All posts by Adam Leith

Serial blogger, gamer, film buff and LFC Fan. Addybabes on XBL, often playing games that you haven't heard of. Self proclaimed social nerd.

The Walking Dead: 400 Days- Why its attempt at Pulp Fiction doesnt really work

SPOILERS ALERT: The decisions and outcomes of both the Walking Dead: Season 1 and the 400 Days DLC are touched upon in this article. You have been warned!

Download-Now-The-Walking-Dead-400-Days-DLC-for-PC-via-SteamI was one of the many who bought the 400 Days DLC for Telltales epic The Walking Dead series and lapped it up in about an hour and a half. Whilst consistently thinking about how mind-blowing it was, life caught up with me and a review seemed further and further away. Then the realisation kicked in; the adventures of Lee and Clementine still pull on the heart strings and are as vivid as if I played it yesterday whilst I simply couldn’t tell you or name any of the characters that were involved with the 400 days.
As I mentioned in the title, Telltale games seemed to think that the disjointed narrative would work in their favor. It certainly showed the escalation of the zombie apocalypse, and how everything had gone completely to hell. But, particularly gamers, know that life with zombies lurching around isn’t going to be a bed of roses; we only follow the adventure to see how the characters within that environment interact and react to an ever changing landscape that is completely unsafe. The bouncing around of characters made the whole experience feel a bit artificial, as if the developers were attempting to throw as much blood and gore at me to see if they could play my heart like a violin (again)
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This in particular is what left such a bad taste in the mouth regarding the DLC. We had legs being blown off, heads being caved in by accident, an old couple shot for doing nothing more than staying alive and the chance to allow a pre teen shoot a friend for stealing and trying to get away. Yet the decision on whether to allow Ben to live in the main game, despite the fact he was one of the most unlikable characters in the whole series, and the fact that a good amount of people died due to his sheer incompetence weighed far more heavily on me than anything any of the characters in 400 days did.
It is more than possible to promote a connection with a character and to make their actions produce an emotion from the player; Telltale Games had us doing this before we really understood how close knit the connection between Clementine and Lee would actually be. I didn’t care what happened to Vince after his escape and Wyatts story felt like it had been taken out of an unwanted script for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
First and foremost, I’m not being unduly unfair on DLC as a whole and how there length is almost always paltry compared to the actual game. Length doesn’t matter, its what you do with it (ahem). The Dawnguard DLC for Skyrim turned a age old nightmare into a fun reality. Hell even the relatively rubbish Tyranny of King Washington still sticks in my head for the way it developed a storyline that linked straight back to the games lead.400days2
400 days felt like an unnecessary taster, something that no one really needed as the fan base was already rabid for the next season without any new content coming out in between. What feels like a missed opportunity is the complete lack of reference to the last season. If all of these stories happened in the span of 400 days, wouldn’t some kind of link up with the main characters in the first season create a more cohesive narrative? It would give a lot more service to fans if we saw Kenny and Duck actually interact with Shel and the gang at the gas station before he met Lee, rather than seeing a fleeting image of them both at the beginning of an episode.
And the ending seemed stretched even by normal standards; as if putting pictures of yourselves on a notice board on the off chance that someone will pick them up, work out who you are and find you whilst trying not to be eaten in the middle of flipping no where.

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Is 400 Days still a good game? Yes. Will I still get Season 2 when it comes out? A bit of a stupid question. But, after the glow of jumping back into that world again, the lack of any sufficient characters, and character development that borders on parody (high hippy, college dropout, misunderstood man arrested for crime that he regrets) is infuriating. Focusing on the one character would have allowed us to get a hook back into the setting and give a better link to the player i.e I want to know how such and such survives, rather than a group of characters which I have no attachment too.
Yet after all this, its a testament to Telltale that they can get people, including myself, riled up about character development. Guess that must mean they are doing something very right!

