Angry Video Game Nerd the Movie Review

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Produced by Cinemassacre productions and Skinny Ugly Pilgrim

I have been a fan of James Rolfe and his Angry video game nerd creation for many years, I’ve wiled away many an hour watching his Youtube videos. He certainly helped me get back into playing some of the old games I used to enjoy as a kid and I think it has played a big part in the boom in retro gaming that has occurred over the past few years. When I heard he was going to create a film I was actually excited to see what he could do and how he can transform a short webisode character into one that can feature in a full movie. I imagine this isn’t an easy thing to do but I have seen some of his other movies he has worked on and, for the low level finances involved in these productions, he has made some interesting short films.

The movie follows the Nerd as he tries to dispel the urban myth that Atari buried thousands of cartridges of the utterly shameful E.T. game in the Nevada desert. He has refused to review this frankly embarrassing title in his webisode series as it is just too bad, so he has to confront both his fear of this game and the urban myth that surrounds it, which is actually making people want to play it. His journey sees him chased by the authorities led by the bizarre General Dark Onward who mistakenly thinks he is try to investigate the secrets of Area 51.

AVGN_Stills_03The film is on a tight budget, it was effectively funded by the fans to the tune of around $325,000, which doesn’t go a long way when you are producing a feature length movie. The funding did however allow them to keep full creative rights so no compromises have been made and there was no outside interference with regards to the story or characters found wherein.

I was not expecting any spectacular computer generated effects, but I was pleasantly pleased to see a lot of physical effects used and whilst many do look homemade, which is to be entirely expected, they also help with the ‘look’ the film is after. It is after all a B movie and makes no attempt to be anything more, the digital effects are really impressive for such a small scale project and I enjoyed the look and direction of many of these scenes, some good camera work has been used to cover up the lack of real sets and varied locations so I have to say well done, this film does look a step up from many straight to the home flicks I have seen in the past.

So far it all sounds good, but sadly the downfall with Angry Videogame Nerd is its story, which is the biggest part of any film, good effects and nice locations mean nothing if there is a lack of anything that binds it all together and keeps you interested until the end, hopefully leaving you wanting more. Sadly this film is a mess when it comes to the plot, whilst basic in premise, it is far too long. Take it down to around the 90 minute mark and I feel it would have been a more enjoyable romp. As it is, it’s just boring with scenes seemingly just thrown in because they could, especially during the middle section.

91vv12JtXyLI know James is a huge fan of the Godzilla films and he is clearly paying homage to them during the latter stages, but this movie didn’t need it and really seems to be an odd decision that just doesn’t fit. Sometimes less is more and when you are on a tight budget that often proves to be the best way to go, sadly it seems they dreamed a little too big and kind of forgot that this was an AVGN film. I was really disappointed that there was no real development with regards to the Nerd himself, after all it was his name in the title. The support characters are so clichéd that they have little impact and you just don’t care for them and the poor script didn’t help much either as they do very little to progress the story forward. I can’t really judge if the actors hired were of a good standard as the writing is so bad, it’s difficult to separate the two.

In the end I was really disappointed, I wasn’t expecting it to be amazing but I was hoping it would be enjoyable to watch and it just wasn’t. The story is awful, a day in the life of the Nerd would have been a far better choice. It seems that the time spent on the film was weighted more on some good looking effects and not on the actual star himself, the Nerd.  This could have been so much more and really given some life to the AVGN character and that was what I was expecting, not a hodge podge of ideas that just don’t work at all with the central character on screen but not for any reason other than to make a film, any film.

Score: 5/10

Borderlands: The Handsome Collection Review

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Borderlands: The Handsome Collection

Developed by 2K games

Reviewed on the PS4

Borderlands is a series of games that I really enjoyed playing on the last generation of consoles. I played the first game on the PS3 and the sequel on the Xbox 360, both were well made games that had hours of gameplay and implemented the addictive shoot and loot mechanic that just keeps you playing. Hours fly by as you shoot and then collect your loot, hoping to find something amongst the millions of different weapons and tools that improves on what you are currently using. Time really does fly by without you realising it in the world of Borderlands.

claptastic_screen1 reviewI purposely avoided picking up the Pre-sequel that was released towards the end of last year as I knew it would end up being released on my PS4, after all there seems to be few games that aren’t being repackaged and released for the latest consoles. Is it right that companies are doing this so often? Well that’s a debate for another time, but it definitely has its advantages and some of those are prevalent in the Handsome Collection. First off, you are getting both the newly released Pre-Sequel and a re-mastered version Borderlands 2 for the price of one game. The various DLC add-ons that have been released for these games are also included and as such this makes up two truly massive games that in all honesty are just too big to take in all at once. It is disappointing the original game isn’t also included but this is the Handsome Collection (Handsome Jack wasn’t in the original game so I can see why it was left out).

