Category Archives: Games

XBOX Games with Gold is finally Heating Up!

xbox 360 games with gold logoFinally. I like Microsoft’s Games with Gold initiative which rewards XBOX Live members with two free games every month. It certainly introduced me to a number of titles I might not otherwise have tried, and it definitely laid the groundwork for further digital game purchases from me.

However, it has more often than not felt like a very lacklustre, half-hearted baby brother to the way more exciting rival Sony’s PlayStation Plus programme, primarily because the free games given away by Microsoft are either ridiculously outdated, or deemed to be cop-outs thanks to their lighter Arcade status.

But all of a sudden Microsoft seems to really be taking it up a notch again. April 2014 Games with Gold saw the usual combo of an Arcade and AAA title release, the first being Deadlight (2012), followed by Hitman: Absolution (2012). May 2014 Games with Gold followed that good offering up with Dust: An Elysian Tail (2012), and the super silly but fun Saints Row: The Third (2011).

And now for June 2014 Games with Gold (in which XBOX One now also joins the party), Microsoft is giving away on the XBOX 360 platform three excellent titles: Dark Souls (2011), Charlie Murder (2013) [Arcade], and lastly, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition (2011).

At this rate I might even become interested in gaming again!

saints row 3 wallpaper

Capsule Reviews: Games (Max Payne 3, Hitman: Absolution, etc.)

I can’t say I really game any more these days, but funnily enough, thanks to Microsoft’s Games with Gold XBOX 360 initiative, I have been able to dip my toe into a far greater range of titles that I might have otherwise. This is a quick round up of the titles that I’ve spent a little time on over the course of the last couple of months (you know, when the three year old and newborn in the house let me…)

Hitman: Absolution (2013)

In the aftermath of Hitman: Blood Money, Diana Burnwood, Agent 47′s handler with the International Contract Agency, suddenly goes rogue, carrying out a catastrophic sabotage that includes publicly exposing the Agency. The Agency reforms under agent Benjamin Travis; Travis assigns 47 to kill Diana and bring Victoria, a teenage girl in her care, to the Agency. Shooting and wounding Diana in her home in Chicago, 47, rather than executing her, comforts the dying Diana, who gives him a letter and asks him to keep Victoria safe from the Agency.

It’s the fifth installment in the Hitman game franchise and as such, if you’ve played any of these titles before then you know exactly what you are going to get. Lots of sneaking around, carefully laying traps and taking people out, disguises, and of course when necessary, gun battles. Great graphics, an intricate and dark story, loads of polish, and a good reward hook means that you should very much find yourself trying levels over and over again, attempting to better your score with each and every go! Sadly, I’m not all that fond of stealth games, but despite even this, I have to say that Hitman: Absolution came very close to winning me over to the genre.

hitman absolution backdrop

Full House Poker (2011)

Featuring Avatar FameStar! Go all-in with Full House Poker! Play Texas Hold ‘Em against your friends and thousands of players worldwide, and bring your personality to the table with unique tells and unlockables galore. Save your player progression and winnings between sessions as you increase the stakes and make your mark as a Full House Poker pro!

It’s an online poker game that happens to be rather cutesy in its presentation thanks to the fact that your XBOX avatar is the star of the show. Still, it’s a poker game. Which means if you like playing poker online (I don’t), then this could work for you. If not, rather grab a group of friends and a pack or two of cards. Much more fun in real life quite frankly.

Spartacus Legends (2013)

Developed in collaboration with the television series from Starz, Spartacus Legends invites you to experience raw, visceral combat using multiple fighting styles and thousands of different weapon combinations. Follow your gladiator’s journey through multiple arenas and watch as they strive to reach legendary fame, or meet death at the hands of another. Compete with friends online and see if you have what it takes to kill them all.

Spartacus Legends is a freemium model game, and as such allows you to either compete by grinding it out, or by splashing out some real world cash in order to quickly gain access to better fighting togs. It’s a pretty simple one on one fighter, but it is nicely implemented, even if the graphics aren’t all that spectacular. Plus, it is pretty fun trying to kill off your online opponents gladiator, though the reverse is rather painful. If your gladiator is killed then you kind of need to go and build a new hero.

