Portal 2, Assassins Creed Brotherhood and Crysis 2

Oh dear it seems when I have 3 new games to play in short succession I don’t really want to do any writing Here are short reviews of the games I have been playing

Portal 2

Easily the best game of the year more charm than any of the solid but soulless AAA titles so far. Though let down by a few small thing. The single player puzzles often feel simple rarely having long multistage chambers like the first though the co-op remedies this and is often even funnier due to solving or failing puzzles in ridiculous ways it gives a huge buzz on doing something right that is lacking from the single player.

Smaller nit-picks I have are that the ending sequence was not in game something which has always previously always been one of Valves triumphs and the fact the game has loading screens that cut away from the game, again Valve has always previously kept your view during level changes. Those small nit-picks are essentially minor let-downs it what otherwise is a fantastic experience and the irrelevance of them for the most part should give an indication of how good this is.

Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood

I like this game but it does have some huge flaws the basic controls just feel dated remnants from no unused aspects of the first game, it is still far too difficult to do what you want in terms of going into combat or free running. Though this is never an issue as the game is rarely difficult it’s just a shame as it feels so clumsy.

There are still instant fail stealth missions but again the mechanics are not really up to it though it is counteracted by enemies having highly a limited field of view. The story is still a joke of inconsequential nonsense though the historical side is still genuinely interesting. The fact it this is still the only game (I am aware of) you get to run around in fantastic recreations of ancient cities and this is as interesting as ever.

All the extra parts are great there’s no shortage of content despite a relatively short story the meat of the game is in the extras, my favourites being assignation missions you can perform any way you want and recruiting assassins and sending them out though a text minigame.

Crysis 2

A very by the numbers if fantastic looking FPS that while mechanically a superior game to it’s prequels the less open levels make it a far less interesting game. So far this year it’s the only game I have thought is not a good purchase.

The influences of Modern Warfare 2 are clear to see in the single player with multiple sequences that have you crawling along the floor straight out of the finale of MW2 though without any of the cinematic gravitas the Modern Warfare games somehow manage. I find just as I am beginning to enjoy the game something comes along whether it’s rushing enemies that leaves you flailing around as you have no idea what is going on or levels ending just as you feel they started building up to something big. Another problem is having armour, sprint and cloak functions all running on the same resource this means that when a skill would be really useful you are least likely to have it especially the sprint dues to the lumbering tank you are regularly. This was less of an issue in the first game when you were often at range and you did not need to get away as urgently but the often cramped corridors make it utterly useless to try and do anything tactically.

Crysis 2 is a fantastic looking game while maybe only slightly more technically advanced it seems to have taken several steps forward artistically. Sadly such detailed graphics often make it visually too busy and it can be difficult to tell exactly what is going on especially when the alien enemies all rush you at once.

Crysis had a fairly irrelevant story but it did the job of moving the locations along here it is just a mess with plenty of interesting premise but none of the really interesting elements are really built on and killing of the protagonists from Crysis and Warhead off screen during an inconsequential flashback is just annoying. The voice acting is pretty awful I can’t remember the last time I was consistently reminded of how immersion breaking it could be especially with the polish of the rest of the game.

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Some more of Arrivals greatest mistakes

Arrival is the final piece of DLC for Mass Effect 2 and is supposed to be a bridge between the two games and sadly ends up being the weakest what follows is several reasons why.

Boring locations
Almost all the levels in the DLC are your uninspired indoor warehouse type environment all the other DLCs had a range of environments and some interesting gameplay additions, Kasumi had a millionaires mansion and a treasure vault, Overlord had a crashed Geth ship a volcanic valley and the inside of a satellite dish and Lair of the Shadow Broker had the top of a ship in a gas giants terminator zone. There a few adequate outdoors parts one in a rainy prison one in a vacuum on an asteroid but all the indoor settings are utterly uninspired in comparison.

Trivialised story
While the DLC starts off with some promise a proper return of Admiral Hackett from the first game the whole event seems trivialised to a side quest when it is arguably the most important event in the whole of the Mass Effect 2 story Shepard barely has to do anything to stop the Reaper invasion. The Reaper artefact that is the timer of the invasion just turns out to be a poorly explained plot device with absolutely no logical purpose and it doesn’t even turn the mad scientist into some sort of interesting boss monster. On the subject of a mad scientist she seems incredibly poorly written after the rationalisations other indoctrinated people have had for wanting the reapers to come.

