Rambo: The Video Game

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Rambo: The Video Game | PC | Teyon

Question Time:

As a rule, games based on film franchises are:

A. Well realised adaptations of the intellectual property, expanding on the world of the story using the unparalleled freedom of the video game form to enrich the players’ enjoyment of the franchise they love.

or

B. Cynical cash-ins involving minimal effort on the part of the developer who shovel out crapware to suckers who don’t know any better.

If you answered A or B, then I’m sorry – you have no concept of the unmitigated shit factory of a game that awaits you by purchasing Rambo: The Video Game, probably the worst title I have had the misfortune to review for frugalgaming.co.uk*

*note: I’m not counting Dungeon Keeper for mobiles, since there is nothing there that constitutes a game in the first place.

So friends, let me take you on a journey of misery and false promises as we travel together through the R:TVG experience.

First of all, I’m not really a massive fan of the Rambo movies. I mean, they’re OK, but they never grabbed me in the same way those 80s Schwarzenegger films did. Maybe I’m prejudiced against Stallone’s wonky mouth, I have no idea. So anyway, I’ve only seen the films a couple of times, but even I can recognise that the dialogue from this game has been directly ripped from the movies themselves. A nice idea you might think, adds authenticity you might think. Unfortunately, no one bothered to clean up these sound assets or even go as far as to equalise the volume, so what should sound highly professional ends up sounding like a cheap rip-off. Bizarre, but hardly the worst crime the game commits against you.

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The trailer for the game does a fantastic job of hiding the game’s true nature. From looking at it, one might think you’ll be playing an FPS mixed with some third person elements, allowing you to play key sequences from the films. Bless your heart, I was once naive like you, living in a dream world where developers at least made a token effort to include game play in their titles.

In fact, the game play here is split between two elements that both suck balls and infuriate in equal measure. The first is the shooting. With so many substandard FPS titles out there, you’d think even Teyon – a developer with a history of crappy titles – would be able to crowbar something together. Sadly, this was beyond their wit, and what we’re given is actually an ‘on rails’ shooter. Yup, a flipping light-gun game.

Without the light gun.

A light gun-less game that fails to live up to the standards set by Taito’s Operation Wolf back in the 1980s when the Rambo films still had relevance.

Sure, there are some nods to modern titles in there; you duck behind cover periodically only to pop out again and shoot, shoot and shoot some more. Sometimes there’s no cover for you, so you have to shoot more quickly or go into ‘rage mode’ where you have to kill targets as fast as possible in order to revive health.

Occasionally you toss a grenade.

And that’s about it folks. It’s stupidly easy until you get to the final level, where the difficulty ramps up from ‘meh’ to ‘oh for fuck’s sake’ and will probably take you a few goes to learn the waves and the best time to utilise grenades. Then it’s done.

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The 3rd person sections contrive to actually be even worse than the scrolling and shooting parts. Firstly, they’re all QTE based. If that isn’t enough of itself, you also get to really dwell on the frankly appalling graphics of the character models. They’re all pretty dreadful but special mention needs to go to the Rambo model himself, which is so poorly put together you could end up questioning whether it’s supposed to represent a human being or a bag of sausages glued together with fresh turd. Oh, and then shrink-wrapped to give it an uncanny sheen. Poor Sylvester Stallone, I hope he never sees this travesty of an image of himself – the shock alone might be enough to do him in.

The game tells you it includes stealth sections. It doesn’t. You just need to press Y at the correct time to sneak.

The game tells you it includes fighting sections. It doesn’t. You just need to press X at the correct time to punch (or dodge a punch).

Fortunately, the developers must have recognised what a load of crap these quick time event sections were and so they actually included an unlockable perk that means you can’t fail the QTEs.

Seriously.

So what was the point then guys? If you felt it appropriate to include a perk that helped us skip sections of your dreadful game, why not simply do us all a favour and not make us play any of it in the first place?

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I don’t know where to spray my hate cannon next on this game. How about the fact that it can be beaten in less than 3 hours? Or that this drivel costs £30 on Steam right now? Similar price on consoles. £10 an hour for this. I’m quite certain you could get all the movies for a tenner, and if all you did with them was smack them repeatedly into your face, you would have had a better time than playing this awful game.

