In space, no one can hear you Squeal.

aliens2With nerdgasm fueled glee that is. From the phenomenal development crew at Gearbox (Borderlands 1 & 2, Duke Nukem Forever, Brothers in Arms, and *ahem* Halo CE’s PC Port) comes Aliens: Colonial Marines. This claustrophobic co-op enhanced FPS title is coming on the heels of SEGA’s last foray into this series: Aliens VS Predator made by Rebellion Studios.

Although a decent enough game, AVP’s reboot at the hands of the original developers saw impressive success for a licensed multi-platform title – but still left a less than favorable after taste. It tried earnestly to keep up with the films ever choppy canon, but just didn’t quite make a lasting impression with me.

First it should be known, that I am a huge fan of the films and have seen them multiple times. In fact, I just finished watching the original three films in all of their Directors Cut glory, in anticipation of this game. Gearbox’s Randy Pitchford has demonstrated during developer walkthroughs of Colonial Marines that they are paying immense respect, and homage to James Camerons masterpiece: ALIENS. In fact, Colonial Marines is more or less a direct segue from that film into the events which transpire in the upcoming game.

You and your squad of jarheads are sent in to intercept a long missing Colonial Navy vessel: the USS Sulaco which is now mysteriously in standard orbit above LV-426. (the planet where the film Aliens took place.) From presentations of the game, your mission will take you from the derelict Sulaco, down to the surface of LV-426 to the Hadley’s Hope colony – and straight into the alien hives which according to Gearbox has been lovingly designed directly from the original movie set pieces with loving detail, and to other unknown locales as you fight swarms of Xenomorph baddies. So, it’s safe to say that fans of the film(s) can expect plenty of easter eggs and juicy morsels of fanboy treats.

What seems to set Colonial Marines apart from the AVP series (other than the absence of the Predator) is that this game is being designed as a tight quarters “claustrophobic” co-op experience where your teamwork and perseverance will prove even more useful than your firepower. And speaking of firepower, not only the level design is being drawn straight from the films. From pulse rifles, and Smart Guns to Flamethrowers and the ever iconic Mech-Suit Gearbox is setting you up with an authentic and amazing arsenal with which to conduct your online bug-hunt.

Colonial Marines also offers a heaping pile of multiplayer options which is sure to bolster alot of replay value. Reminiscent of Left 4 Dead’s co-op benchmark, this game pits you and your squad mates against a variety of different types of Alien. There appear to be charger inspired Xenos, as well as suicide acid-bombers, and other wonderful playmates awaiting us. And to add some nostalgic spice to the multiplayer landscape those who pre-order at Gamestop in Canada & the US get playable characters from the original film:

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We’re all praying we hear Bill Paxton’s “GAME OVER MAN” line

The multiplayer mode which has me the most excited is Escape Mode. In which 4 Marines face off against 4 Xenos in an all out fight for survival, and as the title says it one single mission objective: “Escape!” The human squad is made to run a rat maze of control/checkpoints being ever chased by their hungry opponents. Only coordinated teamwork, and a steady trigger finger can ensure good odds in this gametype.

Being ever the cynic, I can’t help but feel slightly concerned after the last Aliens release, but with Gearbox at the helm, and their blatant love and dedication to delivering a top notch and authentic experience, I can safely say that I am highly anticipating this game. Aliens Colonial Marines is set to hit store shelves on Tuesday February 12 in North America and Europe for Playstation 3, XBOX 360, PC and Wii U.

Halo 4: – Forge Test is Best.

Excuse me if this post is a little short on eloquence or any real substance, I just had some quick thoughts about Halo 4 I really wanted to get down and transmit to whoever wanted to read them. This is them.

When Halo 4 came out my initial review was written very soon afterward, with a head full of hype and a cloud full of judgment. Needless to say my fan-boy boner was only very recently spent, still a little blood in it, and I may have been somewhat overly positive. Since then, as with quite a few members of the Halo community, I have noticed quite a number of things that don’t sit too well with me, whether it be the minor foible of an utterly overpowered boltshot, the gripe of a pretty pointless unlocking system or the full on grievance of shipping the game with literally no file share to speak of.

