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Shuffling Through Wonderland

I had planned on playing Dead Space 3 next but my friend decided to play it so I made a last minute decision to borrow Alice: Madness Returns. It doesn't look to be a particularly high budget or well publicised game but it seems to be seen in a good light by those that have played it. It's the kind of game I needed to play as it isn't a shooter and although has some combat elements to it, it's a platformer first and foremost. I can't remember the last proper run and jump I played. Thinking back it was probably the new Prince of Persia game which I also loved.

Getting used to a game that doesn't stay completely grounded took a bit of getting used to. 10 years ago I'd probably have been getting bored of this type of game but now it was a breath of fresh air. It took a long time for me to get used to the physics of the game and how to time jumps and double jumps etc to move round the world. I was probably halfway through when I finally nailed it and rather than getting harder, the game seemed to get easier.

Each area had a distinctive look and feel and felt different enough to warrant being in the game. It did seem apparent though that a lot of the rooms/puzzles were being recycled in slightly different ways in each area, but just had different skins on them to make them seem different. I was getting very frustrated at times that it was getting a bit repetitive but once I got through the middle of the game where it seemed to be dragging on, I started to enjoy it again. The house of cards chapter was probably my favourite. The 'bridge' to the opening building where it just appears in front of you was pretty and pretty impressive!

The weapons in the game had plenty of variety and I'm glad the game didn't throw too many different weapons into the mix as I wasn't fussed about what I using. I did enjoy upgrading them to see what the array of colours would be. It doesn't sound like anything special but it was a nice touch to get a paint job as an additional reward to increased power.

The biggest thing the game excels at is the excellent array of characters that the world has to offer. Granted it's based on a world full of the weird and the wonderful but the devs have done a great job of bringing them to life. They all look pretty impressive and the voice acting was top notch.

To reduce the amount of monotony a platformer has on offer, the devs hit gold with the addition of alternate areas that played out different to the main game. The first mini-game puts you in a 2D world where the physics are the same but laid out in a whole new way. I though the art style and the change of pace with it being more thought out and less hectic made for a good breakaway. The second sees you in a weird scrolling pinball type game where you control a rolling head through obstacles. It was pretty infuriating at times but ultimately enjoyable.

On the whole it had more good bits than bad. The enemies, whilst not overly tough to beat, provided a welcome break from the endless jumping. The story was told in a great way but didn't intrude much on the game play. I gave this a 7.5 overall. Not as high as I could've given it but it but I loved in all the same.

In between playing retail games I decided to squeeze in The Walking Dead: 400 Days and it turns out I didn't have to squeeze a lot as it was over before I knew it! I guess I probably expected too much for what I paid. My biggest problem was it was very fragmented and each bit seemed to be over before I could get into it. If this is the cast for season 2 it was a decent introduction to them and the devs only included the good bits from the original game. There was no faffing around as each chapter got straight into it and to the point.

As ever I got frustrated in reading that your actions still don't make any real changes to how the game plays out. Ok, so you might get a different character that stays alive but ultimately the game knows where it's heading and will do it whatever option you pick. All you can influence is what happens in the bit leading up to the end of a chapter.

It does look like it has replay value though as playing the chapters in differing orders looks like it will give you a different perspective on things and what choices you make. I think I'll play it again before season 2 comes out if it does carry on from this.

Whilst some may argue this was just a teaser and a cheap price, it's still the weakest DLC so far in my opinion. I gave it a 7.0 because it was so short but the art style and character development is always spot on from these guys.

Lastly, I finally got round to installing Windows 8 a couple of weeks ago. I'm really not sure what all the fuss is about as it seems exactly the same as Windows 7 once you tweak a few settings so I quite like it. The main benefit to it is the ability to install game apps that tie into the Xbox universe with achievements. The annoying thing for me is that my gamertag is linked to a different Microsoft account so I have to keep switching between users to play games. Doesn't seem to matter what I try I can't get the accounts sorted so it's on the right one.

So far I've only played the free and easy games. I installed the three Microsoft games Minesweeper, Solitaire Collection, and Mahjong. These three took me about half hour to get full completion on so was worth the time. None of them were difficult but was nice to go seemingly back in time to when these games were common time wasters on PCs. I also had a go on Wordament which I've already played on iOS. The PC version is no different but it's just on a bigger scale. Some of the achievements look damn hard to get and I don't have a lot of patience for word games. The last two I tried out were Jetpack Joyride and Shuffle Party. Jetpack is my favourite game on iOS but unfortunately it doesn't translate so well onto mouse or keyboard. I've not got to grips with it yet but I'll give it a go. Shuffle Party suffers the same fate in that it's accurate enough with the mouse I have so can't really play it.

Next up is Batman: Arkham City and I might play a bit of Doritos Crash Course which I picked up off Live as it was a freebie.

Infinitely Honourable

After a couple of really average games I desperately needed to play something good and then along game Dishonored and Bioshock Infinite so I knew I was in for a pretty good time! I've not intentionall spoilered Bioshock but if you don't want to know then I'd suggest not reading. 

First up was Dishonored which I wanted to play to get away from FPS games which is all I ever seem to play. Dishonored has a nice blend of play styles depending on how you want to play it. I started the game with the intention of stealth and working a clever way through the different situations but in the end I just went all out for kills and deaths. There aren't many games where you can kill almost everyone without getting a game over. Making decisions about life and death is great and actually makes the kills feel more meaningful. I went for the high chaos path as it seemed like less hassle and made combat easier as trying not to kill anyone sounds boring to me. I'm glad they put that option in though as it'll prove a tough challenge for even the most dedicated of gamers.

Considering I went all out for carnage I never really used the weapons. Although the sword combat isn't exactly anything to shout about I preferred to get up close and personal rather than picking enemies off from afar. I don't feel I got the most out of the game in this respect as there were a few weapons by the end that I hadn't even used.

