, and it is certainly worth at least one playthrough.

Controls – 7/10

The biggest problem I had with the game’s control scheme is that the camera angles can make playing the game needlessly complicated in some instances. Often times, I found that the camera can be zoomed out a little bit too much, making hard for players to see what they are doing with the character; this becomes an especially big problem if they are trying to overcome certain platforming sequences that can be found throughout the game.

Lifespan – 7/10

Lasting about as long either Blood Omen 2 or Soul Reaver 2, gamers can clock in around 15 to 20 hours, which whilst isn’t a terrible lifespan, doesn’t go above and beyond anything that had already been released within the series at that point. The developers started off with a game that lasted an exceptionally long time, and the lifespan of each game gradually became less and less, which is an issue I have with the series in general, but Defiance clocks in as the shortest game from my experience.

Storyline – 10/10

A key difference between this game garnishing a 7 instead of a 6 for me, however, it it’s fantastic storyline. Developed in a time when vampires could be considered cool, and before Robert Pattison and Kristen Stewart spent five films staring at each other, Legacy of Kain: Defiance presents the latest chapter portraying two vampires worth investing time into; the former ruler of Nosgoth Kain, and his former lieutenant Raziel. Kain is in search of Raziel in order to deliver a warning to him, which will prevent any further catastrophe from happening within the land of Nosgoth, and to fulfil his own destiny as the fabled scion of balance, and Raziel meanwhile escapes from the underworld and his captor, The Elder God, in order to return to the physical world and find answers regarding his own purpose and realize his own free will. My brief synopsis really doesn’t do the story justice in honesty, and it is worth playing the game to simply find out what happens; something that I personally rarely advocate in my reviews.

Originality – 7/10

In terms of it’s narrative, the entire Legacy of Kain series easily has the best story ever told in a video game in my own personal opinion. It went leaps and bounds ahead of any other video game story, and presented players with something reminiscent of classic literature and epic fantasy. From a gameplay perspective however, there have been many different games like this but with even greater variety, and Defiance doesn’t really stand out in that respect. Though it is fairly enjoyable to play through there was most definitely room for improvement as well in terms of gameplay.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Legacy of Kain: Defiance is the worst game in the series, but it is nevertheless a joy to play through; if only for the story. Even so, Issues I encountered with gameplay doesn’t make the title unplayable by any stretch of the imagination, and there’s plenty of addicting combat and puzzle solving to keep players relatively busy throughout.

Score

45/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Malice (PlayStation 2 & Xbox)

Developer(s) – Argonaut Games

Publisher(s) – Mud Duck Productions & Evolved Games

Director – Phil Morris

Producer – Andy Pang

Malice was a game released back in 2004 loosely based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. But truth be told, the finished product is nowhere near as imaginative or culturally impacting. In fact, the most interesting thing about this game is its development history. At first, it was intended for released on the original PlayStation back in the late 90s. However, due to the first of many production management mishaps, the idea was subsequently scrapped in favour of releasing the game as an Xbox launch title in late 2001.

In 2002, having failed to get the game out in time, it was announced that members of the band No Doubt were to lend their voice talents to the project, with lead singer Gwen Stefani providing the role of the game’s titular main character, Malice. The band said in an interview that they were particularly excited to see their music reach a wider audience in the video gaming industry. By early 2003, Argonaut had still yet to get the game out to retailers. The company faced hardships, including financial problems (as they’d spent millions of dollars developing the game), further corporate meddling and even the untimely death of one of their conceptual artists, Alecsandar Ilic, who tragically passed away at the age of 30. It was announced on May 30th that the game had been cancelled.

Afterwards, a different company got the publishing rights, and the project was subsequently revived, and the game was eventually released in 2004 to a very mediocre reception from both gamers and reviewers alike. And after having played it, it’s no wonder why.

Graphics – 4/10

Everything about this game is seemingly rushed, and the visuals are no exception. From the get-go, I kept thinking to myself that it looks like it could indeed easily run on the original PlayStation, as the game looked a generation old for the time. On top of that, I think the game just looks inherently generic, in that the settings and the character, enemy and boss designs are all pretty unimaginative, and annoying in some cases, like the crows in suits who let out irritating noises as they attack or take damage. Another issue I have with it is that it baffles me how it only runs at 30 frames per second when it just looks like it ought to run at 60 for how bad it looks.