Deadlight (2012)

The world has ended. There is no hope. No new beginning. Only the survivors. Deadlight follows the journey of Randall Wayne, a man searching for his family across Seattle during the aftermath of a 1980s event that has decimated life on earth. This visually stunning Cinematic Survival Platformer will challenge you to run, jump, climb, and struggle for your life as you look for answers and the ones you love.

Yup, as the description states, this is a classic side-scrolling platformer, but pumped up with a beautiful visual style and a very cinematic story/feel to it. That said, at the heart this is still a zombie/survival game, and as you know, I’m not a great fan of the genre. So in other words, can’t say I played a lot of this one in the end.

deadlight backdrop

Civilization Revolution (2009)

Legendary game designer Sid Meier brings the greatest strategy game of all time to the Xbox 360 console! Built from the ground up for the Xbox 360 console, Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution challenges you to lead your chosen nation from the dawn of man to the space age on your quest to rule the world. Go head to head with history’s greatest leaders as you wage war, conduct diplomacy, discover new technologies and build the most powerful empire the world has ever known.

Growing up, I thoroughly enjoyed playing the Civilization series on my PC. That said, this type of game really doesn’t translate well to a console controller, and as such, I just really couldn’t get into it. At all. (In other words, I didn’t spend very much time actually playing this one then).

Toy Soldiers: Cold War (2011)

The Cold War is decided when ’80s era action toys come alive and wage war! Toy Soldiers: Cold War blends intense first person combat with addictive action strategy, whether you’re scrapping solo or jumping into the fray with friends.

Yeah, this one didn’t really grab me. You set up your various types of turrets, get ready to go, and then start protecting against wave after wave of attack. You can jump into first person mode to control your turrets, and sometimes take control over a vehicle or a commando to run around and inflict even more damage. Honestly though, these are just toys, and as such, just really doesn’t offer all that much charm for an older gamer like myself. Pass.

Max Payne 3 (2012)

For Max Payne, the tragedies that took his loved ones years ago are wounds that refuse to heal. No longer a cop, close to washed up and addicted to pain killers, Max takes a job in São Paulo, Brazil, protecting the family of wealthy real estate mogul Rodrigo Branco, in an effort to finally escape his troubled past. But as events spiral out of his control, Max Payne finds himself alone on the streets of an unfamiliar city, desperately searching for the truth and fighting for a way out.

Damn it, Max Payne, despite a really silly name, remains as awesome as ever. A fantastically well told story that takes you on a very dark, but very satisfying path is combined with the trademark bullet time gun action that has been a hallmark of the Max Payne series from the very beginning. Lots and lots of shooting, fantastic visuals, and a simply brilliant implementation (with polish) makes this a game I seriously enjoyed working through!

max payne 3 backdrop

Dead Island Riptide (2013)

Dead Island Riptide takes players to the island of Palanai on the Banoi archipelago, infested with bloodthirsty Zombies and only a few remaining Survivors still fighting for their lives.

Yup, it is a first person zombie survival game, which means plenty of creepy scares, knocking things over the head when the going gets tough, and running around trying to stay alive. It’s best played as a multiplayer experience, but to be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of survival games, and I’m also not the biggest fan of zombie games, which means I genuinely didn’t enjoy this one then.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (2010)

Tomb Raider is back, though this time Lara and her new Mayan partner Totec have got plenty of puzzles to solve and platforming to perform in order to defeat the evil spirit Xolotl and make it through these ancient tombs alive!

An isometric view, co-op platformer that is surprisingly fun to play with a partner, as it has you running around like a mad thing, solving varied platform-related problems and puzzles, and trading intense fire and explosive blasts with a host of nasties. A very different Tomb Raider experience, that’s for sure, but an enjoyable Arcade romp nonetheless!

A Gaming Round-up: DmC, Sleeping Dogs, etc.

I have a confession to make. I’m pretty much over single-player gaming these days. Blame lack of diminishing returns, or just pure apathy, but I no longer find it hugely entertaining to sit down by myself with controller in hand for an hour or two at night. Maybe I’m simply tired of it, or maybe I’ve simply outgrown the hobby or whatever you want to call it, but the fact of the matter is that I no longer enjoy the pastime as much, and as such, probably won’t be doing a hell of a lot of gaming on my own going forward any longer.

