Game-A-Week: Steel Storm: Burning Retribution

Title: Steel Storm: Burning Retribution

The Gist: Steel Storm: Burning Retribution is a modern imitation of classic top down shooters which has you fight against constant hordes of enemies using a variety of weaponry you pick up as you play through the game. I’m playing the game via LAN Co-op and hope to double the carnage! Continue reading


Game-A-Week: Call of Juarez – Bound in Blood

Title: Call of Juarez – Bound in Blood (PC)

The Gist: The game tells the Story of two brothers (The McCalls), and their actions during the American civil war. You perform a number of tasks in the opening chapter that include eliminating snipers in a wooded area, retaking trenches, preventing enemy reinforcements from landing on the shore and eventually blowing up a bridge. Eventually the brothers are ordered to retreat but refuse as the area they’re protecting is their homeland. Instead the brothers defend their land and then seek hidden treasure of Juarez in order to rebuild what has been lost during the conflict. You get to play as either brother when the mission allows it, which essentially gives you access to different abilities including using a lasso or dual weapons.

Pros: The graphics for the game are quite realistic on the most part allowing you to just sit back and take part in a spaghetti western style FPS. The game has a duck and cover system that protects you from multiple attackers and pick off your enemies one by one. The game allows you to utilise a bullet time system which you gain by hitting enemies with your weapons, this stored time can them be unleashed and literally tear enemy groups apart, life saving tactic and quite satisfying. You don’t see too many western games these days so it was nice to leave behind the spaceships and modern weaponry I’m accustomed to.

Cons: The health system for the game is a little annoying, rather than have a percentage getting shot merely taints your screen in a little blood. Too much blood and your dead but you can simply avoid fire for a few seconds and heal up pretty fast. The lip sync for the game is appalling for a modern game and really drew attention to itself. No matter how enhanced the surroundings and characters of a game are the little details such as mouths and lip sync stand out if they’re low quality, which in turn pulls the player away from the overall graphics of the game.

Musical Note: The music I heard in the first chapter was so generic it faded into the background for me, however checking out the intro music and YouTube videos seems to suggest the game has a soundtrack that would do a spaghetti western justice.

Hunger Level: The game was alright but it’s not something I’ll be loading up for a little while. My western game appetite is certainly not satisfied and makes me long for Red Dead Redemption to emerge on the PC.

Conclusion: My overall experience of the game is quite disappointing but information about the game seems to suggest I’d enjoy it after the initial missions. Later on you can look forward to heists, western towns and essentially a whole bunch of spaghetti westerns mixed up into some sort of spaghetti feast. There’s also a multiplayer component which might be kinda fun although I’m already wondering if the multiplayer western Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West might offer a better western multiplayer experience even though it would be third person instead of first. If you’re a lover of westerns or bored with modern first person shooters then this is probably your game, however if you’re just looking for an FPS you might be better off finding another game.

One Hour, One Review, One ‘Game-a-Week’ @ Black Vinculum

Game-A-Week: Far Cry 2

Game Title: Far Cry 2 (PC)

The Gist: Far Cry 2 is an open world first person shooter in a war torn African state. You seem to start off as a gun for hire, your target being the arms dealer responsible for arming both sides of the conflict within the part of Africa the game is based. You can make alliances with both sides of the conflict, do missions for them and slowly build up an arsenal of weaponry. But weapons aren’t always the most effective route, so you can exploit weaknesses in the form of explosive barrels and whatever else is lying around at the time.

Pros: The graphics are on the most part top notch, both the environment and weapons really do shine. The open world element of the game is brilliantly designed and trades the common GTA 3rd person element for a more close and personal FPS. I enjoyed being able to steal whatever vehicle I found laying around, typically going for the weapon mounted variety for an extra bit or protection. I like the idea of being able to save your game/resupply and such at ‘safe houses’ that you can bring under your control in the world; it reminds me of the elder scrolls games at times.