After the first few hours of the game I thought I'd be writing a very different review to what I have. I really wasn't getting on well with the game as it just seemed really disjointed and the story was average at best and the gameplay seemed overly frustrating. The setting could've been amazing but the graphic style and scale of the areas let it down for me as I wasn't in awe of anything. Compared to other triple A games I thought it was a bit of a disappointment. At some point around halfway through, everything just seemed to click into place and the game turned around completely for me. The powers came together and I get my head around how to use them and the story improved as it was progressing pretty quickly. By the end of the game I was annoyed there wasn't more of it!

I'm not a big fan of collecting stuff and this game really makes you collect things. They aren't even interesting things like collectables towards an achievement but small things like coins and books/letters which just slow the game down too much for my liking. I don't like to have to scavenge and search for items as that's my least favourite part of RPGs so to do it in this type of game didn't appeal to me (the same applies for Bioshock as well).

Dishonored should be applauded for the various ways it can be completed. Having the choice to go back through the game and play it completely different to the last time is excellent. Even when I died and had to redo something I'd just done I often ended up doing it a totally different way to what I'd done just moments before. I'd like to see a sequel as its original enough to warrant a second go at it. I gave it a 9.0 based on the second half of the game. The first half would've only got a 7.0 but I think that was more my fault for not getting to grips with it sooner.

Following on from one great game to another, I played Bioshock Infinite. I didn't think I'd get to borrow this off my friend quite so soon so was pleasantly surprised when I get hold of it. The original Bioshock is still one of my favourite games and the sequel was more of the same which was great. Infinite has a completely different look which was a good move as I don't think I'd have enjoyed another game set in Rapture as much as I did a new location in Infinite.

I stayed away from most of the pre-release material and anything written about it after the game came out. It wasn't particularly intentional but I'm pleased I did. Having not really seem many screenshots everything in the game was a new experience and boy was it a good one.

The first two hours of the game are some of the most enjoyable I've ever spent in a game world. The superb attention to detail was amazing and the way they managed to create such a vibrant and lived in game world was incredible. I really took my time wandering around and taking in everything, searching every nook and cranny and reading all the posters etc. If it was real life I'm sure I'd have been arrested as I was walking up to everyone and just standing next to them whilst they talked and exhausted every conversation before progressing.

Apart from the visuals, the most outstanding thing about the game was the music and what they chose for the various locations in the game. At no point did I think the music didn't fit what was going on. The single best part of the game for me was just listening to the barbershop quartet. No idea why but it was just excellent and that was the moment I knew a lot of love and attention has been poured into this game. Also when Booker is playing the guitar with Elizabeth singing was a nice touch. It just amazes me what the developers can come up with to make a game world that extra bit special.

There aren't many games where I was actually annoyed when combat began. Whilst the game was happy and bright I was just praying for a battle to end so I could get back to exploring. As the game went on and it got darker and more combat orientated this wore off for me and the action took over. I don't think I enjoyed the action anywhere near as much as the splicers and big daddies from the original but it's not like it was bad. Standard enemies were a bit plain which was the only downside but they were satisfying enough to take down. The only annoying enemies in the game were the weird minions in Comstock House. They were damn annoying but if I'd have had the patience I could've slipped through unnoticed so it's more my own fault than the game's.

The weapons whilst mostly generic were actually pretty fun to use. The carbine became my go to weapon when I wasn't attempting to get a weapon specific achievement. I didn't really use any of the Vox weapons as I didn't really feel the need to. I managed to get all the weapon achievements which I don't usually do. They were all good in their own way so it was nice to use them all. The vigors were in no way a good replacement for the plasmids of the original as they were all really dull. None of them really had enough damage for my liking. I got to a point where I wasn't even using them but then realised I needed to start so I could get the achievement. When you combine them together things got a bit more interesting but I never went back to them once the achievement was done.

The story was pretty interesting all the way through and the ending was a bit of a mind bender but I loved it. The throwback to Rapture and getting to wander through it again was a nice touch and it did make me want to go back and play Bioshock again. I'm still not sure I fully understand the full meaning of the ending but that's the fun of it. I now get to read through articles online that discuss it and it's something I want to do. Most games I finish and move on and forget about it so this is the sign of a good game.

I game Infinite a 9.0 as I felt the action wasn't as strong as it could've been. The first two hours were easily a 10.0 but it didn't quite manage to pull that off for the whole game. I could quite happily now play through Infinite 2 now in the same world as I still feel it has a lot to give and might mean we get the next game a bit quicker. I suppose the next game will be next gen so might be a bit further away than I'd like. It'll be interesting to see if they stick with Columbia or move onto another location as they're pretty inventive with what they can create.

I'm trying to keep on a run of big budget games so I'm going to play Dead Space 3 next. It may not be the best game in the series but I love Dead Space so I'm trying not to let reviews and other opinions affect what I think of it.


The past couple of weeks I've played a couple of really short games so it doesn't seem 5 minutes since I did my last blog.

Hot off the back of F.E.A.R. 2 I went straight into F.E.A.R. 3 which was more of the same with a less interesting storyline. Having not played the original I felt like I'd missed out on part of the story which I didn't get with the second game. The story of this instalment didn't really kick into any sort of gear until the final third of the game. The first few missions seemed to be there for the sake of being there.

Most of the things I said about F.E.A.R. 2 in my last blog are still relevant here as nothing much has changed. The graphics are pretty average but serve their purpose. Everything does seem a bit blocky but there aren't any obvious glitches. Everything in the game is just solid and dependable which is fine although won't ever win a game of the year award.

The shooting again is pretty good with the weapons feeling different from each other and satisfying to use. Bullets hit with decent impact and explosions are ok but not overly impressive. Again though the weapons are pretty generic and serve their purpose but it's not the kind of game where you're excited to see a new weapon as none are overly exciting to use.

