Tag Archives: First Person Shooter

Review: Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2

Sniper Ghost Warrior 2

Call of Duty Modern Warfare completely redefined the wartime fps. Gamers seeking an orgy of death, mud, blood and bullets were usually catapulted backwards in time to fight as the allies in the second world war because developers were too afraid to put anything in front of your cross hairs other than an Alien, a Demon or a Nazi.

So when Infinity Ward set their bombastic war franchise Call of Duty in the modern day whilst dressing up Hollywood effects as gritty realism, it was like the rules for the fps genre had been completely re-written.

One of the most revered levels of Modern Warfare was All Ghillied Up, this was to be the obligatory stealth level. Just like every single platformer seems to be required to squeeze in an underwater level. With FPS titles developers seem insistent on behaving like angry librarians and ‘shushing’ us for an entire level. Forcing us to undertake laborious tasks as opposed to blowing things up and causing carnage, which we all know are the best bits of games.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 2

‘All Ghillied Up’ was different though, Infinity Ward took away the thinking by giving us a commanding officer to follow. We basically just had to do what the angry soldier told us to and feel like real spec ops officers crawling under lorries, and knifing enemies whose only crime was to have a cheeky cigarette.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 2

Without being forced to look at a radar to check we weren’t encroaching the enemy’s field of vision, or grip the crouch key slowly moving up stairs at a pace that would make a Stenna stair lift look like Concord, players were taken over by a level of tension seldom seen in games. Although Infinity Ward walks players through the level holding them by the hand, it’s a pretty impressive level that drips tension like an M60 spits bullets.

It is abundantly clear that All Ghillied Up had a huge effect on CI games because the Sniper: Ghost Warrior franchise seems to be built entirely around the concept of creating a tense, realistic thrill ride snipe ‘em up.

It is funny how things have changed, I remember when Sniping and Camping were the bane of the online community and how teenage virgins would curse the Sniping Camper for their misfortunes before threatening to locate the Sniper’s home via IP address and do horrible things to their mother.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 2

CI games have cemented what they learnt from their first foray into the sniping action genre when they created the amusing but average game Sniper: Ghost Warrior, and made the just as amusing, yet equally forgettable Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2.

The story is the same sort of nonsense you’d get from one of those action films with a gurning pensioner on the poster. Dolph Lundgren, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Sylvester Stallone have been duped by their best friend who they shared an illustrious career with and now (enter inferiority complex creating Adonis of your choice here,) wants revenge.

While I type this I can’t help but feel like I am being a tad condescending towards SGW2. Action films are perfect escapism, and some are worth watching for the special effects alone. As Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 uses the CryENGINE 3, the same graphical powerhouse used for Nomad’s adventures in Crysis 3, Ghost Warrior 2 looks absolutely stunning.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 2

CI games have also done a pretty good job in pacing the action of SGW2 and play never feels formulaic, despite most levels following the same, sneak in, get the perfect spot, shoot a bunch of guys when the shit hits the fan pattern. There are certainly some brilliant moments and watching the bullet cam after setting up the perfect shot and seeing the bullet fly a mile in a matter of moments before embedding itself in a shower of ‘realistic gore,’ is disturbingly satisfying.

However, Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 is over incredibly quickly, our Steam account measured a little over 4 hours of play before reaching the end of the game. And that was with a fair amount of tea making. This was probably the major factor in SGW2 not feeling repetitive.

The story whilst not being very original, had managed to take a leaf out of CoD’s book and set itself over a period of time and places, as a result each section of the game had its own distinct, if not slightly clichéd feel. This helped give the game a greater feeling of variation.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 2

What CI games seem to promise from their sales bumph on the steam page is that Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 is a sniping simulation that has taken the best elements from Battlefield and Call of Duty and created a thoughtful shooter heavily based in realism.

What they have actually done is made a shallow thrill ride of a title that looks better than most military shooters, but is ultimately forgettable due to the shallow gameplay, and short play time. If you are a PC FPS fan looking for the next ARMA 3 or just have a masochistic love of simulators, then Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 is not for you. Still, if you have fond memories of Crawling around with Captain Price in the undergrowth then I would recommend adding this to your Steam wish list, if it comes up in a sale for £3.99 its worth all 300 and 99 of those pennies.

