WWE Network – Review

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This week is wrestling week at TheGameJar. Which means we’ve asked all our writers to share memories of wrestling games past and present. Today, instead of a game, Sean looks at an app which is making a lot of noise and gaining a lot of subscribers.

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The WWE Network app certainly has made a big impact since finally releasing in the UK. It’s also something that a lot of people have asked me about since subscribing. Is it worth it? What’s on it? Is it just all the new rubbish? Well we thought we’d answer that for you. If you watch WWE at all then you cannot escape the rhetoric of constant promotion and advertising on its programming. There are a lot of good things about it, but the one that’s made the most headlines is the lack of quality in the current product (see the 2015 Royal Rumble match). I can’t argue that, but there’s a great deal that’s excellent.

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[Current WWE NXT Champion Kevin Owens, who is making the Powerbomb a feared move again.]

Firstly there’s WWE NXT, which had been on Sky Sports before now. It’s a developmental brand for WWE that has transcended its status to become a bit of a cult hit. One hour focused on new and great wrestling talent, without the storyline flack that the two big shows seem to be filled with. The divas get a proper wrestling outing too, showcasing the talent the WWE has in its wings for the future, and talent that will be very familiar for those who follow the independent promotions where a lot of these wrestlers cut their teeth.

In fact it’s the lack of the two big shows on the network that’s the most disappointing. There isn’t the big back catalogue of Raw and Smackdown that there could be. For all of the 1000 odd shows that there are of Raw, there’s not even a tenth of it on there. Same goes for Smackdown. There’s no Sunday Night The list can go on There are probably reasons for this and some things are slowly being brought out, like WCW Monday Nitro. But there isn’t even a hint at almost a decade’s worth of television, which is very disappointing. Although there’s lots of classic WWE like Tuesday Night Titans, Prime Time Wrestling and Saturday Night’s Main Event.

The thing is, you’d need to be quite the wrestling boffin to want and know of these things. What WWE Network does really well is its Pay-Per-View content, it’s highlighting of classic and brilliant wrestling and its in depth look at some of the greatest stars we’ve had. WWE has produced some excellent, if not incredibly biased, looks at the careers of many wrestlers, factions and promotions.

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[Great shows like Legends of Wrestling show that smoking cigars is very cool.]

Everything from former stars like The Hardy brothers to recent Triple H documentaries, all with interviews from many people. Stand out ones include a look at Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Paul Heyman, both creative geniuses and arguably the greatest managers in the history of the genre. There’s some great specials from the vaults like the Legends of Wrestling roundtable chats which seem to be filled with lots of smoking… Seriously, everyone smokes in WWE apparently. There’s the excellent looks at now defunct promotions like ECW, WCW and AWA although again with a WWE bias. In fact one of the standout things, although stretched out over a full season it can get a bit repetitive, is the documentary of the Monday Night War. The television ratings battle between WWE (WWF at the time) and WCW which ushered in a golden age of wrestling and the Attitude era that we all remember so fondly.

The hardcore wrestling fans might be a bit disappointed at the occasional editing due to licensing purposes like music and the very fine cuts of events that we all love. But credit to WWE, it hasn’t been shy in putting tricky content out there. One former wrestler in particular is included in programming which is good as before terrible events, he was an excellent wrestler and is part of sports entertainment history. There are many disclaimers before most of the content that isn’t PG programming or programming they created themselves.

Technically the app on every console works very well. I’ve tested it on Xbox One, PS4, PS3 and Xbox 360. In fact the worst iteration of the app I’ve tested is the iPad version which also doubles as the generic WWE app for news. Although I’ve never had a problem finding content, everything is laid out in an easy to find manner, the quality of the streaming is excellent and very rarely drops and the PlayStation versions of the app include nice little chapter points to fast forward easily to specific matches. Why the Xbox version doesn’t have these I have no idea, because it really should.

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[Still my personal favourite Wrestling/Alan Partridge crossover.]

What this app does do is allow us to relieve what we loved as young people in the big and special nights. We can go back and watch Mick Foley being thrown off the cell. We can revisit the real Icon vs. Icon matches like Rock vs. Hogan and Ric Flair vs. Harley Race. We can look at those matches we never see nowadays like the hardcore matches, the first One Night Stand events and most of the ECW back catalogue and the original Hardyz vs. Edge and Christian ladder match. We can all relive our WrestleMania moments again and, thanks to the great value, you can watch all the new ones too without having to pay Sky £15 every time for just one show.

Whilst this can be for the purist, it’s great if you have young family members who are fans but can’t afford a Sky subscription or Pay-Per-View costs. It’s parental controls stop most things you don’t want them to see and you can relieve your best memories. Faces you’ve likely forgotten and ones that have never left you. Yes, there is a lot of content that is missing but arguably, a lot that’s missing isn’t worth being put on or is coming. Except for the huge gap in Raw and Smackdown replays, WWE Network hits the right button for fans of wrestling and those guys who remember what things used to be like.

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LEGO Jurassic World – Preview

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Hold on to your butts… Clever Girl… Life will find a way… I’m getting these out of the way early so I am not tempted to fill this preview with many puns. But it’s true, there are numerous moments throughout the history of the trilogy (soon to be quadrilogy) of the failed Dinosaur theme park that have adorned our popular culture both visually and in quotes. Which is why it makes perfect sense for it to be a LEGO game. I can’t believe I didn’t see it before but if we’re honest, we’ve all wanted a great Jurassic Park game.

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[You know back in my day – the Cretaceous period – gluten intolerance wasn’t a thing.]

There have been people that have tried but in all honesty, LEGO as a video game franchise hasn’t produced a full on turkey of a game yet. So it’s good to see that the game we all wanted may well be best served by LEGO. In fact I’ve got a list of franchises that I would love to see in blocks. For now though, I can’t wait to build my first Dinosaur.

Yes, whilst there’s a lot that we’ll talk about with LEGO Jurassic World, the important thing is that you can build your own dinosaur and wreak havoc with it. Along with the dinosaurs from the movies, including the new movie, you’ll be able to unlock them all as you play the game. Much like in the films, Amber will contain dinosaur DNA for you to collect. This will unlock one of the twenty dinosaurs, which you can then use to create your own, much like the character creator that’s already there for custom players. Except in this case you’ll also get the abilities of that dinosaur’s part. Acid spitting? Sure thing. Finally giving a T-Rex long arms? It’s about time! And we’re told there’s an arena of sorts which you can pit your dinosaur creations against each other. Which, as a sentence, is pretty cool.

LEGO Jurassic World will have a lot from the new movie of the same name although right now we’re not allowed to know anything about it, because obviously that would spoil the movie. But the game follows the original three movies as well and there have been some very seminal movie moments in them. So we were given a few levels from the first movie to play.

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[Here’s a scene we all forget where human inability to do simple logistics ends in someone being eaten.]

First up, we got to takeover as extinct-species-poop expert Dr. Ellie Sattler who gets to delve into some LEGO dung and cure a Triceratops with lollipops and fruit. You can then control the Triceratops in order to bash things and complete the mission. It’s standard LEGO stuff until the storm starts approaching. Yes, THAT storm from the movie that so excellently screws over Dennis Nedry’s escape from Isla Nublar. There is a dynamic weather and day/night system in LEGO Jurassic World, which will enable things in the exploration phase of the game to change randomly, as well as in levels to suit the film’s transposed dramatic moments.