Gameplay – 3/10

Even for a game on the original PlayStation, the game’s play is simplistic, insubstantial and boring. A 3D platforming game, it has merely one side quest, unrefined combat, no replay value whatsoever, and terrible, drawn out boss fights. I was fighting the second boss for about ten minutes with very little difficulty just wanting above all else for it to be over.

Controls – 6/10

The main gripes I have about this game’s control scheme involve the jumping mechanics. If jumping mechanics aren’t done right in a platforming game, them players will know instantly that there’ll be problems throughout, as one of the most stable elements of platforming games is the ability to jump from platform to platform. Another problem I had with this game was the inability to move my character whist trying to attack. Every time player press the attack button, Malice stands completely still and swings her weapon, which eliminates any fluency in combat and unnecessarily complicates things.

Lifespan – 5/10

For even a late 90s platforming game to last less than 10 hours is absolutely unacceptable. If Argonaut Games truly wanted this game to last longer or do well, they needed an extra push in every department before they got it out to retail. But unfortunately, they couldn’t do that, presumably having blown a lot of their budget on hiring No Doubt to provide voice acting for the game, which didn’t happen anyway.

Storyline – 3/10

The game’s story follows the quest of a red-haired goddess called Malice, who is aiming to save the world by restoring power to a machine called the orrery, and defeating an evil demon called Dog God. It’s laughable at best. No character can be taken seriously because the voice acting that was eventually used in the end is farcical; in addition, the story is extremely flawed, and hardly makes any sense.

Originality – 0/10

There is absolutely nothing in this game that I haven’t seen before, and would never want to see again. I never want to see a combat system so unrefined, an in-game world that looks like someone threw up in the console and a story that no one in the right mind would care to follow.

Furiious

Furiious

My biggest piece of advice to anyone who picks this game up in a shop and reads the part of the synopsis on the box that says “fantastic graphics, fluid gameplay, compelling storyline and funny characterization”, don’t pay attention to it because its false advertisement. Malice has none of those things.

Score

21/60

3.5/10 (Very Poor)

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC & Gameboy Advance)

Developer(s) – WXP Games & Surreal Software

Publisher(s) – Black Label Game, Universal Interactive & Sierra Entertainment

Designer – Todd Clineschmidt

Producer – Nick Radovich

Released around the same time as the Peter Jackson film trilogy, and when the franchise was the subject of a great many licensed games, WXP Games’ Lord of the Rings interpretation was a 3D platforming adventure title, with an emphasis on side quests, and to a degree exploration. Surpassing my expectations, this is in fact a fairly enjoyable title, and it’s a pity that the planned sequels were cancelled, since I believe there were many ways in which the developers could possibly expanded upon what they had created with this game.

Graphics – 7/10

Though the majority of the conceptual design of this game is based on the film trilogy, there are certain elements that make it stand out from it, such as the re-imagining of locations such as Barad-Dur and the Mines of Moria. The location that fails to stand out the most is the Shire, since it is more or less identical to that of the films. But there are also other locations included, such as the forest in which Tom Bombadil dwells, as unlike the films, he also makes an appearance.

Gameplay – 7/10

As I pointed out, the game revolves around adventure; elements of exploration, combat and the occasional puzzle solving. Players control Frodo, Gandalf and Aragorn, and each character has their own set of abilities and purposes throughout the game, giving it a fair amount of variety. For example, there are many side quests to be completed throughout the first part of the game whilst playing as Frodo, whereas Aragorn and Gandalf’s roles are much more combat-oriented. The gripe I have with it is that the side quests virtually stop after the first part of the game, and I think the developers could easily have added a few more beyond that.

Controls – 10/10

Not only are there no problems with the game’s control scheme, but with the facility to control three different characters, the game is also kept interesting with players having to adapt to multiple styles of play, which are all easy enough to get to grips with, and fast.

Lifespan – 6/10

For a game based on such a long book as even the first chapter of the trilogy, the game lasts a fair amount of time, at around 6 to 7 hours. But as I alluded to before, I cant help but think that if the developers had added a few more side quests to both Aragorn and Gandalf’s sequences in the game, then it could easily have been made to last much longer.

