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Scouse Gamer 88 Assassin's Creed Header

Assassin’s Creed (PC, PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360)

Developer(s) – Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher(s) – Ubisoft

Director(s) – Patrick Desilets

Producer(s) – Jade Redmond

PEGI – 18

Released in the holiday season of 2007, and originally intended to be released as a Prince of Persia game following the success of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Assassin’s Creed marked the start of an even more prolific series of games. Whilst the first game was met with generally favorable reviews at the time, future entries would go on to establish it as one of the definitive IPs of the seventh generation of gaming, and going on to provide a basis of sorts for several games made throughout both the seventh and eighth generations, including Batman: Arkham Asylum and Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. As for my own personal opinion on the original game, it is admittedly quite typical. I feel that whilst it was a very decent game overall, the best of the series would be yet to come.

 

Graphics – 8.5/10

Set primarily in the Holy Land during the third crusade, the vast open world is lovingly crafted to represent the structure and architecture of three primary cities; Acre, Damascus, and Jerusalem. The attention to detail of what these locations would have looked like during this era is staggering (something the developers of the series would become renowned for as it would go on), and though the visuals on the technical level perhaps haven’t aged quite as well as other entries in the series, they were nevertheless cutting-edge for the time, and the game is still a joy to look at on the conceptual level. 

 

Gameplay – 8.5/10

The object of the game, as the name suggests, is primarily to carry out assassination missions. Players gather information by pickpocketing, eavesdropping on intriguing conversations, and can take advantage of several different weapons and methods of combat to carry out each kill. But apart from that, there are also various sidequests to be completed throughout each of the cities, which improve the player character’s abilities. The player is also given access to new weapons and abilities after each main assassination throughout the story, such as throwing knives and additional armor. Again, more features would inevitably be added with later installments of the Assassin’s Creed series, but as far as this game goes, this provided more than just a blueprint for that. It provided players with an immensely addictive experience, going further than what Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time did. I always thought personally that The Prince of Persia revamp of the early 2000s could’ve done with a game being set in an open world, and this was Ubisoft’s answer to that concern. 

 

Controls – 9/10

The control scheme was almost perfect, which was relatively impressive, given that truly nothing like this game existed beforehand. But the biggest issue I had with it, was the one-on-one combat system. It works loosely similar to what it does in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, with players locking onto one target at a time to attack them, whilst also being able to counter-attack other surrounding enemies in the process. Whilst it would be refined in later Assassin’s Creed games, I found it to be somewhat flimsy at times in the first, and it was at these points that I could tell that it was a new idea that needed tweaking if the series was ever to progress past this game. Luckily, however, the rest of the game’s mechanics were handled brilliantly; movement across buildings, streets, and rooftops is extremely fluent, which again, was impressive given that the idea was a relatively new thing at the time.

 

Lifespan – 7/10

The biggest disappointment that comes with the first Assassin’s Creed game, however, is the amount of time that it lasts. Whilst not being criminally short, like a lot of other games of the seventh generation, it clocks in at around a total of 30 hours, which is good, but nowhere near the time it could’ve been made to last with the inclusion of a few more sidequests, as again, later games in the series would demonstrate; especially given how the size of the team expanded throughout the game’s development.

 

Storyline – 9/10

The story of Assassin’s Creed is something that would become disjointed over time, but the first lay the foundations for something special. It begins with the main character Desmond Miles, having been imprisoned by an organization named Abstergo. Their intentions are to uncover ancient secrets hidden in Desmond’s ancestral past through a VR machine known as the Animus, which allows the user to experience the lives and events of their descendants. The experiment’s overseer, Warren Vidic uses Desmond and the Animus to tap into the ancestral memories of Desmond’s predecessor, Altair Ibn-La’Ahad, who was a senior member of an organization known as the Assassin Brotherhood. Following a failed attempt on the life of Robert de-Sable, Altair is stripped of his rank, and ordered to carry out various other assassination missions in order to restore his status and reputation among the brotherhood. 

The events of the story, from the perspectives of both Desmond and Altair, unfold into something that will be completely unexpected by players, and truly helped massively to make this game stand out as a hallmark in telling an effective story in gaming throughout the seventh generation. Although fans of the series have had mixed reactions to the directions in which the story was taken, later on, there can be no doubt that the story in the original game was expertly presented. It’s exciting, tense, suspenseful, and without spoiling anything specific, ends on a masterfully executed cliffhanger that you will not believe.

 

Originality – 8.5/10

Despite Assassin’s Creed having its many influences, such as Ubisoft’s own Prince of Persia and Grand Theft Auto, the fact of the matter is that this series has always delivered something unlike any other before it, and it was all very effectively perpetuated with the original game. Since I first played through it, which was many years ago, I’ve come to have a newfound respect for the original game and everything that is accomplished at the time. During the series’ early years, especially after the release of Assassin’s Creed II, (which remains my favorite installment), I used to look at the original game as being simply the inferior blueprint. But after having played it again recently, I’ve since discovered a new appreciation for it.

