Sunday, 13 February 2011

Rental Review Roundup 4

Another couple of months have gone by and I've plundered my way through some more games that I wouldn't pay top dollar for...

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Beefcake Andy Serkis will rip off your head and sh*t down your neck.
Ninja Theory, developers of Heavenly Sword return with their second game, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. I played Heavenly Sword a couple of months ago, I may have even written about it in the first ever rental review roundup. Whilst it was a generally an okayish brawler with a colourful collection of characters, it was mired by the inability to jump and some awful six axis sections. Thankfully, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a vast improvement on all regards. The game treads somewhat similar ground or rather displays Ninja Theory’s knack for creating a richly detailed fantasy worlds with interesting characters.  Characters that are bound to grow on even the most cynical of gamers and maybe even persuade the non gaming converts into thinking that this nerdy past time is actually capable of producing a more wholesome entertainment experience than the usual rubbish that Hollywood churns out.

Ninja Theory are to be commended for really emphasizing story, which is written by Alex Garland, author of the Beach and supposedly a treatment of the Halo movie, an inevitability that remains in development purgatory. Enslaved is based on the ancient Chinese story, Journey to the West though transferred to a post apocalyptic depiction of America that is plagued with slavers and hunter killer robots. You play as Monkey, a beefcake version of Andy Serkis who returns to Ninja Theory after playing the villain in Heavenly Sword. After escaping a slave ship that crash lands in New York in an absolutely breathtaking introduction Monkey finds himself enslaved by Trip, a red haired farm girl who wants to return home safely. Home is some 300 miles away and if Trip dies, Monkey’s slave headband will explode or something. The point is that he is forced into following her orders, and to ensure that she makes it back home. Monkey of course warms to Trip very quickly, there may have been a moment of hostile rivalry at the beginning, by Monkey is too much of a teddy bear to reject authority despite his thick New Yoik accent.

Like Uncharted, the game takes you by the hand and guides you through a highly cinematic though very linear experience. The world attempts to illustrate an alternative take on the post apocalyptic landscape, a colourful vision of a world that has passed on without mankind. A bit like Darksiders then, except it is inhabited by killer robots. The combat is mostly a breeze, though satisfying and brutal, as you pummel legions of killer robots to a choir of metallic thonks, scrapes and wrenches. The game’s greatest achievement for 100Gs lies within its characters and story. Though the game plays well regardless, it is all the more satisfying because of it. I look forward to Ninja Theory reboot of the Devil May Cry series, though the combat is going to have to be a lot better if the developers don’t want to be hounded by fanboys.  In the mean time Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a nigh perfect rental.

Sniper: Ghost Warrior
So many pockets...
Cast your minds back to the opening Dam level of Goldeneye, because something very important happened in that first guard tower. I’m talking of course about the sniper rifle. It was a revelation, and FPSs have never been the same since, with every game featuring its own version of the long ranged sniper’s rifle. Sniping has become a meta game in most shooters, the bane of the most unskilled players and the weapon of choice for the more solitary patient player.

Now, we have Sniper: Ghost Warrior, a game that focuses completely on picking off your targets from long range. Well for the majority of segments. There are a couple of bits when you will need to arm yourself accordingly with an assault rifle. When the game focuses on sniping, it works surprisingly well. As you find a place to hide and headshot all the unsuspecting guards through protracted slow motion bullet sequences. Unfortunately, the game is awful when you are given an assault rifle and are required to fight your battles more conventionally. The game is consistently buggy and has frame rate issues particularly in the assault rifle bits.

The game was originally released for a lower retail price in a move to undercut the sales of the more prominent shooters. Unfortunately, Sniper: Ghost Warrior won’t be much of a concern for Call of Duty’s billion dollar share of the market of course I couldn’t really recommend it even as a way of sticking a finger at Activision. For the best sniper sequences play last year’s Medal of Honour (reviewed by me on this very site) or the boss fight with The End in Metal Gear Solid 3.   

