Shadow Warrior – Preview

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Shadow Warrior may be recognisable to those of you with longer memories as a PC title from the brains behind Duke Nukem 3D. It may also be recognisable to those of you who have shorter memories and remember a reboot of the game that came out on PC last year. Well this year it’s getting the console treatment and the next-generation will not be spared the violently comical franchises it so richly deserves.

Let’s be completely honest, Duke Nukem’s modern reboot (the long laboured and best forgotten Duke Nukem Forever) was a complete bust. Long loading times, some substandard gameplay, fairly poor graphics and humour that was so purile, it was like watching your very well hidden child home videos with your fiancee whilst your parents and her chortle with glee at your hilarious pre-pubescent self, while you sit and cringe waiting for it to be over. Shadow Warrior had the potential to be in the same boat.

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I say had as, given that the game has already been out for a year, you probably know quite a bit already. But in regards to the next generation consoles, it does benefit from some excellent vibrant graphics and a control system that very ably substitutes its WASD origins for a controller. In fact I was very impressed with the graphics. Games like this, a first person shooter/slasher, can suffer with ports and reboots by being to attached to their roots. This gives them a very repetitive and bland beige colour palette to work with and in the case of Shadow Warrior, this could have been the case given the original game’s closeness to Duke 3D. Thankfully though, its roots seem to be left purely in the basics of the game.

There is something that I adore about oriental gardens, architecture and the kind of mansions and areas that you see mostly in old Jet Li movies. The vibrant colours of the flowers and trees that mix brilliantly with the wood of the buildings and the Koi ponds that, while cliche, put you in the atmosphere. That is something that Shadow Warriors does very well. It gives you a nice sense of aesthetic grounding before the chaos and comedy begins. Lo Wang is every B-movie’s best character moulded in to one. A cocksure young warrior/assassin with talent but also an ego that would see him diva his way out of a Simon Cowell X-Factor winners contract and in to rehab. The slicing, shooting and general ass kicking comes with occasional one liners and observations that thankfully don’t make you cringe like it’s forbearers roots. It leads itself away from the older siblings blatant lampooning of action tropes and gives itself its own story.

A story that sees you at the centre of a battle for an old sword between your boss and a business man that leads to you allowing a fiery demon to jump on board and help you slay many weird demonic abominations coming your way. The Kill Bill-esque nature of the absurdity of the violence and the situation has always fitted quite well with video games and with what we played already, it certainly fits the console too. One thing we’ve never got right on consoles, and I’m sure most PC games haven’t either, is the ability to wield a sword and slash the living crap out of everything in sight and give a decent game at the same time. Redsteel possibly came closest in recent years but was devoid of anything involving fun. And that’s the key to a game like this, you need to have fun.

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And fun we had. We actually did, for a time where you don’t know what to expect, given the nature of recent 3D Realms reboots, we actually have a fun game that doesn’t take itself seriously but has enough work on the mechanics of the game and the control system for it to be good fun. Especially given its graphic violence. In honesty, my enjoyment of this could be a short term thing, but it will be fun while it lasts. And that interest in revitalising old FPS franchises seems to be a big thing at the moment, especially given the success of the newest Wolfenstein game. Those gameplay mechanics -look for a key card, kill all the things, find the way to do it that you enjoy the most – seems to appeal to me as an older gamer who’s a little bit tired of the modern style of levelling everything up and unlocking every single camo pack imaginable. There are cool collectibles to find along the way and a nice part of the control system is easily being able to change weapons and upgrade your abilities with money also found in the game, which manifest themselves in tattoos, which is a nice touch. There’s even weapons in a pre order version from Serious Sam and Hotline Miami, given that this is being released by publisher Devolver Digital. I’m looking forward to the arena mode where wave upon wave of things will come to kill you. That will be bloody, good fun.

The original game, along with this game, is nowhere near a viable representation of Eastern lore or story. In fact the original was heavily criticised. And if you’re looking for a new atmospheric dark Tenchu style game to sink in to, this isn’t it. But it is a good way to spend a weekend. Given the success of the recent revamps, Duke Nukem Forever not withstanding, these games seem to be bringing a simple and less involved sense of fun to the FPS genre. I hope that one day another offshoot of the 3D Realms engine, Redneck Rampage, will come back for more. For now though, work out a weekend you can put aside this October, go and get some Ashai’s ready, order some takeout and be ready for a slashing good time.

