Monday, 8 December 2014

Finding the Vault: Borderlands Game Review

With the recent release of the new Borderlands game, The Pre-sequel, I’ve decided to have a shot at the original 2009 game. Not to be confused with the southern region of Scotland that shares a similar name (The Borders), the game drops you on a desert planet called Pandora. 

After selecting one of four characters, who all specialise in different weaponry, you then must begin your search for a mythical alien bunker called The Vault.

If you’re after a story driven game then you’re best looking elsewhere as that is pretty much the extent of it in Borderlands. You have to do certain missions and speak to certain people to move the story a long but they do not say much and there is definitely no complicated subplots going on in this desert. 

Borderlands is a first person shooter and if you’re into the genre this will be right up your street. I found it was very enjoyable to play with friends as a team shooter. However, while Borderlands has a wide range of missions for you to play besides the main story, they are all very samey. As a result the game can be very repetitive at times. 

But it has some nice cartoony graphics and the music is good, and so are the controls. This is a good one to play with friends rather than go it alone. 

Borderlands gets 7/10.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

OUT NOW: The Boy Who Played With Stars

Glaswegian Hayley Foster has spent the last two years sharing a flat with her best friend Alex. Unbeknown to the rest of the world Alex is in fact Hayley’s guardian angel. But their attempts to live quietly were shattered when an old enemy returned to their lives and continues to hound them at every turn.

Following on directly from the ending of Crashing Down to Earth, the final part of the Stars and Satellites series sees Alex trying to stop his fallen brother Gabriel from killing Hayley and everyone close to him, while facing up to the horrific secret that has haunted him for millennia. 

The Boy Who Played With Stars is available on ebook format from Amazon here.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Assassin's Creed Unity Review

It's November again and as inevitable as Christmas coming our way, Ubisoft have released yet another Assassin's Creed game. But why have one when you can have two this time? One (Assassin's Creed Rogue) is an Xbox 360 only game focusing on pirating and the other (Assassin's Creed Unity) is only for the new generation consoles, namely the Xbox One and Playstation Four.

For this review we will be focusing solely on the latter which is set during the French Revolution. For those uninitiated with the series, Assassin's Creed is a game series that follows the eternal war between two factions of humanity, the Assassin's and the Templars. You play as an assassin (yes, it's hard to believe that they're the good guys when I describe it like that).

In Unity you play as Arno, and orphaned aristrocrat (at least I think he is), who grows up to be a waste of space. But after being accused of murder and thrown into the Bastille, and learning of the Assassin's Brotherhood - who Arno's father worked for - you begin your life training to become a master assassin while trying to unravel the mystery of who killed your father and why.

Unity makes a welcome return to the core gameplay I loved in previous titles, namely the stealth and the endless freerunning over rooftops as far as the eye can see. More recent titles like Creed 3 and Black Flag scrapped this to focus the games on other things, but for me it always left the impression that both were missing something. Besides the reintroduction of all the freerunning though, there is not really much new weaponwise or movewise brought to Unity.

Visually you can also see a clear difference in the definition and detail between Unity and older titles. The detail on the buildings and the quality of the characters faces are most notable. Even very recent Creed games like Black Flag, which only came out last year, still suffered from what I like to call "cardboard box" head characters.

The multiplayer mode has had the biggest facelift. While playing the single-player mode you can join mini missions with either friends or random players. There is a wide range of different missions and playing them can really help towards upgrades to your character in the single player game. In previous games I found the multiplayer was often repetitive and got boring very quickly.

But sadly, besides the multiplayer, Unity has not really brought anything new to the table. This is a good game with great visuals and a lot of play in it, but it does rely a little too heavily on its core mechanics rather than trying new things. Like many other reviewers I really wish this game was held back in development for a few more months as the number of glitches it had on the first day of playing was inexcusable.

It gets 7/10. 

Friday, 14 November 2014

Alien Isolation: First Impressions

The game I’m looking at this week comes from a sci-fi series that everyone is familiar with…not unless you’ve lived in a cave on a remote island for the last four decades with bees in your ears.
Anyway enough about bees. The game I’m looking at this week is Alien Isolation. I still haven’t finished this yet so I’m going to be giving a rare first impressions review of it instead. 