Storyline – 9/10

Having read the books and watched the films, I was captivated by the story of the Lord of the Rings long before I started playing this game. For those who may not know the basic plot, Frodo Baggins is a hobbit living in the Shire, when he inherits a magic ring from his uncle Bilbo. His friend Gandalf arrives to inform that the ring is in fact that of the dark lord Sauron, who attempted to rule Middle-Earth with the power of the ring thousands of years prior to the start of the story. Frodo resolves to destroy it by journeying to Mt Doom, the only place where it can be destroyed, along with a company of friends and warriors from across the land. The manner in which it is portrayed in the game is very much akin to that of the book, but the only downside to it is the character of Frodo. Unlike Elijah Wood or even Christopher Guard’s portrayal of him, he seems far too jolly for the most part to me, and doesn’t seem to fully realize the gravity of the situation.

Originality – 6/10

At this time, gamers were rightfully in the mindset that licensed games were generally of much lesser quality than unlicensed games were. For the most part, this was true, and it wasn’t until Batman: Arkham Asylum in 2009 that this trend was broken, but this game wasn’t too bad compared to most others in my opinion. Even though it follows many different trends that had already been established by other developers beforehand, every element of gameplay comes together well, and plays out adequately, despite the fact that there was indeed room for improvement.

Happii

Happii

In summation, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was a fairly commendable attempt to bring the license to the gaming industry, and excelled above many other licensed games at that time. I think the sequels would most probably have been better if they ever saw the light of day, but this would have been an sufficient starting point.

Score

45/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Kameo: Elements of Power (Xbox 360)

Developer(s) – Rare

Publisher(s) – Microsoft Game Studios

Designer – George Andreas

Kameo: Elements of Power is an adventure game developed by Rare, which was originally intended to actually be a launch title for the GameCube back in 2001. A screenshot of the GameCube game can actually be seen on the box for early GameCube consoles, alongside another cancelled title, Donkey Kong Racing. It was eventually re-imagined as the very first title announced for release on the Xbox 360 back in 2005. Though launch titles are for the most part hit and miss and this game has its flaws, I didn’t find Kameo anywhere near as bad as I thought I would.

Graphics – 6/10

Conceptually, the game reminded me very much of Spyro the Dragon; even the title logo is extremely similar. By that token, there’s not a great deal in the game to make it stand out to an exceptional extent, but there are a few elements, such as the multiple playable character design for example. In terms of visuals, the best thing that was achieved with this title was showing gamers what the Xbox 360 was capable of on a graphical scale; as indeed a launch title should. In particular, the water effects are very realistic-looking for the time, but gamers would be treated to better-looking games in the future.

Gameplay – 7/10

The game relies heavily on the player assigning different controllable creatures to different buttons on the controller, and using these creatures to access different areas in the game and for use in combat. There’s also a fair amount of emphasis put on things like adventure, puzzle solving and exploration. I found it to be moderately enjoyable to play. There’s a fair amount of variety to experience in the multiple playable characters to accumulate throughout the course of the game, which in a sense reminded me a lot of Skylanders; only six years earlier. There are also a fair few side quests throughout the game, which is always a plus.

Controls- 7/10

The main problem I found with the controls was they were pretty stiff, and difficult to cope with at times. Movement, especially in combat, can feel like quite a chore, and it adds a lot of unnecessary complication to the game overall. Also, I can’t help but feel that the controls were stiff also hindered gameplay because there is lot to have to keep up with, since different characters had entirely different abilities, and by that token, the stiff controls took a lot of fluency out of the game too. But it is also interesting to understand how the game would have possibly worked better on the GameCube in terms of controls.

Lifespan – 5/10

In total, Kameo can take less than 10 hours to play, which is particularly underwhelming for a game, which puts a fair amount of emphasis on elements such as exploration and adventure. I couldn’t help but feel even more let down by this due to the fact that the game had been in development for so long, and Rare did have a fair amount of time to add more to it before it was released.

Storyline – 6/10

The story of Kameo involves it’s titular character, a shape shifting fairy, on an adventure to rescue the elemental ancestors and defeat the evil dark troll king Thorn. I found the story to be a little less generic than I first expected it would be. Although the basic premise has been repeated many times in video gaming as well as in other forms of media, there are a few twists and turns before the end; although I found one fairly major plot twist in particular to be coming virtually from the get-go.

Originality – 6/10

In terms of gameplay, it seems to vaguely serve as a precursor to the idea behind Skylanders’ style of gameplay. But in terms of things like visual concept and story, I don’t think it stands out even as good as other launch titles have done in the past. If it had been released on the GameCube, I think it will have had a tough time competing with Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem in particular, given how unique that game was and still is.

