Archive for the ‘Written Reviews’ Category


(Originally posted to Manic Expression on 20/05/2015)

What happens when you combine ultra violence, an 80’s setting, a top down perspective and fast, fluent gameplay? Well a lot of things really, but also Hotline Miami.

Developed by Dannoton games, Hotline Miami was released in 2012 on pretty much everything except a Casio Calculator. The game was a hit, with a perfect blend of fast paced and challenging gameplay, a surreal plot and plenty of unlockables, it has a surprising amount of replay value. And when I say challenging I mean challenging this is balls to the wall difficult, but certain missions piss you off just enough that you cannot stop until you show the game who’s boss. If there’s one way to describe the tone (without mentioning the violence), it would be best described as looking like a fever dream, it’s disengaged from normality in most places and shocking in others.

It’s now 2015 and the hotly (see what I did there) anticipated sequel has hit the electronic shelves. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is once again developed by Dannoton game and is set both before and after the events of the first installment, but I can’t really say too much without giving away certain plot details. But that doesn’t mean I can’t at least tell you the setup… (in the present) it’s been roughly two years since “Jacket’s” killing spree, he has since been apprehended, facing trial but despite him seemingly destroying the Russian Mafia it has not improved the city’s fortunes, it has become seemingly desensitized to violence and has even led to the formation of a group of copycats or ‘Fans’ and even a film based off of “Jacket’s” exploits. However many characters are having dreams similar to that of “Jacket”, these even include the presence of ‘Richard’.

The plot itself revolves around roughly thirteen different characters as opposed to the original’s two, with varying backgrounds and personalities. For example in one mission you might be playing as detective Pardo and the next choosing between four members of the ‘Fans’, there are lots of surreal twists and turns and some genuinely shocking moments that I absolutely refuse to spoil.

The sequel still contains some great pixel art, which I will always personally find charming in any game (after all pixel art ages better that 3D polygons) along with an absolutely fantastic soundtrack. While the music in Hotline Miami is memorable, the tracks that have been included in Wrong Number are just brilliant. If the challenge (and subsequent frustration) doesn’t inspire you to push through, then the music certainly will. The cut-scenes are well written and seem paced just well enough, balancing between exposition and gameplay perfectly, allowing you to slowly piece together the puzzle of what caused the first games events and what is still steering the current installment.

But the real meat of the game is the gameplay itself. The original was known for blending extreme violence with fast-paced gameplay and nothing has changed, that is to say that while the game feels largely the same in its style, it has been tweaked and made all the more better for it, combat just feels more responsive and successfully going on a rampage and taking out every single person without dying still makes you feel incredibly badass.

While it looks as though there are weapons missing from this installment (there were a ridiculous amount to unlock in the first game) Wrong Number makes up for it by giving certain characters special abilities. Now while not all have these, the majority do, for example all four playable classes of the ‘Fans’ have unique skills. For instance Corey is able to roll and avoid gunfire, Tony is so freakishly strong that his punches alone will kill enemies (even the more ‘rotund’ enemies), Mark wields dueling SMG’s which allows him to arc his fire and finally there’s The Twins (Alex and Ash) who brandish a chainsaw and pistol respectively.

The levels have been slightly expanded upon as well; you no longer just traverse buildings and offices. There are various locals from the docks of Miami beach, warehouses and jungle encampments. This is both a positive and a negative, while it is refreshing to murder people in different locales, it can become tiresome having to restart because you were shot off-screen by a thousand different enemies. Speaking of irritating I still absolutely detest the larger enemies that can only be taken down with a firearm… even if I’m wielding a bloody machete.

Unfortunately (and I still refuse to spoil anything) all the good that Dannoton Games have done in regards to the story is ultimately undone with the weak and lazy ending. The majority of the varying plot threads are either snipped quickly without a real resolution or just left alone entirely. And for those that have already finished the game and examined the ending further, yes I do understand what they were trying to go for and yes I do understand what Richard represents and what his messages truly mean. But that doesn’t make the ending any less of an odd middle finger to anyone invested in the character presented to them. I personally felt that, while ballsy, it just didn’t quite work and after some of the particularly frustrating levels you’d think we’d be given something better.

