DEFIANCE: Xbox 360 Beta Game Review

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Defiance is the future. It is a unique, groundbreaking concept; a television series with a computer game crossover that is a multi-platform Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game that is not “based on” the series, but is directly effected by it, and vice versa.

Yes, you read me right. How you (and your fellow gamers) play the “MMO” effects the television series. This has never, ever been done before.

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Need For Speed: The Run Xbox 360

Introduction
I rather ashamedly completely forgot to post this! This review was finished in August, my apologies.

Review

NEED FOR SPEED: THE RUN
a “newbie” racing game player tries the newest addition to the “NFS” franchise

There are three very important things that you need to know about me before reading this review. The first, that I know nothing whatsoever about cars. The second, that I have played very few racing games, and completed none. The third, that this is my first playthrough of any Need For Speed game. These three things are rather important because they are the basis for my review.

Is Need For Speed: The Run suitable for a “newbie” racing gamer? Or is it designed only for the more established fan of the genre? Read on to find out…

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Racing games are not usually to my taste, but I was recommend this particular addition to the “NFS” franchise by the media, fans and friends, so I made a point of renting it to see whether it would, indeed, be the racing game that would bring me into the fold.

It was not.

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The first thing that I noticed about this game is that I enjoyed the concept a great deal. On first observation, the idea of racing from one end of the country to the other through various terrains, fighting through hundreds of other racers to win is a very intriguing, exciting one.

The plot, as well, seems to really addition to this excitement, with cut scenes that have the main character literally racing for his life, because the mob, who he owes a tidy fortune, want him dead. This gives reason for a challenging addition to the gameplay wherein there are races that feature cars, and even helicopters, that possess gun power to slow you down, or, ultimately, knock you out of the race for good, and “interactive cut scenes” that really pick up the pace.

All of this is well and good, were it not for the fact that, rather than being one really long race with “checkpoints”, this game is instead a collection of dozens of races that require you to pass a certain number of racers to reach a certain overall race position, to “make up time” (which is essentially a “Time Trial” mode), or to defeat Boss racers one-on-one. They really missed a trick here, as I am certain that one really long race would have made the game stand out from the crowd. As-is, however, it just seems like a cheap gimmick that ultimately fails to work, because, once the game is over, you are left saying to yourself “was that it?”, with a rather unfinished plot and a game that seems all too short.

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The second thing that I notice, which makes me wonder whether this was in fact a “rushed release”, is that the Cut Scenes, and even during gameplay itself, the graphics are very pixelated. I felt many times as though I were playing a game on my Playstation 1 rather than my “Next Generation” Xbox 360 console. Considering the funding that the Need For Speed franchise possesses, this was a huge disappointment. It felt lazy.

Cut Scenes not “skippable”, including the rather lengthy one at the very start of the game, so, if you plan on playing through the game more than once, be prepared for that irritation. You should also be prepared for the fact that, should your wireless controller run out of battery in the middle of a race, the game will not pause, which, from my experience, is a major cause of crashing and general race failures.

Another major “gripe” is that the “Auto Log”, a part of gameplay included in all the newest Need For Speed games, no matter how I tried to fix it, and even a full month after its release, failed to work for me, or my friends who also played. The Leaderboards were inconsistent, sometimes Friends failed to even appear on them at all, and there were tasks that, once completed, failed to actually be marked as so…

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This game may be full of faults, but, if you are someone who enjoys competitive play, it does have one saving grace, and that is its online multiplayer. I was not able to play online for long, but the few games that I did play I found to be quite exciting and varied.

It has its faults, of course. No online multiplayer is perfect. The first game that I played, I was put into the race on the final lap, in last place! I am not sure why they included the option to enter mid-race, as to me it seems to be irritating and pointless. Another problem is how easy it is to be thrown from the track by other players. From what I hear, most racing games have a system in place to ease the gameplay, but here, you have to be prepared for the brutal nature of the system, it takes no prisoners.

Those factors aside, there are many different modes, or “Playlists” to explore, including team ones, and with the end of each match there is a “Bonus Wheel” to be spun which can reward you with new cars, bonus Experience Points, or even certain Achievements, so there is plenty of variety and fun to be had for the competitive player, but only online, as there is no split-screen offline multiplayer.

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Another thing that saves this game is its “Challenge” mode. As you race through the Campaign, you unlock new areas and new challenges to play through in this mode, which rewards you with cars and Experience Points that will help you in the Campaign, as well as Leaderboards and “Autolog Recommends” additions that allow for lots of replayability that is non-existent in the Campaign itself.

