Posted in G-News on 26. Feb, 2011
Fight Night Champion review
Fight Night Champion may not be a giant leap forward for the boxing series, but still proves a knockout.
Format: PS3 and Xbox 360 (version tested)
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
Released: 4 March 2011
Sport movies are so often built on cliches for a reason: it’s what we want. We want drama, we want triumph against adversity, we want the everyman to take on the world, emerging bloody and victorious, embarrassing those that stand so lofty above us. These sporting tales told in sweat and tears can and do happen in real life. That is why we love them. We want to believe.
Few people will ultimately remember Manchester United scraping past non-league Crawley Town 1-0 on Saturday evening. But reverse the scoreline and it becomes the stuff of legend, it’s David toppling Goliath, sticking a thumb in the eye of the accepted hierarchy. It’s the type of thing you make movies about.
Boxing lends itself to this formula because so few sports ask its combatants to put so much of their body and soul on the line. And few sports are as close to pantomime as boxing, revelling in conflict, violence and the meaty whumph of leather on bone.
Fight Night Champion –in its newly installed story mode– throws the well-worn cliches like a flurry of punches. And they’re just as subtle. Stiff jab. The talented, plucky hero, Andre Bishop. Straight right. The wisened old trainer that took Andre in when his parents died. Work the body. The naive baby brother making his own name in the sport. Left hook. The evil, scheming promoter. Right uppercut. The monstrous, heartless rival who doesn’t care who gets hurt on his way to the top. Knock-out.
Make no bones about it, this is Rocky retold in digital form. But however familiar the punches, it’s how they are thrown that makes the difference between victory and defeat. Champion executes its game-plan with a skilful touch, weaving the enjoyable yarn around a deep and tactical boxing sim. Sure, we may have a good idea of where Andre is going, but the journey is the worthier part. The cut-scenes that frame the action are gritty and well-produced, but what impresses most is how the fights push the plot along while forming their own violent vignettes. Each bout contains its own quirk that contributes to the story while adding an extra dimension to the fighting. Maybe you have to knock out your opponent quickly and cleanly to win the heart of adoring fans. Maybe you injure a hand but carry on regardless, forced to play a one-armed sniper. Or maybe you are forced to box smart to avoid disqualification when that devilish promoter has greased the palm of a crooked referee.
These scripted objectives do more than just keep the fighting fresh during Story Mode – they are lessons. Champion’s story mode is arguably the biggest, best and most in-depth tutorial you’ve ever played. Few games do such an impressive job in teaching you nuance and tactical know-how. It can be too heavy-handed at times, however. One fight early on asks you to avoid the mean left hook of a rival. Which is fine, in theory. The trouble is that each and every time he touches you with that left hand, even if it’s a glancing blow through a sturdy block, Andre collapses as if hit by a truck. It’s frustrating to the point of being ludicrous so early on, and you would be forgiven for throwing in the towel. Persevere like the plucky hero you are, however, and you will be rewarded. The finale is an epic, electric, exhausting fight against a monster in dire need of a battering. Just think Rocky IV.
The importance of stamina and footwork; learning how to identify, expose and combat your opponents strengths and weaknesses. These are the things you will take away from your time with the story mode. A good thing too. While Fight Night Round 4 was an in-depth beast itself, Champion leans even further towards tactical boxing. The controls still focus on a twin stick system, using the left stick to move and the right stick to throw a punch. However, it’s a little different to Round 4 in that you no longer have to twiddle the right stick to mimic a hook or uppercut. Instead, a simple flick in different directions will throw different types of punches. Up and slightly to the left will poke out a left jab, flick directly to the right and you’ll get a right hook, down is an uppercut and so on. The entire axis of the stick is used to throw several punch variants, such as a “hookercut” (which is genuinely what the game calls it; it’s a shovel-hook to everyone else). The theory is that whatever the angle of the stick, that’s the angle of your punch. For Fight Night veterans, the new system may prove a little fiddly to get used to, and it doesn’t have the same satisfying tactility the previous control scheme had. But after a while, it all starts to make sense, allowing you to form combinations and pick your strikes with precision. The mental flow and association of translating your directional stick push into an attack works particularly well here, but you can also use the face buttons to throw punches should you be stick-averse.
(Author’s tip: You can use the stick and button scheme simultaneously in Champion, I found using the X button to poke out jabs while utilising the stick for heavy punches and combos worked a treat.)
The result of these nips and tucks is a more streamlined system that allows you to concentrate on your gameplan. Pressing the right trigger brings up your block, but the positioning of your hands is automatic. Allow your opponent to attack your block, however, and combos will start to get through. There’s a focus on movement for defence and maintaining stamina. It’s not a huge overhaul by any means (Round 4 was certainly a more definable step forward) but with improved animation, it all adds up to a faster, more fluid and more accurate vision of boxing.