Our next dramatic moment involves our favourite lawyer getting eaten. The scene of the T-Rex escaping the disabled electric fence and bullying a couple of kids (stupid T-Rex) in an upturned car is replicated very well. Highlights include the original voice work from the movie (including the wise-cracking Jeff Goldblum), constructing a distracting musical box that plays a version of John William’s excellent theme, and the special abilities of the characters. Dr. Alan Grant’s Velociraptor claw can cut through foliage whilst Lex Murphy, the screaming granddaughter of John Hammond, can scream which will break glass.

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[Objects in this mirror may be more blocky than they appear.]

Finally, we see the cheeky and broken-legged Ian Malcolm being rescued by Ellie and warden Robert Muldoon, before being chased by the rampantly annoyed T-Rex. You can also shoot things in to its mouth for an added bonus, but I was personally gutted to see our favourite mirror joke not make an appearance. Again this kind of level design is something that LEGO has done very well before and LEGO Jurassic World is no different.

Whilst the mechanics of play may slightly change between the games, it is a truly tried and tested formula that lends itself to a lot of nuances in Jurassic Park. One of which is the return to a more expansive open world and hub system. The Tolkein franchise games (Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) all had a sense of the journey and the excellent areas of Middle-Earth. Whilst the two recent super hero franchise games have an open-ish world, it wasn’t the in depth and changeable areas that the Tolkein ones were, in my opinion anyway.

LEGO Jurassic World combats that by having two hubs and both the islands from the movies to explore, Isla Nublar and Isla Sorna. You’ll have the dynamic weather mechanic and of course the parks themselves. Mr. DNA, the theme park’s mascot, will be guiding you along the way as well as giving you education bite-sized Dino facts.

Mostly, I’ll be excited to replay various things from the movies and by association, watch all of them again. Too often I only watch the first one because it’s on TV conveniently on the same day and time that I order pizza. With LEGO Jurassic World, we appear to have ticked many boxes: Movie dialogue, excellent music, interesting levels replicated in LEGO and the beautiful South American islands of prehistoric genetically re-introduced doom. So if the early levels are any indication, then the LEGO franchise has found another new home in it’s chameleonic existence, and hasn’t jumped the Megalodon just yet.

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Saints Row 4 Re-Elected & Gat Out Of Hell – Review

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We here at TheGameJar have previously been very positive regarding 2013’s Saints Row 4, as well as previous Saints Row games. I personally however have never been in that bracket having never really experienced the franchise. I know, I’m a bad person but life, other games and just general laziness has kept me from the franchise before. If anything it puts me in a unique position as someone who can come to the newest gameas a new player and see if it’s really accessible to a new generation of console gamers.

But the questions you must be asking yourself, and presumably you ask for every next generation remaster, are these: Is it worth me buying the game again, has much changed or improved and is there any point to doing this anyway?

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Firstly, there might be if you’re interested in the standalone “expansion” pack Gat Out Of Hell, which I shall come to later. Secondly, it is my firm belief that a lot of the final games of this past generation of consoles really stretched them to their limits and having this new tech is a good way to show what their game really could do. This isn’t the first open-world remaster I’ve played/reviewed and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last.

So here is the thing… I can’t decide if it was worth doing. That’s not a negative yet, so hear me out. The game runs very smooth although its upper frame rate of 60fps is rarely held that high and the game, despite a massive overhaul in textures, still has a lot of jagged last-generation textures in it. Along with fairly flat and uninviting tall building with boring static lights-behind-a-drawn-curtain images that give it a very inorganic feel. It’s touches like this, which also appear in Sleeping Dogs, Watch_Dogs and even GTA V that make you realise that these games are last generation. That’s not a bad thing for the nostalgia kick or if you’re a fan. But this really isn’t too far off the PC version of the original release graphically. Work has obviously been done but it makes it more apparent where work hasn’t been done… If that makes sense. It is certainly an improved and smoother experience compared to what it was, but all that really does is make you realise what it should have been when it was released.

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Which is why you really need to want to buy this game. I’ve enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong. But it is riddled with in-jokes and references to the series’ previous iterations. Failing that though, the game is still the exact same fusion of gaming and pop-culture references piled in to one big comedic world fiction. It is funny. Yes it can be puerile and filled with ridiculous machismo but it is still the right side of funny. Whilst for a new player, the characters are already established lampooned tropes of action movie characters in a Matrix-esque world and plot, the whole thing is still fun to play. Even though for the earlier part of the game I had absolutely no idea who anyone was or what was going on. I can see though, if you’ve played it all before, there’s very likely to be nothing new for you here.

In fact the greatest thing about this isn’t the remaster itself, but the package that comes with it. If you put it off the first time after Saints Row The Third then now is a good time to get back in to it. As the original release doesn’t differ massively in graphics from The Third, this version certainly does. Along with all the DLC and the expansion, it makes a very good cost effective package. And what isn’t great about shooting up aliens in a virtual city and capturing areas, only to be greeted with the ’90s infectious rhythm of Haddaway’s What Is Love when these sequences are over.

Gat Out Of Hell, Saints Row 4’s standalone expansion, sees us take control of Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kensington as you are flung in to hell to save the President (i.e. you) who has been unceremoniously sucked in to the underworld thanks to Matt Miller’s party game going the way of an early ’00s teen horror. Again this is definitely more for the fans of the series rather than a new guy like me, given the plot and people involved, but sadly this game doesn’t really do much more than Saints Row 4 did anyway. The superpowers are changed for arcane ones (flying with Satan’s wings for example), and the world is a new area with the same darkness and gloom as Saints Row 4’s perpetual early evening atmosphere. The plot, involving stopping the president from marrying Satan’s daughter with the help of former adversary Dane Vogul of Ultron, is typical of the franchise but stretches in to the realms of being too over the top. The strangest thing is that the streets and the general art look doesn’t remind me of Saints Row so much as Carmageddon.

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Yes there are new weapons, new things to do, interesting pseudo religious entertainment tropes and Satan to kill. Including the much publicised Armchair with mini-guns. But the game offers exactly nothing that Saints Row 4 already does, except with a new skin. It feels like it’s interesting and cool for about ten minutes and then you realise it’s just what Saints Row 4 did with a lick of paint and maybe a bit more demonic inspiration and then you tire of it very quickly. That is where this pack does lose its value a bit because you are essentially getting exactly the same type of game, challenges and humour that you’ve probably already grown tired of by playing Saints Row 4 or the Re-Elected version again. I can’t help but think that if this release was closer to the game’s release date (i.e. not 18 months later) then it wouldn’t seem so repetitive. Thankfully both versions of these games are available separately on the digital stores for Xbox Live and PSN and Gat Out Of Hell is available on PS3 and Xbox 360 as a standalone release. So if you think you’d lose out on enjoyment by having the whole thing, there are options for you.

Essentially this game or collection of games is exactly what you’d think it would be. A sharper, smoother version of the over the top, well balanced open world shooter with crazy customisation, and full to the brim of gaming cliches and references that we all know and get. Does it deserve a second term? Maybe, but I’m sure fans would want to see something new instead and for the uninitiated like me, it does make me wonder what kind of game the next one would be. This is a last generation game with the veneer of the new generation loading and processing. It does the job, but in another way it’s a bit like a middle-management role that no one really asked for or knows why it is there, except to contrast against the seriousness that makes up most of our AAA gaming at the moment.