 

Happii

Overall, Assassin’s Creed, whilst not being the best game in the series, still remains one of the defining gaming experiences of its time. It’s a game that still holds up, despite its few flaws, and I recommend it to anyone looking to revisit a seventh-generation classic. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Scouse Gamer 88 Fallout 3 Header

Fallout 3 (PC, PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360)

Developer(s) – Bethesda Game Studios

Publisher(s) – Bethesda Softworks

Director(s) – Todd Howard

Producer(s) – Ashley Cheng & Gavin Carter

PEGI – 18

 

Fallout 3 released in 2008 following a long dispute between Bethesda and Interplay over the rights to the franchise, was developed on the same engine as Bethesda’s previous seventh-generation hit, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, but provided a very different take on the RPG genre, incorporating first-person shooting elements, as well as many of the gameplay elements from the original 2 Fallout games. Although I think the best of the Fallout series was yet to come following both the release of this game, and Fallout: New Vegas. The third game in the series is a moderately enjoyable title, despite the fact that it was such a radical departure from the original Fallout formula, (which in and of itself caused quite a divide between fans), and regardless of its flaws, still does fairly well to hold up.

 

Graphics – 9/10

In stark contrast to the world of Tamriel from The Elder Scrolls, Fallout 3, like in the original series, is set in the post-apocalyptic USA following a resource war fought between America and China, but the third is specifically set in a post-war Washington DC known as the Capital Wasteland. As such, several Washington landmarks are darted across the land, such as the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building, but the environment is heavily irradiated and the city is in ruins. The visuals of this game are its most striking feature, going beyond what Oblivion delivered on the technical level, and providing something that most RPG fans at the time wouldn’t have been accustomed to, since although the first 2 Fallout games sold relatively well among the circle of PC games in the late 90s, the series didn’t find its way into the top echelon of games until the release of this title. The entire atmosphere of the game is wonderfully dark and gritty, and a lot of the locations found around the Capital wasteland make the player feel things emotionally that they will not expect to feel going into it. 

 

Gameplay – 7/10

The game is an RPG first-person shooter hybrid; a lot like Borderlands without the use of cel-shaded visuals. Players level up using the SPECIAL system that had been perpetuated since Fallout 1, and experience points are also spent on improving attributes such as computer hacking, lockpicking, and proficiency in various different types of guns; again in a somewhat similar fashion to Oblivion’s character progression system. The game also has a new take on turn-based combat with the inclusion of VATS (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System), which allows players to scan enemies and aim for specific parts of the body that may be more vulnerable than others in order to gain the upper hand in battle. 

Especially when the player becomes stronger over time, using VATS can feel extremely satisfying, and watching the cinematic kills has become a beloved feature of the series since. But besides this, there are a plethora of secrets, side quests, and different locations to discover throughout the Capital Wasteland that will have players hooked for many, many hours. What I would recommend is that players find a copy of the Game of the Year edition, since not only will they be treated to even more content, but this version also fixes the game’s biggest flaw, which is the inability to play past the end. 

 

Controls – 6/10

The biggest problem with this game, however, is its control scheme; especially in the early stages of the game. Because the player character is not yet necessarily proficient enough in shooting or accuracy, the lack of accuracy can become a particularly big problem; in some cases, even to the point where players may switch off early doors. It’s no wonder Bethesda later enlisted the help of id Software to hone the FPS mechanics with Fallout 4 because it is a big problem that presents itself in a very profound way in this title, especially given the countless amount of FPS games that came before it. Mercifully, the game gets better to play as the player character progresses level by level, but patience can potentially wear thin with some players as well. The Pip-Boy system can also take a little bit of getting used to at first, but that doesn’t pose anywhere near as much of a problem as the shooting does early on. 

 

Lifespan – 10/10

Given everything, there is to do in this game, and the DLC, it can take way beyond 100 hours to complete, which is long enough for any gamer to enjoy. It easily outlasts Fallout: New Vegas, since, in that game, there’s hardly anything to do in comparison, but it also greatly outlasts the original 2 Fallout games. It’s no wonder the fanbase was largely split down the middle when this game came out since despite being such a departure, there was plenty to enjoy with this game.

 

Storyline – 6/10

The story of Fallout 3 takes place 200 years after the US is destroyed in the nuclear war with China. The player character is an inhabitant of Vault 101, and after reaching adulthood, his/her dad James, voiced by Liam Neeson, leaves the vault, causing the rest of the inhabitants to descent into chaos. After being hunted down by the rest of the inhabitants, the player character is basically forced out of the vault into the harsh and unforgiving environment of the Capital Wasteland and resolves to find his/her father. It sounds simple in scope, but events later unfold into something far bigger when it’s discovered why James left the vault and the number of different factions that become involved in the situation, such as the Enclave and the Brotherhood of Steel. As well as being pretty compelling, it also stays remarkably true to the source material of the original games and provides players with a fairly engrossing experience in terms of story. 

 

Originality – 7.5/10

What makes Fallout 3 game as unique as it is are a lot of things, such as the different approach to first-person RPG combat, the contemporary settings not normal for an RPG, and the amount of controversy this game created at the time. It becomes obvious very early on that game goes places where other developers would dare not go at the time. Places such as the Dunwich Building and Tranquility Lane make for experiences that I’d never felt playing a game before, and several of the other vaults darted across the Capital Wasteland have their own sordid stories to tell. A majority of this game’s story is told through its lore, and it’s awesome to experience. 

 

Happii

Overall, Fallout 3, whilst not in my opinion is the timeless classic that other gamers tend to praise it as, is still a very enjoyable gaming experience, and in my opinion, better than the original Fallout. It’s not the best entry in the series (in my opinion, that would be Fallout 4), but it’s still a very respectable entry despite its flaws, and one of the more unique western RPGs ever developed. 

