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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Crysis Warhead

All of the claims you may have heard that Crysis could only run on nuclear-powered supermachines were greatly exaggerated. But if for some reason you worry that this stand-alone companion to the ultragorgeous first-person shooter will bring your PC to its knees, you should know that it's highly scalable and ran smoothly on a number of machines during our testing. It also looks better, with clear attention given to the game's artistic sensibilities and the lusher, denser environments. But rest assured, developer Crytek has enhanced more than just the graphics engine. Vehicles are more fun to drive, firefights are more intense and focused, and aliens do more than just float around you. More emphasis on the open-ended environments would have been welcome, but a more exciting (though shorter) campaign, a new multiplayer mode, and a whole bunch of new maps make Crysis Warhead an excellent expansion to one of last year's best shooters.

If you didn't play Crysis, Warhead's story may be initially confusing, given that you hit the ground running with little exposition. You play as Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, the brash Brit who was a bit player in the original game. Psycho tends to play by his own rules, always willing to ignore orders and jump into the fray if that's what the situation requires. The story runs parallel to the events of Crysis, though his strident attitude--and a dramatic cutscene near the end of the game--definitely make this Psycho's tale, even if the actual plot remains the same. In any case, you and your US Special Forces team are investigating a tropical island besieged by North Korean invaders. However, your greatest menace comes in the form of aggressive aliens that turn the luxuriant jungles and glowing beaches into a frozen wasteland. You and your teammates, clad in nanosuits that grant you special abilities such as super strength, temporary cloaking, super speed, and additional armor, confront both threats across a variety of large environments.

Psycho's brazen confidence does more than just establish a gutsy protagonist: It sets the stage for a more focused and intense series of battles that keep the pace moving more smoothly than before. Warhead still offers some of the same kind of sandbox levels, but thoughtful enemy placement and map bottlenecks keep downtime to a minimum. You can approach assaults on beachfronts and Korean encampments in a number of ways, so if you're a stealth enthusiast, you can employ your suit's cloak setting and sneak in, or attach a silencer to your sniper rifle and take out your human foes from a distance. If you would rather employ hit-and-run tactics, you can jump into the heat of battle, cause a ruckus, and use your suit's speed function to zoom away. However, Warhead is clearly focused on the guns-blazing approach, gently nudging you into full-on encounters with its mission objectives, character dialogue, and level design. When you reach primary and secondary destinations, you'll get besieged by large numbers of enemies, both human and (later on) alien. Given that human foes also don nanosuits, they're not necessarily quick to fall; as a result, these sequences are exciting and challenging, and you'll need to use your suit abilities and cover opportunities to your advantage. The easily triggered explosions of enemy vehicles and hazardous barrels further intensify these pockets of activity.

A number of set-piece battles confirm this slight shift toward action-packed mayhem. Your first encounter with a hulking alien war machine may not have the same impact as a similar one in Crysis, but it happens earlier than you'd expect, and it establishes the alien presence with adrenaline-fueled drama. That battle is a wonder, as is a later defensive mission that has you fending off a series of aliens, and requires you to shift focus frequently and use every weapon in your inventory. Another great sequence is a train level that, at first, seems much like similar sequences in a number of other shooters. You can stay on the train and use turrets to gun down the opposition, as expected--but you can also jump off and engage the opposition at any time, giving even this near-cliche sequence plenty of replay value. A linear journey through an underground mine is the obvious misstep in regard to level design, given that it never so much as hints at the open-ended action that makes Warhead a superb shooter.

If you played only that level, you also wouldn't see the host of improvements that power the action, particularly the improvements to alien artificial intelligence. The general design means that these robotic rivals will occasionally still be floating around above you, but they have more obvious smarts now, and they find ways to pummel you with ice pellets while remaining just out of sight, staying on the move, and using cover more often. Human enemies also seem more aware of their surroundings, flank you more often, and activate their nanosuits' armor to minimize damage. They also use the limited visibility that the jungle affords them quite well, hiding in brush to stay just out of sight. There are some remaining problems, particularly if you take potshots from a distance. Occasionally, the AI won't react when you snipe at an enemy, and foes using turrets will sometimes let you walk right up behind them. On the whole, however, Warhead makes clear improvements over the original in this regard, which in turn makes for better combat overall.

