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REVIEW: Call of Duty 4 November 19, 2007

Posted by pressstartblog in gaming, Reviews.
4 comments

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It’s time to pack up the Garand, ground the Spitfires and turn off the ovens. World War 2 is officially over. Infinity Ward has finally ended the conflict and not before time. Call of Duty 3 marked a low point in the series and served only to confirm the ‘Infinity Ward Effect’. That is, when IW develop a game, it’s usually very good. When they hand over the reins to someone else, the game goes downhill (see Medal of Honour). Treyarch’s COD3 tried to recreate the intensity of the first 2 games but fell short due to a messy, unfocussed single player campaign that was riddled with pointless quick-time events and invisible walls. Whilst some may have feared the worst for the franchise, it soon transpired that IW was simply working under the radar on dragging Call of Duty into the 21st century. And they almost achieved it.

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All New Sam & Max! November 13, 2007

Posted by Jevan Moss in Games, News, PC.
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Somewhat lost in the melange, season 2 of Telltale’s Sam & Max episodes launched yesterday. I’m currently a fair way into the first installment, Ice Station Santa, which is proving as entertaining as ever. Within minutes I was facing off with a giant, cheesy pop-song quoting robot, before driving off to the North Pole to investigate an unusually murderous Santa Claus. Excellent.

Some critics took issue with the length and relative simplicity of most of the first series, but personally I think a lot of people really missed the point. Each episode lasted only a few hours, and its puzzles were rarely tough enough to keep most people stuck for long. In short, they actually worked as episodes, each with a self-contained plot building up season-long arc. It was by far the best attempt at episodic gaming I’ve seen, and it looks like season 2 could easily repeat its success.

Oh yes, there’s a demo too. It can be downloaded from Telltale’s blog, while everything else can be found on their Sam & Max page.

If all that wasn’t good enough, you can now download an entire episode from the first season for the princely sum of £0.00, with the help of Steam. It’s my personal favourite as well, so thanks, Telltale.

Thelltale.

Xbox classics soon to be downloadable via Live? November 13, 2007

Posted by Mike in Console, Games, News.
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Don’t you just love it when articles exclusively revealing shiny new things from MS, Sony or Nintendo mysteriously vanish shortly thereafter?

Well, it’s just happened to a piece on CVG, which talked about new developments in the Xbox 360’s long-anticipated Fall update, allegedly due to pop up on 4 December. Apparently a new DLC strand is set to make its bow, offering up classic Xbox titles (Halo, Crimson Skies and Burnout 3, among others) for download, as well as 720p movies on demand (rental only) from the likes of Warner Brothers and other studios. The games will cost 1200 Microsoft Points, while the films will come in at around a fiver’s worth of the same pretend-but-it-isn’t money.

So, now that the piece has been pulped (and P45s presumably demanded), it remains to be seen whether it was nixed due to inaccuracy, or because of a too-itchy trigger finger on the part of the writer. My MS points are on the latter.

Assuming that the news is correct, it’ll be very interesting to see whether these old Xbox offerings are plain vanilla, or if they’ve had strawberries and cream (in the sense of Achievements and online functionality for Halo, for example) added. The prospect of Live-enabled Halo 1 is rather nice, given the near-perfect balance of this non-dual-wielding classic multiplayer, but we’ll just have to wait and see. It would make sense in terms of giving the new service a lift-off, but I’m unsure whether it would be possible (or considered cost-effective) to fiddle with the existing code to such an extent.

On the surface, this downloadable service would compare very favourably with Sony’s PS1 offerings on the Playstation Network, but the effective need for a larger hard drive – given the potential download sizes – may prove unsatisfactory when you consider the present price of the 360’s 120GB add-on, which is a bigger rip-off than Peter Crouch removing the Elastoplast from his legs a few days after sliding in on a Russian plastic pitch.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: FIFA 08 Live Update November 9, 2007

Posted by Mike in Articles, Console, Games.
12 comments

Last night I reported that the FIFA 08 update was live (for both 360 and PS3), and that it added the new 5 vs 5 mode, entitled Be A Pro: Online Team Play. Catchy moniker, eh? So, how does the update fare?

First of all, it’s clear that the new mode is a toe in the water towards the ultimate future of online footie games: a world where there will be a series of clans (read: teams) among friends that will participate in online leagues and tournaments against other online clans, while single player is consigned to the dusty wardrobe shelf marked “old hat” forever.

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FIFA 08 gets 5 vs 5 online update November 8, 2007

Posted by Mike in Console, Games, News.
6 comments

Well, this one snuck up on us from nowhere. The promised 5 vs 5 online mode on FIFA 08, which introduces Be A Pro: Online Team Play, has just been added as an update available free on Xbox Live. It’s the first step towards EA’s promised full 11 vs 11 matches in the year 2010.

As expected, everyone’s running after the ball like headless chickens at the moment, but with a bit of tactical nous, future thrillers are guaranteed.

Just load up your copy of FIFA 08 on Xbox 360 to receive the update. (Presumably this new mode will also be available on PS3 in the near future.)