Score

44.5/60

7/10 (Fair)

Resident Evil 2 (PC, PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast & GameCube)

Developer(s) – Capcom

Publisher(s) – Capcom

Director(s) – Hideki Kamiya

Producer(s) – Shinji Mikami

PEGI – 18

Released in 1998 has generated more revenue than most Hollywood movies at the time, Resident Evil 2 is a continuation of the story of the original with new characters, new setting, and new dangers to overcome besides the zombies littering the mansion on the borders of Raccoon City. For various different reasons, I found the second game, whilst suffering from a few of the same problems as the first, to be a decisive improvement on its predecessor in a number of respects. 

 

Graphics – 9/10

The most notable improvement of which, in my opinion, is in terms of its visual quality, with the player no longer being confined to a single mansion on the outskirts of Raccoon City, but rather in the heart of Raccoon City itself. Locations range from the ruins of Raccoon City streets to the Raccoon Police Department to research facilities and it was a welcome change of scenery at the time that made the franchise a lot more diverse. The quality of the zombie sprites was also a lot more varied than in the original game with different outfits for zombies, zombie policemen, and even female zombies too. There were visible improvements in both the technical and conceptual aspects of the game, which were pleasant to see. 

 

Gameplay – 8/10

In terms of gameplay, it plays out pretty much like an extension to the first game with a couple of added mechanics thrown in for good measure. Like in the first game, there are two scenarios to play through with two different characters, so it almost felt like two different games at the time, especially as it came on two discs.  It also presents more of a challenge in the respect that it has new kinds of puzzles and new enemies to fight that require different strategies to take down, as well as a greater number of boss fights, which would later become a staple of the series. 

 

Controls – 7/10

The game’s control scheme, as such, is also the same as it was in the first game, and therefore, it suffers from very much the same issues as it did in the first game, with movement feeling very stiff and clunky, seemingly needlessly when compared to other games on the system. There had been some minor adjustments made, but enough for the game to deviate away further enough from the problems that came with the first game. The whole formula would go on to be improved with games like Onimusha, but overall, it didn’t make the game unplayable. 

 

Lifespan – 7/10

The game can be made to last the same amount of time as the first game; 15 hours give or take. That’s to play through both scenarios on both discs. There are a few more side quests in comparison to the original game, but overall, it lasts as long as Resident Evil. As a fan of the Onimusha series, I can’t help but think what the game would’ve been like if Capcom had implemented the same kind of ideas they with Onimusha 2 in comparison with the original Onimusha; how even more varied gameplay would’ve been and what different kinds of events could have been made to happen as a result. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story takes place around 2 months after the events of the original Resident Evil. It follows the journeys of Leon Kennedy, a STARS officer on his day with the department, and Claire Redfield, the brother of the previous games’ main protagonist Chris Redfield, whom she has come to Raccoon City to try and track down. The two soon become embroiled in a zombie outbreak across Raccoon City and they set out on a journey to discover the source of the outbreak. The quality of the story is much better than in the original game, with a better script and even better voice acting to a certain extent. It still comes across as somewhat corny and cliche at times, but it was certainly an improvement on the quality of writing that the first game had to offer. I’ve yet to come across many bigger memes in gaming than the whole Jill Sandwich thing; thankfully there’s nothing quite as laughable in this game as that. 

 

Originality – 7/10

A common problem I encounter with survival horror sequels is that when the same threat is included as in the original game, it seems far less scary when the player knows what they’re up against. But in Resident Evil 2, there is a new threat added to keep things diverse, which has become another staple within the series. The second game introduces players to the Lickers and other eldritch abominations that spawn from the new G-virus that acts as the main threat of the game, which at the time did relatively well to keep things fresh in comparison to the first game. The zombies didn’t seem as scary anymore, even at the time, but encountering a Licker for the first time most definitely instilled fear in me back in the day. 

 

Happii

Overall, Resident Evil 2 made some very definitive improvements over the original game in almost every respect. I recommend it far more than I do than the first game as even taking the recent remaster into account, the original experience still holds up to this day. 

Score

46/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Portal 2

Portal 2 (PC, Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3)

Developer(s) – Valve

Publisher(s) – Valve

Director(s) – Joshua Weier

Producer(s) – Gabe Newell

PEGI – 12

Released some years after the original game to widespread critical acclaim, Portal 2 is considered one of the best titles of the seventh generation, perfecting the formula of the original game and expanding on it in many different ways. Whilst I had a few issues to address where the game was concerned myself, it is still a decisive improvement over the first title and still holds up as being one of the more unique gaming experiences of the last decade or so.

 

Graphics – 8/10

One of the most notable improvements in the conceptual design of the game over the first. A lot of the settings were pretty much identical to one another in the original game before the end of GLaDOS’s trials, but in the second, the replication of textures and scenery is much less noticeable. It reminds me very much of the same improvements made with Skyrim over Oblivion, where every ruin or cave no longer looked the same as one another and had a lot more individual diversity to them. The inclusion of new enemies to have to deal with only adds to the conceptual design of the overall series in addition. 

 

Gameplay – 8/10

The core gameplay has remained the same as that of the original; the player must use the Aperture Portal device to create portals in order to solve puzzles and progress through the game. However, far more elaborate puzzles have been included that build on the premise of the original game, which has helped to diversify and broaden the entire concept. The inclusion of a plethora of easter eggs to discover throughout the game also does exceptionally well to expand on the mythology of the series, whilst at the same time, further linking it to the Half-Life universe. The ending boss fight is also handled wonderfully differently from that of the original game.

