Review: Condemned: Criminal Origins – Monolith – XBox 360 (2005)

As my free time over summer starts to come to an end this year, I’ve played through another game.

So I woke up in a bad mood last Friday morning, and decided that a good, short game was what I needed to do with my time. Perusing a couple of google searches for “good, short 360 games” to see what came up that I also had, Condemned (and its sequel) seemed to make many of those lists, which reminded me that I had this game, tucked away in a shelf. Choice made, then!

Condemned: Criminal Origins, is a game that I had bought shortly after purchasing my XBox 360 back in 2007(?) It had garnered good reviews, but as so often happens with these things – both miniatures and videogames – it’s often easier to buy something with the best of intentions to get around to using them – and then taking years (or worse) to actually do so.

I dimly remember buying the game, one of the games I purchased in my initial frenzy of enthusiasm when I got my 360 back in the day. Even back then it was already in the XBox 360 “Classics” selection. While this meant that the game had sold well, over whatever the minimum was at the time, more importantly the game had garnered positive reviews across the board. At the time I’d done that thing where you put the game on, look at it for 45 seconds/play for 3 minutes and think “Yeah, this looks cool. I’ll get back to it soon!” So now – a decade on from release and 8 years from buying it – I’ve finally actually played it! Does this count as a retro-review?


Condemned was developed by Monolith Productions, who were also the people behind titles I’d enjoyed such as No One Lives Forever (NOLF), NOLF 2, Alien vs Predator 2, Contract J.A.C.K. (essentially NOLF3), F.E.A.R., F.E.A.R. 2 and much more recently – Shadow of Mordor. That’s a pretty good selection of hits over a good selection of years. So far so good!

So how does it look in 2016?

The game is dark and grainy – appropriate for a survival-horror kind of game. The graphics aren’t beautiful 1080p with ultra-detailed models, but I’m not a complete graphics whore, and the game’s setting still looks good enough to me and works well enough to be fit for purpose. Enemies and your weapons are a fair bit less attractive, looking a bit blocky at best. Your character on the other hand, along with those in cutscenes looks pretty bad. I can’t fairly recall what FPS graphics looked like back 10 years ago without rose coloured glasses, but to be blunt, the character and many of the weapon models look like arse today.

Audio fares better. A nice touch are your own heavy footsteps – there are any times you’re not sure if a sound was you, or someone else, stalking you. The audio design overall isn’t bad and is one of the stronger points of the game, even today. The exception to which is the voice acting.

I dub thee: Arseface.

I should mention the story: – only the slightest of spoilers here – You’re a federal agent. Framed for a murder you didn’t commit, you set out on a quest to prove your innocence by wandering through an endless series of dark tunnels, rooms and abandoned buildings, murdering everyone in your path.

Occasionally with firearms, but typically with improvised clubs, shovels, axes and sledgehammers. Does all that sound like a fair enough way to prove your innocence from murder?

Anyhow, there’s some serial killer stuff and the story is pretty bad, even for a video game. I’m usually happy enough to gloss over video game stories if the gameplay is good, and oftentimes for games, less is more. This game attempts to have depth and layers in the story, and while it’s not quite the nonsensical mess as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was, it’s still pretty bad. The plot and script is like a police/serial killer story – as written by a teenager whose only knowledge of police procedure, serial killers or the way that human people actually interact with one another has come from bad TV shows in those genres.

I state this because it’s terribly written and voice acted. There’s a “twist” at the end, but I’d liken its surprise and impact to looking at the bus timetable, then walking around the corner at the allotted time and watching the bus slowly meander its way down the street towards your bus stop.

Mechanically, I found early on that a few things we take for granted in modern times are a fair bit different in Condemned. There’s no mini-map. Indeed, there is no map of any kind. Nor is there any “guide” through the levels other than the fairly linear nature of the levels. I’m not horrified at the loss of the modern stalwart “Follow”, but when the environment starts to look very much the same where ever you wander in a level…

The game’s pacing is extremely slow as well. I found the controls to be unresponsive and sluggish, right down to it feeling like I needed to press down twice as hard as in other games on the stick to sprint – which is also limited by a stamina bar.

