Tag Archives: Stealth

Hitman Episode 3: Marrakesh launches today

The third episode for Hitman, Marrakesh, launches today with featured mission, ‘A Gilded Cage’, taking Agent 47 to the busy market city of Marrakesh to target corrupt private banker Claus Strandberg and his accomplice, Army General Reza Zaydan, before the city of contrasts collapses into a riot.

Marrakesh marries the concepts of the first two offerings of HITMAN – Paris and Sapienza,

said Hannes Seifert, Studio Head at Io-Interactive.

We have the fortressed, at times claustrophobic, nature of the Showstopper event in Paris combined with the expansiveness and lived-in feeling of Sapienza all in one. I think Marrakesh is really going to give players a lot to explore and experiment with.

Marrakesh offers a richly detailed, dense creative stealth sandbox featuring two targets, a host of opportunities and challenges to explore and a living environment that transports you from crowded markets to magical souks, from the cool elegance of the Swedish consulate to the military-occupied remains of an abandoned school. Infiltrate a consulate under siege to kill a man everyone hates and take out the army general that freed him from his prison shackles.

Check out the trailer below:

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain review

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is excellent. It’s hugely ambitious with sky high expectations from it ravenous fan base, and yet it still manages to surprise, even astound us with its excellence. However, this is not the Metal Gear Solid experience you were necessarily expecting.

Metal Gear Solid V kicks off after the events of the prequel Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes title. Protagonist, Big boss, has been in a coma for nine years following the attack on Mother Base at the end of Ground Zeroes, with the world largely believing he’s dead. Once you come to, the adversarial private military force XOF quickly try to kill you, finishing the job they started back in Ground Zeroes, and after an exhilarating escape from a hospital in Greece, begins the journey of revenge for Big Boss and his allies.

The first hour is utterly superb, hitting a sense of exhilaration seldom seen in the medium, let alone the stealth genre. It’s a brilliant way to kick off the story, bringing the classic, comic-book, over-the-top villains and action to centre stage in much the same vein as previous entries in the series. However, after this intense sequence the tone shifts dramatically to a more subtle and serious one. It can’t help but feel incongruous. However, after mere minutes in the first open-world location, Afghanistan, new qualities come to light.

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This is a very different Metal Gear Solid, the cut scenes are typically short, the dialogue snappy, the sense of freedom immense. Instead, actions speak louder than words, and you’re not simply watching a tale and interacting with it loosely, you too are put through your paces.

The Phantom Pain is expertly crafted to frustrate, bewilder and delight you in highly precise manners, with the intension to make you feel like you’ve experienced similar emotions and struggles to Big Boss, and it achieves this brilliantly. Revenge seems so simple to begin with but becomes more complex as you chase it. Much in the same way your rebuilt Mother Base starts as a small installation and grows to include hundreds of staff that support you on the battlefield in myriad of ways. Yet this complexity is handled terrifically so not to overwhelm you, drip feeding you more options as the hours pass to gradually teach you the ropes and  as you gradually change your driving focus from revenge to control.

Of course, as series fans will know, Big Boss is the central villain of the franchise, here we see how that transition from hero to villain occurs, or more accurately, how the myth of Big Boss relates to the man. This is an important tale in the overarching mythos of the series, and its subtle telling is all the more powerful for its results.

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This may, however, initially disappoint series veterans. This isn’t the same exposition heavy Metal Gear storytelling from the earlier titles. This feels far more enclosed and isolated, ideal for newcomers, meanwhile the nuances for fans are largely tucked away in audio cassettes.