Magic 2014: Duel of the Planeswalkers Review

Duel of the Planeswalkers (DotP) is a difficult game to review as its expectations as a game will vary wildly depending on what camp you are in; do you want a bombastic interpretation of the Magic series that utilises the Xbox 360’s graphics alongside high end strategy, or do you want a near carbon copy of the actual card game that is already out there, but with the ease of an internet connection and a cheaper cost to still get the same thrills out of it?magic-2014

First, a warning; Anyone who doesn’t take satisfaction out of gradual progress should steer very clear of this game. DotP is a great starting point for people who have never been able to find the right  amount of people, time or money, to take a stab at the Magic universe. The single player campaign and the sealed campaign allow beginners to get hold of the basics before diving into the main facet of the game in terms of the multiplayer. What is perhaps baffling is the complete lack of any in-depth tutorials to help beginners on their way. Having very little experience in Magic (the odd game of Pokemon back in school is about as much exposure I have had) , nor much beyond the concept of the card game, the tutorial was near useless as it focused far more on the actual controls you needed to initiate game play than what type of strategies would be useful in the matches up ahead.

Although there is definitely a sense of the blind leading the blind in this scenario, getting the basics sorted in DotP is pretty simple. You are dealt seven cards, with a mixture of Land, Magic, and Summoning cards. Land cards allow you to reach the prerequisites needed to enable the summoning of monsters  and magic cards that affect the battlefield. Each monster has attack and defence points that dictate whether offence or defence is the best option. Summoned monsters allow the ability to block attacks, saving from direct damage to the twenty hit points that you and your enemy have. First to zero loses. An Idiots Guide, as used just now, doesn’t do the game justice in terms of the amount of strategy and planning needed, as well as the satisfaction that is felt when you pull off the perfect game plan and annihilate your opponent.magic-2014-3

Assessing previous feedback from past instalments, DotP has moved leaps and bounds in terms of a more fleshed out campaign and narrative, though that isn’t really saying a great deal. You are a ‘Planeswalkers’ entrusted by Chandra, another planeswalker, to help her hunt down an evil being. Not going to win any Oscars with its narrative, especially as it is linked by the odd badly animated cutscene/ a chunk of text. It feels like the developers have  made a bit of a misstep as the whole experience would be improved massively by using the equipment that you have to hand; wouldn’t seeing monsters tearing each other apart be a much more exciting experience than seeing two card ‘bite’ each other and move off the battlefield?

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The main campaign feels more like an obligatory mode than something worth visiting. Earlier encounters follow the same patterns of play so that you can exploit the weaknesses of the enemies deck you are playing and strike back; fine in practice, but hellishly irritating when you fall to the same guy with the same strategy that you just can’t for the life of you beat. Deck varieties increase with further wins, with added cards for the decks you use to beat your foe after every victory, are a slow and steady way of adding more depth but hamper the creativity that the new Deck manager enables without forking out cash. Although the Magic card game needs a lot of investment from the player to ensure that their decks are the best they can be, it doesn’t feel quite the same in the digital realm but can be understandably addictive (FIFA has taken a little too much of my money when attempting to create a world beating Ultimate Team)

The Sealed campaign is perhaps the best part of the entire game; you are given a set amount of booster pacts that have completely random cards that you have to create an unbeatable deck out of. This joins up the new Deck Manager and the enjoyment in making a deck of cards yours and is a fantastic experience when you get it alright but downright depressing when the boosters you get bring nothing to your own master plan (but thats life !). Multiplayer is a much more challenging arena compared to the single player but is nonetheless fun though dont expect an easy ride; more often than not, you will be annihilated before you have a chance to enact any kind of battle plan.Magic-2014-XBLA-Combat

Will DotP win any awards for being the best use of the Xbox 360 hardware and go down as one of the most innovative games that the system has ever seen? Well no. But will it be remembered as a very good iteration of a popular series that manages to incorporate the card game for the digital world without too many adjustments? Almost certainly. DotP is an engrossing game when patience is given to it and could prove a costly use of time and money if building the perfect deck is the be all and end all for you as a Planeswalker. Although without a doubt not a game I would buy , I highly recommend it to Magic beginners and veterans alike, just dont expect an easy ride into trying to gain access to the games leviathan of tactics and strategy.