Amazingly (for a videogame), your flashlight seems to (mostly) work like an actual flashlight and the batteries don’t die after a few seconds. Which is handy, since – as mentioned – for the entirety of the game you’re navigating an endless series of (linear) dark hallways and rooms. Credit where credit is due there, though whether you have the flashlight on or off doesn’t seem to make any actual difference in terms of conflict, as enemies spring into existence and are aware of you as soon as you come near, so stealth doesn’t seem to be a thing at all in this game.

You can’t carry two weapons, even when it makes sense – such as a holstered firearm and a melee weapon in hand. Oh, you also have a taser, which gets upgraded partway through the game into pretty much a man-killer. Maybe that’s considered your offhander and therefore the reason you’re unable to carry a pistol in your empty cop-holster?

A man and his piece of conduit.

Similarly, despite the bag that you apparently carry your gear in or you bulky jacket, you can’t carry health packs at all. But that’s okay, since you can use them right off the wall. Yes, 2005-era design, so there’s no regenerating health or any of that guff. Just lots of medical cabinets conveniently located in all manner of decrepit and long-abandoned locales. Seems like a good choice to gulp down some of whatever you find in a pill bottle in places like that, amirite?

The building you start in seems to be an odd combination of old and condemned while also being a construction site. But abandoned and filled with psychotic junkies armed with 2x4s with nails in them, or bits of conduit or pipe. You lose your service pistol pretty early on, though – after having shot a guy or two to death.

Naturally, after killing a man and then having your gun stolen you do what any (videogame) cop would do. Instead of pulling out, calling for backup, or for a coroner’s meat wagon you just keep on going further in, only now armed with a makeshift club you picked up off the floor, gleefully beating perps to death as you go. Even the other cops with you at the time merely throw you a Fire Axe and tell you to pretty much keep going. Because videogame cop logic.

The game is very melee heavy, with firearms making only sporadic appearances throughout the game. As you’d expect, they’re more often seen in the latter stages, but even then still don’t make up the majority of enemies or encounters. There’s a simple block and counterstrike mechanism in place for melee combat, but it seems to be a combination of unresponsively slow while requiring pretty exact timing to effectively parry.

You have choices of various improvised melee weapons that you can rip off walls (conduit, pipe, rebar), furniture (2x4s) and so forth with sightly different stats: damage, speed, block and reach. Looking at a different weapon to the one in your hand will display either + or – with regard to each of the stats – but without numerical values. This lets you make your choices at a glance but in doing so without any way to really know the depth of the various trade-offs. There are also a few tools like the aforementioned fire axe that can be used as melee weapons as well as to open specific doors. Apparently using makeshift weapons scavenged from the nearest wall was supposed to feel visceral. It just feels like nothing.

In terms of movement through the game, there’s no duck, no jump and no climb outside of when the game very specifically tells you that you can climb through a window or up a ladder or jump down a hole. By pressing A. Now. I bumped over a chair and couldn’t get out of a room for 30 seconds. That old videogame trope of impassable chest-high walls is used to the extent of impassable knee-high junk on the floor here.

Most of the game pretty much looks like this.

The game has collectables because of course it does. At the end of the first level, I was informed by the stats page that I’d found/collected 1 of 6 dead birds, and 0 of 3 “metal pieces”. These appear to have no purpose whatsoever aside from achievement hunting and unlocking secret out-of-game dossiers that neither you nor I care about. And frankly – walking around, barely able to see while searching for them (or even doing so with the aid of a walkthrough) seems like a complete waste of time. A few points of gamerscore and a few pretty pointless X-Box achievements that are neither fun to get nor affect gameplay in the slightest really aren’t a worthwhile use of my (or presumably, your) time.

Even more tedious – when I happened to restart the second level to go back and check out an areas I’d missed, I found that the birds you collect in one “playthrough” don’t stay collected – as they often do in other games. So you’ve got to grab all of these collectables in a discrete run of each level. Nice.