Chances are you will have played at least one of these two games on your older consoles and investing many hours upgrading you characters, you will be delighted to know that you can carry this information over, but only if it is the same make of console. Sadly I played Borderlands 2 on my Xbox 360, so I couldn’t retrieve my fully leveled up character from that game for the PS4.  As I have a modicum of sense I don’t own an Xbox One to transfer my save to so I had to fully start over again with this game. Luckily it is already a great game, so playing it again with a different class of character isn’t too much of a chore, but I don’t fully understand why you can’t import a save across platforms, after all Rockstar managed it with GTA5.

hc_screen26Focusing on Borderlands 2; it has clearly been given a graphical boost to get it running in full 1080p and it does look an improvement, but little else has changed with the game and it plays exactly like it did before. There is still a lot of texture pop in, especially when you are entering a new area or reloading a checkpoint. I was surprised as it’s now running on much more powerful hardware and sometimes it last for a number of seconds whilst you are waiting for the image to load in front of you. It isn’t too distracting from the game but it is disappointing to see that a five year old game still has the same technical problems. Does it point to a rushed cash in? Perhaps, but the sheer amount of content lets 2K get away with it.

The game I was really looking forward to playing in depth though was the Pre-Sequel, this was not developed by Gearbox like the previous two games, but  2K Australia, there certainly seemed to be an Australian twang in the accents of a lot of the enemies you encounter. You are given the choice of controlling characters that were all involved in Borderlands 2 including one of the true stars of the games – a Clap Trap robot. Despite the menu urging you to reconsider a better and less annoying character several times, the characters all belong to a different class with different abilities that you can upgrade as you earn experience from discovering new areas, killing enemies and completing missions.

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The humour from the last two games is still there and the one liners are as good as ever. If you like the previous games then you will enjoy this installment too. Very little has changed from the two games except for the introduction of the effects of a moon with no atmosphere on the characters. You now have O2 kits that help you breath (unless you are a robot, after all they don’t breath) and also jump around in the low gravity environment. You can now jump high and use your O2kit to smash into enemies beneath you. Laser based weapons have also been added along with a new elemental power that freezes enemies allowing you to smash them with your melee attack if you are quick enough. Annoyingly, the same texture pop in problems that are evident in the re-mastering of Borderlands 2 are also here. Again, many seconds can pass as you wait for the world to fully load up, but once it does, it does look great on the PS4 even if it is a little bland. All of the areas have a similar style in both colour pallet and architecture. Hopefully a lot more variety and detail in the environment can be added when a truly next generation Borderlands game is released.

If you haven’t played any of these games before I would hugely recommend this just to play through number 2 with all of the DLC, and there is a hell of a lot of it, it really is a brilliant and fun game to play. If you have played through the campaign of both games before then I would say the minor bump in graphics isn’t enough of a reason to play through it all over again. Borderlands the Handsome collection doesn’t feel like the definitive version of these games, it just feels like a good way for people to get into and catch up with the series before something bigger and better comes along from Gearbox with the next installment in the series.

It is packed full of content and for the price is amazing value, especially for new comers to the series.

Score: 7.5/10

The Order: 1886 Review

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The Order 1886

Developed by Ready at Dawn

Reviewed on the Playstation 4

Before this game was released it seemed as though this game was doomed to fail, an early Youtube play-through clocked the game at around five hours. five hours is short by any ones standards, but even with this news I was still very excited to play through this game. It was announced way back at the same time the PS4 itself was announced and there was something about it that had me intrigued. I think it was the alternate history Victorian London setting, being English and having visited my capital several times I am always drawn to games that have me exploring the same streets.

The Order 1886 has you playing the role of Sir Galahad, a legendary Knight of the round table who through the use of the not fully explained ‘Blackwater’ has unnaturally long life and the ability to heal himself of most wounds. The Order answer to no one, not even the Queen. They are fighting against supernatural half breeds or Werewolves as most people will know them. The steam punk influenced setting is a nice take and allows the use of more conventional weapons you would see in a 3rd person cover shooter, but does feel like a bit of an opportunity lost to really make something different, after all do we really still need the standard weapons?

TO1886_GAMESCOM_02_1407774794_tif_jpgcopyThe stand out selling point of this game, and an aspect that every game is initially judged on, are the visuals, and The Order has possibly the best visuals I have ever seen on a console. It looks stunning. Actual gameplay at times looking better than the many cut scenes, the transitions between are seamless and sometimes too smooth as I stood like a lemon not realising I was back in control of Sir Galahad. The world is beautifully made and runs so smooth I noticed no frame drops or rough textures, every little detail on the screen looks superb and there is even a small amount of grain over the image to enhance the cinematic feel of the game. Some people may not like the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen, but they serve two purposes in aiding the cinematic feel and helping the game look so incredible as there is effectively less screen to fill. Visually Ready at Dawn have creating a world that is as close to perfection as I have seen so far on a console and that deserves high praise.

