Archive for May, 2013

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The evolution of cars has lead to this point, no tires, just propulsion systems and hovering devices, and not only do the cars look cool, they are ultra fast. The cars get to super sonic speeds, keeping you engaged through the twists and turns of the futuristic tracks, but not all of the events or cars are speed based, there are vehicles with a lot of health, and some are designed specifically for handling the many corners. Each event will have you either race a group of opponents, make you try to blow them up in Combat mode, have you try to beat a specific time in a time trial, or play through Zone which you just have to steer and survive as it gets faster and faster, as you go you’ll make it through zones and you’ll need to get a specific amount of zones to pass. Picking the right car is easy as the cars for the events have their own sections in the team menu, so you just have to pick the best car in the class.

There are 20 cars in total which are unlocked by doing missions or leveling up the driver rank, there are 50 driver levels and they take quite a while to achieve depending on your skill level. There are a few ways to gain experience, there are a lot of speed pads on the tracks which not only give a boost but add experience as well, there are also weapons found throughout though unfortunately there are not that many weapons, but getting hits will add more points, then at the end of a race if you pass you’ll get a big experience bonus, and there are Elite Passes which will add as much as a regular pass. If you are having trouble with an event and need experience there are also speed laps, they allow you to race around the track uncontested and allowing you to do as many laps as you want, all while gaining experience for the speed pads.

Though there are a limited amount of tracks, each track has different sections that you’ll race through keeping your mind on the game. The tracks can be complicated the first time(s) through, going at such high speeds while cornering takes finesse and there are many corners that can cause problems, it may take a bit to get used to if you are new to the WipEout series. The speed laps are also a good way to get used to the tracks, going at such high speeds it can be easy to miss the many side routes within, some of the routes can either help or make you lose ground, having an option of casually playing and finding the quickest path is a nice option. Speed pads in every track can be either the reason you won or lost the race, you want to hit them all if possible, and knowing when and when not to hit them will only benefit in the close races.

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There are many close races, quite a few come down to the last lap or section of the track, most of the races will be decided by who hits more speed pads and who makes the fewest mistakes, a simple mistake can take you right out of first or out of the race. As I mentioned before there are weapons which are activated by going over the weapon pads, they range from useful to useless depending on the situation, each event has specific weapons that can be used, the weapons can also be a deciding factor in the end, and at times it seems like the opponents weapons do more damage than yours regardless of the car.

With the tracks being so fast and most taking a bit of getting used to, it adds a bit of replay value, some of the courses may take a few times to win, and achieving an Elite Pass may take a few more. Depending on your skill level the Driver Level may also add some replay value, there are 50 Driver Levels so getting an Elite Pass will become crucial if you want to achieve that rank. Leveling up earns you a car or an event in which you have to find on the events map, completing some of the hidden events can also unlock the cars. Some of the events require you to unlock new cars, but not because you’ll need a specific car, but because the events get harder and some of the cars just can no longer keep up.

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If you are having trouble there are three control configurations, three camera views, and three pilot assists to choose from, there are not that many options but can be very helpful. The choices in camera views will have an up-close look at the car, a zoomed out view of the car, and an internal view which does not put you in the cock-pit but gives a view from the front of the car, the internal view makes it look like you are riding a motorcycle which not only looks cool, but also makes parts of the tracks a bit easier to see. The three pilot assist options are off, normal, and extreme, turning it off is great for people looking for a further challenge, it leaves everything up to you so unless you’re really good at the game it may not be for you, normal will help a bit with steering and breaking but you’ll still mainly be in control, and extreme helps in all aspects.

Online adds to the challenge, it is mission based and you’ll have three chances to complete the mission or you’ll have the ability to earn a new mission, if you have friends who play online you’ll have the option of going straight into the event they are playing. Just like the single player, online gets intense and there are also driver levels to achieve, online can rack up a lot of experience if you get good enough and it can be a lot of fun. If you want to go online you’ll need an online pass, if you get the game pre-owned you may be out of luck unless you know the code has not be activated, or you can purchase the pass online, but WipEout online may not be for everyone so having to pay for it can be a nuisance. You don’t have to play online to compete with your friends, you’ll get updates when friends beat your scores, then from the notification page you can go straight into the event and try to return the favor.

The cornering takes finesse and it can cause problems, if you bounce off a wall it can spin you around even if you should have just slid around the corner, or the nose of the car will catch and it’ll grind on the wall even if you didn’t hit the nose. At times even if the weapon pad is active it does not always give you the weapon, if the majority of the car does not go over the pad you may not get it, it can be really frustrating if you’re trying to keep up, or if you are getting bounced around in combat and it makes you miss out on getting a weapon. There are some events that require quite a bit of skill or require a vehicle upgrade, but the upgrades are not always easily accessible so you may have to do speed laps or play previous events until you can level up, it can make progressing at times take even longer which is good and bad.