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Whilst Re-Elected is a nice return to something you’ve probably already finished, there’s a certain replay value in the experience but not much more. Even for someone who hasn’t played it before, you can see where it can get repetitive and tiring. Which is why Gat Out Of Hell just feels like it missed the mark. Otherwise, if you’re a fan and you want to add to your collection, go for it. If you really want more of the singular experience of the expansion or the original game then these are all available separately and that might be better for you.

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– Smoother and more playable experience.

– Still the same Saints Row you know, with the same humour and disregard for propriety.

– As a package it’s pretty good value, especially if you’re new to the series.

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– Very little has actually changed or improved apart from textures.

– Gat Out Of Hell is more of the same, quite literally.

– Can be very unaccessible to new players for early parts of the game.

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When the game came out, we originally gave it an 8. It was and is a good well balanced open-world third person shooter with challenges and things to do. But other than texturing and general smoothness, very little has actually changed. That also extends to Gat Out Of Hell, which feels more of a byproduct of the remaster rather than the game itself. Entertaining but nothing we’ve not seen before, quite literally.

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This review is based on the PS4 version of the game.

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LEGO Annouce Dinosaurs and Superheros (Jurassic World)

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It’s not often we cover news, but this one was certainly too big for me to miss posting about.

Warner Bros Interactive have announced the TT Games/LEGO line up for 2015. These include another Marvel tie in with LEGO: Marvel’s Avengers, new LEGO Ninjago game: Shadow of Ronin and iOS releases of The Lego Movie videogame and Lego Batman: Beyond Gotham (the 3 has been dropped).

But the big news is that we’ll get more Chris Pratt, along with Sam Neill, Richard Attenborough and a double helping of Jeff Goldblum. If you’ve worked it out already (without looking at the obvious title), clever girl. Some of the more astute of you who have played and competed LEGO Batman 3 might have noticed this pictured dinosaur in the credits, along with John Williams’s famous score. Personally I blinked and missed the connection. But finally dinosaurs are coming to LEGO.

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LEGO: Jurassic World is a tie in to the upcoming 2015 movie reboot of the series also titled Jurassic World. But it will also include parts of the first three movies: Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park: The Lost World (Dino-Godzilla) and Jurassic Park 3 (Island+Dinosaurs+Sam Neill=Cash). In traditional LEGO game style all of these movie tie-in games will be available for every console (360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, PC, Wii U, 3DS) along with LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin being 3DS and PS Vita only.

So a few things we’re looking forward to? Well obviously being able to repeatedly punch Dennis Nedry and the kid from the first movie who got himself electrocuted. We’re looking forward to dinosaur consultant Phil Tippett being brought in and turning TT Games area of Manchester in to a crazy Velociraptor party. But mostly, we’re intrigued as to what LEGO: Marvel’s Avengers is actually going to do.

LEGO: Marvel Super Heroes was already a fairly big game that had bits of the cinematic universe lore from phase one and two of the movie collection, along with comic book versions of properties Disney don’t have the movie licences for. It does seem like it’ll be a tie in to Age of Ultron, wgich is due out later this year, but it promises to include the previous Avengers movie as well (and presumably some more of the recently and soon to be expanded universe).

But I’ll leave you with this fun fact. A Samuel L Jackson character will now have been in three LEGO games. Mace Windu (Star Wars), Nick Fury (Marvel Super Heroes) and now John Raymond Arnold (Jurassic Park). It seems we shall indeed know his name when he rains his blocky virtual self upon our gaming systems.

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TheGameJar Awards: 2014 – YOU DECIDE!

TGJ AWARDS 2014

The title says it all ladies and gentlemen. Through two weeks of messaging, talking and editorial brain churning, TheGameJar crew have narrowed down their choices for TheGameJar Awards 2014.

There are ten categories and this includes the obvious and the not so obvious choices. You may disagree with some of them. Please feel free to debate this on Facebook or on Twitter. In fact we encourage it.

Normally we decide ourselves on what we think has been best for us for the year. But this year, we decided it was time to let you, our faithful, beautiful, kind, excellent readers have a bite at the award giving cherry.

For the first time on TheGameJar, you get to decide who wins EVERY AWARD. Yes we’ve shortlisted it but the power is in YOUR HANDS. It’s like The X-Factor for games except less hair gel, less pay-to-win fixing and less Dermot O’ Leary having to keep a straight face.

A few things you need to know, everything is completely anonymous, it’s one entry per computer and the closing date for this is Midnight on January 1st 2015. So you have eleven days to cast your votes!

Below you’ll find the survey embedded in to the page, or if you can’t see it, CLICK HERE!

Choose wisely and good luck to everything we’ve shortlisted. Their fate is in your hands.

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LEGO Batman 3 Beyond Gotham – Review

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Greetings caped crusaders! LEGO returns in DC comics form to control your minds, brick by tiny brick and shrink your world… Quite literally. LEGO Batman 3 Beyond Gotham is a LEGO game that is very obviously the product of three things. Firstly, complete and total passion for the DC universe by its creators. Secondly, its a game that has the vast experience of many LEGO games before it. And finally it is the product of a team who were able to fully express themselves and their creativity.

The story of LEGO Batman 3 sees our caped friends chasing after Killer Croc in the sewer to try and thwart another dastardly plan by the Joker. However with the rather large and hypnotising Brainiac looming down on Earth, backed up by the stolen power of the Lanterns, all the Justice League and the assembled villains must join forces to stop a bigger threat. It’s all very amusing and takes advantage of the characters own dynamics and storylines that are easily accessible, even if you haven’t exactly been a big DC or LEGO Batman fan. The story is quite simple to follow and in the great tradition of these games, very family friendly. It’s easily played by all ages due to its very familiar controls and is enjoyed by everyone for being the slightly neutral comical romp it should be and never takes itself too seriously.

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When you have done as many LEGO games as TT Games has, it can almost feel like second nature. This makes the third LEGO game after The Hobbit and Marvel Super Heroes in the last 18 months and whilst the feel of the games aren’t exactly getting tired, if you played them all then you must be someone who really enjoys them or are a massive fan of every franchise they’ve covered. If that’s the case then this game is definitely for you as a DC universe fan. The smash-everything-unlock-cool-things gameplay is as smooth as ever and I’m pretty sure there are less infectious things on the World Health Organisations watch list than this brilliant formula. It’s made all the more infectious by the sheer amount of unlockable characters that there are. Plundered might not the term for the depth of the back catalogue of characters they’ve given an outing to, but they certainly looted with intent to riot. They’re fun, quirky and not all together the most serious (Batcow, Condiment Man, Conan O’ Brian, Kevin Smith) but they are a vast and representative look at the DC universe.

The levels are quite a nice length in most places and the free form way you experience the later levels in the story is quite nice although it does lack a little direction. It’s a good excuse though to go and check out the Lantern planets and their wild, vivid and crazy colour palettes. It is definitely an expressive designers dream and after two games worth of the dark dank nature of Gotham, I’m sure it was well received. That along with some nice tourist attractions around the world and the replay value in the levels themselves for collecting and sight seeing (the moon is fun along with the ability to freeroam the Lantern planets), means there’s always something to do and have fun with in the game. Especially with the inclusion of Adam West and 1960s Batman as a bonus level. It may be one for the fans and the parents out there but if, like me, you grew up with early morning reruns of the show before the Tim Burton movies appeared then this will hit you right in the nostalgia bone.

