Review – Star Wars Battlefront Beta

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Oh dear, the Force isn’t too strong with this one.

The Star Wars Battlefront Beta has been out for two days now and unfortunately it’s failed to blow my Chewbacca patterned socks off.

Let’s start with the positives – this game looks fantastic. From the moment I jumped into the first of the beta’s two game modes – Drop Zone – I was taken aback by the gorgeous graphics, textures and landscape. There were burning X-Wings scattered around along with smoking Tie Fighters and I spent minutes staring above and beyond at the beautifully detailed backgrounds. Couple this with the wonderful music and you honestly feel like you’ve walked into one of the films themselves. It really is a faithful homage to the series.

Then it’s down to business. Drop Zone has you and your team (either Rebels or Imperials) taking control of pods that are dropped around the map whilst fending off your opposite number. Highest number of pods at the end of the round wins. Bing bang bosh, nice and simple.

When you first spot an enemy however, the problems with the gunplay soon become apparent. There is no function to aim down sights in this game. The developer explained that this was due to wanting to make the game as authentic as possible so shooting from the hip is what we have to put up with. It’s an old school mechanic that I don’t like as it feels disconnected, unrealistic and inaccurate. Some of the weapons have sights on so you can zoom in for the kill, however it leaves you feeling exposed and blinkered. The weapons themselves are the biggest problem I found. The blasters are shit. I’m sure there will be plenty of better weapons to unlock on the way but I wish they’d included them in the beta as it’s the biggest turn off for me. It takes a good 5 shots to kill an enemy and the fire rate is horrendous on these things. If you are firing at a sprinting enemy and are zoomed in, forget about it, you ain’t getting a kill. By the time he’s been hit 3 times he will be behind cover where his shield will regenerate within seconds. I found myself using the Cycler Rifle (an unlock-able perk, or “card” weapon) and just waiting for it to become usable again after each shot instead of the blasters. That’s how badly I wanted a normal, decent weapon. The hit detection is also poor and the weapons as a whole feel like they lack “weight”.

The other online mode is Walker Assault where you are freezing your knackers off on Hoth and are either destroying the Rebel scum as Imperials, or stopping the Imperial attack as the Rebels. On first play this mode is quite confusing as to what is going on, especially if you are playing as the Rebels. There’s a lot to do and it relies heavily on teamwork and cohesion, this was absent in the beta as everyone was running around like headless chickens and blasting anything in sight. If you’re lucky enough to be spawned on the the Imperial team then happy days, you can relax as the mode is so unbalanced that you WILL be winning the round.

Walker Assault gives you the opportunity to pilot vehicles though, which is one of the things I was most looking forward to. Yet soon after picking up the Tie Fighter icon on the map to take control, my excitement soon turned to despair. I can’t believe how clunky the vehicles feel to pilot. Forget trying to shoot anything, your main preoccupation is trying to keep the aircraft in the air without it lurching into the ground or nearby mountainside.

Playing as Luke Skywalker or Vader is a cool touch, but the novelty soon wears off after a few matches. Don’t forget that there is no campaign with the full version of the game – this is pretty much it. Of course there are other modes but I can’t help but feel like a well made campaign would have added so much and complimented the package as a whole.

The entire purpose of the developer making the beta available is to gather feedback and make adjustments here and there before next month’s release. Unfortunately, I think the problems with the game are at an extent that it would need quite a large overhaul in order to make it anywhere near the level fans expect it to be. To drop £50 on what is essentially an average shooter with no campaign seems like a bit of a rip-off if I’m honest. Especially when you consider that Treyarch are releasing the latest in their Black Ops juggernaut of a series days before.

Disappointing.

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Review – Super Meat Boy

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“Jump you bastard!”

This phrase has been the soundtrack to my living room for the last couple of days. Yet there is no anger or exasperation felt when shouting it at my TV for the trillionth time. Quite the opposite, it’s joyful and wonderful.

The game causing these outbursts is of course Team Meat’s Super Meat Boy, which has just been released in the Playstation Store. Everything that can be said about this game has already been said, I just thought I’d share a few of my views on this wonderful little game.

I, like many people, remember watching Indie Game: The Movie and becoming infatuated with these two blokes building this seemingly impossible, never-ending project. I wanted to play this mythical game there and then. Being a Playstation owner I missed out back then, my chance has finally come however.