It seems you can gain ‘best buddies’ in the game which can offer you extra tips for missions/alternative ways to complete missions and bring a little conversation to the game. Whilst I think it’s a great idea that the person I saved on my first mission (Cockfight) became my best buddy I can’t help but wonder why I consider a stranger in a bar my second best buddy, a little more story for each buddy would have made this element of the game feel more realistic. Whilst on the topic of best buddies I don’t see why they couldn’t have used a title such as contact…best buddy makes me feel like im five years old again o.O

“Yo best buddy! You could use a sniper rifle whilst on the ledge above that outpost? They’ll never know what hit em”

“Cheers best buddy, that’s a great idea! Meet you by the swings at 18:00 hours? Don’t forget the sweets!”

The map remains in game which brings an extra element of realism and goes a step further whilst in a vehicle, letting the player literally hold a map whilst driving or sticking to a built in GPS style screen. Whilst in said car and testing out the map whilst driving I seemed to get my car caught on a barrel. The car then refused to backup so I got out and tried to think how I’d get it back on the road. I decided the best way to dislodge the car was using a grenade…I ended up walking to the safe house that night.

Cons: The only negative thing I could find in this game is that the voice overs seem to be a little faster than I’d expect as if someone making the game decided players would want to spend less time listening to talk and more time blowing things up.

Musical Note: The game has a great soundtrack that uses a wide variety of instruments to create a range of tones. This gives the game the ability to provide the player with cultural undertones for the environment, suspense when exploring or surveying enemies and action when in combat situations. The soundtrack actually reminds me of the music used for the series Battlestar Galactica composed by Bear McCreary. I’ll be adding this game’s soundtrack to my collection.

Hunger Level: I really enjoyed the game, especially for its open-world component. I’d like to continue playing the game sometime soon and hope to explore what the game has to offer. There are numerous weapons I’d like to try out and I look forward to taking on some of the more complex missions. Of course I’d like to go all Terminator in the game simply start exterminating whomever I come across…years of GTA I’m sure.

Conclusion: Awesome game, give it a try as it’s not that expensive online. I was lucky to pick this up on a recent Ubisoft Steam deal: Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry 2, Rainbow 6: Vegas 2 and Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood for a mere £9.99. If you see this game on sale grab it. Seems to have lots to do, awonderful environment to explore as well as a flamethrower to incinerate it with…who can resist that?


One Hour, One Review, One ‘Game-a-Week’ @ Black Vinculum

Game-A-Week: Command and Conquer 4 – Tiberian Twilight

Game Title: Command and Conquer 4 – Tiberian Twilight

The Gist: Command and Conquer 4 takes place after the events of Tiberium Wars and Kane’s Wrath. The game finds the Earth literally smothered in tiberium until Kane knocks on GDI’s door and offers them a solution involving the Tacitus, the same device which advanced both GDI and NOD’s understanding of tiberium and their technological abilities. This game breaks away from the typical base building and resource collecting game play found in the command and conquer franchise and replaces it with control points and mobile bases that can build units and a very limited number of structures for defence such as turrets and bunkers. The game acts as the final act of the tiberium series of Command and Conquer games with the intention of concluding the storyline of Kane and tiberium on Earth.

Pros: The game introduces a number of new units whilst retaining a selection of units from various other tiberium universe games. The game also brings back the one and only Kane actor Joseph D. Cucan which brings some form of authenticity to the game.

Cons: The number of cons for this game is alarming. Base building and resource collecting are for me the foundation of a CnC game and it’s beyond my comprehension why this game feels it needs to leave that behind. Whilst I understand the developers may have been under pressure to renew the series and be innovative killing off trademark elements such as these effectively alters game play so much that someone who’s been playing these games since Tiberian Dawn back in 1995 will have little to feel nostalgic about.