However this isn’t the time for bitching, but rather the time to praise 343i for breathing some life back into Halo 4 in the form of the community forge test playlist. The addition of this playlist last week really was a cheeky little move because, unlike Reach which was all forge maps and sword base, Halo 4 has been distinctly absent of any of these. I think this conscious decision by the devs, at least within my own brain, created a subconscious anticipation for forged maps.

Needless to say I’m not disappointed here. I’m not going to go into a play-by-play of every map, as I am sure there are plenty of people who covered that earlier last week in a thorough breakdown. I will say the whole playlist is a cluster err fudge of frenetic energy, keeping the games and your thought processes racing along. For me Scythe definitely needs props here as its segmented layout really helps with that `who is round the corner` feel especially in SWAT. Purely for the flair in its creation and the nostalgia that ensues when playing this map I would have to say Shutdown is my top map right now, but all the maps are great….well almost…. The only map I can’t really get down with is Despair, the reason being the separation between the two levels is a little too much and (for me even as a jet packer) ruins the flow abit as a result. If the top-level was brought is little closer to the ground floor it might work a little better in my opinion.

Of course there is not much use in giving constructive criticism on my blog where the map creator will probably never see it, and that’s why 343 have been encouraging all who play to give feedback on the forum thread, which to me at least shows them making the right noises about wanting to listen to the community. As I say with all the niggles I had with the game since launch this playlist has given me a little bit of that Halo bug back, albeit to only whip the rug from under my feet next week.

-The Quim Ninja

If you have any opinions on the Community Forge Test Playlist or Halo 4 in general I would love to discuss them with you so please leave a comment. Thanks.

Play Mobile:- Contre Jour HD

Recently, my game time has been at a bit of a premium – what with starting a new job and attempting various home improvements, and what time I have had to play I’ve been tending to a dwarf army in The Hobbit or stabbing the shit out of a plethora of Pirates in Far Cry 3 (as reviewed by our own SK1LL4XED). Of course, to write about the same two games week on week I realise must be less than riveting for you beautiful people, so I thought I would sniff out a tasty truffle to sprinkle over your desired mobile device and this is the plat du jour I am serving up.

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Contre Jour HD is a lovely little morsel, which finds you taking on the role of a monocular creature known as Petit. The game itself is ultimately a standard puzzler, requiring you to overcome various obstacles to move this little tinker from A to B, all the while trying to collect all the floaty orbs on the level to get the best score possible. I know it sounds like another run of the mill game within its genre but what sets it aside and makes it shine amongst the others, is the care put into the way it looks, sounds and feels.

Polished like fine tableware this game naturally looks great on a high definition display and I would say if you have a high spec’ phone or tablet, then I contre jour levelswould strongly recommend you give this a peek. Don’t worry if you phone’s resolution doesn’t cut the HD mustard because Contre Jour is tasty enough to add some syrup to any device. Making my food analogies utterly irrelevant the title of this game translated from French means ‘against daylight’ – it refers to a photographic technique where the camera points directly toward the light source creating a silhouette of the subject. This is very much the style adopted throughout the various game worlds and for me is really effective at making this game stand out amongst its peers.

The music of Contre Jour is as french as its name (which lets face it is really quite french) and is joyful and childlike to the ear, sounding very much like something you might hear in an off beat romantic french film (not the kind with boobs in). As you roll through each stage the music evolves along with the environments you and Petit explore, the nuances of the soundtrack adjusting to each new world but maintaining the same melodic undercurrent. I love it when games ask you to wear headphones as it usually means you are in for a treat and Contre Jour certainly serves up an auditory feast.