That said, I do still enjoy the multiplayer gaming experience to a fair degree, but that is a completely different kettle of fish mind you – it’s the social interactions that keeps it enjoyable, not the gaming necessarily itself!

All of that said and done though, my blogging hiatus means I’ve spent some time on a fair bit of titles without mentioning them here yet, meaning it only seems fair to do a quick round-up.

dmc devil may cry xbox promo image

First up there is Capcom and Ninja Theory’s awesome action adventure, hack and slash genre entry, Devil May Cry (DmC) (2013), a re-imagination to the original Devil May Cry series, this time from a Western perspective. There was a lot of online moaning about how much people despised the changed story and character designs, but you know what, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story was tightly woven and nice and involving, the characters were actually quite believable in their motivations for a change, and just to drive the awesomeness home, Ninja Theory got the Devil May Cry game mechanics spot on, leading to a raucous, gorgeous looking, stylishly executed button-mashing gaming experience.

I’m a big fan of the original Devil May Cry franchise, and quite pleasingly, this new addition to the stable is just as fantastic as the rest!

Battlestations: Pacific (2009) is a action real-time tactic World War II game from Eidos Hungary, which basically allows you to tackle either a US or Japanese campaign by working through a variety of airborne, seaborne, and combined missions.

Although the voice acting is a little cheesy and the graphics aren’t particularly fantastic, if you are part of the target market for this game like I am (in other words, love World War II planes and boats), then it is an absolute joy to take to the sky in some classic beasts of the air, like a Mitsubishi Zero or a Lockheed P-38 Lightning to name but a few!

Naturally the single player skirmishes do get a little boring after a while, but for me (and Jessica mind you – my little 3 year old likes nothing more than taking a plane up into the sky, doing some rolls, and then ploughing straight down into the see. She screams in delight literally every single time!), the flying time was all that I was really after anyways!

There is a huge selection of ships, submarines, fighter planes, sea planes and bombers to be piloted, and the simplified arcade controls makes for an easy enough title to pick up, though I suspect only lovers are the genre will really get some entertainment value out of this one!

battlestations pacific mitsubishi zero in flight

Shoot Many Robots (2012) from Demiurge Studios is an Xbox Arcade release recently featured as part of Microsoft’s Games with Gold initiative. It’s a typical action platformer that sees you and a partner or two, strap on some silly big guns and costumes, and then run through a variety of stages shooting at pretty much anything that moves, before taking on the slightly bigger bad boy boss at the end of each level.

It’s a redneck-themed game which means the appeal is probably quite limited (seriously, rednecks just aren’t my idea of funny), and as such a lot of the items are geared in design, appearance and function to fit in with the theme.

Ryan and I had some fun shooting down robot after robot, and I have to say, the art direction on the game is really well done, though by that I mean the implementation, not necessarily the stupid theme. Overall, it’s a competent and polished XBOX Arcade title worth picking up if you are looking for some mindless side-scrolling shooting to be had.

shoot many robots xbox arcade title screen

If you are a RPG fan then without a doubt CD Projekt RED’s The Witcher 2 (2012) is a must play. Massive world, gorgeous graphics, classic RPG elements, enjoyable fight mechanics, and engaging and mature storyline, the Witcher 2 is undoubtedly a RPG done right.

Sadly for me though, it turns out I’m not that really into RPG games any more, meaning that it didn’t have my full attention nor a decent enough allotment of my time. Despite that, I do have to recognise just how good an entry into the RPG genre this game actually is, and it is definitely worth the recommend.

(One small gripe though. Why in the world did this game not have better movement mechanics. Seriously, I should not have to trigger a context button for the character to hop down a stone ledge or climb up a simple ladder in this day and age!)

UPDATE: (2014-05-28) I ended up coming back to this one and spending a whole lot more time with it. In the end, same result: great, mature RPG that’s an enjoyable play, but with some slightly annoying control issues. Well worth recommending though!

the witcher 2 xbox screengrab

Next to Devil May Cry, Sleeping Dogs (2012) from United Front Games and Square Enix sits squarely in the list of favourite games played recently. Turns out I rather enjoy Asian-set action games (like John Woo’s Stranglehold, Yakuza and the True Crime series – which I only recently found out are technically forerunners for this game – to name but a few), and as such I’m quite enjoying the open world action-adventure video game, running around doing jobs for the Triads, helping out the cops, boosting my stats, and in general just causing absolute mayhem, all the while wrapped up in a brutal but engaging storyline of crime and justice.

