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Archive for the ‘Multi-Format Reviews’ Category

BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY

Developer:Rocksteady

Release: October 2011

Genre: Action-Adventure

Format: PC, Xbox 360, PS3

In all honesty, I don’t think there’s been one game this year I’ve been more excited about playing than Batman: Arkham Asylum. Sure, there was the short lived Portal 2, and the epic finale that was Gears of War 3, but my anticipation to play those games felt like nothing compared to the seductive allure of Rocksteady’s sequel. The first game received Thirteen1 accolade of Game of the Year in 2009 – and rightly so – but how does the sequel fare? Is it an overwhelming improvement, taking what was great about the widely successful first game and adding more concepts and gameplay mechanics? Or is it just a case of copy-and-paste?

I was literally quivering with ecstasy when the main title popped up and the awesome music played; this felt like the dark Batman we’ve all grown used to. Unfortunately, my buzz was interrupted by notifications about DLC on more than one occasion. Now, I don’t want to get into a debate about the whole ‘DLC only available for those who buy brand new’, in fact that policy has proven to work sometimes (e.g. Mass Effect 2), however it should not mar the first – and most important – moments of the game.

The story begins 18 months after the events of the original game. Arkham Asylum has been shut down and decommissioned, and a section of Gotham City has been isolated to form its replacement: Arkham City. Overseen by the elusive Hugo Strange, Arkham City is a complex where all the super-villains and criminals of Gotham have free rein to do as they wish. Obviously this has led to a power struggle between rival villains, resulting in a major division of the city; with Two-Face, the Penguin, and the allegedly dying Joker seemingly leading the biggest gangs and owning the larger territories That being said, there’s still the presence of other supervillains behind the scenes; some who made an appearance in the original game, and others just waiting to make their debut in Rocksteady’s series. But where do we find our hero in all of this? The man behind the mask, Bruce Wayne, is publicly arrested in the opening scenes by Strange’s personal army. Strange knows who Batman really is, and makes this apparent to Wayne from the start. In order to keep him from interfering, Strange has Wayne incarcerated into Arkham City, making him easy-pickings for the inmates. After a brief encounter with The Penguin, Wayne has Alfred airdrop his Batman gear on a nearby roof, which he immediately dons and begins his investigation into Arkham City.

It’s a brilliant setup, and one of the greatest openings to a videogame ever. The overall plot keeps you hooked throughout, plus the fan service is absolutely incredible; characters don’t just make reference to the first game, but to other events in The Batman canon. From the delicious opening, right through to the shocking conclusion, the main story of Arkham City is an engaging and well-paced narrative. Rocksteady have really done their research, and any Batman fan would feel at home in the new environment, especially with the inclusion of iconic locations such as The Iceberg Lounge and Monarch Theatre, which of course leads to the infamous Crime Alley where a young Bruce Wayne witnessed the murder of his parents. Overall, the game’s presentation is dark and grim, which is perfect for all Batman acolytes, and the voice cast is simply sensational, with Nolan North as the cockney Penguin and Mark Hamill’s Joker stealing the show once again.

So how does it play? In a word: bat-tastic. The level of genius used to devise the combat system rivals that of Edward Nigma. The sheer simplicity of one button for strike, another for counter, etc., is implemented brilliantly, and the learning curve of new moves, combos, and finishing takedowns is steady, yet challenging. The freeflow mechanic that allows you to stack up your combo multiplier is smooth and responsive, and the addition of multiple counters is welcomed. The combat works great, and it feels even better due to the superb animations; each fight is so cinematic, as if they were carefully choreographed by Jackie Chan. I wouldn’t get into fights purely for the experience points; I just wanted to see Batman meticulously snap an arm or two. Gadgets can still be used in combat, and there’s a wide choice to choose from. Most are assigned quick-fire buttons, which allows you to grapple hook one enemy, batarang another, and freeze a third. It works seamlessly, which is a good thing since enemy types differ, and some require a more tactical approach than a simple toe-to-toe face off – Titan brutes aren’t as prominent this time round, but they do make the odd appearance.