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Whilst we can’t actually review the extra content that is coming, it is worth saying that if characters are your bag, the DLC on offer will be most fun. Dark Knight Batman from the Nolan movies, Arrow from the TV universe with Stephen Amell voicing… There’s lots to keep you as a fan entertained character wise. Is it worth the season pass money though? Well if it’s your thing to collect all the things then yes. Otherwise it might not be.

We’ve all got our favourite LEGO games. Mine so far have been the Star Wars movies (although the game does feel a bit dated now), Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter’s. So when I have my criticisms of this game, please bear in mind that I know these are different universes and franchises and that they have a different artistic direction.

LEGO games in recent times have been very open world and Batman 3 is not, at least not in the same way. You have a central hub in The Watchtower where you navigate your way through the story, various unlockables and areas to reach those things. But it doesn’t feel very natural to do that beyond the level selection and transport to other worlds. You have to go to the Batcave to do a lot of things and that includes the frankly excellent bonus mission of the 1960s TV Batman. But it all feels very far apart and isn’t very well directed. Not like that of Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings, or even the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier from Marvel Super Heroes. It’s a bit hard to work out where to go and where everything is. Making a great little bit of exploration, sure, but it can get you lost very easily.

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The levels at times, despite mostly being a good length, feel a tiny bit too short. Some of the Lantern planets in the story, although you can replay them and explore them, feel a bit rushed at times. Like they needed to push the story along and not get the audience lost or make them lose interest. It’s a pacing issue and one that I feel all LEGO games suffer from at times after the middle part of the game but it would have been nice to have more time on those planets and some crazier things to enjoy. They aren’t a massive stretch from what the Star Wars games were achieving but they’re obviously much more colourful. Plus I’m pretty sure there are other areas on terrafirma in the DC universe that could have been utilised. Maybe that’s another game though. The occasional mini-game levels however, which look inspired by TRON/Daft Punk, are utterly confusing and to be honest don’t really add much to the game except a “what the hell is this?” reaction moment. I’d quite happily have taken an easy on-screen puzzle if I’m honest and kept them as a fun aside in the Batcave.

Balance is quite a key thing in LEGO games and for you to unlock all the characters, you have to want to unlock them. The balance of what the characters can do with their powers, modifiers, different suits and such is very key to how you play the game. Whilst you don’t want these bonus characters to be required in order to complete it, there is a bit of an overpowered set which you don’t really need to stray too far from. It’s not that bad a thing but it doesn’t really make you explore the other character options. Where as Harry Potter certainly did with their different spells. It would have been nice to have seen some more integration of the characters sets in to the main game for freeplay. I want an excuse to unlock Batcow! Although my only main character based criticism is how the level design of some of the levels really doesn’t like The Flash. Barry Allen moves so darn fast that you usually end up not actually fighting anyone, spinning around punching the air and falling off edges more often than a lemming.

LEGO Batman 3 Beyond Gotham doesn’t really go beyond what LEGO games are known for. But it is a romp that makes you wonder where the heck LEGO games could go next. Ghostbusters would be fun and I’ve always said the Star Trek movies could make good LEGO games, even Doctor Who (nerdgasm). But for now we’ve got to the point of exhausting the franchises we have. Is DC exhausted from this? Possibly. Other than story and environments, there’s not that much more I think that would bring people back to LEGO Batman as this has most certainly ticked and filled every box. A good LEGO game, a fun Batman game but easily consumed. Next, please!

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LEGO Batman 3 Beyond Gotham hits all the right spots for a DC fan and keeps up the great tradition that is now LEGO franchise gaming. It’s simple, easy, family friendly and incredibly addictive. Although at this point the gamer in me wants to see some more imaginative things, bigger, better puzzles and something new along with the smash everything, collect everything gameplay. But you can’t fix something that isn’t broken and LEGO games still work great, and this one definitely goes in the lexicon very nicely.

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[tab title=”Good Points”]

– So many characters, so little time

– The Batusi jiving, catch phrase slinging Adam West

– A nice expansion of the DC universe and for the player to see more than Gotham

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– Mini game TRON level not needed

– Watchtower hub and utility placement confusing

– The Flash is a bit too flashy and hard to control

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The game is a great thing for DC fans, and a fun thing for LEGO fans, but even though it’s accessible to all, it doesn’t quite hit the interchangeable hairstyle on my LEGO head. There’s loads to do and some great extra bits along the way, along with some excellent worlds to explore. But it can be a bit confusing, easy to get lost and it isn’t a leap forward from the other two LEGO games we’ve already had very recently. It’s fun, but for me it isn’t the best the series has offered. But if you’re a DC fan then this will be brilliant.

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This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.

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What’s Next For Resident Evil?

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Resident Evil has been mentioned quite a lot recently. In the normal run up to Halloween and when any survival horror game is released, the game of PlayStations past is invoked as if grand royalty has entered this panicky jump-ridden realm. It has also come up because of The Evil Within, a game that our writer Andy reviewed most positively, as Resident Evil creator/director Shinji Mikami was at the helm of that production.

But we have two new Resident Evil releases that are due early next year, thankfully not movie franchise releases that have been ruined by Paul W.S. Anderson, although one is coming apparently. You know if you look at the movies in his repertoire, you might not be shocked to see how bad that series of films are. But the guy did Event Horizon, I mean how much more intensely atmospheric do you want to get? You’d think Resident Evil would be in safe hands… I’ve digressed.

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We will be receiving the next generation spin off Resident Evil: Revelations 2 in 2015 along with the remake of the remake. The GameCube’s remaster of the original Resident Evil game is getting yet another remaster to bring it up to next generation standard. On Halloween, the lovely guys at Capcom invited us to their offices to try the games out and see what we thought. Bribes were only provided in the form of fizzy drinks and seasonal Krispy Kreme’s.

Firstly, let’s tackle the remaster. You’d be forgiven for asking why this is happening. It seems like games publishers are torn between what us as gamers want and what us as gamers want… Bear with me here. On the one hand, despite our critical moaning about a lack of creativity in big game producers to come up with new ideas, we do like to see the games we love brought up to date and given a new lease of life. We want be able to show them off to our current significant others as to why this was a life changing game for us and not get laughed out of our relationship because of the now very dated graphics and hilarious FMV cutscenes. So this edition of Resident Evil kind of satiates that itch.

The game plays exactly the same way as the GameCube version does with an upped resolution although the textures and general artistic design are basically a complete port with some shine on them. If you’re looking for a new look and angle for the game you love, this probably isn’t it. Unless of course you never played the GameCube version, in which case, this is definitely for you. The thing is of course that nothing’s changed, but ultimately you don’t want that much change. There is the option to go full retro controls, or “WHERE’S MY F**KING ANALOGUE STICKS???” controls as I like to call them. Which is actually quite a nice reminder of how much better and more patient you used to be at playing video games. You can of course update it to use the sticks and that makes for an interesting experience. The stick controls highlight how the newer technology is adapted to the older games control and movement methods, which is rather strange as they suit the turning and running but the rest of the controls don’t exactly compliment them. It’s something you get used to of course but is a learning curve to start with.

