Black Ops – First Strike

Something that was released this week was the first DLC for Call Of Duty: Black Ops. Now, for those familiar with the series, this is a huge deal, because the only thing more anticipated than this is the actual release of a new game. So it’s a big deal.

This map pack was released on Tuesday and it includes 5 new maps: 4 multiplayer and 1 zombie. And they are pretty good, and have some pretty wicked features. I’ll start with Berlin Wall. This is an awesome level set in Germany, surprisingly, by the Berlin Wall. The level features a load of buildings which provides good cover and sniping positions as you’d expect, but also there is this area where if you step inside, you’ll get blown apart by turrets. This area is denoted with red on the map and the floor, but tread carefully as you may not spot this as you’re running from your mates. I personally liked this map. Made me think a lot more about the whole gameplay aspect of the game and how to use my environment to an advantage.

The second map is Discovery which is set in the Antarctic. This level is pretty good as shows some of the snowier areas of the game, even though there are a lot of other snowy maps. This map features a lot of bigger, warehouse type buildings but combines it with more open landscape. You can see the northern lights, and somewhere down the bottom is a snowy bridge that you can blow a hole out of. That’s pretty sick to be honest. Makes those pesky RC things less of an issue. I did like this level, but not as much as the others.

The last map i’m going to talk about is Stadium, which is AWESOME!!! Well, i like it. It is held in a stadium area, as the name suggests, and there is a hockey rink involved, but sadly you can’t jump on it, which would have been awesome. But if you shoot the puck and the scoreboard, wicked stuff happens. There are also some other nice little things you can shoot which do things, but i’ll let you find them. This level features a lot of little places to jump and hide behind, but is pretty open, so bring close combat weapons to this fight and you will stand a far greater chance of success.

The other two maps are Kawloon and Ascension, both of which add completely new game play areas to the multiplayer and zombie modes respectively and are pretty sweet. All in all, for 1200MSP it’s not too bad a deal, but as with most of these map packs, is still a little over priced. I’d give it a hearty 7/10.

Gran Turismo 5 Review

So, the coveted Gran Turismo 5 is finally out in the world, after about 6 years of delays and teasers, we got the final product in our hands on Wednesday. The only thing is, was it worth the wait?

Well, I’ll start with the initial movie at the beginning. It looks superb, but I can’t quite figure out if it is rendered graphics, or real life video, but it’s spectacular none-the-less. One issue with it though, is it doesn’t actually show any cars driving around, or anything like that. It’s just a lot of industrial footage with some cool crazy pianist playing in the background. Still, it’s pretty cool.

Instead of jumping straight into career mode, I played arcade mode for a while. Now, this menu is pretty simple to use, and it’s is very easy to navigate. You get to choose from 4 games modes. Single Race, Time Trial, Drift Trial and Split Screen. Yes, that’s right guys, Split Screen. That’s a pretty rare feature today what with online gaming taking over. In single race, you can choose from your favourite cars, a selection of arcade cars, or cars from your garage. There isn’t that much of a choice in the arcade car selection, but it does hold host to some cool cars. You get to choose from the gran turismo original tracks, a selection of real world tracks, city tracks, snow and dirt tracks and to my surprise, your own tracks. The same goes for all the other modes in arcade. You get very basic tuning functions such as tyre type and ABS and other little things, and there are 3 difficulty levels. Pretty basic arcade mode to be honest.

Now, the actual racing is what you have bought this game for, and I shall review that. Did you play Gran Turismo 5 Prologue? Because if you did, then you will be very familiar with this game. I was very disappointed with this. The physics engine doesn’t seem to have had much of a revamp in the 5 or so years since Prologue was released. The handling feels very heavy, but with that it’s very easy to spin your car. I’m not too sure what it’s like in real life, but this is pretty annoying in a game. However, one thing they have kinda got right, or fun as it should be said, is their dirt engine. When you are racing on dirt or snow, the cars are pretty easy to slide along and it’s incredible fun. I mean, it’s not the best dirt engine around, but this is still very fun. Especially with the drift trials. They are a party game in themselves.

Something that was shown off was the weather engine and the change of light. These two features alone get a part in the review because of what they actually add to the game. When rain starts, it doesn’t just start full on like in other racing games (need for speed underground 2), it gently brings it in and then it can start thrashing should it wish to. This really affects the handling and causes your car to be more likely to slide. It is in fact very similar to the weather engine used in the F1 2010 game, which is fantastic. Now, the change of light is also epic. The way the sun sets, and the lights come on is epic, and not just that, but the lights reflect off dust clouds and road signs and it looks the balls. It is the most advanced light feature I have ever seen in a game like this.

