Dark Souls II (2014) – 10/10 fantasy action RPG game review

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Cast / crew

Dark Souls II (2014)

Drangleic is way past it’s glory days and, without it’s king, has transformed into a remarkably dangerous place. Bring the family; all falls included!

10/10

It took a surprising couple of hours before I died in Dark Souls II. This certainly doesn’t have the dank, morbid atmosphere of the endlessly and rightly lauded Dark Souls but it does have the wonderful unfurling exploration for which, remarkably, you don’t need a map; we learn the lay of the land just like we learn our own streets by travelling them every day. This is another way the Souls games are, possibly, unique among open-world games. While some of the boss battles feel like extra large normal dudes, there are some true highlights including Executioner’s Chariot and, in Royal Rat Authority, a boss that may require you to change game-long tactics (SPOILER disengage lock-on and get under his feet) and teaches you through emergent gameplay rather than a loading screen tip. As for the not dying… well, I sure made up for that later. Dark Souls II is a spectacular, immersive, ridiculously generous game but, aside from a much better user interface and vastly improved PC performance, it’s a hair less effective and atmospheric than Dark Souls. A hair, I say, and still a masterpiece in it’s own right. P.S. The DLC is all fully amazing.

This game contains violence

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

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Remember Me (2013, PS3) – 8/10 third-person science-fiction action game review

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Cast / crew
Art Director: Aleksi Briclot
Art Director: Michel Koch
Technical Director: Jérome Banal
Producer: Nicolas Simon
Lead Technical Designer: Gautier de Souza
Lead Technical Designer: Jacques Trombini
Lead Environment Artist: Sophie Van de Velde
Lead Character Artist: Alexis Smadja-Fellous
Lead Visual Effects Artist: Timothée Letourneux
Lead Lighting Artist: Frédéric Cros
Lead Animator: Carole Chaland
Lead Animator: Alexandre Cuing
Cinematic Director: Jean-Luc Cano
Lead Designer: Philippe Moreau
Lead Designer: Marc Pestka
Music Composer, Orchestrator, Producer and Adaptor: Olivier Derivière
Director: Jean-Maxime Moris
Kezia Burrows: Nilin

Remember Me (2013)

Nilin is rescued from a memory-wipe facility by Edge and has little choice but to follow his instructions to stay alive. As she gradually remembers more skills he quickly sets her to work as a revolutionary but Nilin is conflicted about the chaos she is causing.

8/10

Remember Me deserved rather better than to be sniffed at by contemporary critics who moaned about stuff that exists in other more lauded games (such as the very mildly unruly camera and completely normal number of enemy types). The gameplay adds welcome wrinkles to the third-person brawler with its Pressen system. These are actions slotted into custom combos that can deal damage, heal, accelerate super-power cooldown or amplify the preceding Pressen; a combined effect that you design then execute during exciting, absorbing action. The gameplay is mixed up, as is the norm, with traversal and simple puzzles but a couple of riddles crop up and are something of an unexpected highlight. The cut-scenes are smoothly integrated and beautifully directed and edited, the art design is superb while Olivier Derivière’s music is unusual, effective and fitting. Remember Me drew me in and I wanted to see it through to the end. Well worth buying; don’t forget Remember Me.

This game contains sexual swear words, bad language, adult dialogue, violence

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

Motorstorm: Apocalypse (2011, PS3-exclusive) – 9/10 spectacle racing game review

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Cast / crew

Motorstorm: Apocalypse (2011)

The City is in the throes of natural disaster and the Motorstorm circus travel there to race in the most extreme environment possible.

9/10

What happened to the sound and the fury? Pacific Rift and the first Motorstorm are sonic powerhouses; demonstration-level audio experiences. The de-emphasis on engine sound effects make Motorstorm: Apocalypse sound initially underwhelming. However, it is clear where the processing power went: astonishing, smooth, crisp 1080p30 graphics. This is arguably the most impressive-looking 1080p console racing game of it’s generation with spectacular environmental showpiece destruction. (If memory serves, there were four 1080p racing games: Ridge Racer 7, Gran Turismo 5/6, this and Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad) The looks are backed up with a heart-poundingly thrilling racing experience carried across highly-satisfying single- and multi-player modes including dual-login split-screen available both online and off. Motorstorm: Apocalypse is a very generous racing game with plenty of stunning environments, lots of great, highly customisable vehicles and as much quality racing action as your heart can stand. This is the best game from Evolution Studios to date but it’s commercial success was undermined by too-similar events in the real world in the shape of the devastating Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.

This game contains violence, dangerous activities (for example, racing down collapsing bridges and across fallen skyscrapers)

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

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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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..

Dark Souls (2011) – 10/10 fantasy action RPG game review

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Cast / crew
Director / Producer: Hidetaka Miyazaki
Lead Programmer: Jun Ito
Lead Graphic Designer: Makoto Sato

Dark Souls (2011)

Not living, not dead, not capable of dying (just becoming hollowed), you’ve been banished to a remote prison. One day, a knight peers into your cell from the broken ceiling and tosses in a cadaver bearing a key for your door. Who he is? Don’t know. Why he gave you a key? Don’t know. Why it had to be on a cadaver? Absolutely no idea.

10/10

I suspect any discussion between fans of the unendingly, intricately wondrous Dark Souls (no-one does boss entrances or location reveals like the Souls games) quickly turns to the most souls and humanity lost by not successfully returning to the scene of your previous demise (31,000 souls, 2 humanity – about 3 levels-worth at the time – later, 12 humanity thanks to Ceaseless Discharge unexpectedly coming to meet me; nobody does boss names like the Souls games, either). It hurts. Badly. But one of the coolest things about Dark Souls battles is that you always know why you lost and it’s nearly always your own fault (I dodged backward off a ledge; then muttered disconsolately for the next hour). You knew you wanted to be a higher level. You knew the bridge was narrow and the parapet was damaged. You knew you needed to run away and heal. You knew you couldn’t take two on at once. You knew you needed to dodge not strike. You knew your armour was too heavy to run fast. You knew your crossbow takes ages to reload. You knew you were using the wrong shield. You knew you had to be patient. You knew it would be worth it. It’s always worth it.

This game contains bad language, optionally gory violence

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

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Fahrenheit aka Indigo Prophecy (2005, Windows PC) – 7/10 supernatural crime drama game review

Cast / crew
Writer: David Cage
Director: David Cage

Fahrenheit

Indigo Prophecy (2005)

Lucas Kane horrifiedly watches himself carve symbols into his arms then stab a man three times in a diner washroom. When he regains control, or rather, when something or someone else relinquishes control of him, he knows that no-one will believe what happened. As the only person convinced of the innocence of his guilt, Kane determines to find out what really happened.

7/10

It definitely falls apart at the end (specifically, from the meeting with Carla in the graveyard) as the plot loses cohesion and characters behave as if you’ve missed significant scenes or dialogue options (culminating in the surprise "I love you" on the train) but this remains a landmark game and a refreshingly different experience. You see, I wanted to reassure Sam before I left for work; I felt panic from claustrophobia; I felt joy when the Professor believed me and I felt dismay when it didn’t turn out well. Writer / director David Cage’s commitment to getting games to deliver something other than heart-pumping thrills and mind-bending conundrums is intriguing and worthwhile. When it works, as it frequently does here, it is a remarkable achievement and those experiences definitely enrich your gaming palate.

This game contains extreme and graphic violence, gory and unpleasant scenes and sex scenes, full nudity.

Classified 15 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over.