Basically the story is set 15 years after the events of the original film. You play Amanda Ripley (Ripley’s grown-up daughter) who is sent to a distant space station to collect the flight recorder of her mother’s missing ship, the Nostromo. However, when you arrive it quickly becomes apparent that something is very wrong on the station. The game then becomes a race to retrieve the flight recorded and escape with your life before the alien gets you. 

Alien Isolation is genuinely terrifying. You cannot kill the alien, regardless of whatever new goodies you find as your progress. You must be quiet and you must be sneaky at all times while trying to work your way around a predominantly dark environment and also get by rogue androids - the Working Joes - and jumpy, armed survivors. The sounds are well timed, the jump scares are spot on and the randomness of the alien’s appearance will keep you on edge. 

Tune in soon to get my full review of the game.

Monday, 3 November 2014

To the Front Line: Fury Movie Review

Not for the faint hearted, Fury is full on with blood, death and gore from the opening credits. Starring Brad Pitt, it tells the story of a group of ordinary soldiers on the front line in Germany in April 1945, just months before the end of the Second World War. 

The movie opens with Staff Sergeant Don Collier (Pitt) having to come to terms with his ill-equipped and ill-prepared replacement assistant driver and gunner after his original crew member is killed in battle. The replacement is Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), a typist who has never even been inside a tank before. 

The film is much a story about Norman becoming the soldier he’s expected to be and the rest of the crew coming to accept him in some of the most terrifying and difficult environments anyone could ever face. I felt the movie tried hard with this but it did struggle. There is a lot of raw emotion and great acting, especially from Pitt and Lerman. Pitt is exceptional as the Sergeant on the verge of breaking down but struggling to keep it together for his crew. 

However, the character development is a little paltry despite some good performances and is easily overshadowed by the war itself. The fight scenes are gripping viewing, brutal, relentless and bloody; a believable testament to the realities of war. The sets are also very impressive. Purely judging this as a war film, Fury is a great two hour flick. 

It gets 8/10.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Stick em up: Heavy Bullets Review

This week I have been playing the slightly trippy first person maze shooter that is Heavy Bullets. The game premise is simple enough. Armed with a gun you must make your way safely through eight monster-infested levels to the finish. 

While it sounds easy you have a limited number of bullets and very limited health. If you die at any point you must restart from the first level again. If you think practising the levels and learning where all the enemies are will help you succeed, think again. The levels change every time you play, adding a lot of re-playability to Heavy Bullets. 

The graphics themselves have a retro look, like an early 90s 3D computer game. However, the corridors, enemies and elements are all garish and movement is much more fluid than those found in the old PC games Heavy Bullets pays homage to. 
Weapons are available and you can deposit cash into a bank and it will be available to you even if you die and start again. If you save up a lot of cash and buy weapons and health it can make the game a lot easier.

For a simple game with simple sound effects and graphics, Heavy Bullets is quite addictive.
It is available on Steam.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Blast Them All to Hell: World of Tanks Review

Pick up your weapons and rations because this week we’re heading to the battlefield to take a look at free-to-play video game, World of Tanks. 

This war game is available on the Xbox 360, the PC and through iOS. As you can probably hazard from the title, this game is based on the military doom bringers. 

World of Tanks is an online multiplayer where players are split into teams and must defeat all of their opponents to win. There are a few different types of game but generally you win by doing the above. 

The more you play, the more experience points and silver you earn which can be spent on upgrading your fleet of tanks to better ones or by improving their armour and guns. There are some upgrades you can only buy with real cash but given this is a free game no player can really turn their nose up at it. You can play perfectly happily though without ever having to spend a penny. 

Game play wise the controls are straight forward. You use your joysticks to move and turn the vehicle and the right trigger (on the Xbox 360 controller) to fire. Moving the tanks forward is easy enough but moving backwards and turning in reverse can be difficult. It is also worth remembering that how fast you can move, how well armoured and how much damage you cause all depend on which tank you are driving and what upgrades it carries. 

The game can be very frustrating to begin with as you will get blown up a lot, but once you start acquiring better death machines and become more tactful in how you play, it does become a lot more fun. 

Upgrading the tanks can be confusing to those who know little about the vehicles (like myself) as they are modelled off their real world counterparts and it is hard to decide at times what to upgrade to and what to avoid all together. Just because some tanks are higher level than the ones you may have does not necessarily mean they are any good. If you are going to upgrade your tanks, I would take advice from more seasoned players or do your research online.