The battlefield will also feel strange to series veterans. Ground Zeroes laid the ground work in teaching you the mechanics but the open-world locations of Afghanistan and Africa offer such immense freedom that it’s hard to comprehend. You can approach a mission objective however you see fit, whether that’s sneaking in and remaining completely unseen, knocking out guards with tranquiliser darts and chokeholds, or go in noisy with means to slaughter everyone, it’s completely up to you. However, it’s even more freeing that that. You can call in support helicopters to bomb locations or cover you, or have new equipment dropped into the area of operation for you to use. Your cassette player can even be used to fool guards into thinking you’ve been killed if you find a tape of a guard saying “enemy eliminated”, or amusingly, if you find a tape of someone being violently ill you can hide in a toilet and keep guards away from the area by playing that. The options are innumerable, and it’s wonderfully compelling figuring out what you can do and then deciding what you want to do when approaching a new challenge.

Moreover, missions often change midway through, either because you’ve gathered intel and are moving on to the next objective naturally, or because you messed up and things got out of hand, requiring new equipment and tactics. Additionally, mission often have side objectives you’re unaware of until you discover them, such as prisoners you can extract. Furthermore, you’re always looking to expand the abilities of Mother Base, so by using the Fulton Recovery System you can extract enemy soldiers to turn to your side, as well as equipment such as static machine guns, mortars, even vehicles and crates of resources – once you have the more advanced Fulton upgrades. The missions are so much more complex and interesting that they may first seem.

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This is further enhanced with the buddy system, which lets you bring a horse, dog, personal metal gear walker, or Quiet the peculiar and deadly female sniper. Each can support you in different ways and help with different playstyles. The walker is excellent at making you a one man army; when equipped with a shield on your back and a Gatling gun on the front you’re near unstoppable. Meanwhile, D-Dog is perfect from distracting enemies if stealth is more your style.

Furthermore, you can research and build new equipment and weapons at Mother Base and these enhance you option even more, allowing you to equip deadly new tools and items to yourself and your buddies to help get the job done. Moreover, as you grow Mother Base the more it can support you, with one aspect of that being combat teams you can send out on missions. Some of these mission affect the battlefield, such as disrupting the supply of weapons and equipment to enemy soldiers, which is critically important as the enemies adapt to your tactics.

As you come across enemies they gradually learn new tactics to counter your own. If you’re a fan of headshots then prepare for enemy soldiers to start wearing helmets. Having your combat teams disrupt the supply of helmets can be a godsend in the trickier missions, and boy do they get tricky. As the story progresses the enemies become more dangerous, with new weapons, equipment, larger numbers, higher vigilance and an overall superb AI. They quickly react to your presence, calling in reinforcement, going on patrol in pairs or more, and using highly aggressive tactics if they spot you. Moreover, from Act 2 some mission enhance the difficult by restricting equipment or forcing you to complete them completely undetected, and whilst this feels like padding when you first come by them, it becomes apparent how well they fit in with the overall story and theme in the end.

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Indeed you can approach a mission from so many different angles that if you do have to replay them, either due to continued deaths or you want to increase your score for that mission, then there are many other approaches you can attempt. As such, frustration rarely rears its head, albeit for a couple of story missions that have you facing off against powerful bosses or overwhelming odds.

In addition to the 40 plus hours of story missions and 150 optional side ops, a multiplayer component is present to tide you over until Metal Gear Solid Online launches in early October. You can create a Forward Operating Base and manage it much like you do Mother Base. However, your FOB can be attacked by other players who can infiltrate and steal resources by using the Fulton Recovery System. When it occurs whilst you’re online you’ll get the option to stop them head on yourself, otherwise it’s down to the AI and the security forces and equipment you’ve developed for them. Meanwhile, you can also attack other player’s FOBs and try and steal their personnel and resources for yourself. It’s a fun aside that can get highly competitive.

Indeed Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is an exceptional game. It’s mechanically superb, allowing you to take a stealth or action approach with fluidity, its open-world design is unmatched in the action and/or stealth genre, offering extreme freedom that offers oodles of replayability, and the story is intriguing, profound and subtly spun with a focus on action rather than words. Its different approach to the Metal Gear Solid formula may initially disappoint series fans but this is, by far, the most intuitive version for newcomers and an incredible finale from creator Hideo Kojima.