The visual style for the game baffles me. Unit’s and the environment I’m playing in seem ‘chunky’, so much so that I had to check if I set the game to the wrong resolution. The detail on the units isnt impressive enough to warrant being zoomed in this close and it takes the perspective away from a CnC war on screen to a mere battle. The cinematics for CnC games have varied in how they were made, typically they have been quite tongue-in-cheek but occasionally take on a more serious tone as with Tiberium Wars. The actors used in these cinematics vary but I was always fond of Tiberium Wars for utilizing current Sci-Fi show’s actors for a sci-fi storyline.

You can probably tell that Tiberium Wars remains on my mind even after playing the sequel CnC 4 but that’s because I felt that it was the apex of the series. Not only were we greeted with exceptional graphics and style but an interesting storyline that ended up revealing things players of the tiberium universe have speculated about for years, namely the inclusion of the Scrin. Allowing players to take on this third faction brought the series onto the level of Starcraft and increased the single player mission and multiplayer dynamics. It’s a pity that CnC 4 abandons this faction and ends the storyline involving them as they essentially cut the games dynamics by a third.

Musical Note: Again the fourth game leaves behind tradition and trades in the sci-fi/techno mix of a soundtrack for something resembling a mix of Star Wars/Starship Troopers and Aliens. The move is unwelcome, feels out of place during cinematics and combat and feels too different to what we’ve been brought up on.

Hunger Level: I’ve little desire to play this game again but my hunger for the story will bring me back one day if only to say that I’ve completed it. I haven’t tried out the multiplayer as of yet which is said to be one of the key elements of the game…it’s just I can’t help but wonder why I’d play that component with something as brilliant as StarCraft 2 sits in my collection.

Conclusion: Give it a miss unless you’re a diehard CnC/Tiberium fan and even then brace for impact as you’ll be hit by disappointment after disappointment. Apparently a new CnC game is in the works by a brand new development studio ‘victory games’, but I can’t help point out to EA that anything else brand new for this series is merely another turn-off for me. CnC has had its time, give it a few years and see how the RTS genre is doing and if it’s at a low it won’t be so bad if they fail again.

One Hour, One Review, One ‘Game-a-Week’ @ Black Vinculum

Game-A-Week: Star Wars The Clone Wars – Republic Heroes

Game Title: Star Wars The Clone Wars – Republic Heroes (PC)

The Gist: Another Star Wars game, they’re plenty in number these days and I don’t think a year goes by without Lucas approving a new game of some sort. This game in particular extends the Clone Wars TV series and allows players to take control of Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Clone Troopers and various other characters along the way. The game is spliced with scenes similar to that of the Clone Wars series in order to carry the Story similar to that of an episode that bridges the gap between the first and second season. The game feels like it’s been set up as a clone wars based imitation of The Force Unleashed and designed for kids. Levels take place on a third person view for both characters themselves and vehicles such as speeders. You fight enemies and navigate obstacles occasionally finding a vehicle or a boss fight such as a giant battle droid.

Pros: You get to play with a lightsaber pure and simple. No matter how bad a Star Wars game can be as long as you have a lightsaber to swing, it’s got something in it most people want. I like the ‘attempt’ at bridging the first and second series of Clone Wars however the first hour of game play revealed little in the way of Story and felt more like an excuse to use the characters from the series. Bizarrely whilst Jedi levels feel pretty boring the Clone Trooper based ones feel rather fun and make me wonder if this should have been the concept for the game instead, in fact I have the urge to load up Republic Commando sometime soon.

Cons: Graphically this game is ugly. With full settings, max AA and such the game still has a distinct feel that it’s nowhere near as polished as it could have been. The difficulty settings for the game essentially consist of normal or hard…hard being easy enough for a gamer of any calibre to beat the game. The challenge sections of the game are clearly designed for two players only, anyone doing these on single player even on hard will find no challenge at all and most likely find themselves bored. The cinematics do not match the quality of the series which is a shame as the voice over work is spot on and utilises the same cast as the series itself. The in game dialogue does however seem badly ‘edited’ and often feels like someone’s rushing the lines in order to make game play occur sooner. Whilst this might be what some gamers would like, more pew-pew less chatter, as a Clone Wars fan I’d actually like to sit and watch both cinematics and dialogue from characters. One of the features of the game is being able to jump onto battle droids and stab your lightsaber into them enabling you to take control of the unit for a short period of time, blasters and all. The game utilises Games For Windows Live which brings achievements to the game, however these achievements are essentially a child’s way of building up his game score, being rewarded for completing a level or jumping onto a battle droid.

