Tag Archives: Xbox 360

SG88 Gears of War header

Gears of War (PC & Xbox 360)

Developer(s) – Epic Games

Publisher(s) – Microsoft Game Studios

Designer(s) – Cliff Bleszinski

Producer(s) – Rod Fergusson

PEGI – 18

 

Released back in 2006 to widespread critical acclaim from both gamers and reviewers alike, Gears of War went from a beloved third-person shooter to go on and spawn a huge system-selling franchise for Microsoft, with 5 main entries in the series and 2 spin-off titles thus far. Out of the original three games, to me, the original still remains the best, as it delivered the best in every aspect that the next two games would both fall short on and failed to expand on at the same time. The original game remains a seventh-generation classic and for good reason. 

 

Graphics – 9.5/10

The first thing to notice is the visuals, which stood out as not only technically marvelous, doing incredibly to show off early on what the Xbox 360 was capable of graphics-wise, but out of the original three games, it also does best to perpetuate the inexplicably wonderful sense of dread that the series came to be known for, literally from the start of the game, as it begins in a dank prison cell with a history of violence. The settings are also incredibly diverse, and although it can be argued that the settings of the second game were possibly more so, in my opinion, the first still did better to set the tone of the entire series. It definitely does this better than the third game, and the settings are still more diverse than that of Gears 3.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

In its basic design, Gears of War, as well as every other main entry in the series, is a third-person shooter involving blasting through hordes of alien enemies, limited to just the Locusts in the first game, as well as finding strategic cover to become protected from enemy fire, and subsequently advancing through each phase of the story, as well as there being a very progressive online multiplayer mode. There’s not much to the series in general than that, and that’s why in my opinion, the following games in the series failed to impress me as such as what should come to be expected from sequels, but as this was the first, it seemed less disappointing, and it was a relatively new style of play at the time of when it came out. It was a breath of fresh back in 2006 to play a game structured like this after the market had become firmly oversaturated with FPS games throughout the sixth generation. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s movement controls and shooting mechanics were also very crisp and fluent, even for what was at that time a relatively new idea. Though it had borrowed from games like Resident Evil 4, Kill Switch and Second Sight, Gears of War, in my opinion, did a lot of the same things bigger, better, and all at once, and it made for a far superior game; not only in terms of controls but in terms of overall quality as well. 

 

Lifespan – 6/10

Lasting around 5 to 6 hours, the lifespan of the game is not great, but at the time, it was just about tolerable since it seemed inevitable after playing that there would be a sequel or two. The lifespan of each game remained there about the same, and so later entries seemed much more disappointing than this because of that, but regarding the first game, the amount of time seems more acceptable; though not outstanding. There could have been a lot more added to the first game to make it last even longer outside of the small side quests of collecting the cog tags.

 

Storyline – 8/10

The story of Gears of War centers around Marcus Fenix, a soldier fighting an interplanetary war between humanity and an alien race known as the locusts for the human faction known as the Coalition of Ordered Governments, or COG. After recently being reinstated into COG following his prior court marshaling, he is joined by his best friend Dominic Santiago, as well as a contingency of other COG soldiers, to continue the fight against the locusts and one of their highest-ranking leaders General Raam. The first game contains a lot fewer emotionally charged scenes than what the next two games would bring, however, to me, it still has the best story, since it accommodates for the lack of the tragedy element with things such as horror, mystery, and build-ups of tension. For example, the sequence in which the team is being chased around by the berserker remains my favorite moment in the series to date. 

 

Originality – 8/10

Though again, the series would seem far less unique as time went on, since the developers seemed far too reluctant to switch things up to any great extent (at least with Gears 2 and 3 anyway), the first game was far more unique at the time because it was an idea that had yet to be expanded upon with future games that played out similarly to it, such as Uncharted and Mass Effect. The first Gears of War set a trend throughout the seventh generation that was welcomed with open arms by gamers, and for a game that’s able to do that, you can’t help but consider it a unique experience. 

 

Happii

Overall the first Gears of War is most definitely the best entry in the original trilogy. It’s fun to play with a decent story, and though it doesn’t last as long as what it had the potential to (along with the next 2 games), there is a fair amount of fun to be had for the short time it lasts. 

Score

49.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

SG88 Kane & Lynch 2 Header

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days (PC, PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360)

Developer(s) – IO Interactive

Publisher(s) – Square Enix

Director(s) – Karsten Lund & Kim Krogh

PEGI – 18

Released in 2010, among a plethora of other critically acclaimed mainstream titles, such as Mass Effect 2, Final Fantasy XIII and Red Dead Redemption, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is a third-person shooter that was received with mixed or average reviews upon its release, with many citing its lack of fun or substance; and in this case, I’m inclined to agree with the general consensus. There were far better games made of the same ilk at this time with much more substance to them, making it stand out like a sore thumb among the best of what the seventh generation had to offer. 

