Tuesday, 23 August 2011

[Impressions] For The Emperor!

Tonight I sat down and played through the first part of the Space Marine demo. The mission I accepted was called 'The Inquistor'. What did I think?

Now...I'm going to try and not be too biased, as after all, I'm a massive fan of Warhammer 40,000. I've got lots and lots of Warhammer models dotted around, including Orks and Space Marines.

The development of Space Marine (SM) was a different step for the videogame studio Relic, of whom have spawned some fantastic stradegy games in the past (Company of Heroes, Homeworld and of course the Warhammer 40K Dawn of War games). This is because SM has you, the player, controlling a single marine from a third person perspective. Essentially, think Gears of War but with 40K stylings and characters.

Although it's going to be compared with Gears of War in many areas, it does try to set itself apart by choosing different approaches to gameplay. Take for example cover. Traditionally, and not just in GoW, you can dip into cover to protect yourself from incoming gunfire. Not so in this title though! You just smash through it.

Not including a covering system means your constantly on the move, blasting away enemies with your various assortment of range weapons or taking the fight closer with your chainsword. You've got to keep fighting back the waves of enemies that can spawn at various points during the gameplay. Pause for a moment, and you'll get over-run and will find yourself cutting through too many Orks than you can handle.

It's at this stage of this write-up that I'll mention its difficulty. The menu before the demo level kicks off asks me which difficulty I'd like to go for, which as per most games I went with your run-of-the-mill Normal setting, ignoring the easy and hard options. Now the level was a...moderate...length for a demo, however I did find myself dying no fewer than 4 times. This surprised me...I don't think I was expecting to die so many times in what I though was going to be a straight-forward hack and slash kind-of game.

Its easy to get yourself to involve in a big group of Orks, and while they chip away at your health you'll be happy to know you've got options to counter-act this. Pressing the Y button on your 360 controller stuns a normal Ork, which then displays a B icon above his head. Tapping B when this happens cuts to a special move which usually involves your chainsword meeting a part of the nasty Ork before being kicked in the face by your boot. Not only is this visually nice, it also gives you a bit of health back. This is great, as you won't find any health packs floating around anywhere. I put my many deaths down to not stunning and recovering enough health...

Combat is pretty fluid. As mentioned Y stuns normal Orks, although not the bigger ('arder) Ork Nobz. If your surrounded by the blighters Y will cause a slight area of effect damage, giving you a little more breathing space. X is your standard melee attack, which causes your chainsword to slice around in front of you, turning into a combo of swathes if you tap X a couple of times. When you've killed enough enemies the Ultramarines logo in the bottom left corner glows which allows you to press both thumb sticks, causing your character to activate Fury which deals a good amount of damage to creatures around you and beefing up your attacks for the next few seconds.

The left and right triggers, like many games of this genre, are your Aim and Fire controls. The D-Pad lets you switch between the weapons your currently holding (in the demo these are the ever faithful Bolt Pistol, the Bolter, a Bolter with a scope and a Vengeance Launcher - sticky grenades!). The right bumper button reloads your weapon and its fellow bumper button throws a grenade. Holding in the left thumb stick makes your character run.

Visually it looks good. This game isn't for those who don't like seeing blood in their videogames, as this one has plenty! The level was well thought out, if a bit too linear for my liking. Textures, lighting and architecture were all faithful to the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Playing as a bulky marine felt right, with the screen bobbing around when you ran to give you even more feeling that your a walking mini-mech. With many demos I did encounter some glitches, including one which cause an Ork to disappear in front of me and reappear behind me. None of them were game breaking, however I hope the full retail release smooths out the little niggly issues.

So...all and all...I enjoyed my time spent on Space Marine. I have got the 2nd playable mission to try out, which is a level involving jump packs, but that can wait for another evening.

I hope they smooth out some of the magical disappearing Orks while making sure the game does ship with Co-op multiplayer (which is rumoured to be dropped). I also hope you can unlock/use different melee combos, as I could imagine switching between the takedown and general melee attack throughout the whole game getting a little boring.

Then again, I'll buy this anyway...