6/10

System: PC (AMD 8320 CPU, AMD ATI 7970 GPU, 8GB RAM)

Bought From: Steam £3.99

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Review: Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath is a title I have wanted to play since its initial release as an Xbox exclusive in 2005. Unfortunately, it came out in the same year as FEAR, Call of Duty 2 and Quake 4, so my first person shooter thirsts were more than adequately quenched by a sea of future classics.

I then meant to download it on Steam for PC, but it always seemed to be 
in the sales at the wrong time, lost amidst a digital dump of downloadable 
treasures. Then I noticed it on the Playstation Store. “Wow”, I thought. “I could play it on my PS3 and enjoy it as it was originally intended on a console”. But, getting off of the sofa, locating my credit card and engaging in a long
drawn out purchasing process without a keyboard and mouse seemed to be precisely the kind of hassle I intend to avoid when vegging out on the sofa 
like a rotting corpse.

Then I saw that it was available for PSVita, so when I was given 
some Playstation Store vouchers as a gift It seemed like the fates had aligned and I went ahead and purchased Stranger’s Wrath. Frustratingly, I wish I had bought it 9 years ago.

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath on the PSVita feels like a vintage wine that has aged past it’s best, and instead of enjoying it at it’s flavourful peak, it must be used as a vinegary dressing for a salad. Time and the porting process have not been kind. Graphically it is OK, although the Vita’s incredible OLED screen does highlight a few jagged areas and muddy textures.

For those not familiar with the game, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath is the 
fourth title released in the Oddworld Universe. It follows the exploits 
of a bounty hunter called Stranger as he journeys through Oddworld trying to 
earn enough money to fund an apparently life saving operation. Now I 
must warn you that this review will contain spoilers, because it is impossible to give a reasonable critique without revealing a few plot elements. (Even then it’s impossible for me to offer a reasonable critique if we are painfully honest). So if you already have your mind made up and you are going to play this game or are already half way through maybe look away now, as I don’t want to ruin 
some of the game’s remaining impact.

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

There are gameplay techniques from wide ranging genres such as stealth 
titles, platformers and first person shooters. The action elements start off as great fun and the game’s weapons are ingenious. Stranger is armed with a crossbow that he can arm with a variety of critters, all with their own
unique effects. These range from fast firing hornets, exploding bats, 
electrified bugs and gaseous skunks.

Stranger, in typical bounty hunter fashion, must capture different criminals in a bid to gain more ‘Moolah,’ (the games equivalent to cash if you hadn’t 
figured out the subtle naming.) Players receive more money for capturing outlaws alive so some of the Critters will only incapacitate targets as opposed to rendering them inert with a violent explosive death. This is a nice way of rewarding players for skillful play and will cajole a few into playing through levels in a stealth like
fashion. Unfortunately, the rewards aren’t really big enough, and 
the gameplay isn’t as addictive as titles like Hitman where it’s possible to get 
sucked into replaying the same level in five different ways in an effort to achieve the best rating. It is possible to set traps for AI enemies by luring them under cranes before dropping huge shipping containers onto their heads, however these traps soon lose their appeal. Partly because it feels so staged and partly because the Critter that is used to entice enemies over to certain areas is so annoying, it’s a lot easier and just as much fun to run in, Boombat’s blazing.

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

About two thirds of the way through the game we learn that Stranger isn’t actually the species that he claimed to be and is actually a Steef. Steef have been hunted pretty much to extinction because the evil villain Sekto offers a small fortune for their heads. This means that Stranger is forced to team up with an indigenous tribe called the Grubbs who have been displaced by Sekto to bottle their water supply and sell it as expensive mineral water. At this stage in the game Stranger no longer needs to capture criminals for cash, instead any enemy that he captures is used as ‘Critter food’, essentially allowing the Critters to breed and give players more ammunition. Upgrades are also handed out at the end of each section by the Grubbs as a way of thanking the Stranger for his effort. As a result, exploration becomes completely unrewarded with little point as there is nothing to spend cash on and the Critters continuously copulate providing an endless ammunition supply.

