Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mini Review Round Up

I promised that I would have some mini reviews of several games that missed out on getting the full treatment, and here they are!  I had every intention of writing full length reviews of each and every one of these, but didn’t quite get around to it.

I know it is quite fashionable to bash Assassin's Creed III right now, but for the most part I really enjoyed it.  There were just a few aspects that were irritating and felt like holdovers from the very first game in the series – namely, stupid missions that were way too easy to fail by accidentally stumbling off the rigid path that the designers wanted you to take.  This problem applies to a mission where you have to stay undetected and overhear a conversation that the young George Washington is having with another officer and the final chase sequence in particular.

My other main problem with the game is the stupid side quest where you chase down pages from Ben Franklin’s diary.  Now, running around rooftops and collecting feathers and what not was never the most exciting part of these games, and now they’ve made the bloody things run away from you! After getting enough of these to earn the associated achievement, I stopped doing them, as they are no fun whatsoever.

Other than these gripes though, the rest of the game was great fun. I loved exploring the frontier and gliding through the trees, the naval combat missions were quite possibly the single best part of the game (and thus I am really excited about Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag), and if you took the time to do all of the Homestead missions, you got a more personal and relaxed story.  Only by doing this optional content did you really get to know Connor and the other characters brought into his growing village.

So while it’s true that AC III is the weakest entry in the series so far, it still has a lot to offer fans of the franchise, and shouldn’t be skipped.

Overall: 7 out of 10

By now everyone should be well aware of the main failing of Mass Effect 3 – that ending.  While I too was left disappointed by it I strongly felt (and still do) that Bioware should not have bowed to pressure from fans and changed it, even if the changes they made turned out to be not all that drastic.

However, the ending was not the only problem with the game – the other main one was the incredibly poor way that side quests were implemented.  Almost all of them involved Shepard eavesdropping on random persons dotted around the Citadel moaning that they’d lost something or needed something collected from the darkest depths of space, and for you to then present said interstellar doohicky to them for some credits and/or XP.  Hardly inspired stuff.

Look past these aspects though and you will find combat mechanics that are much improved over the previous game and some truly great character moments with your crew.  Up until that fateful meeting with the Starchild I was gripped by the storyline, it’s only in the last half an hour or so that things start to fall apart.

On the whole I think the main problem with Mass Effect 3 is that its predecessor was just so damn perfect it was almost impossible to improve upon it, and whatever end Bioware had chosen for Shepard and crew wouldn’t be good enough to please all.

Overall: 8 out of 10

While I have bought every entry in the Forza Motorsport series and spent many an hour racing around the real world tracks, I have never “completed” a single one of them.  Part of this is because they cram so much content into each one, and release them on a yearly basis, but it is also partly due to the clinical nature of the driving.  While certainly not as stuffy as the Gran Turismo series, the Forza games do still take themselves rather seriously.  There’s nothing wrong with this, as it’s exactly what hardcore racing fans would want, but those who prefer their racers on the slightly arcade side may be a bit turned off by the whole thing.

This is where Forza Horizon comes in.  Turn 10 and Playground Games wisely decided to introduce a more relaxed, playful offshoot that they could release on alternate years with the Motorsport line.  This first attempt sees you taking part in a race festival set around Colorado.  No I’ve never been there myself but this seems like a great place to set a racing game, as there are miles of beautiful countryside to tear around in.

The handling model feels a lot like the Project Gotham series, and likewise you earn respect points by drifting, overtaking etc., slowly rising in the ranks from 100 to 1.  This rank unlocks optional Showcase races that pit you against a biplane for example, and I think they are also the trigger for the Barn Finds.  Every so often the DJ on the radio will mention that people have spotted a certain derelict vehicle stashed in a barn somewhere, and then it’s up to you to search the highlighted area on the map until you find it.  Then your mechanic will take it away and fix it up. After a short period of time, it’s yours to drive.

The main single player mode of the game will not take you very long to finish, as you don’t have to win every event to progress.  However, you probably will want to spend the extra time getting first place in all races as there are achievements to earn for doing so, and it’s just good fun.  All things considered, Forza Horizon is a slickly produced, arcade style racing game – a commodity that’s becoming increasingly rare due to the closure of studios like Black Rock and Bizarre Creations.  If you enjoy tearing up the tarmac to a variety of great tunes, then look no further.

Overall: 8 out of 10

After taking the reins of the Need for Speed series with their interpretation of Hot Pursuit, Criterion have returned once again with an update of what may be considered to be the best entry in the series: Most Wanted.  However, the cheesy FMV exploits of Razor Callohan and Sargeant Cross are long gone, and just the basic structure remains.

There are 10 Most Wanted drivers tearing around the streets of Fairport and it’s up to you to take them down one by one and get to the top of the list.  You do this by earning a fixed amount of points to earn the right to face them in a race.  Beating them is only the first step though – once you do you then have to chase them and shut them down (by ramming them at high speed, of course).

At the start of the game you only have one vehicle and no upgrades.  Taking part in a few easy races and beating them will earn you better tires, nitrous oxide, a strengthened frame and more aerodynamic body – all things that you will need if you are to stand a chance at taking down the best drivers.  You can upgrade all of these standard car parts to their “Pro” equivalents simple by using them a certain amount, something I really recommend doing as it will make your life easier.

You will find other driveable cars dotted around the city with the manufacturers badge hovering over them.  Changing into a new car resets all of your upgrades and gives you a different five race events to take part in.  Thus the flow of the game sees you constantly jumping from car to car and starting the whole upgrade process over again until the last of the Most Wanted 10 is taken out.  This won’t take you all that long – 10 or so hours I would say – but if you’re a completionist then you will spend a lot longer finding all the “jack spots” and upgrading all the cars.

In addition to the single player, Most Wanted 2012 also features an amazing multiplayer mode which is fantastic fun to mess around it.  When you join a lobby of other players you are given a playlist of five events, which could be races or other types like who can pull off the biggest drift or jump in the next three minutes.  As well as trying to win yourself, you can also mess with other players by taking them out as they try to compete.  There are even races to the next event, and should you be facing in the wrong direction when a race starts, then tough!  This mad scramble to be the first to a meet up spot just adds to the fun.

Criterion have managed to deliver a fantastic arcade racer yet again – their years of collective experience putting together this type of game really shines through.  One not to be missed!

Overall: 9 out of 10

There we are then! I will probably do this again sometime, when there are some games that either don’t merit the full review treatment or I’m just too lazy to write something in a timely manner as was the case here.

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