The one great thing I noticed whilst playing is the way the enemies move and flank you. Even on the easier difficulty settings they never stay in the same place long and you can soon feel surrounded before you realise. It makes you react quickly to a new fire fight to make sure you keep on top of the enemies. They also talk to each other pretty realistically. They are audibly scared and let each other know the current status of their squad. If nothing else that's the one thing I'll take away from the game.

I didn't really experiment with playing the game as Fettel. It looks like it's a different way to play but I didn't fancy playing through it again. Once was more than enough! Although the game was no worse than the last one, I did mark it down from F.E.A.R. 2 just because it doesn't build on it. A sequel that's not visibly and technically better than its predecessor isn't good enough in my eyes. It's a steady enough game though so it still gets a 7.0.

After F.E.A.R. 3 I decided that I needed a slight break from shooters so I went for something completely different and played Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse.

Although being completely different as hoped, it still turned out to be a shooter at heart. I'd expected it to be more of a platformer but that wasn't to be. Thankfully the shooting was surprisingly satisfying.  Head shots with Brian's pistol were really enjoyable and the way the enemies died from them really felt good! The weapons whilst being pretty varied were nothing out of the ordinary for the most part. Stewie's weapons were just sci-fi versions of normal weapons and apart from using him to get the achievement for 500 kills I used Brian for most of the game. There are a lot of weapons to choose from but I found a lot of them to be inefficient at taking down enemies so I resorted to just using the shotgun for the majority of the levels. The power ups ranged from funny to practical but for the most part they weren't necessary more like interesting distractions. Seeing the giant chicken do his thing was ace!

The game isn't very long and I think I completed it in less than 5 hours. I'm not a big fan of collectables but that would've added a couple of additional hours to its length. I probably should've made the effort to collect them as I don't think it would've been a difficult task. Nothing in the game is very hard apart from one or two annoying sections. I didn't die very often and if I did it was mostly my own fault due to a mistimed jumped or not being very tactical and just running out of cover to take down an overwhelming number of enemies. The game deals with death like it's no biggie as each area of a level isn't very big so you don't have to redo very much. Enemy health stays as it was before you died and all you lose is a bit of cash. After I'd bought all the attribute upgrades I didn't really have a need for cash so death was inconsequential after that.

The graphics were almost spot on in matching the TV show as it is now. It's bright and colourful and the range of environments provided a good mix of level types to keeps the game from getting stale. The story was exactly what the game needed to keep things interesting and it was actually pretty funny. Not since The Simpsons have I played something that's attempted to be funny and achieved its aim. Some games are unintentionally funny and some games fall flat so I'm glad Family Guy managed it. Like most games of this type that throw out one liners during game play they were often reused so you'd hear the same things multiple times over the course of a level. It's not a major problem but does make you remember you're playing a game. The levels aren't that long so I'd have thought they could've put a couple of other one liners in there to stop them recycling some of them. Luckily there are many times when other familiar characters make an appearance and mix up the humour.

Family Guy has been a nice detour from the onslaught on 'normal' shooters I've played recently and was genuinely funny so for that I'm glad I played it. I've only given it a 7.0 as it's not long enough and the gameplay isn't strong enough to warrant anything more. For achievement hunters I'd definitely recommend it as it's an easy 1000G. I got 695G for no effort whatsoever. I'd also say fans of the show should give it a go as it's a pretty true game adaptation of the series.

I'm going to get round to some better games I think for the next few games. Next up is Dishonored and then either Dead Space 3 or Batman Arkham City. I've also got Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer which has super easy achievements which I'll fit it when I want something simple. 

Cry-ing For Help

I didn't think I'd be writing a lot about Crysis 2 as after a couple of hours I was so bored of it I was ready to give up on it. It was really boring and seemed like another generic warfare shooter which I've now played a million times over. I went and read a couple of reviews and they seemed to suggest the game got better a few hours in. I decided to stick with it and it definitely rewarded me for my patience. By the time I hit the last third of the game I couldn't wait to play the next level and then the one after that.

The main difference between the early part of the game and later on is the introduction of the aliens as an enemy. Too much of the early game is spent shooting soldiers which are incredibly dull and very similar to COD which I'm also bored playing. Luckily once the aliens make an appearance and require different tactics to dispatch them the game takes a turn for the better. By this point I'd gotten used to the shooting mechanics and it was getting easier to kill enemies and a lot more satisfying. The aliens also died a lot more interestingly and seeing them fall was a lot more rewarding than the soldiers.

The guns in the game had some variety although as with all army type shooters there are only so many conventional weapon types to play with. There are a couple of alternatives to the mainstream weapons which I didn't have much hands on time with but they offered a decent break from the norm. Whilst the game did a good job of chaperoning your weapon choices, it left you to your own devices to take on enemies however you pleased.

The story started like the rest of the game by not drawing me in but over time I learned what the story was trying to portray and what the game was leading towards and I took a liking to it. I did think that early on there were a few cut-scenes that went on way too long without telling you any interesting but I just kept myself busy during those moments.

The graphics, whilst impressive, have definitely been outdone in the years since this game came out. I understand it's a beast of a game on PC but has clearly been pared down for console. Whilst looking great it didn't particularly blow me away like Rage did. I'd be interested to see how Crysis 3 looks on console but I haven't had the chance to check it out yet.

The last thing worth mentioning is the main break away feature that sets it apart from other military shooters and that the nano suit powers. I'll admit it wasn't until late in the game that I realised the true potential that the powers had to offer. I definitely prefer a sprint ability where I can visibly see how much I have 'left' as I often get annoyed that I run out of sprint in say the middle of a battlefield. The armour ability was my least used feature but it definitely came in handy when I was low on health. It came in very handy for staying alive in the heat of battle! Last and definitely not the least is the cloak ability which got me through the end of the game very nicely. The sheer amount of enemies pacing around would've taken a long time to get through all of them!