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

If Stranger’s Wrath was a film it would be a mixture of Chicken Run, 
Serenity, Avatar and The Last of the Mohicans. While this description of the plot might seem faintly damning, the plot itself is actually the best part of the game, despite the negative impact it has on the gameplay. The overall themes of Industrilisation, Anti-Capitalism and Socialism that are present in all other Oddworld titles are all present here and despite there being a lack of Abe it’s obvious what universe Stranger’s Wrath takes place within. The humour at times does wear itself a little thin, especially when the sound-bites of The Chicken’s and the Grubb’s are concerned. After hearing the same phrase bleated out in the same annoying voice for the fifteenth time, you may find yourself searching for the nearest cushioned implement to stuff your ears.

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

The confused identity of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath is amplified in the PSVita version through the controls. At times, the touch screen controls are well implemented. To switch from 3rd person to 1st person perspective all you need do is double tap the touch screen. This makes engaging in combat after a platforming section feel seamless. However, there are other times when it seems like the developer just forgot about the touch screen altogether. The menu screens in the stores for instance are impossible to properly navigate and it doesn’t seem like you are actually able to scroll down through all of the items on the list.

Age has not been kind to Strangers Wrath;  gameplay features that were new and daring at the time of it’s initial release seem diluted and rather than being a game with plenty of well implemented and established ideas, there is just a sense of confusion. There still isn’t really a game like it that I can think of and had I played Stranger’s Wrath back in 2005, it may have felt like a more complete package,

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

Wrath is by no means a bad game and I wouldn’t want to dissuade anyone from playing it, but if you are going to, please do so after getting in a time machine and taking a trip back to 2005. If this isn’t possible (and I have a feeling it isn’t, I’ve probably just been watching too much Dr. Who again and not taken my medication). Then pick up a copy for the Xbox, it’s cheaper on eBay than on the Playstation Store and you will end up with a nice box to clutter your shelf with. If you are really lucky, it will have come from a smoke free environment and won’t make your lounge smell like an old video rental store.

Score: 5/10

PSVita

Bought From:  Playstation Store

Review: Shadow Warrior 2013

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Who wants some Wang?

That’s the question we are being asked again by Flying Wild Hog with this reboot to the classic Shadow Warrior franchise. For those not familiar with the series, Shadow Warrior is an fps originally dreamt up by 3D realms, the same guys who brought the macho misogynistic Duke Nukem kicking and screaming into the world. Instead of Alien ass kicking and misogyny, with Wang we are dealt Demon slicing and borderline racism.

Much like Duke, Wang would quip his way through incredibly violent missions. If you have never played the original Shadow Warrior, I implore you to do so. It was one of my favorites as I grew up arriving a bit later than Duke Nukem 3D but using exactly the same BUILD engine. If you have a steam account then you can pick up the original for the amazing price of absolutely nothing, if you enjoy it, you can get the complete package with all of the add on packs for just £6.99.

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Now, many of you will be wondering why you should even care about Shadow Warrior. After all Duke Nukem Forever pretty much killed the Duke Nukem franchise. Well, Shadow Warrior is a bit different because it was picked up by a rather capable young studio, whose previous endeavor Hard Reset was a very promising first attempt at a fps. Also, Shadow Warrior wasn’t in development for decades, being rebuilt time and time again using newer game engines, only to be rushed out at the last minute because the studio was bankrupt.

As a result, Shadow Warrior feels like the game Duke Nukem Forever should have been. The graphics are very impressive, and the reflections on polished surfaces makes smothering them in blood even more satisfying. At times the sheer amount of visceral gore flying around the screen is like watching Leatherface skipping merrily through an abattoir leaving a monsoon of blood and guts in his wake.

Shadowhectic

Gameplay is fast, brutal and at times very hard, as a twitch shooter though, there is a huge amount of depth. Players are given the opportunity to build up Wang’s abilities and improve his arsenal using Karma Points, Money or Ki Crystals that are found or earned from slicing and dicing demons in a particularly stylish way.

 Guns get upgrades such as the ability to dual wield SMG’s, or even transform the shotgun into a quad barrel one that tears apart smaller demons like a starving tramp would tear apart a roast chicken. The weapons are all incredibly varied but it’s the Katana where Shadow Warrior really shines. An interesting alternative to Doom’s Chainsaw and Duke’s Fists in the original, the Katana used to be the last resort when ammo was depleted. In Lo Wang’s latest excursion, the Katana is the most satisfying weapon to use. Walking up a narrow stone path with a death-inducing drop either side, I had the most fun I have had in a game recently, chopping up a procession of Monsters, like a maniacal Chef creating a conveyor belt of Demonic Sushi. Lopping off limbs of monsters isn’t just visually rewarding, it also affect the demon’s ability to attack so by taking away the arm that carries his weapon you also seriously hinder their ability to do damage to Wang.