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Monaco – What’s Yours Is Mine Review

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E3 has been and gone and the console war has started a fresh. Yet, with all the focus on the next generation, there is a real chance that a few good games may slip the net between old and new, which is why Monaco is highlighted for your gaming pleasure; its quirky appearance, original idea and wry sense of humour presents a tight and polished package which contains a few minor hiccups here and there preventing it from greatness.

A co-op heist game with zany graphics, its own personality and a sense of teamwork is perhaps the best way to describe Monaco. Single player and multiplayer are the flavours on offer; with the former allowing you to go through several campaigns as one of the motley crew of criminals that you meet along the way, whilst multiplayer ups the ante, and difficulty, in the same environments. You are dropped in the shallow end with armbands as the game gracefully leads you through the ins and outs of the gameplay, focusing on unlocking doors, evading guards, taking your stash and legging it out of there. As each mission progresses, another layer is introduced, bringing in the likes of dogs, tripwires and a vast array of guards and alarms that makes a poor thief’s life so much more difficult than it ever needs to be.

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The story isn’t anything particularly to write home about (in the Austin Powers movies all you remember is the gags and atmosphere, not the story) and the single player experience tends to feel a bit deflated at times. Whilst exploring areas and finding out your own routes, whether it is a diamond heist or breaking into an embassy, is interesting, it doesn’t have the same nuance as it does when multiplayer goes right. Well if it goes right. Although the multiplayer experience is a complete joy to play when all four players are on the same page, it devolves into bedlam when some moron decides leading every guard on the map to your position is the best use of his or her Xbox Live subscription. The different heists across the areas tend to unfold by themselves, which is both a good and a bad thing. Whilst trying to promote organic team play ,it also tends to full in the trap of everyone running in different directions, despite the fact that you are all supposed to be heading for the same goal; working together with a group of friends with all the mechanics working shows the pros and cons of the main multiplayer mechanic that is the corner stone of Monaco.

The most interesting facet of the game play is that you can tailor the way you play by choosing a particular character, each with their own particular quirks. The Locksmith is the fastest to unlock doors, the Cleaner puts the huge amount of enemies you encounter to ‘bed’, the Gentleman is a master of disguise and the Redhead charms her way through the level, one guard at a time. Pocketwatch Games also adds in the element of having to make do with a bad situation; you default to another member of the gang if you die ,meaning you have to adapt to the surroundings and the rather large mess that you have created. Despite having cut scenes that barely count as such, the graphics and injection of humour give the game charm in spades as you try and produce the greatest heist that has ever been seen.

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Polished doesn’t necessarily equate to total fun. It never really feels like you are in any particular danger, nor are you overly punished for making mistakes other than the mandatory character swap that was touched upon before. The AI has the same type of memory as the guards from Assassins Creed and it never seems to be clear how Monaco wants you to play; there is a good enough mechanic to sneak around and utilise stealth but almost every level is littered with weaponry. Focusing on one or the other, and rewarding/penalising depending on the situation would have worked better in terms of moulding game play; being stealthy in multiplayer when the other three on your team think recreating the shootout in Heat is a bigger priority kind of defeats the purpose of some of the methods you can use in the single player.

Monaco is an enjoyable experience that thrusts a huge amount of original ideas into a neat and tidy package. Both single player and multiplayer are an eclectic mix of hit and miss areas that can turn a fun time into a frustrating ride; worth a pick up as a very polished XBLA game

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Assassins Creed 3: The Tyranny of King Washington: The Redemption Review

In the final episode of Ubisofts trilogy of Assassins Creed 3 DLC, we find Ratonhnhaké:ton on his way to New York and to face off against George Washington once and for all. Despite having all the groundwork for a battle of titans, the final chapter is one big anti climax , and pretty much ruins a great basis for a story and turns it into a wishy washy mess.