 

Graphics – 6.5/10

The game’s settings are of modern-day China perpetuating one gritty and horrific atmosphere after another, with a film grain effect to compliment it. I understand that this was done to add to the game’s feel of dread, but overall, it just makes things needlessly complicated during gameplay; especially whilst trying to take out enemies from a distance. The way the game was designed visually was far more of a hindrance rather than being compelling to look at. For the most part, the game’s settings in general also seem far too generic. Even compared to other games like it that were out at the time, such as Grand Theft Auto IV and the games in the Saints Row series. It should’ve been expected from a development team that game artist Rasmus Poulsen once said that they were trying to make it look non-pleasing.

 

Gameplay – 6/10

The game is a third-person shooter, whereby the sole objective is to simply get from A to B, with no secondary objectives to keep things varied, or any further incentive to play other than simply advancing the story. There are a few instances of vehicular combat throughout, but not enough to maintain a decent level of variety; especially compared to most other games throughout the seventh generation in general, let alone 2010. This game certainly needed an extra push to make it better than what it turned out to be, but the lack of substance makes it come across as if the developers couldn’t be bothered trying. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The only aspect in which there are no flaws in the game is in the control scheme. But scenes as they had a blueprint to follow at this point with the likes of Gears of War and Uncharted games having been released prior, there shouldn’t have been an excuse to get the controls wrong. But the fact that no unique control mechanics were added to make this game stand out didn’t do the developers any favors. 

 

Lifespan – 4/10

Clocking in at around 5 hours, the game is also criminally short. Third-person shooters at the time seemed to be relatively short by nature anyway, with Uncharted and Gears of War games taking around the same time to complete, but the difference being is the two former examples offered far more in terms of gameplay than what Kane & Lynch 2 does, and therefore both warranting more than one playthrough, whereas depending on what way players may look at it, Kane & Lynch 2 may not even be good enough for even one playthrough. 

 

Storyline – 6/10

Taking place four years after the original game, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days reunites Kane & Lynch in Shanghai, China, where they become embroiled in a generic gangster plot where they must stick together in order to survive. Yes, it is honestly as forgettable as it sounds. I couldn’t even be bothered remembering the character’s names for the most part as I was not inclined at all to become emotionally invested in the story. The only reason I remembered the names of the two main characters is simply because the game is named after them.

 

Originality – 3/10

Simply put, there is next to nothing unique about Kane & Lynch 2; it perpetuated many of the same things that a lot of other seventh-generation games had done years before this but offers players nothing to make it stand out among the plethora of great games that had come prior. Somehow, there were talks emerging at one point of this game being adapted into a film, but due to the lack of interest in general, it never happened. But given how little there is to it in gameplay, it probably would’ve worked better as a film than it does as a game. 

 

Angrii

Overall, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is definitely one of the most unoriginal and tedious games of the seventh generation. A black mark on the developers of the Hitman series, nowhere near as much thought was put into this series as there was with either the former or their obscure gem, Mini Ninjas

Score

35.5/60

5.5/10 (Far Below Average)

SG88 Braid Header

Braid (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series X & Switch)

Developer(s) – Number None

Publisher(s) – Number None & Microsoft Game Studios

Director(s) – Jonathan Blow

PEGI – 12

 

Released back in 2009, Braid was one of the games that truly Kickstarted the influx of independently developed games, which would be seen throughout the eighth generation and beyond, along with the likes of Minecraft, Fez, and Castle Crashers. It was received with universal acclaim upon release proving to be one of the most influential games of the 21st century, with many critics even citing it as one of the very games of all time. Although I found it to be game brimming with artistic merit and certainly having well earned its place within gaming history, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it one of the best of all time, but nevertheless, there was a lot to be enjoyed with this one

 

Graphics – 10/10

The first thing to notice and to truly be awe-inspired by is the visuals. Hand-drawn and taking place within environments are equally vibrant and colorful as well as dark and ominous, visually, the game was expertly put together to the extent that it makes players feel that this wasn’t programmed on a computer by a developer, but rather painted onto a blank canvas by a master artist. The game’s soundtrack is also expertly composed by three classically trained musicians, further perpetuating the contrasting feeling of calmness and ambiance with that of danger and dark portent. 

 

Gameplay – 7/10

The game is a 2D side-scroller with puzzle-solving elements to it, similar to a lot of indie experiences to have seemingly been influenced by it, such as Chronology and The Swapper, but also featuring a lot of gameplay elements similar to that of the Super Mario series. The puzzle-solving element is not quite as intricate or subtle as what it is in Jonathan Blow’s future game, The Witness, but nevertheless, players will have to have their thinking caps on in order to progress through this game, as the puzzles can be particularly challenging at times. 

 

Controls – 10/10

Aside from the jumping controls feeling somewhat stiff, the game’s control scheme poses no problems at all. All I would suggest is to get either the console or Steam version, since all these versions offer controller support, unlike the PC version on CD-ROM which forces players to use the keyboard, which is exactly how a game like this should never play out. At least with the Steam version, keyboard mapping becomes available. 