Lack of decisions
The game makes all of them for you the most important of which is one that may well have been out of character for the way a lot of people play.

No Squad
While there a clear reasons that voice work could not be done for all your team there is no reason that you could not have been given a few alliance personal to help you out who could then have made the decision against your will that your Shepard makes. The lack of a squad means the battles you fight are generally smaller in scale and when playing a soldier you have access to only a few boring powers rather than the interesting ones of your squadmates. There’s a general lack of variety in enemy types too when adding in husks would be well within reason for the plot.

This was a sad send off for Mass Effect 2 and after the poor reception of Dragon Age 2 only 18 months after the originals release I not sure how much hope I have of Mass Effect 3 not being rushed after a similar length of time. You could say “This is not Commander Shepards favourite DLC on the Citadel”.

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Divinity 2: The Dragon Knight Saga: Ego Draconis Review


The history of the Divinity 2 games is slightly confusing, the initial release of Divinity 2: Ego Draconis in November 2009 was met with mixed reviews to address some of issues Divinity 2: The Dragon Knight Saga was released a year later, this includes a re-mastering of the Ego Draconis story and also adds in Flames of Vengeance an additional campaign.

I have now completed the Ego Draconis campaign, and have some thoughts. While the game is significantly better than I really expected it is not without its flaws.

The story is your fairly generic fantasy fare but it does its job, most disappointing is the main villain who is never convincingly evil coming across as a mix between pathetically morose and camp enough. Shortcomings here are made up for by a decent sense of humour that manages to walk the line between trying too hard and being amusingly surreal. When you finish the story of Ego Draconis it rolls straight into Flames of Vengeance keeping your level and items and I only realised it had happened once I started receiving tutorials again, this probably says something about the ending of Eco Draconis. Had the game finished here I don’t think I would have been happy, while there is no lack of content and the several plot points are tied up it still leaves too much to be resolved and I would have felt cheated of a complete story. Whether I will be satisfied at the end of the next part remains to be seen but I want to get there so it can’t have been all bad. One of my favourite things in the game is the seemingly organic conversation between NPCs I don’t recall ever seeing it with this degree of detail between named characters that say things specific to them not just stock responses.

Graphics are achieved on the Gamebryo engine better known for Bethesda’s Oblivion and Fallout 3 and in several regards it surpasses them, the animation while not brilliant are is significantly better though retain the sense of detachment from the environment you are moving though. The game pulls off faces significantly better showing that the myth these flaws were inherent to the engine are not entirely accurate. Rather than a true open world the game is made up of a several large areas that have some variety and numerous dungeons leading off them.

Combat is too level dependent rather than skill based an enemy a level higher can prove a frustration but an identical enemy of a lower level is easy makes the difficulty seem artificial. You can turn into a dragon there are several specific skills tied to this as well as some armour items flying seems fine for the most part again the physics of the engine seem weak as you don’t have any feel of momentum but it adds a nice change of pace and makes getting around the several large areas pretty fun. Air combat as a dragon is simplistic but with a few skills to use including heal and some special attack moves though it’s mainly about taking down enemy defences. Levelling is much like Diablo with some stats related to resistances, damage and health as well as a number of skills you can respect for a cost once you have progressed to a certain point if you went the wrong direction in the early game. Mind reading mechanic that sacrifices experience to be able to tell someone’s thoughts that often helps solves quests or gives information on things that can help you out. There are a few quests early on in the game which simply require your snooping to initiate and these are great at immersing you in the game world as you mind-read, break into the basements of the starting village and discover the villagers sordid secrets.

While quests are generally fetching items or killing something it kept interesting with a number of different locations and a continual but not overwhelming amount of loot. Like many open world games structured quests are not the whole focus some of the best bits are found though exploration there are entire areas whole floating fortresses that are entirely optional to clear out. Worst feature majority of quests lack a marker on your map which it ended up with me simply using a guide so I knew where to go next.

It’s hard to recommend this game but I enjoyed my time with it so if you desperately need to pretend to be a dragon this game could be for you.

