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PC: Sim City 5

My copy of the latest Sim City arrived in the mail today.  I was surprised as it was a present from my GF!  She totally rocks it!  Anyway, after booting into Windows 8 and installing the game (which was pretty quick), the headaches are starting to take a toll with this game.  I have for at least six hours now tried to login to a free game server and finish the tutorial.  Apparently, there is no getting around skipping this.  Then again, I wouldn’t mind as much completing the tutorial if I didn’t have to watch grass grow trying to find a server that even responds.  What’s going on EA/Origin?

I’ve read forums (even EA’s own) where users have complained about buying the game and not even being able to play it.  I even came across someone who has had it since launch and still hasn’t been able to start a city!  Yes, the experience is dismal and there should be a refund policy for games that just don’t perform the way they should off the bat.  Why not adopt the 15 minute rule that Google Play and iTunes App Store use?  Users can test drive and get refunded for ANY reason within a given amount of time.  It’s clear that the servers are NOT ready for primetime — thus reflecting on the game holistically.  As I write this, reviewers on Amazon.com have given this game a 1.5  1 star rating.  At this point, I tend to agree with that.

I understand that the new thing nowadays is to tightly control piracy via DRM and such, but I feel it really hurts the larger market of paid players who can’t get into the game because of the walls of technology preventing the game from launching.  Sad.  Every single Sim City prior to this version has been successful — I mean, the anticipation of this latest version of Sim City can be accredited to versions before this.  I know I have been looking forward to it, but alas, I have given up trying to get past the Origin login screen.  I would like to add, playing previous versions of Sim City did NOT require you to be online.  This is where I think EA/Origin has dropped the ball BIG TIME!  Why do I have to have a persistent connection to the internet to play a game in single-player mode?  Lame.

I know this review sounds like a rant, and it totally is — but games today are going the way of strict DRM and this process has hindered too many potentially great games.  If you’re going to stack a ton of prevention steps and bombared a game with DRM technology, AT LEAST ensure that the game experience from install to gameplay works!  It’s okay to have minor bugs here and there, but to prevent the masses from playing completely?  HUGE clusterf*ck on someones part.  I remember Diablo 3 going through the same issues upon its launch, it took me months to totally dive into the game.  Yes, I am complaining, but hell, it’s my website!  I’ll put in an honest review of the game once I’m able to play it.  For now, I’ll have to fire up the PS3 or play Diablo 3 for the next few days/weeks until EA/Origin gets their sh*t together.

The takeaway for now, EA/Origin has definitely tarnished this brand and has made a lot of people, including myself, frustrated with this launch as well as question the EA lineup for future games.

Review

ProsCons
Improved graphics, umm, that's about it!Strict DRM, Unable to get past login due to server timeouts, Laggy login screens, Computer must have persistent internet access in order to play.
Rating
02%
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PLAYSTATION 3: Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 Multiplayer and Single Player Campaign Review

So this game has been out for a few months now.  I wanted to focus in on the multiplayer mode because well, I go into the first 20 minutes of the single player mode and decided to see what multiplayer was all about — and I haven’t looked back ever since.  I’ll go back and finish the single player campaign — at some point.  For now, this review focuses on aspects of multiplayer.

First of all, I thought it was awesome that there weren’t any EXTRA costs in playing multiplayer on the Sony Playstation Network.  (I have yet to renew my XBOX Live account)  The lobbies and player match menus are identical to the XBOX Live versions.  Let’s start with the new game modes:

In the Standard Playlist Mode, “Kill Confirmed” is the latest and greatest.  This mode basically forces the player or their teammate to grab “dog tags” of a fallen enemy in order for the kill to count.  You’ll still get kill points for wiping the enemy out, but unless you grab his dog tags, it won’t count towards the team score.  This mode needs at least eight players to start.  In the Community Playlist Mode, “Drop Zone” is an endless sprint to a specified location on the map. Your team is supposed to hold the drop zone long enough to win care packages which range from UAV to Osprey Gunners.  Zones switch every minute.  So as you can imagine, it’s a slugfest with weapons.  I’m beginning to really like this mode because of the fast pace it delivers.