 

Lifespan – 3/10

Braid can only be made to last around 2 hours, which for a game that came out in the middle of the seventh generation, is nothing; especially when since its release, there have been plenty of other games made in the same ilk that have been made to last considerably longer than this. This is the main reason why I’ve not been so hasty as to label it one of the best of all time, since whilst having as much artistic credibility as this game does, it should only be secondary to things like gameplay, and in this day and age, lifespan, and I didn’t find that it was in this case. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story of Braid tells of a man named Tim who is searching for his princess that has been taken by an evil monster. Like Super Mario Bros, the game’s story sounds extremely simplistic in scope, and again, for a game that was released when it was, you may think that wouldn’t be enough since games were becoming more geared towards telling stories. But what makes this game hold up in that respect is in the details. Plot threads and backstory are accessible throughout the game, and it gives it more substance than players may think at first glance. There are also a few twists and turns before the end that players will not see coming at all. 

 

Originality – 7/10

Whilst this game was by no means the first game to do the majority of things that it does do, the fact of the matter is that it went on to inspire a new generation of developers to come up with their own ideas and share them with the world, and props need to be given to both Jonathan Blow and the team of developers behind it. This game, along with many other released around at the same time, taught the new generation that they don’t need to be part of the mainstream to realize that they can become successful developers, and that with the know-how and the effort, that a great game can be developed on a budget. 

 

Happii

Overall, Braid, whilst I can’t bring myself to consider it one of the best, is certainly one of the most influential, and still quite a lot of fun for the short time it lasts. Jonathan Blow went through an arduous process to bring this game to life, and in the end, he deserved his success. 

Score

44/60

7/10 (Fair)

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)

SG88 SoulCalibur Header

SoulCalibur (Dreamcast & Xbox 360)

Developer(s) – Project Soul

Publisher(s) – Namco

Director(s) – Jin Okubo & Yoshitaka Tezuka

Producer(s) – Yasuhiro Noguchi & Hiroaki Yotoriyama

PEGI – 16

 

Released back in 1998 to widespread acclaim, to the point where it would be regarded as the second most critically acclaimed game of all time after The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, SoulCalibur was a fighting game series that spun off from the PlayStation game Soul Edge, improving on the former game in significant ways, and later going on to become one of the most recognizable fighting franchises in all of gaming. As a child, I spent an ungodly amount of time playing this game trying to unlock all the extras and secret characters, and to me, it still stands as one of the best games on the Dreamcast and one of the most definitive fighting games of all time. 

 

Graphics – 9/10

Seeing the game’s sixth-generation graphics on the Dreamcast whilst at around the half-way point of the fifth generation, the game in this respect was years ahead of its time. Everything from the character sprites to the stages is wonderfully polished and beautifully rendered; the attention to detail in this respect is staggering. It’s evident that this was as much of a labor of love as many of the best games released in 1998, such as Banjo Kazooie, Tekken 3, and Crash Bandicoot 3. The soundtrack to the first SoulCalibur may also be my favorite soundtrack to a fighting game ever; the intro to the game makes the very clear statement that all these characters have a purpose and that this is a fighting game unlike any other, and it certainly delivers.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

Although it wasn’t the first fighting game to do this, SoulCalibur’s appeal is the ability to use weapons in combat as opposed to bare fist fighting as what is perpetuated in most fighting games. It also has a ton of unlockable content; the game is comparable to Super Smash Bros Melee in this respect. It has a load of characters and alternative costumes to unlock as well as artwork and beautifully told backstory, which whilst playing this game as a kid, did exceptionally well to endear me to this series to a greater extent than what I could’ve possibly imagined after having p[layed the like of Mortal Kombat and Tekken. 

 

Controls – 10/10

As well as there is no problems with this game in any other respect, the game’s control scheme is also flawless. Playing this game, was the first time I found myself being able to string proper moves together instead of merely button-bashing, which is what I’m normally used to doing whilst playing a fighting game. It made me feel like I had genuine skill playing it, and there’s never been another fighting game that’s made me feel that way since truth be told. 

 

Originality – 7/10

Though it did definitely perpetuate many ideas that had been adopted in fighting games long before it’s release, the developers took these elements and made it into their own fully cohesive concept in the respect of every element down to the fighters, the combat style, the range of locations and the mythology behind it all. It lay the foundations beautifully for what was to come, whilst also still holding up as an enjoyable game to play even after all these years.

 

Happii

Overall, the original SoulCalibur remains to me, one of the best fighting games I’ve ever played. There are other genres of gaming that I’ve taken to better than fighting games, but I still revisit certain titles within it including Tekken 2, Dead or Alive 4, Ready 2 Rumble, and my favorite game in the series, SoulCalibur IV; the first SoulCalibur still fits into that category for me. 

Score

34/40

8/10 (Very 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 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)