Shadows of the Damned Review

Shadows of the Damned is a weird game. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it will get you thinking, and this is ultimately where the game succeeds the most. There is something distinctively inviting about the many combat situations you’ll come across in the game, and while the gameplay can be a little stiff at times, the experience is saved by clever mechanics and a great arsenal of inventive weapons that distance the game from similar experiences like Alone in the Dark and Alan Wake.

Got Right

Darkness Mechanics Implemented Well

The use of light and dark is implemented superbly in Shadows of the Damned, with a number of inventive ways to counter the affect darkness has on Garcia throughout the game.

Stepping into the light will see Garcia’s healthy slowly deteriorate, and thanks to a number of well-designed puzzles and boss battles, the way in which you interact with the darkness adds a level of tension that really helps drive the experience.

You’ll often have to lead Garcia into the darkness in order to reach an objective, and sometimes you might even be forced into using the darkness as a weapon against enemies that fear it just as much as Garcia does.

The way in which darkness is implemented into the experience is actually the driving force behind finishing the game. Shadows of the Damned isn’t perfect by any means, but it offers a number of creative and thought-provoking experiences that persuade you to push through.

Probably the best thing about this experience is that it continuously changes and evolves the way in which you interact with enemies and the darkness. Even if you’ve made your way through a majority of the campaign, you should expect to see a number of new mechanics and techniques required to progress.

Great Boss Battles

The boss battles in Shadows of the Damned are, simply put, absolutely insane. These incredible beasts of destruction that Garcia will come up against will pound down on you relentlessly, all in their own unique way.

Beating them is no walk in the park either. Your collection of weapons won’t be enough to progress past these evil monsters, and so you’ll need to figure out ways to use the environments and darkness in order to take them down.

Shadows of the Damned does a fantastic job of evolving the experience during the big battles, encouraging you to use mechanics different to the ones you use during the preceding areas.

Fantastic Arsenal

Any animation shortcomings (detailed below) are countered by a fantastic array of weaponry, which help blanket any issues the core gameplay mechanics may have throughout the experience.

Each weapon has a unique name but also an affiliation to a real-life weapon: the “skullblaster”, for example, is Garcia’s answer to the shotgun.

Each weapon can be upgraded to improve damage, reload speed, capacity and all that jazz, but it’s the special moments throughout the story that allow you to unlock exclusive abilities that add an entire new level of engagement to the combat.

Each weapon gains enhanced power and versatility during these moments, making for some thoroughly enjoyable gunplay. Blowing limbs off of demons in Shadows of the Damned is as fun as it’s ever going to get.

Mildly Funny

Although sometimes a little too vulgar and forced, the humour in Shadows of the Damned is executed genuinely, thanks to a weird rapport between main character Garcia and his floating skull pal, Johnson.

The banter between the two is often obnoxious although not completely out of touch with what most gamers would probably find funny these days.

For the most part, Shadows of the Damned is an entertaining and funny story, but its overall narrative lacks the punch to stick with you.

Brilliant Soundtrack

Shadows of the Damned’s soundtrack is superbly effective in intensifying the experience. It’s a masterpiece of a score, complimenting the experience perfectly.

The sound effects bounce off walls and ring out through the speakers, creating a sense of tension that helps drive the experience in some parts more than the gameplay does. That’s saying something.

Weirdly enough, the soundtrack does a better job of telling the story than the actual characters do, which isn’t actually a bad thing: this is an outstanding soundtrack that heightens the tension and creates a level of fear that is at home in the game.

Got Wrong

Shallow Plot

Shadows of the Damned follows Garcia Hotspur, a demon slayer high on the Most Wanted list down in hell. On a mission to save his girlfriend Paula from the mitts of the lord of darkness, he works alongside a floating skull called Johnson.

The story plays an integral part in the progression of the experience, and although executed well for what it is, it’s rather crass and shallow, perhaps a little too much to drive affection towards the characters. That said, Garcia and Johnson share a very weird and fascinating bond.