Niiutral

Niiutral

In summation, Kameo: Elements of Power does have it’s gameplay value, and did showcase the Xbox 360 graphical power very capably. For the generic-looking launch title it would appear to be on the surface, it’s actually not as bad a game as a player may expect it to be; especially for a Microsoft-published Rare title.

Score

37/60

6/10 (Average)

Haven: Call of the King (PlayStation 2)

Developer(s) – Traveller’s Tales

Publisher(s) – Midway

Director – Jon Burton

Producer – Arthur Parsons

Throughout the era of the PlayStation 2, GameCube and Xbox, Midway were facing hard times in the industry, and they knew something needed to be done to make a lasting impressions on gamers at the time. They decided to collaborate with Traveller’s Tales and release an almost all-or-nothing salvo on the PlayStation 2 (initially also planned for release on the GameCube and Xbox until the idea was ultimately dismissed), as one of their last hurrahs before they would eventually be absorbed back into their parent company, Warner Bros. Though Haven was met with positive reviews by critics, it was also met with poor sales figures. The way I see it, I can understand one of these outcomes, but not the other; and my final opinion may surprise readers.

Graphics – 6.5/10

Even though the developers did try to create a vast world unlike any ever seen in a video game before, I found that influence certainly played a huge part in this title from the very beginning; the most obvious influence being behind the design if Vetch’s tower, which resembles a flaming cat’s eye. It should sound familiar, as The Lord of the Rings film trilogy was riding high at the time, and the main antagonist of the film, Sauron, took the form of a huge cat’s eye hovering over his tower of Barad-Dur. Even after the opening sequence where this is first seen, I found that most of the rest of the game also seemed fairly generic to me.

Gameplay – 6/10

The best thing about the game’s play in my opinion, is the amount of variety that is on offer to players. Players can explore to a small extent, take part in races, rail-shooting sequences and some fairly well-executed 3D platforming. But I can’t help but feel that the back of the game’s box presents false advertisement, as the developers boasted “massive planets to visit and explore”, which suggested to me that there was much more of an open world than there actually is within the game. By that token, it’s my opinion that the game has far too much linearity for one of either it’s magnitude or the ambition that the developers clearly had regarding it.

Controls – 9/10

A positive that I can point out about this game is that whilst the movement can seem a little bit stiff at times, there are no other issues with it’s control schemes for me to have to report. Once more, for a game with so many different ways of playing, this is quite impressive, as it can sometimes prove pretty difficult for developers to keep track of games like that. I think if there had been any outstanding issues with the control scheme, then it may have turned players away from the many excellent 3D platformers, which were being released on the PlayStation 2 at the time

Lifespan – 7/10

With players being able to make Haven last for an average of 15-20 hours, I’d say the game has a fairly good lifespan for a 3D platformer. However, I cant help but feel that the game could have easily been made to last considerably longer if the developers had taken the time to fully realize what potential this game could have had if they had fully delivered on the exploration factor. It’s because of this that the game left me wanting considerably more than what I was given.

Storyline – 4/10

For me, the most disappointing thing about this game was it’s narrative. The story follows a slave called Haven, who embarks on a quest to save his people, and the rest of the universe, from the oppressive regime of it’s tyrannical ruler, Lord Vetch. Attempting to provide an interesting take on the classic tale of the pawn reaching the end of the board, it was originally planned to be the first part of a video game trilogy; however, thanks to poor sales figures, and most gamers taking merely a niche interest in the title, this never happened, and although I won’t give away what happens, what players were left with was a particularly unsatisfying and depressing cliff-hanger ending. It also made me regret that I had taken any time at all to invest in characters such as Haven, Athellion, or even Vetch. As well as the voice acting also being somewhat below par, there are also a lot of plot threads in the story, which made next to no sense, such as Haven accidentally striking his boss’s foot with a pickaxe mistaking it for a rock, and remarking that anyone could have made the same mistake; as if people can’t tell the different between a rock and someone’s foot. It was also very convenient that one of Vetch’s guards neglects to lock Haven’s cell later on in the game, allowing him to escape from his prison.

Originality – 6/10

Despite the amount of ambition that both Midway and Traveller’s Tales had for Haven, it ultimately seemed to simply be a collection of many different video gaming tropes and ideas as opposed to it being a fully cohesive concept. I always find myself asking what the point of doing this is. Why develop a game when developer’s are going to neglect to add any flair to it and it make it their own? Although it is somewhat interesting to be able to spot what kind of things influence a video game, it’s much more interesting to see what kind of new things developers can bring to the table; and I think the developers held back in that respect.