Predator mode is very much the same but the enemy AI has been ramped up a bit; enemies will team up and search the area covering each other, and some will shoot down gargoyles if they clock on to your tactics. Again, it’s a brilliant addition, and it keeps you on your toes. Just like in combat mode, enemies differ to ramp up the challenge; some thugs have gadgets that can see you in the shadows, or interfere with your detective vision. It’s still fun to play the hunter, watching your prey shake with fear as their numbers dwindle, but hand-to-hand combat wins when discussing which is most enjoyable and empowering.

Despite looking like an open world environment a lá Grand Theft Auto, Arkham City is structured more like the first game: outside being a hub world with numerous areas acting like dungeons with a boss at the end. Not all buildings are accessible, but every structure is worth fine-combing in order to find all those Riddler Trophies. Each ‘dungeon’ is unique, and like Arkham Asylum, they’ll be something new to discover each time you visit; The Penguin’s museum being a genuine highlight for me. Rocksteady attempted something different with the boss fights, which is a change for the better considering how poorly received the final fight with Joker was in the first game. Not all Boss fights are challenging, but the memorable and arduous journey to reach them makes the finishing punch all the more satisfying. None of the encounters match up to the intensity of the Scarecrow in Arkham Asylum, but a fight underneath Arkham City with a particular supervillian will remain a fond memory of mine.

The main story took roughly fifteen hours to complete on hard, but that only counts towards less than 40% of the game’s completion. A hero’s work is never done, and the various side missions mean Batman is going to have a long night. The Riddler quests are more exciting this time round, asking for a lot more time and lateral thinking, and side missions such as the Pay Phone Killer and Identity Thief murders mix things up nicely. Once you’re done with your first game, you’ll unlock new game plus; a story mode that allows you to carry across all your experience, upgrades and gadgets from the get-go in exchange for harder enemy types and no counter-indicators – this is what it really feels like to be Batman. It’s actually worth playing a second time – provided your game doesn’t delete your save file (an exclusive Xbox 360 bonus/glitch that we unfortunately encountered eight hours into our first playthrough).

The Catwoman DLC is a bit of a disappointment, acting as intermissions from the primary plot, the chapters with the feline thief don’t add much to the experience, but it must be played if you want a bigger picture into the background of Arkham City and its vibrant characters.

Playing as the world’s greatest detective again has been the most thrilling gaming experience this year; even now I can’t put my controller down due to the new and improved challenge mode. It feels so empowering to fight as The Dark Knight, and Rocksteady’s accomplishments with our hero are awesome in a very obvious kind of way. The long list of subtle improvements give this sequel its own identity, while staying true to the formula we fell in love with two years ago. And after the end credits roll, after hours of riddles, 45x combos, and Batman’s armour getting split to hell, there’s one fact that’s undeniably clear. No one knows the Caped Crusader better than Rocksteady.

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BASTION

Developer: Supergiant Games

Release: July 2011

Genre: Fantasy-RPG

Format: Xbox 360, PC

The writer stares at the blank word document. In his mind, he knows that he must write a detailed review for the XBLA game Bastion, but part of him wants to just crack up a beer and call it a day. No, he won’t do that. The readers need to know about Supergiant Games’ debut title and just how it brings something innovative to the fantasy RPG genre. The writer continues to stare at the words he’s already written, and chuckles to himself at his poor attempt to mimic the game’s narration.

Ok enough of that. Bastion is a fantasy RPG set around an unnamed hero, referred to by the narrator of the kid. Now, for those of us who’ve played numerous fantasy-RPG, we know what to expect: a lucrative, yet complex backstory, blank-faced NPCs who yak-yak-yak-side-quest-yak-yak-yak, huge environments to traverse and plenty of button mashing. Well, prepare for the unexpected with Bastion, which manages to flip the genre on its head. That’s right, Bastion is different. It’s completely original, has innovative gameplay, a brilliant story (superbly narrated), and paces itself very well.

