Just adding some articles from Movie-Moron:

Resident Evil: Damnation Review
Resident Evil: Retribution Review
Skyfall Review

I was also invited to take part in a critical dissection of each Bond actor’s best and worst movies, joining in at the Dalton years. The first article is here:

007: Best of Dalton – The Living Daylights

Prototype 2 Review

Posted: October 17, 2012 in Review
Tags: ,

Destroy New York City for fun and profit… again

The first Prototype was a fun, if flawed, title seeing you rampage your way across a zombie-plagued New York with a variety of hilarious and destructive superpowers. The second game offers essentially the same experience, with a few gameplay tweaks.

The most major change is that Alex Mercer, the first game’s protagonist, is now the story’s villain, infecting new character James Heller with the Blacklight virus and dishing out the franchise’s famous superpowers. The second is that the playing area has been divided into three islands, with northern New York now completely out of bounds, scaling the action down to smaller spaces. You also have the new ability to hunt for your targets with sonar, although this can only be activated at very specific points in certain missions.

Another key change is that there are now only six powers to cycle through, along with a shield ability. This streamlines the focus and prevents a lot of fumbling confusion during the many frantic battles. Other, more minor changes include tweaks to the side missions and the vast number of collectibles, all of which can now be located from the map screen.

Aside from these changes, there isn’t all that much different from the first game. You still wander around New York, although much of your exploration is hampered by the size of the islands and having the play the story to unlock the other areas. You still perform missions for various characters, many of whom inevitably betray you for one reason or another. The missions still involve sneaking into bases, murdering people, disguising yourself as someone else, causing massive amounts of damage, or a combination of all these objectives. Side missions try to add variety with the ‘race against time’ objectives, but these are few and far between. Probably the most enjoyable challenges are finding all the hidden items, simply because you’re forced to rely on your wits more than in any of the missions. There are also the ‘events’, challenges dotted across the city to test your skills to the limit. Unfortunately, these are only available to those who purchased the Radnet edition of the game when it was first released.

At roughly eight to ten hours, the game doesn’t outstay its welcome, although it doesn’t offer much in the way of replayability. Once you’ve done it, you’ll only feel obliged to go back in to pick up what little you missed the first time.

Prototype 2 is a hard game in pin down, as it does correct some of the flaws with the first game – namely the whiny protagonist – but doesn’t add much else to really qualify it as a true sequel. In fact, one of the first game’s best features – the slow spread of the virus over the course of the story – is entirely done away with here, leaving you with three islands at different stages of disaster. That’s not a bad thing, but it somehow feels less evolved than the ongoing outbreak of the first game. There are also no new skills, abilities or mutations this time around, as Heller simply learns everything that Mercer once discovered. Given how much fun it was to learn how to use new abilities effectively, the lack of any additional attacks is really disappointing. The only new abilities are very minor, allowing you to summon Brawlers and turn people into time bombs. Both are funny, but hardly pushing the boat out. Would it have been so hard to include a few extra new powers to use, or other areas to explore, or a little more variety in the missions?

Whether or not Prototype 2 is a worthy investment is mostly down to the individual. It’s every bit as good as the first game was, no more and no less. It’s probably more a spin-off than a true sequel, something that disappoints massively given the three years of development. What remains is a fun game that’s recommended, but no more or less than the first game.

80%

Resident Evil 6 Review

Posted: October 9, 2012 in Review
Tags: ,

Resident Evil 6 Review

It’s all Shinji Mikami’s fault, really. He made Resident Evil 4 just too damn good, and now Capcom are trying to replicate his magic without the slightest understanding of what it was he did so well. It was simple: each chapter in the game had a standout moment that was completely unique, before the pace moved you swiftly on to the next bit. It was exciting, tense and most of all, fun.

Which is where Resident Evil 6 shambles into view, with Capcom’s most ambitious offering to date. There’s a colossal amount of content on offer here, with four full-length campaigns to play through, as well as online and offline co-op, and two bonus play modes. Alongside that is the ResidentEvil.net service that keeps a record of your gameplay stats for the whole world to see. While all this is most definitely value for money, the main problem is the game’s lack of focus and general unwillingness to slow down for five minutes.