I don’t mind giving games a chance, even when people tell me they’re rubbish – if something gets terrible reviews but I have even the slightest interest I’ll wait for a sale and pick it up. Hell, I managed to squeeze £3.49 worth out of Aliens: Colonial Marines because I went in with limited expectations. But there is really nothing here to justify you spending any money. There is no price level at which I would agree you should even try this game. If your time is worth so little to you, go and volunteer somewhere and make the world a better place to live in. But send a message to Teyon and Reef Entertainment:

We deserve better than this.

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Karlos Morale

Rambo: The Video Game is available now for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3

http://www.rambothevideogame.com/

 

Loadout Review

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Loadout Review | PC | Edge of Reality Ltd.

It had been a long time of not watching blockbuster action movies before I watched Sylvester Stallone in his 2008 Rambo film. Yawning, I ended up idly picking the film from Netflix in the certainty that I’d be turning it off again in 10 minutes time. The reason I didn’t, and actually went on to enjoy the film, was that it was gloriously and unrepentantly violent. Bullets took people off their feet, shredding them as they flew. Explosives caused people to become startling fountains of bloody viscera. It was unexpected and glorious.

It had been a long time of not playing arena shooters before I played Edge of Reality Ltd’s new title, Loadout. Yawning, I ended up idly picking the game from Steam in the certainty that I’d be turning it off again in 10 minutes time. The reason I didn’t, and actually went on to enjoy the game, was that it was so gloriously and unrepentantly violent. Bullets took people off their feet, shredding them as they flew. Explosives caused people to become startling fountains of bloody viscera. It was unexpected and glorious.

There are too few opportunities in gaming life to really embrace the ridiculous, despite the affordances of a media that can literally set anything, anywhere at any time. Too often, in my view, games try to be extensions of real life – when really, abandoning anything that ties the game to mundane existence would be preferable.

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Edge of Reality Ltd’s game has a lot of work to do in order to stand out in its field; a free-to-play 3rd person arena shooter, very much in the style of Team Fortress 2, Loadout could easily get lost in a sea of similar games.

Get shot too much in Loadout and you could end up headless – just a brain with two eyes glued to the front – but still alive. Or, you can find yourself running around with a chest cavity big enough to drive a bus through but still alive enough to grenade the unwary.

Loadout is at its most successful when it sticks one dying, bloody finger up at the conventions of gaming. The game hooked it from the very first spawn point. I noticed that I had been dropped in to a space occupied by green (friendly) and red (enemy) named characters. The seconds ticked down to game start and I went through the following thought processes:

1. Ugh. We’re all spawning together? That’s stupid.

2. Huh. We’re all spawning together.

3. Yeah! We’re all spawning together!

4. Double kill! I survived! I’ve only got one arm!

Dropping me into the game like that was brilliant and it set up the tone for what was to come, frantic, barely co-ordinated violence and its gooey repercussions.

Before you get to shooting action however, you have to choose your loadout – see, they didn’t just pick the name at random – as the game has a strong focus on you building a weapon (which in a stroke of genius, you get to name) to match your preferred play style, or role in your team. Any weapon can be modified to deliver arcing lightning death, burning fire or even healing if you’d enjoy being a medic. Additional upgrades are unlocked with ‘blutes’ which is a currency earned solely in-game and cannot be bought with microtransactions.

Uh oh.

Yeah, there’s that word again. Microtransactions. After the travesty that was Dungeon Keeper, this should be enough to send shivers down any gamers’ spine. Thankfully, Loadout manages to do it right and prove that it’s not that hard to monetise a game without pissing everyone off. Are you listening, Electronic Arts?

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First up, Spacebux – the currency you buy – cannot be used to buy anything that will give you a material advantage in-game. The upgrades are cosmetic only.  Edge of Reality made a smart choice by opening up the weapon systems, but really restricting the cosmetic options available to you in customising your character. At low levels, each team is filled with 4 or 5 versions of the same fat-Rambo with the occasional chunky lady thrown in. As you play the game, you’ll realise it’s quite possible to make pretty badass looking avatars, but unless you cough up some money to support the game, you’re going to be left with the couple of goofy looking options you had at the start. It actually reminded me of Brink’s character customisation which was a strong element of that title.

Secondly, Loadout is a great deal of fun to play. You make progression in terms of unlocking weapon upgrades etc. because it’s a title that lends itself to sitting down to play for an hour or two every day. You get daily play bonuses of blutes so you can always be working towards creating a new weapon to try. Games don’t tend to drag on and (so far) the online community is decent without people getting butthurt over defeats. So you tend to play and play some more – leading you to want to give something back to the developer who made this decent shooter.