Also – head bob. I know this game is a decade old now, but someone really needs to tell the makers of FPS games that HUMAN EYES DON’T WORK THAT WAY GUYS. Seriously. Go walk to the kitchen and tell me if your vision is smooth or bounces around like a yo-yo. We have millions of years of evolution that have taken care of that. You know what does bounce around and give a jerky sense to your vision? Cameras. So unless we’re controlling drone-style robots by remote control or playing Blair Witch: The Game, there’s no need for goddamn head bob in games. This includes you too, Gears of War. At the very least give us the option to turn it off.

Every so often there’s a navigation “puzzle” in the game. This usually equates to you needing to wander around a series of areas where everything looks the same with your flashlight until you find the Fire Axe/Sledgehammer/Crowbar/Shovel (yes, really – shovel) so that you can open a specific door. They each have their own specific doors that they can open, and don’t work on different door types – just like real life, a fire axe or a crowbar is useless when confronted by a padlock because you need a fucking sledgehammer for that shit.

Similarly, sledgehammers are only useful for padlocks and can’t smash their way through doors or wooden barriers. Because that’s what fire axes (and only fire axes) do. Ahem. Anyway, once you’ve found the CORRECT door-opening implement, you then wander around with your torch until you find the macguffin (switch, valve, etc) then you’re done and can move on – which may or may not involve more backtracking. This is invariably about as interesting, fun and exciting as I’ve made it sound here.

So yes, these different types of weapon are essentially a form of “you need the BLUE key” game design, grandfathered in from Quake with a light coat of paint on it.

Any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic.

There’s some “investigation” throughout the game. This investigation is performed when the game pretty much tells you “INVESTIGATE NOW” and you press a button for the appropriate one of your investigative tools to come out. You’d need a decent sized bag to lug these things around, actually. I’d usually let that go as videogames tend to all give their characters a bag of holding, but it feels a little more odd here in a game that pretty much has you running around with nothing but a flashlight and a 2×4 or piece of electrical conduit as a makeshift weapon for much of the game. So yes, it’s as interesting and “intuitive” as finding the correct “key” for the correct door type.

For those rare-ish times when you do manage to acquire a firearm, you can check the remaining number of rounds in the magazine, but once they’re empty they merely become sub-par makeshift weapons that quickly break. There’s no ammo or reloading in this game. At one point this led to the amusing(?) situation where I had 3 rounds left in my .45, and killed an enemy armed with an identical .45. His pistol also had 3 rounds left, but the game did not allow me in any way to combine those 6 rounds into the one weapon, so I had to leave one on the floor with bullets in it – because one weapon, no carrying. Needless to say – “horror” game or not – this felt very artificial.

Naturally, this led to that classic immersive videogame trope of backtracking for a 3-minute round trip to pick up the gun that was left on the floor once I’d emptied the one I was carrying.

Combat in general can be summed up in one word: Bad. If you’d like some more words, take: Sluggish, Unresponsive, Slow, Unsatisfying, Unfun.

That last one is a pretty good descriptor of the whole game, actually. Unlike something as frustrating and actively annoying as Metal Gear: Revengeance, this game is merely tedious and boring – so I was actually able to finish it. I’m not sure which is worse actually, a bad game that is so bad that you put it down after an hour or so or one that’s bad but not so bad that you can’t make yourself finish it.

You might ask why, if the game is so tedious and boring, did I continue to play it?  A fair question. The answer is a combination of my own bloody-mindedness and the fact that it’s listed as a short game – average of 7-10 hours, so doable in a couple of days of play at my own speed. In practice, I played through 2 levels in one day, and the other 7 in a rather bloody-minded waste of a day split over several sessions of 2-3 levels each time.

Is this what a bloody mind looks like?

While at first the game feels like you’re on a murder-rampage through the oddly-agressive homeless of “Metro City” (yes, really), after awhile it starts to feel more like a zombie game, right down to having several “types” of “zombie” with different attack patterns, etc. Rarely, you’ll come across a bunch of zombies that fight one another. If you hang back in these encounters, you can simply mop up the survivor(s) instead of wade in and take a bunch of damage for no real reason.

