Friday, 31 October 2008

Review: Fable2


I bought Fable 2 last Friday. I have been looking forward to it for a while now and I was especially excited about the online multi player features that had been added. 

What I have seen so far has been rather fun even though it is a little bit slow paced. My only other complaints about the game are that the camera angle in multi player is sometimes restrictive as both players see through the same camera at all times. This is understandable for Fable 2 also supports local multi player in which this camera avoids a horrible split screen setup however it makes aiming ranged weapons very hard and means the two players have to remain very close to each other. Having to remain so close to your ally means that often you are unable to reach a foe with your melee weapons as your ally is to far away from you. This forces you to change your combat strategy to stick very close to each other. My only other complaint is that there are a huge number of bugs, some minor such as small graphical glitches and some quite severe like the wheel of misfortune becoming unusable as it becomes imposable to select some NPCs becoming completely unresponsive and standing in one spot for the remainder of the game. Unfortunately this happened to my character's son making later parts of the game quite hard as I am unable to interact with him making it imposable to improve my relationship with him!

However problems aside Fable 2 is a huge game and is worth playing whatever genre you normally enjoy as it contains a little bit of several genres including shooter and action and even tycoon style management wrapped up into a solid RPG. There is an epic storyline, a large number of optional side quests and a number of activities such as jobs, interacting with your family (if you choose to have one) and other NPCs and my personal favourite, buying any property you see! There are also a large number of choices you can make throughout the game which affect your character's disposition, corruption and even appearance and unlike many other games in this genre I genuinely felt guilty when I chose not to feed a prisoner who was begging me so that I would not be punished by the guards! I would say there is between 5 and 25 hours of play in Fable 2 depending whether you rush through ignoring all but the vital quests or fastidiously do every job, side quest and find every hidden treasure. You may even want to complete the game again as it plays through quite differently depending on whether you are god or evil. The multi player is a  good and somewhat fun concept but it was clearly rushed as the features and implementation are severely limited so it should not be a big factor in choosing to buy the game or not. Fable 2 has quite beautiful, if stylised graphics. The sound is well done although the default settings make voices much to quiet. The game play is fun and varied and one of the best parts of Fable 2 as there is just so much to do although it becomes slightly boring occasionally but this is mainly due to my own style of playing games slowly but thoroughly. The concept isn't particularly innovative as it is similar to Fable 1 in many ways however there are a number of changes such as your characters dog which is very well done and adds a new dimension to the game!

Fable 2 has a quite wide appeal due to the elements of several genres and I must finally mention that there is a very rare collectors edition (which I managed to acquire) including special items and dungeons not available in any other way. I recommend this edition to Halo fans as you can get special armour similar to Master Chief's suit, an energy sword look alike and best of all the title "Master Chief".

Summary:

Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 8/10
Gameplay - 7/10
Concept - 4/10
Value - 7/10
Overall - 8/10 

Note, the overall score is not an average of the other scores by my assessment of the game generally.

Thank you for reading. I thoroughly recommend you get Fable 2 ASAP! (especially if you want the collectors edition)

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Review: Fracture

I have been really excited about the release of Fracture for some time and it by no means disappoints my expectations. Fracture is a pretty ordinary sci-fi third person shooter but with a twist. Almost all the terrain is deformable in real time! This alone is impressive but the true greatness in Fracture is the execution of this feature and the integration into the shooter based game play. 

Now, if you have never heard of Fracture you will probably want to know what terrain deformation actually is. In short it means there are a number of ways including grenades and special weaponry to raise, lower or otherwise morph the land you are standing on in real time. However this description won’t really show you how this feels in game. For this I recommend you try out the free demo currently downloadable from Xbox Live. 

Fracture makes heavy use of physics simulation. This makes the terrain deformation feel much more realistic and adds a great deal to the game experience overall. For example if you raise or lower the ground below an object (or enemy!) they will tumble into the newly made hole or rise up onto the new hill and if there happens to be a roof over this hill they will be crushed! Fracture’s graphics are outstanding and this further deepens the overall experience. The music is mostly classical and like some other aspects of this game reminds me of Halo 3. Fracture’s game play is fairly typical of a third person shooter except for the frequent “puzzles” in which the player must use terrain deformation along with logic to solve a problem, in most cases this is getting somewhere or breaking/fixing machinery. There are also the more subtle effects of terrain deformation in combat such as grenades and some weapons making craters or hills which the player (and enemies) will use as cover to give them the advantage. The concept of Fracture is interesting but is not hugely revolutionary as it has been touched on to a lesser extent in older games and in itself is a relatively simple concept. The almost flawless implementation is what sets Fracture apart. 