It feels different enough to Team Fortress 2 to stand a chance of making a splash for itself in the arena shooter world. I hope that it makes it and I’ll be really interested to see how the game progresses from this point. Why not get in on the ground floor and give it a whirl? After all, at this price point, what have you got to lose?

Don’t push me.

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Karlos Morale

Loadout is available now for PC on Steam

http://www.loadout.com/game-info/

Dungeon Keeper Review

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Dungeon Keeper
Pub:  Electronic Arts / Dev: Mythic Games
Android/iOS

Approaching this review, you may have heard one or two things about terrible gameplay, predatory business models and a shocking disregard for gamers shown in this title. These things are all true –  Even stuff you might have made up in your head, on the spot, just then. Dungeon Keeper is probably the greatest example of how the mobile game market needs a radical overhaul – and that action needs to start with you, today.

I knew this game was in the pipeline but had forgotten about it around release, so I was surprised to see a couple of YouTubers suddenly coming up with videos about one of my favourite older game franchises. I was not ready for what I saw on screen and – despite their warnings – went ahead and downloaded the game from the Play Store.

Dungeon Keeper does not fail because it is an inherently bad game. The IP of Dungeon Keeper is strong; you play the villain who builds a dastardly dungeon filled with traps and minions and you must defend it against the incursions of pesky ‘heroes’ and other ‘Keepers vying for power. The original concept came from Bullfrog Games who were responsible for many classics in the 90s (that have since been shat all over by EA – I’m looking at you, Syndicate) and was full of character and interesting gameplay mechanics. Essentially a realtime strategy game, you design and dig out your dungeon and interact with monsters to gather resources and fight battles. Playing from the bad guy’s point of view was novel, but the humour was what made the games shine.

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Dungeon Keeper does fail because it treats you, the player, like an idiot. The redesign of the game needs you to be a hyperactive cash-cow, randomly clicking everything and throwing money at the screen – or it requires you to not really enjoy playing games at all, and instead merely check-in once or twice a day to tap a flashing button.

Like the original games, you still dig out your own dungeon. Again, like the original games you send your imps to dig out rock to make space for rooms. What makes it slightly different to the original is that some rocks take 4 hours or dig out.

Or a day.

So if the idea of ponderously digging out a 5×5 room over the course of a month appeals to you, then great. Go ahead and download.

Alternatively you can take what the game itself calls ‘quite the polarizing solution to make the timer disappear’ and pay. The game knows it is being exploitative. The game knows that it is cashing in on what are hopefully the final death-throes of a monetization model designed to mug, and mug heavily, a few people who get caught in its trap.

To put it simply, you can pay quite a lot of money to progress more quickly. Without paying, there is basically no game to speak of. Everything has a timer and nothing is fun. If you want to make the slightest change to your dungeon, the game sticks out its grubby paw and asks for payment – like a drunken busker stumbling his way through some of your favourite tunes and demanding cash in return for silence.

I don’t care that they got the original voice actor back to play the games’ narrator. I don’t care that there are a couple of moderately funny one-liners. Dungeon Keeper 2014 is NOT A GAME. It is a cynical and manipulative title that gives you no reason to play it. Were it to have been released at £15, with  no additional micro-transactions tacked on, it might have been worth a look – but I have neither the time, inclination nor bottomless pockets to discover what the ‘end game’ of this particular title might be.

I’d like that to be the end of it. It would have been nice if we could just turn away from Dungeon Keeper and never speak of it again. This is however, one final aspect that I have to bring up – just in case you come across this title in the app store and get confused by the ratings. Like many other titles, this game will ask you to rate it and – again like many other titles – it will ask you to give it five stars. Here’s the thing about that – if you choose 5 stars from the in-game options it will take you to the store page to rate it. If you choose 1-4 stars it will ask you ‘send feedback’ to them EA instead.

Sneaky. How many people do you think actually follow up, find the game page in the store and rate the title from there? I would suggest a great deal fewer than the ones who just click ‘5 stars’ to get rid of message.

I don’t know how to put it more plainly than this: do not download Dungeon Keeper – it sucks.

Do not tolerate ‘free-to-wait’ games that offer you virtually nothing in return.

Hell, even Flappy Bird offers a complete experience.

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Reviewer: Karlos Morale

Dungeon Keeper is out now for Android and iOS

Dungeon Keeper is ‘free to play/wait’

 

Long Live the Queen Review

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Long Live the Queen
PC
Hanako Games

How is it that the animals are always first to know?

