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The Quest to Buy Skyrim

It's 11.11.11 and that, to gamers worldwide, means but one thing.

Skyrim.

It's 2am and I have finally sat down with Skyrim in my 360 and am about to play, but before I do so I feel I should divulge about the crazy night I just had, and how I got around to buying this copy.

So Skyrim is a big game, a game I've been very excited for, as was my housemate (Josh). Because of this we decided to preorder the game at a local GAME store and attend their advertised midnight launch. I'd never been to a midnight launch before, and neither had Josh, we were both excited. So at 23:20 we set off into town, Josh drove and we found some parking just by the GAME store. It was extortionate, but hey, we were getting Skyrim and attending a midnight launch so we didn't care. When we got to the store there were about 20 people queueing, so we joined and in time more people joined behind us and the queue got to about 60 people all wanting Skyrim. The atmosphere was great, people walked past and heckled us, ranging from people asking us if we were waiting for a bus to people chanting "modern warfare, we love warfare, we love warfare". I found this quite disturbing, one does not usually here people so loudly proclaim a love for warfare on a city street just before midnight.

So midnight came!...

And went... Five past midnight came, 10 past, quarterpast. There was no sign of any activity in the store. A sign had been proudly displaying that there would be a midnight launch at this very GAME for weeks, but clearly this wasn't the case. The 60 odd people dwindled down to a committed few and the few of us started to talk. There was another GAME store close by, I waited here and Josh ran to it. He came back. It was closed to. There was a Game Station a good 5 minute walk away, two fellow Skyrim enthusiasts joined us on our trek as we searched in vain for the game. We commented how this was a quest in itself, and how out atheletics skill is bound to increase... We are nerds ok. But this Game Station was closed. It seemed Skyrim was off the menu, no epic midnight launch, just extortionate parking and no game. However a good 10 minute drive away we heard tell of a BlockBuster who had a successful midnight launch. We were determined to go.

So we headed back to the carpark and one of the felow Skyrim fans, a 20+ year old man called Simon who we had never met, hopped in the car for a lift. He was getting Skyrim for 360 and had some bottles in a bag with him, seemed he was planning quite the party. So we went to the new shop, we arrived, and it was... Closed. But there were people in there, I hammered on the door and they came.

Can we buy Skyrim we asked. No they answered, we just closed off the tills and we are only selling pre-orders. But we pre-ordered from GAME we said, they didn't open we said. They knew. Others had come, and others had been turned away at this hurdle. Many had made it this far and then turned back, the staff then tried to get me to pre-order Halo Anniversary and AC: Revelations. I didn't. Simon decided this was the end for him, he thanked us and said goodbye. But me and Josh were not giving up. Josh pulled out his iPhone and we googled for the nearest 24hour TESCO (a huge supermarket chain). It was 7 miles away, it was now past 1am. It was so worth it. We set off, we were angry, excited and determined.

On the way, about 4 miles in, I spotted a big sign, "24hour ASDA" (another supermarket chain). We just missed it. We pulled over, U-turned (legally) and headed back. We parked up, it was now well past 1, and we ran from the car. A man was walking out the shop holding something game shaped. Josh shouted "SKYRIM" at him. The man smiled and showed us his copy of Skyrim, he confirmed they have it and that we need to ask "the woman". We ran in, we looked for the game isle, I was shouting "SKYRIM". We found nothing. We headed back to the checkouts and saw a single member of staff. A woman. Hopefully the woman. We walked up. We were about to ask.

"What system do you want it on?"

She asked. We had said nothing, but she knew somehow. "I want it on 360 and my friend wants it on PS3" I said. She left and then she returned... With two copies of Skyrim. Oh the elation in my heart. We had it. We bought it, and realised we even had a nice cloth map of Skyrim itself. We hurried back to the car and Josh drove us back.

We got quite lost on the way, but hey, we had Skyrim. Now I'm back in my room, the game is in. I'm paused. I'm about to unpause it... See you guys later.

Review: Okami

So I played Okami, obviously, and loved it a hell of a lot. I hadn't written a review in a while so I thought I would dote on a game for a bit, so enjoy the review!

This modern day cla**ic is a beautiful and engaging adventure game that will keep you engaged for hours on end

Difficulty:Easy

Time Spent:40 to 100 Hours

The Bottom Line:"Instant cla**ic"

The Good:

Breathtakingly beautiful artistic design- Unique and satisfying gameplay- Great music- Well written characters that provide some emotional moments- Varied quest and puzzle design- Very lengthy story that gives you more than your money's worth

The Bad:

Easy combat- Lack of direction can get frustrating in places- A huge amount of text to read with no voice acting- Some story issues

-

A usual compliment levelled at great games is that they are a system seller, in other words the game in question is reason enough for you to buy a new console. Okami is not a system seller, and as strange as it sounds, this is high praise. Clover Studio's latest adventure game is in fact one of the best reasons not to buy a new system and is a superb reminder that the PS2 still has a lot to offer. A new console generation is supposed to bring in a new era of games that look and play substantially better than anything from any previous console; Okami begs to differ, however. Despite being on a 'last generation' system, Okami still manages to be the best looking game available at the time of its release, better looking still than the supposed next generation titles. As well as this sublime eye candy you get accessible and familiar gameplay that manages to be unique and fresh at the same time. In other words, Okami delivers the promise of the next generation title on supposedly dated hardware. Okami is fun enough, beautiful enough and, importantly, long enough to keep you from moving to the next generation for a good amount of time. This means that picking up a copy of Okami could save you money as well as providing the player with an unforgettable experience.

Okami is undoubtedly a superb game, and should be picked up by anybody with an appreciation for Japanese game design and Zelda-****dungeon crawlers; however, the title is unique enough to have a wider appeal, and though it will not appeal to everybody, it is a game everybody should at least play. There are some caveats to these claims though; Okami has very few flaws but has flaws nonetheless. In many ways this excellently crafted adventure game is on par, and even rises above, games on 'next generation' consoles, though it does feel dated in some respects and with this feeling comes some of the problems. The most obvious issue with Okami is also its most forgivable one, no voice-acting but a lot of text. Okami is a long game that can easily clock in at about forty hours (and even more if you take some time to explore the breathtakingly beautiful surroundings and take a stab at the side missions available), and this length can be quite intimidating. It's a real commitment to play a game with a story mode of this length, and it is even more of a commitment when you have to read it all. This is a game with a lot of speech; you will have to read your way through long, dialogue-heavy cutscenes whilst your character just makes noises (much like a Zelda game or other old Nintendo titles). This definitely makes the game feel like it belongs to a past generation and can be quite annoying; Okami has a story to tell and a pretty good one, but it will turn off a lot of players that you have to spend so much time reading it. This is not a real issue because a dedicated player will get over it quickly; it just feels like a strange design choice. It is no longer acceptable for dialogue-heavy games to have no voice-acting, and this omission makes Okami leave a poor first impression. Before you can play the actual game, you have to sit through forty-five minutes of primarily text. It is text worth reading, but this should not have been the case.


Even a God needs to take a break every now and then

It's easy to look upon Okami as a throwback title; its design is similar to the 3D Zelda formula for example. The similarities are quite numerous: a large overworld is filled with puzzle-heavy dungeons in which you gain new skills and fight bosses, on top of this, these skills and abilities will allow you to explore more of the world and thus progress further. Other similarities exist also, you have a seemingly Navi-like tiny glowing sidekick, who joins you on your journey and gives you hints (but thankfully never requests you to listen), and you must defeat a great evil that has fallen on the world. In order to save the world you must traverse some elementally themed dungeons, and even explore the insides of a beast, much like how Link navigates Lord Jabu Jabu. On the surface this all seems quite derivative and unoriginal, luckily Okami has more than enough of its own identity and is different enough to not only make it stand apart from its obvious Zelda inspiration, but surpass it in many respects.