The main focus of this particular DLC will always be on the storyline with so little changing from the key components of the original game. Whilst promising so much, it just doesn’t hang together very well at all. More key characters pass away in bloody fashion and Ratonhnhaké:ton barely shrugs. Further members from the revolution, such as Thomas Jefferson , arrive to fight against the stranglehold that Washington now controls. Considering, in this universe, Jefferson has never met Ratonhnhaké:ton, he puts complete trust in him when he attacks his enemies and doesn’t bat an eyelid when he can literally groundpound ten bluecoats at once (one of the new powers introduced in the game). A revolution is passed off as a game of Supermarket Sweep, Benjamin Franklin doesn’t think it remotely odd that our hero can drink some magic tea and gain new powers, and Mister Faulkner, your ships captain in the main game but has no recollection of ever meeting you here, doesn’t kick up any sort of fuss when you take command and lead his pride and joy straight into another ship!assassins-creed-3-the-redemption_2_ss_l_130418100833

As mentioned, a new power is given to you through the animal spirit of the Bear. Although strong, the path to gaining it and the power itself feel like cheap rip offs of God of War, and it really doesn’t fit into the Assassins Creed universe at all well. Missions are , again, the same re tread of the main game except even less satisfying. The whole of New York fully shows the damage Washington has done to it which is a nice touch, but it feels completely empty and barren; for a city that is supposed to be on the cusp of civil unrest and a possible revolution, surely the streets would be full of people rather than the odd NPC looking confused? The massive pyramid in the middle of the city looks out of place and does not fit into the time periods aesthetics. Exploration is never encouraged and it very quickly turns into a slog between fast traveling to your next mission or using your Eagle power. As the city is on high alert you are consistently treated as an enemy, rather than having the allure of being a quiet and deadly Assassin. Why would anyone want to explore if every minute turns into endless combat?

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But by far the biggest disappointment is the ending. It leaves too many questions unanswered and grossly under uses the rivalry between Washington and Ratonhnhaké:ton. Criminally, without ruining anything, it manages to make the whole story arc feel absolutely worthless in the frame of the Assassins Creed narrative, made worse by how, overall, the three episodes weren’t particularly enjoyable to begin with.

After playing through the final episode, start to finish, in just under two hours, its incredibly hard to justify the purchase of The Tyranny of King Washington. You are paying over £20 for a lacklustre storyline that adds little else to the main game. Its such a shame that with a premise so amazing and exciting that Ubisoft have not managed to effectively use any of it to any grand scale.

As a standalone episode, The Redemption, an ironic title at best, rightly deserves a:

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The whole package is ok, with the occasional elements of brilliance that should have shone at every moment, considering the time, marketing and obvious money that has been put into it. Therefore, as a trilogy, The Tyranny of King Washington gets a :
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Assassins Creed 3: The Tyranny of King Washington: The Betrayal Review

Episode 2 takes Connor from the barren lands of the Frontier back into Boston, not necessarily willingly, creating much more coherent storyline, and a overall better experience than the previous episode allowing much more interesting gameplay intertwined with a story that has now found its feet.

Now back in Boston, and a prison cell, we meet Benjamin Franklin, Putnam and King George at their worst as they precede to cement their rule over the New America. By far the best character is George Washington himself as the complete juxtaposition of his role in American history and the game with this new creation makes the impact of his words and actions much more convincing and effective . Without ruining anything, Connor encounters more heartache through this adventures as well as the combination of working with people that, in this new world, he has never encountered before. The story feels more brisk and to the point, as you see Connor having to change his actions to the new circumstances he now finds himself in.
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The new ability that Connor gains, again thanks to a magic tree, allows him to ‘fly’ to rooftops in the form of an eagle to allow fast travel and a different take on getting around the city. This will very much be the Marmite of this episode as it brings in huge freedom whilst destroying the need to ever clamber around the buildings; whether that a good or bad thing will be left up to you. The combination of the two powers, the new ‘eagle’ power and the wolf pack that originated from the past episode, actually compliments Connor as an assassin than it did. This is thanks to the fact that there are now more opportunities to use them in different ways rather than the rudimentary stealth sections used in the first episode.Assassins-Creed-3-The-Tyranny-of-King-Washington_The-Betrayal-3

