All posts under Review
Destiny: The Taken King

By on September 23, 2015 at 4:20 pm

One thing becomes clear when you boot up Destiny following the release of The Taken King: you’re supposed to feel dread. That overwhelming sense of awe and discovery that was inspired by Year One’s theme has taken an ominous turn. The composition that once played while I was in orbit — one of my favourite pieces of video game music — has now been replaced by an arrangement that sounds just that little bit more sinister. There’s a change in mood here that starts with the soundtrack and permeates through the level design.

That being said, the latest chapter of the story has been brought to life by a small, but memorable cast of characters, many of whom had appeared from the beginning but have only now found their voice. Cayde-6, voiced by Firefly and Castle star Nathan Fillion is the primary quest-giver for the fight against Oryx. Fillion doesn’t just provide mission briefings, he’s the star of several cutscenes and also provides colourful mid mission dialogue.

Nolan North of Uncharted fame replaces the unfairly-maligned Peter Dinklage in the role of your Ghost. Both actors turn in stellar performances, and while the script isn’t written to elicit much of an emotional response, the added dramatic flavour makes it that little bit easier to complete a strike, story or patrol mission for the three hundredth time.

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By on September 22, 2015 at 5:19 pm

Imagine if someone built a computer model of your brain — complete in all ways, so lifelike and complex that it was impossible to tell it apart from a real brain. Uploaded into a body and able to move around, learn and feel — what is the difference between the simulated you and the real you? How would you know if you were the original? And what would happen if more copies were made, different snapshots of you at different times?

SOMA asks questions like these. SOMA is everything I love.

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satellite reign

By on September 17, 2015 at 5:41 pm

Satellite Reign is our home-grown Australian-made take on the classic Syndicate — in fact, the creator of Syndicate Wars is one of the key figures behind this new cyberpunk reboot, so it’s not surprising to see so much of the same DNA in both places.

In Satellite Reign, you explore the City, attempting to overthrow the corporation which has a stranglehold on cloning and consciousness-transference technology and free the people from their vicelike grip. And when I say “you explore the City”, I mean it — once the game has loaded, there’s just your agents, a massive City, and nothing stopping you from going anywhere you want…

…except guards, gates and cameras of course, but that’s half the fun (and half the frustration, but we’ll get to that).

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Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain

By on September 9, 2015 at 2:49 pm

Open world games have become bloated. Fire up the latest Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry and you’ll be greeted by a world map cluttered with “activity” icons. There are so many things to do in those games, but in the grand scheme of things, not much actually happens. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is the opposite kind of open world game. The things you do are quite limited in variety, but so much can happen while doing them.

This is a game which casts you as someone the world perceives to be the greatest soldier who ever lived. Everything you do in The Phantom Pain‘s open environments  is about living up to that name. You drop into a point on the map via helicopter, infiltrate compounds and outposts, extract prisoners, sabotage equipment, and assassinate high-value targets. Various combinations of these objectives amount encompass almost all of the main story missions’ goals. Though it sounds threadbare and repetitive, it works – because after giving you that objective, The Phantom Pain just lets you play, and almost never throws a wall up in front of you.

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Grand Theft Auto 5 PC

By on April 15, 2015 at 11:19 am

It’s Grand Theft Auto 5 release time — again! This is the third major release of GTA 5, and this time it’s here to hijack our PCs and run them into the ground.

And run them into the ground it will, if you want to turn on all of the bells and whistles available to you in the game’s settings. For this review, GTA 5 was run on a mid-tier system sporting an ageing GTX 580, and even so I was able to find a good balance between looks and performance.

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By on March 31, 2015 at 10:46 am

It’s very tempting to fall back on comparables when talking about Bloodborne, but to say “If you liked Dark Souls, you will like this” really does From Software’s latest a disservice.

The fact is you may love Bloodborne after struggling to get into previous games in this loose family – and even if you did love Demon’s Souls and the two Dark Souls games, there’s no guarantee you will also like Bloodborne, which is quite a different game.