Part of what makes this game so innovative – and for the bizarre introduction – is the literal way the game’s narrated. From the first moment you move the on screen character, the narrator says: “He gets up.” From the get go your choices, victories, fights, and failings are spoken out loud by a wonderful voice actor who should be commended for his work. It must be cheaper too, instead of hiring numerous voice actors to play NPCs to tell the story; you have one bloke do it. What’s also great about this design element is that the narrative can be absorbed without breaking up gameplay. You can continue to fight enemies or smash up the environment, all while taking in what the narrator has to say.

While we’re on the topic of the environment, let’s divulge how the levels are setup and how the game works. Bastion is the central hub world, and when you first discover the land, it’s in ruin. The point of the game is to go to other worlds and collect Cores, which can be used to rebuild Bastion. Each level is uniquely themed, and the way they’re designed is intricate and impressive. The world is created around as you move, so when you walk forward the path will slowly be created in front of you. It’s a very clever idea, because it motivates you to play on from the word go, making the game wholly addictive. Combine this with the colourful design, and it’s like being in control of your own game; as if you’re making the world up as you go.

At its core, Bastion is a hack-and-slash fighter, which is disappointing compared to the aforementioned design aspects. There are numerous weapons for you to collect, melee and ranged, but none of them really give you that much of a tactical advantage. Many enemy types exist, but most can be defeated with a quick combination of bashing the attack and evade buttons. Another disappointment is the ability to explore the dungeons. Despite creating the world as you go, the levels offer very little in terms of exploration, making the game more of a linear action game than an RPG.

However, these are only two things, and considering the game is brief one, it’s not a huge problem. The game has a steady pace, but we’re talking only a few hours until you complete it, plus it’s very addictive, so we wouldn’t be surprised if many of you finished it in one sitting. Bastion may not have brought an innovative combat system to the fantasy-RPG genre, but the way the story is told and how the game progresses will keep you hooked right through to its fruition.

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MAFIA II

Developer: 2K Czech

Release: August 2010

Genre: Action-Adventure

Format: PS3, Xbox360, PC

It would seem suitable to open this review with a blatant reference to The Godfather, Goodfellas, Once Upon A Time in America, or any other Italian mafia film, but there are plenty of those in Mafia II that it hardly seems worth it. We didn’t know what to expect with Mafia II; after so many Grand Theft Auto clones out there we figured we were due to play another sandbox game – fortunately we were wrong.

Mafia II is a marvellous experience. From the moment you’re thrown into the city of Empire Bay you’ll be amazed by 2K Czech eye for detail and ability to set the scene. You’re introduced to the protagonist Vito Scalletta as he narrates his upbringing as a Sicilian immigrant in America’s slums. Falling into a life of petty crime with the help of his wayward chum Joe Barbaro, Vito is forced into the American army after being arrested by the police. You’re then given your first moments to control Vito as he takes part in a WWII military operation to topple Mussolini. It’s a very unusual introduction for a videogame that appears to be in vein of GTA IV, suddenly all expectations are thrown out the window because right then and there we were playing a war shooter. In retrospect, this first chapter was ingenious of 2K Czech because it allowed the player to control Vito in a genuine combat situation, and instead of opting for some fleeting mention to the character’s war service like in GTA IV, Mafia II shows you what Vito is capable of as a combatant. It’s this ingenuity that allows this game to shine and when coupled with 2K Czech eye for detail, Mafia II manages to offer so much more.

Upon his return to Empire Bay, Vito meets his old friend Joe, who fills him in on integral plot details that slowly begin the ball rolling. After he drops Vito off in the old neighbourhood, you’re once again in control. By this point we had only played 15 minutes of the game, and we already had so much to say. Vito stands in the street he grew up in, with his uniform on, suitcase in hand, and all around him the citizens are preparing for Christmas. The snow covered streets are filled with life as Dean Martin’s “Let it Snow” plays from a nearby building, and NPCs all partake in scripted events. Two drunken men shout up to a woman hanging her head out a window, defiantly shouting to the inebriates that her husband isn’t going out to a bar with them. It’s the smallest detail and it doesn’t further plot, it is simply there to set the scene, which it accomplishes. Later on still, when Vito leaves Empire Bay again for just under a decade, he returns to the city that is in full swing of the 1950s with the sun shining, convertible muscle cars hogging the roads, and the skirts of women a lot shorter. The amount of research that went into this game is unfathomable.