Another new feature in the game is called the “Prestige Shop.”  When you’ve leveled up your character to 80 and want to start over again with shiny new emblems and call signs, this mode is activated.  You get one “token” every time you cycle through Prestige levels.  You can spend your token on an Extra Custom Class, Double XP which gives you two game hours of double XP points, Double Weapon XP (two hours double XP for your weapons), Unlock Gear which allows you to create a class item early and carry it through future Prestige levels, and Reset All Stats (self-explanatory).  There are other packages, but I believe they exist in previous versions of the franchise.

As with the other CoD titles, the maps are fun for the first 80 levels, then they get really boring, really fast.  There are a few maps like “Dome” and “Hardhat” that everyone in the lobby seems to vote for all of the time.  These maps lend themselves to the “run and gun” as well as the “sniper” types.  The graphics are clean and great along with the sound design.  I’ve been messing around with the Theater feature which allows you to view your last 20+ games or so in full detail.  Go ahead and pause, rewind, use the free camera, or switch to a team mate view to see how well you and the team did in a particular battle.  You can even grab a screenshot.  Cool.

What I find a little annoying was that the game can place you in a game in progress on a losing team.  Sometimes the game ends before you even spawn.  Another gripe is that you can spawn in the middle of your enemies where you have zero chance of surviving, let alone getting your bearing.

Overall, the game is an excellent addition to the franchise.  Some say that it’s better than the previous “Black Ops” title, and I agree.  The new game modes as well as the Prestige Shop keep the game fresh and re-playable.  Not sure if I’ll be passing to the third Prestige level as it does take a grind to get to level 80.  Then again, I do have a single player campaign to finish.

UPDATE: Now for the “brief” single player campaign review.

The single player campaign mode was quite short.  I completed it in less than eight hours of gameplay time.  The story picks up where MW2 left off.  I can say that although it was short, the story was way less confusing than “Black Ops.”  I still don’t know what exactly went down in Black Ops.  Anyway, the game play is filled with slow-motion action where your character breaches doors in which case slow-mo is triggered and you have to try to shoot your enemies during this mode.  It was pretty cool.  One thing I noticed was that aircraft like airplanes and helicopters always seem to go down in important story milestones.  It seems to happen when your side is transporting important people, or calling in for support.  It was predictable.  Overall, the this mode was fun to play and finish.  There’s a little surprise at the end (past the end credits) for those of you who are awaiting the next installment.

Review

ProsCons
Great new game multiplayer modes, Beautiful graphics and sound design, Theater Mode, Single Player Campaign short, but fun!Spawning points on some maps not ideal, Can be placed in a loosing team (game in progress), Maps get tried and tiring, Single Player Mode storyline a bit predictable.
Rating
95%
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XBOX 360: Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Review

With all the hype surrounding Modern Warfare 2 (MW2) and the Call of Duty (CoD) series over the last few months you’d be forgiven for forgetting that there are other hugely successful FPS franchises out there. This month, Dice Studios aim (no pun intended) to remind you, with the release of Bad Company 2 (BC2), the latest in the Battlefield series on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

BC2 comprises a single player campaign and a multiplayer mode. No ‘Spec Ops’ or ‘Zombie Nazi’ mode as with recent CoD titles and it’s pretty clear from the outset that the producers wanted to focus on the core game modes. The Battlefield series has always been about the multiplayer experience (the early Battlefield games didn’t even have a single player mode) and this is no less true with BC2 which turns out to be both a strength and a weakness of the game.