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I am not really a fan of pre-rendered trailers they tell you nothing about the actual experience of the game and while I remember loving the first Bioshock trailer when it came around I don’t use them anymore as a means to interest me in a game.

Take a few examples of unreleased games. I enjoyed the Star Wars: The Old republic trailer but it is not going to make me buy the game it I am in agreement it is probably the best Star Wars related thing in a long time but has nothing to do with the actual product with the exception of the story.

Same is true of the Dead Island trailer that everyone seemed to love last month yet I found the whole thing underwhelming the heavy handed approach attempting to tug your heartstrings with a zombified child for a game that is unlikely to include any children  and so make the emotional aspect of it irrelevant.

On the other hand the Skyrim trailer while looking heavily scripted still shows off what appear to be actual game environments as well as snippets of gameplay while simultaneously giving some backstory.

Batman Arkham City is again heavily edited but it shows things you will actually be able do mixed with actual ingame environments and action.

Both of these sell me on the game far more than the pre-rendered trailers.

I don’t think pre-rendered are useless they can be great to introduce a story and get initial interest into setting and characters and in the case of an MMO where actual game footage is less than exciting it is probably a much better choice.


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Games of 2011

I am usually interested in about 4 or 5 of the games going into a year but in 2011 there’s a lot more. Here is a list in vaguely chronological order I am fully expecting a delay to some of these but the sheer number simply in the first half mean this is going to be a great year for gaming.

Dead space 2 already played, not going to blow your mind but competent and great at creating tension once you turn the score down.

Bulletstorm changing the focus of most FPS games from survival to a score based skill system seems like a much needed injection of variety in the genre.

Dawn of War 2: Retribution more Dawn of War 2, more factions to play as, more loot, yes please.

Dragon Age 2 enjoyed the demo but having missed out on too much DLC by not pre-ordering a few month ago means I will be waiting for a GOTY edition. Still unsure about the art style but faster combat improves the game without it feeling a complete change from the first.

Crysis 2 playing the MP demo at the moment tighter mechanics have left me hopeful for a better SP campaign but what I have seen of the MP is mostly forgettable with a few smart ideas.

Red Faction Armageddon Guerrilla had some great moments but too much downtime between them a less open world might add the focus needed.

Duke Nukem Forever mostly morbid curiosity to how this game can exist and the fact it might be offensively funny.

Portal 2 expected it to be just more Portal but the preview videos show plenty has been added to the formula it’s looking very good.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Bit of an unknown quantity but I have waiting forever for a good first person shooty RPG game maybe this will be it, seems promising so far.

Witcher 2 first had some amazing narrative despite some poor pacing and uninspiring combat and it looks like the swordfighting will at least be entertaining, super excited to see this one.

Infamous 2 first had some flaws maybe they can be worked out this time around story was one of the stronger points so hopefully that can be continued.

Eldar Scrolls 6: Skyrim I haven’t played an Elder Scrolls game and this looks like a good starting point, hopefully if it can get the first person melee right, also it has an awesome trailer.

Battlefield 3 after purchasing Bad Company 2 in the steam sale I got rather into the multiplayer not being able to break buildings with an RPG now just seems silly.

Batman: Arkham City first was great, more in a new setting new story with hopefully some interesting tweaks should lead to a great game.

Uncharted 3 I unexpectedly found myself wanting to go on adventures with Nolan north again guess I will have to get this.

Mass Effect 3 I was somehow disappointed by the second despite it objectively being a far better game hopefully this can return to the epic scale of the first in both narrative and location while retaining the more personal feel of the second.

Rage while I don’t think ID has made a really good game since Return to Castle Wolfenstein this looks far more interesting than Doom 3.

These are games that I will certainly buy at some point even if it’s during a steam sale adding the games I have an interest in getting but not certain about I ended up excluding games that I will be waiting on reviews for because it was just a stupid number they are below.

FEAR 3 Second was mildly disappointing but the third looks to mix things up with your psychic brother back that you shot at the finale of the first game a different studio also mixes things up.

Homefront Previews have been disappointing but there’s a surprisingly realistic narrative for North Korea invading.

Space Marine I have unintentionally become fond of the Warhammer 40,000 universe after the Dawn of War 2 games and the gameplay videos look interesting enough.

Brink Mirrors Edge movement style I want more of this, not sure how mixing an objective based multiplayer with a narrative will work however.

