Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (2014, PS3) – 7/10 fantasy RPG game review

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Cast / crew
Director: Motomu Toriyama
Game Design Director: Yuji Abe
Main Programmer: Naoki Hamaguchi
Art Director: Isamu Kamikokuryo
Graphics and Visual Effects Director: Shintaro Takai
Main Character Designer: Tetsuya Nomura
Music: Masashi Hamauzu
Music: Naoshi Mizuta
Music: Mitsuto Suzuki
Lead Scenario Writer: Daisuke Watanabe
Level Design Director: Takeshi Iwabuchi
Lead Application Programmer: Daiki Hoshina
Lead Planner: Kazuyuki Shindo
Lead Planner: Masahiro Ishihara
Lead Planner: Daisuke Inoue
Lead Planner: Yui Sawada
Battle Design Director: Nobuyuki Matsuoka
Lead Battle Programmer: Satoru Koyama
Character Model Director: Masaaki Kazeno
Lead Technical Engine and Rendering Programmer: Shuichi Ikeda
Producer: Yoshinori Kitase
Lightning aka Claire Farron: Ali Hillis
Hope Estheim: Vincent Martella
Jessica DiCicco: Lumina

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (2014)

Lightning awakes from crystal stasis by the almighty god Bhunivelze and endowed with great power and a skimpy outfit and a mission to save as many souls as she can before the end of the world. Which will be in 13 days. Making things even harder is that the world has been frozen in immortality for the past 500 years and the length of time has crushed some of their souls. These are the ones God wants rescuing and Lightning will have to do whatever it takes to help restore light to their lives and save their souls.

7/10

"You’re just making things up now." – Lightning

While Lightning’s succinct statement applies to most JRPG’s (and most video game bosses in particular), it applies with such eyebrow-raising accuracy to all of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII’s story sequences that you feel that the makers must be doing it deliberately. While the story does get around to sort-of explaining why Lightning has been such an overly-focused near-automaton for three games, that’s about your lot. Everything happens because it does and thanks to good production values, especially the superb voice work and outstanding music, I was happy to break out my wry smile and watch all the story scenes in their majestically daft seriousness. You see, did I mention that you can be wearing a giant hat or silly glasses or a precariously balanced afro or a tail or big bunny ears and an impractical suit of armour or next to no clothes during these world-changing sequences. It’s got to be deliberate. The game itself is generally a lot of fun and marks the first seamless 3D open-world environment for Final Fantasy. It’s easy enough to bumble through for the experience but it has enough depth in the battle system that, on Normal and Hard difficulty, preparation and strategy will be required to succeed. There’s lot to do and you will be happy helping people with their problems, ‘solving’ mysteries and swatting cactuars in the face with a sword that is twice the size you are. I’ve grown rather partial to Lightning and the fact that I can name the entire hero cast of the FFXIII universe and some of their defining character traits and arcs speaks volumes about the quality of this much-maligned trilogy.

This game contains violence, gory and unpleasant scenes

Classified 16+ by PEGI. The game is only suitable for persons who have reached the age of 16 or over..

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PS3 vs Xbox 360 and PS4 versus Xbox One Head-to-Head Face Off: Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes

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  • PS4 is better than Xbox One  Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes

Seventh Generation

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  • 360 better  Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes

PC vs PS4 vs Xbox One Head-to-Head Face Off: The Lego Movie Videogame

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  • PS4 / Xbox One equalXbox One / PS4 equal  The Lego Movie Videogame

PS3 vs Xbox 360 Head-to-Head Face Off: Dark Souls II

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  • 360 better  Dark Souls II

PC vs PS3 vs PS4 vs Xbox 360 vs Xbox One: Strider and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2

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  • PC DVD ROM logo 75x16Xbox One / PS4 equal  Strider

Seventh Generation

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  • 360 PS3 equal and better than Wii U  Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2
  • 360 better  FIFA 14
  • 360 better  Grand Theft Auto V
  • 360 better  Strider

Brave: A Warrior’s Tale (2009, 360) – 5/10 action game review

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Cast / crew

Brave: A Warrior’s Tale (2009)

HD remake of Brave: The Search for the Spirit Dancer

5/10

An HD remake of a PS2 game (Brave: The Search for the Spirit Dancer) before people really took care over them, this keeps the graphics and ups the resolution but messes up the frame rate. This technical inadequacy coupled with poor camera programming and a few bugs (one requiring your save to be restarted) can give one a poor impression and certainly contributed to the fairly hateful contemporary review scores. Shame, as the core game design is fine; a Native American God of War without the gore. It’s mostly fun enough, it’s always giving you something to do with a little tweak on what you’ve already learned, the story is good enough, the lead character Brave is enthusiastic, the art direction is good and it remains one of the only games to even attempt to use the striking potential of Native American mythology. It also has the joint most valuable achievement on 360 with 500G for completing the game.