The single player campaign puts you back in control of Preston Marlowe, the latest recruit to ‘Bad Company’; a ragtag four man squad in the US army sent on missions that no one else wants. As with the first Bad Company, it’s set sometime in the near future in the midst of a huge war between the US and Russia. Bad Company is sent on a series of mission to track down and prevent the use of a WWII era Japanese super weapon which has fallen into Russian hands. Somewhat unsurprisingly the plot is very silly, far fetched and largely irrelevant as it only serves to knit together one level to the next and a result makes the game feel pretty disjointed. However unlike other FPS with silly plots (*cough*MW2*cough*), BC2 doesn’t have the cinematic feel and so ends up feeling even more stupid. The campaign keeps things varied with tank driving missions, sniper missions and massive siege firefight missions, but it’s reliance on ‘rail shooter’ levels gets boring after a while. The whole campaign feels a little too easy. There are three difficulty levels (Easy, Normal and Hard) and while I played it on normal I raced through the game only getting stuck three or four times and when I did, the gameplay suddenly bottle necked and became uncharacteristically tricky. The single player is short and I managed to finish it in 6-8 hours and when the end comes, it comes with a whimper rather than a bang. Perhaps one of the most unforgivable aspects of the single player are the mission trigger points (an orange diamond on the map that indicates where you need to go to, to trigger the next part of the level). There were many instances where getting to the points on the map meant fighting through enemy soldiers, tanks, snipers etc yet if you just ran (or in some cases drove) toward the diamond and reached it before being killed you would trigger the next part of the mission and all the enemy would vanish. This is a pretty unforgivable design ‘feature’ and I have to wonder if this was intentional or just a result of poor design. Either way it just makes the game even easier once you work this out. It’s fair to say that the single player campaign isn’t as good as BC1. It’s feels like no fresh ideas where brought to the table and although the banter between your AI squad mates is often hilarious, it feels like the focus was somewhere else.

At this point you’re probably thinking I hate this game and nothing could be farther from the truth. Despite these flaws, BC2 is still a really fun game to play. What it lacks in story, level design and arguably proper QA, it makes up for with it’s beautiful graphics. The draw distances are fantastic and there were several levels where I was called upon to shoot enemy with a sniper rifle from a cliff top perch. The bad guys actually felt like they were a good half mile away and really added to the sniper mission. Jungle levels are lush and very detailed and some of the open mountain levels are pretty breathtaking. Coupled with the great graphics is the great sound design. Snow crunches under foot, birds sing in the jungle, enemies shout at each other in the middle of battle and everything comes together to totally immerse you in the environment. One of the best things about the game is Dice’s proprietary ‘Destruction 2.0’ mechanic which is back and better than ever and this is probably the biggest feature to set BC2 apart from MW2. Buildings, trees, water towers, vehicles you name it, it can be destroyed and just not completely destroyed, but destroyed bit by bit. Pesky sniper shooting at you from a window? Easy, blow the corner of the building out with your rifle mounted grenade launcher. Group of soldiers pinning you down? Not a problem, throw a grenade and topple a radio mast on top of them. Not only is the destruction model strategically useful, but it’s makes the game feel so much more realistic. Enemy camps get destroyed around you and whilst that concrete pillar looks like a good place to take cover, it’s not so great when the enemy starts firing at it with a 50mm machine gun and it’s starts coming down around you.