Parts of the game are genuinely stunning. For instance, the first hour of Leon’s campaign brings back the thrill of old-style Resident Evil, with you dispatching slow-moving zombies on a University campus. Most of Ada’s campaign puts priority on playing stealthily and avoiding confrontations. Jake has a section where you try and slip past an unkillable Nemesis-esque monstrosity. Also, the moments where the storylines interlink and offer up four-player co-op are fantastic. Strangely, many of the standout moments feel like tributes from the earlier games, such as the first time you saw a zombie in Resident Evil 1, or the mine cart sequence in Resi 4. But these are tiny jewels, lost admit a sea of samey gameplay and non-stop action sequences. For everything that stands out as being good, there are dozens of things that irritate, like a snowmobile chase down a collapsing mountainside, or a jet battle against an aircraft carrier, or an on-rails flight sequence in a helicopter. Every time the game draws you into its world, (something that occurs more frequently in Leon and Ada’s campaigns than Chris and Jake’s) it throws an explosion at you to make you remember that this is now an action franchise. Long gone is the brooding tension and slow-paced exploration. This is now all about sprinting and blowing things up and following objective markers through linear locations.

But this is not a bad game, that’s the important thing. For the most part, Resident Evil 6 nails exactly what it sets out to do. The new physical abilities are great, allowing you a variety of ways to create some room in a crowd, or just eliminate a single enemy in a stylish way. You can also now sprint, slide and roll across the ground, opening up a whole new way to take on the armies of grunts in your way. There’s also the new Skills that you can purchase, allowing upgrades of all the weapons, as well as your own health, your combat abilities and so on. Purchasing many of them requires a hell of a lot of skill points, so if you want to unlock most of the game’s content, you’ll need to put aside tens of hours.

Aside from the now-standard Mercenaries bonus game, there’s the new ‘Agent Hunt’ mode, where you play as a monster and attempt to kill people while they make their way through the game. While you can only jump in on specific sections (and only then when players have allowed access via the options menu), it’s a strange little distraction. Playing as the monsters isn’t as fun as it should be, killing players who are trying to navigate their way through the game can make you feel pretty bad about it and upgrading your monsters requires even more skill points – demanding even more of a time commitment from a game that already pushes past the thirty hour barrier.

But the game’s overwhelming problem is the pace. You aren’t allowed to enjoy the game at your own speed. Instead, you’re pulled along through the story at a breakneck pace, barely allowed time to gather your own thoughts or even explore the surroundings. For instance, one chapter in Chris’s campaign sees you battle an attack helicopter, chase an invisible snake through a building, flee a second attack helicopter, before jumping in a car for a ten minute chase sequence. It’s not providing players with relentless adrenaline, it’s throwing explosions at them until they actually begin to get bored of the pace. Worse, there’s so little difference in the campaigns that they all soon blur into one. Every character has a vehicle section, a run-into-the-screen chase, a slow motion gun battle, a maze full of invincible monsters and even a multitude of Quick Time Events. This latter is excruciating during the boss battles, as it highlights that the player can’t kill monsters as cool as the cutscenes can.

The big question, then: is Resident Evil 6 a disappointment? Undoubtedly the answer is yes, it’s a huge letdown. But it’s not, repeat, not a bad game – not like other Resident Evil titles such as Survivor or Operation Raccoon City. But it’s not great, like 4 or Revelations. Instead it’s distinctly above average, better than 5 was, but unable to scale the heights of even the original three games. It all comes down to your own preference – if your defining image of the series comes from the early days, you’ll be disappointed. If you preferred the fifth game, then this will blow you away.

At the end of the day, once the credits roll, you may well be left with a nagging sense of loss. This marks the end of the series as it was. It might even mark the death of the franchise as a whole – it’s been pushed so far, given so broad a scope that it’s impossible to think what could happen next. Whatever happens next, the action blowout has struck so deep that the series’ survival horror roots have been mangled and may never recover. And all this because Shinji Mikami made his swan song far too good.

75%

Third Impressions: Resident Evil 6

Posted: October 4, 2012 in Review

Dear God in heaven, what the hell happened?

The first hour of Leon’s gameplay genuinely threatened Resident Evil 4’s dominance as the king of the franchise. Everything after that sabotages all the goodwill built up, leaving a seriously sour taste in the mouth.

The summary of Leon’s campaign can be described as ‘moments of genius crippled by incessant explosions.’ Chapter two sees a wonderful return to basics with some old-fashioned puzzle solving in a spooky church. After that, it gets steadily further afield until the game makes you crash land a passenger jet in China. It almost comes back to greatness when the C-Virus nukes the population, but then you have a series of progressively more infuriating boss fights against the same villain, culminating in what might be the most absurd battle in the history of all gaming.