Mostly you chase “the suspect” deeper and deeper down into the bowels of the city’s subway system and through a collection of discrete buildings that each level is composed of. Occasionally you’ll stop to “gather evidence” as noted earlier – which you transmit to Rosa, a friendly researcher back at base via your simply adorable 2005-era mobile telephone who is then able to look up DNA results, check databases and create full 3-D models from photos of shoeprints – all in seconds. Remember, this is before modern smartphones, so it’s got buttons and a little screen on top, yet it seems somehow more capable than the latest of 2016’s phones and has no problem whatsoever with a signal about a kilometer underground under a maze of concrete, brickwork and heavy industrial machinery.

Source: Cracked

There’s a complete and utter dearth of interesting weapons in the game – and while fans of the game might argue that it’s somehow realistic, or that the game’s strength is in it’s story or investigation, the fact is that the majority of gameplay is walking in dark rooms with a flashlight, and the next most common part of gameplay is beating the homeless/criminals/zombies to death with clubs and axes.

There’s far more of that than story or investigation.

This game was an interesting experience in one way. I started out impressed and enjoying myself, and you could clearly see the shared DNA between this game and F.E.A.R. in the environments and atmosphere, but the horrible, sluggish controls, tedious gameplay and godawful story led me to go from impressed, to bemused, to bored, to really very unimpressed. As I’ve noted, the game got overall excellent reviews for gameplay and even story back when it was released. I guess time has simply moved on and unlike a bottle of fine wine, this game hasn’t aged well, and in the decade since release has become corked instead.

Verdict: Avoid.

 

Review: Fracture – Day 1 Studios – XBox 360 (2008)

On my Christmas breaks for the last few years, I’ve tended to play a few “fast games” in the interest of a slight cull to my pile of (videogame) shame. Sadly, these games are often not that great, though I do start out hopeful that they might be at least decent. Since I just haven’t been feeling a desire to paint much yet, I’ve started the gaming reviews!

This year, I’m starting out with Fracture, (stylised as Frac\ture on the cover art). The premise of which is that global warming physically divided the east and west coasts of the USA, who then had a bit of a tiff over differing views of genetic modification of humans. The gimmick here, though, is terrain deformation. And killing Californians, apparently. Sorry, “Pacificans”. Who are “no longer fully human”, and more importantly – rebels to the Federal Government, backed by “Asia”. Meanwhile the US Government forces that you play as part of are backed by “Europe”. Uh-huh. Because Asia is east and Europe is west, I guess… This is all told in faux “news reports” from the US Government/East side’s perspective with a really heavy propagandist slant that makes even Fox News sound Fair and Balanced. So maybe all is not as it seems? Not that we get to see or experience any of that

The tutorial is a tiny bit trippy, with flashbacks of Bullfrog’s Populous, and really a bit of a new way of thinking about navigating terrain in a shooter. Until I fired up the game, I had thought that it was a FPS, but it’s instead a 3rd person shooter. Probably worth mentioning that.

Visual design of the main character’s armour is quite reminiscent of Halo and looks decent enough. I like the little thing they’ve done regarding the HUD being a hologram projected outside the suit, but his lack of helmet is more telling than the average Warhammer 40k Space Marine Hero’s lack of same. Your character is the same generic white guy that seemingly all of these games use. I think his name is BaldyStubble McSpacemarine, and as Outside XBox said about him when he appeared in Sniper Elite 3, (because it’s the same bloody character over and over) he “may as well be an animated bag of gravel.” Ha! Better yet, it turns out his name is Brody. No confirmation on whether his first name is Dude.

Dude Brody. Not terrible design, but so, so generic.

The game also comes with a generic black guy who is your immediate superior officer (and shares your haircut!) He’s supposed to be a colonel or general or some such, and he’s clearly supposed to fit into that Sergeant Apone/Black superior officer trope, but without the scenery-chewing or entertainment value of Al Matthews. Instead we get completely forgettable. Much like out protagonist himself.