As mentioned at the top of this review, BC2 is divided into two parts and where the single player disappointed, the multiplayer delights. Although it’s a shame that a Battlefield game has a lackluster single player, it’s no surprise that the multiplayer is the true jewel in the crown. Unlike MW2 with it’s multiple multiplayer game types, BC2 only has three. Conquest is similar to MW2’s Domination, where both teams must fight to control several bases around the map and reach a score limit. Rush is similar to Headquarters, where one team must defend two bases against an enemy who are trying to destroy them and Squad Deathmatch, which as it sound is a deathmatch mode but with the distinction that both teams try to control a vehicle in the center of the map that will give them a significant advantage. The first thing you will do when entering a multiplayer game… is die! You better get used to this as in all likely hood it’s going to happen a lot until you work out what the hell’s going on. BC2’s multiplayer is totally different to MW2. The maps are all huge, the battle unrelenting and the general atmosphere is chaotic to say the least. Because the game types all revolve around a central objective(s), the action is always focused on one part of the map. It’s hard to know what’s going on at first, but when you die you are given the choice of re spawn locations based on the different objective points on the map, assuming you control them. Each team has a home base that cannot be lost and is usually (spawn killers not withstanding) a safe place to re spawn. The game also has a squad feature that allows you and a small group of other players to work together. If you are in a squad and you die, you can re spawn next to your squad mate wherever they may be. A really cool feature that makes dying less of a an inconvenience. There are four classes in the game as well and each one gives you a distinct advantage, playing as a particular class will unlock upgrades and new perks and make things easier. Combining these classes with a squad means that a group can always have a medic who can heal and even resurrect players, an engineer who can repair your vehicles and easily destroy enemy vehicles and a couple of assault or scout classes who can lead the fight or hang back and snipe respectivley. When you consider that the multiplayer mode also has the same amazing graphics, sound and destructible environments as the single player, you can begin to imagine what an incredible experience it is. Whilst MW2 multiplayer felt like minor skirmishes, BC2 feels like a fully fledged battle. With helicopters circling above firing miniguns, machine gun fire from boats and jetskis, heavy bombardment from tanks and soldiers racing around the map in humvees and on quadbikes, there’s something for everyone. A little side note on helicopters; everyone wants to fly one and why not, but not everyone can. I will admit that, at great disappointment to myself, piloting is not my strong suit and hanging out the side on the minigun is more my speed. Not everyone is so self aware however. Be warned now. 90% of the time if you jump in a helicopter with someone else flying, be prepared for, at best a firery crash in to the side of a mountain or at worst, hovering 20 feet above the enemy taking RPG fire while they try and work out the controls! You might be feeling a little burnt out on multiplayer after playing MW2, but BC2 really steps it up with an epic feeling experience. Unless you’re a Battlefield veteran it’s going to feel disorienting and chaotic at first, but stick with it and you’ll soon see why Battlefield has always been and still is, all about the multiplayer.

In summary, BC2 is a very good game, perhaps even a great game although some disappointing missteps in the single player take it down a notch. However if you’re more of a multiplayer gamer you owe it to yourself to check BC2 out. Whilst it might not have the refined feel of MW2, the overall gameplay experience is so much more fun if you’re willing put in the time to adjust. Vehicles, team objectives and squads mean that BC2 is all about the team play. Whilst you can go it alone, you’re going to have an easier and more fun time if you work together and BC2 thankfully attracts a slightly more serious gamer than MW2. Add to that beautiful graphics and sound design and you’ve got an epic feeling multiplayer experience that’s sure to keep you awake far too late on many a school night!

Review

ProsCons
Epic feeling multiplayer, Destructible environments, Beautiful graphics and sound designUnderwhelming single player mode, Single player too short and too easy, Multiplayer can have a learning curve after playing MW2
Rating
78%
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PLAYSTATION 3: MAG First Impressions Review

When I first heard about this game I scoured YouTube to find actual gameplay.  It looked really awesome!  To think that you can be playing with 255 other people on a map executing on various objectives sounds really cool!  Unfortunately, that’s where the coolness factor ended for me.  To give you a brief overview of a First Impression Review, it is assumed that the game has been played for a sufficient amount of time to form an opinion.  Because this is an online multi-player game only, it doesn’t take long for that opinion to form.

How it all started.  Picked up the game at a local Gamestop and came home and loaded up Call of Duty: MW2.  Yeah, I’m addicted to that game, I know.  Anyway, after two days of MAG encased in it’s original wrapping, I decided to tear it open.  The game required about 60MB worth of updating.  Once that process was done, I was off choosing a faction.  There are three to choose from (S.V.E.R., Raven, and Valor).  I chose Valor because it sounded cool.  After designing a character, I was off to training.  The training portion, or as I call it, the MW2 motor skills brainwashing was actually quite entertaining.  The typical run here, shoot five targets there, lob a grenade here were quite useful in getting acquainted with the controls.  However, that’s where the entertainment of the game ended for me.

