Alone In The Dark Review

August 11, 2009 at 1:56 am | Posted in Reviews, Xbox 360 Reviews | 1 Comment
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Are you afraid of the dark?

It’s been a long time since we were graced with Alone In The Dark. With it reigning across the older consoles, this game was the true survival horror, overlooked by other games. It made its Next Gen come back on the PS2/PC with Alone In The Dark: A New Nightmare, which re-lit the fires of the AITD fanbase. Finally, it took the jump to the latest of generations. With a new team working behind it, they’ve got their work cut out…

Meet our local paranormal hero Edward Carnby. Throughout the AITD we’ve steered our grizzly investigator through some hefty supernatural events, but this one, we’re pretty sure he didn’t see coming.

We wake up, hazy eyed knowing nothing of ourselves. Carnby is greeted by a character named Crowley and is left in a state, suffering from amnesia and the only man who has his secrets, his identity is taken away. What happens next see’s our Edward on a long journey through the infamous Central Park and onto unlocking the secrets hidden beneath the city…it’s going to be a long night.

Edwards audtion tape for Soul Calibur 4 was a strong candidate…

The game plays out a lot like a film. The game itself is very story based, and if you’re not into games with a story then stop reading now, this isn’t for you.

Whilst keeping a strong atmosphere of survival horror to the play, the game strives off its ability to create suspense and keep you enticed into the story, with a mixture of combat, adventure and complex puzzles in both indoor and outdoor locations, the game always manages to keep things interesting and entertaining in either 3rd or 1st person view.

Something mentioned a lot during the games production was the effort the team put into making this game almost like a movie, or a series you’d watch on television, and this is certainly captured in game. The 3rd person camera switches between classic fixed positions to cinematic camera angles like you’d see in your favorite TV shows. The camera is also movable and you’re given the ability to control your self in first person as well. To add with the growing ideas that this game is more like a DVD boxset, comes the use of a DVD chapter selection, now, your immediate thoughts think that you can skip to the end and finish it easy right? Wrong. This chapter selection allows you to skip a certain sequence in the game, to allow those who are stuck or can’t progress to continue with the game and finish the story. As well as this, each time we return to our game after loading we’re greeted with a great ‘Previously on Alone in the Dark’ moment, which flashes through the key bits of the story you’ve been through, so don’t panic, you didn’t just mistakenly put in a copy of 24, its all in the game you see.

Enemies in the game are well designed, a little un imaginative in the sense of names (Humanz, Ratz and Vampirez) but that goes out the window when your fending off what used to be human with a rake, or fumbling in your pockets to piece together a Molotov cocktail out of what you’ve found to burn down the boss that’s spitting god knows what at you.

Ground Force after hours…

Now, being all alone in central park you’re going to need yourself some gear to fend off those before mentioned creatures dwelling inside right? Along with a pistol you get early on in the game, you’re encouraged to scavenge and use your surroundings to your advantage, items and objects on the flow can be used as weapons, tools and for puzzles throughout the game. The game takes pride in flaunting its engines which impressively show off how items will react to each other, which is also where the fire plays a big part.

A main tool in this game is fire, which is seen throughout the game, from the very beginning right to the end, and again the team should take pride in how they’ve achieved such great visuals but also how the fire behaves, and burns through things in real time, very impressive stuff.

Other than fire, you’ll be able to mix items you find varying from bottles, bandages, glow sticks and more to make different weapons and items to aid you in your quest.

This is where the inventory screen comes in. It’s surprising this idea hasn’t been used before, but gladly it’s something AITD can also hold to its name. Upon pressing down on the D-Pad, Edward will pull open his jacket coat and you’ll be able to check your items in each of his pockets, unfortunately, there’s a fixed amount of slots, and often some of those slots will be taken up by key items which you must have to progress, often making the scavenge hunt for bits and pieces you find put on a leash.

On top of this, you can also use this mode to check around your body in order to heal yourself. As your attacked, your wounds will appear in real time and affect the way Edward is able to maneuver himself around the park, so keep those health sprays handy.