I did, however, find the Challenge mode to be inconsistent in its difficulty. With the Campaign, you have different Difficulties to play through, whereas with the Challenge mode, every challenge must be taken as-is. For an inexperienced player such as myself, this was a real problem for some of the races and Time Trials (etc). A prime example of this was that one of the earliest challenges is one that requires the use of some of the fastest cars in the game, whereas in the Campaign I had only been racing rather slowly at the point where I had unlocked that Challenge, so I found myself constantly crashing and “spinning out” or off of the track from shear lack of experience. Surely the Challenge mode should only challenge me with races appropriate for what I have learned in the Campaign? Apparently they assumed that this game is only going to be played by gamers who are not new to “NFS”, or indeed racing games.

This games inclusion of “Rewind”, where you can travel back to the last Checkpoint if you have made any mistakes, however, counters this and makes it very open to someone who is not as good at racing games, or even for the more experienced player.

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When comparing notes with a gamer that is more versed in racing games, and indeed the Need For Speed franchise itself, I found that, alas, he was just as disappointed as I. He, too, found it a chore to complete. He did not enjoy the online multiplayer at all, rather interestingly, in comparative to my liking that the most. It is clearly a matter of personal preference.

So, overall, alas, it would appear that this is a game that I cannot recommend for someone who is new to racing games, nor who is a fan of them. It had so much potential, but it was clearly rushed and ill thought-out so that the end product is, in all honesty, a chore to complete, has an anti-climactic ending full of plot holes, and will, ultimately, fade into memory very quickly, rather than being a game that should have stood out from the crowd.
There are clearly far better racing games out there, and though I did enjoy this one at first, by the time I was finished with it, I could not send it back in the post fast enough.

Not recommended.

Feedback
It is important that I receive feedback from my readers. I would truly appreciate any feedback at all that you can provide me. Posting comments of encouragement, or constructively critiquing my efforts. I really want to further myself as a writer and with your help I can.

Thank you.

How To Train Your Dragon: The Game Xbox 360

Introduction
My second product review

Review

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE GAME
my verdict on the game of the popular film

I went into this game expecting the best thing since sliced bread.

I am a huge fan of the film; I love the world, its characters, its adorable (and sometimes scary) dragons… That world takes me so far from mine that I forget, when I come back to reality, that I am not, in fact, a child, but an adult, and that a game designed for children may not necessarily be to my taste, though I want it to be…

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This game is, by no means, “bad”. I have played far worse, especially games adapted from other formats (comics, films etc). I do think, however, that it could have been so much better.

Though my expectations were high, making me almost certain to be disappointed, I honestly think even children would find this game difficult to tolerate. Children are far more intelligent than games developers often give them credit for, and this was clearly no exception.

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This game’s biggest fault is that, though the characters and dragons and setting are there, and the animation and gameplay itself is quite good, the established mythology of the film appears to have been completely disregarded. The dialogue seems to suggest that Vikings have been taming dragons for centuries, though it is well established in the titular film that Hiccup is the first of his people to ever accomplish the feat.

The basic concept says that “every year” tournaments are held between dragon tamers and their dragons, who fight each other for Viking glory. A plot that is, to be honest, an utter let down, considering the emotion and the depth of the film, and, as aforementioned, contradicts the established history. If you are not an established fan of the franchise, however, you will of course have no difficulties accepting the premise.

Another big problem is the repetitive gameplay and dialogue. You will find yourself walking back and forth from place to place, doing mundane, repetitious tasks in order to level up your dragon and advance the plot, and that the AI characters say the same three lines over and over, much, doubtless, to your annoyance. But, if you play this game in small segments, rather than long sittings, you will find that it maintains its quirky charm and fun-factor.

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Problems aside, I did very much enjoy training my dragon and fighting other characters in the various tournaments, and the cut scenes between did make me smile, even if not nearly as much as the film. The Arcade Mode, which allows you to fight off against your friends sharing your console, or against the computer AI, also allows for more replayability than you would normally expect from film tie-ins.

Adults who want to find that “first RPG” for their mini-geek will also enjoy the game dynamics, which require the player to complete various mini-games and quests in order to advance their dragon’s rank and gain new skills, very much in the style of the Elder Scrolls or Final Fantasy games, but on a much smaller scale. They might also find that they enjoy it themselves, as a light hearted “guilty pleasure”, though I recommend playing it in small quantities as it can be quite draining, with its repetition.

Gamerscore hoarders will also be very much be at home here, as many of the Achievements (or Trophies, whichever applies) require not so much effort, as time. Ten or twenty hours of playing through the campaign as either character, and many of them will occur through natural gameplay.

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In conclusion, this is a game that, though not really working with established continuity, lacking in the heart and depth that the film has, and a tad repetitive, is lighthearted fun that the whole family can enjoy together, or that the more “hardcore gamer” can enjoy as a guilty pleasure and a welcome break from the seriousness of their usual gaming taste.

