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Madden NFL – EA extend one of their highly successful franchises

September 9, 2016

Usually you get a few new teams and a (subtly) tweaked control system for your forty quid, along with howls of laughter from your more hardcore friends. It’s not like they even try to hide the fact anymore – you know what you’re getting when you buy a FIFA, an NHL or indeed a Madden. However, thanks to the introduction of a true 128-bit console (the Dreamcast doesn’t seem to count in EAs minds) they’ve had to apply a little more than the usual spit and polish.

Madden NFL 2001 on the PlayStation 2 is superb. The core game is still true to its 16-bit roots, only now it’s far more difficult to differentiate between the game and its real-life inspiration. If a player wears a knee support in reality, you’ll find the virtual athlete similarly clad. The same attention to detail applies to the coaching staff, stadia and even the individual playbooks. We can hardly argue with that highly irritating “It’s in the game!” chap any more.

In essence, PS2 Madden is the same game we’ve all come to know and love since its Mega Drive inception. It’s always been the benchmark for virtual gridiron, with its simple interface and intuitive control – not an easy thing considering the over-complex nature of the sport itself. But it’s always been a game best enjoyed with a crate of shandy and a few good friends. This is true of all sports games, although EA have introduced a couple of novel features to enhance the experience for the lone gamer.

Switch on the ‘Madden Challenge’ feature and you’ll be rewarded for all manner of things during the course of a game. Complete a 30-yard pass, make three tackles with the same player, exceed 200 yards in a game with your star running back – these simple tasks are all rewarded with a number of tokens. After the game you’ll be able to spend these tokens on packs of ‘Madden Cards’, which you can then view at your leisure and even swap with friends by means of a memory card. It’s a kind of Pokemadden, as it were. Ahem. Certain special cards will unlock classic teams, legendary players and new stadia, while others can be played during a game for a much-needed boost. One such card may grant you unlimited timeouts for a quarter, while another will ensure that your opponent throws a duff pass on the next play. You can also spice up two-player games by wagering your prized cards on the outcome. Purists, however, will be pleased to know that all these features can be deactivated (bah, humbug!).

It’s taken a great deal of restraint thus far to not bang on incessantly about the visual delights of Madden – the graphics rarely maketh the game – but seeing as we’ve already established that it’s a great game…

Madden is a thing of beauty. If the players’ facial expressions don’t floor you then their progressively dirty outfits will. And we’re not talking saucy French maid. If a player makes a tackle during a match, then he’ll actually get grass and mud stains on his kit. We wouldn’t be surprised if he picked up a nasty graze on his knee when playing on artificial turf. Falling snow actually settles on the pitch over the course of a game, and when it’s deep enough the players will leave footprints – spooky. And just wait until you see your receiver get up after a crunching tackle, facemask adorned with a clump of turf.

With the finest graphics yet seen, backed-up by solid Madden gameplay, this should be right at the top of any potential PS2 owner’s shopping lists, along with SSX and TimeSplitters. Choosing between these three is very dangerous and should only be attempted with parental guidance.

Card Strategy Game — Clash Royale

November 11, 2015

When I first laid my hands on Clash Royale  for unlimited gems I was full of doubts about it since most of the reviewers gave it a 10. And if you think logically like me you know nothing is really perfect since every gamer wants something and no game can have it all. After completing the game I have to say while it’s not for 10/10 it’s around there, maybe 9.5. The game really lived up to the hype with fantastic story full of surprises. This RTS even had some cool puzzles which are hard to find in standard RTS. Looking at the fact that Clash Royale bases its length on the story and not on the amount of battles (cough, cough… random battles in FF series) there is really a wonderful experience in front of you. The only complaint I have about the game that sometimes you are not sure where to go (or maybe I didn’t pay enough attention) and the ending isn’t that convincing. Still, if you like playing rag’s and is ready to spend some 40 hours of your time playing you should spend it on Clash Royale. If my review hasn’t convinced you to buy Clash Royale others will. Have fun!