Vehicles feel sturdy, which is just as well, because you'll be driving them often, either to cover ground more quickly, or just to take pleasure in mowing down enemies with your mounted weapons. You can have a good deal of fun blazing a trail through the jungle while showering your foes with steel death, and the destructible environments further exaggerate the devastation. A scene in which you speed across the tundra in a hovercraft is done particularly well, offering a good sense of speed but pushing you into enemy hotbeds, giving you the chance to stop and fight or zip away with a quick glimpse of Koreans riddling aliens with bullets.

The improved vehicle handling is also noticeable on one of the new multiplayer maps, on which two teams battle in--and out of--the tanks and helicopters scattered about. This is good stuff, and it showcases Warhead's new Team Instant Action mode, a mode noticeably missing from the original Crysis. It's just good old Team Deathmatch, but it's done well, and the maps are improvements on those of the original. Snipers are still a threat, but the size of the maps are better suited to deathmatch battles, and more thought and care seem to have gone into small but important factors, such as weapon-cache placements and player spawns. The Instant Action and Power Struggle modes are still accounted for, and many of the original maps return, offering a large suite of online options that make online Warhead combat more appealing than its predecessor. Note that unlike Crysis, the expansion requires the online component to be installed separately, and isn't accessible from the single-player game.

Both online and off, Warhead is a beauty. As mentioned before, the game looks better than Crysis, and it runs better too. A test machine that struggled a bit to run the original at high settings ran Warhead smoothly with the same settings. Yet as much as you may have heard about Crysis' technical prowess, you'll still be impressed when you feast your eyes on the swaying vegetation, surging water, and expressive animations. Don't overlook the improved art design, though, which surpasses the original's oft-sterile look thanks to several striking vistas, such as one featuring an icy naval vessel stranded in the frozen tundra. The audio is almost as terrific. Various creaks and groans make heading down a narrow glacial pathway all the more harrowing, and weapons sound appropriately powerful. The voice acting is strong, and the understated soundtrack sets the right tone without ever getting in the way.

Warhead's single-player campaign should take you no more than six hours or so to complete, but not only does it invite multiple play-throughs, it costs only $30--and doesn't require you to own the original. In other words, there is no reason why anyone with a capable PC shouldn't play Crysis Warhead. It's more focused, it's more intense, and though it doesn't provide as much of the sandbox feel as Crysis veterans would wish for, it still delivers on every other front. Play this game.

Source **;read-review **

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2

If the original Rainbow Six Vegas felt like the first night of a trip to Sin City, its recently released sequel feels like the second; a little worn, but still a lot of fun. There's still a casino's worth of content and the best gameplay this side of Caesar's Palace. Plus, the introduction of a sprint button not only increases your speed, but also quickens the pace of the entire game. On the other hand, the cooperative play has been pared down a little and the expanded experience gains are about as glamorous as pillow mints--even if you are grateful for them. A third night of this might be too much to handle, but if you like to place bets with bullets at all, you'll definitely want to put some money down on Rainbow Six Vegas 2.

Despite the name Tom Clancy in the title, the Rainbow Six games are hardly known for their ace storytelling skills. Having said that, the way the original Vegas ended on such a terrible cliffhanger ending, when all it really had to do was give you a reason to kick some terrorist butt, was especially disappointing. Fortunately, the campaign in Vegas 2 makes no such errors. You no longer play as Logan Keller. Instead, you hunt terror and save hostages as a custom character referred to as Bishop in the campaign. Although the specifics of the overarching story are pretty easy to lose track of, one thing is clear: There are terrorists and you have to get them before they get Vegas. However, there are a couple of great scenes in the campaign. For example, there is one where you're supposed to meet up with a guy to find chemical weapons, only the terrorists meet up with him first Because he's wearing a communication device, you can hear the proceedings as you make your way through the level. First, the terrorist in charge rails angrily, then the guy pleads with him, then the terrorist rails some more, and then the guy starts screaming "NO, NO, not THAT!" Then there are no more words, just animal noises of pain, fear, and more than a little loathing. Other moments don't seem quite as authentic, especially those that involve civilians. While it's nice that they're in the game, you'll occasionally lose if you fail to prevent the terrorists from executing one of them. That's just plain silly because it's unlikely that a group of commandos would leave a bunch of terrorists and weapons behind because Hank the Hostage bit the dust. Also, it's so easy to die in Vegas 2 that you really don't need the extra "game over" screens.