To say navigation can be clunky is an understatement. Garcia moves around like he’s been batted in the kneecaps with a steel rod.

The camera placement doesn’t help the situation either – the animations can often lead you into a vulnerable position you didn’t intend on being in, which leads to camera issues that can compromise your ability to effectively attack approaching enemies.

The bright side is that many of the other mechanics aside from simple movement work well when needed, such as dodging enemy attacks and a quick-turn that is always an important mechanic in Japanese-developed third-person shooters.

These positives help balance out the experience, although the at-times clunky animations do hinder the experience. There is an inconsistency that is always present.

The Final Verdict

The things that will keep you coming back to Shadows of the Damned – the soundtrack, boss battles, weapons and at-times well-executed humour – are all implemented rather unconventionally. This may have contributed to certain mechanics not functioning as well as they could, as well as animations that can frustrate at challenging moments. It’s weird, action-packed and enjoyable, all enough reason to play through Shadows of the Damned in its entirety.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Review

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is one of those nice surprises you didn’t see coming. It appeared at the top of my review pile in a shiny case that I knew nothing about. Going in with a blank slate, the opening cinematic confused me. I had no idea what was going on, only to become more confused when the shirtless protagonist began jumping around a plummeting airship. At that point it seemed appropriate to consult Google, where I learnt that Enslaved is loosely based on “Journey to the West” – a Chinese novel dating back to 1590. However, it’s not all ancient history, rather a modern revival of a story most players won’t even realise exists. Even with such rich history, it would be easy to overlook Enslavedas it’s drowned out in a sea of readymade franchises and cash-in sequels, but then you would miss one of the highlights of 2010.

Enslaved is set in a future where humanity has all but doomed itself. Once prosperous and great lands have been relegated to ruins as mankind fights for survival against a race of all conquering robots. The aforementioned opening cinematic doesn’t do much in the way of explaining the tumultuous situation and leaves you to put the pieces together after making it obvious that humans haven’t fared well in combat against the mechs. You play as a protagonist too cool for both a shirt and a real name – but if he must be called something, he prefers Monkey, presumably in reference to his freakish climbing skills and independent upbringing in the wild. After escaping the clutches of a slave ship, Monkey finds himself bound to a special headband that leaves him captive to a girl named Trip. She attached the device to intertwine their fates and demands that Monkey help her get home. As long as Monkey is wearing the headband, Trip is his master to the extreme that if she dies, so does he.

Enslaved achieves what most games can only dream of. It delivers a compelling narrative, driven by characters you actually care about. It tappers off somewhere in the middle, but recovers nicely and delivers a gob-smacking ending. At first Trip is in prime position to become the annoying damsel in distress that needs babysitting from start to finish. That’s a common path in video games and leads to the development of characters you hate with a passion. Those type of characters give you little motivation to protect them through thick and thin, besides the knowledge that you will be forced to repeat the level if you betray them. Trip becomes so much more than that. She’s useful and full of surprises that compliment Monkey’s raw prowess. It’s hard to imagine caring for a character that took the protagonist captive in the first 15 minutes under selfish motivations (women, amirite?), but she becomes central to the enjoyment of the the overall story which was co-written by Alex Garland of 28 Days Later, The Beach and Sunshine fame.

Interacting with Trip becomes critical to the success of the gameplay. Using her tech-savvy skills to distract enemy mechs allows Monkey to sneak past and position himself better to eliminate them. Likewise, Monkey can distract mechs when Trip is in their line of fire. At anytime the player can order her to move, stay or operate nearby machinery – used in puzzles – but with the exception of the latter, she normally makes the right decision on her own. Intense escape situations she requires Monkey to carry her, making use of his more athletic build. His muscular frame is put to good use throwing Trip across or up to ledges that she otherwise wouldn’t have been able to reach.