Although even with the improved sound, refined gameplay and larger roster of characters the first installment will most likely be remembered far more fondly due to its minimalistic story, design and shorter levels.

However this game pretty much encompasses everything that a sequel should strive for, the gameplay is largely untouched and only received some polishing, the music and sound effects are better, the plot and characters within it are more fleshed out, there’s some variety in the form of these additional characters and the length itself is much larger than the original. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is a good sequel despite some flaws and is once again a perfect blend of ultra violence and action.

If you even remotely enjoyed Hotline Miami you owe it to yourself to get your hands on this.

Just take a trip down into insanity.

Go on.

Just try it.

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John Cena vs Seth Rollins vs Brock Lesnar – WWE World Heavyweight Title Triple Threat Match

IT WAS AMAZING.

30-Man over the top rope Royal Rumble

IT WAS SHIT.

To clarify it wasn’t so much the fact Daniel Bryan didn’t win and Roman Reigns did, it was more so to do with the way Bryan (and countless others) were treated in the match. It was a horribly booked and dull match, with no fluidity or real structure to it. Big Show and Kane were in the final four… in 2015.

– Matt

Lost in the Warp Pipe


Welcome back to Middle Earth month! I can’t believe we’re nearly three quarters of the way through it. Last week we took a look at the Two Towers and Return of the King games published by EA Games. Today we’ll be looking at something from the seventh generation of consoles. And that is an RPG created by Snowblind Games and published by Warner Bros. Interactive, that game is Lord of the Rings: War in the North!

War in the North (or WITN if you prefer initials) was released in the November of 2011 and was released on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. For years I’ve really wanted a good and solid RPG based on the lore of Middle Earth, now a couple of things out of the way: Yes I know LOTR Online was an MMO but there’s a difference between MMORPG’s and single player RPG’s. Besides LOTRO just felt like every other MMO of its time. And yes I know that there were a series of RPG’s based on the licence that were released on the PC but I’ve never played them and back in the day had no means to. So I’m classing this as the first proper RPG in the series that I’ve played. So the potential is definitely there already, an adventure game with RPG elements is almost certainly the correct direction to go with a Lord of the Rings game. Final Fantasy: The Third Age notwithstanding… 

war-in-the-north-party

so is it any good? Well…

Graphically it looks pretty decent with some of the character models in particular looking great, for instance the Fellowship of the Ring and all of the main players look really good, some of the other characters look a tad generic, however the three playable characters have some good detail individually. It should also be noted that you can customize your characters appearance by accessing the mirror inside the Prancing Pony. Unfortunately I found that the majority of the game environments looked muddy, bland and severely suffering from gun metal blegh colour that most games seems to have now. What’s really strange is that clearly the studio had the licence to use likenesses from the movies, which is evident with characters from said films. But a lot of the locations not only look nothing like their movie counterparts but are laid out completely different. It’s a strange decision and one I’ll be getting in into later. Now while some of the creature models may not be jaw dropping, their simplicity allows for lots of them on screen at once, leading to some challenging skirmishes. Essentially the important models look very good but the majority of side characters and locations can look pretty average.

The sound department isn’t really any better; actually I’d argue that it’s worse. Now obviously they couldn’t rope in any of the cast from the films, but that’s often the case with licenced video games isn’t it? So what’s the next logical step? They get voice actors capable of sounding like the original cast right? Right? Tell ‘em Lex

lex-luthor-wrong

I’m not kidding that some of these are amazing, in an embarrassing and shameful way.

Aragorn: Not only does he sound nothing like Viggo Mortensen but if anything he sounds like he’s in his early 20’s.

Bilbo: Haha no.

Gimli: That’s just a generic Scottish accent.

Legolas: This isn’t a horrible voice, but again it doesn’t sound remotely like Orlando Bloom.

Gandalf: This one is actually pretty good, in fact the actor (Tom Kane) has portrayed Gandalf three times prior to this. His first performance coming from Surreal Games’ The Fellowship of the Ring.