The best way to cross any open space in Vegas 2 is to sprint, and that can now be accomplished with the push of a button, which is similar to what you've done in nearly every shooter that's come out since Gears of War. But unlike the reckless and half-blind dash in that game, Vegas 2's version is easier to control. It's also more versatile because you can sprint sideways, as well as forward. However, when you see a grenade rattle on the ground in front of you, you'll wish you could also sprint backward (you can't); realism be damned. Sprinting is a small, minor addition to a great big game like this, but it has a major impact on Vegas 2's pace and gameplay. It's obviously a good thing to be able to run a little faster when you're trying to close in on a flash-blind enemy, and it goes with the shotgun like peanut butter goes with jelly. Sprinting around a corner while pulling the trigger on a shotgun blast before the gun is even half on the screen and catching your enemy with a mouthful of buckshot is one of the sweetest kills the series has seen. Less obvious and less gory is the overall effect on the pace of the play. Sprinting provides a welcome shot of adrenaline, especially online.

And that makes it better than most games because Rainbow Six Vegas 2 is the best tactical shooter on the market. It doesn't gamble as much as it should and, instead, seems to take cover behind the formidable foundation established in the first game. But to its credit, Rainbow Six Vegas 2 does make one big gameplay tweak and provides another highly playable single-player campaign. It also provides a decent suite of cooperative options and more excellent online multiplayer. Though its experience system is now clearly behind the one found in Call of Duty 4, no game has a better control scheme or more satisfying tactical play. This ace belongs in every shooter's hand.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

FIFA Manager 08

While the football management genre has hit a peak of depth and realism, there's no doubt that it remains a little daunting for beginners. FIFA Manager 08 aims to fill the gap between the hardcore management simulations and such games as FIFA Soccer 08 with an approachable football management game that has many different features to distinguish it. Most notably, the 3D match engine is more visually engaging than similar features in other management games, plus the official license affords a mountain of team logos and player photos to break up the stats. This year, the game is a deeper experience than ever with revamps of the training, player interaction, and scouting elements. The game struggles to present all the information coherently if you play at the hardest difficulty, but otherwise, it's a decent, glossy alternative to other games in the genre.

FIFA Manager 08 makes an excellent first impression. British gamers, in particular, will feel a warm glow when the theme song from the Grandstand TV show kicks off the welcome screen, and high production values are evident throughout the game. As with any management title, you start by choosing the domestic or international club for which you want to work. If you choose to raise a team from the ranks of the lower divisions, you'll have fewer resources and lower expectations, but if you pick a world-class club, you'll have some very serious board expectations. However, FIFA Manager 08 helps you juggle the demands of whatever club you choose by allowing you to palm off certain aspects of the running to your assistants. If your interest is in finding and cultivating talent rather than wading through spreadsheets of numbers, then your finance team is there to take care of it. Alongside this, FIFA Manager 08 places an emphasis on creating your manager rather than being the manager. You're asked how you want to look, how big you want your family to be, and what sort of hobbies you want to pursue. Learning a foreign language will help you secure a job in another country, while playing golf may enamour you to the board members of another team.

If you're a football fan, then you'll really get something out of the official licences. They permeate the game, with a customised menu screen depending on the team you play, as well as mountains of up-to-date player photos and stats for the majority of major teams. The licensing even stretches to official newspaper reports from such publications as The Sun, something that really taps into the wider aspects of football. While the number of teams can't touch that of Football Manager, the game still covers the major world clubs. It also now includes more English and Spanish leagues than before.