Niiutral

Niiutral

Overall, whilst Haven is by no means the worst 3D platformers to have been released on a PlayStation console, the fact that it remains overshadowed by many other great games of the time is justified in my opinion. Everything about it has been influenced by a collection of different games and media in one way or the other, and that while there is a small level of excitement to be had while playing, there isn’t enough for me to mention it in the same breath as some of either Midway or Traveller’s Tales’ better efforts.

Score

35.5/60

6/10 (Average)

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox, iOS & Android)

Developer(s) – Rockstar North

Publisher(s) – Rockstar Games

Programmer(s) – Obbe Vermeij & Adam Fowler

Producer – Leslie Benzies

Following on from the immensely successful Grand Theft Auto III, Rockstar decided to take the Grand Theft Auto franchise back into the 80s, and to Vice City, making for one of the most critically acclaimed games of the sixth generation, winning several gaming awards and being so far the only Western game to appear on Famitsu’s top 100 video game games of all time, ranking at number 76. Though I don’t consider games in the Grand Theft Auto series to be among my favourites, some of them are still very much worth playing, and Vice City is no exception.

Graphics – 8/10

Being a lot more unique than any of the previous games in my opinion, as well as providing a very realistic and vibrant take on the 1980s (giving players the option to ride vehicles like mopeds and Cadillacs), the in-game world is also very loud and colourful in stark contrast to the gritty atmosphere associated with most of the games in the series to come both before and after it. By proxy, a lot of the architecture in the game seems much less tacked on than in many other instalments, making the scenery stand out to an even greater extent.

Gameplay – 9/10

Though gameplay remains largely the same, with players being given the option to either advance the storyline or wreak havoc and get into as much trouble with the police as they possibly can before a full-scale manhunt breaks out to the point of the authorities having to chase you down with squad cars and helicopters whilst they’re riding a tank through the streets (speaking from experience), the major improvement to gameplay made with Vice City was the option to build an empire; to seize each establishment available to buy, and make as much money from doing so as possible. This aspect would be expanded upon even further in San Andreas, giving a Grand Theft Auto game more of an RPG feel to it, but in Vice City, it was like a breath of fresh air to me, since at this point, I was becoming somewhat weary of many of the series’ stables after the last three games.

Controls – 8/10

Unfortunately, I’ve always found issues with the Grand Theft Auto control scheme, and Vice City is no exception in this respect either. Typically, problems arise whilst trying to aim with guns and trying to throw grenades. Another gameplay mechanic I’ve always found to be over-ambiguous is the ability to shoot guns from vehicles, since it’s even harder to aim under those circumstances. It’s never a good idea to build upon existing control mechanics if the fundamentals haven’t been perfected yet. I cant say whether or not if these aspects have since been improved on following the release of Grand Theft Auto V, but at least other than these issues, there aren’t any others in Vice City.

Lifespan – 9/10

To accomplish everything in the game should take about 40 to 50 hours, which at the time was extremely impressive for a game of it’s kind. Around the time of its release, the only games to last as long as this did were usually RPGs, and for an action-adventure title to last this long was unthinkable. Ever since, there have been many other game made in the same vein; some of which being among my own personal favourites, such as Just Cause 1 and 2 as well as Batman: Arkham City.

Storyline – 7/10

Compared to every other Grand Theft Auto game I’ve played, I’d say the story in Vice City is by some distance the most interesting. It follows Tommy Vercetti, a loyal member and recently promoted capo of the Forelli crime family, who is sent to Vice City to oversee a major drug deal. The deal goes wrong as he the buyers are ambushed, with Vercetti and his associate Ken being the only two survivors of the attack. Later, Tommy informs the don Sonny Forelli of the situation and vows to recover both the stolen cocaine and money and kill those responsible. Tommy’s vendetta unfolds into a series of more convoluted events and circumstances, and makes for a classic gangster story reminiscent of the likes of Scarface and Goodfellas, made even more authentic by a pretty impressive cast of voice actors, including But Reynolds, Dennis Hopper, Danny Dyer, Gary Busey, Danny Trejo and Ray Liotta providing the voice of Tommy Vercetti.