When I talk about the feel of the game I usually mean the game mechanics which are admittedly spot on, but then again for any game to be considered good that’s a requisite rather than a plus It ultimately takes the time honoured approach ofcontre-jour glowing level introducing new game mechanics in an unobtrusive manner as games have done since the days of Mario. But that’s not what I am talking about here, I am talking about how the game actually -physically- feels, the way you have to manipulate the landscape to move Petit genuinely feels, at least to my brain, that I am squashing warm malleable play-doh around in my fingers and thumbs and in my mind the tentacles used to grab our spherical hero stretch like a weird hybrid of a rubber band and Haribo jelly snakes. The Venus fly trap-like obstacle on one level on the first world, when triggered, looks kind of slimy with its tendrils and actually conjures a sticky feeling in my mind (that sounds pretty gross now I read it back).

So whilst I wait for the bill, I will just say that whilst you are moving along the line at the all-you-can-eat buffet of mobile puzzle games, please stop and take a massive dollop of this five star haute-cuisine, it will leave your belly full. Oh and tip the waiter.

Available at the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store too.

-The Quim Ninja

I cry, you cry…

We all cry for…*sigh* a spectacular addition to the Far Cry series.  And I can say with confidence that Ubisoft has taken some valuable lessons from the previous installment’s game-breaking and infuriating aspects – and delivered a solid and game changing experience this time around.  Far Cry 3 does not come without it’s head scratching moments, and numerous “why can’t I” scenarios however.  But more on that later.

Let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane.  Far Cry hit shelves way back in ’04 courtesy of a little studio named Crytek, now the devs behind Crysis.  Far Cry, offered a sweet harmony of stealth and over-the-top action sequences all deliciously mixed with a heaping portion of Island of Dr. Moreau styled sci-fi storytelling.

Far Cry 2 shipped in ’08 and was developed instead by Ubisoft Montreal (made most famous by the Assassins Creed series).  This title dropped the beast-powered slaughterfest and instead, tempted the player with vast open ended gameplay set in the African Savannah & Jungle(s).  There was wildlife (sort-of) and two extremely annoying game breaking boo-boos.

The malaria component was trippy at first but it later just became redundant and took away from the overall experience, while the complete lack of safe territories created a toxic play environment.  NPC’s would shoot at you regardless of whether or not you just completed a series of missions FOR their faction.  Needless to say Far Cry 2 did not live up to the hype.  It’s main saving graces were a robust map-editor (the likes of which were only on PC games) available on console versions, and the coolest fire-physics I had ever seen in a game.  (OK…Alone In The Dark’s fire dynamic deserves a mention here.)

So, here we are with Ubi Montreal’s latest addition to the series.  Far Cry 3 is set in a Pacific Island chain called the Rook Islands.  To keep myself from rambling into eternity, I’ll break it down into sections.

SINGLE PLAYER

The single player is where Far Cry 3 truly shines.  The Island(s) are huge open, and lush playgrounds with plenty to offer the player in ways of side quests, hunting areas, scouring the jungles for collectible items, or just free roaming.  They definitely took some notes from their work in Assassins Creed when they brought in the use of radio-towers which pretty much serve the same purpose as the Eagle Towers.  Climbing each tower allows you to disable a signal jammer which reveals more of the map, and also unlocks weapons in the various stores and safehouses scattered throughout the islands.

As far as the story goes, you play the role of Jason Brody:  Yuppie Extraordinaire.  While vacationing with your two brothers and some friends (clearly in a part of the world where you should not go) you are kidnapped by human trafficker/drug cartel/pirate…guys.  After what is likely the most intense opening sequence to a game I’ve played, you gradually learn to be a badass and own plenty of pirates in the process of trying to simultaneously rescue your friends and brothers, and cripple an international slave & drug operation.

The story reminds me of movies like Touristas, and Apocalypse Now (complete with easter-eggs) with notes of The Beach, and just about every action flick I saw in the 80’s – 90’s.  It works, and has some genuinely powerful sequences that strike an emotional chord.  As the story draws into the final two chapters it really builds up momentum, and intrigue…and ends on a bizarre note.  It’s also noteworthy that there are two endings… However you had better want to play through the entire story twice, because the lack of a “replay mission” feature is a major letdown.