In essence it is pretty much like playing any installment of Grand Theft Auto, except that this time around you are the good guy, doing bad things to fit in, and with a lot more focus on martial arts-based hand to hand combat than what you would see in a GTA title.

Driving, shooting, and fight mechanics are all well implemented, and combined with some good graphics, a fantastic sound track and great voice artist work, this is definitely fast becoming one of my big time favourites.

sleeping dogs xbox screengrab

Gaming Update: Batman: Arkham City | Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

A quick round-up of the latest games to worm themselves onto my XBOX console.

Batman: Arkham City (2011)

Batman: Arkham City is a 2011 action-adventure video game developed by Rocksteady Studios and released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 video game consoles. Based on the DC Comics superhero Batman, it is the sequel to the 2009 video game Batman: Arkham Asylum and the second installment in the Batman: Arkham series.

Written by veteran Batman writer Paul Dini with Paul Crocker and Sefton Hill, Arkham City is based on the franchise’s long-running comic book mythos. In the game’s main storyline, Batman is incarcerated in Arkham City, a massive new super-prison enclosing the decaying urban slums of fictional Gotham City. He must uncover the secret behind the sinister scheme, “Protocol 10″, orchestrated by the facilities warden, Hugo Strange. The game’s leading characters are predominantly voiced by actors from the DC Animated Universe, with Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprising their roles as Batman and the Joker, respectively. The game is presented from the third-person perspective with a primary focus on Batman’s combat and stealth abilities, detective skills, and gadgets that can be used in both combat and exploration.

I bought Arkham City from the XBOX Online store for the ridiculously low price of R89 and seriously haven’t looked back since. I thoroughly enjoyed the original Arkham Asylum outing, and pleasingly this follow up does everything the original did, on a bigger scale, and in the process makes the experience even better than the first (plus, it doesn’t ask you to avoid daft plants – seriously, that was my only major gripe from the first game).

The visuals are outstanding, the voice acting superb, the story epic, but most important of all, the fantastically beautiful and rewarding free flow combat system continues to be as engaging as ever, despite the fact that when you look at it, fighting has been boiled down to a two button system! Incredible.

A definite recommendation to anyone who enjoys action games, and even more so if you are already a fan of the Bat!

batman arkham city game screenshot

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arkham_City

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (2008)

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is an action-adventure/vehicle construction/platformer video game developed by Rare and published by Microsoft Game Studios.

The game takes place following the conclusion of Banjo-Tooie, in which Gruntilda’s body is destroyed by Banjo and Kazooie. Eight years have passed since Gruntilda’s defeat. While Banjo and Kazooie are eating pizza, playing video games and listening to the radio, they discover Gruntilda’s detached head returning to Spiral Mountain. They are about to fight when they are stopped by Lord of Games (L.O.G.). He attempts to settle the conflict between the two by devising a series of worlds and challenges. He uses his powers to give Gruntilda an artificial body and to restore the duo’s physical fitness, but not their moves from previous games.

L.O.G. transports the characters to Showdown Town, his headquarters, and starts the contest. The winner would be set to own Spiral Mountain; the loser must endure eternal hardship at L.O.G.’s video game factory. While Banjo and Kazooie seek to win by completing the challenges, Gruntilda uses her powers and abilities to try to stop the duo. An army of mechanical Gruntbots also assist the witch in her goal.

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts landed up on my console courtesy of the curent Mirosoft XBOX Games for Gold promotion, and so I gave it a quick spin to see what it’s all about. Now if you were hoping for a traditional platformer adventure game in the spirit of the earlier games, then you would be sorely disappointed – instead the game is more of a tricky driving adventure game, awarding those more mechanically minded in the process. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and does make for a fairly engaging experience as you race around trying to collect parts to put together a vehicle you think will be able to access a particular area for you.