Platforming is where Enslaved really moves in the right direction, as Monkey is constantly tasked with finding alternate routes around inconvenient obstructions. His twists and turns showcase impressive climbing skills and it’s not too hard to see where Ninja Theory picked up his nickname. The platforming mechanics are very simple and only require you to jump in the right direction. It is stylish acrobatics at its most simple. There is almost no risk of mistake as Monkey will automatically only jump to an appropriate position. It’s great fun to play through, but platforming enthusiasts might not sit well with the lack of danger.

Similarly the puzzle elements are kept fairly basic. Most require Monkey and Trip in two different places to operate a piece of machinery. Controlling Monkey and yelling commands to Trip, the onus is on the player to make the right decisions for both characters, but most are kept straightforward. Like any good platformer puzzle, they require your attention at first, but once you grasp an understanding for the individual mechanics, it’s just a matter of going through the motions. That’s hardly a negative, though, as Enslaved was never meant to be a brain-teaser, so there is no need for elaborate puzzles that have you trolling the Internet for answers.

Combat appears basic at first, but as you upgrade Monkey’s skills you learn the ins and outs of his abilities and the best methods to employ against different types of enemies; although, that’s ultimately a result of repetition. Using an energy charged staff in combat between platforming, Enslaved reminds me of Star Fox Adventures, at least at a basic level. They both have very similar combat, with light and heavy attacks between blocking and evading enemy movements. At range, the staff transforms into a firearm and is able to launch either a lethal or stun blast. These are both far more powerful than direct close combat, but Monkey only has a limited supply and must use his firepower wisely. Power-ups become more devastating towards the latter half of the game, making Monkey not only enslaved, but empowered with his somewhat magical staff.

The biggest gripe with Enslaved comes at the hands of its dodgy controls. It is hardly noticeably during platforming, but as soon as Monkey hits the ground he loses reflexes. He takes longer to react and sometimes movement, on the whole, feels very disorientated shifting from automated platforming to running around. To an extent this is alleviated when the player gets their bearings on the ground, but the controls just aren’t as tight as they should have been.

The aging Unreal Engine still looks good with the great artistic direction of Enslaved, some minor background textural issues aside. The character models are distinctive and the post-apocalyptic world is surprisingly vibrant and colorful. Unfortunately, there are some ugly framerate issues. They are fairly infrequent, but they are there nonetheless.

The sound effects are good, but it is the voice acting where the audio shines. Every word is fantastic, due to the quality of the actors and the dialogue which come together in a neat package. The story of Enslaved goes beyond its cut-scenes into the conversations between Monkey and Trip in general gameplay. Most developers fill in the time with useless banter, but Enslaved keeps you listening attentively even when you are focused on completing a task. The awesome soundtrack rounds out the audio package with a memorable score.

The Final Verdict

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West was a pleasant surprise for me, and one that I fear will slip under the radar for many. Its core gameplay, both platforming and combat, is kept fairly simple, but coupled with a fantastic narrative and character development, it’s one of the most engaging games this year. It is not without its problems, but Enslaved is a fun unique single player adventure in this time of cash-in sequels and online dominance.

Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds Review

Marvel vs. Capcom started out life as a simple, yet insane, hybrid fighter, designed to captivate the mindless Western audience who had an infatuation with button-mashing over actual skill. After an overwhelming reception Stateside, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 upped the challenge for more serious players, and it too proved to be popular. Then a decade passed and there was nothing. It’s a long time for hype and anticipated to build, but Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds has finally made it into the hands of gamers.

A complex fighter – Marvel vs. Capcom 3 continues upon the foundations laid by its predecessor, an immensely important fighting experience last generation, and has obviously learnt from its mistakes. The gameplay is deep, but reminiscent of 2D games from days gone by. It’s a lot more like the Street Fighter of old than anything we’ve played recently, and fans will adore it for that. Having said that, the two fighters are very different, so don’t go in expecting otherwise. The fluid character movement knows what it’s trying to achieve, with simple controls that might initially confuse fighting veterans. On the surface, immediately simple moves appear shallow, but as you uncover a new layer of depth, it becomes apparent that there’s so much more to Marvel vs. Capcom 3 than your mind can comprehend. It’s an insane, hectic fighter than remains true to its roots while offering a simpler control scheme.