One major “WTF” moment for me during the campaign pertains to the acquisition of safehouses, and your allied Rakyat Warriors.  These intimidating looking, and heavily armed tribal mercenaries have got to be the most useless and wasted NPC’s I have seen in a game.  When they aren’t begging for help next to a broken down Jeep, they’re coming to your aid when, and ONLY when the final enemy has fallen.

Seriously, whenever you clear an enemy fortification and unlock a safehouse, an entire batallion of these hardened warriors magically shows up and has the audacity to gloat, saying things like:  “I’m the man!”  A better idea would have been to give the player the ability to request reinforcements when attacking an enemy stronghold rather than watch them roll up and whore the credit for each and every victory.

CO-OP

I played the games cooperative campaign in a fast past-paced high-octane bromance with none other than my PGCR cohort Big Heeb, which made for some interesting moments, and shenanigans.

I should warn you that the co-op mode is worlds apart from the singleplayer, with entirely different characters and an independent plot.  The free-roaming aspect of singleplayer is tossed out the window and replaced with a play structure almost exactly like Left 4 Dead 2, except the zombies have automatic weapons, flame-throwers, and spam you with grenades.  Oh, and they’re bigtime shotgun whores too.

Even the main objectives seemed to be on lease from Valve, such as “Power up this engine while every enemy and it’s grandma attacks you” moments, or “Hold your ground while..vice versa.

Almost every (scripted) encounter and checkpoint is merely a mindless run and gun sequence of clearing spawn-closet, after spawn-closet, as the game literally spews enemies at your ill-fated team.  It wasn’t long before I was craving the single player, rather than the linear, and clunky co-op.   

MULTIPLAYER

To be honest, I have not given the multiplayer the time it deserves, but in passing I found it rather “run of the mill” and generic when weighed against adversaries like Battlefield, Call of Duty, and other fast-paced shooters.  Not an overall bad experience…but after a decent enough taste I didn’t feel compelled to really get into Far Cry 3’s multiplayer, with so many other titles in my lineup.

The map editor is rich, and filled with goodies.  The only problem that may befall this installments map editing is the sheer lack of players in the online landscape – but only time will tell.

Overall, Far Cry 3 is likely the best in the series, with plenty to offer any fan of free-roaming shooters.  Solid storytelling, and a rich and incredibly fun environment to roam around in, and blow shit up.  However the lack of a strong online component makes Far Cry 3’s likelihood of ending up on my trade-in list higher than most.  In hindsight I would have been better off renting this badboy than considering it a permanent resident on my games rack.  But to each their own, this is merely my opinion.  Nothing to…Cry about.  

Fantastical Finale

Final Fantasy Dimensions Banner

Square enix have struggled of late to replicate the success of their flagship series’ 90’s offerings. The failure of Final Fantasies 10, to 14 (not to mention those accursed sequels) to capture the imaginations of their target audiences in the way that 1 through 9 did in such a magnificent manner has been disappointing to say the least. The story lines, characters and worlds in the newer titles just never seem as engrossing as the adventures of Cloud and co, while visually stunning XII felt somewhat devoid of character and atmosphere and nothing in the newer titles has ever re-created that sense of adventure and intrigue that the series is so famous for.

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Enter Final Fantasy Dimensions now available for both Android and iOS platforms. Going back to basics with the pixel art styling which was the bread and butter of the early 90’s snes titles. Including all the classic elements such as the world map, the job system and the active time battles. Could this game be a long overdue return to form for the ailing Square-enix? In short ….. yes. I love the series and have spent the last few years failing to convince myself that the games are just as good as they ever were if anything Dimensions highlights the failings of the new console offerings by reminding us of just how good a Final Fantasy title can be.