Killzone: Shadow Fall (2013) – 9/10 science fiction FPS game review

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Cast / crew

Killzone: Shadow Fall (2013)

About thirty years after the end of the Second Helghan War with Helghan rendered uninhabitable by a Vektan bomb, Vektans and Helghans have been living on Vekta; each occupying half the planet, separated by a massive wall. As tensions reach boiling point, New Helghan makes another attempt at taking out their enemies once and for all.

9/10

Oddly received with a desultory sniff by contemporary critics overeager to prove themselves unswayed by beautiful graphical fidelity and excitement over a new console, this is the best in the series to date. Shadow Fall features an expertly balanced campaign with some varied, thrilling, kinetic battles and enough exploration, easy sections and down time to allow you to savour the intense bits. The main criticism seemed to be that this first-person shooter was a first-person shooter and, to be fair, it is absolutely a first-person shooter. For me, it sometimes gave me the good feeling of earlier PC shooters where there would be more to the level than your objective and numerous strategic options for getting into and out of skirmishes. The ridiculous end credits crawl is unquestionably the longest for any entertainment media ever at over half-an-hour; it’s possible every human being on the planet is listed but you’ll have killed yourself before it reaches your name. Or skipped it; whatever.

This game contains strong gory violence

Classified 18+ by PEGI. The game is only suitable for adults who have reached the age of 18 or over..

PC vs PS4 vs Xbox One Head-to-Head Face Off: Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition

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  • PC DVD ROM logo 75x16PS4 logo 75x16  Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition

Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends (2012, PC) – 8/10 racing game review

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Cast / crew
Additional Design and Head of Studio: Ian Bell
Additional Design and Development Director: Andy Garton
Additional Design and Chief Operations Officer: Stephen Viljoen
Creative Director: Andy Tudor
Producer: Suzy Wallace
Technical Director: Ged Keaveney
Audio Director and Composer: Stephen Baysted
Sound Designer: Greg Hill

Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends (2012)

8/10

Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends is yet another game unlovingly belched out by Atari before it was quite ready. Yet despite the sometimes iffy frame rate and PS1-era pop-up on Spa, a rough diamond shines through. This is a challenging but visceral and satisfying game with fun handling on Normal, attention-demanding on Pro; communicative on both. It really showcases the differences in performance characteristics between road and race cars and between generations. There is also an unusually accurate sense of speed in that your speeds feels different when you are travelling fast or slow. A lot of car games always feel like they’re going at a million miles per hour regardless of the car you’re in (see Grid 2). There are a number of tracks we’ve never driven in an officially licensed commercially available product such as Rouen and Enna Pergusa; there’s a welcome return for old Hockenheim, sort-of old Imola, old Silverstone and a top fantasy track in Misty Loch. The career mode throws up a pleasing variety of tasks and is surprisingly satisfying, especially once Mansley shows up. On Hard difficulty and Pro handling, this is an entertaining handful and a very stern challenge but there are three difficulty levels and two handling models to ensure that your time with the game is satisfying and fun.

This game contains

LEGO® Lord of the Rings (2012, PSVita) – 8/10 action game review

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Cast / crew

LEGO® Lord of the Rings (2012)

8/10

Successfully imbuing adorable tiny LEGO characters with the feeling of their big-screen counterparts (Gimli always raises a smile running into walls and I love the thwang of Legolas’ archery), this is a wonderfully honed jaunt through Middle-Earth. TT’s usual problem with communicating what you’re supposed to do in boss battles is present and correct but otherwise this is a slick, delightful experience. Interestingly, this game contains a bonus Big Head mode and it shows just how well designed all the characters are; giving them Big Heads makes them look awful. It demonstrates what a knife-edge there is between charismatic, cute, charming and off-putting and uninvolving. The designs and animations of the characters are genuinely perfect.