Elrond: Now this is maybe the funniest, as a friend of mine once said he’s got the speech patterns of Hugo Weaving down to a T, except he forgot to actually sound like Hugo Weaving.

And while some could argue it’s not strictly based off of the films but even if that was the case, why on earth would you use the character likenesses, you can’t have one or the other. The video below perfects represents this.

Besides that the voice acting isn’t too bad, the main characters sound fine, despite Eradan who sounds more like a Ranger from North America. Unfortunately they’re going to start annoying you very very quickly particularly the aforementioned Eradan. In most games of this genre the playable characters spout some kind of war cry or one liner when defeating/fighting enemies, typically there are plenty of them so that they don’t begin grating… Well Snowblind obviously didn’t write enough, because I swear to god I heard either “You face a Ranger now!” and “You face a Dunedain!” at least a hundred times. Sure it might not sound too irritating to you now, but let’s see how you feel after you’ve experienced it. This might not be as bad as I’m making it out to be, but it just feels like Eradan spouts this crap far too often. And then there’s the music, like I’ve already said since they’ve clearly purchased the rights for the licence along with the likeness of the films (even the LOTR title font is the same) you’d think maybe the game would contain some of the, brilliant, works of Howard Shore wouldn’t you? The only music we have is unfortunately very very forgettable.

war-in-the-north-rivendell

While the characters look like their movie counterparts, the settings definitely don’t.

But none of that really matters if the gameplay is good right? Yes that’s true, and thankfully the game actually plays pretty well for the most part. It feels responsive and combat, while very simplistic, is fun and satisfying. Look simplicity isn’t always a terrible thing; we don’t always need crazy combos in games such as the Devil May Cry and God of War series. The combinations the game gives to you, do a decent job for the most part. Now this is an RPG so when slaying enemies and completing quests you are rewarded experience, once you level up you are given a certain amount of skill points to distribute across three different skill trees, it’s the usual stuff. All three characters have varying skills dependent on their class.you do the job while never overcomplicating things.

Each character (similar to the EA published Games) has a close range and long range weapon.

  • Eradan (being a Ranger) wields a longbow
  • Farin uses a crossbow
  • And Andriel can use her staff to fire projectiles. (Just accept it, it’s easier this way)
war-in-the-north-combat

Thankfully combat is fun and simplistic.

Now while it’s nice to have long ranged weapons it takes a ridiculous amount of arrows to slay pretty much any foe. Orcs can sometimes take dozens of arrows TO THE FACE. Now while you can acquire better projectile weapons via both loot and questing, they still eventually end up feeling very weak. Even if you gain a new longbow, it may dispatch enemies within a couple of hits initially, but give it 3-4 levels later and that won’t be the case any more. Along with character exclusive long ranged weapons there are also ballista’s scattered around the world… which act similar to gun turret sections in most FPS and Third Person action games. While this is unbelievably silly, the game makes up for the fact that it both kills enemies with ease and is absolutely AWESOME!

Close quarter’s weaponry consists of what you’d expect, one and two handed swords, axes, shields etc. The usual fantasy equipment really. Although not every character can use every weapon, for instance Andriel the… *sigh*… sorcerer cannot equip shields or two handed weapons.

The world of Middle Earth has a good amount of enemies to choose from, be it Orcs, Goblins, Easterlings, Giant Spiders, Barrow-wights, Uruk-hai and other things that are in the dark, waiting to come out. But Snowblind clearly have a favourite… Cave Trolls, I’m surprised they didn’t rename it to Lord of the Trolls: War of the Trolls: Hooray for Trolls. Why? Well maybe because once they’re introduced, every other fight seems to be against cave trolls… so… many cave trolls. Even when you’re in the god damn Barrow-Downs you fight undead Trolls.

war-in-the-north-troll

TROLLS EVERYWHERE. TROLLS IN THE MOUNTAIN TOPS, TROLLS IN MIRKWOOD, TROLLS TROLLS TROLLS!

Can’t think of a way to make the game challenging? ADD MORE TROLLS!