Visually, the game isn’t bad for something from 2008 (I think?), but it doesn’t hold up in 2015 either. Graphics are a bit too dark which feels like grainy, with too much use of black and (dare I say it?) not enough use of browns, which would make the game less hideously dark. I know, brown games. But there’s colour theory around avoiding or minimising the use of black, and I think that would have been a good move here, since there’s just too much here. Basically, the game looks and feels like a failed “Gears of Halo” kinda game.

The AI is pretty bog standard, with an extra special helping of bog. (A mook just blew himself up with a grenade as I’m playing through this right now). Aaaaaaand another one, 30 seconds later.

Most importantly, though – the shooting is bad. Aiming is poor, you can only hold 2 weapons at a time, and the grenades are pretty useless since the main two that you have for the course of the game don’t explode bad guys, and instead deform terrain – just like your unlimited-charge deform-gun. You get some AI squadmates at certain points, but they’re about as useful as your mooks in an episode of Dynasty Warriors – that is to say that they stand around near the enemy comparing notes with them. Well, they get in the way, so perhaps they’re worse than the useless ones in DW. But yeah, the shooting and aiming in this title is shitful.

How shitful, you ask? Well, let’s put it this way: After less than an hour of gameplay, I found that the “best”/most efficient/least unfun way to kill the endless hordes of generic faceless enemies in this third person shooting game was to melee them to death. Not because the melee is awesome or anything, either. It’s basically an incredibly pissweak little punch. However, given how bad the shooting is, I’m finding that charging in, whacking the mooks a bunch of times, and then hiding behind cover before repeating is the “best” way to get through the combat quickly and easily. That ain’t a real good outcome for a game which is supposed to be a shooter.

Yes. I would have preferred if this game was even Browner.

I was kinda hoping for a game I could play in a day or two and get some satisfying shooting out of, even if the game was short and as bit subpar. I certainly haven’t gotten that….

Cut to a few hours later, and I’ve stumbled onto the final boss fight. I fight him for a good while, before pausing the game to see WTF is up – is he healing, or am I chipping away at him? This is especially relevant, since I don’t have many grenades and only have a shitty gun. I find a walkthrough that recommends that you have a powerful weapon, so that you can kick the shit out of him straight off the bat, since he regenerates every so often, and you’ll also want to be able to destroy the spires that allow him to regenerate. Oh. Good. /eyeroll

So anyway. Game is uninstalled, the disc is back in its case, and the game will probably be an (unpleasant) gift for some poor unsuspecting person in the future. Basically, Fracture isn’t worth the time it’d take to try and grind through that last, bullshit, out of proportion to the rest of the game boss fight. (Reminds me of last year and Heavenly Sword – why do devs pull that kind of shit?) In this instance, I was playing on Easy so I wasn’t in any danger of dying from the final boss – more of developing RSI in my wrist. (I started on normal, then restarted on easy during the first mission when I found the game controlled like shit.)

So anyway. I’ll probably YouTube the ending to see what happened, just for completeness’ sake. The fact that I haven’t actually done it yet is telling with regard to how much/little I actually care about the story. Because it’s a shitty, generic, forgettable story. In a shitty, generic, forgettable game.

Verdict: Avoid.

How Generic? How Forgettable? THIS much.

 

Review: Timeshift – Saber Interactive – 360

Another shooter that got decent-to-good reviews which doesn’t actually deserve decent-to-good reviews. I picked it up cheap both on PC and months and months later for like $12 on 360 (yes, I’m a sucker), and have ended up playing it on the 360, partly because big screen and can’t be arsed installing, but mostly because I was looking for something semi-disposable I could put on and shoot away through while watching DVD commentaries for Goodfellas on the other TV.