WipEout 2048 is a fun game and can get addicting, if you like the game and are struggling it wont be so bad to replay previous events so you can progress with better vehicles. Though the weapon choices can be bland, they can be really fun given the right situation, and the races can be down to the wire adding to the excitement. If you don’t feel like there is enough content there are two additional content packs that unlock WipEout HD and WipEout HD fury, to keep you in the action. The events are generally fun, all are faced paced and intense and the game-play can get addicting, it remains entertaining with various challenges. WipEout is a great blend of futuristic cars and tracks, speed, action, and it all looks quite good on the Playstation Vita, if you like fast paced racing, this could be for you.

Overall Score: 7.5/10

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Resistance: Burning Skies is a game that starts out good, then starts going downhill. You’ll take the role of Tom Riley, a firefighter determined to finding his wife and daughter during the Chimeran strike, and also save everyone he can along the way. After finding his family he decides he is still needed, he has to save more people, so he sends his family on their way, and goes to war. Though the game has the Resistance brand and the same enemies, it’s a side story to the main game and adds nothing to the overall story.

Not only does it not add to the overall story, it also does not add to the series at all, if anything it’s a step backwards. You’ll cut down a few doors with the fire-axe, shoot a few enemies and save your partner, all seems well and good, but after the few promising opening moments, the game starts to decline and never seems to stop going downhill. Once you get outside you’ll see the first bland area, the vehicles look like something out of a Playstation 1 game, but it would not really matter if the game itself was well made, but unfortunately it’s not. Each area is very small, everything seems to look not so bad up close, but at afar it looks terrible and pixelated, it just all looks unfinished.

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The first group of enemies will hop around and generally do nothing, though they will get a few shots in, it’s nothing too much to handle, but as you go on you’ll realize all enemies are like this. Shoot at them and they will turn to the side and just stand there, they’ll hop around then take a few seconds to shoot allowing for an easy kill, and they’ll just stop fighting all together or aimlessly run at you. Each enemy is either decent, or very terrible, they will just stand around motionlessly shooting, and nearly every battle will require the same strategy, you can just duck behind cover and kill each of the enemies as they either stand in one spot, or they will attempt to hide behind cover but have the majority of their body sticking out.

At times in combat your character will throw grenades mindlessly in a random direction, and tapping the grenade icon while running will throw a grenade no where near where you are aiming. Blowing up gas pumps will do nothing to the pump at all, shoot them and watch them explode, after the smoke clears the pump looks pristine. Running requires holding down on the d-pad and if you want to crouch while running it’s not possible, you will have to come to a complete stop, crouch then keep moving. When you kill crawling enemies they all look the same as they die, they will explode to bits, turn inside out, look like an uncooked roast, then disappear randomly.

The game gets very repetitive, it starts becoming easy to predict what is going to happen next, enter a room and kill a few enemies then move on, and the story does not help matters, the characters are not memorable and the voice acting is generally poorly done. Not only are the characters in the story are not very memorable, when you have allies they are as easily forgotten, they are good for killing one or two enemies in a group, but are useless other than that, if you get swarmed by a group of enemies, good luck you’re on your own, and at times I’ve had my allies shoot explosive barrels near me. If your allies get in the way, there is no way to move them, they seem to be nailed to the ground and unless they feel like moving, they’re not going to, it gets frustrating in battle when they are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There are only eight guns in the game, you can hold all eight as you find them and there are six upgrades per gun, two can be active at a time, the problem is most of the guns rarely get used, there are a few situations where they will be needed, but they can be pushed aside otherwise. The guns are the same ones from the Resistance series, you’ll have your Bullseye, Auger, and Carbine, and each come with different upgrades which will increase accuracy, ammo, range, grenade count and so on, each upgrade requires a Grey Tech upgrade cube. Finding enough cubes does not take a long time, they are usually in plain sight and there are quite a few of them.

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There are also intel files to find, but like the cubes they are not very hard to find, the reason they are so easy to find is because the levels are not very big, so exploration is at a minimum. Not only are the levels small, they are also bland, there is not much to each location, a few buildings, rubble, and trains from time to time. There are not many hidden areas, nothing really special to find, and it just seems mindless, the game becomes very linear and is basically loses any excitement it may have had.

Making things worse is how short the game is, everything can be completed in a play through and maybe a bit more, but everything can be basically achieved in around 4-6 hours. There are only three chapters with six levels, each level is divided up into short sections, each section is not really all that fun and the game can easily be rushed through. If you are a trophy hunter this game will help with that, in those 4-6 hours you can earn a platinum trophy, they’re not hard to collect at all and basically pop as you play normally.

At times the game can be fun though, some of the set battles are intense, there are a lot of enemies at times and it can add a small bit of challenge. The controls aside from having to use the d-pad to run are pretty good, a screen icon controls grenades and one controls the fireaxe, you’ll pick items up and open doors by tapping an icon at the right time, I was able to stretch out my thumbs so I had no problem with it. There is a weapon wheel that is easy to navigate, and it helps quickly switch weapons. If you don’t like the controls there is no way to change it, you change which shoulder button aims and shoots, but not much other than that. The problems I found with the controls were at times they were unresponsive especially in combat, and it was more noticeable when getting shot at

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The online is no better, there are also only eight weapons, and six upgrades, there are not very many maps, I played about twenty rounds and got the same map probably fifteen times. The online is typical, there are a few modes like team deathmatch and deathmatch, but it’s not very exciting, a few rounds will be entertaining, but most rounds become one-sided and lead to the majority of people leaving.

