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Month: December 2011

The Other Christmas Games

OK, so you should have got the message by now: if you want to buy someone a game for Christmas, buy them Skyrim! But in case you don’t think that’s their thing, for example if they’re deathly allergic to awesomeness, then I guess you might consider one of these lesser offerings instead. Also, it turns out I’ve played a lot more games recently than I thought, so five days wasn’t enough to fit them all in, and I can’t be bothered to write full length reviews for them all. If there’s any I’ve missed, sorry, but I might still have played them, so leave a comment and I’ll let you know. Also, don’t look a gift review in the mouth, you ungrateful person you. Batman: Arkham City One that’s been out for a while, but because of its comics origins is arguably more suitable for younger players than the more obviously violent Gears of War and their ilk. It is, of course, just as violent, but it’s just less obvious about it. In my opinion it’s not as coherent or focused as its predecessor, and the overarching story is less compelling, but it’s still a sure-fire crowd pleaser due to its solid gameplay and faithful characters. The extra game modes still feel tacked on, but hey, nobody’s forcing them to play those bits. F.3.A.R. Jim and I managed to...

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Skyrim Review

So, as you might have guessed by now, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim would be my number one recommendation for a game for someone you care about this Christmas. Especially if you don’t want to see or hear from them over the upcoming festive period; having ‘finished’ the game after a mere 83 hours of play (though I have by no means seen all it has to offer), there’s no doubt that pound per hour this represents the best value you could possibly get in a game. Puts triple-A titles like Modern Warfare’s 5 hour one-player campaign to shame somewhat, doesn’t it? Anyway, before you buy it, I suppose you might want to know what it’s about. Well, it’s about a medieval fantasy land called Skyrim, a northern province of the land of Tamriel (other games in the Elder Scrolls series have been set in other provinces, though they are largely analogous). Comparing it to Lord of the Rings is a bit like saying that Justin Bieber and Michael Jackson are the same because they’re both high-pitched male pop singers with insane fans, but as a frame of reference it’s close enough (that’s what a Bieber is, right? I’ve heard people use the word but I’m not really sure what one does). Wizards, Elves, people, but no Hobbits and not really any dwarves (long story) are all as expected,...

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Assassin’s Creed: Revelations Review

Here’s another series that I have been a fan of for a long time. The original Assassin’s Creed, released way back in 2007, was vehemently mauled by critics at the time of its release, but due to a callous car driver, I had the opportunity to play and complete the game in one long cat-recouperating weekend. I found it to be unquestionably flawed, but containing enough fun, interesting, and, most importantly, original ideas, that I was quite impressed with it, and felt that, given the chance, a sequel could improve the good bits, ditch the bad, and they would have a great game. Sure enough, when AC2 was released two years later, the plaudits came rolling in. The same was true of last year’s AC: Brotherhood, which achieved the near-impossible by adding even more new elements to an established franchise without them seeming forced or getting in the way. The one thing that did concern me was that AC:B stayed in pretty much the same location as the previous game, re-using a lot of the same assets. To hear of another game, this time produced in only a year, worried me that they would be re-treading the same ground again. Imagine my happiness, then, when Assassin’s Creed: Revelations featured an entirely new city, in Constantinople, and a genuine progression of the story established in the first three games: there...

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Saint’s Row the Third Review

I’m a big fan of the Saint’s Row franchise; the first one was a poor cousin to Grand Theft Auto that succeeded largely because there wasn’t an entry in that series available at the time, but it did have a spark of something that GTA had forgotten: where San Andreas forced you to eat right and exercise in order to keep your character in shape (if I don’t do that in real life, what are the chances I’m going to enjoy doing it in a video game?), Saint’s Row used the old get out clause of you being an undercover cop to get away with ridiculously amoral, exploitative, childish and above all entertaining nonsense. The sequel built on this, and for me at least, achieved what should have been impossible, and stole the title of the best sandbox game away from Rockstar. Abandoning even more the pretence of being anything except cheap, tawdry silliness with a heaping of gratuitous nudity, violence and bad language, it was and remains one of the most fun games released on the current generation of consoles. Disappointing, then, that the third instalment in the series, despite moving away from Stilwater to a completely new (though stylistically near-identical) city, in Steelport, is a step backwards in almost every sense. After an exciting and well-executed introductory sequence, the story rapidly fizzles out, and ends up feeling...

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Uncharted 3 Review

Kicking off a week of reviews for games you might be considering for Christmas, I’m going to start on a platform-exclusive title, with the PS3’s flagship 3rd-person actioner series, Uncharted, and their latest instalment, Uncharted 3. Starting in the most cliché London pub possible, featuring a variety of accents that have never existed outside of an American’s imagination, Uncharted 3 makes only the most perfunctory effort to establish its paper-thin plot (something something FRANCIS DRAKE something something fuck it let’s just go to a bunch of locations and climb about until the baddies arrive then shoot them), falling back several times on the hack story mainstay of all archaeological adventure films, the old ‘hidden location how did they get here oh no they must have followed us and now they’re taking the treasure off us at gunpoint damn and we were so close too’. Don’t worry about it too much though, they decided about halfway through to pretty much scrap all that and go in a new (or rather, old) direction, ditching the new(er) characters, some of whom are never heard from again, and returning largely to bit-part Deus Ex Machina stereotypes and series mainstays who, if you haven’t played the prior games (or, if you’re me, even if you have) you will neither know nor care about in the slightest, mostly because they have zero impact on the...

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