Something else that was bragged about was the amount of detail put into the cars, eventually bringing it the title of most realistic looking racing game of this generation. I must admit, I am a little disappointed here as well. You get two classes of cars in the game. Standard and Premium. The premium cars hold up to the most realistic looking racing game as the in car detail is spectacular, and nothing has been missed out. Even when you look behind you see the back seats and the rear of the car. On these premium cars, there are a few extra features too, such as working windscreen wipers and a horn. That’s right, you can beep the horn throughout the race, annoying all the other racers. However, these features don’t appear on all the cars. The standard cars, which make up the most part of the selection only have the outside. You can’t even get behind the steering wheel. Compared to Forza 3, this is pants. Literally, pants, and coming from a game where it says it goes into extreme detail on the cars.

The career mode is very similar to that of forza 2. Some races are only accessible when you reach a certain level as a driver. This gives the game some form of progression, which is nice. However, the menu is scattered all over the place on the home page, and can be very confusing when trying to find your garage as some of the options aren’t labelled.  In career mode, you unlock special races which are races designed to test you. Now, these races are really cool. One of them is a camper van race on the top gear test track. That’s awesome fun, and another is a karting race. The issue with these races is that they are shown as being a huge part of the game, but they aren’t. They are only special races. Well, up until the professional races that is, i haven’t got any further than that.

The car customisation isn’t better than forza, and is actually still at a very basic level. You can tune up your cars by buying parts and such unlike the prologue, but other than that, it isn’t too good for the amount of time we’ve waited for the game. The theatre mode returns so you can save and watch your replays back, especially if you did something awesome. A feature i haven’t been able to test is the Playstaion Eye feature. Apparently you can look left and right just by turning your head or something. That’s cool, but i’m sure it’ll get really confusing should you turn to look at your cat, or to get a quick drink on a straight. Another feature i haven’t used is the track builder. I can only imagine what it will be like, but i’ll leave that for you to comment and tell me about.  On top of that, you can play the game in stereoscopic 3D if you have the capabilities. I tried that out at eurogamer and it was awesome, especially the view that overlooks the whole car. The car popped out the screen while the track went into the screen.

All in all, a 6 year wait for a game is pretty rare, especially when it is promised time and time again. Considering they pushed the release date again and again, the game doesn’t really hold up to it’s expectation. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic game, but doesn’t really beat anything else out at the moment, especailly Forza 3. The handling is heavy, the cars are too easy to spin, the graphics are good, but too rich. I’m giving this game a 7.1/10.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops review

So, one of the biggest releases this year was Call Of Duty: Black Ops. Now, on a personal level, I don’t like the Call Of Duty games at all. And i thought this was going to be another one that i didn’t like, but it surprised me.

So, when release day finally came, my friend was all like “do you wanna go to the black ops midnight launch with me?” So me being me, went along for the ride. I took some of my older games so if I decided to buy it I wouldn’t have to pay too much. And guess what, i did end up buying it that night. Mental, I know, but I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

Anyway, upon playing it I found that it is a lot more than I expected it could be. A lot more. Firstly, the campaign is awesome. The story has so many twists and turns in it, it’s like a country road somewhere here in Britain. On top of that, the characters are very well-developed from the very beginning. The game really draws you in from the start, and makes you want to find out what happens. I completed it on hardened in two sittings. Now, i’m not saying it’s an easy game, i’m saying that i wanted to get to the end to find out what happens. It’s that good, and seriously, the ending is incredible.

Normally in a Call Of Duty game though, the story blows, just like with Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2, so it relies quite heavily on the gameplay itself. Not, in terms of first person shooters, this game is more advanced than your basic shooter, but less advanced than a really good shooter. It sits pretty comfortably in the middle, and it does it quite well too. The few new features they have introduced are the dive. When sprinting, hold the crouch button and you dive to the floor into a prone stance. It’s pretty fun, especially when moving forward behind cover. Other than that, the game is very much the same as the others. The graphics aren’t great and the gameplay can get a bit intense, especially on the harder difficulties.

Another thing they have changed on this game, is the level progression in the multiplayer. Instead of having to use a certain weapon for a certain amount of kills to get a cool attachment, you can just buy it. Useful if you don’t have the patience to get 150 kills with a weapon before you can start using a scope or red dot sight. On top of that, the customisation has kinda gone all Halo on everyone. They have taken one of the best aspects of Halo, and applied it quite well to a modern war situation. You get to choose your weapon attachments, your side arms and even the colour of the weapons. Yes, that’s right, i’ve been killed by someone who had a purple gun. PURPLE!! It’s epic.

All the features we all know and love about Call Of Duty online are still there, and all the game types too. Treyarch have just added some more. There are Wager matches now. In these, you place a bet and get put in a random game type out of a choice of four. If you win, you win your money back, and then some! It can get quite addictive, so i made sure i played that before playing the other multiplayer modes.

Another thing that has made a return for this game is the Zombies mode. Yup, that’s right guys, the thing that made World At War worth playing has returned. And this time, it’s that little bit more epic. When you complete the campaign, you are greeted with a cut scene of epic proportions that involve a few people from history, and i must say it’s hilarious. This then takes you to a game of Zombies and you play as an ex-president. It’s very much the same as World At Wars zombie mode, but with an added hint of awesome in the way of characters. The zombies this time aren’t Nazi’s which is a shame, but there is supposed to be Nazi zombie mode with the Prestige edition. It’s a fun game type to play with three other people to see how long you survive.