Look at almost any horror film you can name and the little barking doggy or the startled cat is the first indication, to any character willing to see it, that misadventure is about to befall. Animals, it would appear, have some kind of preternatural sense of impending doom – it’s just we humans who are too dumb to recognise it. Trouble is, as soon as our animal friends – whom we feed and protect for years – sense anything dangerous they give the most useless warning signals going. Oh, puppy is barking at the door? Well it could be that the old man outside is a hideous were-beast from beyond the veil, or it could be that puppy needs a piss. Thanks for making that clear, pup. Now we’re all dead.

Well, great news if you enjoy obscure animal signals leading to your untimely demise, because Hanako Games has brought us what I can only imagine is a world’s first ‘useless animal sign of death’ simulator, under the charming name of Long Live the Queen.

In this game, you play as Elodie, a 14 year old princess with gigantic eyes whose job it is to survive long enough to become queen – just 40 short weeks are all that separates you from the crown that your mother vacated by virtue of ‘magical mishap’. It would be nice to think that your soon-to-be subjects are all rooting for your in your bid to take control and have a bit of sympathy for you as a young girl who has suddenly lost a parent. Unfortunately, life in the court of Nova is a dangerous place and basically everyone has an agenda of some kind. Only by harnessing the skills necessary to be queen will you survive long enough to take the throne.

Long Live the Queen is a story that you read, with some game-y elements that make it feel very similar to a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ story. You make choices based on the information you have (or have learned from previous playthroughs) and hope that you are choosing wisely.

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Given that most people you meet seem to either subtly or openly hate you and want to see you dead, and that violent murder can come suddenly from any direction, you swiftly need to get Princess Elodie up to speed on how to manage the affairs of the kingdom. This is done by attending classes in various topics to increase your skills (hey, that’s a lot like life!) which could be things such as Public Speaking, Animal Handling or World History, amongst many others. Being a teenager, Elodie’s mood is up and down like a yo-yo in a hurricane and her mood effects her ability to learn certain skills at certain times. Happy Elodie wants to go running and swimming whereas lonely Elodie prefers more cerebral pursuits.

All of this is done in the vain hope that one day, your skill in accountancy or dancing will prevent you from getting stabbed, poisoned, blown up or any of the other fail-states that punctuate your story.

Fear not however, as death doesn’t exactly mean the end of your tale – rather that you begin it again – and try to make better decisions to prevent your demise.

In fairness, murder doesn’t always come out of the blue. Sometimes you might get a piece of text that describes a falcon flying over head and dropping a twig. Other times you might hear a dog barking. These are clues. And if you don’t have the necessary skill to interpret them, they are f*cking useless clues which – as you expire from eating poisoned chocolates or whatever – you realise it would have been better if you’d have picked up on.

Although there are multiple paths to victory, there is definitely an optimal way to play through the game. A wiki guide can take you straight through to the end with zero effort on your part besides a little clicking and reading.

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So here’s the kicker – will you care enough to want to see Elodie’s story played out through to the end? Unfortunately, I’ve got to say probably not. At £7 on Steam, it really is hard to recommend this title when there are so many other games vying for your attention and hard-earned cash. Although Long Live the Queen is certainly an interesting title, there is little variation (the story can be virtually identical from playthrough to playthrough) and, once beaten, little incentive to return. It is certainly a charming game, with relaxing music and undemanding visuals that are pleasant to look at – stats screen aside – but I have to say that you’re probably better off watching one of your favourite YouTubers do a Let’s Play of it than play through it yourself.

Long Live the Queen simply doesn’t offer enough fun to make it a worthwhile purchase.

Now I am off to keep a close eye on my dog, in case she is trying to warn me that the new bowl which has appeared in my house is a bomb by going to sleep on the stairs and shedding exactly the same amount of fur as normal.

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Karlos Morale

Long Live the Queen is out now for PC

Try the demo here

Hearthstone Preview

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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Blizzard Entertainment
PC

Here we go then; one of the most talked about titles in PC gaming has finally hit the open beta stage, so it’s time for everyone who hasn’t played it yet to stop waiting for access keys and start slinging fireballs and dropping Leper Gnomes with wild abandon.