So, what of the plot? Well it’s very much what you would expect. Vito very quickly falls into a life of crime with the help of his ‘comedic’ buddy Joe. The story revolves around their relationship with each other and Vito’s progression from lackey to trusted hitman. From its poignant beginning right through to it unfortunately weak ending, Mafia II is an easy story to follow, provided you keep track of who’s who. Many times throughout the plot we got a little lost as seemingly minor characters suddenly became key figures in the mafia world. No previous knowledge of the game’s predecessor is required in order for you to follow the game’s storyline; however there is one moment of fan service that will leave players of the original game heart broken. The game is linear, there are no side missions or ramps to be found in Empire Bay, at no point are you without an objective. Mafia II doesn’t discourage exploration; its story just keeps players hooked to find out more.

Gameplay is the closest thing this game has to GTA VI, and in some ways it even surpasses it. Driving is what you’d expect, the usual trigger buttons apply, and handling is determined by the type of vehicle and whether or not you’ve fine tuned it. One facet worthy of note is the ability to turn on a feature called safe driving. The police in Empire Bay won’t tolerate speeding, and we all know it’s difficult to maintain speed limits in sandbox games, especially when we don’t know what those limits are. However, with safe driving turned on, your car will keep to the speed limit, the limiter automatically changing when entering a faster or slower road. It’s a clever feature, and if used skilfully, you can use it as a break format, slowing down whenever you see the fuzz appear on your radar. The cops are very unforgiving, and they won’t give up the chase easily; you must either ditch your car or change the plates if you wish to lose them, Vito changing his clothes will also help lose your notoriety.

Like all action games the combat system incorporates a cover system. Vito will use anything as cover, attaching himself to cars, metalwork, and trees. There’s no blind fire feature, and aiming can take a while to get use to due to weapon recoil, but given an hour with the game you should get the feel for it. We braved the game on the most difficult setting, and enemies provided a real challenge towards the end, sometimes killing us with one clean head shot. The selection of weapons is simply mouth watering for any fan of early 20th century artillery, the Thompson and Shotgun being our new best friends. There is a melee system in place, but you’ll rarely use it against enemies who are packing, instead you’ll be thrown into hand-to-hand combat situations. Vito only knows a few moves at first, a simple quick punch combo, a heavy punch combo, and the ability to dodge, but as you progress through the game he learns to counter and perform finishing moves.

Presentation is the game’s strongest point. The aforementioned details in our first paragraphs aside, the destruction effects are a brilliant touch. Many times we were stupefied in awe by a stone pillar being chipped away by bullets, or a car exploding when a stray or intentional bullet hit the gas tank. The character models are great too; Vito Scalletta is lovable rouge, who looks as tough as he talks. The voice-acting is as you’d expect; the Italian accent wears thin after while, and despite the cast consisting of many Italian named actors, it doesn’t sound genuine after a time.

Mafia II is a strong game, developed in the vein of Alan Wake; it’s a narrative driven game that teases sandbox gameplay with its secret collectables and little shops to hold-up. It’s an exciting and action-packed experience, certainly worth the wait and the hype. Molto Bene!

9/10

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BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM 

Developer: Rocksteady Studios 

Release: August 2009 

Genre: Action-Adventure

Format Reviewed: Xbox 360

Other Formats: PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Windows 

Bruce Wayne has had a tortured life. Not only did he witness the murder of his parents at a very young age, the Caped Crusader was unforgivably abused in the mid-to-late Nineties with those appalling Joel Schumacher films. The 20th century saw the birth and – towards the end – the death of Batman, his mainstream reputation tarnished by numerous spin-offs. Though his true spirit remained very much alive in DC Comics, Batman had become nothing more than a kids toy, a fond memory for those whose adolescence had passed them by. Then came the 21st century and with it, the unforgettable rebirth of the Dark Knight. Batman veterans, such as Frank Miller, revisited the drawing board and released Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which featured darker material involving the Bat and his enemies. And, most notably, Christopher Nolan rebooted the film series with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, the latter being the 5th highest-grossing film worldwide. Batman was back. 