Chris’s campaign is everything that was wrong with Resident Evil 5, condensed and expanded upon. To describe it as ‘Michael Bay action’ sells it short, because one moment you’re slogging through waves of heavily armored enemies that can mutate in accordance with the damage you inflict on them and the next you’re jumping a military vehicle into an aircraft carrier. There’s a car chase (remember how bad it was last time? Yep, it’s even worse now) and a mental sequence where you fly a jet against a ship. To say that this campaign misses the mark entirely is an understatement. This campaign could only have missed the point more if it was set in space and Chris Redfield had metal limbs that all turned into different weapons, with a soundtrack provided exclusively by Metallica.

The question that remains is a curious one: did Capcom ever truly understand the popularity of this franchise? It used to be about tension, atmosphere – is there something up ahead in the shadows? Is there a monster in this room? – all punctuated by lovely cutscenes that featured hammy voice acting and poor translation. The early games were a lovely tribute to classic horror movies, and they all had bags of tension in them, even with the cheesy dialogue. Now players are being asked two set off massive explosions every five seconds, while cutscenes play out more explosions just so you don’t get confused by what’s going on.

Two campaigns down. Two more to go. Can Resident Evil 6 salvage itself from the weight of its own ambition?

Second Impressions: Resident Evil 6

Posted: October 2, 2012 in Review

After the second chapter of Leon’s campaign comes to an end, it’s obvious that this is something very special indeed. Capcom have succeeded in upping the ante to unexpected levels. A chapter will start out in one way (for instance, trying to reach a catherdral) only to go down a totally different path (like a minecart ride).

The computer AI is remarkable, never getting and only sometimes needing assistance with the enemies. Not having to share your supplies with them this time around adds to the simplicity of the interaction as well, and you can also issue simple commands.

What’s apparent with this game is how Capcom are actually nicking the best parts of other games to use in Resi 6. The church seige from Left 4 Dead, or the ability to find your objective from Dead Space – these both feature in the game. It’s not a bad point, but it is a tiny bit disappointing that the grandaddy of them all is forced to bow to its own pretenders.

Still, it’s good. Very good. Three hours down. More to come.

First Impressions: Resident Evil 6

Posted: October 2, 2012 in Review

First Impressions of Resident Evil 6:

One chapter into Leon’s amazing campaign. If the game continues at this pace, this intensity, this level of genius, then Resident Evil 4 might well be dethroned as king of the franchise.

Capcom choose to open their survival horror campaign up in wonderfully gloomy fashion, throwing spooky light effects and flickers of lightening out to set the scene. A few lovely visual throwbacks to the franchise’s humble beginning crop up – memoirs of the very first time you encountered a zombie, the sound of distant dogs barking as you walk past a large window.

What’s more amazing is how well Capcom have created the entire world. You run through a city in total choas – other survivors flee, crash cars, are killed violently in front of you. The end of the chapter sees you team up with four others in a desperate bid to hold ground in a destroyed gun store. Subway trains continue to run on an automated serivce. The overall impression is one of a fully realised world that you’re trying to survive in, rather than a world created for you to pass through as with so many other Resident Evil titles.

But the game is ambitious, too. Zombies now dive at you, swing whatever weapons they held when they died. Some even carry explosives that can be shot. You can deliver a melee attack anytime you wish now. The humble knife has been upgraded to almost absurd levels, finally able to decapitate a zombie.

So, yes, Resident Evil 6 is well on the way to true greatness. And that’s one chapter in.

Is This Thing On?

Posted: October 1, 2012 in Musings

Wow, almost a whole year without a single post. In a professional portfolio. *Kicks self*

So here’s what happened…

After ThatGamingSite, Alltern8 and ConnectedConsoles all began to falter and shut down, I found myself wondering what I was doing. I’d put some serious time into writing for those sites, at the expense of my paying job, and at the end of it all, I didn’t really know if it was all worth it. I threw myself into my job, sometimes working up to fifty hours a week, and began writing a novel (about 90% done). I still write for Movie-Moron, but it’s much more sporadic – the occasional review, really.

Now I’m going to pick myself back up and get in the game again. I had a curious chance meeting with an old associate at the Eurogamer Expo last week and he made me remember what I loved about the writing. The only thing I’d done wrong was to overdo it.

So I’m going to do my best to write for one site at a steady pace. I’ll let you know what I end up doing soon.