This game contains

PC vs PS4 vs Xbox One Head-to-Head Face Off: Launch titles update

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  • PC DVD ROM logo 75x16PS4 logo 75x16  Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
  • PC DVD ROM logo 75x16PS4 logo 75x16  Battlefield 4
  • PS4 logo 75x16  Call of Duty: Ghosts
  • PS4 / Xbox One equalXbox One / PS4 equal  FIFA 14
  • PC DVD ROM logo 75x16PS4 / Xbox One equal  Need for Speed: Rivals

PC vs PS4 vs Xbox One and PC vs PS3 vs Wii U vs 360 Head-to-Head Face Off: Call of Duty: Ghosts

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  • PS4 logo 75x16  Call of Duty: Ghosts

Seventh Generation

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  • 360 better  Call of Duty: Ghosts

360 vs PS3 vs Wii U vs PC Head-to-Head Face Off: Call of Duty: Ghosts

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  • 360 better  Call of Duty: Ghosts

360 vs PS3 Head-to-Head Face Off: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

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  • 360 better  Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

PC vs PS4 vs Xbox One (and 360 vs PS3 vs PC) Head-to-Head Face Off: Battlefield 4

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  • PC DVD ROM logo 75x16PS4 logo 75x16  Battlefield 4

Seventh Generation

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  • 360 better  Battlefield 4

Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2012, PS3) – 6/10 open-world action racing game review

Cast / crew

Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2012)

6/10

This feels like a game made by talented, but bored, developers though the more I think about it and the more you play it, the worse the game becomes. Police chases are thrilling but awful as they incessantly spawn what feels like hundreds of police cars everywhere you go and they don’t need to be able to see you or have seen you to know where you are. Handling is heart-pumping but lumpen and inaccurate meaning that threading through traffic is consistently far harder than it should be. This is yet another open-world game that expects you to map-read at 150mph (earlier open-world Need for Speed games do not make this irritating choice; it also spoils Midnight Club: Los Angeles). And this is an open-world game where you spend a lot of time waiting for events to load. Isn’t one of the selling features of an open-world supposed to be "no loading times"? I’ve yet to see one; perhaps that will be something that the eighth generation of consoles will finally deliver. But this? This is only Most Wanted until you play it.

This game contains

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360 vs PS3 vs PC Head-to-Head Face Off: FIFA 14 and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

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  • 360 better  FIFA 14
  • No console winner  Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Crash Time IV aka Alarm for Cobra 11: The Syndicate (2010, Games for Windows Live PC) – 8/10 action racing game

Cast / crew

Crash Time IV aka Alarm for Cobra 11: The Syndicate (2010)

A crime syndicate has sullied Ben and Semir’s patch and they’ll need to employ informants and surveillance cameras and car chases to rack up the arrests and get their city nice and clean again.

8/10

I love these games. I love that the prison transport driver is a total lunatic. I love the fact that I was slightly disappointed that Synetic’s menu was completely intelligible and usable. In this particular outing, I also love the handling and would claim it is some of the best in an action racer ever. Why? At all speeds, it allows you to do what you’re trying to do, specifically you can consistently drive between traffic, even oncoming traffic, at any speed without crashing. This is extremely impressive (and produces some amazing moments); for a test, try doing the same in the much-lauded Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit from the same year. You can’t, Hot Pursuit’s handling isn’t precise enough. But Cobra 11‘s is. It also has a terrific car roster. Cars with caravans seem to have disappeared from the roads but in the forty-vehicles we get to drive are a monster truck, a golf cart and one of those ginormous dumper trucks alongside the usual array of passenger and sports cars, SUV’s and, still uniquely I believe, articulated lorries. It even has an amusing ending where Ben and Semir SPOILER get sent on a two-month holiday so the city can recover from all the damage they cause.

This game contains violence

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Beyond Good & Evil (2003, 2011 PS3) – 8/10 action adventure game review

Cast / crew
Director, Game Designer and Story Writer: Michel Ancel
Producer: Yves Guillemot
Dialogue and Story Writer: Jacques Exertier
Game Designer: Sebastien Morin
Technical Manager: Christophe Beaudet

Beyond Good & Evil (2003)

Jade and her uncle Pey’j are looking after orphans in their lighthouse when it is attacked by the DomZ. After dealing with them, the cities’ Alpha Section show up and take all the credit but that’s not all they’re up to. Re-released in 2011 on HD platforms.

8/10

A fun, engrossing and charming adventure whose only shortcoming lies in a malevolently awkward camera. Beyond Good and Evil feels like it was crafted by a master craftsman, someone who knew what they were doing. There’s just enough challenge to get you to pay attention; there are just enough optional areas to make you feel like an explorer and, in gameplay it should be noted, just enough running away from explosions in slow motion to make you feel like a hero. This is a review of the highly welcome HD release.