All in all, i would say that Black Ops is a good game. Not game of the year, not by a long shot. But it is something special. The campaign mode really gives it pull as well, especially compared to all the other Call Of Duty games. On a whole, the multiplayer experience hasn’t changed much, but has some nice refreshing features added. For that the game gets 7.9/10. Like it’s good, but not that good.

Little Big Planet 2 – Demo Impressions

Little Big Planet is an amazing game! One that i embarrassingly only played for the first time a few months ago… Yes i was slow to jump on that gaming bandwagon… but at least i got around to playing it in the end?! Right?!

So anyway, after making the discovery that Little Big Planet is actually a fairly decent Freaking AWESOME game, I found myself ecstatic as i was told i’d get to play it at Eurogamer expo. I think this excitement showed on the day too, in how i immediately ran over to the game and well… played it! After all that’s what you do with video games… you play them. Unless of course you’re friends with one of those douche bags that sit around playing their consoles whilst you watch and never offer you a go… (I know a lot of people like that…).

Immediately after picking up the controller i was greeted with a familiar pod, customisation view and map view. I liked this as it made things straight forward for me from the start. Besides they were all good features, so why change something that’s already good?!  This i think stands for much of the game as you still see the same style race to the end levels with various obstacles preventing you from reaching the end.  I’m thankful that this didnt change as the mario-esque get to the end style the first game held, combined with its various challenges and need to collect items to further customise, made it more interesting for me.

Since noone has burst through my window at this point I’m assuming I’ve either been forgiven for taking so long to play Little Big Planet, or there’s a sniper waiting for me to step outside of the door… ANYWAY, when demoing the game a lot of focus was put onto the multi-player aspect. The multi-player in Little Big Planet 2 adds a competitive edge to the games, allowing upto four people to bat against eachother as they rush through to complete in the fastest time. This is made a bit more competitive by the ability to grapple onto other players and drag them back with you, preventing them from getting too far ahead. At one point we were literally sat grappling eachother down the same platforms for about 10 minutes…. then one of us actually made it to the end! (Spoiler Alert: It wasn’t me)

The costumes that allow you to customise your sack person are interesting as always! My favourite costume in the demo was probably the pimp suit, which came fully equipped with a hat, cape and PIMP STICK! With something like that in a demo I’m excited to see what crazy things get thrown into the full game!

I will be posting a video with some footage from the game and impressions of me playing over on RPIReviews soon! So keep an eye out there, and if by some crazy chance you’re reading this and work with Media Molecule… I’d love a promo to do a full review on one day! (I can dream…)

Playstation Move – Initial Thoughts

In early september, Sony released their run at motion controllers. Now, straight away, you look at it and you think “Wii rip-off” and i don’t blame you at all. The actual controller design is very similar to that of the Wiimote.  However, it’s what is inside that makes all the difference, and also, what is on top that adds so much more than the Wii could ever be.

Let’s start with just the controller and forget about the colourful bubble on top for now. The controller has 9 buttons on it. The traditional playstation controller buttons (circle, square, triangle and a cross) with the Move button in the middle of those. On the back is the T button which is a trigger, and on the sides are start and select. The PS button is in the middle of the controller. Now, for most of the games i have played, the only buttons used are the T button and the Move button. An example is Sports Champion in which you can press the move button to flick a ping pong ball into the air to serve instead of flicking the remote upwards.

Now, in itself the controller offers 1:1 motion capture, very much like the Wiimotion Plus, but this is all in one device. Very handy, as this keeps the size and weight of the controller to a minimum. But the Playstation Move isn’t just about this 1:1 motion capture, oh no, it’s also about capturing full body movement of the player to give that little extra kick of realism to the game. This is where the Playstation Eye comes in!

As far as i’m aware, the camera technology in the Playstation Eye isn’t as advanced as that in Kinect, but the way it is used along with the controller is incredible. The little bubble ontop of the remote is tracked by the camera and will position it accurately on screen, along with the 1:1 motion capture built into the remote itself, it gives a greater sense of realism in the game, and a huge amount of extra accuracy. Well, that’s the theory anyway. When i set my Move up initially to just have a little go, it took forever to try and get the camera to locate the little bubble on top! This was mainly whilst playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11. I don’t know whether that was because the room was too light, or whether it was because the move version of the game had been rushed, but since spending the time to set it up efficiently, i haven’t had this issue.

Overall, the Move control system is very good, and much more accurate than the Wii at this present time. Whether Nintendo release something to make their more accurate in the near future is unknown, but at this time, the Move system is a top contender for the Wii’s top spot in the current market of Motion Controllers. Look out for a video review of move on the RPIreviews channel on youtube!