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How I Survived The Steam Summer Sale On A Mac

… I didn’t

So in case you didn’t know, I don’t have a PC. Well I have a PC I can use but I am an iMac user. In fact my decision to go to Apple computers was partly because I get too distracted by gaming on a PC to be productive. So how exactly did I manage to succumb to the wallet emptying frenzy of the Steam summer sale?

Well indie gaming played a big part of that. There are also some games that I have in preparation for them to come to Mac. But Steams support of the platform is growing very quickly. So here’s a quick list of what I managed to buy during the sale and a tiny bit before it too.


 

  • the walking dead 203 2Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent
  • Counter-Strike (including source, GO, etc)
  • Endless Space
  • Goat Simulator
  • Kill Fun Yeah (gifted)
  • candles amnesia 1Noir Syndrome
  • Octodad: Dadliest Catch
  • Pixel Piracy
  • Super Meat Boy
  • Tomb Raider
  • The Walking Dead
  • goat simulator trailerThe Walking Dead: Season Two
  • The Witcher: Enhanced Edition
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced

 

For a platform that doesn’t have a lot of gaming, I think that’s a very good haul. Tomb Raider is the only disappointment because I need OSX Mavericks to run it and I really don’t want to upgrade yet. But it was £2? And it stopped me getting the enhanced PS4 edition so I’m ok with that.

But, there were a few PC stragglers that I got too, partly because I’m sure they will come on Mac at some point. Those were Alan Wake/Alan Wake’s American Nightmare and Banished.

So despite having a non-gaming machine I still managed to get eighteen games. EIGHTEEN! If I had a PC you can imagine that I would have gone hambone on the finances.

The steam summer sale every year is met with fear and trepidation for ones financial wellbeing. Let’s be honest as well, the next generation of gaming is unlikely to fully hit us for another three months, maybe longer? So it makes sense to buy a heap load of games that I don’t actually have time to play.

the walking dead season 2 4The Black Friday-esque hysteria that gamers go through every time this happens is great. You can almost feel the shame dripping from the Facebook posts, Twitter updates and the like, of people who have realised they have a problem… I have a problem.

In all honesty I came in to the sale like a fully researched shopper. I wanted three of the games I actually purchased. Only three. Those were The Walking Dead games and Goat Simulator. Because the latter was finally Mac ready and the formers, well I don’t need an excuse to get those.

But I do find it interesting that I’m still buying games that I kind of had no intention of playing just because they looked okay and were at a decent price. A friend of mine text me saying he’d always wanted to play The Witcher because it looked interesting. I now own two of them. Endless Space was a nice looking game in the screenshots and the trailer, so I got it. Super Meat Boy was fun to watch and I imagine immensely frustrating to play. Pixel Piracy may have some sea legs behind it and Octodad has eight of those sea legs.

So looking back… I’ve mugged myself off quite successfully really and that is fantastic for gaming. I might have spent about £35-£45 all in all but I got a lot out of it, despite being a Mac gamer and arguably I got very good games out of it.

tomb raider 2Which is why it is sad that my best and favorite sale purchase didn’t come from Steam but from Xbox Live over the same period. That was Sonic Generations. What an excellently fun game that is!

The thing is with gaming, I find myself looking at co-op games more and more now, especially as more of my friends are separated by distance and family commitments that remote gaming is far more important and we still want to share the joy of a game. I don’t mean the kill all the noobs sharing but the working together sharing. And the increase of games on the Mac and the Steam sale combined really does start to link my PC playing friends and me closer together.

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All I need now is for GOG to hurry up and make the Rollercoaster Tycoon and Heroes of Might and Magic series available for Mac and I’m sorted.

[author]

GRID Autosport – Preview

grid autosport feat

It’s time to don those fireproof overalls again, strap on your helmet and delve in to the wonderful world of club competition racing.