Originality – 6/10

Though this game does ultimately play out like every other game in the Grand Theft Auto series, the developers managed to keep things fairly fresh by including a different art deco for the scenery and style, improvements to gameplay, maintenance of the long lifespan associated with Grand Theft Auto III and a half decent story. There have since been many Grand Theft Auto imitators (Just Cause even exceeding the quality of it in my opinion), but the 3D Grand Theft Auto games were worlds apart from the original three PlayStation games, and this game is in my opinion the second best out of them behind San Andreas.

Happii

Happii

In Summation, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is undoubtedly one of the better entries in the series, and introduced enough changes to hold my interest for quite some time. It would also go on to influence a great deal of some of the best games of the seventh generation, but it is also a gaming experience that still holds up to this day.

Score

48/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex (PlayStation 2, GameCube & Xbox)

Developer(s) – Traveller’s Tales & Eurocom

Publisher(s) – Universal Interactive Studios, Vivendi Universal Games, Konami & Sierra Entertainment

Director – John Burton

Producer – Daniel Suarez

Developed at about the mid-point of the sixth generation, and originally envisioned as something much more than what it turned out to be, Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex, to me, spelt the downfall of the entire series, as it failed to move with the times, and simply gave more of what fan of the series had already grown accustomed to.

Graphics – 6/10

The first complaint I have about it is that the visuals, even though the game was ported to more advanced systems than the original PlayStation, seem to have been considerably downgraded; as if things have not been presented in as great detail as Crash Bandicoot 3 was. Facial expressions of characters seem less realistic, and the settings and design remains largely the same as most other previous games in the series. Even if players didn’t find the gameplay up to scratch, they wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the expected improvements in visual quality, which was the whole point of redeveloping the game’s original plan in the first place.

Gameplay – 6/10

Aside from the graphics not being up to scratch, the gameplay was also severely below par; especially compared to how the developers originally imagined the game. The Wrath of Cortex was initially intended by Mike Cerny to be a 3D open world game similar to that of Jak & Daxter or Ratchet and Clank. The problem was, however, that due to the publishing rights being juggled around left, right and centre, Cerny and Sony ultimately fell out with Universal Interactive, and different developers were brought on board. Alas, what they came up with was yet another game playing out like the original trilogy with considerably less redeeming value, other than it’s slightly more challenging. It’s especially tragic, as I think Cerny’s original plan could have possibly helped to bring the series into the next generation of gaming much more effectively.

Controls – 10/10

As the gameplay is more or less identical to the original three Crash Bandicoot games, there would have been even greater problems in my opinion, had there been issues with the controls. Thankfully, this was the one thing the developers managed to hit the nail on the head with. It plays out like a traditional Crash Bandicoot game, but the established mechanics allow for the inclusion of a much greater challenge than the original games.

Lifespan – 4/10

Lasting around 4 hours, it only lasts as long as the original three games, which especially for the time, was considered to be severely below the industry standard, as open world games were beginning to take precedent, with the arrival of the three Grand Theft Auto games and other and better platformers, such as Ratchet & Clank. The developers were very much behind the times when it came to making this game, and had not the imagination and artistic drive that Mike Cerny had, and so the game failed in most aspects, and therefore, there wouldn’t have been much call for a game like this to last any longer than it did.

Storyline – 5/10

The story is also a mere continuation of the template that the previous three games followed. Crash must collect another 25 crystals before Dr. Cortex, who has created a bulked out doppelganger of Crash named Crunch, who in turn, is assisted in battle by four destructive masks known as the Elementals. Aside from the plot being extremely unoriginal, the voice acting is also particularly below par; despite the fact that is has a pretty standout cast, with actors such as R. Lee Ermey, Mark Hamill and Corey Burton. The opening scene where the stable villains of the series converse is also particularly cringe worthy in my opinion.

Originality – 0/10

When Cerny left the project, the new developers brought in simply stripped the original plan of all its originality, and simply made a game the same as most other titles in the series. There was nothing special about this game, and nothing added to make it stand out from even the original trilogy. There would be other games in the series, which would provide a somewhat interesting twist on gameplay, but to me, this was the point whereby Crash Bandicoot lost its status as one of the most recognizable characters in gaming, and has been left to languish in obscurity ever since.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex was reduced from being a potentially excellent game to a bland and largely forgettable experience. It’s regrettable that history went in the direction that it did, and the rumour that Sony plan to release a new game in the series has since been confirmed, then the end result will have to be a much greater game than this.

