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American McGee's Alice

Game review - 1 agree

If you come to this game with expectations of modern AAA graphics and soaring set-pieces then this is not the game for you.
What American McGee (yes, that's his birthname) and team have done is taken the well known and loved story of Lewis Carroll's creation and given it a wholly unpleasant bent.
Gone are the Disney niceties, no gourdy colour and sing-a-long, this wonderland is the manifestation of a broken girl whose mind has closed from the world after the death of her parents in a housefire.
This is a wonderland of egos and ids, turmoil and personal tumult, a heady analogy of psychiatric repression and self-loathing.
Alice must find a way to restore wonderland to its former glory by facing and besting deamons, built in her mind, to house her guilt and remorse.
Gameplay is simple enough and graphics now look extremely dated but it is in the depth of narrative and re-imagination of a classic tale.
Characters you may have thought you knew are cast in a completely different light as the broken pieces of Alice's psyche attempting to lead her to success against the venomous 'Red Queen'.

Although clearly dated the visuals are lush and well crafted, giving each area of the beautifully rendered map a interesting and unique feel. AI ranges heavily as does the could-be-staid platform elements, all given life by the environments and setting created by McGee.
Beyond this something notable to look out for is the wonderfully macabre score. Chris Vrenna (formerly of Nine inch nails fame) has overlaid the world of AM's Alice with a bizarre and often intentionally jarring sheet of creepy music boxes and choirs worthy of a listen outside of the game.

As with the game itself everything you thought to be cute and nice as a child has been distorted to a nightmare-ish level in this new wonderland.
Play it for the story and the interpretation and remember a time when these things were important to gaming.


Assassin's Creed

Game review may contain spoilers - 2 agree

After the success of the Prince of Persia with its dynamic and combative game play, it is easy to see how Ubisoft moved to Assassins creed as the spiritual successor to the concept.
Built around a more realistic and often accurate world Assassins creed puts you in charge of Altair a 11th century assassin fighting the oppression of the powerful templars. The game plays much like an open world version of POP but is far more detailed an nuanced. The gaming environment, whether it be Acre, Damascus, Masayaf or Jerusalem gives players free reign to dart through streets, over rooftops and survey each cities districts from climbable high towers and monuments. The parkour style given to Altair is perfect for stealth and escape giving the player the feel of a real hidden predator walking the streets of the city in search of your target.
Each of the 9 assassination target you are required to kill to regain your honour need research and investigation which leads you to the best possible approach. While, towards the latter targets this can seem a bit monotonous, the challenges are varied with various collectables and side missions to keep you interested.
The story itself is a marvel, digging into key historical moments with respect and detail and pushing the boundaries of what your preconceived notions of the plot may be. The voice acting is superb, atuned to accent and dynamics which creates believable characters you can connect with or hate depending on their role in Altairs plight.
Aside from the mentioned monotony and the occasional control problem as Altair blasts across rooftops, Assassins creed offers a compelling beginning to deep and fascinating narrative worthy of its respective sequels.


Fallout 3

Game review - 1 agree

Having grown to love open world games over the past few years as they infiltrate the gaming market, it was only a matter of time before I found the glorious dereliction that is fallout 3.
The sheer size of this game in its playable map and gaming hours is close to unsurpassed. Having never been a fan of RPG's, fallout combines the skill level, NPC interaction and attribute sorting elements of a solid role player with the first hand combat and interaction of an action-shooter, providing gamers with a myriad of ways to play.
You begin life (and I mean begin from birth) in Vault 101, an underground bunker designed to protect pockets of humanity from the dangers of the Washington DC wasteland left to rot since the last nuclear war 200 years ago.
When your father goes missing and leaves the safety of the vault it is up to you to scavenge the desolate landscape outside the vaults enclosure to find your father. This is done through a series of quests which constitute the main body of the game, while other random meetings with nuclear survivors provide a myriad of additional side missions in which you learn more about life in the Capital Wasteland and the people who are claiming the last vestiges of humanity out in the ruins.
As well as human survivors, there are dozens of other factions all vying for their grip on what's left to be had since the war. Hulking, Shelley inspired super mutants, Slavers, Raiders, The enclave and The brotherhood of steel all provide insight and danger in your exploration of the desolate landscape.
Aided by your pip-boy, a wrist based navigation computer you progress not just through plot but also as a character, learning various skills and traits which will lead you to not only survival but eventually to become a Legend of the wasteland.