 

Controls – 10/10

There were no issues with the control scheme of the first game, and as the second game was built using the same engine and including the same principle gameplay features, there aren’t any issues to be had in the second game either. It’s actually quite impressive to me how the developers managed to further build on the concept of the original game without having to alter anything about its control scheme. They managed to keep things as simple as possible whilst developing a game to be as intricate as possible. 

 

Lifespan – 4/10

Where Portal 2 still doesn’t excel is unfortunately in its lifespan. The second portal game can be made to last a maximum of 3 hours, not counting multiplayer. This is the only factor whereby decisive improvement was not made but was for me, needed the most improvement in order for it to stand among the very best games ever developed. Maybe one day Valve will get around to making a third game in the series, but inevitably, this game’s short lifespan has left gamers, including me, wanting so much more. 

 

Storyline – 9/10

The game’s basic story is not too dissimilar to that of the first. The game’s main character Chell remains trapped within the Aperture Research Facility and must find a way out. This time, however, she is up against a new threat in addition to the facility’s supercomputer GLaDOS, but also a sociopathic drone robot named Wheatley, voiced by Stephen Merchant. Wheatley appears as a friend at first, but his true intentions soon become clear and it is up to Chell to stop him and find a way to escape Aperture once and for all. The story, as well as most of every other aspect of the game, is also made even more diverse with its further developed sense of dark humor. Although GLaDOS still contributes to that side of it greatly, so does Wheatley, and it’s hard to pick a favorite out of the two. 

 

Originality – 9/10

As I alluded to before, the original Portal presented players with a new outside-of-the-box way of playing a puzzle game originally dreamed up by a group of programming students who were later scouted by Valve after their work on the game Narbacular Drop. But the second portal game went above and beyond what the original offered to players by keeping the concept fresh with new mind-bending puzzles to solve and backstory to discover. There are many why these games have gone on to become cult classics, and the main reason I attribute to that is because of how well it stands out from every other game that has been developed before and after.

 

Happii

In summation, Portal 2, whilst still far too short in my opinion, is an enjoyable time for the criminally short time it lasts and will provide players with a far more stern and entertaining challenge than its predecessor. Before they became focused on the maintenance of Steam, Valve was renowned for giving players something new to play that they hadn’t played before, and Portal 2 certainly does not disappoint in this respect

Score

48/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Scouse Gamer 88 God of War II Header

God of War II (PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 & PlayStation Vita)

Developer(s) – Santa Monica Studios

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director(s) – Cory Barlog & David Jaffe

Producer – Steve Caterson

PEGI – 18

 

Released back in 2007 when the seventh generation of gaming had just started out, and with many critics describing it as the swan song of the PlayStation 2 era, God of War II built on its predecessor continuing the story and adding many new combat features and mechanics required to solve new and more puzzles to progress through the game. Most reviews I’ve read seem to point to this game being far superior to its predecessor, but in my opinion, it’s about on par with the original God of War for a multitude of reasons. 

 

Graphics – 8.5/10

In terms of the technical aspect of the visuals, there isn’t a great deal of difference between this and the first game. In my opinion, there are no real improvements in the quality of the graphics, which in hindsight was to be expected to an extent, given the relatively short development cycle. That being said, however, in terms of conceptual design, there is a massive improvement in terms of diversity in scenery and level design, keeping the tableau of series fresh and distinguishable from the first God of War. The second game takes Kratos across an even bigger range of different landscapes than the first, which for the most part is confined to only a few different locations. There’s also a mixture of old and new enemies to fight, which also adds to the mythology of the series in a big way. 

 

Gameplay – 8.5/10

The gameplay is so similar to that of the original God of War that it’s ostensibly like an extension to the original game. It’s heavy on combat and puzzle-solving, and has the additional elaborate boss fights to contend with; arguably even more elaborate than those of the first game. There are a number of new weapons and spells to cast to keep things diversified, but overall, it still offers the same amount of satisfaction to be had in upgrading weapons, learning new abilities, and of course, progressing through a new story. 

 

Controls – 10/10

With the seamless introduction of a few new mechanics, the game’s control scheme is identical to that of the first game; there are no issues, combat is fluent as what needs to be (especially on harder difficulties), and three are no needless complications to frustrate players. The context-sensitive sequences had been fractionally refined, but players will be able to go from the first game to the second without skipping a beat. 

 

Lifespan – 6/10

As with the first game, the second can take there around 6 to 7 hours to finish, which again in hindsight may have been expected in light of the development time, but still wasn’t any kind of decisive improvement over the first game. The best of the God of War series would be yet to come, and this game is good for the time it lasts, but I think a little more time needed to be spent on this game for it to be considered better than the first in every respect, including lifespan. 

 

Storyline – 9.5/10

The most decisive improvement God of War II made over the first, however, was in its story. Having now fallen out of favor with the gods of Olympus, Kratos now seeks revenge with the help of the banished titans from the Titanomachy. In order to defeat Zeus, he is instructed to find the Sisters of Fate, who are reputed to have the ability to grant great power to those deemed worthy. Playing out somewhat similar to Homer’s Odyssey, it doesn’t exactly play out like as much of a traditional Greek tragedy as what the first game does. Contrarily, it does better to perpetuate a strong sense of hope for Kratos and even to set a precedent for where the rest of the franchise goes from hereon.

 

Originality – 8/10

The concept of Greek Mythology in gaming was a relatively new idea at the time of the release of the second game anyway, but the developers managed to keep the whole God of War formula fresh with the introduction of a whole load of new elements in every respect, which is all the more impressive, given the fact that first game ended on a very strong note of finality. I was surprised when I first heard there was to be a sequel to the original God War after having played the first game back when it was released; I was also impressed in the fact that it didn’t fail to impressed in and of itself for a sequel that I had absolutely no idea of where it could’ve possibly gone. 