Lots of silly (if misplaced and often a little too adult for the intended child market) gags makes for a light-hearted, brain-teasing, colourful romp, but I have to say, I didn’t spend too much time behind the controller on this one – strictly for kids, or if you have to, for playing with your kids.

banjo kazooie nuts and bolts xbox game

Related Link: Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banjo-Kazooie:_Nuts_%26_Bolts

Gaming Update: Crackdown | Magic: The Gathering 2013

I game few and far between these days, with the greatest slice of my gaming time being made up of online FIFA 13 battles with Ryan. That said, here’s a quick round up of my thoughts on the games that I have played over the last couple of months – funnily enough, all coming my way courtesy of the current Microsoft Games with Gold initiative…

Crackdown (2007)

Realtime Worlds’ 2007 XBOX release Crackdown takes place in the fictional metropolis of Pacific City, whose several districts and areas are divided among four islands. The city is controlled by three crime organizations: Los Muertos, of Central American origin; an Eastern European gang, the Volk (Russian for Wolf); and the formerly above-board Shai-Gen Corporation, from East Asia.

Normally, a police-like organization called the Peacekeepers kept the city under control; their forces, however, were overwhelmed by the sudden rise in crime. The city, therefore, sought additional help from “the Agency”, an organization that, in addition to outfitting and supporting Peacekeepers, has used advanced surgical and cybernetic technology to create supersoldiers known as “Agents”.

And as you might have guessed it, it is your job as a super powered Agent to systematically take these bad guys down!

Crackdown is a third person open world action shooter that adds some fun game mechanics to the genre through the addition of abilities like super strength and super jumping. The result is a fairly fun game that sees you running around three very distinct cities, jumping from building to building in order to collect power orbs while shooting at pretty much everything that moves and happens to be pointing a gun at you. (And seriously, there is a pretty decent selection of guns and explosives to do some pretty enjoyable damage to the bad guys).

As a single player game Crackdown is okay, but as a multi-player it really shines. You and a friend leaping around like mad bunnies really does make this explosive game that much more fun, and all in all I have to say that I enjoyed tearing around the city, hijacking cars, blowing things up and taking out scores and scores of bad guys.

The graphics are okay, the voice acting good, and the AI passable (to a degree). A couple of event trigger glitches did pop while we were playing multiplayer but outside of that, Crackdown turned out to be a lot more enjoyable than I though it would be – and that’s for a game that is six years old already.

crackdown xbox 360 screenshot

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crackdown

Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 (2012)

“Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 is a video game based on the popular collectible card game of the same name, first published by Wizards of the Coast in 1993. The game was released on June 20, 2012 via Steam, Xbox Live Arcade, the PlayStation Network, and iPad, and is the third game in the Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers series. The gameplay follows that of the original card game, however within a more restrained framework.

The core game follows the standard rules of the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering. Each player has a deck of cards consisting of lands and spells, where lands are used to generate “mana”, the resource needed to cast spells. Mana comes in five colors, and cards may require colored or generic (mana of any color) to be cast. Spells come in many varieties, from sorceries and instants which have one-time effects, to summoned creatures which can attack and defend from opponents. Players alternate turns playing land cards, casting spells, and attacking opponents until all but one player’s life total is reduced to 0.”

Right, by virtue of the fact that I pretty much copied the above straight from Wikipedia, you may immediately (and correctly) assume that I am in fact not a particular fan of card games – which then explains why I really found this particular game to be terribly dull and subsequently didn’t give it all that much game time. (It was tedious I tell you!)

However, to be very fair, Magic: The Gathering 2013 IS a wonderfully implemented game featuring fantastic voice-over artists, sound effects, jaw-droppingly amazing fantasy artwork, and a slick gaming interface – in other words an awesome game if you are a Magic the Gathering fan or perhaps harbor the innate enjoyment of card-based games in general.

Magic The Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 xbox game

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic:_The_Gathering_2013

Gaming Update: Dead Rising 2 | Assassin’s Creed II

I game few and far between these days, with the greatest slice of my gaming time being made up of online FIFA 13 battles with Ryan. That said, here’s a quick round up of my thoughts on the games that I have played over the last couple of months – funnily enough, all coming my way courtesy of the current Microsoft Games with Gold initiative…

Dead Rising 2 (2010)

Five years after the events of Dead Rising, former motocross champion Chuck Greene is in the casino town of Fortune City, Nevada, to take part in Terror Is Reality, a controversial sports entertainment game show where contestants kill zombies for money and fame. Chuck needs the prize money to buy Zombrex (a daily medication that suppresses the zombification process) for his daughter Katey, who was bitten by her zombified mother during a previous outbreak in Las Vegas.