Visuals alone do not make a great game though, the gameplay has to be good and I have to say that I really enjoyed the cover gun play of the game, it felt great and whilst it is nothing revolutionary it is executed well with the enemy AI showing no glaring problems. Whilst most of the time you will use standard firearms, every now and again you get set loose with some ‘new’ guns such as the brilliant electric powered ARC rifle and the explosive Thermite Rifle, sadly though you don’t get to play with these enough. There are a few stealth areas and these feel fairly good to experience, but that is pretty much where the variety ends and sadly you don’t get enough time to really play with what there is. Many games have the problem of stopping a game becoming stale or boring, the Order has a different problem, and it leaves you frustrated that there just isn’t enough of it to really get into it.

TO1886_GAMESCOM_03_1407774798_tif_jpgcopyProbably the most known aspect of this game in the run up to the release was the length of this game, it isn’t long. It took me around 7 hours to complete, I would normally say that this is long enough for a narrative driven game but the Order relies heavily on cut scenes to progress the story. Most of these cut scenes are interesting and extremely well voice acted but for some bizarre reason they are un-skippable, even on a second play through, I hope this is something that can be changed with a patch as it really puts me off another play through. Some cut scenes do have quick time events in them, which is both good and bad. I don’t mind these as much as some people as they can keep you engaged but I do hate that every now and again there is one in the middle of a fairly lengthy cut scene with no warning and if I am not paying attention to press the button quick enough I die, which then means having to start again at the beginning of the same un-skippable cut scene.

The quick time events are also used for the boss battles in this game, I thought they were implemented fairly well and still felt like they gave the player some freedom in how they can tackle the boss, but sadly the boss battles are exactly the same. Doing it the first time was quite fun but the second time round it felt rushed or at worst just lazy from the developers.

CRE0199_The_Order_1886_Gameplay_B-roll_101_1424085147The Order feels like the first instalment in a series of games and whilst I felt a little let down in the final game, I feel there is a massive amount of potential for Ready at Dawn to make a sequel that far surpasses this release. After all, the hard work of creating the engine and setting the story has been done which should free up a lot more time that can be spent on developing new gameplay elements and increasing what already works well. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the game and I feel this may be part of the problem, there was too much hype and just because it doesn’t live up to the hype it doesn’t mean it is a bad game.

The Order 1886 has the elements of a really good game and is fully worth a play through, perhaps not at full price as there is no replay value in an already fairly short game. It has many problems but the actual gameplay itself is really fun. I hope that Ready at Dawn do get to make a sequel that irons out the problems of this first release as this is far from a bad game to play, it left me wanting more, a bad game doesn’t even make me want to get to the end.

 

Saints Row IV: Re-Elected and Gat out of Hell Review

Saints_BirthdaySurpriseReviewed on the Sony Playstation 4

This is the first time I have played a Saints Row game, so I really was coming into this with little idea of what to expect. Many of you will have played through these games already when they were originally released on the PS3 and Xbox 360 over a year ago now. On first impressions it’s pretty clear that this is a last gen game running on the new consoles. It hasn’t had the visual updates that some of the re-released games have had but, does this mean it isn’t worth playing? Of course not, it is just a small part of what makes a game good to play but I would have liked a bit more effort put in to make it feel like a new release and not just a game of the year type release with all DLC added. Many cross generation games have been labelled as cheap cash-ins, but I am glad to say that with this game you are also getting Gat out of Hell, which is big enough to be a full release in itself and it isn’t a full priced release.

Boom_Chicka_(Lust) Review sizeThe main game is an over the top open world game that has a twist. You are in an alien simulation and in some similarities to the Matrix films you can bend the rules of this simulation to give yourself superpowers – such as super speed, mega jumps, gliding through the air and even telekinesis. This makes the game hugely enjoyable and far more interesting than the normal drive, run and shoot mechanics of many open world games. The humour in the game is brilliant and whilst most of it is over the top it isn’t afraid to rip itself and many other games apart, which is a refreshing change from so many games that take themselves far too seriously.

One of the best features of this game is that you genuinely don’t know what is going to happen next, you have to release your imprisoned friends and to do this you have to enter different parts of the simulation, which are effectively based on other well known games. From a side scrolling beat ’em up like Streets of Rage, to a slower paced stealth based mission exactly like the Metal Gear series. As a gamer of a certain age I loved this and it was great to see what classic genres I would be playing through next. These sections are great but sadly they are surrounded by many hours of repetitive tasks. Going from one area to the next, shooting everything there and waiting for a timer to count down as you defend from more incoming hostile enemies. Having super powers helps make it a bit more interesting, but sadly it is over played too many times and it just highlights the contrast between what makes this game feel fresh and what makes it feel old.

Gat_With_Armchair-a-Geddon_(Sloth) reviewGat Out of Hell is a brand new release and sees you play as Johnny Gat as he descends into hell to save the President, the character you play as in the main game, after he is dragged down after playing with an Ouija board. Sadly hell is another City that is all too similar to what you will see in the main game, just with far more red and orange in the colour pallet. Cars still drive round on the streets and people walking the streets, I was disappointed as there was so much scope in the idea of Hell to make this title feel different, but sadly it doesn’t.