The first four level up exercises puts you into games with 64 players.  You gain experience points be eliminating the opposing team.  Once your character has passed level four in skill, it opens up more gameplay modes.  I was able to unlock the Acquisition mode which allows you to play with 127 other people.  It’s where you either attack or defend two prototype transports and escape to the extraction point.  Sounds straight forward, right?  Well, not so fast…  I think the objective of the game as a whole carries massive expectation.  To have a ton of people on a map doing their thing sounds amazing.  The problem lies in the mechanics of gameplay – which I think Sony and Zipper Interactive have dropped the ball on.

The good:  Lag was never an issue for me.  Then again, I have Verizon FiOS which rules over everything.  Players who have headsets actually communicated within the context of the game.  Never heard any annoying 12 year old kids talking to their mom in the background about cleaning up their room.  The sounds are THX certified.  Which means the environmental audio is spot on as well as the accompanying sound FX.  All crisp.

Now for the bad:  Here we go.  First of all, the controls do not feel as polished as they could be.  Collision detection is way off.  When I’m looking down the sight of a gun and see an enemy in the crosshairs, I expect to waste his a$$.  Not so in this game.  There have been occasions when the player remains alive, even at point blank.  (It’s also a huge problem in MW2 with the shotguns)  When I have a rocket launcher aimed at an enemy and it detonates next to them, I expect them to R.I.P., not this time.  The enemies seem to think of it as an afterthought.  They live!  WTF!  (I’m calm, really!)  A lot of work needs to be done in executing the basics for this game.  I’ll let the graphics slide, but the controls, I can’t.  It hinders the gameplay completely and makes it frustrating to play.  No one wants to be frustrated when they play, right?

Needless to say, I took the game back and traded it in for a pre-order copy of EA’s Battlefield: Bad Company 2.  Which by the way, if you’ve played the demo, by far beats MAG in playability and fun factor.  Quite sad considering Battlefield is still in Beta.  Moral of this review is it doesn’t matter how many people are playing with/against you at any given time, if you aren’t happy with the mechanics of the control system and collision detection, the game will end up being frustrating.  It may even prompt you to type up a scathing review on a gaming website somewhere…  I suggest you put your money down on Call of Duty: MW2 (if you haven’t already) or Battlefield: Bad Company 2 which is out March 2, 2010.

If we had a rating system, I’d give MAG a 4 out of 10.  One for everyday I owned the copy.

Review

ProsCons
Expanse Maps in Multiplayer, Destructible environments, Beautiful graphics and sound designUnderwhelming single player mode, Controls can have a learning curve after playing MW2
Rating
45%
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XBOX 360: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review

Two months ago, I waited in line at a Gamestop to acquire a copy of this game for the Xbox 360.  Not having pre-ordered a copy, I was denied a sale.  Remember, we (the writers at Gamersplay) don’t get advanced copies of games — yet…  Anyway, I headed to the Best Buy next door and to my surprise, they had a ton of copies.  Ca-ching!  Sold.  By the way, this title has set a ton of records.  One of them being that it generated $550 million in the first five days of release.