It's clear that Bright Future has worked hard on updating and expanding its football management sim. While it's not quite in the Premier League yet, there's plenty here for fans to enjoy. It's a tremendously deep game that also manages to be welcoming to the novice while the official licenses and overall polish will delight both types of player. Those playing at the advanced level are unlikely to feel hamstrung by limited options this time around, but the way that all the information is presented could definitely do with some work for next year. Most importantly, the game carves out its own niche in the football management market, and although this time it falls short of greatness, it shows plenty of promise for the future.

Source :

Thursday, October 25, 2007

MotoGP 4

Namco Bandai Games certainly isn't setting any speed records in releasing MotoGP 4 in the United States. The game was released more than a year ago in Japan and Europe, but race fans in North America have been kept waiting. The reward for that patience is added support for eight-player online racing, which is certainly an important and appreciated feature. However, the game does show its age in other areas, like the out-of-date roster and somewhat bland presentation. More importantly though, the racing is as enjoyable as ever, and with a respectable offering of features and options, MotoGP 4 is a good choice for race fans who are ready for a few more laps around a very familiar track.

The single-player MotoGP 4 experience is divided into several different modes. There's the requisite arcade mode and time-trial mode found in every other racing game, as well as a challenge mode, legends mode, and season play. There are three different classes to choose from in the arcade, time trial, and season race modes: 125cc, 250cc, and MotoGP. As the displacement of the engines increases, the bikes get heavier and more powerful, making them more difficult to control. As a result, the 125cc and 250cc classes not only add a bit of variety, but they also make good training grounds for the MotoGP circuit. The bikes in each class handle very differently. The 125cc bikes are nimble and fairly easy to ride, while the MotoGP bikes require much more precise braking and control to keep on the tarmac.

Season mode returns with more courses and riders than in the previous MotoGP games. After you choose your difficulty, lap count, and other settings, you can choose a rider or create your own and participate in a 16-race season. Before each race you can run practice laps and qualifying laps, which are helpful for memorizing each and every turn of a track. You earn points based on how you place in the actual race, and those points are tallied over the course of the season, and the rider with the most points at the end of the season is the champion. You'll get a message from your mechanic every couple of races telling you that he wants you to try out some new parts that the team has been working on. At this point you can attempt a parts test, and if you pass you get to keep the upgraded parts. The tests are all straightforward, requiring you to reach a certain speed in a short distance, come to a stop within a specified zone, complete a slalom course as quickly as possible, and so on. If you fail the test, you don't get the parts. But don't worry, because you'll get a chance at several tests throughout each season, and while the upgraded parts are helpful, they aren't absolutely necessary. Even though you can earn new parts, the actual tuning of the bikes in career mode is limited to adjusting a handful of sliders for general attributes like braking and acceleration.

The challenges return in MotoGP 4. There are 125 challenges in all, and while some are self-contained events that require you to meet certain objectives as quickly as possible, others are related to your performance in other game modes. When you complete a challenge you're awarded a bronze, silver, or gold medal depending on your performance. You might have to take first on a certain track, beat one of the top-ranked riders, or win a championship in each of the three classes. The specific focus of each challenge makes it a bit more interesting than your average race, and if nothing else, they add plenty of replay value to the game, since it will take you a lot of time and skill to collect each of the three medals for all of the challenges. Doing so will earn you GP points, which can be spent to unlock new riders, bikes, and tracks

The different modes offer a few different ways to play the game, but for further flexibility you can fully customize the controls and handling characteristics of the motorcycles. Not only can you assign commands as you see fit, but you can also toggle settings that drastically change the way the motorcycles handle on the track. You can turn on brake assist, which will automatically slow you down to keep you on the track. You can essentially hold the accelerator down the entire time when you use this feature, and as long as you turn at the right time you'll never crash or even leave the track. It isn't quite as useful as it sounds, because the brake assist tends to play it very safe, which means that in most races you'll have a hard time taking first using brake assist. Conversely, you can turn on sim mode, which puts everything in your control and makes for a much more difficult, but finely tuned racing experience. Sim mode requires you to use your brakes individually, shift your weight appropriately, and use a feather-touch on the throttle. These control features make it a very customizable game that you can play as a simple arcade-style racer or a very technical motorcycle racing sim. The choice is yours.