I would've given the first few hours of the game a 6.5 but the second half saved it so much I gave it an 8.0. Thankfully it ended on a high rather than a negative otherwise I might've forgotten how good the game was at its peak.

My other game since my last blog was F.E.A.R 2 which was in no way as scary as I was expecting it to be. It's scary how incredibly generic a shooter it is and I think it could win an award for being the most average shooter on 360. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it though. The one thing that saved this game was pretty decent shooting mechanics. Shots felt fairly satisfying and it took the right amount of bullets to take down an enemy which some games always seem to get wrong.

From what I understand from what I've read and comments other people have made, the original F.E.A.R was far superior to this sequel. The Alma story didn't really seem to be that interesting and it was the type of game where I just enjoyed it for the actual gameplay. Cut scenes were pretty much non-existent which was a saving grace as I was just able to blitz through it.

The graphics are very under par for even a game made 4 years ago. I'm not overly fussed about cutting edge graphics so this didn't bother me. Enemies were easy to make out which is all you really need for a shooter. I think that the game did a good job of mixing up the environments although none were particularly inventive and have all been done better in other games.

There's not a lot else to say about this game. It didn't blow me away but served a purpose and not once was I frustrated by the gameplay or annoyed about getting stuck. For me that's more of a benefit to a game than looking good or having an interesting story. I often play great games that I get so angry with for getting stuck for no apparent reason so I'd definitely recommend this for anyone looking for a shooter to play with ease. It's like the gaming equivalent of watching a soap or sitcom in that they don't require any taxing brain activities but they can easily get you hooked and enjoying for hours. I gave the game a 7.5 which is an average score for an average game.

I couldn't decide what to play next so I took the easy option and opted for F.E.A.R 3.

Fear of the Dark

After two disappointing games in my last blog this one should be much more positive! Having enjoyed both of the original games I'd got high hopes for both of the following games and they've entertained me no end.

First up - The Darkness II. The original game was one that took my by complete surprise with its excellent mix of gunplay and close quarter combat with the demon arms. The sequel follows on indirectly from the first game but with a major graphical shift to a completely different look. I was a tad dubious about this but after playing the game for 10 minutes all my fears were put aside as the new look is brilliant. I haven't played many games with this graphic style so it was a much needed change for me after the previous few games I've played. The game is generally pretty colourful and apart from the odd 'brown/grey' indoor scene, the colours are pretty bold and make for a lively game world.

I decided to play the Hitlist and Vendetta missions before the main campaign. I'd had a look at the achievements and these are contained to 250 fairly easy points so thought I'd get my head round the game doing this before getting into the main game with more varied achievements. I think this was my first mistake on this game. The Hitlist missions are not very good and are really just made up of the 'clear this area of bad guys' type which were pretty dull. As a first impression of the game I got bored quickly. Luckily there aren't that many of them so was able to move onto the Vendettas campaign fairly quickly. The four characters have wildly differing abilities and that's where I made my second and last mistake. I picked the guy with the sword and about halfway through the game just got a bit too hard to continue with this character. I decided to take the plunge and restart with Shoshanna and her insanely powerful shotgun that made light work of most enemies. Whilst the story was inconsequential in this mode, there was plenty of enjoyment to be had.

I'd already spent more time on the game than I'd thought I would. I was expecting a 6-7 hour campaign so was surprised there are almost two games in one. By this point I was really hoping the main campaign would impress me even more and I wasn't let down by it. It even starts great with the cut scene explaining what happened on the previous game which was scripted and acted really well. It's been a few years since I played the original so didn't go in with any major expectations which I think made it better to be surprised all over again by its quality.

It took me a while to get into the story but by the end I was totally engrossed in it. I actually questioned a number of times which is the actual reality - Jackie as a psych patient or Jackie with the darkness powers. Although the game is obviously leading you down the darkness route, it really doesn't let on which is the truth. It's not even a particularly new story mechanic but it was just done so well that it's now one of my favourite game storylines from recent memory.

The gameplay itself played second fiddle to the story which for me is a complete turnaround from most games. The guns are pretty standard fare and don't offer anything new you can't find elsewhere. They are useful for the entire game so I'm pleased you get the option to play using just guns if you want, or you can turn to the darkness in an hour of need. The one thing of note for me regarding the demon arms is the way it offers a different take on health. I'm pretty tired of the regenerative health format we see in almost all games now. It doesn't add much of a sense of urgency to dispatch enemies and gone is the desperate struggle to get to the next health pack. This game offers a happy medium in that it your health regenerates to a degree but you need to harvest the hearts of downed enemies to gain health more quickly. This is a great change to the current gaming standard and means that hiding behind a wall no longer resets you back to full health which has never made much sense to me. Games these days actively want you to slow the pace down by taking the time out to regain health whereas The Darkness keeps up a fairly frantic pace throughout.

I've given the game an 8.5 which is a happy medium for me as it's pretty linear but just how I like it. In hindsight I think I could even bump it up to a 9.0 but for the few moments of annoying with the secondary missions I think an 8.5 is about right.

After The Darkness I knew I was in for another great gaming experience with Dead Space 2. It had a lot to live up to with the original being one of, if not my favourite game of the 360 era.

It's been a good few years since I played the original but I still remember it fondly so I was able to come into this one fairly freshly. The sequel seemed to be pretty similar to the original but for me that's not a bad thing. Everything about the game was brilliant and I can't fault it in the slightest. I actually think I've been a bit harsh only giving it 9.0 but that feels about right.

Starting with the game play, it picked up pretty much where the original did similar enemies, similar weapons, and a similar albeit it a more progressed storyline. The story in this was pretty good with the visions Isaac kept having and also with woman he comes across in the 'real' world. It didn't detract from the gameplay but I never wanted to skip a cut scene (not that you could?) which is always a good sign.