I began playing the single-player campaign.  It was cool.  The gameplay brought me back to the Call of Duty 4 days.  The controls were second nature, like riding a bike.  You never forget it.  After getting to the second mission, I decided to play the multi-player campaigns exclusively.  Why you ask?  I was going on vacation in early December 2009 and wanted to level up my character as much as I could so that when I returned, I could be at-par with my friends.  Needless to say, my friends have never caught-up — so far.  I have been playing this game non-stop, every single moment I get the chance.  I’m not a hard-core MW2 player as others I’ve seen online, but compared to my friends, I’m pretty much labeled as addicted.  There are 16 multiplayer maps in the game.  Hard to imagine that there are that many, but if you’ve played it as much as I have, the maps are beginning to feel a bit old.  Currently as I write this, my character is at 1st Prestige level 50.  It’s still interesting enough for me to pick up the Xbox controller almost every night, but my gameplay has since been cut down from all-nighters to an hour max.  The graphics are sharp as I can see movement well beyond the scope of my gun.  Then again, it helps to play on an 52″ HDTV.  The sounds are crisp and typical of this type of genre as the gunshots and AC130 planes hover above the map.  One of the coolest features of this game are Kill-streak awards.  The concept behind this is for every consecutive kill you make (without dying), you unlock a reward.  Rewards vary from drop packages, to being a gunner on a gunship chopper, and even the ultimate tactical nuke strike — which by the way, ends the game for everyone playing.  In order to get this coveted reward, you have to kill 25 enemies (24 with the hardline perk) without dying.  The best I’ve done is 13.  I know, lame for the hardcore players, but pretty awesome in my book!  There are a ton of gameplay types from Free-for-all to Cage Deathmatch.  I haven’t played all of the game types, as I seem to gravitate towards Team Deathmatch Express, Ground War, and Domination.  Domination in my opinion is a great experience point collector for your character as points are awarded whether or not you kill people in the opposing team.  There are plenty of weapons to choose from and can vary and even change the experience you have in matches.  In general, the weapons seemed balanced, except maybe for the top of the line shot-gun in Akimbo mode.  Those seem to get me EVERYTIME and can get quite annoying.  Still though, it doesn’t detract from the game as a whole.

The Xbox Live system has been solid and the multiplayer games are hosted by a random someone in the party.  There have been times I’ve been frustrated with my skillz and have left the game leaving the rest of the gamers waiting for the system to find a new host.  Haha!  At least I can disrupt their gameplay in that sense!  Anyway, the multiplayer experience is top-notch.  It’s so good that I haven’t finished the single player campaign yet.  I’ll get to it soon enough as the multiplayer is wearing on me.  I don’t know how other gamers can replay Prestige level three or more times.  Who has the time???  I can’t wait for the fine folks at Activision to release new maps which will give this game new life when they do.  For now, I’ll continue chugging along the MW2 bandwagon.  This game has not been a disappointment.  Also, IF we had a rating system in place, I’d give this game at least a nine out of ten joysticks, thumbs up, whatever you think is cool.  If you haven’t purchased this game yet, do it now!  There is still hope for you!

Review

ProsCons
Awesome graphics, In-depth single-player missions, Rock solid multiplayer modeMultiplayer maps can get old quickly, This addictive game will test any relationship you have with your significant other.
Rating
92%
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XBOX360: Halo 3: ODST Review

Let’s get something out of the way before we go any further. Halo 3: ODST is not a sequel to Halo 3, it is also not a fully fledged title in the Halo first person shooter lineup despite the full cost $60 price tag. Halo 3: ODST should be correctly viewed as an expansion to 2007’s Halo 3, hence the presence of “Halo 3” in the title. But more of that later.

Halo 3: ODST differs from previous Halo titles, in that instead of playing as the infamous Master Chief, you are controlling a new Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, known simply as the rookie. The action takes place in the earth city of New Mombassa before the events of Halo 3. The human race is fighting a loosing battle with The Covenant and earth has become the last line of defense. The game starts with a group of elite ODST dropping in pods to the surface to mount a counter offensive. Unfortunately the squad gets separated from each other and after being knocked unconscious in a crash landing, the rookie awakes in a deserted New Mombasa, to a trail of destruction left by a recent battle. Your character takes it on himself to try and regroup with the rest of his squad and resume their mission.