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The option to have the original FMV sequences is there although you should probably only do that if you’re the kind of person that regularly searches their TV’s channel guide function for the worst that SyFy, Horror and Movies For Men has to offer on a lonely Tuesday with a 2 for 1 pizza offer in the wings. The game is a great reminder of how games were and how the mechanics they used would scare the crap out of you.

In fact, it’s a great experience in seeing how good the original game was in inventory management, atmospherics (although it does feel a tad too bright for me) and how to navigate complex controls under panicked stress. It will certainly bring back good memories and if you’ve missed it before, and it looks worthy of being added to your collection.

On the other hand, there’s those of us that love the genre and what the franchise can bring, and so we want to see new things. More new ideas, more new environments, puzzles and games. NEW, we tell you, NEW! And so we have Resident Evil Revelations 2, the sequel to 2012’s Revelations. We’re in to the realms of all things third person now which is great because that naturally goes very well with survival horror. But it does make me lament for the sometimes obstructive but much more terrifyingly voyeuristic cameras that the original game has. This game has moved away from 2012’s nod to the Resident Evil lore and becomes a bit more of its own entity.

No more Jill and Chris in the demo we played. This time we get Claire Redfield and Moira. Moira’s gift with the more colourful expressions of the English language make this game hilarious at times, and undoubtedly will involve many different versions of certain lines having to be used. In all the new generation glamour of dirty abandoned places being wonderfully sharp in resolution, you can enter a new world of hunting for ammo and supplies, crafting magical herbs that heal you and, more importantly, seamless swapping between characters to your advantage. The way you move between your two protagonists to solve puzzles AND give yourself more inventory space is excellent. It’s like Skyrim’s companion but much more useful. She’ll find things with her torch skills and run distractions for you as you take on headshot duty.

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The enemies kind of move between your traditional slow moving big powerful zombie and super fast crazy psycho zombies, the ones you don’t want in real life. But fighting them makes you think about your ammo usage. You can’t just unload your gun in to one guy and then pick up more ammo. No this resource is scarce and more enemies will come, so you have to think about how to use your tools and your environment to your advantage. Especially where there are traps that can be used and different enemy weaknesses.

The demo we were thrown in to made us feel like it was some crazy Saw-like adventure. You have no idea what was happening and whilst your character remains quite resolute under this pressure (less so than Moira) you begin to get intrigued as to why you are here and what the hell is happening.

It’s this more contemporary take on the survival horror tropes that make Revelations 2 quite intriguing. You’ve got the quality and design hallmarks of Resident Evil but you’ve also got the inspirations from other successes like The Last of Us and The Walking Dead. The series has moved on a lot from the Romero inspired house of horror that the original, and the remake, and the aforementioned remake of the remake, provide. It almost feels that a different branch of the universe, one that doesn’t have to be stuck in the lore of the other games and characters, is begging to emerge and mature. Whilst it is tied by name and situation, it appears to be quite free. The only thing I’m finding is that there is potential for it to get a bit long in the tooth. There’s a very strange lock picking mechanic that I’ve never seen used before and, quite honestly, I can see why. It’s not awful and once you’ve done it a few times you’ll get the hang of using both analogue sticks to find an unlock point and tapping R1 to activate it, but it certainly could be more user friendly. The controls come in that weird backward option where X is back and Square is confirm (although I’m sure that will change for western audiences) and eventually it will become second nature to you rather than you screaming “What in the Cock is that?” in early game frustration.

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Both games should be out in 2015 and the last part of this year has raised the horror genre into interesting territory. The Evil Within has given us more of the same updated for a new generation and Alien Isolation has given us the ultimate in terror, crafting and very little action whilst still delivering an atmospheric game. There’s said to be a new Alone in the Dark in the works and newer first person games like Outlast and Daylight have taken the genre to a different area.

But Resident Evil looks safe and appears to be satisfying both of the fans demands. Bear in mind that we are now around 22 games in to this franchise so you could forgive it for getting a little stale or similar. However Revelations 2 should be an interesting experiment in to where the series should go next and Resident Evil’s release will certainly nod us in the direction of the series forefathers and make us want to experience the new.

[author]

Are too many games broken on release? Discuss!

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Broken games aren’t anything new, although it does seem that we have had a glut of them in recent months. Assassin’s Creed Unity looks set to join the post-development woe befalling Halo’s Master Chief Collection and DriveClub. But has it always been this way for games to be released with problems?

In a word, yes. Sadly the game medium and the ease publishing downloadable updates to consoles have seen game publishers rigidly stick to their release dates in order to fill their quarterly reports, at the expense of bad press and consumer dissatisfaction. It feels all too apparent in recent times though. Here are a few reminders of the last 12-18 months of game release failures. [divider]

SimCity

brokengame1 Those who recall the long wait for a £60 pound persistent online game only to find that they were only persistently trying to connect to EA’s servers will lament this well. It was made even worse for Mac users who had to not only wait an age for their release but for the problems to be solved as well. Was the game broken? Well there were parts of it that were, and certainly still are. A new engine and new AI was being patched quite a lot in the end to stop itself from doing silly things but for the most part (apart from the always online design flaw and small development areas) the game was fine. But the release of the game turned into a complete farce for EA.

Given that the game was “always online” and there was no offline mode, it was the lack of servers that surprisingly foiled EA’s release. The back end infrastructure they had in place couldn’t handle the amount of people who were wanting to play, nor the data it was supposed to store, leading to a long process of issues, apologies and modifications. EA had to give away a free game, Maxis had a tail between their legs and had to release certain things for free that would have made good DLC and they had to implement an offline mode after the mod community showed how easy it was to implement. Never one to be bested by such setbacks, EA did exactly the same thing six months later…

 

Battlefield 4

brokengame2 The release of Battlefield 4 actually started a lawsuit against people who appeared to be raising the game’s praise to shareholders erroneously in order to generate satisfactory financial reports. But us gamers don’t care about all that suit nonsense, we care that once again, EA’s servers were not up to the task of online play. Bugs galore as people could run around with no health and kill you, the promise of big destructible landscapes and buildings were hard to find, lots of graphical glitches and all this was only an issue if you could even connect to a server in the first place to play the game.

Personally, I found Battlefield 4 quite uninspiring as a single player game although I enjoyed the online play as by the time I’d got to it, the multitude of patches and fixes had been implemented and the multiplayer game was playable. But around its launch, very public and very damning issues beset it. Exactly who is to blame here is tricky as there seems to be quite the administrative level fallout over this, but EA once again were at the centre of the storm and directly addressing it calling the situation “unacceptable”. Two bad online releases in a year is obviously the button pusher in the EA head offices. Speaking of fallout…

 

Fallout: New Vegas

brokengame3Ok, so this game goes further than the 18 months but still, it’s worth putting in here. This game was bugged from release. I know this, which is why it’s on my gaming rack still in its cellophane wrapping. As gamers, we tend to forgive Bethesda’s mistakes in game development because of all the things they get right in their games, but this game makes my little reminisce due to it being the most bugged of them all. Fallout 3 was not without its issues and PS3 Skyrim players will recall the game breaking memory issues and save deletions.