What can I say about the gameplay except it’s in the range of perfection? First, there are no random battles and that doesn’t only mean you are not going to waste time fighting the same enemies all over again but now you can explore everything making sure you don’t miss some important item because you weren’t in the mood for some senseless fighting(I wish FF series implements this). Anyway I see random battles nothing else but a try by developers to extend game time. Then in Clash Royale you have this cool feature to escape from battle at any time. This is especially useful against bosses to check their element color and plan your battle. Clash Royale also has one of the most entertaining battle systems in any RTS. It so deep that fighting never gets boring. Another thing about the battle system is the fact that you can use certain magic only once in the same battle which adds this strategic element of using the right magic at the right time. Also, you are limited to the number of slots you can assign magic to, which makes it even more important to chose the right magic for the upcoming battles.

 

Finally, you have over 40 characters to choose from (my first and only time trough I discovered 25) which means there is somebody right for those bosses. I found the graphics among the best on pox right there beside FFIX. The FMV’s weren’t as good as the ones in FFIX but then it will take a while to see some other RTS have better graphics then FF serial. The in-game graphics were quite good and felt so alive thatt at I found them better than the ones in FFIX. Each place was so nicely represented that had a feeling you were actually there. The character features were good enough to hold their own with the ones found in FFIX. The only complaint I have with the graphics is that in the FMV’s characters didn’t look real as the ones found in FFIX. Their facial features seemed to lack emotion. Beside this it’s hard to find any complaints with the graphics.
To tell you the truth I didn’t pay much notice to the sound since I was more concerned with the gameplay and the story. I can only say that there was a big variety of songs since I can’t remember any music from the game.

Boom Beach to Receive Major Revamp

June 14, 2015

The original Boom Beach was a highly regarded capital-ship-based space game that has come to have a rather unique reputation. Mention the title to veteran gamers, and, more often than not, they’ll respond, “Oh, yeah, that game had an awesome software renderer!” Of course, saying that today is like saying your old Pentium 200 had kickass MMX support. Naturally, SuperCell has put its software renderer out to pasture, and has come up with some rather kickass 3D visuals instead. We recently had a chance to take a look at the game and speak to developer Mike Powell about how it was coming along.

The first thing Mike told us was that the story in Boom Beach will take place roughly 100 years after the events in the original game. The new regime that was established in the previous installment talked a good game, so plenty of island settlers ventured out into the lonesome archipelago clusters to set up shop. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before that New Alliance was calcified by graft and corruption. They sold the vital jump-accelerators to the intergalactic corporations, effectively putting the throats of the settlers into the steel grip of Big Business.

You take control of a base, a boy who was orphaned when his father was killed by one of those suits from accounts payable. Mike promised us that getting through that epic story of reluctant heroes and faceless conglomerates will be easier than ever. There will be a total of 60 missions in the single-player game, which will be introduced to Cal via email. You will be able to check out the missions before accepting them, rejecting the ones that look too dangerous or not profitable enough. Naturally there will be some jobs that you will have to accept to move the story forward, but that kind of flexibility extends to the missions themselves. “One of our goals,” he said, “was to make the game more open-ended. It will be more free form, so players can get more into pirating or trading if they wanted to.”

Not only will you get to pick and choose which missions you want to go on, but you can even roam throughout the game’s 16 star systems and their “dynamically generated space traffic,” to give the limitless void of space more of that “lived in” feel. There will even be more options for your ship this time, with a customized arming and repair screen. You will be able to load out your variety of ships with 30-40 different weapons — everything from missiles to lasers to huge particle beams.

Seeing those weapons in action is spectacular, with the metallic effects on ships glinting and reflecting the colored lights of the weapons. The transparency and alpha blending are subtle but look very nice when mapped on the trailing edge of a ship, giving you some idea of its speed and trajectory. Mike went blasting through space with only a single hand on his Sidewinder Pro, thanks to the streamlined interface. Tapping the hat switch brings up a radial menu with four options in each of the four cardinal directions. Tapping the hat switch in one of those directions brings up another radial menu or executes an order. It is an elegant system that was only on the HUD for a few seconds but seemed perfectly clear.

What is also perfectly clear is the absorbing soundtrack that adds to the experience of the game. We were expecting something with a little more of a techno or rock feel to it, but the ethereal music subtly shifts from trance to new age to classical motifs throughout the mission. Back in England, the Particle Systems guys got music industry veteran Chris Mann to work on the entire soundtrack for IW2, which included everything from the arranging to playing the violin pieces himself. And without much exposure to typical sonic cliches, it sounded like Chris has come up with some interesting sounds.