The gameplay is pretty much the same too, but it lacks the unique ‘other genre’ mini games that were in the main game, and as such it loses the element of surprise that kept me playing through the main story. You do have the usual Saints Row humour as you will meet many tortured souls in Hell such as Vlad the Impaler and more surprisingly a club DJ called William Shakespeare. These characters act as your crew in this expansion, so again it is the same structure as Saints Row 4, just without some parts that made the main game so fun to play through. There are a few new additions for this game and whilst some are good, (such as Gatman Begins that has you flying through a set course) but none of these are as good as what the main game had to offer.

Kinzie_With_Uriel_sEdge_(Envy)Gat out of hell has around six hours’ worth of gameplay, so it doesn’t drag on too much and I would say is better to play with more of a break from the main game. I played one after the other which is perhaps why I felt a little jaded with doing the same missions over and over. If you had played Saints Row when it was originally released then I am pretty certain you will skip the main campaign as there has been little added and it clocks in at around 12 hours. But if you haven’t played it before like me and you are not easily offended by the humour, then you will really enjoy the game. It has its problems but these are outweighed by the game just being so much fun to play, who wouldn’t love to have superpowers after all?

Resident Evil Remake Review

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The original Resident Evil was a truly groundbreaking game, it popularised the survival horror genre and created a massive money making franchise for Capcom. After a few poor releases in the series in recent years (I’m looking at you Resident Evil 6), the original is back on consoles and PC. This isn’t a full remake of the 1996 original but more of a HD remaster of the 2002 Nintendo Gamecube release. When I heard this game was being brought up to modern standards I was hugely excited, after all this is one of my all time favourite games, so did I enjoy going back to Spencer mansion or is going back ten years into gaming history a nightmare?

RE_nextgen_Nov18_01_bmp_jpgcopyI am sure you know the premise by now but just in case you didn’t, Resident Evil has you stranded in a secluded mansion with decaying Zombies, rotting dogs, mutant spiders and even a massive snake -all out to kill you. You have to manage your inventory, with limited slots available for you to carry items and ammo, it is even more limited if you play as Chris. On top of all this you have to solve some fairly expansive puzzles that require you to explore for keys or items, as you try and escape the mansion and uncover the secrets of the Umbrella Corporation and their monsters.

The biggest selling point of this remaster is the graphics that have been updated in high definition. I am glad to say that they look amazing. Credit has to go to Capcom, who have done a really impressive job in up-scaling the visuals of the infamous mansion. It isn’t perfect however as some areas look seemingly untouched, the outdoor areas in particular look ragged and slightly washed out, it is a stark contrast to the more visited areas of the game, this does highlight how impressive the updated character models look, though as they stand out like a sore thumb in these areas. The old cut scenes and dialogue are untouched from the Gamecube release, this sadly does mean a lack of ‘Jill Sandwich’ and other cheesy lines from the original, and it also means that many of the in game cut-scenes are also left in their original SD format, this looks terrible and is disappointing and surprising as 5.1 surround sound has been added so why not HD FMV cut scenes.

RE_nextgen_Nov18_17_bmp_jpgcopyNothing in terms of gameplay has been added to this release, it is the same as it was in 2002 and playing through it I quickly realised that games just aren’t made like this anymore. I mean this in the best possible way, this game had me thinking, fearing and surviving from one room to the next. The newer Resident Evil games completely lack the suspense that fills this game; you are always on edge of running out of ammo or health. Enemies can chase you through doors and in the case of Crimson Heads come back to life if you don’t dispose of them in time with kerosene and a lighter. You also have a few last chance weapons to enable counter attacks, these are unique to this particular game in the Resident Evil series, it’s a shame they aren’t in some of the other titles..

Whilst the gameplay is the same, how you move about is not. You now have a choice of how to control your character, the traditional ‘tank’ controls are still there but you now have the option of using a new scheme that allows you to turn on the fly by just pushing in the direction you want to go. With static camera angles this does at times mean when you transition between angles you end up moving round in circles and have to stop to figure out which way you should move, but it is easy to get used to. The new controls do seem to make the game feel easier, avoiding enemies is far easier now you have full control, no more pivoting on the spot to get away. The new widescreen screen ratio is well implemented, it will move with you slightly as you run through certain areas, this does add to the cinematic effect of the game and is a nice new touch.

RE_nextgen_Nov18_-02_bmp_jpgcopyI have really enjoyed playing through this game again, it is a reminder of how good Resident Evil used to be, I also hope it is a reminder to Capcom that action isn’t the way to go in this series, and that a return to its roots would actually be a step forward. I hope that sales of this are good enough so that Capcom go back and remake other acclaimed games in the series, namely Resident Evil Zero, Two and Nemesis, but only if they are completely made from the ground up like this title originally was. If you are a returning fan of the series then this is a great way to play through a classic of the genre again. If you are a newcomer I highly recommend you try it, the new controls make it far more accessible and you may learn just why Resident Evil is such a long running series.

Reviewed on the Playstation 4

 

Resident Evil Remastered Preview

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Resident Evil is one of the most successful series of video games I have had the pleasure of playing. Surviving from the original Playstation with countless titles released over the past twenty years, the majority of which I have absolutely loved, this series is one of my favourites. I don’t think I am alone when I say that as time has progressed, the games themselves have changed drastically from their survival horror roots. With the release of Resident Evil 6 a couple of years ago, the only aspect that remained from the mid nineties seemed to be the title.