Prey
To take out an advanced alien civilization that harvests planets of all resources and indigenous life you're going to need a native American hero...
I owned Prey at one stage when it first came out in the summer of 2006, but I traded it in for a measly price of about five pounds at GAME. Since then I have regretted my decision as it was a decent if somewhat antiquated shooter that existed before console FPSs really took off, that is to say before the release of Halo 3 and COD4. It was also the last game to be made and released by 3D Realms (pauses for the readers who instantly think DUKE NUKEM FOREVER). I was getting nostalgic and added it to my rental list.

Prey has you play as Tommy a disillusioned mechanic of native American extraction who is dying to take his beloved girlfriend Jenny and move off of the reservation much to the disappointment of his elder grandfather who tries to get Tommy to take his heritage more seriously. Anyway one day, after repairing the toilet at his girlfriend’s bar, Tommy finds himself being abducted by aliens alongside his girlfriend and grandfather. He soon finds himself on the mothership where a great number of earth’s population are being harvested by the aliens for grisly purposes. It is a really well done sequence, with the game managing to convey a sense of terror and wondor as you find yourself within this truly alien environment. Obviously, it isn’t long before Tommy is soon running riot through the alien ship in search of his girlfriend and riding the trajectory of his character arc as he accepts his Indian heritage and gains such awesome powers as soul walking, which allows him to initiate outer body experiences all in the name of solving puzzles.

On second playthrough, I found myself enjoying the story a bit more. Its not Citizen Kane but you sort of want Tommy to succeed. Far more so than that Turok guy. Of course the best aspect of the game is the level design. Particularly in the first act of the game as you are introduced to the alien space craft, which includes anti gravity walk ways and portals. There are blue rimmed portals and orange rimmed portals, which is proof that Valve are guilty of plagiarism. The weapons in the game are slightly limited but it has all bases covered essentially, from the leech gun which literally leeches three different types of ammo (Lightning Gun FTW) and the slime shot gun. The enemies are pretty good aesthetically, a parade of grotesque alien monsters but they are mostly bullet sponges and rather than getting killed by them, when depleted of health points you find yourself within an arena upon the astral plain where you shoot flying wraiths with your soul arrows in order to resurrect yourself exactly on the spot where you died. It isn’t the hardest game by any stretch of the imagination but it is a decent enough story based shooter set within a memorable location. There is also a horrific scene in which you witness a little kid being stabbed to death by his sister. Very grisly. You don’t see that in many games, not that you would want to of course… 

Split Second

I don't really know what is happening, but I best just keep my foot on the pedal.
After Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, I suddenly found myself enjoying the humble racing game once again. Not since Project Gotham Racing had I had so much fun (RIP Bizarre Creations) and I felt obliged to try out Split Second, which was also released last year to glowing reviews. Existing as a cross between Stuntman and confrontational styled racers like Mario Kart, the premise of Split Second is sort of like American craziest police chases with more explosions and less police. Basically if Michael Bay did Nascar or Disney remade Death Race.

You build up your ‘power play’ by drafting and drifting, there are three levels, the first one will allow you to trigger explosions or other hazards in front of you to take out your competitors. Build up enough power and you will be able to trigger a monumental event that will change the race route and hopefully take out everyone that is on ahead of you. As a result the game can be quite easy for newcomers to pick up and play and the game gets harder the higher you are in the lead. Once you know all the races and the various hazards you will find yourself being able to evade much easier. There are a number of different game modes, from your normal races, time trials and elimination games. There are a couple of new modes, which require you to dodge missiles from an attack helicopter and another where you have to evade explosive barrels being churned out by a juggernaught.     

None of the cars are officially licensed so you’ll have to make up with Madeupi Roadster X Pro or the Boostmi Ego 4. The crashes aren’t quite as good as Burnout or Hot Pursuit, but wrecking your opponents is tremendously satisfying and you do get a bit of a rush as you hurtle along one of the courses evading fiery school buses and cranes arms that wipe across the road. The game can be a bit unfair sometimes, when you are first you are at a disadvantage, since all the cars behind you will be triggering explosions. You can find yourself riding high for the three laps right until some helicopter drops a red barrel on you just before the finish line and you will end up in last place. Suffice it to say, you will need your wits about you when playing Split Second, for those who want a more explosive alternative to the sublime Hot Pursuit, it is well worth checking out.           

1 comment:

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