Fans will love the insanity – Marvel vs. Capcom 3 remembers why the game was so popular back in 2000. It’s an insane fighting concept, that borders on ridiculous, with intense combos and bright, flashing lights that rival the seizures given by crazy Japanese games shows; in fact, there’s a warning for this at the beginning of the game. There’s always something happening in the heat of battle, made even more enticing by the prospect of your favourite Capcom and Marvel characters either teaming up or becoming bitter rivals. A decade may have passed since the last instalment, but the enthusiasm to consume the bizarre world of Marvel vs. Capcom is still going strong.

Simpler controls with deep Combos – It’s somewhat of an oxymoron, but Capcom has tried to incorporate fairly simple controls with a vast roster of complex combos with the new Simple Mode. It does away with buttons for punches and kicks, and replaces them with the more user-friendly light, medium and heavy attacks. The devastating hyper combo is now mapped to one button, instead of a string of complex sequences, and the same can be said for special attacks; the whole control scheme has been streamlined for better and for worse. While it’s certainly much easier to play, but not master, characters do lose several of their special attacks as a direct result in Simple Mode.

X-Factor – Everyone loves having X-Factor, and MvC3 is no exception. Entering the new X-Factor mode, by simultaneously hitting the action buttons, makes your attacks more powerful and restricts chip damage. Furthermore, in this three-on-three fighter, X-Factor is more powerful if you have fewer characters remaining. It adds an unprecedented level of tactical depth, and can often turn the tables on a battle that looked to have a clear victor.

Less characters are more & they look superb – One of the biggest changes to Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is the reduced character roster. It’s been downgraded from 56 to 36, but for good reason. In MvC2, a handful of characters dominated proceedings. This time around, each character is on an even keel. While the roster is diverse with unique characters that have their own niche abilities from the worlds of Marvel and Capcom, it has found a balance that the past games were lacking. The extravagant world of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is brought to life with stunning visuals that immediately immerse the player in the hectic gameplay. There’s always something crazy going on, which can be hard to follow at times, but it’s been brought to life with amazing comic-inspired visuals.

Online is key – Online play is conclusively the most important feature, and fortunately it works well during the heat of battle. You’d be hard pressed to find success heading directly online, but once you’ve completed your apprenticeship with the single player game modes, it’s time to take it to the masses. Online matches run well, especially with evenly match players, with minimal traces of lag to be found.

Lack of longevity – Unlike other fighting games, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 will struggle to hold your attention for more than a handful of weeks. Besides the story, there are mission and training modes, but these will hardly keep you occupied. The simple control scheme means there’s no need to spend hours training, and missions start to feel dull and boring halfway through. The training mode, however, is actually fantastic, with seemingly infinite scenarios that can be set-up and practiced. It just isn’t enough on its own with a below-par mission mode.

Multiplayer is lacking – Online multiplayer may be the key, but outside of fighting, it gets boring fast. It’s like watching paint dry when you’re waiting for your turn in a lobby while others duke it out. It doesn’t do much to better the online experience of Super Street Fighter IV, and does away with most of the secondary features that made it such a compelling online fighter; if that’s what you’re looking for, stick with Street Fighter IV.

The Final Verdict

Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds is a fantastic hybrid fighter that deeply engages its audience into a hectic world of combos and bright flashes. It’s more welcoming to button-mashers than Street Fighter IV, but will take just as long to master and doesn’t quite offer the same stellar online play. Having said that, it won’t disappoint long-time fans and offers the same insane gameplay they’ve been waiting a decade for.