Quake 2

Game review - 1 agree - 1 disagree

Quake II was for me the very pinnacle of a great FPS. Quake I had the slow medieval ambience and spooky nine inch nails provided soundscapes but the lost marine storyline of Quake II took the game leaps and bounds further.
From the very offset there is no let-up in action, you were sent to fight and even though the mission has now gone to hell, fight you must.
The landscape and wealth of visual treats the gaming environment provides never gives up and it is clear to see that most other FPS's (half-life) included looked to quake to as the basis for a thrilling and involved gaming landscape.
The ubiquitous arsenal of weapons is never really better kitted out than any other game and, as always, the shotgun (or rather super shotgun in this iteration of the quake universe) should be the discerning strogg-smashers choice of weapon.
But let us not forget the amazing force of the now reverential 'rail-gun', this thing turns your enemies to goo at the simple click of a mouse, pure gory brilliance! Past this should you find it there is fun-yet-mostly-useless BFG (That's big effin' gun to you and I) which packs more punch than Mike Tyson's home-made chilli sauce but is about as palatable.
The enemies are varied, strong and often difficult and their AI is surprisingly advanced for a game of this age.
In essence this is (you'll notice I'm attempting to ignore the Doom franchise) the quinticential godfather of FPS, great visuals, good story, awesome arsenal. What more could you want?


Mirror's Edge

Game review - 1 agree

With Mirror's edge DICE have come up with a unique and interesting new way to play out the standard platform medium.
This is a FPP (First Person Platformer), seen through the eyes of Faith a runner this game takes on the growing popularity of parkour and free-running and gives it an inventive and insightful plot.
The visual style is an element to itself in Mirror's edge, all though we are told the city is rotten and corrupt it gleams and sparkles with all the false pretence we have come to understand from corporate take over. Almost every surface shines and flares which is a visual treat even at high speed.
The first person view is one we normally equate with shooters and is used to give an empathetic and visceral view of the game world we are presented with. This works brilliantly with the premise of Mirror's edge, the key here is to fight as little as possible but to run as hard as you can. In some places the lack of personal perspective can be off-putting, in the real world you could feel when your feet reach the edge of a thirty storey drop as opposed to having to look down which you need to do fairly consistently throughout the game.
The red highlighted trail means that the game pushes you to always be thinking one step ahead, one foot in front of your pursuers; and once in a free flowing run the game feels seamless and fluid in all the right ways.
The attention to detail in physicality is also superb, vertigo and blurred vision occur from looking down or catching the edge of a long jump really do add to the feel of being in control of Faith's physical prowess.
The story is engaging if a little short, taking you through betrayal, solidarity and revelation.
All in all Mirror's edge provides a new view on a common and loved gaming tradition in which you should suspend your disbelief and revel in the experience and glorious landscape of the runner.