While the story mode is suitably eye-catching, the real meat of the game lies in Legacy Mode, where you create your own boxer –or choose from a real life legend– and guide them through a lengthy career. The greatest shame of Fight Night Champion is that the Legacy Mode has barely changed since Round 4. It’s easier to digest, with you guided through the calendar picking fights and taking part in training mini-games to build up your fighter, but the majority of alterations are cosmetic. The story mode is terrific, no doubt, but it shouldn’t mean that the game’s meatiest portent should go largely untouched.
That said, Legacy Mode is still compelling stuff, buoyed by the brilliant boxing and the lessons learned during the story. It’s tough too –boy is it tough– asking you to put the work in, jobbing at the bottom of the ladder before you are strong enough to be called a contender. Experience points earned from fights and training can be dispersed between a huge number of attributes, and you will find you have to specialise in a certain skillset depending on your style. And you will have your own style, be it inside fighter, brawler, sniper or straightforward conventional. The overriding feeling is that of an RPG grind, figuring out your class and building your skill. This is a compliment, no sports game that features a similar ‘Be A Pro’ mode asks as much from you. Or is as rewarding.
Moving through each mode in Fight Night Champion is like making the leap to a new weight class. And when the game is out and servers are live, online should become the heavyweight division. Champion gives you the arena to do battle in, with an online career and tournament modes to tackle. We didn’t get a chance to try out the online multiplayer at the time of writing, but there’s nothing quite as challenging as human competition, with players that have been schooled in the same way and developed their own styles through their offline bouts.
If you were feeling particularly churlish, you could say that Champion is too little a leap, the advancements over its predecessor not enough. That its short, hokey story mode is a glitzy distraction from more important things. You might say these things about Fight Night Champion, but you wouldn’t say it to its face. This is a tough, burly sequel that understands what we want from the blood and sweat of sport it represents. Familiar? Sure. Cliched? Of course. Champion? Definitely.
CREDIT & THANKS : Tom Hoggins / telegraph
Bulletstorm strikes a balance between juvenile machismo and stylish shooter action, putting a premium on creativity.
Format: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Developer: People Can Fly
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Released: 25 February 2011
Age Rating: 18 (BBFC)
Creativity is at the heart of most things you do in Bulletstorm. For every kill you make, you get a score based on the style and flair shown. Using one or more of the three weapons you can have equipped at any one time, potentially in combination with your leash – a device that lets you pull enemies towards you – you can eviscerate your foes in a huge number of ways.
It’s the key selling point of a first-person shooting romp that sees you, as hyper-macho lead character Grayson Hunt, carving his indelicate way through hordes of humanoid and botanic life on a distant alien planet. Accompanied by a disgruntled former employee and a tough-as-nails female commando, Grayson seeks the ultimate revenge on the army officer who ruined his life.
For those who squirm at over-the-top action heroes and ridiculously evil super villains, Bulletstorm might not be an experience you relish, as at times the whole phallus-waving contest between the characters grates just a little. Then again, it matches the bluster and pomp of the gameplay, so it’s just about acceptable.
The action is frantic, barely leaving you room to pause for breath before the next selection of maddened creatures attempts to remove your spine. It’s a good thing too, because without the flair kills all Bulletstorm would be is a fairly standard fragfest. As you’ll be constantly searching for new ways to inflict pain on your foes, so your attention is kept and boredom levels are kept very low indeed.
It’s all about experimentation. Shoot an enemy and you get a bare minimum 25 points. Sliding into him, knocking him into the air, and then shooting him in the groin gives you far more. Doing this and sending your enemy over the edge of a cliff equals even more, and so on.
There are a number of different groups of enemies to eliminate, some more adept at avoiding your attacks. The most common are the war-painted humanoids, the Skulls, that control crude machines and occasionally send out hulking mini-bosses with chainguns, grenade launchers and bulletproof armour.
Thankfully, the controls are tight and offer enough precision to enable you to perform the mind-boggling array of death moves and novelty set piece killings that keep the combat from ever becoming stale.
As you progress further, more maniacal, mutated creatures appear, along with various forms of indigenous plant life that aren’t necessarily happy that Hunt is causing such devastation. Encounters with the vegetation are but one of the many unique set pieces designed to provide a bit of variety.
At one point, you’ll be spraying a disco floor with the blood of a chaingun-wielding mini-boss after swigging a bottle of spirits, while there’s another point where you get to use a gigantic remote-control dinosaur – a section that sounds much better than it is actually is, because it’s fiddly and not as dramatic as you might imagine it to be.