Fracture has a solid single player mode which took me about 10 hours but I could see it taking anywhere between 8 and 12 hours depending on difficulty, skill of the player and the number of “data chips” (hidden Easter eggs which unlock extra content) the player searches for. There is also a “weapons testing” level unlocked by finding “data chips”. This level contains all the game’s weapons and a few hidden surprises! My only complaint about the campaign is a lack of clear objectives at several points requiring me to spend some time wandering around until some inexplicable action seems to trigger the next sequence. 

I enjoyed the online mode somewhat less, not because it is a poor online game but instead because of the lack of players. I am sure as the game matures this will be solved as more people will buy it. Other than this the game is quite fun and while it is not really revolutionary it is worth buying if you like third person shooters with a little thinking involved. 

Summary: 

Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 5/10
Game play - 7/10
Concept - 7/10
Value - 6/10
Overall - 7/10 

Note, the overall score is not an average of the other scores by my assessment of the game generally. 

Thank you for reading, try the demo of fracture and buy it if you like it.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

First (and Last) Thoughts on Too Human


I tried the demo of the recently released Too Human. In short it is unplayable due to several huge problems. Firstly the camera is near impossible to control and will move around seemingly randomly during vital moments of battle. The other problem I have is the awkwardness of the controls. Although this is a less severe problem than the camera, these awkward controls really make battle difficult as you are often unable to pull off a vital move in time. For example to simply fire you must hold down the right trigger and move the right analogue stick in the direction of the enemy, however the direction of the enemy is not easy to find as the camera is moving, causing you to swing your aim around in the wrong direction. There is also no way to aim before firing so you cannot judge where to point your gun before wasting precious ammo firing to find out!

There are other more minor problems including a very complicated RPG style interface and an extremely steep learning curve due to the lack of a real tutorial. However the most damning feature is that you simply cannot feel linked to your character as you can in most RPGs. You can barely control your character or even understand what is happening much of the time. I am sure this game has merits but I have been unable to find any through the clunky game play and befuddling camera and controls!

As I have not played the full version of this game I will not give an official rating to this game but I highly recommend you do not buy Too Human!

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Review: Spore


EA finally released Spore a few weeks ago and like many my expectations were high. After playing it for some time I had mixed views. The game has done everything it promised, it leaves the player in a world where they will grow their creature from a tiny single celled organism to a being that near controls the Galaxy.

However although Spore is fun throughout, there are several serious problems that spoil your experience somewhat. Firstly there is the complete lack of an auto save feature which has many times lost hours of my progress. Secondly the online service although improving has been flaky at best and is often completely broken and finally and most cripplingly EA has used their use of SecuRom technology. This only ever allows you to install the game three times with no way to "deactivate" an installation. This also means if EA decides to stop supporting the Spore online service it will stop working altogether!

Although these issues are quite serious Spore is definitely worth playing! It is one of the most innovative games I have played as of yet and the editors, especially the creature editor are worth the money alone. The games online features, although flaky allow almost infinite replayability as other people's creations will be sent to your game as you play to add huge amounts of new content. Spore's graphics are average for a game but the fact most of the content is user made adds a greater variety and creativity to them. The sound is fairly good with the added bonus of creature calls being generated based on the creature's mouth shape. The game play is where Spore really begins to shine and the main reason for this is the variety of genres Spore touches on. There are elements of RPG, strategy, action, arkanoid (arcade style) and sandbox. The concept of Spore encompasses almost everything and therefore has very wide appeal making  this is a very strong point of the game. Finally I must say spore is by no means cheap (in the UK about £30-£40 or $60-$80) but is every bit worth it and given the amount of work put into it (around 8 years) this is a reasonable price to charge! 

Spore can act as both a casual and hardcore game depending on how you play it, for instance someone may enjoy playing around in the creature phase and use Spore as a simple action game and someone else could spend many hours/days taking their species deep into the centre of the galaxy. Most importantly Spore actually makes you feel more creative and this alone makes it worth buying!

Summary:

Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 7/10
Gameplay - 10/10
Concept - 10/10
Value - 8/10
Overall - 9/10
 
Note, the overall score is not an average of the other scores by my assessment of the game generally.

Thank you for reading, now go and buy Spore!