While the motorcycle controls are flexible, the artificial intelligence in the game is anything but. Computer-controlled characters aren't very forgiving, and they provide a decent challenge even on the easiest difficulty setting. If you race poorly, your opponents won't slow down to let you catch up, which means that if you make even a slight mistake, you'll have to fight hard to regain your position. But even though the AI provides a challenge, it just feels very rigid, as your opponents keep the same line throughout the entire race. You'll rarely see an opponent stray from that line, even if it means riding right into your rear tire. When you do make contact with another rider, you'll usually just bounce off like a bumper car.

The most important new addition to the MotoGP series this year is online play, which allows for eight-player races on any of the tracks in any of the three classes. Finding a game is relatively easy, as you're just plunked down in a lobby where you can browse available sessions and choose one to your liking. Unfortunately there's no matchmaking features, which makes choosing a match something of a crap shoot. If you want to play it safe you can create your own session and set the track, number of laps, bike class, collisions, bots, and whether or not you want to allow tuned bikes. In our experience the online play was smooth and lag-free, and the greatest shortcoming of what is otherwise a very welcome addition to the series is the fact that races are limited to eight riders. Racing against seven riders just doesn't quite measure up when you're used to going up against a pack of 20 in a season race.

MotoGP 4 is a late entry into a very crowded field of racing games for the PlayStation 2. The core gameplay is still as fun and flexible as ever, and the addition of online play is a welcome, if very tardy, one. Despite being slightly out-of-date, MotoGP 4 is still a good way to get your racing fix.

Source :---- gamespot !!!

Friday, July 6, 2007

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl has always been an overly ambitious game, which is probably why it has arrived several years later than originally expected. The game's goal is to create a virtual world with an ecology all its own and then place you in the middle of it. That's something that's rarely been attempted, particularly in a first-person game. However, to the credit of THQ and Ukrainian developer GSC Game World, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is an impressive accomplishment. This first-person survival game is at times amazing and engrossing and on par with such classics as Deus Ex and System Shock.

This is another first-person game that features a silent and mysterious protagonist, much like Half-Life's Gordon Freeman. You play as the Marked One, a heavily armed scavenger suffering from amnesia and stuck inside the exclusion zone surrounding the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl, Ukraine. Yes, the same nuclear plant that exploded in 1986 and, in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s fiction, again in 1989, creating a radioactive hotspot brimming with mutants, heavily armed rival factions, and all sorts of weird, paranormal activity. Your task: Figure out who you are and what's going on at the core of the zone.

At its heart, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a first-person survival game that blends action with role-playing. This isn't a linear game, like Half-Life or Call of Duty, where you basically are restricted to a straight path and are taken for a tightly controlled and scripted ride. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s huge environments and open-ended gameplay make it more like a role-playing game, as you can go where you want and do what you want if you're willing to live with the consequences. However, you don't have to worry about traditional role-playing attributes such as strength or intelligence, or accumulating skills and abilities. Instead, all you have to worry about is your skill with a rifle and scavenging enough weapons, ammunition, and med kits from fallen enemies to keep going.
Slowly but steadily, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. introduces you to the bizarre world of the zone, a place where the fabric of reality is being ripped apart. Strange energy anomalies are everywhere, and wander into one at your own hazard. These anomalies produce rare and valuable artifacts that can be collected and traded, or even equipped, as they can confer special abilities. Perhaps the most useful ones enhance your endurance, letting you run for far longer than normal, which is a particularly valuable ability to have when traversing the huge area of the zone. And, of course, danger lurks everywhere in the form of enemies that are both human and not-quite human, as well as from animals.