Musical Note: The music is a collection of classic Star Wars style music mixed with specific Clone Wars music that is overplayed as it should be to each area of the game.

Hunger Level: After playing for an hour I felt little desire to continue playing. Even after watching the latest episode of Clone Wars the game did not entice me to play on.

Conclusion: This game is one of those Star Wars games that uses the franchise as motivation to play a bad game. You’re much better off playing The Force Unleashed if you’re looking to use force powers and a lightsaber, not that TFU is without flaws itself. Give it a miss unless you happen to find a copy of the game inside a box of cereal, at the bottom of a well or if it’s incredibly cheap and you’ve nothing better to do.

One Hour, One Review, One ‘Game-a-Week’ @ Black Vinculum

Game-A-Week: Assasin’s Creed

Game Title: Assassin’s Creed (PC/Director’s Cut)

The Gist: Assassin’s Creed follows the character Desmond, a bartender and former assassin who has been kidnapped by the Abstergo Corporation and forced to undertake a journey within his DNA’s genetic memory. The device known as the Animus allows the user to identify an ancestor’s memories and relive them. Desmond must become his ancestor Altaïr ibn-La’Ahad the assassin in the year 1191 and assassinate those exploiting hostilities created by the third crusade in order to bring peace.

Pros: The game is graphically stunning even in comparison to more recent games. The environments are filled with objects to traverse, allowing the player to literally jump up, down and over walls and rocks. The characters themselves look realistic which fits nicely alongside the sophisticated crowd AI. I really love the ability to move somewhat freely during cut-scenes so that I don’t remain bored out of my skull…I find it amusing to have the character pace back and forth whilst someone’s talking to him or even to have him facing away giving that hit-man feel.

The use of the futuristic component allows us to go beyond the confines of a single story and allow us to experience the two simultaneously. The futuristic component gives the game and story a truly unique feel to it and distances itself from typical time period/sword era games.The code flowing across the screen periodically feels like you’re within the matrix and always catches my eye whilst retaining full attention on the game itself.

The exchange of the health bar for the Synchronization bar accents the unique feel of the game, having your character lose the connection to the memory they are experiencing as opposed to merely dying.

Cons: The only negative aspect I can attribute to this game is found during the futuristic scene, the character Desmond seems to give in to the whole kidnapping too easily and finds himself comfortable enough to talk about his past with the female scientist Lucy.

Musical Note: The soundtrack feels very atmospheric and works well with the game, but falls to hiding in the background all too often as with my first dose of the game.

Hunger Level: I’m definitely hungry for more, the open world aspect of the game will amuse me for days as I play hide the knife in the peasant.

Conclusion: This is a game that most open world gamers will adore, leaving behind the “kill em all” of GTA and such for a more subtle and deadly approach. Whilst the main character seems a little flawed, possibly why the sequel features someone else, the game gives players a lot to do and many ways in which to handle fights. I can’t help but wish that Lucasarts would create a Sith Assassin game based on the game play and environmental attributes of this game, allowing a player to hide amongst the busy streets of Coruscant and its population whilst undertaking Sith assignments and assassinating the occasional Jedi.