You think you fight a giant Spider in Mirkwood as an area miniboss? WRONG! TROLL FIGHT! I’m not joking, you come across a Cave Troll feasting on Spider eggs…Mirkwood Spider Eggs. Let that sink in. And it wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t take so bloody long to kill. Any fight with a Cave Troll is going to be long, boring and tedious. But it gets worse that fight with the Troll in the Spider Cave; it contains a game breaking bug.

Basically you cannot progress onwards without first defeating the Troll (aren’t invisible walls fun?), but there’s an issue. Sometimes, and this has happened to me both on the PS3 and PC versions, the Troll does not spawn meaning you cannot leave the cave. “Well!” you might interrupt rudely “why don’t you just leave the area and come back? Why don’t you just fast travel?” That’s a good point, well here’s the thing, to enter the battle arena you first have to drop down from a ledge, a ledge that you cannot climb back up because programming climbing mechanics is ‘hard’=TOO MUCH EFFORT. Your other method is still valid, except that you cannot fast travel from this location. So just imagine this happening for the first time, you drop down from that ledge and you are unable to leave via the CLEAR OPEN EXIT due to an invisible wall, there is nothing to fight in the room no monsters, nothing. Then you realise you cannot climb back up the ledge, you’re trapped so you do what everyone else does, you google the problem and discover that you are meant to battle Troll number 1,000,075…and then something worse happens… an element of dread begins to build, it grows larger and larger as one question is appears in your mind “When did I last save the game? Was there a checkpoint before or after I dropped down?” Then dread turns to panic as you notice you last saved over an hour ago. You reload the checkpoint and the troll still isn’t there… panic turns to rage as you resist the urge to hurl the game disc (or PC) out of the window.

war-in-the-north-troll2

Trolls are the biggest obstacle in the entire bloody game.

Now I haven’t even touched on the story yet. That’s because the story itself is unbelievably dull and generic, your fellowship is tasked with battling against Suaron’s Lieutenant from the North: Agandaur, who is essentially generic villain number: 25.  Your group is made up of three people:

  • Eradan the Ranger
  • Farin the Dwarven Fighter
  • And Andriel the Elven Sorceress

This bugged the crap out of me.

What’s the problem with this? Well in the books it’s a big deal that a human, dwarf and elf are travelling together, hell it’s a surprise to everyone they haven’t killed one another yet. Especially Legolas and Gimli. These two races don’t particularly get on, and if anything hate each other. So you can see why it’s a big deal, never before had there been a company such as this, in Middle Earth.

But no in this there’s an elf, a dwarf and a human because we ‘need’ to have them and we need a three person group like the books and films.

Now while you do visit certain locations from the trilogy (even interacting with characters from the book/film) and members of the fellowship, you won’t take part in any of the set pieces or battles from the source material, afterall this is the part of the War within the Northern area of Middle Earth, and this is perfectly fine. Additionally you will also interact with characters not seen in the films such as Elrond’s twin children Elladan and Elrohir, Radagast the Brown who is thankfully nothing like his movie counterpart and you even get to meet up with some other Rangers from the North which is admittedly nice, thankfully there is no site of Tom-sodding-Bombadil.

war-in-the-north-radagast

The game presents a better adaptation of Radagast.

Also –and I know you’ll try it- you cannot take the ring and you cannot join the fellowship at any time. You can ask during conversations with NPC’s but they will always turn you away with some excuse.

This nicely brings us along to the dialogue system. Ever played Mass Effect? Well you’ll be right at home here as it’s almost identical in its design and layout and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a similar radial style menu that allows you to choose which response you wish to give an NPC, in certain situations you can give either a calm, normal or aggressive response. From experience it never seemed to really affect the game in anyway, unlike Mass Effect or Alpha Protocol, but I guess it can help you get into your character role a little more if you’re in to that. Some characters can have quite a lot to say but while most of it never really feels all that important, it does help to flesh out the world and the characters within it.

