Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Game Review: Avatar of the Dead

Hey all, between packing and moving house I've not had much time to review any books, films or games this last week so this is going to be a short one just to tie you over.

I have been playing Avatar of the Dead...or rather I played it twice and no more because it has no replay value. It is an indie zombie survival game you can get on the Xbox 360.

When you begin you get dumped in a dark map by a van with its lights on with no explanation as to how and why you got there. Armed with only your fists you are told to find weapons - which you will use to fight off zombies. I found a shovel and nothing else after that. The zombies come out of the dark but you can usually hear them coming and half of them look like crash test dummies. Then you hit them...again...and again...until they're dead.

This game wouldn't be so bad if the zombies took less than nine or ten hits to kill - yet yif you're hit more than three you die and have to start over (even though you're hitting them with a shovel).

Also the graphics are awful. If you try the punch attack it looks like you are swinging a pair of mannequin arms around. The shovel probably doesn't do much damage because when you swing it - and that term is being generous - it twitches and that's it. The map is very limited and the reason why it is so dark is not for atmosphere - it's to hide how bad the graphics are.

Avatar of the Dead gets 1/10.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Vikings: Season Three Review



One of my favourite historical dramas returned recently - Vikings. As recently as a year ago a lot of people had not heard of this show, despite having some big names attached to it and already being into its second series. 

Skipping forward to when the third season began two months ago, a lot of people I know were finally talking about it. 

Vikings follows the life of King Raynar Lodbrok and his people as they raid foreign lands. At least, that was the original premise. Series three starts with the Vikings returning to the kingdom of Merica (somewhere in England) to set up a colony following a truce with King Ecbert. 

While we knew this was coming, the show seems to spend way too much time on the Vikings settling in and doing farming, farming and more farming. It’s only really around episode three that the action starts to really pick up again. But, sadly, the best action doesn’t arrive until the last three episodes when the Vikings attack Paris. 

There are a few surprise twists along the way but nothing this series which really leaves you stunned. The only twist that really got me was the death of one of the main characters but even this you see coming from a mile off.
  
Set and atmosphere wise Vikings still delivers. The fighting scenes are fast, bloody and graphic as always and the sets - including Paris - are really well done. The acting is still top notch and there is that familiar injection of humour that only works with Ragnar’s character.

I wasn’t as impressed with this series as I was the first two because of the lack of action and a lack of major developments in the story. But the siege of Paris in the final episodes was a return to form - they definitely saved the best until last.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Black Sails Season Two Review




I’m very much in a pirating mood this week after binging on Black Sails, a rip-roaring high seas drama you can find on Amazon Prime. 

Some of you may remember I reviewed the first series this time last year. While I enjoyed the first outing of Captain Flint and his crew, I did find the original series a bit ropey in places. 

However, I can safely say the second series has addressed many of my gripes. But before I get into that, here’s a recap of what the story is. Black Sails tells the fortunes and lives of various crews out of the pirate haven of Nassau - although the series predominantly focuses on Captain Flint and his men. At the end of the last series the crew had set out looking for Spanish gold, only to run into trouble and become stranded. However, by the chance, the same island they get stuck on is the same one that has claimed the Spanish ship carrying all that booty. 

The second series starts where the previous left off but once again takes a different direction to what you would expect. Captain Flint - through a lot of plotting and convoluted events regains his captaincy and sets sail back to Nassau. 

From there on the series jumps from character to character, covering all sorts of minor plots that ultimately tie together in the series finale. The series also doesn’t shy away from misleading viewers early on in a very clever way.

Anyway, back to my complaints of the first series. I felt a lot of characters in the first series had about as much personality as a cardboard box. I’m happy to say that is not the case this time round. One of the strongest performances comes from Captain Flint and the flashback sequences that tells us his back story. 

While bits and pieces of his story were hinted at in the first series, this time there is no messing about and everything is put into place. The reason why he became Captain Flint and the way this part of the story is told is nothing short of genius - episode six if you’re interested.

But despite a heavier emphasise on character, the show has not watered down on the amount of action. There are enough battles and explosions to keep action fans hooked. The series also remains very grisly - so maybe one to pass on if you’re faint of heart. 

Black Sails season two gets 9/10.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Game Review: Borderlands the Presequel



Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is a first person shooter set on the moon of the distant world of Pandora. Although this is the third game in the series, it is set before Borderlands 2 - hence the title. 

As in previous games, you select one of four characters and battle your way across Pandora’s moon slaughtering bandits, nutters and the local curious wildlife in the process. 

The game play is very similar to previous incarnations of Borderlands but the biggest change is the jump mechanic. Being on a moon and in lower gravity you can jump very high and over long distances while enjoying slow fall time. 

If you’ve picked one of the three human characters (Athena, Nisha or Wilheim) you will also have to frequently refill your air canister or risk suffocation. If you select Claptrap - the robot - this isn’t a problem. Jumping doesn’t cost you air but the extra jump does - so watch out. 
 
As for the story, you are trying to help a man named Jack regain control of a space station belonging to the Hyperion Corporation that has been taken over by a military group called the Lost Legion. 

For those who have not played the series, Jack is the villain in Borderlands 2 and this is the story of how he became such an a***hole. 

As usual the game isn’t heavily story-driven and focuses more on the game play than anything else. Sighting targets with weapons is as good as it’s ever been and so are the rest of the controls. There is also a nice new selection of weapons to try out as well. 

But while the game stays true to its core mechanics, graphics and humour, there is a lack of anything big and new. 

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel gets 6/10.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Game Review: South Park Stick of Truth



It’s loud, crude and unapologetic - this week I have been playing South Park: The Stick of Truth.

This is the part where I usually introduce a bit of background to what I’ve been playing or reading but, quite frankly, if you’ve never heard of South Park then where have you been? 

Despite the show’s success and its continued television presence after 18 years, it is quite surprising that the series has only ever had two video games. 

The original, simply titled South Park, was a 3D platformer on the Nintendo 64 which came out way back in 1998. While that was a first-person game where you took control of one of the four main characters moving through a 3D level, Stick of Truth is completely 2D. 

The first impression you’ll get is that it feels like you’re playing an interactive episode of the show. You create and control your own character “new kid” throughout the duration of the game. 

If you’re disappointed that you can’t play as either Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman, don’t worry, they turn up pretty quickly and will follow you around to help in fights. You can only have one follower at a time but you change between characters to your heart’s content. 

Arriving in South Park you join a fantasy games some of the kids are playing. Basically the two groups - humans and elves - are fighting over the Stick of Truth. Whoever controls it controls the universe - or so they say. 

But what starts off as a harmless kids game quickly escalates into a much bigger adventure involving a UFO crash, Nazi zombies and every other story to have featured in the South Park TV series for the last several years. The game does well to cram all these plots together to come up with something new which keeps the story going. Also it is a great nostalgia trip. 

A lot of the game is spent battling other opponents. Unlike the 1998 game again where you were free to attack as much as you wanted, Stick of Truth uses turn-based combat. Also you will have to constantly upgrade your weapons and armour as you progress. 

This isn’t as straight forward as changing outfits as well - to get the absolute best out of what you’re using you will have to use add-ons to your weapons and armour. The effects and advantages they give you vary and can really change how fights go. This can be quite daunting to get used to at first but after a few hours you’ll start picking up what works and what doesn’t. Battles take a little practice to get a hang of as well but once you’ve cracked it it’s a lot of fun.

Stick of Truth is a bright, colourful game that stays true to its source content. It’s very funny and has lots to do but is one to avoid if you’re easily offended. 

It gets 8/10.