Now, Central Park is a very big place, and the video game version does include all of the monuments and noticeable features also seen in the real life park, so you already know its big right, so were going to need something to get around in. Obviously, in the panic of the events leading to your visit to the park a lot of cars have been left abandoned, this is your key to getting around, through and over certain parts which you’ll come across. However vehicles must be hotwired via a short mini game, or if you’re lucky and check around the car you may find the key. Unfortunately this is about as good as the cars get; the cars can appear very boxy and will break apart at the slightest bit of contact with anything other than itself. On top of this, the physics engine, whilst being perfect for the rest of the game, can end up being a pain for the driving, with you often getting stuck, or glitched things happening by driving over things you wouldn’t expect to cause a problem. However, your free to roam provided its you can get to it, and if you read this next paragraph, you’ll see why (despite being vulnerable to the occasional meet and greet with the Humanz) I’d talk a nice stroll through the park rather than drive.

Visually this is one of the few games which just look amazing. Whilst with an occasional awkward moment with the driving sequences look wise. Just strolling through Central Park, just taking in the surroundings is truly an immense spectacle, which is something I don’t usually say in fear of going a little over the top, but I can only say to just try it for yourself, the fog and mist in the background, the shadows coming from statues nearby, it just makes one of the few moments in a game where I’ve truly sat back and thought ‘Woah, I lost myself in it all for a minute there’. The vast size of the park is also impressive the view, whilst looking across a field I could see a giant hole separating the park from the rest of Manhattan, which beyond that I could see the rest of the city, suspended in the midnight mist looking eerily as haunted as the park itself, thus adding even more of one hell of an sensation into the game.

It was decided, the park’s new landscaper was getting the sack…

A new nightmare (AITD4) was famous for bringing in new dynamic lighting systems to 3D gaming, involving a lot of techno stuff I wont bore people will, but in short, it made the shadows and the environment come to life, here we have an even bigger advancement from the torch light, car head lights to even the fire, not just making the environment look impressive, but making it almost real.

Again, with the sound this mixes with the visuals of the game or a certain event within the game which just makes it what it is, it truly brings together the whole experience like you were there, whether its to get you panicking, or to give you that creepy feeling that your not alone or that something’s watching.

If the music itself doesn’t make you feel that, the noises of the actual enemies lurking behind the corners and in the shadows will definitely be more than enough to have you on the edge of your seat.

Now, heres where we start to slip. The game is 8 episodes long. These episodes can last to about 45-1hr 30 depending on which episode, and if you’re taking your time between certain tasks or puzzles. Now that doesn’t sound too bad right? Wrong, well. Wrong for me, I found myself getting so much into this game that when it ended, I was thoroughly disappointed, especially when the game didn’t even attempt to entertain the possibility of another play through. No unlockable features, no extra difficulties, and with just one full play through I’d unlocked 940 points achievement wise, with the few being getting the second ending and doing certain sequences in first person. Which also hurt the replayability.

Something which also really unimpressed me was the endings, after being repeatedly told by Eden Games, the ending was amazing; I was greeted with endings that merely set the game up for a sequel or downloadable episodic content to fill in the space.

Whilst I’m unsure how the game fits in time-line wise with the rest of the AITD’s, and the ‘endings’ aren’t the season finale I was expecting the game is still a great experience to enjoy. The graphics, the sounds and the story till the so-called end are really something you should all allow yourself to experience. This Survival Horror, Action Adventure Puzzle game is definitely something I’m looking forward to hearing more from.

Rating 8.5

Published by: Atari
Developed by: Eden Studios
Release Date: June 20, 2008 (UK)
Genre: Adventure


Warlords Review

August 11, 2009 at 1:15 am | Posted in Reviews, Xbox 360 Reviews | Leave a comment
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Arcade classic revival makes a mediocre return

Next up in Atari’s old school arcade revival is Warlords, a quick and crazy mini game which see’s you protecting your ‘king’ whilst trying to take out others using projectiles.

In each of the four corners of the screen lays a ‘king’ which is protected by a series of coloured blocks which surround the two sides open to being attacked. Your ‘paddle’ moves across the outside of the bricks, allowing you to protect your king and the blocks from the projectiles.

The game begins with one ball being fired from the centre, the ball then ricochets across the arena. Using your paddle you can bounce the ball towards the other player’s walls. On contact it weakens the blocks. When enough bricks have disappeared leaving a part of the king vulnerable, the ball can make contact with the king killing the player. The game consists of these levels of last man standing with the difficulty increasing as you progress. As time elapses in the level more balls are added to ensure all of you have a hard time trying to defend yourself. Confusing? It’s easier in real life, honest.

You can also catch the balls with your paddle, and with sacrifice of your protective blocks you can charge up your shot to deal more damage to enemy walls.