Oh, the basic set up is the same. (Unforgiving combat where even low-level enemies pose a threat all the way through the game. Having to repeat long, dangerous gameplay segments each time you die. Terrifying boss battles.) But the really interesting thing about Bloodborne is that it actually takes more of an action approach than its precursors.

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Battlefield Hardline

By on March 24, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Battlefield Hardline marks a revolutionary departure for the Battlefield series, and it’s not just because of the new Cops ‘n Robbers setting.  Instead the key difference is that this is the first time DICE, creator of the series, has handed the helm over to another developer, Visceral Games. Visceral has proven itself to be a very versatile developer, albeit one with a spotty quality record, releasing everything from survival horror series Dead Space, through to cover-based co-op shooter Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel, to third person action game Dante’s Inferno.

Unfortunately the old mantra of “Jack of all trades, Master of none” seems to be an appropriate description of the studio; with very little experience in first person shooters, its work on Battlefield Hardline shows that Visceral simply doesn’t have the expertise to back up its obvious enthusiasm for the genre.

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Total War: Attilla

By on February 23, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Rome II was a disappointment. Not because it failed to meet the lofty expectations that are bound to come from being the first numbered sequel of one of the Total War franchise’s most beloved titles. Rather, it was because the game was a bloated, unwieldy mess. I appreciate my opinion of this is at odds with our previous review of the game, but I feel this context is necessary when discussing my reaction to the latest game from The Creative Assembly – Total War: Attila.

My reasons for so disliking the past game are numerous, but can be distilled into a key issue – lack of meaningful decisions. From its muddy combat, to a revised management system that unnecessarily abstracted key information, Rome II rarely made you feel you were in charge. Factor in the myriad of technical issues the game shipped with, and you should be able to understand my apprehension in approaching the latest Total War.

Thankfully, Attila represents a significant improvement on the past game. It may not return the series to the loft heights of earlier entries but it goes a long way to restoring faith in what The Creative Assembly is capable of.

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Sniper Elite 3

By on July 1, 2014 at 10:45 am

I share a longstanding joke with a colleague where every single Nazi-themed game instantly fails if you do not get the chance to kill Hitler. Hitler can be in any sort of form: Robot, Zombie, Art Deco, whatever. He just needs to have the iconic mustache, short stocky stature and a strong dose of facist dogma in order to meet the grade, and provide that most excellent of releases that video games were designed for.

The problem is that World War 2 was, frankly, a World War, and Hitler couldn’t exactly be in every theatre at once. So, unfortunately, in Sniper Elite 3 you do not get to kill Hitler.

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GRID Autosport

By on June 25, 2014 at 9:47 am

Fans of Codemaster’s 2008 release Racedriver: GRID and its 2013 sequel, GRID 2, know what to expect from the series; beautiful graphics, a mix of real-world and fantasy racing tracks and a lengthy career progression system. Had 2014′s sequel, GRID Autosport, been released just a few years earlier, it might have easily delivered a top of the line racing experience. But in a market brimming with high-octane content, can this title fire on all cylinders and stay ahead of the competition?

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By on June 5, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Murdered: Soul Suspect feels hollow, and that’s not just because you’re a ghost. Remember the good-looking but detached dalliances you might’ve had with Asura’s Wrath and/or Beyond: Two Souls? This is like that. It has that exact same inconsequential feel of having been intended as a movie, but made by people who ended up in games.

Which sucks even more in this case, because MSS’ narrative is only compelling in so far as it’s a mystery. Every well-worn cinematic cliché and dramatic device of the afterlife is good and accounted for here…

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By on June 4, 2014 at 3:56 pm

By now we’ve all heard of Ubisoft Game, and if you haven’t, then you’ve been living under a rock. Ubisoft Game is the latest in a long line of titles from Ubisoft, and with a bigger budget than ever before and no less than 75 of Ubisoft’s 193 global studios working on it, there’s no doubt that this year’s Ubisoft Game is going to be the big one.