The visuals were pretty standard for a second generation game in a series and although nothing was outstanding, the dismembering has always been done well, both visually and mechanically. The locations weren't anything out of the ordinary but the space sections were done well. Getting to fly around in the suit was a welcome break from the gloomy corridors and generally dark interiors. The darkness was fine for most of the game but at some points it just got so dark I couldn't really see what was going on.

The range of enemies from memory didn't evolve much from the first game. I don't remember the weird bomb babies but they were definitely creepy! Was one short on the achievement for them so that was a tad annoying. The range of weapons seemed pretty similar as well but as I love the plasma cutter so much I didn't need any other guns. The plasma cutter was all I used on the original to get the achievement and I barely strayed from it this time.

The puzzles were few and far between and consisted mostly of moving this item from here to there, or simple panel puzzles to find the right coloured light to open a door but they were the only times in the game where I wasn't frantically awaiting an enemy! I did find the little vent quite funny as they just didn't fit the game. Doing one of the puzzles and going between vents really reminded me of The Crystal Maze which always made me smile when I went through one.

I do hope Dead Space 3 isn't as bad as I've heard. It got a fairly decent review on Gamespot so am not expecting a bad game but it doesn't look to have the atmosphere and sense of constant danger/fear that the first two had.

Next up for me are Crysis 2 and F.E.A.R. 2 which are both middle of the road games I'm expecting. I haven't played either of the originals so have nothing to compare them to but am hoping to be pleasantly surprised!

A Field of Death

Turns out I was completely wrong at the end of my last blog. Didn't enjoy Battlefield 3 at all! Thankfully the game was only 6 or so hours long as I meant I could blitz through it extremely quickly. The story was dull and almost non-existent so I just let the cut scenes play out and then got back to the action. This was the kind of story I expect from a military shooter. MW3 just excelled in the story department, especially compared to this.

As is now expected from a Battlefield game the graphics are amazing. Along with Rage this is up there with the very best the 360 has to offer. In some respects the game was overly realistic. I can't really put my finger on what I mean by that but I think I prefer my games a tad rougher round the edges. Sounds stupid I guess but I prefer more colourful games and at times it was hard to distinguish where the enemies were. It does spell out how good looking games on console can be and can only assume they'll get even better for next gen. From what I've read and heard it's way better on PC and I'd quite like to check that out if I had a PC capable of maxing it out!

I was pretty impressed with the locations in the game which beat out MW3 hands down so it's a shame I mostly didn't enjoy what I was doing in them. There were a couple of decent levels where it was an enjoyable experience such as the pool house/villa towards the end but mostly it just felt really generic. The vehicle missions were even worse than normal as they dragged for at least twice as long as I'd have liked. The jet fighter mission was one of the dullest missions I've ever played in a game.

For an online shooter game I wasn't all that impressed with the shooting mechanics. A few times it felt a bit hit and miss if you hit the target or not. Maybe I just didn't spend enough time honing my skills but it didn't feel anywhere near as good as on MW3. There's a decent array of weapons on offer but the default mission weapons weren't really worth switching out for anything else.

I can imagine the multiplayer is a great experience but as ever I skipped over the multiplayer. The way the scenery can be destroyed must make for some great games as cover is gone in seconds if fired upon. Not sure how it plays but I assume it's a slightly slower, more tactical game than COD is which I think I'd prefer.

I ended up with an average Gamerscore for this type of game with around half being online/co-op achievements. I decided on a rather generous 7.5 for this game. The graphics bumped it up a bit but having not tried it online, it definitely didn't deserve anything higher. I really enjoyed the previous game so felt a bit let down by its sequel.

Left 4 Dead 2 was next up and after a positive first game I thought I was in for a treat. The game was released very soon after the original so I expected more of the same which was no bad thing. I played them a couple of years apart so was a bit fresher for me when I came to play it.

I quickly came to realise how aimed towards co-op it is with the single player being a bit of a disappointment. The locations were amazing and although they don't stray far from the norm for this type of game I never get bored of them. I wasn't keen on the swamp level but I always love a carnival level in a horror/survival game so that more than made up for it. The campaigns were all pretty short though and were easily possible to sprint from one end to the other on anything but the hardest difficulty setting. I completed the last couple in about 45 minutes each and I didn't feel I was rushing. If I had other people to play with I think there'd be more excitement in exploration but when you're playing on your own I didn't feel it was worth it.

The gameplay is very strange to get used to as you expect zombies to be slow which is completely reversed in this game. I suppose they aren't technically zombies but infected humans (I think anyway!) so you just have to think of them like that. I would've preferred more adventuring to 'find' zombies rather than just standing in one place whilst you get hit by wave after wave. The one good thing you can say about the AI is that they are actually very useful at dispatching enemies. You never really have to worry that you're playing on your own as they more than make up for it. The flipside of this is that they can often be too helpful and you never actually get to do anything. Unless you run ahead they can often clear an area of enemies before you even have time to react. That was my own downside is that you often feel like a passenger your own game and you don't really get to do anything.

The weapons are very run of the mill with nothing that really provides any real thrills. I generally prefer standard weaponry so I was happy enough with this but a lot of the weapons felt the same and didn't provide enough variety. The melee weapons are brilliant though and match anything I used in Dead Rising for thrills. I do think I prefer Dead Rising as a game but this has its benefits. It's also one of the few games I've played lately where it doesn't have regenerative health. It seems strange to say that it was actually quite refreshing to play this way. Having health regenerate by staying out of the action isn't overly exciting. This way you have to manage your health and you actively have to hold back or push on ahead of team-mates depending on how much health you have and how much they do.

I really wish I'd given it a go online as I think you'd get a totally different experience to what I've had offline. Some games are just made for multiplayer which I think is great. I can imagine having 3 friends to play this with would be an amazing experience. Cranking it up to expert and putting realism on and then taking it to the enemies is an experience you probably can't match in many games.