ResidentEvil_1204_01The reviews and sales of Resident Evil 6 were poor and this backlash forced Capcom to seriously reconsider the future of this franchise, in doing this they have looked back to the successful past and what originally made these games so great – the survival horror element. To test the waters of how to take the series forward Capcom have decided to re-release the first Resident Evil for the current generation of consoles. Originally I thought this would mean a complete update of the original title that was released on the Playstation and the Saturn in 1996, but it is in fact a HD remake of the Gamecube version that was released in 2002. This has become a little confusing but does make sense, as this version still looks impressive even today.

Luckily I can say that this version of the game is one of my all time favourites, I even went out and bought a Gamecube solely so that I could play this title. When people talk about a game being a console seller, I always think back to this and the impact it had on me. At the time this game looked incredible, being a massive visual improvement over the 1996 version. The game itself was also expanded on with extra areas and story added, so that it felt fresh and different as you played through it; a cheap cash in this was not.

ResidentEvil_1204_05Will this new HD remake have a anything new added? Sadly it appears not and this does make me feel that this won’t have the impact that it needs, to make Capcom realise that Resident Evil fans don’t want an action orientated game. A few new features have been announced though, with a completely new control scheme available to bring the game a little more up to date, the option to use the old tank controls is still there though, so it will be interesting to see what difference 360 movement will make to the gameplay. The camera will also be improved with the option to play in the original 4:3 ratio or a new 16:9 widescreen version, which should fill and look superb on your modern HD TV.

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I am sceptical about this release. I do fear it could just be a cash in for Capcom, as the game is still essentially the same as the one released over ten years ago. I hope the graphical updates are more than just a HD upscale, as it has been proven in the past that this can make games look terrible. If the time has been taken to redraw and model the characters and environments, then this could be a great way for both returning and newcomers to experience one of the greatest examples of survival horror. I really hope it does do well, as I would love to see a full update of Resident Evil 2.

Resident Evil Remastered is released online only on the 20th January in the U.K. It will be available on the PS3 and Xbox 360 running at 720p. With full 1080p output available on the PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4 versions.

 

Alien Isolation Review

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Alien Isolation

Developed by The Creative Assembly

Published by Sega

Reviewed on the Playstation 4

The original Alien movie is now over thirty years old and yet it seems as though this is the first video game to really take inspiration from that tense sci-fi horror. Many games based in the Alien universe follow the action style of the Colonial Marines from the sequel Aliens, the most high profile of these was the dreadful Colonial Marines game. The Creative Assembly must have been worried that Gearbox’s disaster may have ruined their upcoming, simply just by the nature of association. Luckily Alien: Isolation has very little in common with that game, apart from the obvious name in the title.

Alien is one of my all time favourite films and I have been waiting eagerly to get my hands on this game, it has been billed as survival horror. Set 15 years after the events on-board the Nostromo, you play the role of Amanda Ripley. Ripley is heading towards the Sevastopol Space station in search of a recovered flight recorder, hoping to find out what happened to her mother. Nothing is straightforward and once you are on-board it is clear there is something else lurking in the shadows.

AI_LAUNCH_SCREEN008_1411636911Given access to terabytes of data from the production of the film, The Creative Assembly have painstakingly re-created the gritty analogue future; so well in fact that at times it really feels as though you are in the film. Everything you have seen in the film is here, from the iconic drinking birds, to the steam filled passageways with flickering bulbs barely lighting the way ahead. The sounds are also perfect, the beeps from an analogue world are all here, and none more so than when typing into one of the many computers you will need to use on your journey. It is as near to perfect as a game can get, the atmosphere just oozes from the walls and the vents throughout the game.

The most impressive aspect of this game is the Alien itself, no longer is it just a moving target to be mown down with endless rounds from your pulse rifle. This time it is the perfect organism. It takes a bit of time before you do fully run into the creature, but when you do it is genuinely terrifying seeing it in action. The AI is really incredible, it is unpredictable and whilst it can be frustrating, it really made me think how I would get through to the next area, or to one of the save points in one piece. I loved the return to manual save points, it just added to the importance of staying alive with no auto save every few minutes to ruin the terror.

The random nature of the AI does have its drawbacks though, at times I was really struggling to evade the monster, getting fairly frustrated with taking my time and trying to edge round the corridors and through the vents. I decided to just walk in a straight line to the exit, I didn’t encounter the Alien at all and it made something that should have been tricky ridiculously easy, but this only happened very rarely and I still felt as though it could leap out at me at any time. Once the Alien makes itself known, I automatically feared the worst and I could actually feel myself breathing slower and edging forward. No game has made me do this for a long time.

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There are other threats on board the station apart from the Alien and these are in the form of Androids called ‘Working Joe’s’, these are cheaply made robots that are clearly distinguished from humans by their pale plastic faces and glowing eyes. Whilst I understand that you need variety in the game, I did feel that in the middle section of the game the Androids were far over used and I began to hate running into them, not because they were difficult but because they were ruining the tension that the game had built up in the first half.