Sometimes it takes a game like Timeshift to show just how well done something like Treyarch’s shooting mechanics are done on a game like CoD:WaW, which were criticised somewhat at the time. Seriously, this game’s shooting is shitty compared to WaW. A not-especially-intuitive control scheme doesn’t help either. The plot, such as it is, is told initially using some confusing and badly-paced and written cutscenes involving a magic suit, some scientists, a facility that becomes exploded, and you putting on the suit and being sent back to an alternate-reality 1939. Once there, you’re greeted by Orwellian viewscreens of the glorious leader guy doing his best Half-Life 2 impersonation while you hook up with a resistance group (how do I know they’re not the terrorist insurgents?) and proceed to begin to murder your way through about 9 million near-identical guys for the rest of the game.

This looks pretty unique, doesn’t it?

Yeah, there are only about a half-dozen different enemies. Soldier Guy (with and without helmet, in a few skintones). Worker Guy in jumpsuit (in a few skintones – identical to soldier guy but dies faster), then much later you meet Speedy Guy, Electric Shield Guy, Flying Guy and that’s it unless I’m about to meet some other slight variation on a theme. It’s pretty repetitive.

The 1939 thing is clearly to invoke an allusion to WW2 and the Nazis, and the bad guys you kill a lot of occasionally have a banner with a single Sig Rune on them, so that makes them clearly as bad as Hitler, though tyey also appear to be American, and have full racial integration in their army. Their gear in this alternative-1939 is a mixture of Starship Troopers armour (Verhoven version), Modern M4/203 type rifles, plasma guns, Chewbacca’s Boltcaster which fires explosive sniper bolts, jet packs, laser shields, giant walkers, quad bikes and so forth. You know, just like they had back in ’39. There are a couple of badly-designed airships and a silly looking seaplane, so I guess that’s the Steampunk nod.

Anyway, the gameplay. It’s mostly just a long-feeling very linear repetitive shooter. The game has 24 levels, and I have 6 to go. There’s repetitive shooting in tunnels, industrial areas, that warehouse that’s in every FPS game, several interchangable endless building complexes, some outdoor areas, and some train tunnels. There are pretty frequent puzzles that utilise the game’s point of differentiation, or gimmick – the timeshift device. Basically, you can use it to freeze time, slow it down, reverse it, or heal yourself (!?) Since your character isn’t some indestructible Marcus Fenix-type, you need to pretty much constantly use the slow and freeze abilities while in shootouts, or die. The puzzles aren’t too hard, and range from “Ok that was decent” to “Oh god, boring but tricky but painful.”

Brown, with some grey and some grey-brown to round things off..

Anyway, this is a bog-standard, completely-forgettable shooter with a dog’s breakfast of a plot (I turned the sound off after awhile to better hear the commentary tracks). It’s not short, but due to it’s generic nature, I’m both finding it overlong and wishing it was long-over. This is married to an interesting idea that has potential if it were done by someone like Valve. It’s not a terrible game – I did actually finish it – but by the same token it’s really not worth your time to bother playing when there are so many better things out there. For me, it’s served it’s purpose, as I’ve gotten through 3 DVD commentaries with it. Now it’s done, I’ll probably never look at or even think of it again. In a year or two’s time I might see this post and remember “oh yeah, I played that thing.” Ah well, at least I can say that I started and finished it within a few days!

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Verdict: Don’t bother. There’s better stuff to play.

Review: 007: Quantum of Solace – Treyarch Invention, LLC – Xbox 360

My wife picked this up for me out of the bargain bin at an opening of a new branch of a well-known Australian Hi-Fi, music, games, computers, etc chain. What I knew about it was that it was built on the COD4 engine, but wasn’t nearly as good.

But hey, it was cheap.

Awhile back, someone asked me why I play trashy games instead of the good stuff, and while what I said then was valid, he did have a valid point. After all, I’ve got a pile of games I know are better than QoS sitting unplayed. I guess it’s in part because I’m “saving” the good/best ones, while the less good ones can be played and disposed of without caring if I really savour them properly. So anyway, I threw this on today since I’ve been in a bit of a Bond mood recently, and, yeah, a short, disposable game was what I felt like playing, since I can probably/hopefully finish it over the weekend, inbetween a couple of DVDs and WoW-dailies.