I've given the game an 8.0 as I don't think it's an awful game by any stretch of the imagination and with the multiple games modes and co-op on offer I think it's a great package all round.

Next up for me are The Darkness II and then Dead Space 2 so am pretty hopeful about both of them. The Darkness was a surprise hit when I first played it and Dead Space is still one of my favourite games of this generation, I'm not sure what else has been better apart from maybe Bioshock.

War Is Hell

Over the past couple of weeks I was able to finally finish the Gears of War trilogy with Gears of War 3. I wasn't a big fan of the first game as I think I came to it too late. When it first came out it was pretty original but I think by the time I got round to it I'd played a few imitations that meant it didn't seem as imaginative as it should have. The second game was much better for me and I think will be my favourite in the series. It expanded greatly on the original and offered so much more, along with a cracking story from what I remember. The one thing I've always loved about the game is that it's a game that seems tailored to exactly what gamers want. If I made a game it would probably be something very similar to this.

I've never had much love for the characters apart from Cole as they all seem pretty generic and not exactly a character you can relate to or find much love for. I was really pleased to be able to control Cole for a section of the game and I think that was definitely my favourite Act. The rest of the game was good but this was a standout for me.

I'm not a fan of big set pieces as I don't always feel I'm completely in control of what's happening so the game play is not to my liking. Every time you clear an area you move along until you come to the next carefully constructed area for another battle. While the scenery is great it's a bit jarring to then come across an area set out with barriers and boxes that look totally out of place and are purely for cover in a fight. This removes any element of surprise of what's coming next. Luckily the enemies come in their droves and aren't totally incompetent. I don't feel as satisfied shooting aliens as I do soldiers in warfare games. Sounds strange to write that and I find it's true unless you get a head shot there's not much reaction from the Locust/Lambent until they die.

The story did a good job of finishing off the trilogy and it was pretty epic in parts. Breaking a game up into different acts allows for multiple big finishes which were brilliant. This game was a lot more colourful than the previous two and although I cannot remember specifics, I'd say this has as much variation with the locations as the previous game.

It took me a bit longer to complete than I expected but it was enjoyable throughout. I couldn't decide whether to give it .5 less but when I thought about it thought that although it didn't move the series along as much as Gears of War 2, it was equally as good so deserved a 9.0.

I also finished Dante's Inferno during which I spent most of my time deciding whether or not I hated or like the game. I started off finding it a bit too monotonous and not very engaging. Although there are some combo moves (if you can call them that) it just felt a bit too much like button mashing. Punishing/absolving enemies was also pretty dull as the smaller enemies mean you have to do them one at a time which added a fair bit of time to a battle compared to just blazing through it. As the game progressed though it definitely improved, with the middle third being a particular highlight for me.

The game play, whilst simplistic ended up being a lot more satisfying that I first though. Combat was definitely action packed and plentiful and to begin with there was a decent array of enemies to get stuck into. The different enemy types dwindled off towards the end but having introduced enough to begin with I didn't feel that was too much of an issue. The game play between the action was fairly traditional platforming but towards the end it did feel like they'd run out of ideas and then were just reusing past sequences with a different colour scheme. There were a couple of sections that made me swear more than the average man should more because of the sheer stupidity of the game mechanics not letting me do what I wanted to. For most of the game they were fine but in just those couple of situations I was properly annoyed.

I have never liked boss battles and don't think I ever will but I definitely tolerated the ones in this one more than I would usually. None of them were particularly rage inducing once you got the hang of what you needed to do. For a change they added a nice change of pace rather than slowing down the game which is what I usually find.

The story was actually really good and I like the differing areas that represented the nine circles of hell. The cutscenes were all worthwhile and the comic book style ones really impressed me. I don't like the fact it ended with to be continued as that just feels like it was half a game and I doubt it will get a sequel. Still, it ended pretty well and wrapped up this game as much as it could so suppose I can't negatively score it because of that.

Overall I think the game achieved what it needed to and was a decent God of War imitator. Having never fully played those games I can't comment on how much originality there is in Dante's Inferno but it kept me happy enough for the duration. My only annoyance is missing out of the silver coins and missing out on the achievement for it. Didn't think it would matter as I was sure I'd miss others down the line but that wasn't the case! I couldn't decide on a score for this game but looking my scores for other games I felt it ranked similarly to the games I'd given a 7.5 so that's what I settled on in the end.

Next up is Battlefield 3. Having only just finished MW3 I'll be able to compare the single player pretty clearly and I have a feeling B3 will come out on top for me.

Special Case

After finishing The Walking Dead I had the weekend at my parents so couldn't start a new retail game. After a quick look through the Arcade store I settled on Dead Rising: Case Zero which turned out to be a perfect fit. TWD had got me in the mood for some zombie bashing and nothing fits the bill quite like Dead Rising! I loved the first game although never really completed it. I played it more for fun than completing the tasks and saving survivors. I'm not a big fan of the time management structure and all I wanted to do was try out all the items available. I read a few reviews for Case Zero that said it was too short and there isn't enough to do but for me it was just the right amount. Yes, the map is pretty small and weapon types are limited but not once did I get bored playing. The full first game got very samey after a while but this arcade release wasn't meant for longevity and was a good length for me.

The story isn't anything out of the ordinary or inspiring but it keeps the game ticking over to the end. I played through it three times focusing on different elements each time. First time round was just for fun, finding all the good items and testing them, and getting an idea of what I'd need to do on a proper play through. Second time round I focused on escaping and getting the good ending, and then on the last run I saved the survivors. The last two can be done in one go but there's not a lot of fun in that as it's then just a race against the clock.