One of the main differences between Okami and the games that inspired it comes about in its key gameplay mechanic, the celestial brush. The celestial brush allows you to pause the action and draw on the screen using the analogue stick. Certain symbols are recognised by the game and translate to certain in game actions, in this case godlike powers. For example, you can draw a circle in the sky to make the sun magically appear or draw a line across an enemy to powerfully cut it. A lot of the fun of Okami is in discovering these so called 'brush strokes' for yourself. On your journey to defeat evil you will discover 13 of them, and they are uniformly well designed and useful. This clever mechanic sets Okami apart from other games; brushstrokes can be used in combat but are also needed for solving puzzles. This once again makes Okami a bit different, solving puzzles in this unique way really makes it something special, and this is backed up by the great puzzle design throughout. The puzzles are not particularly challenging, but they do make you use the gameplay mechanics in imaginative and varied ways. This makes them fun to complete even when they don't tax your brain that much, thus keeping the gameplay satisfying and engaging. The diverse puzzle design will make you want to see all the creative ways in which your celestial brush can be utilised.

This relative ease is both a plus and minus to the overall experience of Okami. In a game as long as this one, it's great that you are able to relax and just enjoy the experience; it's an easy game to get lost in and this makes Okami a joy to play. Many may wish for more challenge, however; the puzzles are satisfying enough even though they are not greatly challenging, but the combat is another matter. The combat in Okami is very simplistic; you are taken to a sealed off arena for every enemy encounter and then have to defeat your foes in order to exit. You fight by tapping one button for your main attack and one for your secondary (you can swap different pieces of equipment around for different kind of attacks, but it has little impact on combat) and of course by using the celestial brush. The problem is that every encounter is very easy; the only time you will find a challenge is when you face a foe for the first time, and here it is only a matter of time before you find the one attack technique or brush stroke that defeats them with ease. After each fight you are judged on your speed and damage taken, and it is very likely that a competent gamer will repeatedly get top scores with very little effort. This simple combat is fun, purely due to the fact it is interesting to try out your new brushstrokes on fresh foes, but later on it starts to be an inconvenience. There is a lot of enemy repetition, and when you know how to dispatch every enemy quickly and efficiently, it isn't worth the time it takes to complete these exchanges. Boss battles are somewhat different; though they are uniformly easy, they are all very fun. This is due to great design; the bosses act as all good bosses should do- as a creative puzzle that cleverly utilises the core mechanics. It's fun to work out how to take down these impressively large beasts and some later bosses take great advantage of Okami's unique features to make for a truly memorable battle. It's a shame these fights are so easy, but they are never a chore to defeat, a bit more challenge would be preferable though they still stand out as highpoints in the game.

Games being art is questionable... But this game has art in it!

Despite its lack of difficulty, Okami can still be a frustrating game in some respects. This is because of it lacking some structure in places. On several occasions it is a bit too uncooperative in showing you what to do next and it's easy to get into the position of being able to tackle any of the game's puzzles, enemies or bosses without breaking a sweat but having no idea where to go. You may feel like you are stumped more by poor design than real challenge. However, saying this, it is nice to find a game that doesn't constantly hand-hold the player and this will be a plus point to many. This considered though there are still cases where the game does hold your hand too much and explain to you a solution you could easily work out by yourself, this inconsistency between over explanation and a lack of explanation does lead to frustration, and Clover would have been better off finding a balance between the two.

Another problem with the structure is how the story is laid out. Okami tells a decent tale, you are the sun God Amaterasu who has taken on the form of a white wolf in order to fight back the evil presence in order to save the land. You being a god is the explanation for the aforementioned 'godlike' powers, and it's an interesting conceit that perhaps somewhat explains why things are easy for you. The overall story is very simple, but the story-telling is well done and there are some quite emotional moments littered throughout. Though many characters may seem like caricatures, or just plain annoying at first, almost all of them turn out to be well thought out and well written. Even the potentially annoying Navi-****sidekick turns out to be an excellent character that you will care about, the same could not be said for Navi no matter how much you listened. Despite how well written Okami can be, there still is a problem with the story, and that is its lack of focus. There is a very barebones overarching narrative that doesn't quite do enough to keep the story constantly compelling, and there are several points in Okami where the game could easily just end (everything seems to be tied up and your quest complete) but then something else happens that means another ten or so hours is required. This is a good thing for the gameplay; the game is so fun to play and the experience as a whole is so great that you won't want it to end, but in story terms it's a definite issue. It's hard to know what your actual goal is, apart from defeat the darkness, and you are never quite sure at several points whether you are just about to complete that ambiguous goal or not.

In spite of this Okami still manages to be superb, and one of the greatest things about it is its presentation. The games visuals are astounding, though it is technically limited by PS2 hardware, the gorgeous art design makes Okami one of finest games ever made. Every frame looks like a beautiful Japanese painting and the colourful and vibrant environments bring life to the world. The visuals are the first thing you will notice, and are a big part of the charm of Okami. It's a world so beautiful, and one so well designed, that you cannot help but lose yourself in it. It's a rare experience when everything comes together so perfectly, and apart from a few minor missteps Okami completely delivers. The soundtrack deserves a mention also; the music captures the feel of the areas and the tone of the situations amazingly and is the ideal accompaniment to a fantastic game such as Okami. The level of design talent behind this game is very obvious in the final product. Clover Studios are well respected for good reason, and it is quite the compliment to say that Okami is on the same level (if not higher than) game director Hideki Kamiya's previous titles, Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe.

Simply put, Okami provides a unique experience that should not be missed. If you were thinking of putting your PS2 away in favour of new hardware, think again; this modern-day masterpiece from Clover Studios is the perfect reminder that it is not technology which makes a game great but imagination and creativity. This Japanese adventure game is a beautiful synthesis of excellent gameplay, visuals, sound and, in most respects, writing. It's rare to find such a complete package that delivers on almost all fronts, Okami is not without its flaws, and many of these stem from odd design choices, but this doesn't stop it from being a potential ****c. Okami is a truly superb title and a must buy.

Review: Chains of Olympus

So I picked up the big GoW release this week. Yes, not Gears of War 3, but God of War Origins (though I really want Gears). This gave me the chance to playin chains of Olympus, and here is my review!!

The Good:

Does a great job of translating God of War to the PSP - Looks Great on a technical and artistic level - Brutal and enjoyable combat with satisfying controls - Great soundtrack that fits the game well

The Bad:

Does very little to set itself apart from other games in the series - You can do everything in the campaign in under 6 hours - Lacks some of what makes God of War... God of War

With the release of the second game in the series in 2007, God of War took an impressive step forward. The sequel capitalised on all that was good in the original and tightened up all the areas where it was lacking. To some extent Chains of Olympus can be looked upon in the same way, it keeps what made God of War 1 so great and carries on some of the gameplay tweaks that 2 made to the original. However, God of War 2 did more than just tighten up the original, it improved on it in several important ways. The bosses were better, the scale was larger, and the overall experience was just much better. In this regard, Chains of Olympus still delivers a great God of War experience, but it's lessened by the fact that it released the year after God of War 2. It's a great achievement for a PSP games, but there are several key features that would have held the game up to God of War 2 level that would be achievable on the PSP but are oddly absent. At its core, it's more bloody God of War fun, and it retains what makes the series so excellent. It should be admired for the great job it does in transferring God of War onto a handheld system, but in doing this, some sacrifices are made that can make the game feel like God of War light.