Score

31/60

5/10 (Far Below Average)

Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen 2 (PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox & PC)

Developer(s) – Crystal Dynamics & Nixxes Software VB

Publisher(s) – Eidos Interactive

Director – Glen Schofield

Producer – Sam Newman

Garnishing high commercial sales, but low critical scores from most reviewers at the time of it’s release back in 2002, Blood Omen 2 takes place in between the original events of both the original Blood Omen and Soul Reaver, telling the story of the events leading up to how the vampire Kain began to build his own empire throughout the land of Nosgoth. Although this game is one of the lowest ranking games in the series on both Metacritic and GameRankings, in my opinion, that’s not to say that it’s bad; not by a long shot.

Graphics – 7.5/10

The visuals may not be among the most astounding of the sixth generation from a technical standpoint, the conceptual design is outstanding, with the game taking place in nigh in eerily empty towns, industrial strongholds and vast castles; all the while, the game maintaining an extremely dark and imposing atmosphere. And despite the fact that many of the NPCs in towns are simply mainly copies of two or three character sprites, there is a fair amount of diversity in enemy design, as well as boss design, with the player having to fight against such enemies as the Hylden race and oversized insects.

Gameplay – 7/10

The developers were looking to create a more action-oriented Legacy of Kain game, and it’s certainly made evident in Blood Omen 2. Whilst the combat doesn’t play as big a role as it did in the original Blood Omen game, there’s enough in Blood Omen 2 to keep the game entertaining throughout, with an arsenal of weapons to use, and abilities to take advantage of certain situations with. For example, the mist ability can be used to perform stealth kills and the jump ability can be used to kill enemies from great distances. And though there is considerably less of a puzzle solving element to this title, unlike the two games in the Soul Reaver series, there are a few instances that require some lateral thinking, such as when having to use the charm ability to posses people into opening certain doors or lowering bridges in order to advance.

Controls – 8/10

The problem with the control scheme in Blood Omen 2 is that the moving and walking mechanics can feel quite stiff. It reminds me somewhat of Blasto, whereby the camera needed to be moved in order to turn in different directions; albeit this game’s controls are nowhere near as annoying as the aforementioned example. Regardless, however, the combat system has been handled by the developers surprisingly well under the circumstances, having a kind of Ocarina of Time feel to it, in the ability to lock onto targets and manoeuvre around them, so I don’t think too many marks should be taken away from the game in this respect.

Lifespan – 7/10

For a linear action-adventure platforming game, 15 to 20 hours is a fairly impressive amount of time to last. It may feel like a step down compared to many other games in the series, especially the original Blood Omen, but it still lasted about as long as most other good games released around the same time, such as the original Jak & Daxter or Ratchet and Clank. There is also some replay value, as there is a code that can be imputed on the title screen, which will give Kain the ability to wield both the Soul Reaver and the iron armour he wore in the original Blood Omen game; although of course, the code is different for each port of the game.

Storyline – 10/10

I’ve highlighted a few times throughout my blogging career that the Legacy of Kain series easily has my favourite video game story of all time (albeit unfinished), and this game is simply a telling of one out of the five main chapters. After the events of the first Blood Omen, the vampire Kain builds up an army of vampires, appointing four legionaries in the process, and resolves to take the land of Nosgoth for himself. However, he is opposed by another army known as the Sarafan, a band of fanatical humans, which had once been disbanded, but are newly revived by their mysterious leader, known only as the Sarafan Lord. The two armies collide at the capital of Nosgoth, Meridian, and Kain clashes with the Sarafan Lord; the battle ending with the Sarafan Lord dispatching Kain, and taking from him his legendary sword, the Soul Reaver. 200 years later, Kain awakes from a dormant state to find that a small vampiric resistance faction called the Cabal had restored him back to health. Within the time Kain had been asleep, the Sarafan have taken over Nosgoth themselves, enslaving humanity and hunting down every vampire they can find. Kain joins the Cabal and sets out on a quest to defeat the Sarafan, and their lord, and thus resume his ascent to power with the end goal of ruling over Nosgoth at last. Blood Omen 2 is considered weaker in story than the others, but I personally find it just as enthralling as any other entry in the series.

Originality – 6/10

Although this title may not be overly original in terms of gameplay, and even visual style to any great extent, the overall concept and the progression of the series’ story serves to keep it relatively fresh, and make it stand out among many other games released at the time. Indeed, I’ve noticed that throughout gaming history, there hasn’t been a great many mainstream games released that focus on vampirism; the only ones I can think of off the top of my head are either Castlevania or Bloodrayne.