So anyway. Based on the plots of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. CoD4 engine. Treyarch – before they got good with Black Ops. Slightly-crappy Gears-wannabe cover-shooter mechanic bolted on. Bond plays through a series of vaguely-based on the films scenarios, mostly using a series of various high-powered weapons just like he didn’t use in the films in an odd sequence vaguely related or not to the actual plots of the two films. I guess many of the weapons did cameo in the films while other people were using them. And James has the famous cover shot with the HK UMP-9.

This is what Parkour looks like. Apparently.

I’ve in fact just paused the game after having acquired an M60, and shot up a building with it, while slowly fighting forward while taking cover against waves of heavily-armed goons armed with AKs. You might remember this scene from Casino Royale as the parkour chase from the beginning of the film. Which puts me at the 1/3 of the way through point according to GameFaqs.

There are cell phones scattered about, which fill in little bits of intel. They’re vaguely interesting, but nothing to worry about if you miss any.

Anyway. Is it fun? It’s alright, actually. It’s nothing like the films, of course. But it’s an alright shooter. I’m not even going to bother checking out the multiplayer, since it’s an older game at this point, and let’s face it, every FPS/3PS of the last decade has a half-assed MP shooter aspect tacked onto it, but most people just play one of the better/more popular ones, and anything shy of that tend to be a ghost town.

So, yeah. As I said, CoD4 engine. Treyarch. Slightly-crappy cover system. Still a decent enough game. Not an awesome one to pick up at full price, but perfectly okay as a weekend rental, or something to fish out of the bargain bin and then either inflate your games collection or pass onto a friend.

Gears of Bond.

After another hour of play, including the exciting rooftop helicopter battle and exploding elevator shaft sequence that you may not recall from Casino Royale since they never happened in the film, I do have to reiterate it’s definitely not a bad game. I’m enjoying myself well enough, with of course the bargain-bin price caveat. The cover mechanics aren’t bad either, they just don’t really add anything to the FPS formula or this FPS title. At least they did make an effort to replicate the final section of the parkour chase, and while it wasn’t awesome, it was playable.

Final remarks – finished it. Had fun enough, though the I found the wild deviations from the film(s) to be annoying. It also features one stage where you get to play as drugged-cardiac-arrest-Bond from CR, which is almost as little fun as the Nightmare stages in Max Payne. At least it’s faster and you can see. Overall though, it’s still an ok game. Better as a rental rather than a bargain bin buy, since there’s not much to do with it once you finish it in 10 or so hours, unless you want to play through all the difficulty levels or achievement whore, since the MP is a ghost town.

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Verdict: Rent it. Or buy it cheap. Or don’t – It’s all good.

Review: Wanted: Weapons of Fate – GRIN AB – 360

Another mini-review today. A Micro-review, perhaps. Or even, just a simple warning…?

Watched the movie the other weekend. Played the game tonight (got them in a cheapish bundle months ago after reading reviews of the game).  A bad game of a below-average action film of a ?? comic.

Played it for half an hour? Maybe an hour?

  • Muddy green and brown-tinged graphics with high-contrast thrown over the top of it.
  • Shitty cover-shooter mechanics. As in, not “oh those shitty cover-shooters” but a truly shitty shit shit implementation of cover-shooter mechanics.
  • A muddled jumple of a story that’s even worse than the film’s story. Terrible/laughable attempts at creating dramatic tension. Even for a game.
  • Poor gunplay.
  • Too much pointless juvenile swearing for me to give it away as a gift to one of my students.
  • Looks like an XBox 1 title.
  • Reviews called it “competent” “decent” “7.3/10” “3.5/5”, etc.
  • They lied.

Shitty game tries to use style to hide it’s lack of substance. Fails at both.

I’ll give it another half an hour, or hour in case it magically becomes kind of alright. It won’t of course. Then it’s frisbee time for this piece of trash.

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Verdict: Avoid.

Update:

Had another quick play with it. Awful, awful game. By comparison it makes the movie look like Citizen Kane.

The movie was below average, but somewhat alright in a trashy, watch-once-and-forget action movie kind of way. This is just dire.