In 2008, relatively unknown British indie developer, Rocksteady Studios, announced their second project, Batman: Arkham Asylum. Their debut title, Urban Chaos: Riot Response, was a compelling, albeit limited, game that offered ultra-violent gameplay and an OTT body count. Gamers had no need to doubt Rocksteady; however Batman’s relationship with videogames had been similar to the films, deteriorating over time, so gamers and the videogame press had doubts regardless of Rocksteady’s impressive debut. However, months prior to the game’s release saw numerous remarkable screenshots previewed on websites and in videogame publications. Interest in this title undoubtedly spawned off the back of The Dark Knight’s success, but the more we heard about Batman: Arkham Asylum, the more our minds were drawn to the game’s anticipated release. 

What’s been delivered is an immersive and dynamic game that is relatively easy to begin with. The game starts with Batman, who has just foiled an attack on the Mayor’s Office implemented by the Joker. Apprehending his arch-nemesis, the masked-vigilante takes the villain to Arkham Asylum, a psychiatric hospital, and the game’s solitary location. Being the world’s greatest detective, Batman smells something fishy, and while he helps process Joker into Arkham’s intensive care building, he is ambushed by members of the clown’s gang. These cronies soon take over the asylum, leaving violence and chaos in their wake; it seems Joker had been planning to be captured all along, and he’s got a ‘wild’ night install for the Caped Crusader. Batman will have to fight his way through hordes of enemies, solve challenging riddles, and use his ninja-like abilities to find Joker and stop him from causing any harm to the people of Gotham City. Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy, who starred in the animated series, reprise their roles of the Joker and Batman, respectively, allowing the game to fit comfortably into the Batman universe. 

 

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a mixed bag of gameplay mechanics. Rocksteady have adopted a stylish fighting system, which looks impressive and is extremely easy to use, enabling Batman to counter, dodge, and stun, as well as unleash furious attacks on his enemies. There exists a rather unforgiving combo system, which – if done accurately – allows Batman to free-flow between his opponents. By chaining regular timed attacks and counters, players will reach a special experience point multiplier, but as mentioned above, the combo system is very intolerant to mistakes, take one hit or push an incorrect button, and the combo score will diminish; however this tends to make the game more challenging rather than frustrating. Combat upgrades, among others, can be unlocked as players gain more experience, however there is very little variety. Some upgrades do make the game easier, for instance, the Inverted Takedown, which allows Batman to perform a critical attack on enemies from above – this is highly recommended – but the rest are generic gadgets and armour upgrades. 

The game has some intense stealth-orientated moments. Batman isn’t without his trusty grapple-hook, and he can boost up into the shadows away from menacing eyes. This is fundamental in some points of the game, especially when the enemies carry firearms; it will take more than brawn to disarm these foes. Taking a predator-style approach, players can pick enemies off one by one, improving the ridiculously outnumbered odds that tend to crop up towards the middle of the game and after. 

There’s a rather impressive facet built into Batman’s cowl called Detective Mode. Toggling this on will render Arkham in darker colours, allowing the Dark Knight to see through walls and to identify clues essential to the game’s progress. It’s rather tempting to play the game with detective mode constantly switched on so that no clue is missed, plus it highlights enemies and tells the player how many are near-by. 

 

As you would expect, there is an abundance of boss fights in this game. Some of Batman’s greatest enemies have been released in Arkham, and they all want to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight. Unfortunately most of them are really bad dancers. It’s a great shame, because this game has achieved so much more than its peers, but fails like so many of them by showcasing average boss fights. With the exception of one or two, most of the fights are predictable and ask for very little strategy, including the final showdown with Joker. That’s not to say they aren’t memorable ones, the encounters with Scarecrow and Killer Croc will certainly unnerve the more engrossed gamers. 