Happii

Happii

To summarize, I happen to think that Blood Omen 2 is fairly underrated, and despite it’s few flaws, is a game worth playing through more than once. With action-packed and varied combat, coupled with the continuation of an incredible story (one that doesn’t even necessarily require players to have played any of the previous games), it will keep players extremely entertained for a pretty impressive amount of time.

Score

45.5/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Azurik: Rise of Perathia (Xbox)

Developer(s) – Adrenium Games

Publisher(s) – Microsoft Game Studios

Released as a launch title for the original Xbox back in 2001, Azurik: Rise of Perathia was met with a wide variety of reviews, but most of them were particularly negative; once more, the TV show X-play went so far as to call it the worst Xbox game of all time. My opinion is actually quite different. Although there are indeed flaws with the game, I don’t think it’s anywhere near as bad as most critics have made it out to be, and was a reasonably strong gaming experience for a launch title released on Microsoft’s first attempt at a home console.

Graphics – 7.5/10

For example, the visuals not only do a pretty decent job of displaying what the original Xbox was capable of on a graphical level during the early stages of its shelf life, but there is also quite a bit of interesting conceptual design as well, set in a pretty wide variety of locations. The enemies at first a quite generic, but this aspect improves as the game progresses; not to mention the soundtrack stands out quite well, as it was composed by Jeremy Soule, who would later go on to compose the soundtrack for such games Skyrim and Oblivion.

Gameplay – 6.5/10

Gameplay puts a heavy emphasis on combat as well as puzzle solving, and makes use of a semi-open world allowing for a certain degree of exploration. There are a few collectibles, such as obsidians, which increase the player’s mana needed to cast or combine spells and fuse them together with the player’s weapon. The fact that there are so many different types of spells and weapon combinations to they out gives the game variety on a level uncommon within such obscure titles, and is a crucial reason why I believe it has been harshly received in my opinion.

Controls – 8/10

Though the combat is as wonderfully and unusually variable as it is, problems arise during fights, since the control scheme wasn’t handled as well as industry standard had set even by that time. I think it would’ve helped the developed if some form of target locking system had been put into place, since that has been considered the key feature of any control scheme within action-adventure games since Ocarina of Time, and is still adhered to today, since the upcoming Bloodborne makes use of use mechanics. Otherwise, however, there are no further problems, and it is quite impressive how the developers managed to implement such a varied combat system on an early sixth generation game.

Lifespan – 6.5/10

The game can be made to last round 15 to 20 hours, which for even a semi-open world isn’t outstanding, but is not unforgivable. There was easily enough room for more side quests to be added, and for more extras included to further encourage exploration, since I estimate that the world in Azurik is about as big as that of Ocarina of Time, and by that logic, the limitations would seem to have manifested within the developer’s imagination as opposed to them being able to cite hardware limitations.

Storyline – 7/10

Whilst the soundtrack may add quite a bit to the game in terms of atmosphere, the story was also fairly well conceived too. It involves a world called Perathia, which is maintained by 6 elemental discs; fire, water, air, earth, life and death. Though the death disc has been missing for quite some time, order is still maintained and the natural balance uninterrupted. The guardians of the discs are Azurik, Balthazar and their master Eldwyn, but after a small confrontation between the two apprentices, Balthazar accidentally finds the death disc within the walls of his home. He is them possessed by the death guardian, who orders him to steal the remaining five discs, but after another confrontation between Balthazar and Eldwyn, the discs are destroyed and scattered across Perathia, compelling Azurik to set out and recover them, resorting the land.

Originality – 7/10

The most unique things about Azurik are both it’s conceptual design, which change and keep varied as much as any great video game, and the variety in combat compared to many other games of its kind. Though the story may only be fairly well conceived as opposed to it being a blockbuster like I’d seen before in the Final Fantasy PlayStation trilogy, the voice acting isn’t terrible, as which is often the case, and there are no plot holes either. As I said, there was definitely room for improvement, but if the intention was to start a franchise, this would’ve been a pretty decent starting point.

Happii

Happii

In summation, Azurik: Rise of Perathia, in my opinion, has received more critical scorn than I believe it deserves. It’s a decent title that will keep players entertained for a fair amount of time, and I believe that if developers indeed have intentions of bringing back the ClayFighter series, then surely a sequel for Azurik sould be on the cards too.

Score

42.5/60

7/10 (Fair)