Fallout New Vegas also had the same issues and was prone to a multitude of crashes, textures not loading properly, framerate issues, characters running away, item and character clipping, characters heads doing strange things, incorrect gender character noises, to name but a few. There’s a big old list of all the bugs on the wikia page for the game and you could summise that this is why we’re waiting a long time for another Fallout game, or a proper Elder Scrolls successor. The engine definitely needs a lot of work to be up to the scrutiny of a new generation of consoles and maybe that’s why Bethesda are being quiet about it. But that hasn’t stopped them, oh no…

 

The Evil Within

brokengame4 Bethesda’s most recent release is a fine game. It looks excellent and has only the minimal of bugs, like the headless character bug pictured. It’s a survival horror treat that is worth the time and the day one patch. If you don’t have the day one patch however, the game is a completely different story. Digital Foundry did some snooping after a couple of reports of bad frame rates, but that was just the start of the horror. The out-of-the-box version of the game is a mess. The resolution of the game is a heavily upscaled resolution that is nowhere near the 1080p or 900p it’s supposed to be for the PS4 and Xbox One respectively and is stretched to fill the screen. It also suffers from massive framerate drops, the likes of which you’ve probably only seen on a heavily overworked Minecraft server.

The patch completely changes this to a playable game. But what gets me is that the developers had time to fix this for the release edition until the game’s release was brought forward a week (presumably to cash in before Alien Isolation came out). The patch, given how much it fixes, is a monumental effort by developer Tango Gameworks. It’s definitely worth checking out the videos that Digital Foundry put up as it really does highlight the issues the retail version of the game has. To release a game in that condition is simply just not cricket…

 

Ashes Cricket 2013

brokengame5 Yes these links are getting worse. But no worse than the only game in this piece that was actually removed from sale. It even made national news due to its failure. Ashes Cricket 2013 is probably the reason that you won’t see a cricket game for quite a long while. 505 apologised and issued refunds, Steam pulled the game from sale and the console versions didn’t even appear. Why? Because the AI was awful, the character models were missing key things (such as an animation for catching the ball) and the players ambled around in such a manner that Tecmo Bowl looked superior in playability.

Everything about this game was poor although the development was just as sketcky, moving to the Unity engine and then back again, being delayed twice and only released to try and cash in with its titular sporting series in Australia back in November 2013. All in all the story of this game is quite tragic really and just a cacophony of errors that will probably see Cricket languish in video game development hell, much like Rugby has for the most part in the past decade.

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The thing is that all games release with bugs and as console gamers, we probably feel a bit precious about it given that we expect for our £50-60 outlay a satisfactory and, above all else, a ready product. And releasing games into a retail environment (that includes all the digital stores too) that are effectively broken or heavily bugged, just to make the demands of agreed times and publisher’s quarterly estimates, is quite abhorrent. That maybe a slightly cynical viewpoint though as PC gamers of all ages will know that games can be and are regularly patched to combat these problems. They always have been and they always will be. But the fact that we’ve had quite a few big name problems within the space of a week is quite damming.

brokengame6 Of course Microsoft have always had this date due to the nature of its anniversary package for Halo and the game in all honesty is intended to be a much needed unit shifter for the Xbox One. In fairness to them, the single player element of the game is fine there are just a lot of teething issues for quite a vast and probably the largest options of a multiplayer experience to date. Assassin’s Creed Unity is suffering from a number of graphical glitches in character models as well as world clipping issues. The game has already irked some due to its drop from 1080p to 900p in what is perceived to be cross platform parity. But the game has quite the demanding and technically difficult task of simultaneously processing 10,000 AI controller non-playable characters so that the experience of the crowd is more real and genuine. It’s no small matter given the processing power needed for that and what the consoles can achieve at present with how new the technology is for developers. DriveClub’s issues just seem to be poor choices that have been made at a management level to the game’s infrastructure and, if we’re honest, just a complete shambles from pre-launch to now, which is a shame for Evolution Studios.

While these bugs are certainly taking away from the game experience, and do invalidate our confidence in a publisher to develop a complete package for our hard earned electronic wealth numbers, do they constitute such a breach of trust between the consumer (us) and the developer/publisher (them) that we should be up in arms, or should we just back off a bit? After all this is all new ground for everyone, right?

Please feel free to leave comments, post on Facebook or tweet @TheGameJar and let’s talk about this.

[author]

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare – Review

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It’s a little strange heading in to Call of Duty Advanced Warfare because I haven’t played a Call of Duty game in four years, my last being Black Ops. The series has come a long way in this, its first truly Next Gen outing. It hasn’t held back on its punches either by drafting big names like Kevin Spacey of American Beauty and House of Cards fame and Troy Baker of all video game voice fame (The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinite).

It’s weird because in a way, Call of Duty is almost a multiplayer game before it is a single player shooter. Sledgehammer Games have come on board along with Raven Software. If you don’t know, Raven have as much good pedigree as Sledgehammer, who created Dead Space and co-developed Modern Warfare 3. Raven have a wealth of awesome titles in their history including Hexen, Soldier of Fortune, Star Wars Jedi Knight 2/3 and Star Trek Voyager – Elite Force. The last game being not only an excellent shooter but quite possibly the best Star Trek game ever made. Just so you know who you’re dealing with.

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The comparisons between this game and Titanfall have been raging since its announcement and of course there are some. Respawn, who created Titanfall and were formerly Call of Duty developers, set themselves very squarely in a futuristic Mech-based vein and Advanced Warfare does at least one of these things and maybe riffs off others. In fairness to the game, that kind of thing is nothing that Halo 4 didn’t do before either of them, and the movement perks of the Exo Skeleton suit aren’t anything that isn’t in Destiny’s multiplayer. So as far as that goes, it’s one of those industry coincidences that happens from time to time. Like every game due for release in 2015 seems to have a monster called a “Kraken”… Trust me, you’ll notice that next year.

PC gamers might want to skip this paragraph. When it comes to the performance of Call of Duty, this game doesn’t disappoint, unlike Ghosts did before it. Everything is at 1080p on PS4 and an upscaled 1080p on the Xbox One. Don’t get grumpy yet. The game downscales as and when the quality is needed on the Xbox One (dynamic scaling) so the game holds a constant 60fps for the most part. The PS4 version does suffer occasionally with frame rate drops although to be honest these are not really that noticeable and are few and far between. So in theory, despite the resolution drops, this could be the first game on the Xbox One that outperforms the PS4. The game holds 60fps mostly though on both consoles, especially in the multiplayer, which is exactly what Call of Duty is known for and what the community has requested. So, job done in that sense, box ticked. The game is absolutely excellent though visually, as you’ll hear later with the work done on the actors. But there’s still something that makes everything feel a little blocky, a little sharp-edged maybe? It’s hard to describe and for the most part it excels in the graphical scrutiny but the city levels and the multiplayer at times feels a bit too angular compared to the complexion and work that is in other areas of the game.

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The campaign, in one regard, plays out like any Call of Duty game has since Modern Warfare – Massive set pieces in recognizable places with different types of military based gaming from tanks to boats, ground assaults, drone attacks and airplane dogfighting. In fact the story begins in an almost lawsuit-inducing similar way to Halo 3: ODST. Without spoiling anything, the story is as trite as an action military based plotline can be, and the series has still found a way –despite being set 50 years in the future – to bomb/assault Baghdad and jab at the North Korean’s with repelling an invasion of the South. Could have chosen anywhere in the world but no, still obsessed with modern Mesopotamia and introverted communist nations, aren’t we… I digress.