The Karma Points and Ki Crystals are where things get really interesting, bestowing upon Wang the ability to deal more devastating sword blows, the ability to block and repel damage and heal himself. I have to admit to being disappointed by the ability to self heal at first as I feel that the health regeneration mechanic is heavily over used in today’s fps genre, after COD popularised the technique having stolen it from Halo. COD’s and their subsequent copycats, use of a rechargeable health system in a supposedly ‘life-like’ setting where soldiers are able to ‘will’ gun shot wounds better is baffling. Its no wonder most Americans think that the Obama Care program is redundant when most of them spend the majority of their time plugged into Activision’s shooter online, vomiting a verbal tidal wave of hate and homophobia into their headsets.

ShadowMezu

In Shadow Warrior, Wang doesn’t auto heal, you have to heal him yourself using a basic button combo. It actually becomes a skill to learn when to quickly heal up and for how long in the middle of a firefight. Sometimes there will be so much carnage and mayhem on screen it is very easy to miss how low your health is, and before you realise Lo Wang has received anything more than a flesh wound, you’ll find yourself being tea bagged by the AI. As the game isn’t exactly pretending to be realistic, with fornicating bunny rabbits that turn demonic and attack should you kill enough of them, and the way the health regeneration is implemented, I actually see no fault with it being used in Shadow Warrior.

Shadowbunnies

The use of the button combo’s on the mouse to deal different attacks sword and magical attacks results in no two confrontations being the same. You can build up your magical shielding and slowly wade your way through demons hacking at them like an explorer would hack his way through the jungle. Or you can just use your powers throw monsters into the air and treat them like a Demon Pigeon shoot. There is also a move that can only be described as a Star Wars style force push that shoves enemies backwards. I cannot help but wonder what kind of amazing game Flying Wild Hog would create should they be given the Star Wars license. Maybe Disney might want to get in touch with them for the official licensed game of the new movie that will inevitably be released. Flying Wild Hog have more than proved they can turn out a quality title in a short period of time, and if you replace Lo Wang with a Jedi, the Katana with a Light Sabre and his Chi with the Force, then you’ve got yourself one of the most enjoyable FPS Star Wars titles for some time.

The story, whilst not a knee deep four disc Final Fantasy affair, has enough meat to keep players interested. Demons are trying to cause some trouble with an ancient sword so Lo Wang must set out and assemble the sword before they can with the help of a Rabbit masked demon called Hoji. Everyone’s motives are slowly revealed through the use of cut scenes and banter between Wang and Hoji that drives the narrative forward revealing the odd twist along the way. This game is set before the first Shadow Warrior and as such acts as a bit of an ‘origin story.’ A phrase Wang himself would commend as he has a fixation for comic books, and we even get to see his very own super hero man cave in the second level.

Shadowscenery

Lo Wang’s quipping, Demon de-limbing and fast paced explosive action are all firmly entrenched in the 90’s, when Carmageddon was the number one racing game not Forza, and no one had yet cottoned onto the fact that Mortal Kombat’s combat was flawed. A game only had to be violent with lashings of blood and humour in order to be become a cult classic.  However Flying Wild Hog have also managed to make Lo Wang relevant again, avoiding the pitfalls that trapped Duke Nukem Forever, and by making a game that is as humorous, tactical and challenging as it is mindlessly violent. Flying Wild Hog have been so successful in updating Shadow Warrior that it’s almost difficult to call it mindlessly violent now.

Shadow Warrior is an experience more gamers should Wang off too. The perfectly judged learning curve, excellent graphics, constant unveiling of weapons and abilities mean that you won’t get bored during the 16 hours it will take you to finish the game. Here’s hoping Flying Wild Hog get the opportunity to update some more classic franchises such as Redneck Rampage.

Score: 7/10

System: PC (AMD 8320 CPU, AMD ATI 7970 GPU, 8GB RAM)

Bought from: Steam Download