Most of the game is spent traipsing through abandoned streets moving from one checkpoint to the next, occasionally running into groups of enemy. The sense of isolation and solitude is done very well, in part due to very atmospheric music (a staple of the entire series) but there is a question in my mind as to wether this actually makes for compelling gameplay. You can spend 10 minutes at a time not really encountering a whole lot of resistance and it does feel repetitive. The gameplay gets a sudden jolt however when you encounter occasional clues to your colleagues recent presence. These clues trigger a flashback sequence of sorts that transfers you into the role of that ODST. Gone are the abandoned and darkly lit streets and you are thrust in the heat of battle against waves and waves of enemy. This feels a lot more like Halo and frankly is a lot more fun. Some of these flashback sequences put you in driving missions, in tanks and also in aircraft. From a story perspective you can see what Bungie were trying to achieve but it feels a little disjointed and you don’t buy into your character’s story as much as you did in the other Halo games. As you are no longer a superhuman Spartan in ODST and simply “a man”, you have to pick up health packs to regenerate health. As Halo has never been a heavily tactical FPS, you’re going to need to pick up health fairly often. Thankfully there are easy to come by. There are a few new weapons in the game too, including a suppressed sub machine gun that is your default gun and I’m pleased to announce that the pistol is back to it’s former Halo 1 glory. It’s an extremely accurate weapon and when used with practice can achieve many a headshot. Of course for the bigger enemy you might want to consider a rocket launcher! Dual wielding is notably absent from this game however and whilst this might fit in with the games premise, it’s feels a little regressive. The campaign mode is also notably shorter than in other Halo games. Even on the harder difficulty settings you can blow through it in a few hours.

Graphically the game look pretty with plenty of detail, but it is started to show it’s age. As ODST shares it’s graphics engine with Halo 3, it uses graphics that are over 3 years old. The designers have done a decent job with creating some new effects and some of the landscapes are quite alluring, but this game also suffers from a problem that has plagued all of the Halo titles before it; repetitive scenery. It’s quite common to be walking down a street in the city and have the feeling that you’ve accidentally doubled back on yourself and have begun walking in circles. In reality, the same corridors, streets and buildings do get used again and again and whilst there is enough variation for the most part, it can give you a sense of deja-vu and confusion. It’s a shame that in 4 games Bungie haven’t managed to work this out. It’s not a problem I’ve ever noticed with any of the Call of Duty games.

What does work very well is the sound. This has always been a great feature of the Halo titles and ODST is no different. The score is powerful and rousing when it’s needs to be, such as in the heat of battle and very atmospheric and calming when you’re picking through the debris and carnage on your hunt for your squad.

Probably the biggest change from previous titles, is the addition of Firefight mode. This game mode is completely new and pits you and up to three fellow players (although you can play it by yourself) against successive waves of bad guys, each wave harder than the last. If you’ve played Horde mode on Gears of War 2 or Nazi Zombies on CoD5 than you get the idea. It’s an increasingly popular addition to FPS titles these days and it’s good to see that Bungie have their own approach to it. One of the major differences between Firefight and Horde mode or Nazi Zombies is shared lives! This really puts the pressure on you not to die and you do find that you’re less likely to run across the map on a selfish suicide mission, knowing that if you die, you deprive the rest of the team of an additional re-spawn. Each wave also has it’s own characteristics, such as “Grenade Happy” where you’ll find grunts will shower you in sticky grenades or a mode where you can only recharge your shields by melee attacking the enemy. These dramatically force you to adapt your gameplay and definitely keep you on your toes. Probably the best aspect however is the AI. The enemy don’t simply run at you, but hold back, use cover and flank you, it really works and all adds up to great gameplay and more than a few late nights.