 

Happii

Overall, God of War II is every bit as great a game as its predecessor. The combat remains intense, the storyline has been kept fresh, and it paves the way nicely for the later games, which provided even further improvements that would later be made to this legendary franchise. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Scouse Gamer 88 God of War Header

God of War (PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 & PlayStation Vita)

Developer(s) – Santa Monica Studios

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director – David Jaffe

Producer – Shannon Studstill

PEGI – 18

 

Released back in 2005 to universal acclaim, the original God of War game introduced gamers to the exploits of the Spartan warrior Kratos, and the series has since become one of Sony’s flagship franchises alongside the likes of Little Big Planet, Uncharted, The Last of Us and Ratchet & Clank. The first game in the series won several Game of the Year awards for 2005 and is considered one of the better games on the PlayStation 2, and since playing it the first time, I have become an avid fan of the series, but this title provided a ground-breaking starting point for the franchise. 

 

Graphics – 8.5/10

The first game is primarily set in ancient Athens, but the game takes Kratos to a plethora of locations across the ancient Greek landscape like Pandora’s Temple and the depths of Hades; as such it is also littered with creatures, characters, and enemies that featured prominently throughout the medium, such as harpies, minotaurs, hydra, and gorgons. It presents players with a wonderfully dark and gritty take on the whole Greek mythos, which was quite a unique medium to take on at a time when a lot of games focused on other prominent mythological subjects like medieval fantasy, post-apocalyptic futures, or steampunk universes. On a technical level, it also did extremely well to showcase what the PlayStation 2 could do, as the sixth generation of gaming was a year or so away from drawing to a close; impressively, it play out at 60 frames per second, which for a game of its graphical quality, was outstanding at the time.

 

Gameplay – 8.5/10

According to David Jaffe, the creator of the original game, he designed it in mind for the player to let their inner beat free, and go nuts, and this game certainly affords the opportunity to do that. Playing God of War is a wonderfully brutal experience from start to finish; definitely not for the faint of heart, who dislike violence, but a whole lot of fun for those who don’t mind it. As a hack and slash game, the objective is to cut through wave after wave of enemies as the game progresses, and with the more enemies thrown at the player over time, and more the violence is ramped up. The combat is intense to an unfathomable degree, and it gets progressively more so; not to mention the sheer quality and clever handling of the boss fights. One thing players will notice about this game, as well as every other game in the entire series, is that they always strive to leave a lasting first impression on players; and this game does that better than others in the series, with the first boss being a towering Hydra at sea. But besides which, there are also instances in the game, particularly later on, where combat is swapped out for elaborate puzzle-solving, which gives the game a fair amount of variety; again, something that would go on to become a staple of the series. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The God of War games has also become renowned throughout the industry for its clever implementation of game controls; most notably the context-sensitive sequences during puzzle-solving and boss fights. They would go on to become more elaborate with each installment, but even in the first game, they’re handled particularly well, leaving no room for unnecessary frustrations in a game designed to challenge players. 

 

Lifespan – 6/10

The biggest problem with the original game, which would eventually be something the developers would go on to address over time, is the lifespan, with the original game only being made to last there sound 6 hours in total. Jaffe also said in an interview that the original idea was to make a game like Onimusha, just set in Greek mythology; although they succeeded in terms of gameplay, it’s a pity they couldn’t have even made it last as long as the former, which didn’t have an overly impressive lifespan itself. I think there was definitely room for expansion on the idea, which of course was demonstrated in the sequels, but it would’ve been nice to see it in the original game. 

 

Storyline – 9/10

The story of God of War centers around Kratos, a former Spartan warlord championed by the gods as a divine warrior. He is tasked by Olympus to kill the god of war Ares, who has laid waste to the city of Athens in defiance of Zeus and Athena on the promise that if he succeeds, the gods absolve Kratos of his past sins that have tormented him for ten years. Throughout the story, Kratos’s extensive backstory is gradually revealed and the player will get more of a sense of the kind of character that he is, which all fits in perfectly with the tableau of a classic Greek tragedy. The story is expertly written and the dialogue never comes off as forced or comedic as what a lot of video games before this were prone to doing. It presents players with a fantasy world grounded in realism, as the themes like human mortality and moral conflict play significant parts in not only the original story, but throughout the series as well. 

 

Originality – 8.5/10

As I alluded to, the game presents players with a theme of Greek mythology; something that was uncommon in gaming at the time. It also helped to break the mold of there simply being plain good and evil, with no shades of grey to contend with. Nowadays, a lot of stories that are portrayed in fiction are gritty and morally ambiguous with no true sense of right and wrong; but this game was among a handful of others, such as those of the Legacy of Kain series, that tackled the subject before it became cool to do so; therefore it helped to make it stand out among many other titles of the sixth generation.

 

Happii

Overall, God of War is a triumph in its own right, which later spawned one of the most recognizable and successful series in all of gaming. The original game did the job to establish the wonderful staples that the series would later adapt for future installments, but still, it remains a certified pleasure to play through every time. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

SG88 Ratchet 7 Clank: Tools of Destruction Header

Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction (PlayStation 3)

Developer(s) – Insomniac Games

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director – Brian Allgeier

PEGI – 7

 

Released shortly after the PlayStation 3 console back in 2007, Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction introduced gamers and fans alike to the Ratchet & Clank Future series, telling a new story following the events of the original trilogy. It has all the hallmarks of the previous two games, whilst introducing new locations, new characters, new weapons, and a new villain, which speaking as a fan of the series, left a long-lasting and positive impression on me personally. The best of the Future trilogy would be yet to come, but this game was an excellent way to kick it all off. 