This game contains violence, unpleasant scenes

360 vs PS3 vs PC Head-to-Head Face Off: Diablo III and Grand Theft Auto V (no PC version)

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  • 360 better  Diablo III
  • 360 better  Grant Theft Auto V

PS4 vs Xbox One vs Xbox 360 vs PS3 vs Wii U vs PC Head-to-Head Face Off: Rayman Legends

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  • PC DVD ROM logo 75x16PS4 / Xbox One equalXbox One / PS4 equal  Rayman Legends

Seventh Generation

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  • Wii U better than 360 or PS3  Rayman Legends

Xbox 360 vs PS3 vs Wii U vs PC Head-to-Head Face Off: Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist

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  • 360 PS3 equal  Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist

Captain America: Super Soldier (2011,360) – 7/10 superhero action game review

Cast / crew
Game Director: Brandon Gill
Art Director: Barret Chapman
Audio Director: Alex MacFarlane
Technical Director: Darwin Chau
Lead Cinematic Animator: Rob Willock
Lead Gameplay Animator and Designer: Jeff King

Captain America: Super Soldier (2011)

As Dr. Anim Zola improves his understanding of human mortality through experimenting on prisoners-of-war, Captain America resolves to go in and punch him in the evil until he stops.

7/10

Successfully taking design inspiration from Batman: Arkham Asylum, this is a fun, highly playable and satisfying superhero movie game. Even without your special shield moves (which are too slow to deploy) the combat is rewarding to play throughout. The structure of the game provides an ever-expanding and constantly interesting 1940′s stronghold / science-fiction arena and taking the super-powered Captain through them picking up collectibles and leaving a trail of broken henchmen is a great balance of action and non-action. Technically, the frame rate doesn’t feel smooth but it loads surprisingly quickly, nothing is broken and it doesn’t affect playability. It winds up to a great speech by the Captain before a surprisingly not-irritating triple-boss battle during a boss battle, leaving us with a good memory of a good game.

This game contains strong bloodless violence

Classified 12+ by PEGI. The game is only suitable for persons who have reached the age of 12 or over.
Classified Violence by PEGI. Game contains depictions of violence.
Classified Bad Language by PEGI. Game contains bad language.

SOCOM: Special Forces (2011, PS3 exclusive) – 8/10 third-person / first-person tactical squad modern military shooter game review

Cast / crew
Technical Director: Jason Tartaglia
Game Director: Seth Luisi
Production Director: Alan Van Slyke
Producer: Thomas Rigas
Writer and Lead Designer: Travis Steiner
Art Director: Phil Knowles
Lead Programmer: Troy Mason
Software Manager: David Burton
Creative Director and Writer: Ed Byrne
Writer: Rafael Chandler
Matthew Del Negro: Ops Com
Nolan North: Gorman
Gwendoline Yeo: Forty-Five

SOCOM: Special Forces aka SOCOM 4: Navy Seals (2011)

A NATO Operation Commander finds himself trapped in Malaysia with only his two squad members when a revolution takes out the NATO Command Centre and a host of Private Military Company ClawHammer support ships. Miffed at having a helicopter nearly land on his face, he decides not to scamper away but to take the fight to them.

8/10

Though it didn’t find itself join the Call of Duty pie it appears to have been hoping for (less than 800,000 sold – vgchartz), SOCOM: Special Forces is a great-looking, intense, and involving tactical shooter. The British lead character (who amusingly hates fruit and sausages) makes for a different feel to the US-dominated hero stable of shooters and there is an interesting structure where a number of missions see you conduct a solo stealth mission the night before going in with the full five-man squad the following day. It’s amazing how different a map looks during the day or night. However, the nature of the game means that your colleague’s complete lack of survival instinct is horribly apparent. Why don’t they try to avoid being shot, run away or seek cover when under fire? To be fair, they’re largely critically useful and you make a deadly team, especially if you make use of the enemy marking command (essential for the last stand in Mission 13 on Elite, I found) but you do die an awful lot while they stand around getting needlessly riddled with bullets or admiring flowers or practising their grizzledness. Still, very good game and I enjoyed it a lot.

This game contains sexual swear words, graphic violence, anti-sausage dialogue

Classified 16+ by PEGI. The game is only suitable for persons who have reached the age of 16 or over..

Xbox 360 vs PS3 vs Wii U vs 3DS vs PC Head-to-Head Face Off: Resident Evil: Revelations

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  • 360 PS3 equal and better than Wii U Resident Evil: Revelations