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Following the classic scenario of a powerful crystal summoning it’s chosen warriors and gifting them it’s power before being split asunder sending the world spiraling into a chaos that can only be stopped by the chosen few. It takes a certain kind of patience to play a game of this ilk through to the end, in the days before super HD graphics and flashy animation the only way to keep audiences hooked was with a story and characters that made you want to keep playing to find out what would happen next. Pair this with a battle system that is as rewarding as it is frustrating and Squaresoft (as they were known then) had a tried and tested formula for success with which they destroyed the competition and quickly rose to the top of the RPG tree.

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By returning to this basic ideology with Dimensions Square-enix has to pour so much more love into crafting a world and characters that the player wants to be a part of, while this may not capture the imagination of a new generation of gamers who are used to being spoon fed stories and having a game lead them by the hand from start to finish, it will surely delight the inner child in those of us who were around to see those early forays into recreating a Dungeons and Dragons esque experience in a video game. Doing away with the cheesy voice dub’s that plague the more recent titles is as much about the platform as it is a creative choice but for me it really is a saving grace because the hideous level of voice acting in all titles re-dubbed from Japanese is farcical. It’s remarkable the depth you create for yourself while playing this game, to paraphrase Sheldon Cooper “it harnesses the most powerful processor in the world, your imagination.”.

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£13.99 may seem a little steep for a game which is so similar to the games of yester-year but when you consider that in encompasses 40+ hours of gameplay along with a compelling story-line beautiful music and a unique adventure for each player you can’t really argue that price tag. It may have a few minor translation issues, it may not be super sparkly and it may require a certain level of patience but If you love Final Fantasy old or new, if you love rpg’s, if you want to send Square-enix a message that we want the Final Fantasy we love to return or if you just want something to while away the time on your mobile device then you must own this game.

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The War Z – Pages from a recovered journal. Part 2

To view the previous pages from this journal we have in our database click here.

Artifact No. 1895663

Journal written by persons unknown, recovered by cleansing team Gamma approximately 32 miles due west of Boulder, CO. The document was found within a satchel containing some tinned goods, a bottle of water and an empty handgun. No sign of the author or indeed any other survivor in the immediate vicinity.

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The Swource of all Evil


Resource gathering, troop training, construction and research can all take a loooong time in “The Hobbit, Kingdoms of Middle Earth” so while I’ve been waiting for my little Elves to perfect their bowman-ship,  my tax collectors to refill the coin purse and my master craftsmen to construct majestic improvements to my city I have been filling the time trying to get to grips with a little belter I picked up for a holiday bargain on the Google Play store.

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In Sword and Sworcery you take on the role of the Scythian as she searches for the mysterious mega-tome and attempts to seal away the darkness which plagues the world she has entered. Starting out there is no simple tutorial to play through you just have to figure things out as you go, abandoning the virtual pad which is overused to the detriment of most touch screen adventures this game is controlled with a series of taps, swipes and gestures which makes for a far more pleasing experience. To move the Scythian you can use a simple double tap on your destination or a hold to follow function this means you can concentrate more on your surroundings than struggling to move around and this is something you will find both useful and enjoyable. The pixel art styling of the game is exceptionally detailed and stunning to look at, the art work and the sound are the heart of this beast and it is something that begs to be absorbed and prodded.

a house that looks oddly like a face

The game recommends using headphones and that is a good call, the ability to hear what’s going on in your enviroment from the tip tap of footsteps to the rustling of the undergrowth is a massive advantage in helping guide you along in the early stages of the Scythians tortured journey. The game itself pays almost like a point and click adventure but without any of the tedious item searching and pointless conversations, there aren’t many non-player-characters in the game Logfella, Dogfella and Girl are the only three you meet in the first two chapters and they are not what you would deem conversationalists. The real star of this game is the world in which it takes place there are puzzles cleverly woven into the environment and interestingly tied in to the cycles of the moon and it does prove something of a head scratcher in the later stages.

the door

The music is beautiful and haunting if you’re not already listening to it I implore you to hit the play button at the top of the post and soak up the score provided by Jim Guthrie  fits so well with the games sound effects and adds to the atmosphere in a way that would make most video game composers green with envy.