Some issues are present to keep it from being a classic, such as your team-mates not being all that intelligent (or helping at all) at times and the sad presence of some terrible in-play texture loading issues, but move past these problems and you’ve got a thoroughly enjoyable shoot-’em-up that’ll keep you entertained right up until the end and beyond, which is where the multiplayer comes in.
It’s not the usual straight-up deathmatch or competitive team-based affair. In fact, there are only two modes (before the inevitable DLC comes along, of course) and just one of them is in anyway way competitive. This takes the form of what People Can Fly call “asynchronous multiplayer”, whereby players attempt to compile high scores on select areas of the game’s single player maps. These then get posted to online leaderboards and you can compete to see who gets the best points total.
The second mode is more interesting, up to four players co-op playing in an arena, very much akin to Horde mode from Gears of War 2, but with the edge of having the skill shots to play around with. There are 6 maps, each of which has a unique theme that you can explore by way of kicking or throwing enemies into things.
For example, one map has a monorail that periodically passes by. Kick an enemy in its path and you’ll get a big score point bonus, unique to that level. To get the most points, you have to work together to perform team skill shots, like the crudely named Double Penetration, where you get a bonus for two players shooting an enemy at the same time.
It’ll need a lot of new maps to keep it fresh, as it’ll be quite easy to exhaust the maps on offer, but there’s a great deal of pleasure to be had devising new and interesting ways to off your foes, both in this and the general single player campaign. In the end, that’s what’ll keep you playing, trying to discover the hidden death-dealing methods, like throwing a group of enemies up into the air and using the flare gun to set them all on fire. That’s a freebie, use the knowledge wisely.
CREDIT & THANKS :David Brown / telegraph
Killzone 3 review
Killzone 3 is let down slightly by the poor story in its campaign mode, but that doesn’t stop it being one of the most action-packed and best looking shooters on the PS3.
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Released: 25 February 2011
Killzone 3 is one of the most meticulously well crafted first-person-shooters (FPS) ever produced. All of the pieces that veteran FPS fans expect from Triple-A titles in this genre are in place: the action is frenetic and fast-paced, the enemy AI is smart and challenging and all of the game’s weapons are satisfyingly brutal.
The campaign’s pace is note-perfect; just when the action on screen threatens to become repetitive, Killzone 3 tosses in a jet-pack, or a chase involving tanks or a battle against a boss the size of a skyscraper. The game’s multiplayer is rock solid, building on the impressive foundations of its predecessor and offering a highly fun and agreeably violent experience guaranteed to eat up hours upon hours of its combatants’ lives.
The production values are off the charts. The visuals are consistently eye-popping and immersive. The soundtrack is a mixture of thundering gunfire and ear-splitting explosions and all of it is underpinned by a triumphant orchestral swirl. This is a game that’s meant to be played on the biggest screen available, preferably with the volume cranked all the way up to eleven. On the surface, it should be everything FPS veterans could want in a blockbuster release.
So why is it I find it so hard to become invested in Killzone 3 the moment I put the control pad down? On a level to level basis, Killzone 3 serves up harder than Andy Murray on a good day. But pause for a break in the action, and you may find your interest sags rather sharply – and this isn’t entirely down to the fact that playing Killzone 3 feels very draining. After all, FPS titles like Call Of Duty: Black Ops and Vanquish pound the senses just as much – if not more so – than the battlegrounds in Killzone 3, and yet they’re easier to return to. So what’s the problem?
Killzone 3 Video Review
Well, while Killzone 3 is undeniably an astonishing technical achievement, as a package it can’t help but feel a little soulless at times. Players who are after non-stop, no-holds-barred action should stop reading now and go and pick up a copy – provided that’s all they want from a game. However, for players who want a little more from their entertainment – such as a decent story, compelling characters in and a universe they can believe in – Killzone 3 comes up woefully short.
The problem with the game’s story has nothing to do with its brevity. Thanks to (amongst others) the Call Of Duty franchise, it seems short campaign modes are becoming more acceptable to players, provided the game’s multiplayer’s up to scratch – which Killzone 3’s certainly is. The problem lies in the fact that the campaign’s story is largely uninteresting. The action kicks off with a brief tutorial, set six months after the death of Scolar Visari (Killzone 2’s lead bad guy) at the hands of the ISA heroes. It then rewinds to the events that happened right after the end of the last game.
The first level’s action is intercut with the Helghast leaders arguing with each other and the ISA soldiers arguing with each other – everyone’s arguing with everyone, basically. As the story unfolds, it becomes thinner and thinner and thus, harder to care about. At any given time, the player will be aware of where they are and what they’re doing – they just won’t be all that invested in the how’s and why’s that have put them behind a Gatling gun, spraying bullets into the Helghast.