Review: GoldenEye 007: Reloaded – Eurocom Developments – 360

Sooo.. like a great many now-old people, I played the original GoldenEye 007 back on the N64 in the day, and enjoyed it quite a bit. I think I finished the SP campaign at least twice, and also put in a lot of Multiplayer time with my friends of the day, sneaking around the complexes and stealing a glance at their quadrant of the screen.

I skipped the PS2/XBox era remake/reimagining/re-whatever, Rogue Agent, because, well, frankly, shooters were pretty shitty on the last generation of consoles if you had access to a PC. These days, they’re acceptable, and in rare cases, better. Which brings us to GoldenEye Reloaded 2011 edition.

Goldeneye reloaded 2011.png

Now, this iteration of the game is clearly superior to the PC version, since there’s not actually any PC version. See what I did there? Anyway, as a shooter, this one fits thoroughly in the “not too bad” category, alongside other decent-but-not-amazing shooters as Resistance: Fall of Man, and.. well, probably some other ok but forgettable games I’ve played, enjoyed mildly, then put aside and forgotten existed.

I’m not going to give away the story, but it’s essentially an updated/rewritten version of the original film, with Daniel Craig’s mug in place of Brosnan’s, and Judi Dench’s voice as M (who she actually played back in the original film of GoldenEye in 1995)

Basically, the shooting action is CoD-lite. The weapon selection is decent, with a variety of modern weapons all given generic renames, and with somewhat random attachments slapped on, such as ACOG, Reflex sights, red-dot laser, silencers and grenade launchers. I enjoyed the shooting to a degree, though the game suffers a little from almost requiring quickscoping, but maybe that’s a broader limitation of console shooters. The tank level pays homage to the original and the film, and is nothing special but not terrible either. It’s not on rails, at least!

Graphically the game is decent, but nowhere near cutting edge. I’m not that much of a graphics whore anyway, so I don’t mind things not looking amazing as long as they’re good or solid. It pretty much did what it says on the box.

There are some flaws and annoyances. The side missions are sometimes a little vague, and also repetitive (hack/take photos of macguffins with your smartphone), and the “collectable” do jour in this game are silly looking “Janus” faces hidden in places like the undersides of shelves.

The game seemed to have a decent length for a modern shooter, though I couldn’t tell you how long in hours, since I tended to play this in short bursts a couple of times a week at best over a month or so, though when I finished it I was certainly glad to have done so – so much longer and I’d have gotten a bit bored with the whole thing. I understand the Wii version is slightly longer in the final stages, but then, you’d be playing a shooter on the Wii, and no-one wants that, do they?

GoldenEye 007: Reloaded Image

Everybody do the Robot.

The game’s final sequences are a little challenging, but they’re the annoying kind of difficult rather than the fun or rewarding kind, most of which just need you to figure out where to stand/run or in the final parts, memorise the boring QTE-Lite. Shit, if you’re going to QTE me to get through an animated sequence, just let me watch the cinema without needing to look out for when to press “LT”.

The Multiplayer. Does it rank up there with the classic gameplay of the original N64 game? Well, honestly, I didn’t try it. I don’t have a Live Gold sub active right now, and in these days of CoD and Battlefield ruling the multiplayer roost, along with your Halos, while every other shooter gets a shitty MP-mode tacked onto it by the marketing department who thinks it’s a necessary bullet-point for the box – which no-one ever plays, it would probably be a wasteland devoid of players and a waste of time. Especially now, a full year, almost to the day since the thing was released.

Overall, GoldenEye 007: Reloaded is a decent shooter. It’s not a bad game by any means, but it’s not amazing by a long shot. I picked it up from the bargain bin, and had a decent time’s worth from it. I doubt I’ll go back and play through it again (the pile of unplayed stuff is too big) nor do I think I’ll bother looking at the MP. Having said all that, I don’t regret buying or playing through it. If you see it around and feel like a Bond-themed kill-em-up, you could do a lot worse.

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Verdict: Bargain Bin.