 

Graphics – 8/10

The game starts off in the same system as the first Ratchet & game, but it later introduces players to the galaxy of Polaris; a distant star system currently under the tyranny of Emperor Percival Tachyon, the game’s main villain. The game’s various different planets and moons offer players yet another wonderfully varied and well-designed world, which on a technical level, also did extremely well to demonstrate early doors just what the PlayStation 3 was capable of on the graphical level. The game’s soundtrack also wonderfully adds to the whole atmosphere of the game, going along with the tableaus of each planet’s respective theme.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

The gameplay follows very much the same formula as Ratchet and Clank 2 & 3 with the same controls and style of combat with the additional side quests to undertake in between. But what makes this game stand out is the new weapons and means of subduing enemies, as is the main hallmark of what makes each game in the series stand out from one another. This was also the game in which the developers introduced the Mr. Zurkon weapon, which in my opinion, is the best weapon in the entire franchise, and has since featured in most games following this. New gadgets are also introduced in order to solve new puzzles along the way, which also does well to add to the variety of the overall series. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The controls had been refined as necessary with the release of Ratchet & Clank 2: Going Commando, and as this game operates within the same principles, there are no issues with the controls as such, and really, there haven’t been any issues with the controls since. Tools of Destruction in particular, however, also makes use of the PlayStation 3’s six-axis controls, with players having to move the controller to instigate character movement, which in this game, is handled particularly well. 

 

Lifespan – 8/10

To complete the game 100% will take there around 20 hours tops, which at the time was about the average for a Ratchet & Clank game to last. The average lifespan of games in the Ratchet and Clank Future series would go on to fluctuate from thereon, with the lifespan of Ratchet & Clank: Quest For Booty being a major insult, and then Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time’s lifespan being legendary, then finally with Ratchet & Clank: Nexus’s lifespan again seeming far too short. But Tools of Destruction definitely represents a middle ground in that respect; It’s not too short but is the reason why the best of the Future series would be yet to come. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story of Tools of Destruction follows Ratchet & Clank in their adventure across the Polaris Galaxy in their bid to stop Emperor Percival Tachyon from taking over and bringing back his ancient race that once almost wiped out the entire universe. The game’s story is extremely compelling in that it focuses a lot on Ratchet’s backstory, and where exactly he came from, and the fate of his race and his family, which would be a running plot point in the entire Future series. There are a plethora of twists and turns in this respect throughout the story, but especially towards the end; without spoiling exactly what happens, this game ends on one of the most intriguing cliffhangers I’ve ever seen in gaming. 

 

Originality – 7/10

In terms of every respect of this game, from the new weapons, new gameplay tropes, new characters, and stories to the introduction of a side of Ratchet that gamers hadn’t ever seen before, the game does extremely well to stand out from not only every other Ratchet & Clank game but most other games on the PlayStation 3 in my opinion. For a game that was originally aimed at kids, it does deal with some mature and deep-rooted themes, which gives the game a boost because it perpetuates the whole idea that video games can indeed be considered an art form. 

 

Happii

Overall, Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction is by far a better game than what I gave it credit for after my first playthrough; it was a great way to kick off the Ratchet & Clank Future series and still holds up as a particularly enjoyable gaming experience. 

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good) 

Scouse Gamer 88 Jet Set Radio Header

Jet Set Radio (Dreamcast, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita, Android & iOS)

Developer(s) – Smilebit & Blitworks

Publisher(s) – Sega

Director – Masayoshi Kikuchi

Producer – Kawagoe Takayuki

PEGI – 12

 

Originally developed as a Dreamcast exclusive back in 2000, Jet Set Radio is a skating game and was the first game in history to make use of cel-shaded visuals, which have since been popularized by developers all over the mainstream being used within the likes of the Legend of Zelda series and being the staple visual style of franchises like Borderlands and No More Heroes. Though I was able to appreciate the origins of this now iconic graphical style, I was, however, a lot more disappointed with how this game plays out than what I was expecting having seen just how highly regarded it is. For how much innovation there was in terms of visuals, it’s quite flawed in terms of its style of play; especially compared to other games of its kind.  

 

Graphics – 8/10

In terms of visual style, this game was groundbreaking at the time and would go on to influence the visual style of countless other games to come, such as XIII, Sly Cooper & the Thievius Raccoonus, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The character design is also very diverse with inspiration from street culture and hip hop music; it’s like if the movie The Warriors was set in the early 2000s. There are flaws with the technical aspects of the cel-shaded visuals, but this was to have been expected from the first game to use them.

 

Gameplay – 6/10

The gameplay, however, is not very satisfactory in my opinion. The story mode involves progressing through a series of courses whereby the player must rewrite graffiti spots to mark the gang’s territory; the scenario is completed when all the graffiti points have been marked. It’s really as simple as that; there is a scoring system for completing stunts (the logistics of which I will cover later on in this review), but the scoring system is only about as significant as the scoring system found in any old-school adventure game like the original Super Mario Bros or even Sonic Adventure to draw a closer comparison, as both that game and Jet Set Radio were released on the Dreamcast originally. There are additional characters to unlock, which give the game a little bit of additional incentive to play, but to me at least, it wasn’t enough to hold my attention for the full lifespan of the game. 