Thanks to Xbox and Konami for their support 

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Dishonored Definitive Edition review

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I consider myself fortunate to have been able to play Dishonored before release at Eurogamer 2012, and upon release, to review in October of the same year. So when Bethesda announced the release of the Definitive Edition on current gen I was interested to see what they would do to improve on the release.

For those of you who missed Dishonored in the last generation, you undertake the role of Corvo Attano, Lord Protector and chief bodyguard of the Empress of Dunwall, Jessamine Kaldwin. Returning unsuccessfully from a mission to the Free Isles, to seek political aid and insight into a mysterious plague that is ravaging the citizens of Dunwall, you are embroiled in the assassination of the Empress and the kidnap of her daughter, Emily Kaldwin.

Captured by the Empress’ spy-master, Hiram Burrows, you are quickly taken to the prison of Coldridge, where you are held and interrogated for six months. On the eve of your execution, Burrows, now the Lord Regent, and Campbell, the High Overseer, leader of the chief religious faction in Dunwall, reveal that your early return had interrupted their plans to overthrow the sovereign and situate her daughter on the throne as a puppet monarch.

Returning to your cell, you are slipped a note from a group known as the Loyalists, who believe that you are innocent and correctly presume the murder of the Empress is the work of the former spy-master. Escaping the prison you find yourself in a rundown pub owned by the leader of the Loyalists, Admiral Havelock, who requests your aid in removing the corrupt government and recovering the future Empress Emily from their grasp.

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Following your exploits is The Outsider (a supernatural being whose worship is outlawed by the Overseers) who offers you his aid in seeking your vengeance against those who have wronged you. During this meeting you are given your first taste of the powers The Outsider can bestow, when he grants you the ability to “Blink” from one point to another. Each of your spectral abilities require Runes to unlock and upgrade and adrenaline to use.

Combining these abilities with the array of weapons and devices you have available makes for an interesting and unique approach to each of the areas and enemies in the game. The options are there, and cater to your playstyle, be it primarily stealth, aggressively combative or a mixture of the two.

The Chaos system Arkane have created is a simple but elegant mechanic. Your choices throughout the story have an impact on the city of Dunwall as it suffers from the mysterious plague. Killing enemies will adversely attract more rats and certain side quests, such as sabotaging an illegal plague tonic distillery for rewards, will leave the less wealthy citizens more open to the infection and may introduce to future levels more “weepers”, the citizens infected beyond the point of no return. Although it only has two settings, low chaos and high chaos, which level you are on affects how others treat you. You may find that some of the quest NPCs will no longer assist you if you are too wanton in your destructiveness, and may even go out of their way to alert your presence to the guards.

Dishonored is a hugely enjoyable and accomplished game and how you wish to make your way through the story is the biggest choice you will make. Will you live up to your role as Lord Protector and remove the corrupt government who is destroying the city from the inside, and try to remove the plague threat that is decimating Dunwall? Or will you spurn the people who have branded you a traitor and cut a swathe through Dunwall to exact your revenge, leaving them to rot in the plague infested streets you leave in your wake? it is entirely up to you.

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It is worth noting, this is not an enhanced release in the standard definition. Although there is a distinct improvement in the lighting used within the game, and a greater fidelity to the textures overall with sharper visuals and more vibrant colours, the improvements are discernible but not overwhelming. At the end of the day this appears to be a timely port to coincide with their E3 show and the announcement of a sequel rather than a planned redesign of the title.

Neither of the previous niggles I found when reviewing the title back in 2012 have been addressed in this release. Enemy AI can still break the immersion when it fails, (on occasion), to respond to your actions or the assembled corpses littering the environment, and the somewhat fiddly aiming of Blink can still slow down the pacing of the game making you feel clumsy and imprecise, rather than the agile master assassin.