The weapons as in the first game range from the mundane and surprisingly fun, to the new combo weapons that pack a punch. I've never been a big fan of the guns as they wouldn't get you out of a tight spot and there are generally too many zombies for a gun to make a difference. It was still nice to give them a go to make a change from the melee weapons, but killing zombies with a park bench is much more satisfying than a handgun!

Overall I thought it was well paced and provided the right amount of game to make you want more, but not enough to get tired of playing it. Although it was supposed to be a taster to get you in the mood for Dead Rising 2, I'm now not in any rush to play it having got my zombie bashing kicks from this.

Since my last blog, I hit the equivalent of gaming buried treasure by discovering a work colleague who is a big gamer. Unlike me she doesn't trade in her games when she's finished them and has no problem with lending them all to me. Seeing her collection got me a little excited as she's got almost all the games on my wish list here and more besides. I think she's got about 30 games I want to play so I'm sorted for the foreseeable future! My only difficultly is deciding which games to borrow which is not a problem I mind having! It does mean I'll put my few games left to one side whilst I make the most of this. The first three games I've borrowed are Modern Warfare 3, Gears of War 3, and Dante's Inferno.

First up of those is Modern Warfare 3. I've only borrowed it so I can complete the single player. MW2 was my multiplayer iteration and I haven't felt the need to delve into another one. I generally bomb through the single player modes on this and the Battlefield games just so I can say I've played them. They are generally honed to perfection and provide a tight and compact story that doesn't take long but provides plenty of thrills throughout.

The story took me slightly longer than I thought it would although that's no bad thing. Usually when that happens it's because it's dragged on longer than I'd like it to but this was about right for me. I always think level based games should be shorter rather than longer and then open world games to take longer. There's obviously a number of level based games that are awesome over a longer span but as a rule I prefer them shorter. MW3 packs a lot into a short space of time and gives a variety of situations to work through. I felt that Black Ops has a better range of locations but MW3 does exactly what it needs to tell a great story. On all the previous COD games I just skipped over the story to get to the action but this one pulled me in.

As you'd expect from the top online shooter, the shooting mechanics were pretty top notch and it felt quick and fluid and kills generally felt satisfying. I normally prefer tactical shooters like the Ghost Recon games but this is a nice change from the norm. This game has its fair share of set pieces but it also does sneaking and stealth kills pretty well. The only negative I'd have for it as it's a very on rails game. Completely linear with usually only one way of completing a level and you never have to think about what's next.

I dipped into Spec Ops a little bit but didn't check out the full range it had to offer. I like that they offer an additional single player experience to the game as they did on MW2. Not really being into the whole online multiplayer scene buying a COD game at full price always felt a bit steep. Zombie mode on WAW and BO didn't really interest me beyond curiosity but Spec Ops is totally different and a whole game in its own right. I can imagine that playing it with friends online is a great experience but I've never really had anyone else into gaming like me to do it with. Not that I particularly want to, I do love a good single player game!

As I mentioned I don't really play online games so I can't really comment on the multiplayer game. My one and only game that I've ever played online for any length of time and got invested in was MW2 so I've got some experience with how it plays. I can only imagine that it is as good as it or better but I'm sure you'll put me straight if not! I gave the game an 8.5 as I thought it was a great campaign and a pretty well rounded package. If I was an online gamer I'm sure it would've gotten over a 9. I'll get BO2 at some point to do the single player as well but I've had my COD fix for the time being.

Next up is Gears of War 3 which I've already made a start on. Enjoyed the first one and loved the second one so have high hopes for a great end to the trilogy.

The Wake-ing Dead

Happy Holidays everyone!

The Christmas break has allowed me to play a fair few games although only a couple made it to completion. The first game I finished was Alan Wake. It's a game that's interested me for a while as it's an 'adventure' not a platformer and didn't look to be straight up shooter so I thought it would be something different to the norm. My first impressions of the game were positive as I like the narrative style and the graphics were good but not outstanding. As I got into the game it soon became clear that this is a game that was made for the story with some decent game play to move it along. Unfortunately didn't really get engrossed in the story and was more interested in how the game played.

The combat was very unique as you cannot just directly shoot the enemies, you need to take them out with your torch first. When I first looked into the game I thought guns and ammo would be few and far between but this was far from the case. On normal you are given enough supplies to see you through to the end no trouble. I didn't fancy going back and playing it a second time to get a true survival experience. The use of lights and torches were great distractions from the usual run and gun game play and the locations used were also pretty spot on.

Whilst I breezed through the cutscenes and dialogue, I did get a good appreciation for what was a fairly novel storyline (get it 'novel', he's a writer...nevermind) without the need to read/listen to all the manuscripts and watch the TV shows etc. I did like what they were doing by creating a 'believable' world (for lack of a better term) that was pretty well rounded.

This was also one of the first games where I've bothered to play the DLC. I got it in one of the sales about a year or so ago and as I'd already bought the game, thought it would be worth spending the money at the time in the hope I liked the game. Whilst the two additional episodes didn't really add anything of massive benefit for me personally, I think I enjoyed them more than the main game. Although it used a few of the same locations, they were done differently enough for it not to matter. The addition of needing to shine your torch on words to turn them into items/distractions/lights etc was great as it ramped up the tension and added some strategy to some sections by making the player decide when to use them or whether to use them at all.

Overall I was pretty happy with the length of the game and it's too DLCs and gave the main game an 8.0 and then the two DLCs 8.0 and 8.5 respectively.

With the holiday season being spent at my parents it meant I was without my un-played games collection I have at my own place so I resorted to XBLA for my next game. Without a doubt it was always going to be The Walking Dead as I'd heard so many good things about and the discounted price was too good to pass up. The first episode was free so that was a no brainer. I paid full price for the second episode and the following day they were all 50% off so I got the remaining three for 200 points each. I ended up playing most of them in one sitting per episode as once you start it, it's very hard to wait for its conclusion!