It's easy to forgive a lot of the slight gripes you can have with Chains of Olympus in the light of it being a PSP game. It retains the core gameplay of God of War, which is brought over onto the small screen perfectly. However, it focuses on this too much, it gives you a combat-heavy experience (especially in the second half where all pretence of other gameplay is thrown out the window), and this is a good thing in many regards. God of War's combat is excellent; it can get button mashy at times, but the need to focus on attack windows and avoiding damage--twined with challenging battles--keep the combat satisfying throughout and relatively tactical. The combat is not what makes the series so special though, it is the true action adventure feel of the game. The melding of the epic scale of the levels, the brutal combat, the creative and challenging puzzles, the story, and the platforming make it a complete experience which makes it the quintessential action adventure series. Whereas many games that are supposedly action adventure are really just action games with some cutscenes, God of War focuses on the adventure just as much as the action and truly delivers in both categories. Chains of Olympus is definitely still an adventure, it retains the sense of grandeur the series has become known for, things are big and impressive, it's easy to be awe-struck by the scale of things and the famous cinematic fixed camera does a great job of show piecing the impressive scale of the game. Unfortunately, this and an entertaining (though by no means great) story are the extent of the adventure. Though there is some light puzzle-solving early on and a few bosses sprinkled around, the focus on these definitely feels toned down. Couple this with a campaign that you can finish, with finding every collectible and maxing out all your weapons and magic, in under 6 hours and the feel of the complete action adventure package is lessened.

Kratos is a radical optician

Chains of Olympus is first and foremost a truly excellent action title for the PSP, and this is great. It will give God of War fans a great time from start to finish and is a great introduction to the series for PSP owners. However, its focus on combat and action stop it from reaching the heights of its superb predecessors. God of War 2 in particular had memorable and challenging boss battles, and a good number of them. The boss battles in Chains are by no means bad, some of them look great and all of them are fun, but there aren't nearly enough of them and they are not very challenging. This means that they aren't that memorable and are a missed opportunity in many ways, and reinforces the slightly stripped-down vibe. The boss battles in the game show that the PSP is capable of some impressive stuff, they just need to be a touch harder and more numerous to be as satisfying as the offering in God of War 2. As well as these incredible boss battles, both God of War games mixed in superb puzzle design, a feature which really helped the series to stand out. These puzzles made the games feel like an ultraviolent Zelda game in places and were a truly great addition to the series, once again adding to the complete package feel. There are a few puzzles in Chains of Olympus, but they are usually your simple block pushing puzzles, and even when they are a bit more imaginative than that, they are still infrequent and easy. The puzzles usually found in God of War are often taxing (in a good way), complicated puzzles that require a lot of working out and are satisfying to solve. The puzzles in Chains (the few that can be called puzzles) are really quite simple even though creating the usual God of War-like puzzles would hardly have taxed the PSP, and it's just disappointing to see them pushed to the side in favour of pure action. In fact, the second half of the game seems to forsake puzzles almost completely, and is noticeably weaker for that.

Despite its shortcomings when put into the context of the series, Chains of Olympus has numerous impressive strengths that are important to elaborate on for those new to the series. The setting of the game is a prequel of sorts to the original God of War; however, knowledge of the events of God of War 1 may be quite useful here. The immediate action of God of War 1 took place after Chains, but much of the story in the original is the slow unveiling of past events, events that took place before Chains of Olympus. Chains doesn't do a great job of explaining these events, and therefore previous knowledge of the franchise, though not needed, is useful. The story itself in Chains of Olympus is pretty simple; you are Kratos, a mortal man plagued with the nightmares from his past. Kratos is promised by the Gods of Olympus that they will save him from his nightmares and forgive him his sins if he serves them. This servitude takes the form of doing some acts God's wouldn't get away with but it mostly just gives you an excuse to visit a variety of areas and brutally murder many mythical beasts. It's a lot of fun, and while the story is, as previously mentioned, not great, it is reasonably well told and gives you more than enough reason to see a new breathtaking environment.

Kratos is very mellow in Chains of Olympus... Just joking, he's still angry

The gameplay is the real strength here though (despite its relatively light take on the God of War formula); the main moment-to-moment gameplay takes the form of Kratos eviscerating numerous foes with his trusty blades of Chaos. Blades attached to his body by long chains that enable him to swing these around like a madman, ensuring damage can be dealt out in a large radius. Attacking is as simple as pressing square for a weak (but fast) attack and triangle for a strong (but slower) attack. These blades can be levelled up to unlock new combos that add another slight level of sophistication to the combat. As well as your blades, you have magic, and the amount of magic you can do is determined by a mana meter that can be replenished by dispatching certain enemies or opening certain chests. During the course of the game you unlock new magic attacks and can level up your blades and magic by collecting red orbs, which you gain from doing most things. As well as the offensive, there is the defensive, you are able to evade attacks with a well timed roll and can block (and parry when this skill is unlocked).

Putting God of War onto the PSP meant that some control sacrifices had to be made, the series always had pretty responsive controls, and there is no change here. Spinning the blades around feels as good as ever; however, certain moves in God of War 1 and 2 on the PS2 involved a second thumb stick, something the PSP lacks. On the PS2 God of Wars you move with the left stick and evade with the right stick (you roll in the direction pushed). This worked excellently and was a really great feature, giving you a certain degree of control over Kratos that improves the fluidity of the combat. All in all, it just feels great and is intuitive. Rolling isn't quite as intuitive on the PSP, however, but by mapping it to other buttons; they did find a way to get it to work almost as well. Though this doesn't replace the feeling of playing God of War on a proper controller, the recent PS3 port of the game brings back the original rolling controls and therefore has no issue in this regard. It is also a game which surprisingly benefits from a big screen, so the PS3 version is recommended. Chains of Olympus is a great-looking game for the PSP, but the enormity of some of the games landscapes and enemies lends itself really well to a larger screen. On top of that, the strong art design of God of War coupled with a slight HD upgrade mean that you won't be stuck playing an old and ugly-looking game on your fancy HD console.

GET OVER HERE!!!

One disappointing omission from Chains of Olympus, present in God of War 1 and 2 (and later included in 3), is the rage meter. In the console games, a meter would build up in combat; when full, the player could push in both sticks and unleash Kratos' rage, and he is a very angry man. This made your attacks way more powerful and could turn the tide of even the toughest battle. Using it at the right time was a great tactical consideration which brought a lot to the core gameplay. Although it wasn't a huge inclusion and the game still plays excellently without it, it was still a very good feature. It is obvious why it isn't in there, the button set-up doesn't exist on the PSP, but they managed to find a way round the evading issue, which makes simply ignoring the rage meter slightly disappointing.

It's very easy to get caught up in how Chains of Olympus isn't as good as its console brethren, even though it could have been even on the system it's on, and how it in many ways feels like a stripped-down God of War. However, when thinking this way it's easy to forget that Chains is an excellent game that there is nothing like on the PSP. It's a great way to get into the series and a legitimately great action game. It's also an awesome God of War game but ultimately brings nothing to the series. God of War fans will have played this all before, and it would be nice if it gave something to the series, rather than taking things away. If you don't like God of War, there is nothing in this game that will change your mind, and if you have had your God of War fill on the PS2 then this isn't particularly worth checking out. This game only becomes a must buy when you have no access to the other games; in that case it is an essential purchase. If you love God of War, you will have a grand time with this great instalment in the fantastic franchise. It's short and scaled down, but that will only disappoint people that have a history with the series. In spite of this, it does a genuinely superb job of translating God of War to the PSP and is an exciting and challenging game that provides pure brutal fun from beginning to end

Review: Deus Ex... 1.

What an odd game to review? Deus Ex is a game I've had for a long time, thanks to the very kind Nintendo_Warrio, it's his favourtie game and he wanted me to play it so he bought me a copy when it was super cheap on steam. Sad to say... I kinda hated it when I played it at first and after only a few hours I gave up on it. However this year Human Revolution cameo ut, and it looked cool so I bought it and LOVED IT. This inspired me to take up Deus Ex again, and I must say despite it's awful first impression it does grow on you and I was really starting to like it at the end. That said it does have alot of issues... Wait, I'm starting to review it outside of the review, I better just post the review. Here's the link where you can click those lovely thumb up and thumb down buttons, and here's the review itself. It's really long. Really long! But it's a complex game that I feel strongly about!