GRID Autosport sits in a very weird place as far as Codemasters previous games have been positioned. GRID Autosport is the culmination of about 12 months worth of community feedback over GRID 2 which, despite the reviews and depth, wasn’t exactly what the loyal and passionate fans were after. And so, the decision was made to appease these fans and create a new game for the existing generation to try and set the balance.

I got to have a good go on the game’s last preview build and straight away saw marked differences. In fact I’d go so far as to say they’ve completely trimmed the fat to almost modernism when it comes to the presentation of the menus and XP breakdowns. You could argue that the game has seriously channeled GRID: Race Driver more than anything, but in honesty, it’s taken it a step further.

grid autosport preview 1Gone are the team decisions and the choices of rewards and livery. You are a lone driver now and you sign season contracts from already existing teams. No longer are you building your own team dynasty. As such you don’t have to make calls on reward targets from sponsors or customise the livery to give the big money guys the bigger spaces on the car. No, this game is purely about the racing and as such takes away anything that could distract you from that.

The racing is split in to five different classes: Touring Car, Endurance, Open Wheel, Tuned and Street. Gone are the various different competition invites and more arcade style game modes from GRID 2. This is all about the team racing and getting your own XP level up enough to get better and bigger contracts. No money, just XP.

The racing itself hasn’t changed much, if at all, from GRID 2. It’s been tidied up for the lesser car/track options and therefore polished a bit further, but is essentially what you get from the previous two games. The EGO engine looks as lovely as ever and still manages to impress me, even with the last generation technology it’s performing on. The car models are great, the tracks and lighting are wonderful (I even got slightly blinded in the Formula C car as the hot track reflected the sun into my eyes), and the cockpit/in car view has returned.

Slight warning: this isn’t the full release version that I played although it is as close as possible to it. The cockpit view disappointed me greatly. Not the level or the view of the track. That was fantastic but there was a very low level of detail in the car. It was very blurred, with zero mirror accessibility and it looked incomplete. Moving the camera view left and right defaults to the side car views. I just hope that the issue was that it wasn’t complete otherwise I fear the people who campaigned for its reinstatement will be rather aggrieved at the results.

Bare minimum is kind of how the game feels at times, but in a very positive way. I mentioned that it’s trimmed the fat and what I mean is that it’s lost a couple of stylistic stone to become much simpler and open about what it is: A racing game. Which is why the AI annoyed me a bit. Medium is far too easy, as is normal for me on a Codemasters game. Hard is a bit more challenging but AI cars are still too slow in the corners, not able to control the torque their cars have and as such take racing lines that are better suited for finding an escape road than an apex. It’s a problem that really gets on your nerves a bit more when you’ve made an effort on Hard to properly set up the car.

grid autosport preview 3I did one race meeting, which is the same track twice (think GP2), with different setups in the Formula C open wheel and using the overhead camera shot (interestingly, the cockpit graphics looked better from this view than the drivers view so here’s hoping it’s just not finished yet). The first race I set myself up to be oversteer heavy and in a car that wants to whip itself into a donutting frenzy as soon as you squeeze the juice, it was tricky but manageable. I finished 5th thanks to a last corner tank slapper. The second race I optimised my setup to combat such oversteer and torque and get better cornering grip/speed. I finished third, I had an occasional wobbly moment but the biggest problem in that was how noticeably bad the AI cars were at taking these corners in the cars.

Hopefully these are all things that have been finessed out by the time we get our hands on the game proper next week. Or that is easily curable with a quick patch. AI has always been a tricky thing in the Codemasters games (ask anyone who’s played the F1 series – we love it but damn does that brake testing frustrate us sometimes). One thing they have done is taken the game back to its core components that made it fun, shed the fluff and come out with a decent all-access racing game with technology that they are now super comfortable with.

For the next generation people out there, there’s no news on a PS4/Xbox One version of GRID Autosport but Codemasters have been very honest about only releasing a game on the new systems when they feel they are ready to produce something of outstanding quality. From the feel of it, GRID Autosport will certainly take up some time while we wait and won’t beat around the bush either.