The thing is, regardless of whether or not you think the series is insensitive to any particular world view (regardless of the infamous “No Russian” mission), it has never pretended to be anything but fictitious entertainment in a terribly militaristic sense with a slight, possibly unintentional commentary on the state of the world at hand. Much like both versions of Red Dawn, except much better. Modern Warfare 2 had it with the grainy helicopter camera perspective of shooting white human outlines fleeing in a field in shots reminiscent of recent friendly fire footage. This game has it in its sense of accountability and bureaucratic freedom of private security and military forces, which if you’ve ever looked in to are a dangerous and scary proposition to the geopolitical conflicts at large. And, guess what, you’re part of one.

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No spoilers here, you should experience the game for yourself with its trips to Camp David, New Baghdad, Seoul and Greece, as well as the much-advertised San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge shootout. But in the other regard, the game comes in to its own with the care and attention taken in animating and voicing the two main characters. Troy Baker stars as Jack Mitchell, a Marine who’s prematurely ended career gets given a new lease of life under Kevin Spacey’s Jonathon Irons, and his corporation Atlas who develop military tech and are the worlds largest private security/military firm. The rest of the voice acting is as you’d expect in Call of Duty with Gideon Emery doing his best Jason Statham impression. But the two main names give some excellent performances, backed up by some incredible CGI animation of themselves both in cutscene and in-game sequences. Spacey’s performance is by no means the intense yet disturbingly compelling level that Frank Underwood is but as far as video games go this is a pretty big performance from a two-time Oscar and BAFTA winner and certainly some excellent casting. Both Baker and Spacey add a good bit of depth to a game which doesn’t really push the boat out in terms of narrative, but that’s not something you really care about in a Call of Duty game. You’re happy enough to just sit and be entertained, regardless of vaccum packed bodybags, terrorist threats and coordinated global destabilization that seem to be the go-to military plotlines in our post-24 gaming narratives.

The weapons for the most part seem well balanced, although at times the pistol, the Atlas 45, is completely gutless and other weapons, including a Minigun, seem to take an absolute age to kill people despite aiming for headshots. Possibly this is the trade off of futuristic armour, etc, that you can plough a guy with bullets from 6 feet away and still take 10 seconds to kill him. Despite being Advanced Warfare, nothing is too advanced to be outrageously fictional or space-age and everything – except a particular sniper rifle, EMP’s and interchangeable option grenades – aren’t that much out of the realms of your standard gun+bullet=shooting fare. It’s easy enough to get a grounding, get your preferred weapons and have at it. The little extra modifiers such as the bullet time-esque overdrive are cool to a point, and I do love using the Sonic noise option with the Exo suit and creating a mass of easy targets. But for the most part they only become usable in certain missions where they are designed to be used, like cloaking technology in a stealth mission. So your game style doesn’t really change or benefit from them. Which is a shame because, as you head to the end of the game, it would have been nice to actually benefit from these features rather than just use them like level-based perks. The biggest thing about the exo skeleton suit, the jumping and boost options are again only usable in certain missions so you don’t really get the full effect that you might have been hoping for in the single player campaign. But it has to be said that when you stealth kill some people with your grappling hook, especially when you rip a pilot out of mech suit and smash him face first into the ground, it is quite satisfying, despite the lack of times that you can do so.

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That’s where the multiplayer comes in to play. Super smooth gameplay, well designed maps, interesting gun gameplay and a fairly balanced leveling system which is easy to get up to an intermediate level. The game modes are well tested over years of Call of Duty multiplayer and their experience shows.   The exo skeleton in this mode is where it seems designed for. It allows you to jump farther, boost yourself around with relative ease and it feels perfectly balanced to the pace of the game. Most people I speak to say that Modern Warfare 2 was the height of the franchise’s multiplayer action and if that’s the case then this is just as good if not better. The Uplink mode, which is basically like Basketball or Halo’s Oddball/Headhunter game types, works incredibly well, especially with the elevated goal making use of the exo skeleton. This is certainly ticking all the boxes that the competitive gaming scene have asked for but it feels accessible enough that you can just jump in and have fun, not worrying about being smoked out by people who are already level 30+. At least that’s what it’s like at the moment. If you get used to playing then you’ll do well and for once, it seems like the games are balanced enough that it rewards someone who has a good game rather than people who camp and get cheap kills. At no point yet have I started screaming, “HACKS!” or “CHEATS!” or “Aren’t you aware there’s other games you could play or possibly read a book?” And at no point has my families gender or lifestyle been questioned or insulted in a triad of voice breaking abuse, so I’m happy.

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In all seriousness though, the multiplayer is a joy to play, and it’s not often I say that about a Call of Duty game. There isn’t the ridiculous kill perks that constantly wipe out the map every 40 seconds, or anything that really puts you out into a constant sprawl of death. Of course there are several times where you’ll have bad luck or a run of poor form but the game doesn’t make you feel put out or that you’re spefically at fault. It sounds weird but it’s enjoyable enough that you may have a bad game and you don’t immediately rage quit. It’s like the game sort of hugs you a little and says “never mind, give it another go.” The fact that matchmaking is rather quick and the performance in game is super smooth, definitely aids that decision to soldier on and get back to your fragging. Certainly, there are no launch server issues here. This means that even with a few hours play you can make some serious progress in your multiplayer gaming experience. There are several custom loadout options as you go through and unlock all the weapons and armour extras. There is a bit of avatar customization but it isn’t really that in depth, as in depth as you’d like anyway, but it’s a nice little touch in personalizing your online experience with different armour and hats (again something that has already been done quite well in the Halo games). All of the modes are there like capture the flag, deathmatch (both team and free-for-all), big team games, domination, objective destruction and a few modified playlists (like limited HUD and ranked play), with Zombies reportedly to return in DLC. Given that, as I remarked earlier, Call of Duty is almost a multiplayer game before it is a single player it is quite the improvement from previous years and a job well done.

The big question with this game and with the multiplayer specifically is whether the exo skeleton and the futuristic basis for the game really changes the Call of Duty franchise for the better. In one way, no because it is ultimately a plot point in the campaign that could have been any kind of technology and the multiplayer dynamics behind Call of duty Advanced Warfare are very good anyway, so much so that all it kind of provides is a jumping boost and opens a lot more of the maps up along with different combat tactics. In the other way it does because it really brings the franchise up to date with its competitors (Titanfall, Halo 4, Destiny) and has the benefit of seeing what they’ve done for the past three years and how to implement these new gaming styles in to their already well established and tested formula. In truth Call of Duty Advanced Warfare is the start of a new generation for the franchise that appears to have trimmed its last generation fat and stepped forward into a promising future. It doesn’t change too much but gives an entertaining package that you can rely on.

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[tab title=”Summary”]

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare benefits from a big overhaul in its multiplayer but to credit that purely on the exo skeleton would be unjust. The game feels generally a lot more balanced and whilst the suit is the selling point, it’s merely a vehicle for the rest of the fun the game has. The storyline is traditional Call of Duty fare despite the big name cast of Kevin Spacey and Troy Baker giving it some volume. This is a return to form for the franchise and feels like a well balanced and rewarding game and multiplayer, but it doesn’t jump out of anything that we kind of rely on with Call of Duty or push itself to really WOW us. A good, but comfortable effort.