However as you might have guessed, caged zombies seldomly stay caged for long, meaning that pretty soon Chuck is running amok to clear his name, save people’s lives and keep Katey from turning into a zombie!

Dead Rising 2 is a 3rd person action game from Capcom that features some fantastically detailed shopping complex environments to move around in and beat up horde upon horde of shuffling zombies (interspersed with the odd crazy and psychopath) with whatever tool or fixture you can find lying about. (Seriously, just about anything can be used as a weapon, and best of all, you can combine multiple items into bigger badder zombie killing devices, some of which get pretty inventive in the process!). All of this open world beat-down action then gets wrapped up in a pretty enjoyable character-driven mystery story and complemented with a great soundtrack, voice acting and cutscenes, the end result being a pretty polished and neat zombie game.

That said, I don’t really enjoy zombie stories, meaning that I didn’t really enjoy this outing, and consequently haven’t bothered finishing it.

However, if you ARE a fan of zombies and their like, then without a doubt you’ll get a proper kick out of it – so worth it if you’re in that boat then.

(Oh, and in terms of gameplay overall, my only real gripe, apart from the plenty of load screens you encounter, is the fact that the strict time limits put on missions and the main storyline stops you from fully exploring the wonderfully built environment and properly exploring the various ways of mowing down zombies like you should have been able to!)

dead rising 2 xbox game chuck greene

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Rising_2

Assassin’s Creed II (2009)

After being forced to relive the genetic memories of ancestral assassin Altair ibn-La’Ahad through a machine known as the “Animus”, Desmond Miles is freed from his imprisonment by Abstergo Industries employee Lucy Stillman and together they make a daring escape.

Now in a safe place and in possession of Abstergo data and an upgraded Animus 2.0, Desmon agrees to re-enter the Aimus and relive the genetic memories of ancestral nobleman Ezio Auditore da Firenze, who lived during the Renaissance period of the late 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy. An assassin born from the murder of his family, Ezio, and thus Desmond, are now on a hunt to solve the mystery surrounding the age old Knights Templar movement.

If you are a fan of historical pieces then you are going to love Assassin’s Creed and its incredibly detailed conspiracy-driven story line. If you are not, then you are still going to love Assassin’s Creed and its incredibly detailed conspiracy-driven story line.

Seriously, this game is that good.

An absorbing story told via the polished and well executed platform of a 3rd person stealth-action open world game which sees you scaling walls, running along rooftops and causing all kinds of bloody chaos, before slinking back into the shadows or blending in with a cloud to avoid capture. A massive world, beautifully rendered environments, fluid movement mechanics, loads of cutscenes, and some decent enemy AI, all work in conjunction with a great setting, beautiful musical score and enjoyable voice acting to result in a game that is really worth your time to play.

In other words, I REALLY enjoyed this one from Ubisoft.

assassin's creed ii xbox game ezio drawing sword

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassin%27s_creed_ii

Games With Gold: Crackdown is now Available!

crackdown xbox 360 box cover artThe awesome Microsoft XBOX 360 Games with Gold promotion rolls into August and with it, the first free downloadable title for the month!

This time around it is the very manic, very explosive, and very enjoyable co-op 3rd person shooter sandbox title, Crackdown, first released back 2007 courtesy of developers Realtime Worlds and publisher Microsoft Game Studios!

If you want to grab it already, simply go to the Search Games tile under the Games main menu, search for ‘Crackdown’ and purchase away! It’s listed for free, and remember, if you don’t have a credit card on your profile yet, simply press the X button to switch to the ‘Download with Microsoft Points’ option.

crackdown xbox 360 screenshot

(In other words, Ryan and I have some frantic co-op evenings coming up again shortly!)

xbox 360 games with gold logo

A XBOX Controller That Keeps Turning Itself Off

xbox 360 black wireless controllerWell that’s rather annoying to say the least.