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GRID Autosport is out Friday 27th June on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. Check back on TheGameJar, Facebook or Twitter for further news and reviews.

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Screenshots

grid autosport screen 1 grid autosport screen 2 grid autosport screen 3 grid autosport screen 4 grid autosport screen 5 grid autosport screen 6 grid autosport screen 7 grid autosport screen 8 grid autosport screen 9 grid autosport screen 10 grid autosport screen 11 grid autosport screen 12 grid autosport screen 13 grid autosport screen 14 grid autosport screen 15

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[author]

Missing The Obvious: The Next Decent Star Trek Game

The fall of Star Trek in video games is nothing new, although it isn’t really documented properly. What do I mean by that? Well, every time you see a Star Trek game released, or mentioned, budding journalists – who are all my age and have very fond memories of getting in from school and watching The Next Generation and Deep Space 9 on TV, but thankfully were too busy to pay any attention to Enterprise – lament the lack of a decent game to play.

However, journalists and fans, I test you. Do you actually recall the name of the last decent game? Do you even get to look past the fan-boy nostalgia and remember an enjoyable experience playing one? Because I don’t! Let me list for you the last Star Trek games I recall that were actually good.

  • Starfleet Academy (PC)
  • Bridge Commander (PC)
  • Elite Force (PC… Yes I know it was console ported but it was PC)
  • Judgement Rites (PC)

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star trek science phaser

You see where I’m going with this. Sorry, consoles, but you’ve sucked at producing good original Star Trek games. Does anyone remember Invasion? No. Legacy? Maybe, because it was recent-ish. But the two most recent games (a non-tie-in-movie-tie-in and a MMORPG/DOGFIGHTING game) are mostly PC based as well. You can find Anthony’s review of Star Trek here if you need a reminder. I’d certainly argue that there hasn’t been a great amount of Star Trek games that go above an “OK” rating. Probably the two Elite Force games mostly and maybe Klingon Honour Guard.

So your point is, Sean, that Star Trek games have failed because the good ones are only on PC? No. Star Trek games have failed because there is a very limited scope of people that play them, enjoy them and who are ultimately unhappy at the quality so much they tend to not impart their money for them. It’s not just Star Trek but Star Wars and most other space based games.

Arguably, Kerbal Space Program and Eve Online are the most popular and successful space-science-fiction based games at the moment. And the latter being kept that way due to a fanatical community who subscribe to play it. But you wouldn’t say that either are popular in the mainstream sense and therefore in the big AAA console game world, they are unlikely to gross large amounts.

The last Star Wars game that was incredibly successful on console was probably Lego based. Something that the original ten Star Trek Movies would actually really benefit from. Which is why we are missing the obvious. We aren’t looking for the right Star Trek game! Let’s face it, in this world of Call of Battlefield, Forza Tourismo and independent gaming, there isn’t a lot of room for the dogfighting/FPS/RPG stylings that Trek and Wars could do excellently.Lego-Star-Wars-02 Purely because for the longevity of their intellectual properties, they really haven’t produced anything new in ten years. I know the new Star Trek movies have come and new Star Wars are coming and that the Clone Wars was a big hit. But they weren’t really new, were they? They were still that enjoyable science-fiction romp you enjoyed in your pre-pubescent years. Not exactly the core gaming audience nowadays.

So I do see journalists, bloggers and observers remark how they’ve lamented a decent Star Trek game, or that the closure of Lucasarts has left a void of classic space gaming like the X-Wing series (more on that next month) that no one can or has yet filled. But I ask you, given the hammy-ness and nostalgia that Trek has now especially, could you do worse than a two/three part Lego series of games? The Original six movies, the four Next Generation era movies and maybe a nod to the five television series it graced us with for nearly 40 years? No. No you couldn’t.

You want to know the obvious thing everyone is missing here?

A cinematic with a Lego Kirk shaking in anger to a point where he screams “KAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHNNNNNNN” and spontaneously falls apart. I’ve already pre-ordered that game in my mind.

Oh and if you think I’ve criminally missed Mass Effect, you’re right, I have. But for good reason, which you will read soon.

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