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Posted by moonhead on Jan 8, 2010
Mini Review Round-Up

Mini Review Round-Up

Now that Christmas and New Years has been and gone it is time to catch up.

As unlike many other game sites we have to part with hard  earned cash for our games, Christmas becomes a nightmare for writing reviews. So what we are going to do here is a little round-up of all the games we brought or were given over the Christmas period. So here goes-:

Forza Motorsport 3 / Xbox 360

Being Microsoft’s answer to Gran Tourismo this has always had to stand in its competitors shadow. Not so with this iteration though, what with GT5 still lumbering around in development hell at Polyphony Digital and this being a significant step forward from the stale Forza Motorsport 2.

What Forza 3 does compared to GT is allow anybody to pick the game up and think they have become Jensen Button. You can make this game as hard and as easy as you like by switching the plethora of driving assists on or off. This also goes for the upgrading of your vehicles with an auto upgrade function for those who are not mechanically minded. Mind you if you are a complete petrol head then you can tinker all you like. You can also buy tuning setups and completely kitted out cars designed by other users from the in-built auction house.

The AI which had always been a plus over GT is starting to look a little stale. But it is still better than the bumper car setup that has always been the staple of its competitor but we will need better next time out.

Graphically the game is a bit of a stunner running at a full 60FPS and with car models to die for this is every Petrol Heads wet dream. It also contains the usual mix of real life and fantasy circuits and around 400 cars from a wide variety of manufacturers, and all look fantastic.

In short this is a top game for racing novices and petrol heads alike and for the first time ever Gran Tourismo has a real fight on its hands come its release some point this year.

Rating 8/10

Little Big Planet / PSP

With my wife buying me a PSP for christmas this is the one game I wanted to find in my stocking come Christmas morning and what a lucky man I am because I did. Little Big Planet on the PSP  has a lot to live up to considering the glittering critical success of its big brother on the PS3. And live up to it does in fact I think in certain areas it even manages to out shine its older larger sibling.

First off lets just say the blue print for this is largely the same as the PS3 original. You are Sack Boy the gaming avatar that can become anyone or anything. The game is still a 2D physics based platformer and instead of the 4 planes on the PS3 on the PSP it is only 2. It all feels and plays very much the same but actually the physics and the slightly over-floaty jump on the PS3 have been toned down to make it play much more smoothly. Add in the improved level design by Sony’s Cambridge Studio and not Media Molecule and you have a game that actually plays better on the little handheld.

Obviously the graphics are not as good as they were on the PS3 but they are still hugely impressive and among the best found on the handheld. Importantly they still have all the charm and quirkiness that was so loved in the original.

The user-generated content from the original is still the key component of this game and it is still wonderful on the handheld. In fact because the level creator has been stripped back and simplified it is now even easier to create absolutely fantastic levels. There are already bundles of fantastic user-generated levels available to download.

This game is just so impressive it actually improves on its larger sibling to such an extent it is the better game. In fact I can think of only one area where the PS3 is truly better and that is multiplayer as there is none on the PSP which is a shame but no deal breaker.

Rating 9/10

Left 4 Dead 2 / Xbox 360

Courtesy of some internet forum idiots this became this years most controversial sequel just because they thought it was coming out to quickly after the original. Valve’s answer to this was to fly out two of the more vociferous internet haters and show them the game prior to release. Obviously this PR stunt had the desired effect and both idiots pronounced the sequel as the greatest and so stopped the hate campaign.

Well as much as I think that the above was no more than a PR stunt one thing rings true this game is great. It takes everything that was superb about the last game and fine tunes and multiplies it to an all-conquering Zombie blood lust of epic proportions. Everything is better, FACT.

The 4 new zombie bashing combatants have a better more fleshed out storyline making you feel more involved. Valve’s Source engine is pushed to greater heights than ever before meaning the pace of everything on-screen is liquid smooth and very fast. New mêlée weapons including a Frying Pan and Chainsaw meaning tackling Zombies has never been more satisfying and visceral. Larger open areas mean that there is now no hiding from the Zombie horde making for an even scarier experience. All new super Zombies also push the fear factor through the roof. New play modes add longevity especially the super hard realism mode.

The games only draw back is the same as last time out really it has no longevity in single player mode. But considering it was designed from the ground up as a co-op experience there is very little wrong here.

To go back to the beginning of this mini review anybody that complains about this as a sequel needs their heads reading as it properly improves on everything the original tried to do.

Rating 9/10

Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 Xbox 360

Okay, I know I was supposed to bring you a full review of this game shortly after Moonhead posted his review of FIFA 2010 however, only now have I have I managed to give it the playing time required.

So here goes, after playing both FIFA and Pro Evo I can see why both games had good ratings and can see why opinion is so divided between the two camps. If you want all of the correct team names the most excellent commentary and a pretty bloody good football game then pick FIFA. However, what is undeniable is that Pro Evolution plays a much more realistic game of football. As a footballer myself the way Pro Evo plays works with the way a real footballers brain works. There is still the odd gripe such as players on your team not continuing runs but in comparison to FIFA the entire game is much more like a real football match and the ref doesn’t give a foul every two seconds for running just alongside a player either. The shooting has been returned to Pro Evo’s instinctive routes and with a little practice you can score all manner of brilliant goals from tap-ins, side foots past the keeper to thirty yard screamers. All of the players names are correct so with a little time and effort you can bring all the team names in line with their real life counterparts.

Personally Pro Evo wins hands down for me, you may not agree but then again what do you know?

Rating 9/10

Assasins Creed II

The original Assassins Creed sold fantastically but critically underwhelmed, to a large extent due to its hugely repetitive gameplay. Sure the combat and free running components were fun but you just kept repeating the same missions over and over. So it was this area that needed properly addressing for this sequel and Ubi-soft have managed to do it.

In Assassins Creed 2 you feel more connected to the story. As you are placed into the shoes of your new Assassins avatar, Ezio Auditore from birth you care more about him than you ever did Altair from the original. The change of setting to renaissance Italy and more importance given to historical figures and facts have also helped flesh things out. Also the new monetary system and the ability to rebuild your family’s estate have all added new stuff to the mix.

So this is a proper well done sequel but, and there a couple of minor buts. First off I have played the 3rd person action adventure par excellence that is Uncharted 2 and this is nowhere near it in terms of graphics or cinematics. And then secondly as a sandbox game it does not match up to GTA IV in any way. It is all a little rough around the edges and because the 2 games I just mentioned have raised the bar this feels as if it is lacking a little. There is no denying it is full on fun experience but there are better titles out there in its genre, so here is hoping that come number 3 it will finally scale the heights of its most obvious peers. There is little wrong here though and with a bit more spit and polish this could have been truly great instead of nearly.

Rating 8/10

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