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– Great visuals and performance

– Multiplayer mode is a vast improvement

– Exo Skeleton doesn’t make the game but certainly frees it up

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[tab title=”Bad Points”]

– It isn’t a huge reach from Call of Duty’s past

– Campaign story doesn’t push the boat out narratively

– Use of Exo skeleton in Campaign too restrained

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[tab title=”Why a 7.5?”]

This game is good. It is a return to form for the series and the exo skeleton does enough to revitalise some of the gameplay, but mostly revitalising the interest and the effort put in to the multiplayer mode as a whole. But, whilst visually stunning and with some good big name performances, it kind of sits comfortably on the Call of Duty mantle without pushing itself out to be the stand out game or completely wowing us. Definitely enjoyable and worth the 7.5 score but just misses on something higher due its lack of drive to really elevate the franchise up to the next level.

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This review is based on the PS4 version of the game

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[author]

MX vs ATV Supercross – Review

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If you read our preview of MX vs. ATV: Supercross back in July, you’ll know a bit of the history behind that franchise. But we’ll give you a little bit of a recap just in case. Nordic Games is one of the many people who snapped up some properties after the great collapse of THQ. One such thing they did was restart Rainbow Studios who have previously produced the other MX vs ATV games and got to work on producing something that the studio loved and did well.

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Which is why we are here now, tinkering around with the clutch cables on our Rainbow MX125 and tearing up a lot of dirt on the track. I’ve already made a pun before about this but when you think Supercross bikes in this country (UK) you do really think of a group of young men sat around their back gardens with oily clothes tinkering about before letting rip down your street in what sounds like a cross between a swarm of bees (bees?) and someone furiously trying to use a blender on unmelted chocolate. But in truth Supercross racing is the second most popular form of motorsport in the States, behind NASCAR apparently. Even bigger than IndyCar, Moto GP, Formula 1, etc. So whilst this may seem like a bit of a niche angle for us Brits, it may not be so much so over the water.

The easiest way to go about MX vs ATV Supercross is to look at it from the arcade angle. Now this game has been loving constructed by a studio who are a complete bunch of petrol heads, I know, I’ve met them. Their studio is next to a large expanse of desert which they regularly enjoy tearing around in so they know how the machines feel. Sadly of course you can’t really licence Honda and the likes who’s engines are used so a little bit of old school “name-everything-after-us” wording is in use throughout the game, making the two main constructers of vehicle either Nordic or Rainbow. But others are there. You’ll see Oakley sponsors, among other motocross sponsors which if you’re a fan you’ll recognise, as you tear around the well designed indoor dirt courses. And they are all really well laid out and a bit challenging lap upon lap. Even if you know them because they always evolve and the handling is so dependent on momentum, bumps and other course objects, that you’ll rarely take the same line twice. It evolves in a way that the course actually remembers the dirt imprints of every rider out there so you’ll get all the slides, mistakes and well ridden areas of the banked turns and jumps showing up on the track. This is one thing the game does excellent, the track deforming and changing over the course of a race.

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Sticking with the arcade angle, you jump straight in really without a tutorial. It’s up to you to get yourself up to speed. You can do this via the free ride mode which gives you a good handle on jumps and clutch control. The clutch control is effectively, in arcade terms, a power boost. You’ll have to get used to it but hitting the clutch ups the revs and launches you off which is great after you’ve slowed down from a corner or lost momentum after a jump. It’s a little tricky to get the hang of especially if you’re used to the pump-and-squirt type of throttle control most games have. But once you have got used to it, that’s where the challenge effectively ends. Pretty much everything that happens at this point, until you have to readjust yourself with the ATV’s, is in your direct control. If you muck up, it’s your fault. If you don’t win, it’s your fault. Basically, once you’ve mastered the clutch control the game becomes incredibly easy. A little bit too easy. The AI is fine, it isn’t entirely dumb, it doesn’t stick to the road like other racing games and it is in about as much control as you are when you bump, go off the track or someone lands on your prone head after you’ve come off. But the AI isn’t really much more than a collection of moving objects that are in your way, unless you turn it up to Pro (hardest setting) then you’ll be left in the dust. The ATV does make you readjust your riding at times and it is annoying how easy it is to lose control of it and effectively ruin your race but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy.

And that’s where the allure of the game sadly ends. Much like an arcade racer, you will have a good time unlocking the extras that you can customise your vehicle and rider with through the career modes different championships. Some which help the performance of said vehicle and some which are purely cosmetic both for bike and rider. But that runs out pretty quickly and whilst the tracks are fun, they all look fairly similar. You know that brown dirt track with boards around it and a few jumps in an arena, well that’s pretty much all of them. The tracks are set all across the United States but you wouldn’t know save for the cinematic in the menu screen that shows you some skyline of areas through the upper exposed parts of the arena which, if you’re on track, you wouldn’t otherwise see. The animations become very familiar as your rag doll like physics don’t really rag doll all that much. The jump and trick system is pretty basic but ultimately is entirely unimportant to the game and not really useful except for adding a bit more excitement in to your playing. There isn’t a lot more to the game except pick a bike, go and win, unlock some more. Ultimately that is exactly what this game says it is but you’d think maybe a few surprises might come your way.

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There are some local multiplayer modes and an online multiplayer mode. The online is a bit of a double edged sword though as it runs very well and quite smooth, with no noticeable drop in performance or lag spikes. However my testing of this was based on me and one other person playing. It’s not going to be the most populated multiplayer game on a weekday afternoon due to its niche nature. If you can get a group of people who have the game and all conspire to be on at the same time, it might be worth it. But for the short term it isn’t. And you might have difficulty doing that as well. The game is last-generation only (except for PC release). Which means that not only is it on the older consoles, you’d have to be a pretty dedicated fan to invest in it and go back to the old console for it.

If you’re that much of a fan you’ve probably got your own bike so a game probably isn’t that appealing. But on a positive note, Nordic and Rainbow know this and so you’ll find it priced quite nicely as it should be at around £25. Don’t get me wrong this is an entertaining game, especially for me as a fan of motor racing. And it’s far easier to handle and get to grips with than something like the Moto GP licensed series. But it’s something made by passionate people for this particular style of the sport, for people who are also passionate for it. It may be lost on me but it doesn’t give me enough to keep my interest peaked. Having said that, there’s a lot of good things in this game that if more accessible, fun and next-generation titles come our way there’s some good groundwork put in which just needs opening up a bit more for a wider audience.

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MX vs ATV: Supercross is a game that is well executed in a “does what it says on the tin” kind of way. It has a wide range of tracks and unlockable customisation options and is probably the most accessible non-arcade motorbike game I’ve played. However its learning curve and challenge quickly evaporate and unless your a fan, it leaves the fun in its dust.

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– Easy to pick up and play

– Good track evolution dynamics

– Gives you a good range of bikes and quad bikes to use and unlock for

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– A bit too niche for a wider audience

– Becomes too easy very quickly

– Not enough outside of the bikes/dirt tracks to keep it fun

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This is a well intentioned game and the MX vs ATV franchise is obviously in good hands. But it hasn’t really stretched the boat out to give it a good game and get a wider audience interested. The things that are done well in this game, like the track design and evolution, are great. Along with the beginning control challenge. But whilst the developers have done that well, there isn’t really anything else that has happened to make it more fun or exciting in the long run.

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This review is based on the PS3 version of the game

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