For the as-yet uninitiated, Blizzard’s Hearthstone is a Collectible Card Game or CCG, bearing some similarities to that classic of the genre, Magic: The Gathering – a game which has transcended its roots in sweaty gaming clubs to make it a highly popular game across various gaming platforms.
You choose a hero and build a ‘deck’ of virtual cards with which to do battle against either AI or other players on your server.

Hearthstone is a turn-based game where you select from your hand of cards and try to whittle down your opponents life-counter to zero, thereby winning the game. Your only limitations are the cards in your deck and the mana pool (points to spend on playing cards) available to you. It is an intense game of strategy and counter play, with a nice dollop of randomness and luck that you need to learn to get on your side. Many forums ring with praise for the RNGesus – the god of the random number generator, and those who bemoan when he has turned away from them at the crucial moment.

So far then, so like many other CCGs out there. So what sets this apart from Magic, Scrolls and the rest?

Well for a start it comes from the mighty PC gaming juggernaut that is Blizzard Entertainment, home of the best-selling MMO, World of Warcraft and eSports colossus Startcraft 2. Hearthstone draws on the characters that are familiar to Warcraft players to populate its world and therefore comes with a strong personality right out of the gate – but that’s not all that it has to entice new players.

Hearthstone’s real strength lies in the immediacy of its gameplay and the power of its assets to grab the curious. Every card dropped onto the field comes complete with its own catchphrase and effects. Similarly, the heroes are all well-voiced and characterful, drawing players in and getting them to invest in what otherwise could have been a rather dry gameplay experience. Add this to the usually fast-paced nature of the turn taking and the rather glorious and visceral nature of the simple animations and you have a game where most people who see it in action think, ‘I’d like to play that.’

Blizzard pulled off a bit of a coup by releasing Hearthsone at the best price point available – free to play. This means that if you are interested in checking out their game there is literally no barrier to entry besides signing up for a battle.net account and having a functioning PC. Of course, being a collectible card game, the is the option there for you to buy packs of cards with hope of improving your deck, but with a bit of luck and some time spent playing you can build a decent deck from just spending currency earned in-game.

I honestly surprised myself after a couple of weeks playing that I put my hand in my pocket to buy a few packs of cards. I am the last person usually to buy into ‘freemium’ models for gaming, but Hearthstone manages to make the whole experience so enjoyable that I felt it was definitely worth supporting the developer and handing back some cash for all the hours of enjoyment that I had already.

And hours of enjoyment is right! There are two main play modes, the first being online play with constructed decks that you have worked on over time. This can be in either casual or ranked mode where you play against people of equal skill level to yourself and hopefully move up the ranks over time. The second main mode is the Arena. The Arena mode differs by seeing you use a deck that you have drafted for that particular play session. You choose a hero and then are given 30 sets of three cards, picking your most favoured one each time to build a deck with. Then you enter into the arena, playing against other people’s drafted decks who have the same number of wins as you from that particular run. Your session ends at either 12 victories or 3 defeats, which comes soonest. At the end of your Arena run, you are given a set of rewards which could be either gold, ‘dust’ (for crafting specific cards) or cards. It’s hugely addicting as the vast number of Hearthstone Arena videos on YouTube and streams on Twitch.tv will attest.

OK, so that’s the praise and as effusive as it was, there is room for some complaints – although this part of the review needs the caveat that Hearthstone is still in Beta and is being regularly patched and updated. Firstly, the game suffers with some game breaking bugs on occasion. These come in the form of graphical glitches, cards overlapping and cards swapping position on the board. Although this sounds minor, in a game where strategy is everything, a random piece of misplacement on the behalf of the game engine can be hugely frustrating – especially if it ends your arena run. Secondly, there are some semi-frequent issues with accessing the servers which can prevent you from playing the game completely. Worse, on occasion the game will disconnect you from the server due to an issue at their end which results in a loss for you – again, less than ideal. Finally, although I would not call this game pay to win, it can feel a pretty unfair for newer players to see their plans destroyed by players who have ‘legendary’ (rare and powerful) cards in their deck. With experience you will discover that these cards are not necessary to win, but can feel like an unfair advantage when you begin.

Having said all that, if you can remember you’re getting into a game that is still in Beta and is steadily being improved, I can heartily recommend that you check out Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft right now. Oh, look – here’s a helpful link to help you do just that:

http://eu.battle.net/en/int

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Reviewer: karlosmorale

Score – 7/10 (will rise when Beta issues are resolved)
Out Now for PC with Android and iOS versions to follow.
Hearthstone is free to play.

Character Cards