I like having someone sitting next to me and playing a game against them, face-to-face so to speak, now and then, hence the fact that I have two XBOX 360 controllers for my system. Although I regularly rotate between the two controllers to ensure even usage, I always play with my rechargeable battery kit installed on the controller that I’m using, leaving the second one to run off the standard AA battery pack as it lays in the cupboard awaiting its time to shine.

Anyway, the other evening Chantelle offers to battle against me in some Joy Ride Turbo, so I eagerly accept the challenge, turn on the XBOX and hand out the controllers. However, no sooner had we picked out our rides and started the first race, when the controller that Chantelle was using started repeatedly turning itself off, leading to a lot of frustration and the eventual abandonment of our gaming session in what I can only describe as a fit of annoyed rage.

Of course I swapped out the batteries a couple of time to ensure it wasn’t something as simple as dead batteries, swapped in the rechargeable battery pack to ensure that it wasn’t the controller at fault, as well as did a couple of checks to ensure that the battery housing wasn’t just loose and pulling away from the controller body, thus causing the power failure.

Nothing, nada, zip.

xbox 360 controller battery housingSo I turned to the Internet and based on my searches, it looks like the problem might lie with the battery contacts fixed at the base of the battery housing, which is obviously breaking the power connection to the batteries and thus turning off the controller.

Now the suggested fix is to take a small piece of fine grained sandpaper, fix it to the back of a pencil and then gently push the sandpaper down the housing and twist a couple of times to ‘scrub’ the metal contacts clean, followed by the careful insertion of a pick of some sorts to try and bend the contacts upwards, in the hopes of creating a better connection to the batteries.

Unfortunately this hasn’t quite worked out for me yet, meaning that I’ve opted to go for the easier (though obviously not quite as cost effective) route: now I just have to wait for the delivery date of my knock-off Nitho rechargeable battery pack from Loot.co.za!

Review: Asura’s Wrath (2012)

Gaea, a world much like our own, is inhabited by a variety of human tribes. However, it is under constant attack from the bloodied, demonic, destructive and impure race know as the Gohma, created by the terrifying Vlitra who rests as part of the very planet itself. On the other hand, Gaea’s protectors are a group of powerful and technologically advanced demigods, ruled by Emperor Strada and his unstoppable Eight Guardian Generals.

After the latest open conflict with the Gohma and with Vlitra finally beaten back for now, Asura, one of the Guardian Generals is betrayed by his comrades, framed for the death of the Emperor, witnesses the death of his wife and kidnapping of his priestess daughter, and ultimately is killed by the scheme’s orchestrator.

12,000 years later, an reawakened, rage-fueled, and wrathful Asura has the chance to rejoin the land of the living… revenge the only thing on his mind!

asura's wrath xbox 360 capcom cyberconnect2 game screenshot 4

A joint game venture by Japanese gaming houses Capcom and CyberConnect2, Asura’s Wrath is a very interesting experiment in gaming to say the least. Featuring a hugely distinctive manga-inspired art style, the game could be described as a rich, multi-part, Buddhist lore-infused anime series, punctuated with bouts of action brawling gameplay.

Seriously.

Split up into episodes and chapters, each with its own narrated introduction, credit sequences and some gorgeous CG cut scenes, the actual gaming is very much a stop start affair, and at no point are you never not aware of the all important progressing story line.

At the heart of the actual gameplay, Asura’s Wrath is a 3rd person brawler, with your character being gifted with the standard light and heavy attack options, a dodging/jumping ability, as well as the ability to unleash ranged mystic bolts, all of which can fluidly be combined as you are pitted up against horde after horde of both Gohma and demigod constructs. Boss battles make up a large percentage of your battles and as expected from such a stylized game, the battles are epic, very varied, and quite satisfying to compete.

And mind you, if the gameplay wasn’t already punctuated enough by all the story breaks, Asura’s Wrath goes one step further by utilizing the full range of context button motions, quick time events and good old single button bashing to constantly change things up in terms of the fight scenes, not to mention the clever shooter on rails sections they throw into the mix every now and then as well!