All of the upgrades carry over to each play through, if you find reason to keep playing, I did just so I can review it. There really is not much reason to keep playing, it’s short, has only a few weapons, outside of a few collectibles there really is not much reason to explore. The enemies are unintelligent, the levels are small and bland, everything looks really dated and unfinished, the story is bad and so is the voice acting. There is no real reason to play other than if you want to collect easy trophies, this game is disappointing and is better off being passed on.

Overall Score: 4.5/10

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Dishonored puts you in the role of Corvo Attano, who through a series of unfortunate events has his Empress killed, has his daughter and the heir to the Empress, Lady Emily kidnapped, and to make it all worse he gets framed for the murder and kidnapping. So Corvo does what any good father would do, sets out to find his daughter, and avenge the Empress, but escaping from prison is his first goal, and it’s accomplished pretty fast when the guards somehow don’t find a letter and a key under some bread, from a mysterious person as a gift to Corvo. After unlocking the door you’ll get your first taste of stealth, and it’s easy to see from the beginning that stealth is the best option. After you get out you’ll be taken to a safe area called Hounds Pits Pub by a group of Loyalists, where you can sleep, avoid the plague, upgrade and buy new weapons, and receive missions that will lead you to finding Emily, and getting revenge.

It’s a good thing the environments of the plague ravaged Dunwall encourage stealth, there are so many different paths you can take, being up high most times is the best option, and roof jumping plus dark vision to see through walls gets you where you need to go efficiently. Going head to head with enemies will lead to a lot of damage, deaths, and alarms, so creeping by and taking hostiles silently, then carrying their bodies to hiding spots more effective. Sneaking up on enemies will also allow you to pickpocket them, hostiles hold money, ammo, arrows, and keys, but regardless of how you take the enemies out, once you carry them you’ll automatically collect their valuables. There are two ways to take out enemies while sneaking, you can either choke them out until their are unconscious, or kill them in silence with the blade, and the areas have many hidden sections and paths to hide the bodies.

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The environments are not designed just for stealth, there are many hidden paths that lead to some useful and valuable items, and there is a lot of interaction with other items. There five sets of collectibles to find in each level, Runes, Bone Charms, Outsider Shrines, Sokolov Paintings, and a set amount of coins. Runes are used to upgrade Corvo’s special powers, the powers allow you to increase your health, see through walls, make unaware hostiles turn to dust when they are killed, a few others round out the list, and each of the powers have two upgrades requiring a certain amount of Runes. Bone Charms instantly add supernatural benefits such as having food give more health, or more ammo found on enemies, there are 36 different Bone Charms to be found, but only 26 spawn on each play through, and after upgrades only six can be active. All of the Runes and Bone charms can be found by using a Robotic Heart, which also tells you the secrets of the people and areas you play through. There are only one or two Sokolov Paintings and Outsider Shrines in each level, and the coins are money used to upgrade and buy equipment.

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The first time you are in Hounds Pits Pub you’ll meet a man named Piero Joplin, he will upgrade and sell equipment for the majority of the game, additionally you can find blueprints which add new gear to be bought, they are scattered throughout the mission areas. Corvo’s main gear consists of a mask, blade, crossbow, a pistol, grenades, and spring razors, his mask not only hides his identity, but also allows you to zoom, and see hostiles through walls once upgraded. Another key component to stealth is the crossbow, you can equip either regular arrows or sleep darts, but if you don’t care about stealth there are also incendiary arrows if you really want revenge on the enemies. Spring razors are also stealth items, but create quite a show, you can stick them to walls, floors, or even people and animals, once triggered they shoot shrapnel in all directions creating carnage.

It’s not just the guards that can be taken out in various ways, it also works for the key targets, you can find side missions that will lead to the key targets being eliminated non-lethally, or even give you the choice to eliminate them as you please. These decisions do not go unnoticed, the amount of kills affects the story, the way allies treat you, and how fast the plague takes over Dunwall, but also once you get back to the pub people will leave you gifts thanking you for sparing their family or friends, so the less kills you have the better. Plague victims are called weepers, they are zombie-like humans and will attack on site, they are pretty fast and do a lot of damage, the less people you kill, the less weepers there will be, and the sewers will have more safe paths.

There are nine main missions and depending on how you decide you play it can take quite a while per mission, with full exploration most missions can take over an hour and a half. Adding to the game play is the story and characters, the story is great, there are twists and turns, and some great moments regardless of how you play, and most of the characters are memorable, they do a great job of adding additional elements to the plot, and give a sense of each situation at hand. With being able to find out secrets of each character via the heart, it really allows you to see who is fake or genuine, and sometimes a back story for why the person is the way they are. The mask allows you to zoom-in and hear from afar, so if you want to eavesdrop on conversations there is also that option.