Killzone 3 I need to justify my PlayStation 3 purchase somehow.

L.A. Noir Haven’t finished red dead redemption yet not really any point getting another Rockstar game till then facial animation looks mighty impressive though and there are claims that there’s a new mission format.

The Darkness 2 First was great, what makes me caustic of this is it’s being developed by the developers of the painfully mediocre Dark Sector which still stands as my worst purchase on steam.

So many games so little time and money.

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Tomb Raider Legend

System: PC using Xbox 360 Controller

Tomb Raider Legend is the first of the three Tomb Raider games developed by Crystal Dynamics, who are currently working on the franchises 3rd reboot. Legend sees Lara searching for treasure but rather than the simply doing it for the sake of it there is some surprisingly effective personal motivation I don’t want to spoil, this remains throughout and will probably cause me to purchase Tomb Raider Underworld in the next Steam sale. The main narrative is inoffensive mix of uncovering the truth behind a legend (hmmm), causing you to go to a bunch of loosely related locations across the globe, and dealing with some personal demons. An often knowing script makes light of Lara’s often schizophrenic attitude towards archaeology destroying a statue one minute jokingly to move on lamenting removal of an artefact the next add some much needed humour into the formula. While the story has a few twists and turns none of it especially interesting but the personal factors and occasional funny remarks from your omnipresent radio helpers help push it to stands above that of the average game.

There are 3 main marts to the gameplay that have been present throughout the series platforming, action and puzzles Legend is no different but it throws in a few bits of its own. The platforming is competent enough if a bit lacking on some of the more modern additions you might expect a few poorly placed checkpoints and the occasional bad camera angle being the only real issues. The highly acrobatic feel to the character is a nice change from the more reality grounded climbing portions of the Uncharted games. Combat is a low point but fortunately not a hassle on the easy difficulty with only a few of the puzzle elements of boss fights being irritating. The combat functions by loosely aiming/locking on locking on with one trigger press then pointing in the general direction and firing until they die, a few of special moves are available when close to a human enemy that can trigger a slow motion leap or knock them off their feet are a good addition but are fiddly making it easier to not bother. 

Several motorcycle sequences break up the action and while these in themselves are nothing special they add a welcome change of pace to the rest of the game. The puzzles are generally logical and easy enough to do once you have worked out what’s needed there’s no multi stage ones but this helps keep the game momentum moving forward. The only times I did become stuck were where I was trying to do a puzzle that had not been activated yet as it was an area I would later backtrack through. Quick time events are particularly bad having the use the right analogue stick for directional prompts that are oversensitive to the point that it registers the wrong direction with a slight nudge in the wrong direction. However failing one of these usually sees Lara fail spectacularly at whatever stunt she was trying to do alleviating the annoyance of having to redo the event.

A large of variety in locations ensures the game never drags on as it did in Tomb Raider Anniversary did, mixing contemporary settings with more traditional tomb environments while the game play never changes between them. Graphics are good for a five year old game with a “next gen” effects option that add bump maps and better lighting for a more up to date appearance. Unfortunately this option seems to be broken in a few areas some texture going transparent and while making the environments look more real the characters stylised designs often look unfitting for their settings.

I had a few crashes but for a now 5 year old game on a modern operation system it wasn’t designed for there were relatively few problems.

I finished the campaign in around 6 and a half hours leaving me the option to replay levels for the collectables or a time trial mode that disappointingly after Guardian of Light only unlocks costumes rather than anything with an actual gameplay benefit. I also have yet to complete whatever puzzle there was at the Croft Manor despite the shot length there’s a decent amount of content and more importantly the game does not out stay its welcome.

I enjoyed this game more than I expected to, it’s better than Anniversary the variety of locations and action being the main reasons though playing that game with keyboard and mouse can’t have could well count for my major problems with it. Plenty of aspects to it are now dated overly sensitive controls camera issues being among them. Legend is part of the relatively small the platforming adventure shooter genre and a welcome change from the seemingly identical modern shooter that is currently so prevalent especially at the sale price I purchased Legend for.

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Mass Effect


There is a great sense of growth as a character in both gameplay and story. Your character becomes more powerful, and you can adapt their skills in the way that suits your playing style. You’ll also make increasingly important decisions in regards to the game world and the characters that inhabit it. The world feels as though it changes as a result of these interactions.