Swarm Review

Swarm’s engaging and memorable gameplay is driven by a unique agenda; instead of trying to protect the game’s protagonist, you’re tasked with destroying few to save many. Swarm rewards you for being inventive and aggressive, and whilst the game treads into frustrating territory because of at-times mind-numbing difficulty, it’s saved by rewarding and satisfying gameplay.

What Swarm Got Right

Rewarding Gameplay – Whilst the main objective is to collect DNA using “swarmites” to feed “Mama”, a giant blue alien organism that crashes into another alien world, the in-game score multiplayer dictates peculiar gameplay techniques in order to unlock future levels and rewards. In order to complete a level you need to return to Mama with at least one swarmite, however, as score propels your progression, collecting DNA simply isn’t enough, and so it’s important that you come up with unique and inventive ways to kill off the replenishable swarmites whilst ensuring you have enough left-over to collect DNA and make it back to Mama. This double-edged sword makes Swarm quite the challenging little gem, as you must focus on two main objectives to progress, both of which reward success with score, an integral part of progression.

Addictive Gameplay – Maintaining the balance between effective collection of DNA and efficient score-inducing killing of swarmites makes for a highly-addictive experience, part of which helps drive the fast-paced nature of the Swarm adventure. The swarmites are actually quite intelligent, often working together to ensure their own survival whilst focusing on the main objective at hand. This propels the depth and engaging nature of the experience, as you’re working with intelligent AI that blends in well with the game’s core gameplay agenda. Furthermore, the inclusion of online leaderboards and collectibles add worth to the title rather significantly, especially considering the game only takes a few hours to complete.

What Swarm Got Wrong

Quite Short – It’s such a shame that a game that looks so great and plays so well is so short. Online leaderboards and other features increase the worth alongside the main adventure, but you can’t help but feel like the experience is over well before it even begins. However, this length of adventure comes part and parcel with a small and low-priced game like this, although the superb flow of the experience would have justified a few extra hours.

Can Get Quite Difficult – Difficult is actually an understatement. As at times Swarm dictates quite a bit of attention, multitasking can be quite difficult, especially in the latter levels when you’re trying to keep an eye on the swarmites as well as obstacles in the environments. This is hardly a deal-breaker though, as Swarm is as addictive as it is frustratingly difficult, and it’s hard to pull away from its fast-paced action.

The Final Verdict

The core mechanics in Swarm are simple and engaging, and the score multiplayer and objectives make for a very frantic and at-times highly challenging experience. This puzzle/action game dictates every little bit of your attention, and it will punish you if you don’t provide it.

PS3 Eagle Eye converter Review

When it comes to first person shooters on the PS3, there’s an enormous range to choose from, most of which feature a single player campaign mode and a online mode. When plodding along at your own pace through the single player campaign, the dual analogue controls are more than adequate, but when you verse the world in the online mode, it’s whole different ball game. There are players online that live, breath and crap dual analogue control perfection; head shots and multi kills are standard issue for these guys. How do they get so good you ask? Simple, practice! And many hours of it. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for investing hours into developing a skill set to rain dominance in the FPS world, but what about the rest of us that just pick up a controller now and then to have some fun? If we don’t keep putting in the game time, then our once semi-mastered skill set slowly diminishes like that rippling six pack you had when you were playing footy every day.

Option A: is to keep on practicing, option B: use a control system that many of us are familiar with and use all the time in our daily lives. That’s right the classic keyboard and mouse configuration and to avoid feeding the trolls I will openly admit an analogue still is more precise for fine tuned movements than the W,S,A,D keys. However when it comes to precision aiming the mouse is still the king, ask any PC gamer and they’ll back this up until they are blue in the face. Controller pros and cons aside, there is a solution for those that want to carry over the keyboard and mouse to their PS3. Thanks to the generous folks at HDCM we have the Eagle Eye Converter for the PS3 to test out, this device allows you to plug in a standard keyboard and mouse into the PS3 console.