I have to admit to rarely using any of the creatable items. this was partly because I didn’t want to attract the attention of anything to my position, but mainly it was because it was too fiddly to switch between items especially with the speed with which the Alien can move. These items were far more effective against the human or android enemies, but at time the effectiveness of these items changes with no reason or warning so I just stopped using them.

AI_LAUNCH_SCREEN014_1411636926It is the long middle section of the game where all of Alien Isolations problems are shown. I would rarely criticise a game for being too long, but at about the half way point there is a kind of mini ending where it feels as though the game is winding down towards its conclusion. In reality you are only half way through and towards the final few chapters it was really getting to be a slog to keep going with so many objectives being rehashed from earlier. Part of this is down to the introduction of the flame thrower, whilst it cannot kill the Alien, it can scare it off, meaning that many times I was just walking around without even trying to evade it. A couple of bursts from this would be enough to see it running back into an overhead vent, this could easily have been changed by reducing the amount of fuel you can find, or even by just leaving this weapon out until the tougher final hours of the story.

I am fully aware that being such a huge fan of the Alien universe may give me a slightly rose tinted view on this game, but on the whole I did really enjoy my time playing through the story. Sadly it is just far too long. It could have been trimmed by at least a quarter, if I was reviewing just the first half of the game I would say it’s up there with some of the best I have ever played. Even with the excessive length, the game does deliver moments of survival horror at its best, there are also some great moments that pay homage to the first film, these alone are worth playing if you are a fan of the films.

It is not perfect but it is easily the best Alien focused game I have ever played.

Score: 8/10

Football Manager 2015 Review

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Football Manager 2015

Developed by Sports interactive

Published by Sega

Reviewed on the PC

The football manager series developed by Sports Interactive has to be one of the greatest set of games I have ever played. If I added up all of the hours I have spent playing the various games over the past twenty years, I would probably question quite what I have done with my life, but I wouldn’t change the amount of time I have spent playing on this hugely addictive and immersive game. After all, where else could I have taken my Lincoln City side from the depths of English football to multiple Champions League titles?

When loading up the game for the first time I was met with the options of playing the ‘full’ version of football manager or the ‘classic’ version. The Classic version is essentially an option for players who do not have as much time to invest in the game, yet still want to play through many seasons, it is effectively a watered down version of the game, with emphasis more on the match day management of your team. As I have already stated I spend far too much time playing this game so this review, is primarily based on the full version of the game.

There is a third option where you can play through some shortened challenges, I tried out one of these, the aim of keeping AFC Wimbledon up with half the season already gone and being well adrift at the bottom of the table. Sadly my time in charge was brief, as I did little to help the side stay up, but I have to say that this is a great feature to freshen the game up with various scenarios available, if the bottom of the football league isn’t to your liking.

FM15_MATCH_ENGINE_01_1412781262The first big addition to the game comes when you are initially setting up your game, where as in the past you would select your details, such as name/age/favourite club, then pick your team, now you have to select what sort of manager you will be. Will you be a manager who specialises in coaching? Tactics? Or maybe a bit from both? This early decision allows you to tailor your style in a way that you just haven’t been able to in the past, the abilities you possess should be linked to the reputation you have selected, so don’t think you can really go into the Conference with a fully rounded set of skills. Like-wise, the game will help tailor you better if you opt for one of the elite clubs.

On my early play through of the game I tried to become a jack of all trades and spread my skills across all of the fields. I learnt that it is perhaps better to be a tactical coach for the larger sides, where you will have far more coaches to work with and smarter players, but a coaching manager at the smaller clubs, where tactics aren’t as important as getting the most out of your limited resources. It is great to see this added as it will allow you to grow as a manger as you work your way up through the leagues enhancing your reputation. I expect that given enough time, you will be able to ditch the tracksuit you wear early on in your career at the foot of the symbolic gaming pyramid, for a suit once you take charge at one of the top jobs.

The interface has had an overhaul and initially it had me longing for the old layout, but as with most things in life, change is generally a good thing, and after a couple of hours I felt it was far better.

All of the core areas of the game were in the side bar down the left hand side; no longer do you look to the top of the screen, meaning that I was only ever one or two clicks away from where I wanted to be. The addition of an internet style search bar at the top of every page was a brilliant change. Initially I thought that I wouldn’t use the function much, but the more time I spent playing the more I realised just how often I would start typing in it to quickly find the next player I wanted my team of scouts to report on.

This brings me to another fairly big change to the game; the scouting section of the game has now been fused with the old player search. This means that whereas in the past you could literally search for any player in the world, you are now tied in by the knowledge of your scouts. The better and more widely spread your scouts are, the more players you will be able to look at. Whilst this may be viewed as harder for smaller sides, I do think it is more realistic: After all, why would a side in the Conference have a detailed list on players in Burkina Faso? This change really means that you will have to spend more time on sending your scouts to various parts of the world if you want to learn about the next wonder kid before anyone else.