Like I said, everything is done on a grandiose and epic scale, and some of the animation sequences are without a doubt the most thrilling and awe-inspiring you’ll have seen in quite some time – but in the same breadth exactly what you kind of expect from a Japanese-made game by now. (For heaven’s sake, you even fight a former colleague who transforms into a being bigger than the planet and who is trying to crush you with his finger which is technically now a meteor approaching you in the sky!)

As expected from this type of game the combat is pretty fluid, though ultimately shallow and not particularly challenging, meaning that if you are looking to play a decent game, you’re probably going to be left disappointed. However, if you want an entertainment experience, then Asura’s Wrath certainly won’t disappoint.

An epic and hauntingly beautiful soundtrack complements some fantastic voice acting, and when you throw in the gorgeous and dynamic visual style of the game combined with slick and action-packed cut scene choreography that is simply on a scale of awesomeness not usually seen, you get one hell of an interesting gaming experiment that is quite unlike anything you might have played before.

asura's wrath xbox 360 capcom cyberconnect2 game screenshot 1

Certainly worth looking at then if you have a soft spot for anime or Japanese-told stories, but perhaps not such a good bet if you are looking for a more traditional hack/slash action game or come from the first person shooter world.

I have to say, I myself enjoyed the experience but in the same breadth I can’t say that I loved it. Still, Asura’s Wrath is definitely a good surprise package, that’s for sure!

asura's wrath xbox 360 capcom cyberconnect2 game screenshot 2

asura's wrath xbox 360 capcom cyberconnect2 game screenshot 3

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asura%27s_Wrath

Review: Fable III (2010)

Released in 2010 by the ever amusing Peter Molyneux and his Lionhead Studios, Fable III was the third release in the Fable action RPG franchise, and I have to admit, I kind of enjoyed it.

The story is set in the fantasy kingdom of Albion, a good fifty years or so since the events of Fable II. You play as the unnamed hero, who must free the oppressed kingdom from the tyrannical rule of your brother Logan, who appears to have gone mad on power. In order to do this you must first become a hero, with the ability to wield both weapons and magic, followed by numerous quests, with your ever faithful dog by your side, in which you gather loyal friends and supporters, eventually enough for your full-blown revolution against the king to take place!

fable iii hero xbox game

While at the heart of it all Fable III is a classic RPG with pretty much all of those standard elements in place, in practice however it is a slickly streamlined (watered down to purists mind you) experience, with a simple one button for each ability combat system, a glowing trail to lead you directly to your objective, and a map system to allow for fast travel between locations.

There is a small but decent variety of melee weapons, guns, and magic gauntlets to collect and use, and the customization aspect in terms of appearance works particularly well. Outside of combat and main quest fulfillment, the game throws plenty of subquests in the mix as well, not to mention the fun system of interacting with NPCs in order to befriend them, and in some cases to even take on as lovers and partners, complete with unplanned pregnancies and even the odd STD for fun. There is money to be made and spent through some fun mini games, and if you want, you can become a bit of a land tycoon, buying up and renting out properties and businesses left, right and center.

Locales and beasties are nice and varied and at times quite beautiful to behold, and as a story, Fable III certainly doesn’t disappoint, laying out an epic tale for you to unfold, filled with drama, adventure, action and even comedy.

Of course, being a British game developer, Lionhead Studios has made a game with a very British feel to it, particularly in terms of the dialogue and dry humor, all of which is nicely brought to life by a slew of popular actors, including the likes of Ben Kingsley, Stephen Fry, Simon Pegg, Michael Fassbender, Zoë Wanamaker, Bernard Hill, Nicholas Hoult and John Cleese.

It’s not a particularly difficult game mind you, combat is fairly easy and you can’t really ever die, there aren’t any particularly difficult segments to get through and the game certainly won’t frustrate you in any way. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable game where you have the freedom to make whatever moral choices you want to, it engages you from start to finish and before you know it, it may very well have eaten up a good 20 hours of your life, depending on how you tackle it.

fable iii screenshot 1

In a way it reminded me a lot of 2004′s The Bard’s Tale (which I also thoroughly enjoyed), and I can certainly recommend this to any gamer who enjoys a bit of RPG action combined with British fun and sensibilities.

(Plus, it was kind of nice to get this as part of Microsoft’s generous Xbox 360: Games with Gold promotion.)

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fable_III