 

Controls – 6/10

The true dealbreaker for me where this game is concerned, however, was the control scheme. Games with similar mechanics have frustrated me throughout the years, such as Sunset Overdrive, but this game takes that disappointment to a whole new level. I’ve read reviews whereby people have said the controls weren’t enough to hamper their experience of the game to too great an extent, but to me, the controls make this game almost unplayable at times. The layout of each scenario seemed paramount for me to be able to draw any pleasure from playing this game; they can range from simplistic to overly complicated with each level, and if you’re enough of a stickler where the controls are concerned, it can become a very serious issue. 

 

Lifespan – 6/10

For those who are able to get past this game’s many flaws, it can be made to last there around 18 hours in total, which for a game of its kind, isn’t too bad a lifespan. But to my way of thinking, I don’t understand how a vast majority of games, especially newcomers, will be able to bear with it for any more than one hour. Short of what I’ve already described, there’s not a great deal more to do in this game and more content and objectives could’ve been added to hold the gamer’s attention better. 

 

Storyline – 5/10

Although in terms of conceptual style I compared this game to the movie The Warriors, the plot is considerably more simple than that. It centers around a street gang named the GGs, who battle for street territory and credibility against various other gang members of the same ilk, all the while trying to avoid the police, who go to increasingly unnecessary lengths to apprehend them; all whilst under the commentary of a quirky DJ named Professor K. And when I say the police to ridiculous measures, I mean it; throughout the first level, they try to shoot the player with guns and use tear gas against them. But later on, they then make use of attack dogs as well as missile-mounted helicopters, all to try and catch a few kids on skates. I realize the developers did this as either comic relief or the purposes of gameplay mechanics (I’m not so dense as to not realize that), but it just doesn’t lend a great deal of integrity to the plot. 

 

Originality – 7/10

Although this game disappointed me overall, the fact of the matter is that its visual style has gone on to become one of the most popularly utilized throughout the industry since the turn of the century. Many games have come and gone that have not only made use of cel-shading but have built on the idea of it exponentially, making for some of the most visually stunning games of all time. But this game provided the original template by which all cel-shaded games have followed since. That being said, there have been more influential skating games to have come and gone, such as those in the Tony Hawk series, and it’s in that respect whereby this game failed to show as much innovation as it should’ve done. 

 

Niiutral

Overall, Jet Set Radio, whilst having gone on to influence a plethora of games since its release, was not the great game that I was expecting it to be; the controls are sketchy at best and the gameplay left a lot to be desired in my personal opinion. 

Score

38/60

6/10 (Average)

Scouse Gamer 88 Overlord Header

Overlord (PS3, Xbox 360 & PC)

Developer(s) – Triumph Studios

Publisher(s) – Codemasters

Director – Lennart Sas

PEGI – 16

 

Released in the early period of the seventh generation of gaming, Overlord puts the player in the shoes of a demonic tyrant on a quest to expand his power wherever possible and to hunt down each of the heroes who had destroyed his predecessor with the help of his army of minions. It’s an action-adventure RPG relying heavily on real-time combat and unit control comparable to Nintendo’s Pikmin. During the seventh generation, I spent a great deal of time playing this game as it was one of the most unique titles around at the time In my opinion.

 

Graphics – 7/10

The conceptual design of the game was very heavily influenced by the writings of JJR Tolkien and the Middle-Earth mythos. The setting and characters are seemingly ripped straight from The Lord of the Rings Complete with dwarves, elves, trolls, and even hobbits; albeit they’re always referred to as halflings In the game. The elven habitats are also quite reminiscent of Warcraft III. In terms of the technical side, the graphics were pretty much above average compared to what was being showcased at the time, but as a fan of Tolkein’s work myself, I was quite impressed with how good a job the developers made to perpetuate elements of such and combine them with the dark fantasy elements which I will soon elaborate on. 

 

Gameplay – 8.5/10

The game is an immersing action-adventure RPG centered around combat to defeat oncoming enemies, puzzles to solve in order to progress through each level and complete each set objective, raising, developing, and modifying an army of minions and creating and customizing a base of operations in the form of a huge dark tower, again reminiscent of Barad-Dur from Middle-Earth; the overlord himself ostensibly being a carbon copy of the Dark Lord Sauron. 

This all gives the game all the enjoyability and variety in Gameplay that players can come to expect of a typical game within the genre and it makes for an insanely enjoyable experience. But I would above all recommend players finding and playing the Raising Hell edition released on the PS3 as it comes with additional side quests to complete. 

 

Controls – 9/10

The third-person combat mechanics are simple to get to grips with, as well as general movement; although additional mechanical are implemented during combat, or doesn’t feel too much like a mixture between turn-based and real-time combat that the Final Fantasy series has unfortunately adopted over the last few installments. The only minor gripe I had with the controls was that the minions can be a little awkward to control at times which can make it easy to accidentally lose minions in some pretty calamitous ways. But after a while of playing, it doesn’t pose too much of a problem In the end. 