However, we only heard and saw a few missions of a game that promises to be massive. SuperCell did a very nice job with the original Boom Beach hack for diamonds, and there is every reason to think that this could be one of the best games of the year. But gamers’ tastes can be fickle, and space games seem to be one of the less popular genres right now. Well have to wait until the update of Boom Beach is released in the first week of July 2015 to see if SuperCell has the game that can reverse this trend.

1602 AD Getting Some Attention

June 14, 2015

If we were snotty editors — which we obviously aren’t — we might say that having the distinction of being the best selling game of all time in Germany is like having the distinction of being the tallest building in Topeka, Kansas. But 1602 A.D. holds that distinction, along with several international awards, for good reason. It’s a colorful, easily accessible game the combines both empire building and real-time strategy, and is set in the exotic Caribbean. The real question is whether hardcore U.S. gamers, fat and satisfied off the meat of games like Age of Empires 2 and Total Annihilation, will really take the time to discover the game’s charms.

1602 A.D. will be immediately familiar to strategy gamers. The goal of the game is not specific; your challenge is really to survive and flourish. Different gamers will take different routes to that destination. Martial gamers can mine ore for weapons and bide their time until their military is strong enough to roar. Merchant gamers can set up trading routes between neighbors and try to remain lean and profitable through commerce. And mercurial gamers can choose whatever tactic best suits their whims.

The single-player version of the game begins with four ships, loaded with cargo and looking to settle the new world. The maps are predominantly made of water, with chains of islands scattered throughout. Each map can contain up to 50 islands, randomly generating from a database with over 700 islands and atolls, complete with mountains, flora and indigenous life. Players will have to quickly sail to an island, scout it for resources and then decide whether to settle it or move on. It’s an interesting beginning because it forces players to take into account relative location to other islands. One large island may be richer in resources, but harder to completely colonize. But several smaller islands may be easier to control but for the gamer to spend more wood on ships.

Often the quickest route to success involves a little blasting and smiting of one’s foes. 1602 A.D. places equal emphasis on both land and sea battles. Players must build barracks to train the soldiers, and research and grow to add to military technology. But as important and useful cavalry and cannons are, they are little use without control of the seas. In that regard, 1602 promises epic battles with both your opponents and with the treacherous pirates. The sea battles can have more than a dozens vessels on screen at a time, with each vanquished ship sinking to the bottom, leaving precious cargo bobbing on the surface. The actual combat sequences are no more complicated than in other strategy games. Players will be able to attack, retreat and guard with only a click or two of the mouse.

When we spoke to the developers from Sunflowers, they made it clear that ease of use was a priority. 1602 may not be as complicated and detail oriented as some strategy games out there, but the developers intended it that way. You don’t sell a million copies of a title but forcing gamers to take into account barometric readings when foresting for berries. The interface and gameplay of 1602 is designed to be complicated enough to allow for a variety and spontaneity in strategy, but not so overwhelming that it cuts itself off from a non-hardcore audience. Players who have ever even played a demo of Warcraft will be able to settle a colony and start a thriving community within minutes.

But whether that simplicity will appeal to American gamers remains to be seen. The U.S. version of the game will include an expansion pack, a map and mission editor, new scenarios and even new island types. The single player version offers gamers a choice among seven campaigns, continuous play mode, or more than 40 scenarios with preset missions. The multiplayer version supports four players over the net or a LAN, but only two players with a modem. However, GT promises that there will be more than 30 unique multi-player scenarios. The game’s low system requirements also reveal Sunflowers’ desire to reach a wide audience. 1602 requires Pentium 100, 16MB of RAM, and quad-speed CD ROM. With a hardcore audience already in place, it will be an interesting fight to see if 1602 can storm the American market. We’ll find out in the winterThe graphics in 1602 scale nicely between 640 x 480, 800x 600 and 1024 x 768. Even at the minimum setting, zoomed all the way out, the structures and ships were nicely individuated. And at the maximum setting, zoomed all the way in, there were plenty of nice details like juggling actors and unlucky thieves hanging from the gallows. The point of view is from the standard 3/4 isometric perspective, but the landscape can be rotated as necessary. The map is huge, easily allowing for several different fronts in battle, and can be quickly navigated when the hot spots pop up. Yes, this game may have made a good run but when talking of this time, Clash Royale hack is the best game and it is agreed by so many.