Review:

Though it provides a great experience overall, Deus Ex has too many objective flaws to warrant a proper recommendation.

Ion Storm's conspiracy laden sci-fi first person shooter Deus Ex is heralded as one of the finest games of its time. It fused shooting, stealth, story and many other elements to create a sandbox game that put a lot of power in the player. It is a game where there is no one approach to any given situation, and although it doesn't always do a good job of making each approach particularly viable, the fact it offers so much divergence is impressive in itself. A lot of these features fall under the category of impressive for the time however, but even now the amount of freedom offered in terms of gameplay and story is still very impressive and not something you see very often in modern games. Its separate parts have become extremely dated, and some of them weren't even great to start off with, but when taken as a whole Deus Ex is quite impressive, even today. However there are far too many caveats to warrant a real recommendation. A dedicated player will find a lot to like in Deus Ex, but the amount you have to put up with to appreciate the greatness may make Deus Ex a waste of money for many players. As a museum piece it's impressive, and when viewed with nostalgia it's fantastic. However when played today as a newcomer to the series, it will take a lot of effort to see what made this game so special when it was released.

On a fundamental level there is a lot wrong with Deus Ex. Most of this comes from the gameplay itself, the freedom allowed to the player is most impressive and makes Deus Ex, at its best, a rewarding experience and a refreshingly different one, however this freedom is also its downfall. Though the freedom to choose between multiple options is available, no one of these options is particularly good. The two main approaches in the game are shooting and stealth, and while these are both functional; calling them good would be an overstatement. Due to its RPG nature the guns are very unsatisfying to shoot, they are made to the RPG convention of weapons only become good when you sink experience points into them. This works quite well in a standard RPG when it lends itself to the gameplay, Deus Ex is not a standard RPG though. It is a shooter with RPG elements fused into it, these are what give it its identity and are what make it great, but they are also a source of problems. It isn't very fun to pick up a pistol for the first time and shoot a guard to no effect; this is due to the deliberate inaccuracy of the weapons. When a weapon is drawn the cross hair is huge, indicating that bullets could fire off at any point in this large area, if you hold your gun still then the cross hair narrows and shooting suddenly becomes viable. This isn't the worst of ideas, but it does make Deus Ex not work like a conventional shooter. Which is very annoying for those who wish to play it as such, and even more annoying still as the game is supposed to promote being able to play it how you like. On top of this the only shot that really matters in Deus Ex is a headshot; this is made even worse by the aiming in general. Weapons are supposed to be upgraded and therefore start life as inaccurate and weak guns with huge amounts of recoil. This means that shooting becomes more viable late in the game, but at the start it's a poor option and just doesn't feel good or control well. Also late game enemies and level design choices mean that shooting is never a truly viable option, you can get through the game guns blazing but it won't feel like a great shooter, in fact it will feel like a bad one.

Some of the game's choices put the fate of the world truly in your hands


This brings us to the other main option; the stealthy approach. Much like the gunplay, the stealth is deeply floored and not satisfying. There is of course an innate appeal to making your way through a hostile area unnoticed and the result is rewarding, however the stealth itself is simply poorly done. The stealth in Deus Ex doesn't lend itself well to the first person perspective, you are supposed to memorise guard patterns and sneak around whilst their backs are turned. This works in a game like Metal Gear solid where you can see the guards from your third person perspective whilst you hide out of sight, sadly this is not the case in Deus Ex. The game often calls for you to be stealthy in enclosed environments, a guard will be walking up and down a route you want to take and you can only take it when he is facing the other way. This is very simple, but the perspective makes it a pain to pull off. You have to find a safe spot where the guard can't see you; the problem here is that due to the perspective, if the guard can't see you then you cannot see the guard. This means that you don't know when he is facing the other way and the AI is such that if you lean out quickly to check where he is, on many occasions he will notice you and attack you. This makes stealth very frustrating and is only overcome by copious quick saving and blind leaps of faith. All in all it is not a satisfying way to play the game and furthers the point that although many options are presented to you, the viability of these options is questionable.

The enemy AI is a problem in general, they act in very odd ways and their frenetic and idiotic behaviour when put under pressure makes them a pain to deal with. Enemies will react to seeing you with hostility, and they will react to damage with hostility. Basically if they see you or you shoot at them they will shoot back. This is all fine, but the problem comes in when they start to take damage. The basic AI routine for an enemy on their last legs is to flee madly in no particular direction. This is incredibly annoying and just looks stupid. It makes sense that a guard under fire would want to raise the alarm, but sometimes they just run for the sake of it. It would be natural to seek cover in a gunfight for protection, but the Deus Ex AI is far happier running around randomly in the open. This is just a further element that makes both stealth and gunplay annoying approaches to take. It's great that the game provides the player with choice, but choice itself isn't innately good, especially when you are just choosing between bad things.

That trench coated augmented kid, sure plays a mean pinball

In some respects it is because Deus Ex is an old game and has aged poorly, but many the problems really transcend this and stood out at the time of release also (on top of this many older games still hold up extremely well). There are examples of games at the time which deal with the gameplay elements that Deus Ex offers in far better ways, Metal Gear solid did stealth excellently and there were countless first person shooters on the PC at the time with great gunplay. These issues give Deus Ex a strong barrier to entry to a new player, the game is simply overly complex, and this complexity makes it not very accessible. Though its complexity is definitely a large part of its charm, and its identity, definite stream lining is needed. The RPG elements and interface can be daunting to first time players, even things like the health system- which is separated down into separate health bars for each body part (you can lose arms and legs and carry on playing but if you lose your torso or head you die) - are needlessly complex and can make it a confusing game to play. This is a double edged sword though, because the health system is great, there is a definite entertainment to losing a leg and being able to carry on; and it's nice to have a more realistic and contextual approach to health and damage. In the end though, some simplification is needed and as it stands Deus Ex's steep learning curve will seriously put off players.

If you are committed to playing the game despite all these factors, and have the endurance to strive through its shortcomings, you will be rewarded. Deus Ex is not a bad game, it is a great one, and this becomes quite clear the deeper you get into it. Choice manifests its way into the gameplay really nicely and there are some clear divergent paths that incentivise a second playthrough. The gameplay itself may make you only want to play this once but those who enjoy the experience are given plenty of reason to revisit it. There are three endings for example and all of which are very good, if a bit short. Being able to shape the story to a certain degree makes you want to at least try certain parts again to see how things can change and on top of this, the story itself is excellent and the story telling superb. The game rewards exploration also, so even without playing it a second time you can get more than your money's worth from the amount of time you can sink into a single playthrough. It is a game which requires your complete concentration and this makes it an immersive experience throughout your time with it, there are multiple paths and secrets hidden around the expansive levels and sizeable city hubs that require a keen eye to find for example, and the attention needed to spot these really makes you appreciate the well crafted world. It's a testament to Ion Storm's skill at creating a compelling that the exploration is so rewarding outside of the extrinsic rewards of XP for finding secret areas, and of course the discovery of multiple paths. It really is a superb world they have created and one you will enjoy spending time in.