The demo for Space Marine is available to download now via Xbox Live and Steam, with PSN coming soon.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

[Reviews] Tackling the Beast

So far I've written a lot in regards to news, apart from the odd event coverage or preview. One thing I've yet to fully finish writing however, is a review.

Why is this? What is it about reviews that puts me off?

I'm starting to tackle this problem, as I need to have some form of reviewing ability. If I do manage to break into videogame journalism at some stage in the future, chances are I'm going to need to put in words what I think of 'Game A'. Perhaps its in the putting my thoughts into writing that worries me. Over the years I've attempted reviews only to find that I was struggling to put across my feelings about a game in the way my mind intends.

The other factor could well be reactions. Maybe if I don't like 'Game X' I'll get pounced upon by man-eating fanboys who disagree with what I've written. What if I don't talk about a particular section enough, or if I talk about one section too much?

Whatever the obstacles, I'm brushing them all to one side. I've got a job to do. I've agreed to write a review for a popular gaming website (that isn't this one or Blast Process!).

This is it. Cars 2...your getting reviewed!

Monday, 1 August 2011

[Update] Ta-da! Shaddai!

So what have I been up to of late?

Aside from appearing twice a week on radio with BlastProcess.com, we've also been doing quite a bit of filming for the site. Mike put his roller blades on for an introduction to a new First Level video, which was fun...while all three of us created a video regarding a recent announcement regarding a new bit of DLC.

Both videos should be posted online soon.

So what about gaming...I must have been playing stuff too right? Right!

Only just this morning I was trying out a demo of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. Like it's name...it makes little sense...

First and foremost, from the word go it's art style is very unique. Anime is very much an inspiration for the general style of the game, from the levels, backdrops and of course the characters. The enemies you face in the demo remind me of Japanese culture and creatures found in classic manga films such as the Ghibli titles. The animation of these enemies, and the character you control move fluidly while the attacks have a nice quick pace about them.

The level design is very linear (at least in the demo), playing out more like a platform game than an action/adventure one. During one portion of the demo you even have a side-scrolling platform section, which was a nice break from the other sections of the demo. It was also during the section that I really found how much I liked its artwork and animations.

The combat, like I mentioned, has a nice quick pace. Square is your basic attack, although holding square builds up a more powerful attack. X is your typical jump, while double tapping it pulls off a double jump. R1 is your block, although if you combine it with an attack button press it uppercuts your opponent into the air so that you can produce a nice air combo. Aside from these two attacks however, I couldn't find anymore. Hopefully the full version of the game includes more combos, otherwise I could see the combat getting very boring.

Something that you can do during your fights however is 'puryfying'. When your opponent lights up (looks almost like a shield has appeared around them) it means you've knocked them back. When this happens press L1 and it'll cut to short combat sequence as you remove their weapon and then purifying its evil. The weapon is then yours to continue fighting with, well, at least until someone else has a weapon you'd rather use. While using the weapon, you'll notice it start glowing red which means it'll need purifying again. Hold L1 for a moment and it'll be as good as new.

So it's art style, animations and the 'pinching' weapons get the thumbs up from me, while the level design doesn't quite. Aside from the portion of the demo I mentioned earlier, the rest of the game has you fighting along what can be best described as corridors, with the odd stair case and bits missing from the floor which you have to jump. You find yourself re-using these 'corridors' throughout the demo and I can only hope that the full game features more variety.

Lastly, I'll talk about its story. I'll be honest, aside from a couple of previews I've seen about the game I don't really know what the whole plot of the game is. Now that I've played it...I still...don't really know. While the demo loads it mentions that the story is based upon old religious texts (hence it's title). Their is a fair amount of voice overs throughout the demo, but for me nothing really made sense! Regardless of this fact, I really enjoyed playing it.

I've just read the review over on Eurogamer, and I must admit, I'm quite looking forward to the full release. It sounds as though the levels do get a lot more interesting and the combat also evolves.

You can't currently download the demo from the Playstation Store. I managed to get it via this months Official Playstation Magazine, as it features on the demo disc alongside Castlevania, Virtua Tennis 4 and WWE Allstars.

Should also mention, if you hadn't guessed yet...it's a Playstation 3 exclusive, and has no exact date of release in the UK.