After finishing the main game, Rocksteady have left plenty of extras to keep gamers coming back for more. The Riddler has planted numerous puzzles all around Arkham Island, so why not see if you can solve them all? On top of that, and what most gamers will be playing, is the addictive and deftly-named Challenge Mode. This scenario offers up fighting and stealth-orientated challenges, some of which can be awfully difficult. And there’s even more, why not browse through the accurate character bios, which feature background info on some of Gotham’s finest and maddest. 

It is safe to say that Batman has returned. The crew at Rocksteady are obviously fans of the Dark Knight and his many adventures, and they also know how to create engaging and pioneering gameplay. Batman: Arkham Asylum has brought the dark side of the DC universe to the forefront, and Rocksteady has set a precedent for all Batman related videogames, if not all superhero games, that follow. 


 

8/10 


 

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CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2

Developer: Infinity Ward

Release: November 2009

Genre: FPS

Format Reviewed: Xbox 360

Other Formats: PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Windows

Has Infinity War achieved excellence again?

Modern Warfare 2 has been available for months now, so the chances are you’ve played it. And so it’s even more likely you’re aware how it’s been superbly delivered. Furthermore, it’s almost certainly apparent that you’ve loved every second of it, from its intense, if not dramatic, single-player campaign to its addictive and flawless multiplayer mode. If this is you, then you should probably stop reading now. For those of you who are yet to play the game because you’re sceptical about Infinity Ward’s ingenious title, then this review is for you.

We promise not to spoil any of the narrative by mentioning major plot twists – though there is an ample amount of them for an eight hour story – and we also promise not to get lost or sidetracked in the controversy surrounding the Russian International Airport level. In fact, let’s get that out of the way now.

Despite warnings stating that the scene in question may be offensive, we were caught unaware. In all honesty, it blew us away. The moment our undercover character stepped out of that elevator with four armed terrorists and those unaware NPCs turned around to face their deaths, our faces transformed into grimaces of disbelief as we realised what was happening. As a player, we were given the choice to take part in the massacre or continue to watch as character after character was gunned down. What made this scene so effective were the first three levels before it. During the opening tutorial, playable-character Private Allen is told not to fire from the hip, but to crouch and aim down his sight. The next two levels require the player to follow similar duck and cover tactics from the first game. Like all its other antecedents, Modern Warfare 2 asks for more than just simply running around with guns blazing. However, the terrorists do just that, albeit holding and firing their weapons in one hand and calmly walking through the terminal as an unstoppable force. It maybe a horrific depiction of terrorism, but all terrorism is horrific and it’s essential to the games narrative and will certainly unnerve first time players.

Modern Warfare 2’s main campaign doesn’t offer much more than the first one. Split into two parts, the story takes place five years after the first game. Captain Soap McTavish, the protagonist from the original, is now a commanding officer of a special ops group called Task Force 141. The missions of McTavish and his group are by far the most integral part to the plot, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. As the game progresses you’ll find yourself ducking for cover in a Brazilian favela in Rio de Janeiro, rescuing hostages from a heavily guarded oilrig in the Bearing Sea, and following in Solid Snake’s footsteps by slipping through a snow storm to infiltrate an arctic base.

The U.S Army Rangers provide support for the main campaign, with their missions mainly taking place in Virginia and Washington D.C, protecting their homeland from a Russian invasion. Seeing a suburban America transformed into a war zone would be a nightmare for any patriotic U.S citizen, and it’s been portrayed brilliantly. Filmic inspirations are evident throughout – it’s hard not to think of the War of the Worlds remake during the second Virginia level – and film scorer Hans Zimmer arranges the music.