“Give it a shot, why not?” very much applies here. It is by no means a waste of money nor time, but it is also not something that I would recommend rushing out to by and spend hours of enjoyment playing. I recommend this as a rental, or a “sale buy” for fans of the film, parents of young children, or for hardcore gamers looking for something more light hearted that can still give them a nice gamerscore boost.

Feedback
It is important that I receive feedback from my readers. I would truly appreciate any feedback at all that you can provide me. Posting comments of encouragement, or constructively critiquing my efforts. I really want to further myself as a writer and with your help I can.

Thank you.

X-Men: Destiny Xbox 360

Introduction
This is my first ever product review. I hope you enjoy reading it more than I enjoyed playing the game 😉

Review

X-MEN: DESTINY
my verdict on Marvel’s newest X-Men computer game venture

I will be honest… I feel cheated.

There has been a lot of hype about this game, a lot of “name dropping” from the world of Marvel comics insisting this will be the best Marvel computer game ever produced because it was written by this big-name writer and because of all the freedom offered by the game’s sytem where you can “create your own character”, “choose your powers”, etc, but after only my first play-through of the game, I can tell you that all of this is far from true.

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First and foremost, I want to state that I am not a comic book fan. I have a lot of knowledge on the subject, but I have never actually enjoyed reading them.

Nevertheless I was excited to hear of Mike Carey’s involvement in the project. I had high hopes that he would be an asset to the game, and this was indeed the case. The plotline is intriguing, the four character choices are unique and interesting, the script is humorous and at times quite heart-warming, and there is a lot of “geek outs” for the established fan base, but the problem here is that no matter how good a writer, if the rest of the project is poor, their efforts bare no relevance. This is one of those cases.

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For something with such an intelligent, original premise, this game is certainly patronising in its gameplay. My personal favourite example being within the early tutorial section of the game when Emma Frost requests that the character “try jumping”, which, funnily enough, I am pretty sure any individual can do, no “trying” required. Another fine example is that the “Collectibles” that would, in other games, require a great deal of hunting to find and earn the usual Achievements on discovery of all of them, are, for the most part, practically impossible to miss. Considering the age rating, you would expect them to treat their players with more respect.

The gameplay itself is not much of a challenge, either. I played through on the easiest setting, and then on the hardest, and to be quite honest, I did not notice much of a difference until around two-thirds the way through the game, when suddenly it became redicilously difficult. I dispise games that have uneven difficulties like that, where you ease through them for so long and then spend hours on one part. There needs to be a balance, but the creators of this game do not seem to have even tried to within that regard. The constant “button bashing” gameplay and the amount of replays required in order to gain many of the Achivements also make this a chore to tolerate.

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Visually, there is not much to make this stand out from the crowd. In fact, given the impressive visuals from prior Marvel Comics game outings (mainly Spider-Man) and how breathtaking the competition is (DC’s Batman Akham games should not be underestimated…), I found this to be a disgrace. It does not seem like a “Next-Gen” game at all, rather something you would find at a second-hand store that was released back in the nineties.

The voice-acting is both a pleasure and a pain, with the inclusion of many voices that we know from other Marvel productions being a nice touch, but the fact the words being said are inconsistent with the subtitles provided makes you wonder what on earth is going on with the editing. In fact, most of the subtitles are better than what is actually being said, so clearly they missed a trick there.

The soundtrack leaves much to be desired as well. To be honest, I barely noticed it, and I cannot even remember it, which does not bode well.

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The “Some Destinies Are Chosen” tagline does, in its defense, do exactly what it says on the tin. There are four characters to play, and with each one you could easily play two or three times to experience different side-quests, watch different cut-scenes, etc. But, as aforementioned, you would have to have a lot of patience for the repetitive gameplay. It come down, again, to having a talented, but sadly wasted, writer.

The fact that you can essentially choose hundreds of combinations of powers from within the X-Universe is also very interesting, and contributes to the possible replayability, but be warned, no plot explanation is given, and for the comic book geeks or picky gamers such as myself out there, that will be quite an annoyance.

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Clearly not much money was wasted on the development of this first stand-alone X-Men game to have been released in nigh ten years, which is a real shame because it had so, so much potential and, thanks to the mostly negative critical and fan response, I doubt there will be another one any time soon.

So, in conclusion, if you have the time and the patience, and you are a fan of comic books, I would recommend you at least rent this for the plot and the fun of the choosing your own powers, or pick it up second hand, but hardcore gamers and those paying out the full price will be utterly disappointed.

Feedback
It is important that I receive feedback from my readers. I would truly appreciate any feedback at all that you can provide me. Posting comments of encouragement, or constructively critiquing my efforts. I really want to further myself as a writer and with your help I can.

Thank you.