You’ll have the choice of four difficulties, Easy, Normal, Hard, and Very Hard. Normal gives a decent challenge, enemies are witty and quick for the most part, Hard is a great way to challenge your sneaking skills and your patience, and Very Hard is for the hardcore Dishonored players. Corvo’s health does not regenerate, in order to heal him you’ll need Health Elixirs, and because special powers use mana you’ll need Mana Elixirs too, Corvo can hold ten of each and the difficulty changes how useful each are. Food also gives health, and depending on which Bone Charms you have active, water can also give health or mana, or increase the amount of health and mana gained from the elixirs.

The controls are done very well, they are basic for the most part, controls are rarely an issue and they can be adjusted in the options menu. The load times are also generally pretty fast, there are hints and stories to read as it loads, and the load times don’t break up the game play very much. The quick menu contains all of your gear and powers, it’s done well and allows for quick weapon and power exchanges with not much issue, plus the various ammo types are in one area of the menu. The main menu is also well done, it contains all of the found and mission notes, books, mission information which can also be used to toggle missions, use Runes, toggle Bone Charms, and where you find general information.

With all that is great with Dishonored there are bound to be flaws, the environments are large and encourage exploration, but some of them are really bland, parts that should have the look of texture just don’t, and look unfinished, some parts give off the look of wallpaper instead of brick or stone. Bushes, trees, and grass are lifeless, you walk through bushes and branches without even a sound, grass does nothing when walked through, and at times it can take away from the area. The hostiles have their flaws as well, the ability to look through walls is great, but it also exposes some flawed content, you can see enemies standing in one spot, not talking and completely motionless, once you get to a certain spot suddenly they come back to life, but you don’t always need to see through walls to find this glitch, it’ll happen in plain sight. The dialog in the hostiles is also flawed, they’ll quickly say things to each other and the response does not always match what was said, and if you listen in, multiple characters will say the exact same things under their breath.

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There are take-down problems as well, it will prompt on the screen when you can either choke out or knife the hostile, but choke is also the same button as block depending on your controls, so instead of choking he’ll block allowing the hostile to turn around and spot you. There are frame rate issues when it comes to having a lot people in one area even if they’re not moving, when you put a certain amount hostiles to sleep or kill them and store them in one area, the frame rate will drop. You can also swim, but at times even if you are holding up on the joystick he will dip back under the water, and trying to get out of the water can be a pain as well, at times he will jump up and fall back down, or he fails to jump all together. Though the collectibles are fun to find, you’ll have to collect them in order to see how many you have for that level, or wait until the end of the level to see the totals, and there is no new game plus, so you’ll have to re-collect everything, though there will be new Bone Charms to find. The characters are good, and so is most of the dialog, but some characters voice acting seems forced and give the sense of being read.

The flaws are not a big enough issue to bring this great game down, having so many paths to choose makes the stealth aspect of the game is a lot of fun. The game encourages exploration, there are not that many upgrades but they cost quite a bit of money, so exploration is a definite must, plus the paths generally feel rewarding and allow for even more stealth. If you take a good look around you’ll notice how many different ways you can go about each chapter, despite some of the environments looking bland and unfinished. The story is great and most of the chapters are long depending on how you play, and even if you don’t feel there is enough content there are also a few downloadable content options. If you like stealth action games this is a great option, and even if you don’t you can take this game on head on, it’ll add even more of a challenge and a different way to play this great game.

Overall Score: 8.7/10

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With the ever mounting success of The Walking Dead TV show, there was bound to be a video game spin-off, and though the characters are not the same, they are no less memorable. As the first Walking Dead game, it does many things right, memorable characters and story, entertaining game play, and lots of replay value, Telltale Games should continue to work on Walking Dead games.

The opening scenes have you riding in the back of a cop car, and you’ll start getting a few dialog options, as you get to know a small bit about your character Lee Everett. There is a twist of fate, and the decisions start becoming about survival, once you make it to the closest house, your decisions will not be just for your survival. As you explore the house you’ll come across a little girl named Clementine, she may be little, but her role in the game is very large. You’ll start coming across more and more choices, that you generally want to choose the best for both you and her, as you progress, she becomes a key component not only to continue, but also brings out a mellow, accepting side of Lee.

The Walking Dead Game allows you to choose your own path, and there are many options to choose, choices on who to save, who to befriend, who to betray, who to be honest with, and who you are going to lie to. The great thing about the options, is no matter how you play, you probably won’t have the same story as someone else, not only that, but it gives the game replay value as you can choose different paths through the story. With so many options, there will be fallout, having to choose between people, not only saving them, but choosing who to side with will generally lead to some backlash, and not all of the characters are easy to side with, some just seem selfish.

There are 5 chapters that can be downloaded or bought as a whole, or individually by chapter, the game has great story regardless of how you choose to progress, so downloading all of the chapters is likely to happen. Not only is the story great and gives reason to keep playing, the game play is very well done, you’ll get a cursor on the screen that you use to hover over objects and people to interact with them, and the cursor is also used to aim, attack the zombies or enemies, and help explore, though this seems really basic, it works very with its style of game.