It would be disingenuous of us to say Infinity Ward hasn’t created a sleek FPS game, but it would seem they haven’t quite got the balance right for a well-paced sense of gameplay. The missions of the U.S Army Rangers are merely filler, and act as downtime between the covert operations of Task Force 141, which ask more from the player than just simply aiming and shooting. Several cleverly planted set pieces have been implemented that provide extremely interactive and emotional moments throughout the game. We won’t spoil these moments for you, but many fans of CoD4 will be reminded on several occasions of Sergeant Paul Jackson and his final steps after the nuclear blast; though none of Modern Warfare 2’s scenes recapture the shock and awe we felt during that epic moment.

The main campaign will take seven to eight hours to complete. Feeling brave, we decided to tackle it on the Hardened difficulty from the get-go and occasionally experienced aggravating moments where enemy forces overwhelmed us. The game’s AI isn’t as smart as that of FPS games like F.E.A.R.; rarely were we ambushed or flanked from behind. In fact, the AI it quite easy to outsmart most of the time, constantly movement from cover to cover or throwing an unsuspecting flash bang will do the trick. The main campaign deserves high-praise, and after completion players may dabble in the new Spec Ops mode, which has a bunch of different mini-missions to complete, but these will only quench the thirst for a small amount of time. Afterwards players will be spending most of their free time on Modern Warfare 2’s undeniable star of the show, the multiplayer.

How Infinity Ward managed to improve an already flawless multiplayer is beyond this publication, but they managed it. Matches play out in the same entertaining way as the first game, with new maps that have been skilfully designed to stop lazy campers. The levelling up system returns, this time with an abundance of challenges to complete in order to rank up. New perks and kill streak awards have been added, including air drops, the AC-130 gun ship from the main campaign of CoD4, and a tactical nuke. The distorted guitar that accompanies each promotion or newly unlocked upgrades makes for gratifying gameplay. Along with earning XP points and trying out new weapons and attachments, it’s these little things that keep players up until the wee hours of the morning. It’s everything a FPS multiplayer should be – sheer brilliance – and it provides a reason behind other titles choosing to avoid a November/December release date.

Modern Warfare 2‘s only downfall is the fact that it’s a sequel. The game is very much more of the same thing we experienced in 2007, with the exception of its enhanced multiplayer experience. The guys at Infinity Ward haven’t delivered a better sequel, just an equally spectacular one. It’s not achieved what Gears of War 2 did, but we’re sure that Modern Warfare’s future will be a striking hot topic until its next sequel, and that’s going to be one hell of a game.

9/10

This article was originally published in Issue 21 of Thirteen1

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PSYCHONAUTS

Developer: Double Fine Productions

Release: February 2006

Genre: Platform

Format Reviewed: PC

Other Formats: Xbox, PlayStation2

Here’s a game that will surely blow your mind. Psychonauts is a psychedelic and colourful platform game that will wow anybody who plays it.

Released in 2006, Psychonauts follows the exploits of a young boy called Raz. Being gifted with psychic abilities, Raz joins a summer camp for those with similar attributes in order to become a Psychonaut. However, he discovers something sinister at work in the camp and does everything in his power to stop it from happening. The game progresses with Raz exploring the minds of his fellow campers and other beings; inside their brains he finds places that symbolically represent the characters fears and emotional baggage. Each mind has its own unique visual design and plenty of puzzles and challenges for Raz to overcome. The gameplay design, along with the imaginative narrative, makes this a strong and memorable game, and credit must go to the games creative director, Tim Schafer (Grim Fandango, Manic Mansion: Day of the Tentacle, and Brutal Legend).

There is very little room for error in Psychonauts. The voice-acting is top notch, the character designs are extremely creative, and the music is fun and exciting. Despite all this Psychonauts was a commercial failure, but it was strongly received by critics, and there’s no exception here.

If you’re looking for a game that’s fun, easy to play, witty, aesthetically pleasing, and wildly imaginative then Psychonauts is for you. So why not take a journey through the subconscious and play one of the best video games of the Noughties?

10/10

This article was originally published in Issue 21 of Thirteen1

All games are available at gog.com

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