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Wolfenstein: The New Order

By on May 27, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Wolfenstein: The New Order is pleasantly straightforward. That’s not to say it’s boring, or uninteresting, or shallow, but rather that, much like the blunt instrument to which main character BJ Blazkowicz is likened, Wolfenstein delivers maximum punch with zero pull, and doesn’t really give a toss whether or not you think that’s a good idea. It’s rare in the year 2014 that you get to fire up a game and literally just blast robot Nazis away with gloriously automatic twin shotguns, and Wolfenstein delivers that in spades while, somehow, managing to remain interesting.

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By on May 21, 2014 at 1:30 am

Atmosphere. Bastion had it in spades, and it’s hard to imagine a reality in which Transistor—the next game from Supergiant Games—would deliver anything less. As Red, a famous singer mysteriously left mute and somehow embroiled in the mess her home city has become, players will find themselves drawn into Transistor as key information about the world is carefully and precisely meted out over the course of six or so hours.

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Child of Light

By on April 29, 2014 at 1:30 am

Child of Light is a patchwork of old-world devices loved to deathly new life (you what?). Scroll to the side, jump up and down. Shove a box over here and nab some floating orb things there. A hideous spider! Kick its ass in turn-based combat. Level up with XP and climb mad skill trees. Puzzly platforming turn-based RPG gaming? What is this, Soviet Russia where the games play you?

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Dark Souls 2

By on April 25, 2014 at 8:10 am

The Souls series is like weight training, callisthenics for the thumbs. You work at it, trying, failing, and trying again, gradually building toward a grace and confidence can only come with practice. You raise your hands triumphantly at vanquishing a troublesome boss, casting about for a high-five in what you suddenly remember is an an empty room, and your joy fading as you realise that the very next step in your journey is to progress from the known to the unknown. Effectively, you are constantly expected to trade-in your confidence for another chance to fumble in the dark. Dark Souls 2 continues in this vicious tradition, delivering an experience that is more about managing background anxiety than it is about chasing the carrot on a stick upon which so many other games rely.

I approached my time with the PC version of Dark Souls 2 with trepidation.

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Reaper of Souls

By on April 17, 2014 at 4:23 pm

I’m not ashamed to admit that I ragequit over the state of Diablo 3 at launch. After finishing the game once, I’d had enough. The regular and inconveniently-timed-for-Australians server maintenance, latency, and the fact that I couldn’t choose to play offline all led to me coming away from one of my most anticipated games of all time with a sour taste in my mouth. I was frustrated that the sequel to a game that I had played almost exclusively offline came with a whole slew of features that I didn’t care about, which explicitly precluded me from playing the game the way I wanted to play it: offline, with no latency, and with local network multiplayer only.

Not quite two years later came the release of Reaper of Souls, the new expansion to Diablo 3. I was drawn in by the conversation surrounding the new content, I was tempted. Nearly two years of learned lessons, patches, and improvements to a game that I had so sorely wanted to love. Perhaps this was the time for forgiveness, for a second chance? The news that Australian servers had been rolled out was enough to push me over the edge. I was going back to Sanctuary.

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By on April 10, 2014 at 11:00 am

The year is 1604. Washed up on a beach after the (presumed) crash of your ship, you expected to find a thriving colony on the edge of the new world. Instead, what you find is an island full of ghosts, demons and a mysterious cloaked woman on a quest to locate her twin sister. Betrayer is easily one of the more ambitious indie titles I have seen in a while, with an opening so ominous, confusing and daunting it put me instantly on the back foot. Soon you’ll find your first “base” of sorts, Fort Henry — but from there, the mystery only deepens as the game forces you to evaluate your surroundings and discover clues to what has occurred. Why are there human remains solidified in place? Why does this bell create instant darkness? Why are these souls begging me to find their loved ones?

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