There is no co-op as expected, but it’s still a lot of fun to play with others, one can play while the other(s) make decisions, and it’s interesting to see what choices they make. The story is geared towards many different types of people, not just TWD fans, so it will remain interesting not just for the person playing, and the characters are so well done, its easy to have a favorite, and start getting connected to them as you progress. The game also remains interesting by putting you in a new location for each chapter, each location has its history, story, and you can really sense how bad things have become, giving the game a fresh yet familiar feel.

Then with another twist of fate, the situation becomes desperate, protecting Clementine becomes even more crucial, and you’ll get the sense that the end of the game is near. The situation will complicate matters even further, the desperation in the characters becomes more apparent, and you can tell they’re just hanging on to life as long as they can. The sense of what everyone is going through is easy to see, and it leads to an emotional, well thought ending.

Though there are a lot of options to choose from, a lot of different story possibilities, the game still remains pretty linear, some of it is on rails, and for all 5 chapters, it’ll take around an hour and a half per chapter to complete. Not only is the game linear, exploring is at a minimum aside from trying to find mission items, as there are no collectibles, and though there are some side mission items, there really is no need to explore, especially after you’ve beaten the game. There are a few minor graphical and audio glitches, textures from time to time take a few seconds to pop, and the audio cuts of from time to time, but neither happen often, and they’re not so bad.

None of the flaws can take away from how great this game is, this is easily one of the best downloadable games on XBLA and PSN. The characters are so well done, the story is great regardless of how you play, there are so many options, a lot of different ways to play that adds quite a bit of replay value, regardless of the lack of collectibles. The Walking Dead Game will appeal to many people, and at the end of each chapter, you can see the percentage of people that chose each option, it’s cool to see where you stack up. Just like the TV show, the game does so many things well, and this game makes it easier to look past The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.

Overall Score: 9/10

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Over the years, many racing games have tried to simulate the feeling of really racing around famous, and fictional tracks, some rely on flashy game-play to keep the player engaged, while others rely on just being a solid racing game. Forza 4 falls into the second category, it does not need any flashy gimmicks, because so many parts of Forza, shine. From the first trip through the first race, to the last, it is very easy to see how beautiful looking, and well developed of a racing game, it really is.

Starting off you’ll have a choice of a few game modes, Career will start you in the many events throughout, you’ll have a choice of going through the World Tour section, which gives you the option of choosing an event from a list they choose for you, as well as the option of going to the Events List, which allows you to play any event, at any time. In multiplayer you’ll have the choice of racing online, which is well done, or in split-screen. Then there is the Autovista, in the Autovista you can look at cars inside and out, it’s unfortunate there are a limited amount of cars eligible to be explored.

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There are many locations and tracks to choose from, amazingly designed to look like the real thing, from Nurburgring to Sedona Speedway, the amount of detail, and time put into the tracks is quite exceptional. But what good is amazing looking tracks, if there are not many cars to use on them?, well, Forza 4 has no shortage of vehicles, with over 500 to choose from, it’s easy to find the right car for each race. Each of the vehicles are also very well designed, they look, feel, and sound amazing, though some of them just feel useless and un-driveable. The terrible cars are easily over-looked, because there are so many amazing car options, leaving it up to you to pick the right one for your style.

Career mode is loaded with content, it’s not just the 500 vehicles, there are around 200 events, not all events are just one race, and with each event done so well, it’s easy to just keep playing. There are 10 seasons, each season containing a set amount of events, some are quick, and some will not only challenging, but long and time consuming. The seasons are generally long, and as you progress, the track length also increases, and opponents gradually get better, it makes for some entertaining, and intense races. The cars in each race are pretty evenly matched, there are races that will put the best cars against opponents with terrible cars, but there always seems to be an opponent within range.

At the end of each event, you’ll earn credits, experience, and an affinity increase. Experience is used towards driver levels, there are 250+ driver levels to achieve, driver level rewards end after 50, but you’ll still get credits for each level gained. After each level you’ll get the choose your vehicle reward, unfortunately you can’t check the stats on them until it’s yours, so it can be easy to pick the wrong car. Affinity Levels increase by using a maunfacturer vehicles, each manufacturer has their own Affinity level, by increasing these levels, they will give you deals up to 100% off their parts.

Forza 4 comes with 5 difficulty levels, Easy, Medium, Hard, Advanced, and Expert, the Expert difficulty warns you that unless you have real world experience, and a racing wheel, it probably is not for you. Additionally, there are also driver assists, they will help with many components of racing, like breaking and steering, if you change any of the options, the difficulty will become Custom. Driver assists affect the bonus at the end of each race, the less you have on, the higher the credit increase will be, but if you’re new to Forza, or racing games in general, chances are you’ll probably need a few on.

Regardless of the difficulty, the endurance races do a great job of actually testing endurance, some of these races can be 10 minutes or more, if you want to win all of the races, on harder difficulties these can be quite the test, especially if you lose in the last mile. These races can also be fun if you do have the time to invest in the race, getting to race on some of the largest tracks in the world is great, some really nice visuals, and you can settle in and just race, they are rewarding for experience, affinity, and credits as well, and the cock-pit view adds a bit more to the experience.