Press Start will report on how the matches hold up in terms of lag, and also whether you get automatically kicked out at the end of every game (like the other online modes – which would prove… well… five times more frustrating here) in due course.

UPDATE: While there’s no official list of additional tweaks made in the upgrade yet, unless I’m going stark-raving bonkers there’s a real improvement in framerate and responsiveness in the main game. Additionally, the game speed has been increased. Cutscenes aren’t jerky, and the replays are simply slo-mo, rather than slo-mo + jerky. Now, this may be put down to seeing things that aren’t there in the frenzied excitement of an update, but have a try yourselves and see what you think!

REVIEW: Geometry Wars Waves November 7, 2007

Posted by Mike in Console, Games, Reviews.
3 comments

Is it just a coincidence that the two most evil game concepts of the year involve cake? The GLaDOS character in Valve’s mind-bending Portal offers it as a reward for finishing the Aperture Science test program, while the mastermind behind Geometry Wars Waves is a programmer by the name of Stephen Cakebread. One more instance of this and we should all start to worry.

Waves, which is free inside Project Gotham Racing 4, is described by Bizarre Creations as just an additional game mode for Geometry Wars, but this is modesty worthy of Dark Mourinho. The concept may be the same – a high score chase through an overhead single screen shoot ’em up, with dual stick move and fire controls lifted directly from Robotron – but the execution is markedly different.

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NPD no more November 6, 2007

Posted by Mike in News.
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Bad news is reaching us from the other side of the pond (that’s the United States of America, geography fans) that the monthly NPD figures – which are argued over, dissected, and generally provide useful analysis of the current trends in the videogames market – are to be severely restricted from the October 2007 figures onwards.

No longer will we be receiving monthly hardware sales figures.  We’ll only get details of the top five in software sales, as opposed to the top ten.  More detailed figures will emerge quarterly and annually, but for now it seems that the official information is to be severely curtailed, and instead the arguments will centre on which leaked numbers can be trusted.  Expect sales figures debates to become even more heated as a result… there’s nothing like a group of forum-goers who don’t like the figures in front of them and will use any excuse to discredit them.

From my point of view, this news is immensely disappointing, and I hope that the NPD Group rescinds this decision as soon as possible.  Having detailed official sales information available in the public domain was an invaluable tool for those who enjoyed following the market.  I can’t help but feel that its loss will make the quality of debate across the Web nose-dive, and that’s a real shame.

Casualties of War November 6, 2007

Posted by Mike in Articles, Console, Games.
9 comments

You don’t see genero-low-budget-studio-flick released in the same week as Pirates of the Caribbean, do you? Sometimes the videogames industry could learn from Hollywood.

We’re well into the silly season now. In the last four months of the year, a whole slew of the most anticipated videogames crash into retail, one after another after another – sometimes even two (or three) in the same week. It’s collective madness, with one reason behind it: the marketing men, based on a combination of research and belief, are confident that games sell more in this period than at any other time of the year. And for the biggies – the likes of Super Mario Galaxy, Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 – they’re absolutely right.

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REVIEW: Super Mario Galaxy November 5, 2007

Posted by Chris in Console, Games, Reviews.
29 comments

Mario Galaxy 1 

Space. The final frontier. It’s always held an irresistible allure to man, and exerts a palpable sense of fear over many. It’s huge, exciting, unfathomable.  So when you start the first level proper of Super Mario Galaxy and you’re tasked with running around a spherical planetoid, the vast reaches of space surrounding you like a gigantic, gaping maw, it’s a woozily disorientating, vertigo-inducing, almost frightening experience. It also feels utterly freeing. Not just for the player, but for Mario, too. Long he’s been confined to sprinting and leaping across flat planes. Now he can leap from the topside of a platform and slingshot around to the base, gravity keeping his plumber’s boots firmly planted on the ground, even as he hangs upside down. And then you’re flying; shooting through space, fired by a star’s celestial power. Mario yelps in delight, and spreads his arms wide, taking in a handful of stardust as the universe spins below, the camera following Mario like a comet as he descends to the next planet on his adventure. It’s all you can do not to hold your nunchuk and remote out in a similar manner. A thrilling, magical moment, and it’s one of a great, great many in Super Mario Galaxy. (more…)

Timeshift – More time manipulation for fun, but no profit November 4, 2007

Posted by Jevan Moss in Articles, Console, Games, PC.
3 comments

Two more levels in, and I’ve gone from fighting in the street, through close quarters indoor combat and an ill-advised turret sequence, to a vehicular assisted trip across a snowy mountain range. Sabre certainly know how to vary their environments!

It’s still proving to be as entertaining as ever, but so far it’s never really managed to raise itself above the games that inspired it. Those mountains are no Highway 17, that’s for sure! The bar has simply been raised too high in recent weeks for Timeshift to stand out any more, which is a real shame really. Had it been released just a couple of months ago, it would have probably sold quite well. Heck, it could even have spawned a sequel, and it would have deserved it. At this point in time however, its time manipulation gimmick is just too little too late.

It is fun though, so keep an eye on those bargain bins.