The Eagle Eye key mapping software

To get yourself started with the Eagle Eye Converter you first have to map the Playstation’s control pad buttons to your keyboard. This is a pretty straight forward process, load up the provided software program located on the packaged 8cm CD (make sure you have an optical drive that supports this small disc size) to a Windows PC. You can either run this program straight off the disc or copy the entire program onto your PC for future edits. At the bottom of the Eagle Eye Converter there’s switch where you can select either “program” or “play”, ensure that switch is selected to “program” and the plug the unit into any USB 2.0 port. Let windows find the device and you are ready to start mapping the keys. The Eagle Eye Converter has the option to hold two different maps so you can set the unit up for multiple game types. To help jog your memory with which buttons do what it helps if you have game manual with you to refer to, and to keep things familiar I pretty much mapped the keys to simulate the most common control layout of your average PC FPS game. Every single button on the DS3 can and must be mapped to the Eagle Eye Converter; in addition to the standard DS3 buttons and directional controls, you get four different combination slots that you can program macros for. Even if you don’t want to use this feature you still have to assign a key to all four of these combos. As you can see from the above screen shot there’s no option to map the right analog stick and that’s because the Eagle Eye Converter automatically defaults the mouse to this part of the controller. Once you have completed mapping out your keys just select one of the two key maps and hit the “send to device” button and you are ready to go. This process may take you a few minutes but once you have set the Eagle Eye Converter to suit two of you most commonly used control layouts it’s pretty much a case of set it and leave it.

With the Eagle Eye Converter programmed with your desired key maps just plug the USB connection into the PS3 console, then plug in a keyboard and mouse into the allocated USP ports at the front of the unit. Once you fire up your PS3 console the keyboard and mouse will be defaulted as the player one controller. The Eagle Eye Converter comes with a generous amount of cable length measuring in at roughly 4 meters long, this gives you ample distance to comfortable set up your keyboard and mouse on a coffee table away from your TV screen. When in game I was surprised on how fluid the mouse movement was in relation to the crosshairs, movement was accurate with barely any noticeable lag. The Eagle Eye Converter really came into its element when I dove into the game options and wound the view/look sensitivity right up. Since the Eagle Eye Converter has a limited compatibility to only standard PC peripherals don’t expect super high performance like you’d get from high end PC gaming accessories. What that basically means is that you can forget about plugging in something like a Logitech G15 keyboard or a X5 Sidewinder mouse because 9 times out of 10 it won’t be recognised by the Eagle Eye Converter unit. On the keyboard side of things, each key stroke is dead-on accurate, with the response time that you’d get from a standard DS3 controller. If that’s not enough for you, there’s a turbo function for each controller button. The downside to using a keyboard for PS3 games is when you are prompted to press a specific button for something like a quick time event, for example when something like “press square to not die a horrible horrible death” pops up on screen you have to stop and think which key is bound to the square button.This isn’t a problem with the Eagle Eye Converter it’s self more of an obstacle the end user has to overcome on their own. With enough practice you’ll be familiar enough with the designated keys that you have mapped out. At the end of the day using the Eagle Eye Converter to play FPS games on a PS3 will give you more accurate control, but if you have grown accustomed to using the DS3 controller then you may as well stick with what you are good at.

As mentioned earlier in this review, PC gaming keyboards and mice will not work with this unit. In addition to this, many wireless accessories will not work. I did manage to get a Microsoft wireless keyboard to work perfectly, so it’s a bit of a hit and miss with any accessory that’s not your run of the mill generic USB version. All of this information is clearly stated on the packaging and on the provided software. This may be a problem for a PC gamers that only have high end gaming accessories but these days you can pick up a good quality USB keyboard and mouse for a few bucks. Priced at 59.99AUD it is very good value and is a great alternative to something like the FragFX which is hovering around the same price bracket.