From the retro intro and level select screen you know you’re in for a treat. This game is a labour of love, there’s no other way to say it. Meat Boy’s controls are fluid and precise and coming from a platforming background they felt instinctive. Glorious. A simple two button layout is all that’s needed. Using R1 to dash is a revelation.

The level design is utterly splendid. Every jump, buzz saw and pitfall are accurately placed in order to test your reflexes and cunning. You get into a certain momentum when playing so that when you watch back the end of level replay you feel like a complete beast.

Be prepared to die as you will be dying a lot in this game, but the near instant restart is brilliant in the way it feeds the addiction and doesn’t put you off your rhythm. You’ll be going back to earlier levels in order to ace it fully – to appease the OCD demon inside you – but that adds to the fun.

A catchy soundtrack tops off what is one of the most refreshing gaming experiences I have had in a long time. The game is a masterpiece and deserves its status as a legend of indie gaming.

And that is all I have to say about that.

Review – Mega Man Legacy Collection

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It’s the 25th August and that can mean only one thing to gamers around the world, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is exactly 7 days away from launch. Early reports about how exquisite the game is seems to be only ramping up the excitement to near fever pitch. Words such as “masterpiece” and quotes such as “one in a lifetime game” are already starting to be thrown about. We will have to wait and see. A week to be exact.

So what am I to do until then? Luckily, the answer arrived on the Playstation Store today with the release of Mega Man Legacy Collection.

Now I’m going to be honest with you, I have never played Mega Man. It passed me by and was slightly before my time. As a matter of fact I was only 365 days old (approximately) when the first game came out on the NES. The original Mega Man series ran from 1987 – 1993 on the NES, so you’ll excuse my failure to play them.

However, just because I’ve never played them doesn’t mean I don’t understand or appreciate what they have done for gaming, especially in the early years of home consoles.

This Mega Man Legacy collection comprises of the original 6 games released on the NES. They have all been sharpened up and I must say, they look extremely clean and crisp on a modern HD TV. The 8-bit soundtrack sounds great as do the old school sound effects.

The games themselves are old school platforming perfection. For continuity, and my crippling OCD, I am playing the games in order without skipping ahead. So you’ll forgive me for concentrating on the first game as that is what I have played the most.

Mega Man is our hero – clad in a blue suit and helmet and armed (literally) with a blaster. He has three control functions; jump, shoot and turbo shoot. That’s it. Easy, simple – bing bang bosh. The game begins with a nonlinear level select screen where you can pick any of 6 areas to visit; fire, water, ice etc. and each level has an end of level boss. Once you defeat this boss you take ownership of their specialist weapon. This weapon has limited ammo as opposed to your blaster which is infinite and you collect charge for these weapons by killing enemies. The same goes for topping up your shield/health. The levels flow wonderfully, with tight platforming sections interspersed with tricky enemies that swoop and dive from all angles.

If, like me, you have never played Mega Man before and pick it up for the first time, there is one thing that will hit you straight away. The difficulty. Christ on a bike, this game is hard. Like many games from the early days progressing through 2D platformers relied on a mixture of timing, reflexes and the memorisation of enemy patterns and level features. True hardcore gaming. The only way to get good and progress through games of this difficulty is to play them so much that you know them inside out. Indeed, a quick search on YouTube will provide you with videos of utter beasts beating levels in speed runs that can only be attributed to hundreds of hours during the late 80’s/early 90’s playing Mega Man.

My satisfaction after completing the “Cut Man” stage was one of old school joy. It’s this feeling that pumps the adrenaline through your veins and the addictiveness takes hold. After my first half hour my thumb was feeling sore. A nostalgic discomfort I haven’t felt since holding my SNES controller.

There has been a save function added whereupon you can save your game once during play. A welcome addition as apparently the original series had a cryptic password system – a common theme among games back then (one day, when I can bare it, I’ll talk about The Legend of the Mystical Ninja on the SNES and it’s password system –  a process I can imagine being similar to writing an algorithm for Google’s search functions).

A gallery of enemies has also been added for your perusal as well as a soundtrack playlist that allows you to replay your favourite tunes from your favourite levels. This must be a dream come true for hardcore fans.

All in all I am very happy that I purchased this collection and believe it will be the perfect refreshment before getting stuck into MGS V next week.

The whole collection cost me just £11.99 which for the amount of content you get is well worth it. Personally, I’m just glad I finally got to play this great series – albeit 28 years after it started.

But like they say, better late than never.