Stunning locations, huge character depth and a great game universe. There’s a real sense of scale to the locations that makes the journeys more epic than a loading screen ever could. The game creates a believable world that you really care about, rather than telling you that you should.


Controls are weak and not suited to the core gameplay; it may look like an action game but doesn’t play like one. While this issue is alleviated later in the game when your character becomes more powerful, it does make the opening of the game a bit of a slog, where the only reward is the narrative.

One fairly minor but consistent problem is immersion. It’s often broken by the number of reused level assets for the level interiors on the majority side missions. These side missions, while each having a unique story, are essentially slight variations on one of four locations. This doesn’t give the impression that you’re travelling to a large number of planets spread across an entire galaxy.

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The writing in Bioshock is easily its strongest feature; it manages to be clever but not so much as to be overwhelming. The player is always aware of what is happening – even if not why. The theme of objectivism versus chaos is explored throughout, but without detracting from the surface story. The game also never resorts to telling the player what is right or wrong, leaving it to them to decide what they think.

In an industry where it often seems that once a particular idea becomes popular everyone copies it ad-nauseam, it was hugely refreshing to see a game take a really interesting direction in a unique locale (part art-deco part steam-punk all set deep in the ocean). The quality of the visuals matches the ambition of the setting, and brings the fictional city of Rapture to life.


Despite it being claimed as one of the main features of the game, playing in multiple ways is not possible. There is little variety in the gameplay, making repeat playthroughs less entertaining. The ‘core gameplay’ is fairly weak as the weapons don’t feel that fun to use. The combat is lack lustre due to its repetitive nature.

Inconsistent pacing and long periods where little is added to the main story means that you’re often simply playing to unlock the next piece of the narrative. While there are audio logs that fill in the background of Rapture, these periods become monotonous due to the weakness in gameplay and the lack of any new story developments.

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Doesn’t fit into any predefined genre, truly a unique experience. You can play how you want; devoting your time to exploration, building, mining, monster hunting, farming or creation of elaborate traps. The most impressive thing I have seen is the creation of a working logic circuit in the game, something I would never have expected. It is a sandbox game in every respect. The procedurally generated fully transformable landscapes bring endless gameplay possibilities.

A major appeal of Minecraft is in taming the wilderness. By starting with nothing, you’ll build up a collection of tools and materials and be able to shape the world as you see fit. You can then observe the world change over time as you build and become familiar with the landscape, or in multiplayer seeing other groups undertake vast projects.


It is difficult to be overly critical of a game that is currently in alpha, with many systems still to be implemented. In the existing game there are no goals other than those that you set yourself, which at times can make the experience feel somewhat hollow as you have little ‘reason’ to play.

The game is not good at telling you how to play, and it’s very hard to work out how to survive and create anything but the simplest items without the aid of internet tutorials. While tutorials are planned to be added at a later date it makes the game, it’s quite abstruse at the moment for someone not aware of these factors.

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Dead Rising 2


There’s a large variety of ever expanding tools and skills with which to play. The absurdity of some of the combination items is a standout factor, as it can lead to hilarious situations with its tongue in cheek approach. Moments such as creating a lightsaber using a torch or attaching a car battery to a wheelchair and running through a crowd of zombies are some of the most genuinely funny moments I have experienced in a game.

The game is very good at creating tension with the use of time limits and multiple missions which cannot all be completed in a single play through; you’re left to decide which are the most important. This often leads to barely making the next objective in time, with random encounters often throwing your plans off-kilter, or weapons breaking and needing improvisation to survive. Doing all this while the clock is ticking makes for some really tense moments.


The game feels as though it should encourage experimentation, however doing so is often a quick way to loading your last save. This is partly due to the way the game is structured. There isn’t enough time to play around and complete the game successfully, often leading to situations where you’re forced to either play the missions or play around with the various tools you are given while going off and doing your own thing.

As the game gives little warning that encounters with “psychopaths” are going to occur, they simply become too challenging without proper preparation. This often results in a restart of that section being required. These parts made up the most frustrating trial and error gameplay in Dead Rising 2. The controls are not good enough for dealing with these encounters, and your limited skill set at lower levels only makes this worse.

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