One Hour, One Review, One ‘Game-a-Week’ @ Black Vinculum

Game-A-Week: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Game Title: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (PC)

The Gist: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a break away from the typical Tomb Raider adventure, trading its third person perspective for a fixed camera isometric view at a distance. Designed for both solo and co-operative play, (both local and online) players find themselves adventuring through multiple environments each with their own puzzles to solve and enemies to beat. You fight alongside the character Totec who was brought back to life the same time as the game’s antagonist Xolotl. The ultimate goal of the game is to stop Xolotl from causing chaos and probably ruling the world. Each level houses a few ‘challenges’ found in two forms. The first takes place within the level itself such as jumping on each platform without falling off or getting a boulder on top of a platform with a skull on it. The second type of challenge is housed within specialised rooms accessible in the main game via a red lined door; the room will house a puzzle to solve. These challenges reward characters with weapons, artefacts and relics (artefacts/weapons upgrade your abilities such as speed, bomb strength, and weapon power).

Pros: The graphics on this game are beautiful that show off the environment well. The co-op feature, (which I played through local co-op using 360 controllers), brings life to the party and although you’ll no doubt be the cause of each other’s death numerous times it ends up being a laugh. The puzzles are fun to solve, don’t take up too much time but allow for the occasional stumble. Boss fights are the best bit of the game, whilst tactics aren’t really required to kill a boss it usually speeds up the killing processes and ends up being quite enjoyable.

Cons: The voice over for the character Totec/Xolotl is done by the same actor, Jim Cummings. Whilst he seems to be an accredited voice over artist (Dragon Age/Kingdom Hearts) I strongly disagree with his use for the game. Totec would have been best paired with a Native American voice over artist. The steam achievements for this game are quite dull; instead of finding anything too challenging you’ll be rewarded for simply playing co-op or killing a boss. Both artefacts and relics acquired through challenges upgrade your characters stats but they don’t seem to affect game play enough to notice which makes me wonder if they should have bothered. Ammo never really seems to run out as there are ammo boxes everywhere, I’d appreciate a few more moments where I’m dependant on using mines or merely staying alive till I find an ammo crate/cache.

During my first play through I ended abseiling down the edge of a map onto a lower platform…little did I know this area wasn’t designed to be explored and I ended up having to start the level from scratch as merely killing myself to re-spawn resulted in me simply spawning in the inescapable area. This doesn’t seem to be a constant problem through the rest of the game however and is probably just something missed during testing.

Musical: The music seems appropriate to an adventure game of this type and recycles music from two previous Tomb Raider games, Legend and Anniversary.

Hunger: This game was actually highly addictive, resulting in my one hour gaming session turning into a six hour one night, two hours the next day co-op fest with my girlfriend. Even though I’ve finished the game I’ve still some extra challenges purchased as DLC. You can earn additional costumes in the game so that replaying levels won’t be as dull and retaining any previous weapons/items earned on your last play through mirroring the Resident Evil games.

You can also play as another character entirely through the use of the DLC character packs. Currently you can play as either Kane or Lynch from the Kane and Lynch games (free DLC), or Kain and Raziel from the Legacy of Kain games (small fee). As well as playing them in game you’ll be treated to revamped cut scenes with these characters and their official voice over artists from their corresponding games. How many times can Kane swear during the first cut scene ^.^

Conclusion: The game ends up being a brilliant deal even at standard price, even better during a sale (currently on sale on Steam). I’ve had 8 hours of solid co-op play that reminds me at times of the indie game Trine. Whilst the story remains a little dull this wasn’t designed to tell a tale, rather be home to a series of puzzles and some basic combat using a range of weaponry. If you’re playing this game’s co-op you’ll no doubt find annoyance as one character gets too far away from the other that usual costs a player his life, I can however understand how a split screen might be worse especially if playing with someone online as you may find it difficult to find each other on the map. Levels are vast and whilst you may find yourself running around in circles wondering where to go you’ll be rewarded by a chime sound effect once you find your way. I’d highly recommend getting this even if you’re not a Tomb Raider fan and hope that we get a sequel or more games done in this style. You can try out a demo for the game here (requires Steam). Thanks to Pen for playing the game with me this week and repeatedly bathing herself in lava to my amusement.

One Hour, One Review, One ‘Game-a-Week’ @ Black Vinculum