The shooting mechanics make it quite clear that JC Denton should spend more time here

This exploration ties into the story also, you can hack computers to read emails, which shed light on some of the characters in the narrative, and find notes left behind which can give you door codes or interesting story information. Outside of this the story develops due to your choices, though there is a straight forward narrative the sandbox nature of the gameplay can change it. Killing a character (when allowed, and you are allowed surprisingly often) for example can open a new path and at some points you are given definite choices to progress the story. These choices are really well done and transcend the typical, good versus evil, it is never clear which is the 'right' choice because it's just down to the player to follow what they think is the right path to the truth. The story itself is all about the spread of a disease called the Gray Death, the powers that govern the world, terrorism, freedom fighting, conspiracies, scientific experimentation and progression, religion and many other themes. It's deep, complex, philosophical and very entertaining. The campaign is quite long, clocking in at a good deal over twenty hours for an average playthrough, and in that duration the story twists and turns in ways that keep you interested and guessing. You play as JC Denton, who is pretty much a government spy that can upgrade his own body parts, this has a relatively small effect on the gameplay (though it can become very useful at a few points later in the game) but it has a large effect on the story, and an interesting one too. The Deus Ex universe is one in which human augmentation has become mainstream, people have robotic limbs and random implants to make them better, and you are host to the latest advancements in that technology. However what is the cost of these advancements and why are you the show piece? All will be revealed as you make your way through Deus Ex's many mysteries.

The story takes you to a lot of different locations, though there isn't that much variety in visual design. For its time Deus Ex wasn't a great looking game, the textures are simplistic and dull, and there are very few character models. Now however the game is just ugly, very ugly. Those who come to Deus Ex 1 having played this year's artistically strong Human Revolution will be very taken aback. Deus Ex is not a looker. Luckily the world itself is brought to life through great and very real feeling characters who add to the depth of the experience. If you are a graphically minded gamer, it may be worth skipping out on Deus Ex even if you love Human Revolution. In fact love of the most recent addition to the series does not entail like of the original Deus Ex in any way. It's a very different game and one that is not as player friendly. If you love the world of Human Revolution, and the story, (and can put up with dated game design) then you will still enjoy Deus Ex. The role playing possibilities are excellent, and this interesting take on humanities future is strangely realistic in some very interesting ways, it isn't that fun to interact with at times but it is a fun world to exist in.

Crouch+Stun Prod= Stealth

As a role playing game Deus Ex is fantastic, it has several groundbreaking features that are well ahead of its time and provides a deep, thought provoking experience that you can shape yourself. The sandbox itself is amazing, though the tools are poor, the separate elements of Deus Ex are very weak and the act of playing the game in action heavy levels can be quite laborious. However this is weighed out by the joy of exploration, character interaction and role playing. If you prize moment to moment gameplay above all else then Deus Ex will not stand up anymore, if you like story and the role playing element of RPGs then Deus Ex is still very impressive and worth playing. It's very easy to play through Human Revolution and be tempted by Deus Ex 1's availability on steam, but potential purchasers should ere on the side of caution. This game is not for everyone, it never was but now its appeal is narrower still. If you are able to overlook the game's many foibles to reach the brilliance at its core, then Deus Ex comes with a definite recommendation. It's an important game that warrants playing to a certain kind of gamer. However it's hard to recommend this title completely due to a number of very obvious and obtrusive issues. It's still a great game, but it takes a lot of dedication for this greatness to shine.

The Humans are Revolting Part 2

So after several horrendously long gaming sessions (including an all nighter last night that ended with me finishing the game at about 2 pm) I finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution. And yes, I really loved it! Also I got up to a lot more tomfoolery and feel like I should write more about my exploits.

After his success in Detroit, Adam Jensen moved the operation to China. Jensen is a respectable gentleman and was understandably taken aback when he realised he had landed in next to a brothel. Adam hates brothels. What Adam hates more than brothels are people who don't work for their money, there were two hookers outside the brothel on break, refusing to offer their bodies when prompted! Needles to say Adam pulled out his armour piercing pistol and executed the both of them with clean head shots thanks to the fine laser sight. For most people this would be message enough, a clear statement that Adam hates freeloaders, but Adam is a perfectionist. To make sure the message was hammered home he dragged the corpses into the middle of the helipad so that everybody could see what happens to those people.

Adam was emboldened by his success, two clean homicides with no police involvement. He was so emboldened that he decided to step his anti hooker agenda up a notch. He raided the several story brothel and killed every person inside and dragged the few he could be bothered to out onto the helipad with their sisters. Adam is a smart guy though, and he realised one of the hookers was a quest giver. She was spared, Adam then did the quest; which was quite a heroic deed. Then once he had claimed his reward he tried out his lethal takedown.

It was kind of like this picture here, only in a brothel and with a hooker rather than two soldiers. You get the point anyway.

This was all the time Adam had for relaxation, now it was back to work and for a while missions took over his life. He made sure to have fun in his missions though, like naming a turret Terry and setting him to kill enemies. Adam then picked up Terry thanks to his beautifully augmented arms and walked around a hostile area, Terry providing him with full body cover and taking down any enemy nearby all by himself. Tactics such as this meant that it was soon time for a bit of relaxation again, this time in Detroit.

By this point Adam had mastered the art of doing a quest for somebody and then brutally murdering them now that they were of no use. This got quite extravagant in places, in a particular side mission Adam was given the task of looking after an injured informant. The informant was on his last legs and asked for a final large dose of morphine to finish him off. Now Adam is a moral man, he knows that drugs are evil so he refused the offer. He then took fate into his own hands, he remembered how his fabulous robot arms could now pick up fridges so he gave the injured man a real soldiers death. He literally threw a fridge at him. That definitely killed him. Jensen then proceeded to tell his superiors that the man had 'died from his wounds'. Which was really quite hilarious.

This fridge related murder became a bit of an addiction and soon he took it to the next level. Detroit was city lacking in excitement, it needed something the media would be all over, it needed a genuine deranged serial killer. Complete with his own calling card and nickname. Adam Jensen became the Fridge Killer. This is not quite as it sounds. He got this nickname (which he gave himself, or at least pretended to) because he would break into people's apartments, shoot them in face and then steal their fridge. A murder in an apartment with a missing fridge? It could only be the fridge killer.

Illegal activities didn't totally usurp Adam though, he was an ex cop after all. When he heard a random punk say profanity related to the policeAdam decided to kill the lot of them. Bar one. The one left was cowering in a corner; Adam did what any man would do. Drag all the corpses so that the lone survivor was surrounded by them. He then noticed a large object, perfect for throwing. A giant bin.

Just like that.

Which he threw at the survivor. It was poetic really.

All in a days work for Adam Jensen.

The Humans are Revolting

My copy of Deus Ex: Human Revolution came today and I've already sunk some time into it, so far it's excellent and I can't wait to play more. However, before I do that I thought I would share some stories about the fun I have been having with my very own Adam Jensen. When playing games, I enjoy griefing the systems somewhat, basically doing silly things to undermine what the game is telling me. For example in Assassin's Creed Brotherhood I would get a mission to 100% synchronisation so that the game told me I did the mission exactly as Ezio did it, and then make sure I killed a civilian or two so that I could take glee in the game being forced to tell me that I completed the mission just like Ezio did. It seems Ezio is a jerk. Adam Jensen is a bit of a jerk to it seems, don't let his overly nice speech options fool you. Jensen is a sociopath that has problems with authority and a fascination with corpses.

I'm going to keep this pretty spoiler free so forgive me the use of very vague terms. In the first proper mission you deal with a corpse and are told by your superior to leave the corpse alone, don't tamper with it, and other things along those lines in order for you not to tamper with evidence and so that you can carry on with your mission. Now it turns out Jensen doesn't like being told what to do and directly disobeyed this order. Instead of leaving the body he picked it up and threw it under a desk. This wasn't enough for him though; he then looted the corpse out of morbid curiosity (because Adam loves quickly frisking a cadaver). Finally he picked up a few cardboard boxes, and piled them on top of the corpse, hiding it from view. Only then was he satisfied and continued with his work.