Now I want to quickly discuss the PC version, I won’t go into too much detail as it really is the exact same game (big shock huh?) but if you’re going to pick a version and you have a machine capable of running it, I would recommend the PC version a million times over. Not only is it at a decent price on Steam it’s also incredibly well optimised. It far outshines its console counterparts in the graphical department and the frame rate is perfect, even with everything set to medium it looks great. The constant clicking of the right mouse button might turn some away, but if you have a wired 360 controller you should be able to calibrate the game to it.

The PC version looks and plays much better.

So that’s War in the North, it’s very very flawed and I can only recommend it to hardcore fans of the series but even then you’ll have to try very hard to stick at it. It took me three attempts to finish the game, not because it’s difficult but because it just runs out of ideas and just feels generic and dull around the halfway point. If you want a fantastic Middle Earth set adventure/RPG you have to play Shadow of Mordor, it’s a brilliant experience albeit with an anti-climactic and rushed ending, but the gameplay within is top notch. Along with Alien: Isolation it has proven that, in the right hands, licensed games can turn out to be brilliantl. However if you have already played and finished Shadow of Mordor and are still desperate for a Middle Earth experience, pick up the Steam version of War in the North, go in with low expectations and you might not be disappointed.

Well we’re coming up to the final week of Middle Earth Month, next week we’ll be taking a look at a game that’s… not particularly good.

question-mark

I think most of you already know what it is…

See you next week,

-Matt

Lost in the Warp Pipe


Hey I didn’t realise the Gears of War 3 demo was already out? Oh wait no it’s just Quantum Theory.

That’s what I thought the moment this game started: “Wow….it’s a Gears rip off” and from the demo, it’s not a very good one. Now before you jump the gun, I’m not calling it a rip off only because it’s a cover-based shooter, but it’s just the overall art style. It LOOKS like a cheap Gears of War knock off, hell even the cover icons look similar.

Quantum of War? No wait it’s Gears of Theory! No no it’s just Quantum Theory.

Anyway with that aside is the gameplay good? No it really isn’t, the controls feel clunky, cover doesn’t seem to really work all that well and the graphics are just an ugly mesh.  There’s also this strange thing with enemies, most of the times you land a hit on them they fly backwards. This is mainly a problem when you’re trying to kill an enemy quickly (since shit is flying at you constantly).

Then there’s this combo system, which seemed promising, whereupon you literally throw your sidekick (or she’s his enemy…or not…then is) at the enemy where she will then smack them in the chops with her sword. Now this sounds like a decent idea on paper, you hold down the L2 button to initiate it. Now I thought that I would then be able to aim at a target and launch her at an enemy, buuut this wasn’t the case for me. Plus I have to stand there like a moron while she flies through the air….and usually get riddled with bullets…or lasers or whatever!

Wow that looks cool! Reality on the other hand can be a bitch.

Now I know that I haven’t spoken about the storyline accompanying Quantum Theory, but to be perfectly honest I had no idea what was going on. It usually doesn’t help when the background music is playing louder than the characters narration, I couldn’t hear anything he was saying… It probably doesn’t help when the main character has the stereotyped gruff, deep voice. You know, because it wasn’t enough like Gears of War.

Seriously if this game is actually a parody of the genre that it’s a fucking work of genius! If it IS trying to be serious then it will probably fly so far under the radar no one will ever know it was released.

Soldier: “Oh god it’s the reject from team Alpha, Meaty McMusclearms!”

Hell I’m probably being pretty darn harsh. Most of my complaints with the controls and such will hopefully be tweaked by the time it get’s released. But remember, there are much better games in the genre on both the 360 and PS3! You have been warned!


After the pile of vomit that was last weeks episode, I had absolutely ZERO faith in the latest installment.

Perhaps that was the right mindset to be in? Because, as shocking as this may be, this episode was pretty good! I know, shocking huh?

Shock strikes!!

Now the only ‘main’ plot here is the creation of the Professors mind switching machine, what follows are some genuinely funny scenes and what may be the best episode of this series, but I’ll get into that in a bit.

If this episode is reminiscent of any other Futurama episode it would be Season 5’s “Three Hundred Big Boys” in the sense of many subplots created from the main plot of the episode.

