So once again we slip into the blood-stained sandals of Kratos, pasty Spartan sword-for-hire and anti-hero of the God of War franchise. He’s busy killing everything for very little reason and touring the Underworld again, and we’re all invited.
Chains of Olympus is a prequel to the main series and concerns a plot orchestrated by the Goddess Perspehone to destroy the world. Because the game is set during the time of Kratos’ ten years of service to the Olympian Gods, it’s his job to sort everything out, primarily by grunting and stamping on lots of faces. It’s a typical God of War adventure and if you’ve played the PS2/3 games then you’ve essentially played this. What sets this instalment apart, however, is the hardware, this being the first God of War adventure finding a home on a portable console.
Continue reading Review – God of War: Chains of Olympus
Whatever your girlfriend might think, bigger isn’t always better. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is big. The biggest the series has ever been, easily. But it’s far from better. Wildlands couldn’t hope to compete with the two Advanced Warfighter games from 2006 and 2007; and it’s even inferior to the stripped-down Ghost Recon: Future Soldier from 2012. It’s just big. Bloated. Unhealthy. If size matters to you, then so might Wildlands. I guess the heart of the series is still in there. But it’s covered in fatty deposits and it only beats once every few hours. Wildlands moves, but it never feels alive.
Again, and again, I’m reminded that not everything needs to be bigger; that not every video game franchise needs to expand outwards. Ubisoft’s death-by-a-thousand-icons design is wearing so thin these days that I can see straight through it. And to think that an open world used to mean something. Used to matter. It stood for things – possibility, freedom, fun. It was the kid’s toybox writ large; “play” personified. Now it’s a rote checklist of mundane distractions. Wildlands has all the usual suspects. You can sweep weapons, upgrades and skill points into your trousers like a cartoon bank robber, pester convoys and patrols, lead the toothless rebel populace around like sheep. Interrogate this guy, kill that one, capture the other. Blow this up. Defend that. Stop for a minute. Paint shark teeth on your gun, try on a new hat. Do these sunglasses go with this outfit? Remember, a tattoo is for life. Pick something artistic. There are outposts to capture. You want to look good while you’re warmongering, don’t you?
Continue reading Review – Ghost Recon: Wildlands
It’s hard to explain the appeal of the Sniper Elite series. It’s one of those gaming guilty pleasures that sounds faintly perverse written down, and utterly ludicrous spoken out loud. Not that there’s anything particularly unusual about sniping in games; almost all shooters have at least one rifle, and many have whole stretches of gameplay that are dedicated to nothing but long-range marksmanship. The sniping in and of itself, though, isn’t the appeal of Sniper Elite. Things would be so much easier if it were. But, no, there’s something else that differentiates this series from other sneaky-stabby-shooty third-person games, and it’s that psychotic slow-motion X-Ray view that lets you see all the catastrophic internal trauma you’re inflicting on your victims.
Seems an odd thing to be into, doesn’t it? Certainly wouldn’t sit well around the office water cooler or the in-law’s dinner table, and you get the sense that Rebellion, the game’s developers, probably recognise this. Which, I assume, is why they continue to set the series in World War II, despite having exhausted every major theatre of the conflict. You need Nazis for this kind of thing. These games have such a throbbing stiffy for lovingly-detailed exploding organs that it would be uncomfortable if your bullets were tunnelling through the brainpans of anyone else. But killing Nazis is always guilt-free. In the context of taking on a xenophobic imperialist war-machine, it’s actually pretty satisfying to watch precisely how much irreparable damage each bullet is inflicting on the Third Reich. That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.
Continue reading Review – Sniper Elite 4
In many ways, Dead Space 2 is the perfect sequel to an already excellent video game. It takes the best components of its predecessor and develops them in new and interesting ways, alters or removes the parts that didn’t work, and polishes everything in-between until the whole thing gleams. I also didn’t like it anywhere near as much as I thought I would.
It’s difficult to really articulate why, because Dead Space 2 is better than Dead Space in pretty much every way. It’s also a wholly different game, with a peculiar focus on telling a story which I suspect nobody really cares about, and telling that story in a way which runs contrary to what made the minimalist narrative of the first game such a pleasure to unravel. Also, it isn’t scary, which for a purported survival horror game is a pretty big deal.
Continue reading Review – Dead Space 2
I still feel that, even now, it’s important to work towards dispelling some of the assumptions which continue to buzz around Bulletstorm like bothersome, accusatory flies. Since the outlandish and noisome marketing campaign and the slew of negative coverage surrounding the game’s original release in 2011, many people I know and respect have continued to overlook or dismiss the game as another brainless, controversy-baiting first-person shooter.
I received my original copy of Bulletstorm a few days before its release and played through it in a single, eight-hour sitting. I loved every moment of it. After recently ploughing through the game again, this time in a couple of shorter (though equally entertaining) sessions, I’m even more assured of the fact that this is one of the smartest, most competent FPS video games not just of this generation, but perhaps of all time.
Continue reading Review – Bulletstorm
There are many smart, thoughtful people who would posit that the military shooter is one of video gaming’s most pernicious problems; that the genre is the most telling reflection of the medium’s innate immaturity, and that its popularity is one of the obstacles which must be surmounted in order for games to achieve mainstream cultural acceptance as an art form. These people lament the lack of moral nuance, and lambast the glorification of violence and killing and humanity’s potential for acts of great evil.
I’m not one of those people. Sometimes I would like to be, because in a lot of ways I agree with them, but I can’t be someone or something that I’m not. I think shooting things is fun. And luckily for me, so does Black.
Continue reading Review – Black
I’ve had a weird relationship with the Assassin’s Creed franchise ever since the original game’s release way back in 2007. I “get it”, so to speak, and I’ve always felt as though I understand exactly what the series is trying to be, despite sitting down with the latest iteration each fall and realising they still haven’t managed it yet. I love the painstakingly-rendered locations. I love how the story weaves a centuries-old, fictional conflict into recognisable portions of real-world history (even when, as in the divisive Assassin’s Creed III, it’s in an especially contrived way). I love everything Assassin’s Creed wants to be, and everything it potentially could be. I just hate almost everything that it actually is.
Unity is one of the series’ lesser offerings – potentially even the worst, though in a world which also contains Brotherhood and Revelations (the two wholly superfluous DLC-alikes); it at the very least has the advantage of being its own story in a new location and time period. We’ve finally reached the decidedly more interesting major conflict of the late 18th century, having now abandoned the American frontier and the pirate-infested waters of the Caribbean in favour of Revolutionary Paris.
Continue reading Review – Assassin’s Creed Unity