Each turn, drift, and lap are rated out of 4, giving you the possibility of having a perfect race, it is easier if you have the driving line enabled. If you do mess up in a corner, or drift, there is a rewind button, this can be set to unlimited, limited, or off, via the assist menu, it’s another nice option to have, sometimes it’s easy to feel like you can do a bit better, and it’s good to be able to attempt to without restarting the race. Using the rewinds does not affect your end bonuses, but having them on will, though they are really nice to have in the endurance races.

Additional credits is always a nice to have, and there are a few ways to spend them, you can upgrade current cars, buy new cars, buy parts, paint jobs, and vinyls, and not only can you buy the pre-loaded items, there is also an Auction House. The Auction House is where you can buy and sell created vinyls, tuning jobs, as well as designs, and you can also buy and sell cars to people online, it’s a great option if you want to find a vehicle for cheaper, want to unload un-used vehicles, or just find extra rare cars if you have the credits. Another way to buy vehicles, is by coins that can be bought by using MS Points, so you can save your credits. There is also a community, and in there you can upload videos, and pictures, as well as rate, and watch other peoples uploads.

There are a few problems though, if you look closely there are edges, and texture issues, as well from time to time audio issues, but they are not large issues. The larger issues are with the opponents, if you hit them, or they hit you, too often it does far more damage to your car, you can even lose control but they’ll just keep driving a straight line, and generally the opponents get the benefit of the doubt in other situations. The one-on-one races have slower moving opponents that clog up the road, it seems like they intentionally cut you off, or run you off the road, you can go from being ahead, or close behind, to being 15+ seconds behind, it can become unnecessarily frustrating, and prompt a restart. The cock-pit view is nice, but there is no way to look around inside the car, you’ll just a camera view of what’s beside, or behind you, there is so much detail in and out of the vehicles, it’s strange it can’t be experienced as you drive.

Though there is already a tonne of content throughout Forza 4, you can also add to it with the available downloadable content packs. There are many packs to choose from, they add vehicles, locations and tracks. The vehicle packs give many vehicles, and there are quite a few of them, as well there is 2 track packs containing 18 additional tracks, if you didn’t have enough reason to keep playing, there is much more. Another option is to buy the Season Pass, it costs 2600 MS Points, but gives all the content, and is definitely worth the money if you invest a lot of time in Forza.

Forza Motorsport 4 is at the top in its class, and shines in many categories. Not only is it great for experienced racing fans, there are many options to make it accessible for even new or casual players. The problems are not enough to make this game avoidable, rather there is so much it does right, that it should be experienced. With amazing graphics and visuals, entertaining, intense racing, tonnes of events, and vehicles to use, there is so much content it’s easy to just keep playing. If you want a racing game that will last you a long time, Forza 4 is a great option.

Overall Score: 9.4/10

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If you’ve played any of the F.E.A.R series, you’ll know what to expect, creepy story, eerie environments, a freaky girl named Alma, and a lot of blood. F.3.A.R or F.E.A.R 3, is no exception, it brings all this to the table and a bit more, it doesn’t have the frightening effect the original had, though just like the second, it is still a great game. Just like the first two, Alma will make many appearances, many involving blood and bodies, you’ll turn around and see her, walk around the corner and catch a quick glimpse of her, or she’ll appear right in front of you, then disappear when you walk towards her. But unlike the first two, there is an additional character to use in the campaign.

You’ll start off using Point Man, he uses the weapons found throughout, he is accurate and deadly with a gun, but he also has the ability to slow down time, and being able to clear a room or group of enemies with head-shots, in slow-motion, is cool for its obvious reasons. After the game concludes, you’ll have the ability to use Point Man’s brother, Paxton Fettel, and he brings a whole new way of playing through the game.

Fettel does not use guns or grenades in his own form, he has the ability to shoot energy blasts, these are highly powerful shots, and he has unlimited of them, if you shoot too many he will take a second to let his hand rest, then start blasting again. He can also suspend enemies in the air, allowing for easy head-shots, and can possess enemies, possessing enemies gives you use of their weapons and grenades, or switch them if you please, then you can make the enemies implode, when you are done with them of course. You can run out of time during possession, to stay in the current body you have to kill enemies, then collect their energy orbs, if you run out of time, the enemy will just implode automatically.

Point Man is also fun to use though, and each character has many challenges to achieve, as well as perks to upgrade. As Point Man you can just tear guys apart with weapons, leaving a room full of blood stains, and slowing down time is a lot of fun, especially after it is fully upgraded, it can change your luck in just a few seconds, and suddenly they are the ones ducking behind cover. Point Man is also very powerful, his melee attack does a lot of damage, he is very accurate with both the weapons and grenades, but other than his ability to slow time, he sticks mainly to weapon and grenade kills.