NBA Jam Review

This year, EA Canada and EA Sports have collaborated to provide audiences with NBA Jam. The game, fit for PS3, Wii and Xbox 360, is an extremely nostalgic game that reflects Midway’s graphics and gameplay of old. EA, this year, have produced an excessively loud, interactive game that comes off a long list of already existing NBA Jam gaming titles dating back to 1993. This year’s release of NBA Jam is absolute entertainment. It has amused audiences for nearly two decades in a variety of formats fit for different consoles. To put it simply: NBA Jam has not (and cannot) fail!

The game’s graphics are definitely worthy of mention. 3D bodies are married with 2D heads, which gives players an impressive look. Whether it’s players on-court, or figures riding the sidelines, facial expressions are incredibly defined. Players leap and jump all over the place at varying heights too; the eye is never bored. It might seem like an unfair comparison, but the 2010 installment absolutely destroys the graphics and gameplay of past NBA installments. Acclaim Entertainment’s 2001 and 2002 NBA releases, for example, both of which were fit for Game Boy Color and Advance respectively are completely inferior to EA’s most recent contribution to the series. NBA Jam is too big for the small screen!

Gameplay, overall, is brilliant. Turbo meters keep gamers engaged and informed of how players are running onscreen. A variety of players also feature insides from both Eastern and Western conferences. There are also secret players that can be accessed too. Whether it’s one of the guys from Beastie Boys, G-Wiz from Washington Wizards, Barack Obama or even Sarah Palin, there are plenty of familiar faces that feature and entertain audiences. It’s a seriously tongue-in-cheek game, but its playfulness makes it such great value for hours on end. It’s a significant increase on the series’ previous 2003 installment, which only featured basketball players from the 1950s all the way through to the year of the game’s own release.

The game’s value is second to none; its variety of special features and easter eggs means plenty of exploration and hours of game time. Whilst audio gets a little repetitive in parts, the game is defined by fast-paced, cutthroat competition. Please, don’t fear: competition onscreen is always punctuated by hysterical commentary (the best feature of the game’s sound) and crazy on-court action. Whether you’re smashing the backboard or watching bosses tiff with one another, there’s never a dull moment. The classic campaign and remix tour game modes also mean that gamers can play the traditional 2-on-2, or they can alternate the format. In this sense, I’m a traditionalist: stick to the classic. Whatever game mode you choose though, there’s no time to be bored.

The Final Verdict

The 2010 release of NBA Jam has truly taken me back to my childhood. Whether it’s back to memories of playing NBA Jam on SNES, or battling NBA Jam Extreme out on Sega Saturn, EA’s most recent basketball release evokes nostalgia. It’s schizoid and tongue-in-cheek, but it’s completely and utterly awesome!

Killzone 3 Review

The frenzied FPS that is Killzone 3 is not your average conflict-based shooter; it thrives on epic set-pieces and incorporates a rather unique control scheme, but what sets this shooter apart from others is its character, fueled by stunning visuals, a satisfying campaign and a superb multiplayer component. It’s not often that both the single-player and multiplayer components are just as captivating as one another, but developer Guerrilla Games seems to have nailed it. Killzone 3 is sinister, challenging and unforgiving, and while its incoherent narrative may be one of its biggest issues, the gameplay does a brilliant job of quenching any need you may have for a deep FPS.

What Killzone 3 Got Right

Satisfying Gameplay and Variety – Any lack of coherent story telling is made up with great gameplay mechanics in Killzone 3. The experience is satisfying and smooth, and while the controls may take a little longer than usual to grasp in comparison to other FPS, mastering Killzone 3’s control layout feels undoubtedly rewarding. The amount of great weaponry at your disposal, including the great M82, as well as a few other Killzone 2 staples, all help portray a sense of authenticity, further conveyed by the convincing sounds of bullets piercing armour and skin. Furthermore, while the game starts off relatively slowly, it’s not long before the battles move to larger and more epic set pieces. A number of new mechanics add depth to the experience, namely Move implementation, which functions well and offers a smooth and impressive motion-controlling experience.