The audio in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. also does an excellent job of immersing you in this world. When you're outside in the zone, the rustling of the wind in the grass, the cry of animals in the distance, and the ominous tick of your Geiger counter are ever present. When you're inside, there's nothing like the howl of a nearby mutant to raise your hackles. Weapon and mechanical sounds are also spot-on, and the crack of assault rifles in the distance lets you know that trouble's ahead. The voice acting is a bit hard to understand, but since the game is set in the Ukraine, that's to be expected. Even the game's broken English (both spoken and written) is a bit charming in this regard.
In spite of its small quirks and bugs, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is definitely a game that deserves to be played. For first-person shooter fans looking for the next big thing in the genre, it's difficult not to be impressed by the game's unique and evolving world. Meanwhile, fans of role-playing games will appreciate the open-ended nature of the gameplay and being able to explore different paths through the zone. This is a bleak game, but in a good way, as it captures its postapocalyptic setting perfectly. It's also an excellent combination of combat, horror, and exploration.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Call Of Duty-2

When the original Call of Duty was released a few years ago, it made an impact both on critics and on consumers, even in the already-crowded WWII shooter genre. Call of Duty's visceral action struck a chord with PC shooter fans, thanks to a well-designed campaign, enjoyable multiplayer, and outstanding sound effects. If you liked those aspects of the original, then you're sure to enjoy the sequel, which stays true to the strengths of its predecessor, while enhancing the sense that you're just one soldier in the midst of a massive war machine. It doesn't really break any new ground, but the game nails the core aspects of first-person-shooter gameplay so well that it doesn't need to.
As in the first game, Call of Duty 2's campaign will put you in the shoes of a few different soldiers fighting for different Allied factions. You start off as a private in the Russian army, visciously fighting off the invading Germans in Moscow and Stalingrad. The British campaign is unlocked after beating the first Russian mission. For most of these missions you'll be fighting in the sand-swept deserts of North Africa alongside the Desert Rats against Field Marshal Rommel's troops. The final mission in the British campaign sends you to the bombed-out houses and hedgerows of Caen, France. After you're done with that, you'll play as an American corporal in Europe. Yes, you will be doing a D-Day landing, but not on Omaha Beach or Utah Beach, which you've probably played several times before. Instead, you'll be scaling the sheer cliffs of Pointe du Hoc as artillery with the Army Rangers. If you already thought rock climbing was an "extreme" sport, try doing it with artillery and machine-gun fire raining down on you.
Each of the game's 10 missions is broken up into a few different stages. If you play the game on regular difficulty, you could blow through it in about 10 hours. Ratcheting up the difficulty a notch makes the game much harder and more tactical (this is probably the experience the designers intended). Since you'll be creeping and peeking more carefully through all the encounters, you'll lengthen the campaign significantly, and enjoy it more.
Breaking up the campaign into several different narrative vignettes arguably weakens the impact of the plot as a whole, although that was never the strength of Call of Duty in the first place. What this does is allow the designers to put you in a lot of different, interesting situations. One memorable moment in the Russian campaign has you crawling through a raised pipeline to sneak behind German lines and into a fortified factory building. As you make your way through the pipeline, you'll spot and snipe small pockets of German infantry through holes in the pipe. When they fire back up at you, you'll notice bullets tearing through the rusted pipe, ripping open holes for shafts of light to poke through. It's a thrilling effect. You'll also get quite a rush from both participating in and defending against all-out infantry charges across open city squares in Stalingrad. But just as the novelty of these wears off, you're shunted over to the British campaign in North Africa, where you'll do things like participate in night raids of small Tunisian towns, climb up to the top of spires to call in artillery on enemy tanks, and even drive a tank yourself. The American campaign has its own memorable moments, like scaling the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, or sniping at German mortar crews from the top of a grain silo. The game paces itself so that you're always on your toes, and you'll find yourself switching back and forth almost constantly from an offensive position to making a defensive stand against counterattacks on the objective you've just captured. Yes, at the end of the day you're still just shooting a lot of Nazis, but the constantly varying contexts of how and why you're doing it keep the game compelling from start to finish.

Call of Duty 2 is just about everything you would hope for and expect from the sequel to one of the most successful World War II shooters of all time. Its varied campaign, excellent sound and gameplay design, and generally good AI make it a worthy successor to the original. At the same time, though, it's still a World War II shooter, and if you've grown weary of them, then Call of Duty 2's lack of new material might turn you away. It can also be murderous on your computer if you have modest hardware. What Call of Duty 2 does do well is nail down just about all aspects that define an ideal first-person shooter. If you liked the original and have been thirsting for more, Call of Duty 2 will definitely deliver that.

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