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The tactics section has also had a nice upgrade. Far more options available and whereas in the past the screen would have sliders to select how you would want your side to play on the pitch, now you have to use instructions. Again, I think this is far better, as I highly doubt Jose Mourinho shows his players a set of sliders before sending them out for a match. The media interactivity has been increased, with odd questions being asked to you in the tunnel on the way out to a match, as well as far more media interest in transfers and rumours of morale in the squad. As with previous versions, if you find any of these areas of the game a little too time consuming, or just boring you can have your assistant manager help out.

The 3D match engine has been updated and it looks far better, with many upgrades being made – ranging from far better weather effects, more detailed stadiums, down to the players kicking the ball in a far more realistic manner. I play the game with the 3D match engine, so I really liked these updates, but many players still play through with just the text commentary; this has also been updated with more variety, so it doesn’t feel like you are reading the same as last year. Of course there are still glitches and problems with the match engine, you see players do very strange things and many games do tend to be very similar when viewing them, but it is an improvement and as with all previous Football Manager games SI work hard to release updates that improve problems promptly.

FM15_SCOUT_REPORT_1412781264Overall this is another superb game from Sports Interactive. Each year they manage to keep the game feeling fresh and this is no exception. The addition of tailoring your management style is something that keeps you wondering how we got on without it before. It is another evolution of the greatest football management simulator and if you have enjoyed any of the previous games then you will love this one too.

Score: 9/10

Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor Review

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Developed by Monolith Productions

Published by Warner Brothers Interactive

Reviewed on the Playstation 4

Shadow of Mordor has somehow managed to sneak under the radar a little, which is surprising considering it has been released just a few months before the final part of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit movie trilogy. Over the years we have had many video games based in Middle Earth, starting with the text based The Hobbit that was released in the early eighties, sadly most of them have been either terrible or just plain average. So, does Shadow of Mordor buck this trend and really let us experience the world of Middle Earth?

This game is set in the open world of Mordor, the game uses the power of the PS4 well, to give you a vast living world that is populated with various Orcs and monsters to either avoid or fight. As it is set in between both the books and the films, the story isn’t based on material that you have likely been through before. This has allowed Monolith to create a new character, a ranger, who goes by the name of Talion, who also has some wraith like abilities that can be upgraded as the game progresses. A few well known faces from Middle Earth do make appearances in the game but generally you are creating your own story behind enemy lines in Mordor.

One of the most intriguing and, after playing the game, best mechanics introduced is the Nemesis system; which effectively remembers your encounters with your enemies in the game and really brings them to life. Defeat an Orc captain by burning him and the next time you see him he may have bandages all over his disfigured face, he will also comment on your last battle. This all feels unscripted and I really cannot think of another game that has this level of interactivity with your enemies. Where as in many games, if you are killed by a nameless grunt you will not see him again; this time he will get promoted and remember you. Flee an enemy and he may hunt you down across the map, it really is a system that makes this game much more engrossing.

mordor-coverI have had several battles with the same Orc captain that repeatedly killed me, it felt great to finally defeat him and I could only do this by learning about him. I had to gain intel by interrogating Orcs in the field and finding out who his body guards were, this taught me his strengths as well as weaknesses. Of course you can just go in and take him head on with no preparation but I really felt it made the game a better experience by taking the time to learn about him first and it also made the victory all that sweeter.

Traversing the open world map of Mordor felt very similar to how you run, jump and climb in the Assassin’s Creed games. This means that it is easy to climb towers and sneak up upon unsuspecting enemies. As in the Assassin’s Creed games, there are a few frustrating times when you just get stuck in between walls or keep jumping upwards when you desperately need to run away from an army of enemies, but in the whole it works brilliantly.

You will spend most of your time in Shadow of Mordor fighting against Orcs. I was delighted to see that the battle mechanics in this game are similar to the superb free-flowing fighting seen in the excellent Arkham series of games. If you didn’t like the style of the Arkham games, then you won’t enjoy it here either. I did though and I found it made fighting extremely fun and actually addictive, it made me want to fight more and more Orcs in greater numbers. You flow through enemies increasing your combo meter that then unlocks your special take down abilities. Later on though, once you levelled Talion up enough, it does feel as though you can destroy any enemies fairly easily and it does then take a lot of the challenge out of the game, but even with this I never got bored of slashing through hordes of Orcs.

shadow-of-mordorAs in many open world games there are a variety of missions and side quests that give you experience to unlock new abilities and powers. The missions have enough variety to keep you wanting to try the side quests, but a lot of the main missions do have you finding a war chief and then killing them or later on in the game trying to control them. You can only upgrade your weapons though by defeating the Orc captains, they will then drop runes that you can apply to your sword, dagger or bow granting various perks, naturally beating the higher ranking Orcs gets you the best rewards.

Shadow of Mordor really was an unexpected joy to play and I would go as far as to say that this could be a real contender for my game of the year. I am a huge fan of JRR Tolkiens Middle Earth world and I was really drawn in by this game, it made me want to keep on playing. The nemesis system is one of the best mechanics I have used in any game and it made this game feel next generation, at the moment there is no higher praise I can give it.