It is worth mentioning the cost as well. For those of us who already have a digital copy of the game, Bethesda confirmed that we would be entitled to pick up the definitive edition at half price, but even to pick it up now without this discount is as little as £25. With the inclusion of all the DLC packs along with the main game, it has to be said that, regardless if you have played the game before or not, this is an extremely good price point for this title.

If you did miss out on this title in the last gen, now is the time to pick up what I consider an influential and must play title from the last generation. If you were on the fence in the last gen, it is unlikely that you will find much to appeal to you here.

Thanks to Xbox and Arkane Studios for supporting TiX

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What is Red Awakening?

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Our friends over at Domino Effect Ltd have released a new trailer, with a twist. It’s a live-action ‘Interrogation’ trailer, helping to introduce this new team-based multiplayer stealth action title coming soon for PC, Xbox One and other platforms.

Red Awakening is set to be a mix of games similar to the original Thief, TimeSplitters2 (what a game that was!), but with added team-based gameplay similar to classic Counter-Strike. Domino Effect Ltd are also proud to say that the games style is influenced by slasher movies from the likes John Carpenter (Ghosts of Mar, Vampires, Halloween) and Dario Argento (Dracula 3D, Demons).

As well as releasing this new trailer, Domino Effect Ltd have also launched a brand new Kickstarter campaign. Look out for our ‘TiX crowdfunding spotlight’ this Sunday for more details on that!

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The Interrogation video has been a real labour of love for Domino Effect and we feel that it perfectly captures the anarchic spirit of the game as well as a bloody nod to our slasher horror movie inspirations. So far the development of Red Awakening has been entirely self-funded, but we’re now turning to Kickstarter for the necessary support to help us complete the final stages of development.

said Rob Peall, Game Director @ Domino Effect.

Additional details from the press release:

Red Awakening blends neon drenched environments, satirical storytelling, first-person dynamic stealth, parkour style movement, drug induced power-ups, ultra-violent gameplay and an unnerving “Carpenter-esque” synth soundtrack. The visceral package is all wrapped up in Domino Effect’s distinctive cell-shaded graphical style.

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Set during the aftermath of the Vietnam War in the mid-1970s, Red Awakening depicts a United States in turmoil. The youth are out of control, with once peaceful student protests devolving into violent street riots. Fearing a civil war with the youth of America and the ever-increasing threat of communism, the powers-that-be covertly funds a clandestine CIA mind control program. Codenamed: “Red Awakening”, this program is designed to solve all of America’s problems at once… but things don’t go according to plan.

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Red Awakening is planned for release on PC, Xbox One and other platforms during late-2015. Remember to keep an eye on this weekends crowdfunding feature for more information.

DARK Review

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Ah, stealth. The art of sneaking around and using nothing but your reactions and wit to overcome the towering obstacles in your way. There’s nothing quite like a good stealth game. Great stealth like Metal Gear Solid, Tenchu, Hitman, Deus Ex and not so much these days but Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell is hard to come by in this day and age. Enter Dark, a new stealth-based game published Kalypso Media and developed by Realmforge Studios. Now Dark might sound like an amazing prospect to the uninitiated. It’s a vampire stealth game. That means using the shadows to your advantage while teleporting toward your prey and sap their rich from their veins. Sounds amazing, right? Very, very wrong. More on how terrible the game is as we go on.

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The story centres around Mr. Eric Bane, a poor gent who just so happens to be a newly turned vampire. Get this, he has amnesia! The story is riveting already. Eric soon learns that his transformation is not yet fully complete. In other words, he hasn’t even reached his final form. In order to avoid becoming one of Nosferatu’s minions, Eric must drink the blood of his sire. The game then becomes who’s who of tired clichés. Such as angels appearing to him, leading young Eric down the righteous path. It is the angel that sets blood-sucking Eric Bane on a journey to recover his lost memory, a journey that will either see him revert back to his human form, stay as he is, or turn into a hapless ghoul from a Blade movie. Dark’s story is as dull as anything you have ever played. The characters you meet along the way do nothing to stimulate the story, or evoke any kind of emotion from the player. It’s as if there is no personality in this game whatsoever.