The story in F.3.A.R is definitely creepy, you’ll see Alma in her child form, but in reality she is a full grown woman about to give birth to another child, and by another, I mean Point Man and Fettel’s sibling. You’ll need to get to the child before Armacham Security gets their hands on it, so that Fettel can raise the child as his own. Alma’s contractions start getting stronger, making it crucial to get to her as fast as possible, but these are no ordinary contractions, these destroy parts of the world, with a loud screams and mushroom clouds. Adding to the creepy story, the environments match the story, shadows, rattling pipes, ghosts and many other creepy noises accompany you throughout.

The action is the biggest part of the game, there are large, bloody battles, tons of bullets fired, lots of grenades exploding, and it all looks really good. The action and game in general is a lot easier if you are using Fettel, with the ability to possess enemies, even if you are killed while possessing an enemy, you won’t die, rather you’ll just go back into Fettel’s own form, full of health. Making it easier, when you are suspending enemies with Fettel’s powers, the enemy can not shoot, allowing you to hold them up, and unload with head-shots, you can also pick up and throw grenades with his psychic powers, but even using Fettel, the action can get intense, and you’ll still need to duck behind cover.

Psychic Links

Both characters have their own perks and challenges, completing challenges and missions will earn experience, through that you’ll level up, and have your perks increase until they are maxed out. The perks range from upgrading your health, health regeneration speed, stamina, adding bullets, grenades, and either possession time, or your ability to slow time for even longer, depending on the character. There are also collectibles that add experience, Alma Dolls and Psychic Links, are scattered throughout, the Psychic Links are more common to find, they are dead people with the link inside of them, the links do not do anything, just add to the character experience, and there is only one Alma doll for each of the eight chapters. Each Alma doll has generally 3 locations it could be found, so searching the level is important if you are looking for them, and it makes finding them a little bit more challenging.

Alma Doll

The co-op in F3AR is where the extra replay value comes in, co-op is done either in split-screen, or online, and both are very fun. You play through the story with a friend, both players will get their choice of using Point Man or Paxton Fettel, and being able to use them both, adds a lot of entertainment. One player can suspend the enemies, while the other picks them off, or you can possess the enemies and shoot them from the back and front, or go in guns and blaster blazing, among many other options. There are challenges to complete by working together for kills, and finding the collectibles, making duel kills and planning, valuable as you play. The Psychic Links in co-op can either be shared, with the finder getting the majority of the experience, or stolen, giving all the experience to the finder, it’s good if one side has a maxed out their character level.

The online game-play is decent, there are 4 different game modes, and each game mode has 12 scenarios/maps to play through. There is also a Solo Practice mode, letting you get used to each mode, learn the rules, and figure out strategies for when you actually play the online portion. The maps are generally a decent size, and the game modes are actually pretty fun. F**king Run! will require you to fight your way through waves of enemies, Contractions is very similar, except in this mode you can barricade areas and stock up on weapons. In Soul Survivor, Alma makes one of the players a spectre, the spectre’s goal is to kill and possess the other three players before time runs out, and Soul King is similar to Soul Survivor, but all of the players are Spectres, to win the players must possess, and collect the opponents dropped souls.

With all that is great in FEAR 3, there is still quite a few problems throughout, mainly with the length of the campaign. There are only 8 chapters, each chapter will take around an hour or so to complete, so the game is not very long, it’s a good thing there is the ability to use Paxton Fettel as well. Not only is it fairly short, the game-play is also pretty linear, there are a few moments where you’ll have to find your way through a maze of obstructions, but it generally keeps pushing you forward. There are character levels, but there are only 21 levels in total, and they can be earned in one play-through pretty quickly, depending on the collectibles you find, and challenges you complete.

The main issues pop up in combat, open metal floor gratings, and chain link fences stop bullets, strangely enough, and if you are behind cover while trying to use Fettel’s psychic powers to throw a grenade, often it can blow up on the cover in front of you, or on a wall behind you. There is another issue with Fettel’s powers, even if enemies do not see you possess the other enemy, they still seem to know it’s not actually them, and will start shooting immediately. There are also problems with finding the Alma Dolls, there is no way to know if you’ve collected the doll for each chapter, so you’ll have to either try to find them all again, remember which ones you have collected, or just mark them down, which solves the problem pretty easily. Then there is the fact that doors close and lock behind, this can make them a bit more challenging to find, if you don’t remember or know where this is going to happen, exploring will be cut short if you walk through the wrong door.

In conclusion, F3AR is a great shooter, the co-op is very entertaining, and the story is creepy and well done. The replay value is in using both characters, completing challenges, finding collectibles, playing in co-op, or playing online, and all of the game modes are pretty fun. You can complete challenges multiple times, so if leveling up will constantly continue, the graphics are great, despite some buildings looking like they are wall papered, rather than looking like their made of bricks, and there are a few annoying glitches throughout. FEAR 3 is great, it feels like it’s missing some components, but all around, it’s a solid shooter.

Overall Score: 8/10

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As a long time fan of rally racing, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to speed around the dirt tracks, mountains, and all the other white knuckle courses in a rally car. Rally racing is a blend of skill, luck, and a lot of bravery, the DiRT series does a good job of simulating what it would be like. DiRT 3 continues the series with familiar and new additions, some good, and some I personally was not fond of, but still adds to an already great series.

