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Capsule Reviews: Games (Max Payne 3, Hitman: Absolution, etc.) Games | My Reviews 29 APR 2014

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!

SuperBru Super Rugby My Life 09 MAY 2012

Hey, whilst my English Premier League and Champions League SuperBru performances have taken a bit of a knock as we enter the last stages of those two leagues, I’m quite pleased to see that by some miracle of some sort, I’m actually doing pretty well in my Super Rugby outing.

As you can see from the stats below, I’m sitting on a 76.71% win accuracy, putting me in the top 1% of all SuperBru Super Rugby players, at position 860 out of 152,206!

Not too bad for a guy who has probably only sat down to watch two or so games in the entire season! (In other words, thank you Supersport Blitz for keeping me in the loop!)

With this streak of luck, maybe I should convince the Evan to host another one of his competitive-natured poker evenings – I could do with winning the pot for a change! :P

After all, if a comic book character like Wolverine can do it…

(In case you’re wondering, this delightful piece of comic book art was whipped up by one Paolo Rivera back in 2009 for Marvel’s Wolverine appreciation month, his “Wolverines playing Poker” drawing heavily on C.M. Coolidge’s famous Dogs playing Poker piece).

— Update (20/11/2012) —

As it turned out, I ended up winning my pools for this years Super Rugby tournament, ending up pretty high in the world standings as you can see via the screenshot below. Also, I went on to win my pools for the 2012 Currie Cup as well, meaning a good year for SuperBru Rugby then! :)

Pinnacle Point, Poker and Lord of the Rings – Lots of Lord of the Rings My Life 05 MAR 2012

Wow, I see that I’ve been a bit sloppy when it comes to reporting on the last three weekends past, so sorry about that, I guess I had better bring you all up to speed then.

Obviously four weekends ago, the Gordon’s Bay Lotter Clan was resting with their feet up in Jacobsbaai, but that you know already. The weekend after that though, little Jessie and I caught a lift up with my Mom and Dad to Pinnacle Point in Mossel Bay, meeting up with Ryan and Claire for a Lotter Family weekend away (shame, Chantelle was working so she missed out). The weather played along beautifully, I got to play golf at Pinnacle Point, a picturesque journey out to George, plenty of evening Uno – in other words, apart from the incident in which Ryan nearly killed Claire by tossing the two of them out of a moving golf cart, it really was an enjoyable family weekend of some proper rest and relaxation.

The week that followed Pinnacle Point saw Chantelle and Jessica pretty much living in Bellville with her folks until the next Monday, as Chantelle was pencilled in for the laser op on her eyes, and the extended recovery time meant that she needed to be at home with her folks.

The weekend however saw me join up with my missing family, and the Saturday evening saw Chantelle and myself join up with Evan, Natasha, Ryan, Karl and Trish, for a fun-filled evening of poker (Ryan won), Uno Jenga (I lost), and then to the surprise of all involved, “Donkey”, a card and spoon-snatching game that I haven’t played since my early childhood! (I walked out unwounded, so I’m taking the win then. Evan gathered the most letters, so the loser tag belongs to him). Sunday was the big birthday celebration for my mom, and we enjoyed another great extended family get together around the fire and the big outside family table. (Oh, and I simply must add that my folks’ new front garden which was just recently landscaped looks absolutely stunning!)

As for this weekend just past, well Chantelle was back on duty as per usual, so that afforded Jessica and myself the opportunity to watch all three Lord of the Rings movies over the course of Friday, Saturday and Sunday, in preparation for next weekend’s big Trish 30th Lord of the Rings-themed party. (Wow, what an incredibly long slog I must say. But at least now I can join in on the conversation, seeing as I haven’t watched the Peter Jackson masterpieces since they first came out on the big screen all those years ago!)

Oh, and we managed to get our costumes pretty much all sorted out as well. Wonderland Costumes out in Strand really are amazing!

Anyway, that’s pretty much it in terms of weekend activities catch up, so now you are all up to date. As I mentioned, next weekend is Trish’s big 30th costumed birthday party (we’re having spit roast, can’t wait!) as well as, just need final confirmation, Chantelle’s first ever food market exhibition as Chantelle’s Cookies & Cakes makes an appearance at the Willowbridge Slow Market. (I trust you’ll be there to support?)

Interesting times I tell you, interesting times! :)

Joke Factory: How To Break Bad News Jokes & other Funny Stuff 30 SEP 2011

Six retired Irishmen were playing poker in O’Leary’s apartment when Paddy Murphy loses £250 on a single hand, clutches his chest, and drops dead at the table. Showing respect for their fallen brother, the other five continue playing standing up.

Eventually Michael looks around and asks, “Oh me boys, someone has to tell Paddy’s wife. Who will it be?”

They draw straws. Paul picks the short one. They tell him to be discreet, be gentle, and most important of all, don’t make a bad situation any worse.

“Discreet!? I’m the most discreet Irishman you’ll ever meet. Discretion is my middle name. Leave it to me.”

So Paul goes over to Paddy’s house and knocks on the door. Mrs. Murphy answers, and asks what he wants.

Paul promptly declares, “Your husband just lost £250, and is afraid to come home.”

“Tell him to drop dead!”, shouts Paddy’s wife.

“I’ll go tell him,” replied Paul with a smile.

An Evening of Poker with the Grangers My Life 21 MAY 2011

Saturday evening I found myself dropping Jessica off with Mommy who was on work duty and heading out along the N2 towards Bellville, where I made the arduous trek through to the De Akkers complex (located very much in my old home-base stomping grounds) to join up with the Grangers Two, as well as anyone else who would dare, for an evening of Poker, Blackjack and of course snacks. Lots and lots of snacks.

Evan and Natasha has been kind enough to host this evening of card-based debauchery, and I managed to pleasantly surprise myself by navigating all the way up to their back sliding door for the very first time without getting lost along the way. Joining us for the evening were the usual suspects of Damen and Michelle, and Karl and Trish, but missing in action was Mr. Brown who was struck down with some mysterious plague/virus/flu, Ryan who is currently gallivanting around Pinnacle Point, wifey who was of course at work, and Dean and Zania who were stopped dead in their tracks thanks to the age old problem of not finding a babysitter in time.

We pretty much got stuck in straight away, with Evan hauling out a nicely boosted poker deck they had picked up from Mr. Price Home (I know, weird place to find something like that, but it is true, I’ve seen them stock these sort of party game things before!), and after a fairly lengthy tutorial session in the hopes that we’d all quickly pick up to play, buy-in money was deposited into a winnings tin (only 10 bucks a piece this time around – didn’t want to scare anyone away!) and the evening went underway.

This was my first time playing Texas hold ’em style poker, and to be honest it has been years since I last played poker, evidenced by an early round “BooBoo” where I happily bet the pot up high, content in the knowledge I had an awesome, almost unbeatable hand consisting of a straight – but with only FOUR playing cards! D’oh! Talk about a rookie mistake, particularly when I was so cavalier in revealing my hand and reaching for the chips before being beaten back by the horde! :)

The use of the clever small blind and large blind with the blind amounts doubling after every few minutes or so was a stroke of genius, because it helped propel the game forward and ensured that no one could ever just sit on their chips by folding every round without costing them anything in the process.

As it turned though, this enjoyable back and forth of chips lasted a good two or so hours, with the final fight turning out to be a catfight between the two pregnant ladies, Michelle in the one corner and Natasha in the other. In the end the blind was doubling just about every minute, and with the stakes at an all time high, Natasha took the crown, quickly taking possession of the money tin before Evan could swindle some of her winnings away from her! :)

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