Again the same flaws that dogged the first episode are here again, with exploration never really needed, and missions, though more varied this time, can still become repetitive quickly. A bizarre side note is the fact that, throughout this, Connor wears his Native Indian dress (which happens to be made from a dead animal) in and around Boston; surely, regardless of how much he blended in, this would be pretty distinctive for anyone looking for him?!

All in all, Episode 2 builds on the wobbly start that Episode 1 created and allows better character development and a far more natural flow to proceedings thanks to the groundwork already being laid out. The characters that we are used to being ‘the good guys’ have been designed in a way that there complete change of personalities is perfectly feasible than thanks to the Piece of Eden and George Washington, even making it go so far that Connor and the player feel sorry for these men that have fallen so far after having the perceived will to do so much good. The ending of the episode is tantalising and a perfect cliff-hanger, and has the potential to set up an amazing ending; if the final episode can continue this momentum than there looks to be a promising conclusion to this 3
episode arc.

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Assassins Creed 3 The Tyranny of King Washington: The Infamy Review

The Assassins Creed series has always been about exploration, whether it be the epic architecture of Rome or the vast frontier of Old America, as you go about your business as a master assassin in a multitude of time periods. The Tyranny of King Washington’s first episode, while positing an incredibly interesting story, falls short of the sheer epicness that the main game exceeded in , and continually glosses over holes in the storyline that is core to its appeal.

Connor wakes up from a troubled dream to find that the world that he knew no longer exists; here he never joined the Assassins Guild and thus is still known as, his mother is still alive and, despite the Americans winning the revolution, George Washington has seen fit to rule the land as monarch and dictator thanks to the poisoning aspects of another Piece of Eden. The first episode sends him up as the complete opposite for what he is known for as he brutally murders countless people, and wounds Connor in a pretty unbelievable way. The character development is one of the top parts of the first episode as it so very different to what you have dealt with in the main game. What makes it even better is that Ubisoft have confirmed that this story is actually canon, rather than ‘it was all a dream’ sequence making the inevitable links with the main storyline even more intriguing than before.
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And sadly, that’s all that will drive you to finish the first episode as the whole experience feels like a marginalised mini adventure rather than a expansive progression from one of Ubisofts biggest IPs. The action consists of tracking and mostly escort quests which, aside from Bioshock Infinite, are some of the most boring missions a game can give you. Parts of the storyline are also rather ropey and just don’t seem to fit into the world of the Assassins Creed universe; magic tea that allows Connor to become completely invisible and send likewise invisible wolves to attack his enemies anyone? Plotholes also abound, especially regarding the fact that Conner can still remember everything from the last time, which, when telling his mother he knows all about the Assassins guild and his father, just shrugs and runs off as if it was one of the most normal things in the world.

Furthermore the desire to explore the areas that are now filled with devastation and death, a welcome addition that escalates how bad everything has got thanks to Washington without him spouting it all out himself in a bizarre cutscene, is almost nil. The odd treasure chest, with new weapons that work and look exactly the same as the ones you have used before gives little incentive, with the only must find items being ‘lucid memories’ that slowly connect what is going on in this new world back to the storyline of Assassins Creed 3.
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The problem with the first episode is that it adds very little to excite you during the actual game play, with the storyline and the hope of some warped drama in this alternate universe driving you to continue playing. The mechanics of the game are still as good as they were to begin with, combat is still hugely satisfying and the climbing and scrambling up and around the Frontier are still as intuitive as they ever were. Episode 1 seems to work like a pilot of any TV season; throwing everything and anything into the mix whilst containing a fundamentally strong story, even though, at this stage, it doesn’t seem to be quite coherent. Although by no means bad, Episode 2 will need a bit of oomph to allow the rest of the mission structures to feel less old and stagnated.