Without the pressure of unrealistic hype Monolith has delivered a truly exceptional and more importantly fun game to play.

Score:9/10

FIFA 15 Review

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As sure as the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, September brings the latest version of Electronic Art’s mega selling football simulation game FIFA. This time it is FIFA 15, which EA have promised to be the most realistic yet, a promise made in all previous years of course. This is the second FIFA title to be released on the Playstation 4 and with a full year to get to grips with the new power afforded by the new console, I am hoping for a leap forward over last year’s edition. When you first load up FIFA 15 you are greeted with the usual EA Sports logos and the very slick menu screens which are now synonymous with the various EA sports titles.

The game engine has clearly been improved this year, graphically I was very impressed. FIFA now looks like a next gen game, last year looked good on the PS4, but it did feel like a re-skinned version of what was released on the PS3. The football pitch shows gradual wear as the game goes on, make a slide tackle in the middle of the pitch and the mark left will still be there come the end of the game, added wear and tear that you would normally see when watching a game live.

fifa15_xboxone_ps4_barclayspremierleague_astonvilla_wmThe player models have also been updated, again looking better than ever before and are increasingly getting near to photorealism. The big stars such as Messi and Ronaldo are incredible both in game and in close up replays. I do have to point out though that the arms on some players look odd, making them appear top heavy and of course players further down the football pyramid will look nothing like their real life counterparts. This year also sees a full license with the Premier League – this means that all twenty clubs have their stadiums faithfully recreated in the game. These stadiums do look brilliant and it just adds to the realism that EA are striving for, even the chants from the crowd are unique to the team they are supporting. It hopefully points to future titles having even more leagues fully licensed with stadia and fans all being unique.

A small improvement that I really like is the overhaul of the team management section of the game. Where as in the past you have been fairly limited to pre-set formations, you now have the freedom to move players all around the pitch and really tweak your tactics and pre-set moves and set-pieces. For someone like myself, who from the safety of their own sofa thinks they could teach Sir Alex Ferguson a thing or two, this is a well over due addition to the game.

fifa15_xboxone_ps4_authenticplayervisual_hazard_wmIt’s clear so far that EA have really improved the visuals and immersive nature of the game, but have they taken the game-play that step forward in the same way? Well the answer is both yes and no. Generally FIFA plays brilliantly with the game engine being noticeably different to last year; I find this game tries to encourage a more realistic approach when controlling your team especially in defence. Tactical defending is now a lot harder to master, long gone are the days of just holding down the press button until your defender just won the ball. You now have to actively time your players’ tackles, this iteration of FIFA is a lot less forgiving than last year. You have to time the tackle to perfection to nick the ball off a talented forward. This certainly means you have to be patient and not just charge in with several players, do this and a huge gap will appear that the opposition will easily exploit.

As in many of the previous versions of FIFA the main attribute that you will need is speed. I have both scored and conceded too many goals where a striker has just ran through a defence with far too much ease; this could well be down to not mastering the new style of defending or it could be down to the improvements made to the dribbling in this year’s game. It is now far easier to take on and beat a player, where as in previous games there were little ‘one to one’ moments, where a player could beat a defender or two. This time around it feels a lot easier to just give the ball to a skilful player and let him run, as I have said though this could be down to players just not mastering the new style of defending yet. With it being suicidal, mash the tackle button like in previous games as you will only succeed in clearing a path to goal.

fifa15_xboxone_ps4_dynamicmatchpresentation_manchestercity_goal_wmOn the whole the game is very smooth to play, with all of the new enhancements making for a much more enjoyable and realistic game, but there is one major problem that severely hampers the game; the artificial intelligence of the goalkeepers is terrible. So many times a close game has been completely ruined by a ‘keeper doing something so ridiculous it actually makes you laugh. One of the worst instances I have encountered is a goalkeeper actually diving into the side of the net as an opposing striker ran towards goal, they then proceeded to just walk the ball over the line. There is nothing more frustrating than a close fought game being decided by glitchy AI, causing the ‘keeper to run away from the ball, when all he had to do is pick it up. Even when the decision making isn’t awful, the shot stopping is. So many shots inside the box seem to just travel through the goalkeepers or bounce off them and go into the net. Of course this happens in real life matches, but not as many times as it happens in this game.

Whilst this is a major problem, I do fully expect it to be rectified in a patch, as these issues have been in the past. I have mainly played this game online in the season’s mode; I have had no problems with the EA servers, even on release day when it usually grinds to a halt due to overwhelming demand. One addition I would love to see is a customisable online league; you can still only do this with one other person. We at Frugal Gaming have our own online league and having it all playable through FIFA would certainly save time in updating on the forum and make it more accessible.

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FIFA 15 is a rather substantial visual improvement and certainly feels like a step up over last year’s effort on the PS4, the game play has been refined but there are problems that will need to be patched sooner rather than later, until this happens I give FIFA a 7/10.

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