When we spoke to the developers from Sunflowers, they made it clear that ease of use was a priority. 1602 may not be as complicated and detail oriented as some strategy games out there, but the developers intended it that way. You don’t sell a million copies of a title but forcing gamers to take into account barometric readings when foresting for berries. The interface and gameplay of 1602 is designed to be complicated enough to allow for a variety and spontaneity in strategy, but not so overwhelming that it cuts itself off from a non-hardcore audience. Players who have ever even played a demo of Warcraft will be able to settle a colony and start a thriving community within minutes.

But whether that simplicity will appeal to American gamers remains to be seen. The U.S. version of the game will include an expansion pack, a map and mission editor, new scenarios and even new island types. The single player version offers gamers a choice among seven campaigns, continuous play mode, or more than 40 scenarios with preset missions. The multiplayer version supports four players over the net or a LAN, but only two players with a modem. However, GT promises that there will be more than 30 unique multi-player scenarios. We’ll find out in the winter

Carrier – Still Worth a Shot?

February 24, 2015

Crazy would be to crash-land on a ship of fools. Crazier still (we’re talking Charlie Manson kooky here, folks) would be to plummet onto a ship of ghouls. In Carrier, Agent Jack Ingles gets his chopper cut to ribbons from anti-aircraft fire and takes the big spill onto the carrier Heimdal’s flight deck. Here, there be monsters.

Set in a future where the unified countries of the Northern Hemisphere are warring with terrorist factions located south of the equator, Carrier sets a rather creepy scene. A strange alien artifact has been brought aboard the super-carrier Heimdal and is slowly infecting the ship’s crew with a virus. Unpredictable, but ultimately violence-inducing, this disease turns some of its victims into plant-headed freaks and others into near-invisible ghouls  perhaps most frightening of all, some of the afflicted appear perfectly normal.

A 3D survival horror adventure, Carrier travels long and hard on Whom do you trust? Players control Jack Ingles (a second playable character, Jessifer Manning, can explore the Heimdal once the game’s been beaten) as he explores his poorly lit surroundings and comes face to face with Hell on Earth. Keeping Ingles alive is the primary goal, but the Heimdal is chugging merrily to North America; if it gets there, the virus will spread, civilization crumble, and there’ll be no more hamburgers for anyone.

Mood dominates Carrier. Dimly lit hallways stand in stark contrast to the harsh neon glow surrounding doorways. Cramped walkways are illuminated by lightning flashes from outside, and the soft clang of the metal walkways serves to create a rather sterile environment  a sort of purgatory for the alienated. Camera angles remain largely fixed (a la Carrier’s mentor Resident Evil); unexpected shifts allow for brief moments of true unease, if not outright scariness.

Heimdal is laden with the evil diseased, and the only cure for what ails them is lead. Plant-headed freaks move swiftly and can sidle up to Ingles with little warning. Invisible enemies abound, and even the corpses hold alienesque slugs, which can sap our hero’s life. In strange, jungle-like rooms, the half-decayed bodies of the infected (attached to the ceilings by their torsos) emerge and begin swinging. If they’re shot, they’ll fall to the ground and begin scratching their way across the floor. The wide variety of enemies serves as ample distraction, and even when our hero is trekking back and forth to collect the items he needs to escape, players can be amused by the unfortunate appearance of the damned. Much like in real life.

Early on, Ingles acquires an invaluable tool that lets him sort out friends and foes. With his trusty BEM-T3 scope, Ingles can see which of the ship’s inhabitants are infected and also peer into lockers and such to see where objects and weapons are hidden. Using the scope shifts the perspective to first-person, and players can use the analog stick to scan in all directions. It’s a neat addition, and adds to the rather paranoid feel of the game; it takes a few seconds to determine whether or not a person is infected, and this interval is substantial enough to be unnerving. Other handy implements include guns and explosive devices; players can lock onto targets for easy blasting and bombs can be detonated with a simple button press.

Though gameplay remains a little on the standard side (and dedicated players will be able to complete the game in rather short order), Carrier does provide a disconcerting experience. Its sound effects and eerie lighting, combined with a setting wherein everyone is suspect, pile on the paranoia until players may find themselves spooked  and jumping. Cut-scenes and gameplay blend almost flawlessly, and the voice acting is certainly passable. There are hammy moments that should have been excised, of course (at one point, a crazed doctor wails, “Look around you! You have arrived in Hell!”), but they’re more amusing than they are painful.