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Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC Review

Commander Shepard’s swansong has arrived, with heaps of love and nods to the many fans of the Mass Effect series which just about gleans over what little actual game play the DLC has to offer. Shepard and his crew are ordered to take shore leave ,after it is judged that the Normandy has taken quite a beating over the course of the war against the Reapers, and that Shepard might need a rest after casually saving the galaxy a few times. After being given a swanky apartment, Shepard heads down to the local sushi bar when all hell breaks loose ,with Shepard and his squad separated and a new group of humans now out to kill him. Turns out Shepard has a clone, and Mr Shepard no 2 is  not particularly happy that he isnt getting any of the limelight that his counterpart is; cue violence, quick fire insults and a already well trodden storyline that has been done to death before. Heck the final scene is a direct rip off of the end sequence in The Mummy Returns.

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In all honesty, the DLC isnt worth buying if you are hoping for another wild adventure ,full of gunfights and explosions ,as the main mission can be completed in just over an hour and a half. A more accurate title would be ‘The Long Goodbye’; the relationships and feelings for the team that you have fought with over three games are all tied up in one neat bow, further highlighting that Bioware is still one of the best in the business regarding engagement with fictional characters . Kill Bill style chess, Shepard having a fight with a director over the worst B movie ever created, Garrus complaining about the distinct lack of conversations in lifts anymore as they are too fast, Javik getting so drunk that he threatens to take over the galaxy; all laugh out loud moments that just about manage to break up the mediocrity of the rest of the content. The idea of throwing a party with all of your teammates to engage with them is a good idea if it didnt feel like such a chore; talk to guests, enact next phase of party and repeat.

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The ideal time to play this DLC is just before the final mission against Cerberus in order for you to see the greatest amount of your teammates before you send them into danger (again). This also has fundamental flaws for the rest of the things the DLC has to offer, with a casino that has little incentive to play due to the likely huge amount of credits you will already have racked up and the arcade is pathetically simplistic. An addition of a VR arena, that puts you up against enemies in varying conditions is novel though not earth shattering great and serves little real purpose; there are plenty of other third person shooters that do this better.

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This DLC will either bore you to death or be hugely enjoyable depending on what you want out of it. For lovers of the series, who just want one more time to involve themselves in Shepards universe, then this is a must buy, as the DLC excels in this area, with some of the most witty and intelligent dialogue that I have seen for a while, which is the main reason it would be worth getting just to see the trilogy off with a humble goodbye . For those wanting another action packed story that adds another glorious moment to Shepards talented career, seek your thrills elsewhere.

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Why Haven’t You Played Binary Domain?

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We have all been there. Played the latest releases to death, exhausted multiplayer after hearing too many whiny voices over Xbox Live, and bought and completed every DLC possible (even that Horse Armour for Oblivion that you are rather embarrassed that you ever thought was worth any money at all) .Traipsing through the internet and having a look for a few games to pass the time until the next AAA title graces your disc tray. Continue reading Why Haven’t You Played Binary Domain?

Assassins Creeds III- Tyranny of King Washington release date

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The massive DLC that Assassins Creed fans have been waiting for since it was first announced finally has a release date.  The DLC focuses on an alternate universe where Washington, corrupted by the powers of the Pieces of Eden like so many before him, turns his back on the Revolution and the Republic and becomes a tyrant of his newly acquired land; its Connors job to stop his old friend, by any means necessary.

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The three part DLC will drop on February 19th for PC and Xbox gamers, a day earlier than PlayStation 3, with it not currently being confirmed to hit Wii U anytime soon. Each part of the trilogy will cost 800 MS points/just under £7; anyone with the season pass will gain access to the this addition to the Assassins Creeds III at no charge.