After his stealthy operation was over (which he got praise for from his co-workers for doing so with very little bloodshed) Adam went for a walk around town. All this pacifism had left him with an itchy trigger finger so he found a deserted alleyway and picked a fight with some hobos. A fight he easily won, however the hobos were rather persistent and Adam's reputation for being light on killing was quickly ruined. Luckily though, the police don't care about hobos and this particular slaughter went unnoticed and unpunished. Adam then proceeded to break into a person's house and hack their computer and shoot a house guest. Admittedly the house guest shot first, and he wasn't a guest as such but an armed bandit hoping to kill the home owner. So in a way, Adam did good!

Emboldened by further success Adam carried on with his missions. This one was a trip to the police station. He guilt tripped an old work buddy into letting him enter a restricted area, putting his buddy's job on the line, and proceeded to cause chaos. Jensen enjoyed crawling around vents that lead into offices and surprising their occupants and hacking their computers if they weren't in. This became boring quickly and Adam remembered the joys of secret murder. He broke into more offices- by crawling of course- and killed the occupant whilst the office door was locked and nobody could see. He then dragged the body into the vent and crawled away to the next office. It was also at this point where he found a large cardboard box... Which he threw at a police officer. The officer decided this was a crime worthy of death; he sounded the alarm and shot at Adam. Adam dispatched him with ease but more were on their way. Luckily the officers were very thick and looked everywhere but the corridor he was standing in.

Adam needed a break from his tomfoolery, so continued with the mission at hand. A trip to the morgue. He completed the mission as requested, but was too tempted by the corpse of a person he'd killed laying there in the morgue. It was only him and a doctor in the morgue so Adam did what any sane man would do. Picked up the corpse and repeatedly hit the doctor with it. The doctor called the alarm, but for some reason the soldiers refused to enter the morgue... Out of respect for the dead it seems. So Adam waited until the soldiers (on the other side of a glass door) thought he had left. He then walked out of the building free as a bird, and blackmailed a police officer on the way out.

It was a very good day.

I think you can tell by now that Adam Jensen is slightly unhinged and that I should not play games that allow me to have this kind of freedom. Also I am really loving the game so far!

Review: Watchmen: the End is Nigh

Weird game to review huh? Well my love of the book and a convenient Steam sale convinced me to pick up this game and its sequel. This turned out to be a bad decision, so I'm justifying this by reviewing the game as a warning to others! So check it out, and show your approval or hatred HERE.

Review:

Writer Alan Moore is well known for being anti-Hollywood and their adaption's of his work. Whereas Moore's distaste was not always fully understandable with the big screen interpretations of his master works, with Watchmen: the End is Nigh it is very easy to see why anybody would be against any further adaptations in this medium. An outsider to comic books who reads Watchmen is likely to come away with a great respect for the medium; it shows comics as intelligent, deep, complex and profound. The same could not be said to an outsider to gaming who decides to play Watchmen: the End is Nigh, they will come away seeing games as nothing but simple fun. Expect no intelligence or depth here, the End is Nigh is just a repetitive, simple, and plain boring beat 'em up. Compared to other games it's simply mediocre, compared to its source material it is an insult to the video game medium.

Fans of old school beat 'em ups will find some fun in Watchmen; the core gameplay is undeniably very entertaining. Fans of the comic book, however, will see this uninspired adaption as the disappointment it is, anybody who thinks that games can transcend to the art form that Watchmen shows comics can is better off sticking to exemplary titles such as Braid, Shadow of the Colossus and Metal Gear Solid 4 among many others. These games show that intelligence, depth, complexity and profoundness is possible in this medium and are therefore more suitable for fans of the graphic novel. Watchmen: the End is Nigh is not a terrible game though. Its simple brutal combat is a lot of fun, there is an inherent joy to seeing a masked madman snapping the bones of foolish criminals. Video games have been supplying fun for years however and it's understandable to expect more than this, or at least a greater amount. Watchmen: the End is Nigh is old school in a bad way, it harkens back to a more simplistic time where basic fun was the only option. Other titles show how much game design has progressed alongside game technology, whereas the End is Nigh just shows the progression in technology. It has great graphics and some equally great animations, but it feels like the end result of giving a big budget to an 80-90s arcade game developer and telling them to make a HD title. The result is a very polished title that delivers a modicum of fun but disappoints in every other area.

In his spare time Rorschach leads an interpretive dance group.


The gameplay of the End is Nigh is exceptionally simple, you play as either Rorschach or Nite Owl and beat up a lot of copy and paste thugs in a 3D space. You fight them in corridors, in warehouses, on scaffolding, on a dock and some other places, but no matter where you fight them every encounter feels more or less the same. The environments are quite detailed, and very impressive for a downloadable title, but they have no impact on the gameplay at all. The occasional large drop provides a great opportunity to throw a generic enemy from, but this is the limit of the interactivity. Environments are littered with enticing objects that just beg to be thrown at the nearest goon, but this is impossibility as everything is simply window dressing. This, once more, is a great disappointment. As Rorschach you can counter bottle wielding thugs and steal their makeshift weapons for your own use, but then you can walk past several bottles lying on the floor that you simply can't interact with. Mixing melee weaponry into this otherwise unarmed brawler is a fun addition, but it seems poorly implemented. Only Rorschach is able to use these weapons, and only a few of these weapons are actually usable, even though could be weapons are littered throughout the stages. This is an example of lazy design, and it doesn't stop there.

The End is Nigh is full of brutal combat animations that are satisfying to watch and pull off. Combat consists of four buttons, light attack, heavy attack, dodge and throw. These can be strung together to make greater combos; a dodge and a light attack inputted as an enemy attacks you instigates a violent counter move that disarms some enemies and greatly damages all others for example. On top of this well-timed light and heavy attacks strung together pull off effective combos that are simple but very satisfying. However, there are a few issues which detract from the experience. The brutality of the brawling is the main sell and it's very entertaining, this entertainment is lessened by certain sloppy design points though. Not only does the simple counter system make the game exceptionally easily, it also takes away some of the impact from the fighting. The blows in Watchmen all feel very powerful, blood spurts from your punches and the effective sound design makes you feel like you are dishing out some serious hurt. The counter attacks are a great example of this, but they are also very flawed, several counters involve breaking the limbs of opponents with a satisfying crack, these are particular highlights but a single flaw lets them down. Enemies who survive this brutal assault will clutch their broken limb for a brief second and then continue to fight you like nothing happened. One moment you are breaking a thugs arm and the next he is hitting you with that very same limb. On top of this some of the animations are rather suspect, due to lazy design once more. When you beat an enemy enough, a God of War sty** button prompt appears above their head, press this and you perform a kill animation. These animations are great fun to watch, Rorschach's are feral and vicious and Nite Owl's are efficient and professional. They can also be quite bothersome however. If Rorschach has a melee weapon you get a specialised kill move using that melee weapon. It is not one per melee weapon just one for having a melee weapon, this means that some just look very silly. Jumping on a man's back and bludgeoning him on the face with a baseball bat is an effective kill move. Jumping on a man's back and repeatedly hitting him with the flat side of a knife is anything but. It just looks stupid. This is a great example of how Watchmen: the End is Nigh continues to disappoint the player.

FINISH HIM!