Explosive Campaign – While the campaign initially might seem to trek down a familiar path, Killzone 3 quickly distances itself from more generic experiences in the genre; you’ll most certainly be running and gunning a lot of the time, but it’s the enemy placement and the ways in which you progress through an area that give Killzone 3 a unique tone. Level design is superb for the most part, and while the story does a terrible job of detailing characters and important plot points, the explosive nature of the gameplay more than makes up for it. It might be a little hard to care about why you’re doing what you’re doing, but Killzone 3 doesn’t care, because it’ll throw challenge after challenge at you, whether you know what’s going on or not.

Fantastic Enemy AI – The Helghast hate you. They are relentless, intelligent and aggressive, and they will do anything to avoid your advances and compromise your hope for progression. Watch as enemies dive in all directions to avoid a live grenade, or see them quickly jump in and out of cover as you move towards them. The friendly AI is competent but not quite as effective as enemy AI, which definitely makes things harder for you. However, the enemy AI poses an immense challenge throughout the experience, making for a tough campaign.

Stunning Visuals – Just as in its predecessor, Killzone 3’s visuals are quite astonishing. Moving up over war-ravaged terrain as the sun streams in through the clouds is quite the spectacle, further channeled by the alluring brownish glow from rusted pipes, decaying buildings and piles of rubble that are scattered throughout the world. The level of detail can be quite overwhelming, especially later in the game when the set-piece battles reach colossal proportions.

Great Multiplayer and Maps – Killzone 3’s multiplayer shines through its fantastic map design; modes like Warzone (a mixture of a number of different modes) use each map to accompany a specific mode, which does a great job of mixing up the pace and changing perspective for the competitors. The great map design from Killzone 2 has been carried over to this sequel; you can never stay in one spot for too long because the map design just doesn’t allow it. This allows for a free-flowing, continuously moving and explosive multiplayer experience, which showcases how important good map design is alongside great control mechanics.

What Killzone 3 Got Wrong

Incoherent Story and Bad Pacing – Bad story telling plagues the Killzone franchise. That doesn’t change with Killzone 3, although we get a little more insight into the hatred that drives the Helghast. That said it’s still difficult to understand or even care about the motives behind some of the characters’ actions. Furthermore, the war room antics of the Helghast generals play more like a scene from 12 Angry Man than from a game about an exoplanet conflict. The story also has a significant affect on pacing, as cutscenes begin at the most inappropriate times, sometimes during large battles just as you’re getting into a hang of things. And the not-so-subtle Nazi Germany imagery is overkill to say the least.

Multiplayer Not As Rewarding – The class and unlock system in Killzone 3 has been changed, meaning you choose your class just before you enter a match. While you can enter into a match with game veterans and access the same weapons and tools as them, the leveling up system just doesn’t feel quite as rewarding, because your match skill level is no longer dictated by your own progression in the component.

The Final Verdict

For the most part, Killzone 3 is an improvement on the solid experience that was its most recent predecessor. A number of new gameplay features, including Move implementation, more stealth aspects, larger set-piece battles and a deep weapon list, make for a satisfying and engaging campaign experience. Multiplayer is a blast, too, offering a number of great modes across some superbly designed maps. Visually, few games can match Killzone 3’s level of detail, with fantastic lighting and textures rounding out a gorgeous presentation.

Gameplay

9.2

Very satisfying. Killzone 3 gets a lot right by offering a rather complex control system that might take a little long to master but is very rewarding.

Graphics

9.5

Gorgeous set pieces and superb lighting drive the war torn world that is Helghan.

Sound

8.5

The soundtrack is nothing special, but the sound effects and battle banter is top-notch.

Value

9.5

You’ll probably only play single-player once, but multiplayer will keep you coming back time and time again.

Overall

9.2

Relentless and satisfying