 

Lifespan – 7/10

The game also has a more than adequate Lifespan, requiring an average of 30 hours to complete to 100% counting the Raising Hell quests. Whilst it is a fairly long-lasting experience, the main issue that I took umbrage with to a small extent was that because the game has a fairly linear progression, it made it feel as if everything to do in the game, especially the objective of having to build the tower, would’ve worked far better if it had been part of an open-world game instead. I’m not entirely sure whether or not that was addressed in Overlord II, as I’ve only played it briefly, but nevertheless, it’s worth investing the required amount of time in the original title. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story of Overlord is that the new overlord, elected by a group of minions to rule them, is out for revenge against the warriors who dispatched the previous overlord, whilst expanding his newfound power and growing his minion army. Although it can be simply summed up in its basic premise, what makes the game’s story particularly interesting is the use of dark fantasy and black humor as I alluded to earlier. The minions provide a level of comic relief that certainly wouldn’t be found in Lord of the Rings, segregating it somewhat from the writings that inspired the game’s conceptual design. There are also minor plot threads introduced that deal vaguely with the aftermath of war and what it means for the people of the land the overlord wishes to conquer, but the comedy certainly outweighs any message of moral ambiguity. 

 

Originality – 9/10

Despite the fact that this game certainly had its influences in terms of both Gameplay and conceptual design, and that it seemingly had its fair share of detractors as a result of which, it regardless provides a level of uniqueness to the fantasy/dark fantasy genre that was a breath of fresh air at a time when the PlayStation 3 had not long been released and there was a certain level of dissatisfaction with launch titles like Ridge Racer 7 and Lair. It was exactly the kind of game the PlayStation 3 needed at the time before many other great games were subsequently released on the system and ostensibly not very many games like it since have been released. 

Happii

Overall, Overlord is a unique, immersing, and fun title with a wicked sense of humor to match. It’s as wonderful and fantastical as the books it drew influence from and at the same time provides a gaming experience that has never truly been seen again since. 

Score

47.5/60

7.5/10 (Good) 

Scouse Gamer 88 The Bridge Header

The Bridge (PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Switch, Wii U, OUYA & Amazon Fire TV) 

Developer(s) – The Quantum Astrophysics Guild

Publisher(s) – The Quantum Astrophysics Guild

Designer(s) – Ty Taylor & Mario Castaneda

PEGI – 3

 

Programmed by Ty Taylor and inspired by both the artwork of MC Escher and the scientific legacy of Sir Isaac Newton, The Bridge is an intricate puzzle game combining black and white hand-drawn graphics with gameplay involving the manipulation and traversing of a series of stages to progress through. For many reasons, I thoroughly enjoyed this game and was extremely impressed with what it to offer in almost every aspect.

 

Graphics – 8/10

Making use of a unique art style as opposed to cutting-edge graphics, The Bridge is presented entirely in black and white and illustrated in graphite pencil reminiscent of the works of MC Escher, who the main character bears a striking resemblance. The visual style works wonderfully well to perpetuate the atmosphere of the game, which is intriguingly morbid and dark. There is also cleverly effective use of lighting throughout the game to further add to this atmosphere. The game’s soundtrack also compliments the game particularly well, as it is incredibly subtle as well as foreboding at times.

 

Gameplay – 7/10

The game involves the player having to solve a series of complex puzzles whereby they must both navigate through with the player character and manipulated the stage around him in order to either access different areas of the stage or collect keys in order to progress to the next puzzle. As the game progresses, new elements are periodically added to further add to the challenge and keep the game fresh throughout. At one point, in particular, the player must begin to switch between two characters to access different areas and to collect different-colored keys corresponding to the different hues of both characters. The game’s mechanics make it a subtle, challenging, and enjoyable experience for the duration. There’s a great deal of satisfaction to be had for solving each puzzle, as they require a great deal of outside-the-box thinking to solve.

 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s controls pose no problems regardless of how greatly it differs from traditional 2D side-scrolling titles. It’s particularly impressive how the developers have made the game work as well as it does. Over the last few years there’s been a great deal of innovation made with the 2D side-scrolling genre with games such as The Swapper, Limbo, Super Meat Boy and Stick It To The Man and The Bridge is yet another excellent example of this.

 

Lifespan – 4/10

Disappointingly, however, to complete the game to 100% can take there around 7 ½ hours, which for a game with this much innovation and enjoyment to be had is criminally short. Though lasting longer than other indie side-scrollers like the aforementioned Limbo and The Swapper, this game just needed that extra push in terms of longevity, in my opinion, to make it stand out more among the indie development community.

 

Storyline – 7/10

However, what does make this game stand out fairly well among the indie community is its story. The story follows an unnamed character navigating his way through each of the game’s puzzles in order to progress through. Elements of the story are revealed with each series of puzzles solved, and new story elements are introduced along with new elements of gameplay. With everything that comes with this game in terms of gameplay, controls, graphics, etc, they all work together in a very subtle way to contribute to the substance of the story on both conscious and subconscious levels in my opinion. But that, in and of itself, is where the quality of the story lies; that’s it’s particularly open to interpretation, much like the works of the people who inspired the creation of the game.

 

Originality – 8/10

The Bridge is a game that is unique in every respect, down to the graphics, gameplay, control scheme, and of course, the story. There are games that have come and gone that have necessitated the mechanics of manipulating not only the character but the environment around them (Fez, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, and The Witness to name but a few), but none of them have been handled in such a way as to how it’s been handled in this title. It’s particularly impressive considering the general limitations that come with 2D side-scrolling compared to 3D open-world games.

 

Happii

To summarize, The Bridge is a unique, subtle, and deliberately paced game, which will make players feel challenged, satisfied, and perhaps even inspired to create their own interpretive work of art. Though it doesn’t last as long as it really ought to do, what there is to enjoy can be done so thoroughly and it’s definitely worth playing through to feel the satisfaction of completing it.

Score

44/60

7/10 (Fair)