The bad news is that multiplayer is a total bust. Instead of creating any new multiplayer functions, Bungie decided to add a second disc which contains the multiplayer mode from Halo 3 lock, stock and barrel. Ok it does include all of the map packs which were previously available to purchase in the marketplace and there are two or three new maps, but let’s not kid ourselves, this is completely recycled content. As such, any of the new features of ODST, weapons, enemy, graphical enhancements etc are absent. Truly there is no different from playing the multiplayer mode of ODST or Halo 3… they are the same. This kind of leads me to back to my opening comments. While ODST has some fun moments in the albeit short campaign and Firefight is a great addition, it never feels like a full game. This is probably because originally it wasn’t going to be. Bungie had intended this to be an expansion for Halo 3 to bridge the gap before the next full Halo title, Halo: Reach, which comes out next summer. Unfortunately they obviously decided against this and turned it into a full price game instead and with the help of Microsoft’s hefty marketing buzz, were able to justify the $60 price tag. It’s not that ODST is overtly bad, it’s just that it’s not great value. Bungie should really take a leaf out of Rockstar’s book who have released two highly enjoyable expansions for GTA:IV both of which added hours of gameplay to an already excellent game, but more importantly, cost under $20 each. There’s a lot to be said for the relationship between enjoyment and perception of value and unfortunately for ODST it falls short when measured against this equation.

In summary, Halo 3: ODST adds some fun elements to the series, but the presence of a recycled multiplayer mode and a pretty short campaign mean that it’s longevity is questionable. Given that we are now in the golden season for new game releases and especially with the much awaited CoD: Modern Warfare 2 as well as Left 4 Dead 2 about to come out, I would advise going elsewhere for your FPS fix or at least wait until you can pick it up used for half the price. True Halo fans however will to pick it up regardless I would imagine.

Overall, fun but nothing that justifies $60. I would have given it an extra point if they had just left Halo 3’s multiplayer mode out all together. Adding it just seems lazy and insulting somehow

Review

ProsCons
Firefight Mode, Atmospheric & immersive gameplay,It's a Halo game! Recycled multiplayer, Repetitive level design, Doesn't feel like a $60 game
Rating
60%
Posted on

XBOX360: The Beatles Rock Band Review

So I’ve had this game for a few weeks now. It’s one of those games that I have consistently played since it’s release. Then again, aside from the games I bought from a Burger King promotion a few years ago, this is the only game I currently own for the XBox360. The game is visually stunning and colorful. The animated breaks between levels are thoughtfully done. The music is awesome if you’re a Beatles fan, and if you’re an exclusive Rolling Stones fan, the music is lame — according to one of my colleagues who is a hard core Stones fan. Anyway, the music is awesome. Whether you’re in “Quickplay” or “Story” mode, the instrument you choose (in a single player game) stands out in the music. For instance, if you’re an awesome Rock Band bass player like myself, the bass sounds pop out a little more. It’s the same for the other instruments. This means you can hear how awesome you’re doing in the game, or failing miserably like I do when I play the guitar on Expert mode.

Speaking of modes… For Bass guitar, easy is way too easy, and can be quite boring. Medium is still too easy, and a little less boring. Hard mode can be challenging, but still too easy. Expert mode is just right if you have at least 10 previous hours of Rock Band time. I noticed a few songs in Expert mode were way too hard, but when I bump it down to Hard mode, it was way too easy. The Guitar and Drum modes are a bit more challenging in the Hard and Expert modes. As far as the Vocal mode goes, as long as you’re singing in the range of the right frequency, you’re all good.

I finished the game playing Bass guitar on Expert mode in two weekends. I haven’t unlocked everything yet, but the beauty of this game is the replay value. So, when I’m in-between playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Forza (thanks in advance Miles for letting me borrow your game), I’ll be on Rock Band: The Beatles desperately trying to complete ANY song on Expert mode using the Guitar. This is the game that keeps on giving, until you go crazy trying to collect all of the photos and can’t because your skills suck no matter how many times you play “I Saw Her Standing There” or “Helter Skelter” on Bass. (Do not attempt after a long day at the office — you’ll only aggravate yourself)

Overall, this game is a keeper. Glad I chose to keep the “Guitar Hero 2” guitar. The game is fun with all devices connected and everyone is half drunk. Now that’s a party! You can find it for around $60 for just the game. It’s $130 for a generic band set plus game, and $250 for the Special Edition — which I don’t think it’s worth it, even for a Beatles fan like myself. If we had a rating chart, I’d give it an 8 out of 10 stars/joysticks/happy faces, etc…