One thing with all Atari remakes is the choice of playing the game normally or on ‘Throttle Monkey’ mode. I’m unsure of the target audience for this game time, but on a game like this, you can’t help but think they just bunged this x4 speed version of the game in for the sake of things, and didn’t quite think it through properly as it just happens all to fast and your paddle only moves at the normal speed. Doesn’t take the sharpest of us to find a problem with that right?

With all Atari re-makes your given the option to play the re vamped version or the classic version. Why many people would want to play the simple pixilated version besides achievements is beyond me, as it’s rather difficult and just awkward to play properly.

The new version however if obviously more playable and more appealing to the eye than the classic. Its taken more of a futuristic and industrial look, with the kings looking more like construction tools or robots rather than a ‘king’ and the colourful blocks make the game something more interesting and nicer to look at.

The game doesn’t hold much to its name in terms of sound other than the balls bouncing around and off the shields and paddles. Time to reach over for your CD collection on this one.

With the game being quite difficult once you’ve reached about the third level, the game doesn’t always drive you to keep pushing yourself, because of the gameplay and simply that, it doesn’t hold a hell of a lot of life. Though the game makes a good play to pass the time, and even allows 2-4 of your friends to jump in when you start it up.

A nice and relatively cheap little game to pass the time, however due to the fact its painfully repetitive with little else to seriously offer and quite the steep difficulty curve, have a look at what else is on the marketplace before you lay down those 400 Microsoft Points on it.

Rating: 6.5

Published by: Atari
Developed by: Stainless Games
Genre: Action
Number of Players: 1-4
Features: 16:9 Support, 480p Support, 720p Support, 1080i Support, Xbox Live

Tempest Review

August 10, 2009 at 9:28 pm | Posted in Reviews, Xbox 360 Reviews | Leave a comment
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Published by: Atari
Developed by: Atari
Genre: Shooter
Number of Players: 1-2
Features: 16:9 Support, 480p Support, 720p Support, 1080i Support, Dolby Digital 5.1

Atari continues with its Retro attack!

Continuing with their Retro arcade games streak Atari have given us yet another flashback from the world of old school with the shooter �Tempest� Marking a 25th anniversary of when it was first launched, this �tube shooter� hit the coin-op arcade world and now has hit us again in the form of downloadable Live arcade goodness.

For those unfamiliar with Tempest, the reason it�s donned as a �tube shooter� is being the fact it�s just like shooting, down a tube. Clever huh? The levels usually consist of a shape, like a cylinder, you circle around the top end shooting anything that tries to make its way up the tube, after eliminating all the enemies, you move onto the next level. As each level progress� the shape becomes more intricate, the enemies increase in numbers and speed and at times your access to getting around the shape isn�t as easy as you may think due to some of them just being a straight line. Enemies that reach the top usually just disappear other than one enemy which will follow you around the edge of the shape often causing you to make mistakes.

The game comes with a co-op 2 player which eases the pressure off the 1st player when you get to the heavier levels which can become very hard even early in the game.

Other than being able to play on co-op the game offers very little than to play to the end or chose the level to play once you�ve unlocked it, besides that, you may decide to play the original, which is also featured in the game.

The game offers two versions, the revamped shiny pretty version, and the old school original port of the arcade game. Personally I find the newer version easier to make out regarding enemies and positioning, especially being new to the game and needing to see everything properly so I don�t lose too quickly, but if your feeling a little nostalgic�go right in for the original.

The music in the game is very quiet, very mild techno kind of music which doesn�t change throughout the game; however most of this is drowned out by my weapon firing, which vaguely sounds like the CMP150 from Perfect Dark. Shame the it doesn�t fire like one of those though.

The classic version features all the older sounds which comes with no music at all, so like all arcade games, your own wonderful selection of tracks from your own HDD will much better fit the pace of this game.

Unless being a strong Tempest fan the game can be quite short lived, the levels can be quite frantic with the some of the enemies running around causing problems, but for casual gamers that want to get anywhere with it, with only 3 lives till restarting from the beginning or a level you�ve unlocked just sometimes doesn�t quite hold my interest for too long.

Its nice to see Atari bringing back the oldies that got a lot of us into gaming in the first place, but perhaps instead of making short and simple HD re-vamps of games, they can get on and shift out some of the games the Atari fans have really been waiting for�

My Rating: 4.6

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