I loved first episode just because it was the first and it felt so fresh for a game. Haven't watched the TV series it wasn't a particularly new concept (although to be fair the zombie genre isn't anyway) and I was already familiar with TWD's universe. It told the story from a fresh perspective though so that was great. Episode two was also pretty good although not my favourite storyline, however it ramped the 'tough decisions' up to the next level and that was when I was hooked. Episode three was my favourite by far. It was the most inventive and also didn't take its plot from either the show or the comics (that's my understanding anyway) and there were also a few wow moments that I just didn't see coming. I'm not putting any spoilers in here (well not on purpose) so you'll just have to play it if you don't know which scenes I mean! Episode four was my least favourite, it was seemingly longer than the others and everything in it was rushed too much for my liking. Episode five was the roundup and featured the least amount of actual game play, but it did a decent enough job of bringing it to a conclusion. I'm sure you'll all have your own opinions on the best episode but that's just the sign of a good game that caters to many people.

I'm still a bit torn on the idea of the point and click/minimal gameplay genre as I often prefer to ignore boring stories and just get to the action. TWD has a story so good though I often got annoyed when I actually had to do something as it generally meant the story stalled until you finished the fetch quest/mini puzzle and then picked up again once you'd done that. The art style of the game was excellent and will obviously have helped to keep the game flowing between cutscene and game play sections. I played through it as nice as I could be and saved pretty much everyone. Apocalypse TV shows and films really do annoy me that there are so few humans left and they are happily content to just kill each other. I'm sure given the situation there is a need to look after number one, but I'm fairly certain not so many people need to die.

My only real concern with the game is that the decision making often didn't really make enough of a difference to affect the outcome of the game. I suppose I expected too much but the game is actually quite linear and even when you make a decision, the same outcome often happened whichever option you went for. Whilst playing it through though, this is of little concern as every outcome was amazing to watch so it wasn't really noticeable. That's about all that was wrong with it and it's not a major enough concern to even hinder the game being one of my favourites of the year.

I gave the episodes varying scores between 7.5 and 8.5. Although I think it's an amazing game, there's still room to improve for season two and I'd find it hard to score a game higher than that with so little game play. Next up in my pile of un-played games is Red Dead Redemption which I'll most likely start tomorrow. Not a bad way to kick of the new year if it's as good as I've heard it is.

With it being the last day of 2012 I guess I could round up my best games of the year. I haven't actually played that many this year. Only in last few months have I really got back into gaming and that's mostly been clearing out my back catalogue of games I bought before I stopped playing games for ages. With that being said, the only game I actually played in 2012, that came out in 2012 was The Walking Dead so I guess that wins by default! Out of the games I played in 2012 that didn't come out in 2012, my top three by the rating I gave them would be 3. Too Human 2. Rage 1. The Saboteur. Although I thought The Saboteur was just perfect for me and would at least be in my top 5 in any year, as you can see I've not exactly had a stellar year! This year I plan to buy a lot more games closer to release and I'll also have got through the majority of my back catalogue out of the way so I can focus on the newer games.

Angry Bat

I've finished another two games since my last blog. First up was Lego Batman. I've had this game for ages and made a brief start before getting bored. It's not my favourite type of game but Lego Indiana Jones was fairly good so thought this was worth a try. I played through it as quickly as I could, I wasn't too fussed about getting the achievements but I just wanted to experience it through to the end. It's not a difficult game by any stretch of the imagination but there are a few tough puzzles to get through as they left me stumped for a good while before figuring out what to do. As always in Lego games it's the cutscenes that provide most of the entertainment. Although all of the humour was basically the same it still made me laugh. Thankfully it provided a much different Batman experience than Arkham Asylum as nothing will compare to those games. All in all I didn't think it was bad. I don't think I'll be playing any more Lego games for a while as they are all basically the same with different characters. I did like getting to play through with both heroes and villains - that was an improvement over Indiana Jones. I gave it a 7.0 as although it wasn't a bad game, I felt like I was going through the motions until it ended.

I also started and finished Rage which I thought was a great game. A lot of the negatives towards the game seem to be aimed at how long it took to make, compared to how much content you get and also how it's not as open as it's made out to be. I'm not one for overly exploring a game and hate massive RPG games that rely on constantly trudging around looking for the next task or side mission (saying that though, I've got Fallout 3 and New Vegas in my pile of un-played games so I suppose Ill give them a go eventually). This game actually reminded me more of Red Faction: Guerrilla which wasn't an open game but required driving between locations.

The visuals of this game are incredible and I spent a good amount of time just staring at the scenery. I don't do that on many games but it's hard not to when there's so much detail in everything. The locations are pretty standard although there is a good array of different places to visit to not worry about that much. They all had a distinctive look to them which made for some variety. Apart from the few different weapons a couple of enemy types, combat was pretty samey throughout. I did enjoy the way they mutants were able to move and evade and made for some interesting shootouts. The human soldiers were not so interesting and were pretty standard like any shooting game.

I didn't spend much time on the side missions and races aside from getting an achievement or two. The races weren't particularly interesting and are my least favourite part of any shooter so spending extra time doing them didn't appeal to me. I did a few of the side missions as it meant I got to go to a few locations not visited in the main quest but I only really did enough of them to get the achievement.

Story wise it was pretty much non-existent and although there was a story to move you to the next level, they were mostly dressed up fetch quests or clear this area of bad guys. They were done well enough to make it exciting enough, but spending all your time in a game trying to please the next major or town leader can get a bit dull. That being said though, I never got bored and was always ready to have a go at the next level.

I gave the game a score of 9.0 as I really enjoyed it. There were a lot of great moments and not many set pieces so felt a bit more organic and not set up for the next major action sequence. The second disk was a lot weaker than the first and consisted mostly of enemies respawning in what can only be described as a kind of horde mode. Overall though I'd say it's one of the more enjoyable games I've played recently.