There are three game modes to choose from, DiRT Tour, Multiplayer, and Single Player, DiRT Tour has the majority of the content, you can make your way through many events, from beginner races, to the X-Games, all the way to Rally stardom. Multiplayer has Online Events, and Split-screen, it’s fun racing with friends, especially in person, and Single Player allows you to pick the whole loadout of the race, making it easy to just do quick races.

DiRT Tour has a decent amount of events, there are four seasons and each are broken up into four more sections, each section contains  a set of events, and the majority of events have multiple races. There are Rally Cross events, Rally events, Stunt, Buggy and Truck races, the stunt races will make you either have to do a series of stunts in a row like, donuts around light posts, jumps, larger donuts around water fountains, and drifting through areas. Some of the stunt events will also have you smash through small yellow walls for additional points, but these events don’t require you to do all of the stunts in order, and all are points based. While completing the season events, you will also unlock additional events, and there are quite a few to play through.

The courses in DiRT 3 are great, they look very good, and racing around them is a lot of fun. I preferred to just do the race events, the courses are fun to race on, they can be challenging, and the weather simulation, and effects on the vehicles was done very well. The snow and ice will make the vehicle slide, the tarmac is great for traction, the dirt and gravel roads also are good for sliding around corners. There are many locations to race through, Finland, Monaco, America, Norway, Kenya and Africa, they do a great job of simulating what driving on the courses would actually be like, without the risk anyways.

The vehicles in DiRT 3 include new and old rally cars, rally cross, trailblazer, buggies and trucks, all of the vehicles look great inside and out, plus on the Xbox 360 version, your avatar hangs from the rear view mirror. I personally prefer to drive with the in car view, so having a realistic look inside the vehicles is great, the weather, and dust will look real, they will obstuct your view, and also it looks real, but water seems vanish off the vehicle window pretty quick. All of the vehicle types are fun to drive, and the courses are done well for each type, though at times you can just spontaneously lose control, sending you spinning off the course.

The racing in DiRT 3 is very fun, there are 3 difficulties to choose from, Casual, Intermediate, and Advanced, plus there are also driver assists, like breaking and turning, as well as being able to toggle the driving line. Intermediate and Advanced give quite a good challenge, it’s faced passed, wheel to wheel racing, one mistake can lose positioning, it’s a good thing there is a rewind option, but there is a limited amount per race, and a bonus for however many you have left at the end of the race. The driver assists are also very helpful, if all the assists are turned on, it basically does everything but steer and hit the gas, it’s good for new players and people who want to play through without the challenge.

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The game looks great, so the replays are nice to watch, and the ability to directly upload replays to YouTube is a cool option to have, especially if something really awesome happens. Through uploading replays and playing online, you can gain fans, the more fans you have, the closer to online rally stardom you get, and adds a bit extra for the people who get really good, and like racing online. It’s not just a good option for the skilled players, there are cool things that happen throughout the game, roll over victories, close victories, awesome crashes, long jumps, and many other things can happen, it’s nice to be able to upload and share the replays.

There is also the DiRT Tour driver rep, as you progress through events you’ll earn experience, the experience depends on the difficulty level, how many flashbacks you have left, and if the race objective has been achieved. The more races there are in the event, the more experience is earned, certain levels unlock new company deals, which include vehicles, and liveries for the vehicles. Gaining levels is rewarding, there are 30 levels in total, and the vehicles generally get better, events that were difficult can become easier, and races become more intense.

Though the YouTube upload option is nice to have, the game really starts pushing it, not every second race replay needs to be uploaded, and it seems like it’s trying to remind the gamer that it’s there, over and over. Though the graphics are great, and the replays can be nice to watch, there are texture issues from time to time, and there are quite a few rough edges in the environments, though not enough to make the game look really bad. Beside the pushing to upload on YouTube, the before and after race dialog is really corny, it also doesn’t seem natural, and includes the word “Dude” so many times, it’s good some of the dialog can be skipped.

In my opinion, the events that require you to do stunts in a specific order, took away from the pace of the game, I’d rather just race, I did enjoy the events the break through events however, it was nice being able to go around and do whatever stunt I wanted, when I wanted, and it was fun racking up the points. These events however are not required unless you want to get 100%, but even if you don’t do the events you can finish off each season. Besides the original content, there are additional downloads that unlock events and vehicles, but there are not that many additional events. Though progressing all the way through the DiRT Tour will take a while, there is not much content beyond that, you can improve scores, or race with friends and online, but nothing beyond that.

DiRT 3 does a great job simulating what rally racing would be like, great courses, intense challenging gameplay, and great visuals make up the majority of the game, there really is not that much content, but the content that is there, is done well. Even though I felt the Stunt Events took away from the pace of the game, they also added additional challenges, and they can still be fun. All together DiRT 3 is a great racing game, the track, weather, and vehicle simulations are done very well, the events are entertaining, and all looks great too.

Overall Score: 8.5/10