Little issues like this make for an unsatisfying experience, with the End is Nigh you definitely do not get value for money. You get a 3-hour long experience that is primarily filler, exploits and regenerating health make it incredibly easy, and every enemy encounter (and there are a lot) feels exactly the same. The only variety comes from pulling a lever or opening a door. Rorschach and Nite Owl have different animations sets that match their character but apart from that there is no real difference. Nite Owl's grapple hook means he can occasionally progress one way in a level when Rorschach has to go another, but this is not real variety as it all it does is make you do the same repetitive combat alone. The only other attempt at diversity comes in the shape of an optional lock-picking minigame that is just needlessly complex and feels out of place. Rorschach seems more like the type to break a door down and Nite Owl seems more likely to have a more elegant solution than a traditional lock pick. All in all the game is just extremely repetitive, what starts as fun combat soon becomes tiresome, and there is little incentive to make it all the way to the end, bar some attractive cutscenes. The cutscenes of the End is Nigh do deserve a special mention: at the start and finish of each of the six chapters you are rewarded by a slice of exposition in the sty**of the Watchmen comic. The animation is very slight, and it gives the impression of stills taken directly from the book, and while the story itself is in no way impressive the cutscenes are still really great. The story is a prequel to the events of the book, it is Rorschach and Nite Owl back when they we partners solving a simple case that may be more complex than it appears. The story is not good, but it's not terrible, it's just there and rather unobtrusive. However, the very end cutscene provides you with a single great moment that will make fans look forward to the already announced End is Nigh Part 2 picking up from where Part 1 left off.

Calling a prequel the End is Nigh may sound like an odd decision, seeing as the end is clearly not nigh at this point in the timeline. However, it is soon clear that the end the game refers to is the end of this franchise as a credible gaming series. This game is a huge disappointment to fans of the comic and almost an insult to all that the book does well. Saying that this overly repetitive and boring brawler doesn't stand up to its source material is an understatement, but this title doesn't stand up to other games either. It's fun enough to warrant a sale purchase and the cutscenes are worth a watch for the artsty** rather than the content, but Watchmen the End is Nigh does not warrant full price. There is fun to be had in Watchmen, but everything comes with a price. The violence is the main appeal, but even than isn't extreme enough to keep you interested, gore fans would be happier with God of War or Mortal Kombat. Everything the End is Nigh does has been done better elsewhere, it won't appeal to fans of the Watchmen comic at all and it won't impress newcomers either. You wouldn't know it from playing this, but the video game medium can do so much better, let's hope Moore forgives it.

Review: Limbo

Limbo's release on the PS3 finally gave me the chance to play through this excellent title! In fact I liked it so much I busted out a review for it, feedback is very welcome and thumb it up or down here as you find appropriate!

REVIEW:

As far as game design goes, Limbo lives up to its name, combining heavenly visuals with hellish brutality to create a middle ground between the two. It is a game of point and counterpoint; beautiful yet disturbing, punishing yet forgiving and off-putting yet utterly compelling. However, despite aiming for a middle ground Limbo manages to excel in every area. All things considered, Limbo provides the player with an excellent and thoughtful experience, and though it doesn't last long nor end satisfyingly, it is still an experience that will stick with you long after you've finished the final puzzle. It may only be a 15 dollar downloadable game, but Limbo is one of the finest games you will play all year.

The core of Limbo is a 2D platformer, but one in which the challenge comes from puzzle-solving rather than precise platforming. The first thing that will strike you about the game, however, is its unique visual design. A stylised aesthetic is common place in gaming, but Limbo does a great job of not coming off as art for art's sake. This is due to a lack of superfluous elements, as a game Limbo is very focused, and this is its greatest strength. All the parts come together to make one cohesive whole and every small element contributes to the greater picture. The simple black and white design of Limbo is not put in place purely for spectacle; it is integral to the experience. The design here may be overt, but it is certainly elegant. Limbo is the place between heaven and hell; a place between darkness and light, white is of course synonymous with light and black with darkness. The great disparity between the two shades once more harkens back to the core design philosophy, the creation of a middle ground. This is truly very impressive; every part of the game seems to pit one thing against a polar opposite and creates a fascinating disparity very reminiscent of Limbo itself. This is once more shown in the artsy**in terms of character design and world design.

Limbo is a beautiful game... But it's also pretty creepy

The main protagonist of Limbo is a young boy; his character model is completely black apart from his white eyes. It is a simple design choice, but a very effective one, seeing as a child- associated with being innocent and harmless- is juxtaposed against a brutal and dangerous world. Put plainly, the design of Limbo is incredibly creepy. It is full of dangerous creatures, murderous natives and numerous death-traps. Limbo is an incredibly brutal game; it is unflinchingly violent and disturbing. The beautiful art and youthful protagonist may fool you into thinking Limbo is a peaceful game, but the reality is far from it. In fact, it is the innocent look that makes the violence so effective. The brutal imagery in Limbo is not meant to be enjoyable; this is not a God of War sty**game where you take glee in the violence around you. The violence here is truly shocking, and it is so by design. Making the protagonist a child was the key design choice here, there are many brutal death animations in Limbo, and seeing these horrific things happen to a child is more than slightly off-putting. The somewhat cartoony graphics and the silhouetted aesthetic make the violence appear more subtle. Once more, this is a show of how important the artistic design is to the overall product. If it were not in place, the game would be something else entirely and it could have been quite repulsive. The game is not glorifying violence, however, nor is it a sick and twisted child murder simulator. The game simply wants to make death have an impact, it wants to dissuade you, and this adds to the atmosphere.

The atmosphere of Limbo is incredible; it is brilliantly created by a synthesis of sublime sound design, cleverly implemented gameplay and shocking visuals. The previously mentioned visuals and brutality set the tone for the game, and everything else builds upon it. Death is common place in Limbo; the graphical sty** is unclear and mysterious, which makes it perfect for hiding the game's many lethal encounters. This is echoed in the gameplay also, Limbo doesn't hold your hand, it doesn't tell you what will kill you, you have to find out for yourself. There are numerous occasions when a lethal object will come out of nowhere and just kill you. This sounds very frustrating, but clever design stops it from being so. These encounters hammer home the overlying theme of a helpless boy in a deadly world. You are very aware that you could just die at any moment, and you know from past experience with the brutal deaths that it is very unsettling. You do not want to die but are aware that it is very likely, and this is very powerful. It adds incredible tension to the game, and there you have your incredible atmosphere. Several elements come together to make one superb element. It is easy to be put off by this overbearing tension, and this is where more great design comes into place: Limbo has very forgiving checkpoints. It is almost impossible to get through many areas the first time without dying, and this is thematically important but quite off-putting. However, liberal checkpointing before these deadly encounters mean that you learn from your mistakes and can now carry on with ease. This makes sure you can experience the great atmosphere without wanting to put the game down in frustration.

Limbo isn't the best game for arachnophobiacs


Despite its oppressive atmosphere, Limbo manages to be very compelling, partly due to a constant sense of progression and expertly designed puzzles. The progression comes from Limbo taking place on one 2D plane, you are always making progress to one eventual goal and every part links fluently to the next. There are no stopping points in the level design, which makes it hard to stop playing. This is also due to the core gameplay, in other words, the puzzles. The puzzle design in Limbo is just brilliant, and manages to once more secure the perfect middle ground. They are challenging enough to make you think, but easy enough to avoid frustration. It is perfect puzzle design, it ensures that each puzzle is satisfying to complete but never so obscure as to be off putting, it keeps the game compelling and keeps you eager to see the next one. Limbo's puzzles are primarily physics based, they mostly rely on you interacting with certain objects to manipulate the environment so that you can create a safe path for you to continue on your way or just knowing when to avoid objects and how to follow correct path. The puzzles are also extremely diverse, there is a small set of key mechanics but these are utilised in very varied and clever ways. There is a consistent tone to all of the puzzles but they are varied in terms of design, and this keeps them interesting.

Everything in Limbo just adds up together to make one complete package, the design all blends together to create a sinister atmosphere that is supported by utterly compelling gameplay. However, not everything is quite so perfect; Limbo is a short game and this may put off people. It weighs in at about four hours on your first playthrough, but there are a good number of secrets that reward playing it a second time. On top of that the experience is so great and so well designed that it is rewarding in and of itself; the journey may not be a long one, but it is one worth taking. The only inexcusable downside to Limbo is its abrupt ending. The experience of Limbo is so amazing, but the conclusion is very disappointing. It feels more like the designers ran out of puzzles than brought the game to a worthy conclusion. However, the journey is more important than the destination in this case. An unsatisfying finale can't sully an otherwise sublime game.