The episode mainly revolved around each member of the planet express crew trading bodies with each other (or in benders case) people outside of the company. What could have turned into a confusing ‘who’s who’ was instead handled in a good and basic fashion.

Now I don’t want to go into to much detail on each subplot, otherwise I’ll be going on for far to long.  So I’m going to simply list them:

Professor Farnsworth wants to be a daredevil

Amy wants to be able to eat ALOT

Bender wants to steal the Hungarian-Robot Emperor Crown

Fry and Leela wanted to prove to the other that they found them attractive no matter what

Zoidberd wants a friend

The Hungarian-Robot Emperor wants to be common

Hermes wants to get Leela thin (after Amy fattens her body

It’s like a Subplot sandwich!

MMMM Subplot Sandwich!

Now this isn’t really much of a subplot, but in an amusing twist the Bucket droid’s mind is switched with Amys body. This leads the Bucket droid to finally admit to Scruffy that “I have always loved you” which was…pretty unexpected, in a good way fo course!

Unfortunately for the Bucket droid Scruffy tells her (or it) that they shouldn’t do this and asks her to leave! Poor Scruff, will he ever find love?

Will you ever find love Scruffy?

As I said earlier there were some genuinely funny moments, one which stands out would be Fry and Leela making out in a restaurant. Doesn’t sound funny? How about if you picture them in the bodies of Zoidberg and Farnsworth, rolling around on a table. Disturbing isn’t it?

Anyway like I said, I enjoyed this one and I’m REALLY shocked to be admitting this. If anything I would say give this one a go, it’s pretty good and certainly gives hope that the rest of the series could be good….but  doubt it!


Another week, another episode of Season 6 of Futurama. The people who know me, know my views on the new series of Futurama.

IT’S SHIT

Now for the record I LOVE the original 5 Seasons of Futurama. But guys…this Season…it’s not good. And that’s hard for me to say, there have just been too many problems with this Season. For starters how’s this for a joke: Leela has a boil on her arse cheek that can sing, so guess what she called it! Susan of course! Because then her name is Susan BOIL get it? I’d expect that from a 12-year-old.

Really??

For those of you who haven’t seen the films, Fry and Leela are now together, but there’s a major problem concerning that in this series. Now I don’t know if this is just poor writing or what but at times it seems as though they forget they’re an item. For instance last weeks episode. The Planet Express crew decide to go to a nightclub, Leela says to Nibbler and I quote: “I may not have a man but at least I have you”…..LAST WEEK THEY WERE KISSING AND EXPRESSING THEIR LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER….how do you fuck that up?! I just want some consistency guys.

So are they still together or what?

So what was episode 9 like?

Well, it was perhaps one of the worst yet. It was just plain boring plus the subplot between Zoidberg and Cubbert never really got anywhere.

To its credit the episode did get straight into the plot (that’s not saying much folks). I will say one good thing, the Flying Spaghetti Monster makes an amusing appearance. Sadly no Raptor Jesus

All hail the mighty Raptor Jesus

This episode involved the theory of Evolution and people dismissing it blah blah blah!

Just like episode 7 the entirety of the plot was as predictable as a wrestling match….after you’ve already seen it! As soon as Bender mentions “robot evolution” it’s obvious to anyone not suffering from brain damage that this will in fact take place at some point.

So good ol’ Professor Farnsworth get’s angry that someone disproves some boring, non-amusing, theory and in turn sulks away to a unknown planet.

While purifying a small lake with nanobots, Farnsworth discovers they are evolving rapidly. In fact within 24 hours there are metallic tree’s, robot loch ness monsters and dinosaurs. Now these become extinct when an electromagnetic comet type thing blows and they all die. Get it?

So every 24 hours they evolve some more, there are more lame jokes. Until the robot’s have evolved to human like intelligence whereupon we get a recreation of a scene involving Farnsworth about evolution.

So the robots evolve again into bodiless entities who dribble some bollocks and fly away. The Planet Express crew then leave and that’s pretty much it.

So another week another terrible episode of Futurama, like South Park I think this series has run its course. I can only hope that they finally end it after this Season so that the name is not tarnished any further.

Fuck this Season.