Playing this title has renewed my faith in the touch screen adventures whilst your Zenonia games and similar are all reasonably decent I always find them to be lacking somewhat in innovation. Most of us now carry around in our pockets a touch screen device capable of so much more than a traditional controller, why don’t we see more games in the vein of the DS Zelda titles which optimise the use of the touch screen over the game pad? It’s a more difficult feat to achieve it would seem, it’s a lot easier for a developer to simply throw in a virtual pad rather than imagine new control techniques or in this case re-imagine control techniques to work with your game. Switching your device from landscape to portrait to perform actions, tilting on an angle, pinch to zoom and sweeping the camera with your fingers to get a better view all work brilliantly here and lend the gameplay an organic nature which is sorely missing in most mobile rpg/adventure games.

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From the introduction we are guided through the story by a mysterious, creepy but snappily dressed cigar smoking host the Archetype, who will explain the basic premise behind the coming chapter and throughout chapters will offer handy hints via your mega-tome (once you acquire it) I mention him mainly because something about him really freaks me out and I wanted to put a picture of him in.

You will feel a connection to the strange folk  you meet along the way (despite their monosyllabic nature), a yearning to learn more about the mysteries surrounding the Scythian and the evil that follows the mega-tome. The strange way in which the story is narrated with really obscure references and just down right ridiculous lines keeps the entertainment value high throughout you can even post your favourite peculiar lines to twitter. Check out #sworcery to see for yourself some of the weirdness for yourself.

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An adventure not unlike “Journey” in so far as it it focused on style and substance rather than flashing images and explosions Sword and Sworcery is a compelling title which begs to be played and deserves a lot more attention than many of its high ranking mobile game rivals.

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New Years HD Resolutions

2012 is done and dusted and thankfully we all survived the gluttony of the holiday season and the rather lacklustre end of days. Your belts may be tighter in both the financial and bodily sense but if you have any spare cash left and want to find a paper-thin excuse to avoid hitting the gym then here are a couple of my picks of games that will keep your bank account light and your belly on the weighty side over the next three months.

Hitman HD Collection

US – 29th Jan / UK – 1st Feb

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Some of you may have or not have picked up Hitman Absolution back in November, the fifth in the stealth action series. For those of you who did and missed the previous titles the first time round and want to know about Agent 47`s previous exploits, or simply can’t get enough of garrotting hapless folk, then you might want to check this out. This triple pack of games contains the 2nd, 3rd and 4th installments and is all done in sparkly HD tastiness. Seems pricing is about £25 so could be pretty good value after the Christmas bank raid.

Crysis 3

US – Feb 19th / UK – Feb 22nd

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OK so this is one game I have mentioned a couple of times in the blog (in particular see the Eurogamer post) and now with the release date just over a month away it seems appropriate to nudge your eyes toward what I think, from first hand experience, is going to be a brilliant shooter. It plays as well as Hendrix and looks better than Scarlet Johansson’s holiday pics (on PC at least, we will have to see how consoles deal with it). So if you are sick of playing that fucking dud of a title known as Black Ops 2 with the rest of the peons then try this made to measure nano suit on instead, you might like the silk lining against your skin.  If you need further persuasion click here to check out the tech trailer, its all kinds of awesome.

Tomb Raider

March 5th

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I think this title is one to watch for two reasons. The first is pure nostalgia because I have always loved the Tomb Raider games and it has been far too long since Lara has graced our virtual stage. The second and probably most obvious one is that this latest iteration looks great, visually stunning this reboot of the franchise brings a new slant to Lara as a protagonist whilst maintaining some of the classic puzzle solving mechanics so beloved of the original titles. I personally can’t wait to get hold of this game – and the obligatory nude patch.

-The Quim Ninja

TBoD – Our year calculasered

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for our little blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 19,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.