Portal: The Flash Version Mod

Mod review - 1 agree - 2 disagree

Putting aside the way in which this mod has appeared on moddb, I am going to review the mod itself.
For anyone who was a little upset at the short play time involved in Portal, this mod is perfect. A 3D replication of a mini-flash game version of Valves triumphant puzzler it fleshes out the chambers and adds a whole slew of new problems for you to solve.
There is little by way of over-arching plot in this mod, in fact there is no plot whatsoever, but where that fails the sheer number of levels (40+ at my count) make it a valid addition to anyone's portal experience.
Guiding you through from the very basic to the frustratingly taxing it almost seems like portals cutting room floor has been collected and pieced together to give fans an psudeo-directors cut, a sort of Portal: Extended addition.
There is little more to say in regard to style, character or original content, the mod uses Portals textures and elements exclusively (with teh addition of the dropped 'fizzler') and even the various comments from GLaDOS. Its originality is only found in the varying and fun-to-play test chambers which will no doubt keep portal fans glued to their guns for many more hours.
Great mod, if a little under reaching, but they never set out to create greatness, just to create more. In essence a success and worthy of a home in anyone's portal mod folder.


BioShock 2

Game review may contain spoilers - 1 agree

There has been a lot of venom spat at Bioshock 2 in response to taking up the mantle of its predecessor. Bioshock was original and new, a revelation in plot based FSP's, may questioned if we needed to dive back into the underwater dystopia of Rapture.
I, personally, had nothing but praise for the original (as my review will show) but after a play through I see nothing lacking in the sequel whatsoever. The plot is just as immersive, if not more so with Sofia Lamb offering not only a fictional but thematic equal to that of Andrew Ryan.
There is not the iconic confrontational scene, the revelatory plot twist but the idea of good and bad, the dichotomy of choice within the games original is played out much further as you take on the role of vengeful Big Daddy subject Delta.
Your relationship with the little sisters is the true differing factor, the ability to adopt puts you in very different big metal shoes.
For me the story and characters were far more in depth, giving players the ability to find out about the true downfall of Rapture and its various characters, gave a complete picture of the ailing city. The twist from independent industrialism (which failed under the reign on Andrew Ryan) to the crutch of psychological socialism is an amazing plot to watch play out, even vicariously and after the fact.
Rapture itself is still as gloriously strewn down the river of decay as it was in the previous game, I would have liked to revisit some of the previously seen areas of the city but the use of the Atlantic Expressway and the underwater 'spacewalks' were an intriguing method of transporting the player across the vast city environment.
With the addition of bigger, badder, better splicers and the frightening Big Sisters the combat landscape is a useable battleground for defending your newly adopted little sisters and poses more than enough challenge to hardened games.
All in all Bioshock 2 gives us a greater sense of the world of Rapture, which is never a bad thing.



Game review - 4 agree

What can I say baout Bioshock that has not already been said before.
This is a new ball park in fps, cerebral and introspective, it captures not only the Randian ideal of Objectivism in beautiful counterpoint to 'Atlas Shrugged' but the underlying nature of the role of the gamer itself.
The lush decay of the city of Rapture provide the player with a new and intersting environment of which one has very real choice to mould and shape, whether in hacking the various machinery placed around or using character enhancing 'plasmids' to freeze, burn or electrocute puddles, barrels and oil spills.
This game is all about the story, Rapture is a rich world with characters of depth and intigue, most of whom are discovered through surviving audio diaries. If you want the most from this game and want to understand the world or Andrew Ryan and Rapture then I suggest you search high and low to get the full story.
Beyond the myriad of characters there is a shrewd sense of self-discovery as you play the silent protagonist Jack. the more you learn about Rapture the more it coincides with your fortuitous arrival in the crumbling underwater city.
The psudeo-antagonist of Anrew Ryan is one of the best written characters ever formed in gaming in terms of his overall and underlying ties to everything you know about the world and yourself, and finally metting him ingame is one of the quinticential gaming moments.
Written with a flair that surpasses the most cerebral hollywood fayre, Bioshock, on a very subtle level takes on the very notion of choice in gaming. Are we free to do as we like in these digital environments or do we simply follow instruction?
All in all this game, along with a few others of note, has set the bar in terms of what we can now call a 'good game'.
It is mature, intelligent and crafted with all the artistry you could expect from a David Lynch film, while activley taking on the philosophies of choice and determinism.


Portal: Project-Beta

Mod review

Half-Life 2: Episode One

Game review
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