Nothing says instant kill quite like giant saw blades!

It's rare for a game to be quite as focused as Limbo, and that is its brilliance. Every part of the game comes together like a piece in a puzzle and adds to the overall experience. The design is incredibly consistent, with hugely effective minimalist sound design and graphical design juxtaposed against satisfyingly complex yet accessible gameplay to great effect. Everything just makes sense and it makes for a game that is truly excellent. You may feel like a four hour puzzle game is not worthy of the fifteen dollar price tag, but Limbo really is something special. If you have an interest in a game that does something different, something more mature and thought-provoking than your average game, you owe it to yourself to buy Limbo.

Deadly Premonition: A Scientific Examination

There are a lot of great games out at the moment, and because of this it's easy for a masterpiece to come along and get overlooked. This is a crime almost, because sometimes these overlooked titles are quite possibly the greatest games ever made. An example of this is Deadly Premonition, now this title gets some flak but I will prove to you now why it is the most significant and potentially greatest game ever made. Prepare for some hardcore facts as I scientifically prove, with 100% real science, how Deadly Premonition outstrips its competition in every regard. Sit back, take it all in, remember to scroll down where appropriate, and prepare to have your collective minds blown.

Reasons why Deadly Premonition is better than all other games:

1. Deadly Premonition is a better driving sim than Gran Turismo 5.

Gran Turismo is the big boy of racing games, it's viewed as driving sim perfection by some. But how can it be perfection when Deadly Premonition has topped it? How has it topped it I hear you ask? Well let me lay down the science facts with the help of statistics. In Gran Turismo 5 about 200 of the over 1000 cars have an interior, that's not great attention to detail. Now I am no car expert, but every car I have ever seen in the real world has had an interior. In fact I would go as far to say that 100% of cars in the real world have interiors. Now how can Gran Turismo truly simulate driving when it fails to live up to this basic fact? It can't. But do you know what game can? Deadly Premonition. In Deadly Premonition 100% of the cars have a cockpit view, now where have we seen that statistic before? That's right... Real life. Deadly Premonition is the true driving sim.

2. Deadly Premonition is a better third person shooter than Resident Evil 4.

When I think of the seminal third person shooter, I think Resident Evil 4. Resident Evil 4 was a very innovative game, nobody can deny that. But we were all too busy living in the past to see the true innovation that was Deadly Premonition. Can I prove this outlandish claim? I don't know, but I know science can.

As far as shooting goes, Deadly Premonition definitely cribs from Resident Evil. It does the whole static aiming thing for example. When York is aiming a gun, he cannot walk around. This seems a bit silly, but Resident Evil 4 had the same feature and people loved that game, it was game of the year on this very site! However not being able to move while shooting is a problem, a problem I will admit that Deadly Premonition has. But, the problem isn't as serious here. You know what is true innovation? Strafing. That's right, protagonist York can strafe while aiming, it's not walking but it is movement. It could be better, but it's innovative at least. Now if Resident Evil 4 got game of the year without being able to move while aiming and Deadly Premonition lets you strafe... What does this make Deadly Premonition? Let's work this out with science/maths:

Resident Evil 4= Game of the Year

Moving while aiming> Not moving while aiming

Strafing is ½ way to real movement

Deadly Premonition has strafing while moving and is there for ½ better for doing so.

Therefore...

Deadly Premonition= Game of the year and a half.

3. Deadly Premonition is a better horror game than Dead Space

Dead Space is one of the most popular, and most critically acclaimed, horror franchises of recent years. However, while we were all cowering in fear from many limbed necromorphs we should have been cowering in fear from Deadly Premonition, the true horror game of this generation. Now Dead Space is a popular horror game, so therefore it makes sense (scientifically speaking) that it does horror well. To do this scientific study properly we have to look at how Dead Space manufactures it horror. This is simple, it does so through its enemies, the oh so fearsome necromorphs. The design mantra of Dead Space is obviously the uglier the enemy the scarier it is, boss design at visceral games was clearly taking a basic shape and placing a limb on it in every possibly position. Ugly for sure, so therefore apparently scary.

This doesn't sound scary to me but, the public apparently loved it. The game was super popular and loved by critics. This saddens me, because Deadly Premonition does ugly game design so much better. There is no game on the XBOX 360 uglier than Deadly Premonition, therefore it is the scariest game. It is just a science fact that Deadly Premonition is a lot uglier than the, frankly rather pretty looking, Dead Space 2 and therefore it is a better horror game.

4. Deadly Premonition is more thematically powerful than MGS4

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is a game that a lot of people love, oh how they tote it's powerful themes and how they work their way into the gameplay. What nobody noticed though is that Deadly Premonition does the same thing, but better. MGS4 is pretty big on the whole killing is a bad idea, and this is pretty true. The way it shows this is by allowing you to play through the game without killing people and how killing people has an adverse affect on the gameplay. Old Snake will tire from rampant murder, it will actually make him throw up in the game and old memories about being accused of enjoying killing will haunt him. This is a powerful message, and a great synthesis of message and gameplay. Deadly Premonition does it better though, in Deadly Premonition the shooting controls are so broken that killing any enemy is a challenge. The aiming is so busted that it's like York doesn't want to kill, obviously this is on purpose. Your wrestle with the terrible controls is supposed to represent your emotional battle. This terrible gameplay makes you not want to shoot things, and that is a powerful message. MGS4 messed up by having superb gameplay and being fun. If the gameplay is good then it's fun to kill things, thus voiding the message. Deadly Premonition understands the science at work here and knows that if you are making a statement you have to be consistent.

5. Deadly Premonition provides a more interactive emotional experience than Heavy Rain

Heavy Rain is famous for achieving those emotional notes that just don't appear in other games, and for doing so interactively. It's cleverly design gameplay gives you some element of choice over a characters fate and keeps you more invested in the emotional experience. This isn't all true though, some parts are out of your control and this can be infuriating. You are promised an emotional interactive experience but with Heavy Rain you don't truly get this, not consistently at least. Does Deadly Premonition deliver here though? It's time to use some scientific experimenting to find out.

In true scientific fashion I will use a case study to prove a point. At one point in Heavy Rain a character, called Ethan, is so emotionally affected that he grows a grief beard. Bad things happen to him and the only way to cope is to give up shaving out of grief. This is really great, but it's completely non-interactive, Ethan will always grow that grief beard no matter what you do (disclaimer: this is not completely true, you could stop playing the game before said beard is grown). Deadly Premonition also has the ability to grow a grief beard, but here it is optional and therefore an interactive experience. The grief beard is no longer a scripted event but an actual decision. This is due to the shaving mechanics, at certain points in the game you get the opportunity to shave, change your suit and just generally freshen up. However you don't have to do any of these, so the grief beard is an option. There are plenty of traumatic events in Deadly Premonition, but unlike the scripted sissy Ethan you can decide whether your York goes the same route and grows a grief beard or just mans up and continues shaving. This kind of real time gameplay decision is what makes this game so special, and so much more of a true interactive emotional experience.

There you go, 5 great examples that scientifically prove that Deadly Premonition is best of class in every area, I hope you found this blog informative and that the science used within didn't get too complicated.

Thanks for reading!

Stephenage

Tactical Espionage Podcast

For the two of you (and that's pushing it) that care, for some reason we decided to record another episode of the podcast with the usual crew, myself, Shy_Guy_Red and Nintendo_Warrio. It's a bit of an odd episode, definately our filthiest yet (don't worry all the actual swearing is censored), so the suspect among you may find some amusement. Anyway, I encourage you to listen- not because it's good, just because we want people to listen- so please do!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Thanks!