What’s more the story is populated by some pretty shallow characters. The soldiers in the ISA are a bunch of lunkheaded grunts who spout so many macho clichés they make the Gears Of War Cog soldiers sound like erudite statesmen. The Helghast are the Nazis in space; in case the jackboots, leather trench coats and Nuremburg-style parade at the game’s opening didn’t tip you off, one of the Helghast’s top brass even has a Hitler moustache. Interestingly, even though the characters are largely one-note, the actors providing the voice work do a superb job. Malcolm MacDowell is particularly good as the chief baddy, Chairman Stahl; he actually sounds like he’s having the time of his life pouring unbridled contempt and viciousness over all the characters. As a result, Stahl comes across as the best character in the game – even if he does have the most unbelievable haircut.
It also doesn’t help that all of the action takes place on the grim world of Helghast and the more time one spends there, the more oppressive it feels. Admittedly, some of the environments feel less uniform than in Killzone 2 – the story includes an arctic raid, a run-and-gun through some laboratories and a protracted battle that takes place both inside and outside a space station – but on the whole they still feel grey and depressing. One level is set in a jungle filled with vibrant colours – filled with lethal flora and fauna – but it’s the exception rather than the rule. The city environments look like Sera (from Gears Of War) without all the interesting architecture; during these sections where the player is surrounded by what looks like a burned out rubbish tip.
However, it has to be said that the quality of the dour visuals in Killzone 3 is absolutely stunning. There is some frame-rate crawl in places – especially in the local co-op campaign mode – but on the whole, the graphics are top-notch. As ever, the attention to detail is very impressive and players who have a 3D television can add even more depth to what’s on screen. The illusion of space between the player and any enemies isn’t really aided by toggling to 3D visuals, but the environments look more remarkable; the effect of sparks wafting by on the breeze, or snow gently falling just seemingly in front of you is cosmetic, sure, but it looks fantastic nonetheless.
The gameplay hasn’t really altered that much from Killzone 2, although movement has been tweaked so it no longer feels as sluggish. The controls are intuitive, and has been mentioned, the action on the screen batters the player’s senses and severely tests their reflexes. There’s the option of using the PS Move interface to play Killzone 3, but while that’s not bad, most FPS fans will likely be far more at home the dual-shock control pad. Switch the difficulty up from Easy, and the enemy AI becomes more challenging. Special praise also has to go to the game’s pacing – which offers enough variety to keep the proceedings from feeling stale – and the action set pieces are both intimidating in size and satisfying in execution. All the weapons feel comfortingly vicious; players will wield rocket launchers, Gatling guns, hand-held missile turrets and a gun that fires green energy. Pull the trigger on that last item and foes are launched into the air and splattered in every direction. And yes, it’s immense fun.
This sense of fun carries over easily into the game’s multiplayer, and it’s here where Killzone 3 really shines. There are five classes players can choose from right from the start – Marksman (sniper), Medic, Engineer, Infiltrator and Tactician – and each offer a different way to tackle the opposition. The levelling system has been slightly revamped; rather than lock the player into a linear path of progression, Killzone 3 allows them to use points to unlock the abilities and weapons they want as they move through the rankings. They can also spend points on any class they choose.
For those who are too intimidated to venture online – or those who just want to learn the maps – there’s Botzone, where players can set up a multiplayer match and fight it out against the AI over a few levels of difficulty. All of the game’s maps are very well constructed and perfectly suit the match types that can be played on them. For those ready for the online combat, Killzone 3 has some very enjoyable modes lined up. Warzone makes a return from Killzone 2, mixing up various standard match-types in FPS multiplayer shooters, which translates into epic online battles involving up to 24 combatants. Guerrilla Warfare is a 16-player team deathmatch mode, and Operations is a short multiplayer story mode, complete with cutscenes, pitting a team of 8 Helghast players against 8 on the side of the ISA.
It all adds up to some of the best multiplayer action money can buy. In fact, it’s a testament to how good the multiplayer mode is that this title scores as high as it does, given that Killzone 3’s campaign plot is undercooked to the point that it’s actually still bleeding. If the game boasted a stronger story to sit beside its superb online mode, it would easily be one of the best FPS titles ever created. Make no mistake, FPS fans who want nothing more than a fun, brutal frag-fest should sign up immediately, but those who are after an engaging story to compliment their gun-toting shenanigans would be fully justified in deciding that Killzone 3 lands just a little short of greatness.
Nick Cowen./ telegraph