Enough story bashing, let’s talk about the awesome gameplay. Or how it’s not awesome at all…not even a little bit. So this is a stealth-action game, that means lots of hiding, sneaking, and quiet killing. You’ll find an abundance of furniture and chest-high walls to call your home due to this. Moving in and out of cover is easy enough. You can lock on to a piece of cover while already being in cover, and simply teleport straight to the next bit without being seen. The issue with this is that sometimes the game will simply bug out and throw you to the far right, far left, on top of, or literally inside the piece of cover you’ve intended to hide behind. There is a nifty feature called vampire vision. This allows you to see through walls and slow down time to help attain what your plan of attack will be. This is the only part of the game that works as it should. It’s not innovative or new, it just works.screenlg8

The problem with the stealth in Dark is that there is no surprise, only routine. Games like Splinter Cell or Deus show that sometimes having a plan of attack may not be enough. There might always be one enemy you’ve neglected to highlight who can send your entire plan astray. So having an escape route and or means of cutting off any kind of alarm system is key. Not here, there is only route learning and killing. Plus most of the other top stealth games I mentioned before have several means of completing a mission or route. To this day I’m still seeing things I could’ve done on Hitman: Blood Money and Absolution that I had absolutely no idea about. In Dark, there will only ever be one option, or the other. The main problem with the stealth aspect of the game is that it’s so repetitive it becomes a borefest. There may be one saving grace that could attract certain niche market of gamers. The game can be hard, very hard. But that’s not because of any kind of actual difficulty implemented into the game’s system. It’s because sneaking up behind an enemy and simply stealth killing them is a chore. The button prompt to kill your foe doesn’t appear until you are basically touching their backside, and sometimes you actually are touching their backside. This prompts all of Dr. Evil’s henchman to sound the alarm and shoot you with their…”lasers” (there are no lasers, but there’s gotta be something fun associated with the game). No, they just raise an alarm and shoot you dead because there is nowhere you can hide where they will not find you. There is no plan B, there is only succeed at this thing, or die a slow vampiric death.

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We’re not quite finished yet; Dark has broken another one of gaming’s golden rules. RPG elements where they do not belong. Getting through areas without being detected and getting kills will award you with XP. For every thousand points of experience, you earn something called a ‘power point’ that will allow you to upgrade whatever power takes your fancy.

There’s not much to be said for how the game looks. There is a comic book/noir type feel to the game. This basically means cel-shaded with neon lights, for the modern era. It’s not great looking; it’s just not bad looking. This is probably the most positive thing I have to say about the entire game. The voice acting is bad, real bad. It’s not the kind of bad you can forgive like a dub gone wrong on a Japanese game, or voice acting so terrible it’s funny like Shenmue. The delivery was poor, like the actors were mumbling the words to themselves with no emotion as if they were at home reading a novel in their armchairs. I actually find it quite shocking that somebody oversaw the work that went into this and didn’t think to say “hey guys, do you mind sounding like people when you read these lines”. But then again, with the lines they were given, I’d probably phone it in too.screenlg7

To sum it up, Dark is a horrible bore of a game. A genuine contender right alongside The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct for the worst game this year. The story extremely boring and predictable. The only fun came from me switching it up between doing a horrible Tom Hardy impersonation every time the name Bane was mentioned, and pretending the character was actually called Eric Bana. The gameplay is rigid and broken. Stealth barely works, and when it doesn’t, combat doesn’t work either. The sounds and voice acting are some of the worst I have ever heard in a game, and it’s just a 9+ hour agonising struggle to get through.

If you’re a stealth enthusiast, just play any of the other stealth games you’ve already completed a thousand times rather than this. You’re guaranteed to have a better time. If you’re a vampire enthusiast, just watch Twilight. Seriously, Twilight is a much better time than Dark.

Basically, stay away from Dark. Do not buy Dark, and kill Dark with fire.

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