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.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Hit the Dirt: Trials Fusion Game Review

Trials Fusion is the latest game to come out of the Ubisoft stable of the dirt bike racing series. Despite being set in a futuristic environment and a move to the next gen consoles, the core game play mechanics are still there. 

For the uninitiated, Trials is a racing game for one or more players on dirt bikes. While the game is 3D it plays as a side scroller, unlike other typical racing games where the camera is usually angled behind the vehicle of each player. 

The single player mode is enjoyable with a variety of different tracks. 

However, the game does begin to get very frustrating in the later stages as you must perform difficult tricks to progress over ever increasingly difficult obstacles. You can go without doing these stages but avoiding them means you cannot unlock and play the later tracks. I felt the trick reliance on later tracks was too heavy and it reaches a point when playing that the game’s simple racing style fun is replaced only by seething frustration.

There’s no doubt there will be people out there who have mastered the tricks and completed these stages but I found the monotony of doing the same tracks repeatedly to achieve this level too much personally. 

On the other hand, the multiplayer aspect of the game is just as good as it predecessors. It’s fun to watch the bikers hit obstacles, fail tricks and find ways to kill themselves at the end of each stage. With its simple controls it is a good game to play with the family or friends, if not as cute as Mario Kart. 

Track Creator also allows you to build your own tracks as well as play others. While it can be a lot of fun the internet is plagued with broken ones. These can be hilarious a lot of the time but I would not recommend playing them if you are a serious racer.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Summer Storm (The Wrath of the Northmen) Review

Turning off the games consoles and television and stepping out of their spheres of all-time-consuming hold this week, I have returned to reading. I was faced with Gravity’s Rainbow - all 780 pages of it. As I’ll likely not finish it before Christmas I settled on reading Summer Storm instead - which is a little bit shorter at 23,000. 

The novella is a freebie introduction to The Wrath of the Northmen series by Elizabeth Baxter. I would suggest picking up your copy if you are interested in reading the full fantasy series as Summer Storm appears to set a lot of things up for the main series. 

Summer Storm itself tells the short story of Falen, an adolescent princess who is torn between her duty to her kingdom and her own desire to join an engineering academy. A jaunt out into the woods to check on her weather measuring equipment sees Falen caught in a storm. On the way back she glimpses an unconscious man in the river and rescues him. 

Nashir, the man she rescues, makes a full recovery and offers to help Falen with her experiments. However, over time, his presence in the royal palace of Variss takes on a much darker agenda.
As a first outing into Elizabeth Baxter’s fantasy world, I felt the story lacked substance in how well it described the surroundings. I did not feel like I was actually there or got any great impression of it.

That said, the characters were interesting - especially Falen - and the narrative flowed well, if a little slowly at points. It’s not a bad intro to the series and something fantasy fans should enjoy.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Who Turned the Lights Off? Revolution (Series One) Review

I am probably the last person in the world to review this show but hey-ho I’ve only recently just seen it as I don’t have all the fancy channels as everyone else. 

If you have not seen Revolution, you can probably hazard from the trailers that it is about people trying to survive a brutal and unforgiving future after the power goes off. Set fifteen years after the blackout, no one is still sure why it did. It is quickly established that it was not a case of someone simply switching the lights off or running out of fossil fuels but rather, something much more complex. If you build a battery in this world, for example, or a car, it will simply not work, regardless of having all the correct parts and a power source.

The series starts off about a young woman, Charlie, who gives chase to a local police force after they kill her dad and kidnap her brother, Danny. I use the word police loosely, the men in question are soldiers working for the Monroe Republic - a man who has power over that particular part of America. It is explained later in the series that the US has broken into several minor countries, all living in varying degrees of prosperity.
Going back to Charlie trying to find her brother, she enlists the help of her estranged uncle, Miles. Together they go off in search of him. However, half way through the series this original plot is replaced by an entirely different one about rebels fighting the Monroe Republic. 

While the change in gear keeps the story fresh it does feel quickly like you are watching an entirely different show, and with the death of a major character it leaves you wondering if the first fourteen episodes were just a complete waste of time. 

Its saving grace is this though: you never know what is going to happen next, which is what kept me interested. The characters (most of them) are complex and interesting, whose performances are spoiled by the likes of whiny Charlie. Also, I understand double-crossing is a plot device in a lot of shows but in Revolution everyone does it several times an episode. I lost count of how many times it happened. If I had a pound for every time something changed sides or their agenda I would be stinking rich by the end of this review. 

But I digress, plot wise there are a lot of subplot threads going on in Revolution, especially in the second half of the series, which keeps you guessing. However, that’s not to say the plot doesn’t have its problems. Some episodes, which have self contained stories feel like they were written by five-year-olds; a secret town of children who have eluded trained and armed soldiers for years being one of them (what?). 

That’s not to say I did not like the first series of Revolution, I thoroughly did. Yet as it went on I felt like the story began to get a little too confusing with so much going on and a little too fanciful for its own good. I’ve not seen the second season yet but I’m told it’s more of the same and awful. We’ll see…