The Steam Summer sale is over this year – you can finally stop mashing the F5 button on your keyboard to see the latest flash deals, you can put your battle plan to rest (until Winter comes that is), and your wallet can finally exhale a sigh of relief.
It’s fair to say that I spent quite a bit of money in this sale, but how much exactly? Who knows! I’m about to ally up the damage done to my wallet as I write this, so here’s what I bought, along with how much it cost:
- All of the DLC for Deus Ex: Human Revolution – £4.14
- Devil May Cry 4 – £6.99
- Sanctum (4 pack) – £5.24
- Alan Wake + DLC + Alan Wakes American Nightmare Bundle – £7.74
- Brink Collection – £4.74
- The Binding Of Isaac with Soundtrack – £1.24
- Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City & Gotham City Imposters Bundle – £17.49
- The Darkness 2 – £9.99
- Vessel – £2.99
- Prince of Persia Complete Pack – £10.74
- Dear Esther – £1.74
- All Saints Row 3 DLC (excluding what’s in the Season Pass) – £5.23
- Krater – £5.99
- Civ V: Gods and Kings Expansion – £17.99
- Summer Sale Indie Bundle Eleven – £6.99
- Railworks 3: Train Simulator 2012 – £4.98 (Two copies, both were gifts)
These are all of the games that I purchased with my own money, I also received a copy of Farming Simulator 2011 as a rebuttal for buying someone Train Simulator, but I won’t include Farming Simulator in my total since I didn’t actually spend my own money on it.
Total Steam Summer Sale spend: £114.22
I know what you’re thinking, right? I don’t post anything for months and then the first thing I go ahead and write up is a review for one of those heathen iPad apps! I’m rather fond of Brian Cox – both his personality and the way in which he can impart information and leave an impression on people. I’ve been interested in Astronomy since I was about 7 or 8 years old, and every now and then I like to go on an information binge on the topic – I generally find myself intrigued by all different kinds of sciences, but none – in my eyes at least, seem to be as awe-inspiring or as captivating as Astronomy.
I’ve come in to this app having already seen both of Brian Cox’s series of Astronomy documentaries: Wonders of the Solar System, and Wonders of the Universe (both of which are fantastic and well worth a watch). This app attempts to encompass the content of these series in to an interactive textbook of sorts. The app opens up with a short tutorial explaining how to use it – though you likely won’t need to even read it since it’s so well designed.
You start off with a view of our Galaxy – the Milky Way, move your finger around the screen to move the camera and take a look around, at which point some labels will pop up and you’ll be whisked away to that particular destination – if you’ve played any of the Mass Effect games and used the galaxy map you’ll find that navigating this app works in a very similar way – and I found that navigating the universe in such a way helped to cement my understanding of our cosmic neighbourhood.
Speaking of the design, this app is absolutely beautiful to look at, and tries to mimic the quality of the CGI effects that were in the TV show – the planets and moons of our solar system in particular look beautiful, and quite often it’s fun enough to just fly around and admire the scenery. Unfortunately you’re somewhat limited in how you can look at things, since the camera can only move to pre-set locations, you can’t actually move the camera around Mars of Jupiter to get a certain view of them, which is a bit of a shame given the production values that you can see here.
When you get to an object that you want to find out more about there’s a menu at the bottom of the screen with various topics to read – though it isn’t all just plan text, each article typically kicks off with a video – a snippet from the aforementioned documentaries (over two hours of footage is included in this app), and each article is typically accompanied with pictures and diagrams taken from or used the TV series.
Each of these articles was written by Brian Cox himself, so you know the information’s coming from a reliable source, though his enthusiasm for the subject doesn’t seem to shine through the same was as it does when you can actually hear him speaking – so for these reasons I think I’d prefer to watch Cox talk about Astronomy than write about it, though with that said, this app does cut away some of the “guff” that people often criticise about Cox’s work – though I think that to experience his work this way is to miss the point of the message what Cox is trying to convey in the first place. But if you want information rather than inspiration, this app is a good place to go.
I am a little disappointed at the lack of information on certain subjects though – the two furthest planets in our Solar System; Uranus and Neptune have next to zero information about them – people who don’t know much about space (the people who really want to get as much information as they can out of this app) are going to be wondering why Uranus’ rings move along the planet “vertically” rather than “horizontally”, and what’s up with that big dark spot on Neptune? These are questions to which there are no answers, or even speculation where it’s needed even though this information is readily available.
On the bright side it seems that new content is planned to be added to the app in the future – Cox has mentioned on his Twitter feed that information from future Wonders series will be added to the app – though whether this is through free app updates or paid add ons remains to be seen.
The Wonders app is a great app to dive in to if you’re curious about what wanders around in the night sky – but if you’ve got a hankering for some real in-depth information you could be best off looking for alternatives. I’d personally rather watch the TV show than own this app, but the app does provide a great supplement to the experience of the documentaries that Cox has produced – and with the high production values, snippets from the show and the shows fantastic soundtrack playing in the background as you explore the Wonders app is pretty good value for money.
Developer: Bungie (original game), Saber Interactive (Xbox 360 port), 343 Industries (Xbox 360 port), Certain Affinity (Anniversary Map Pack)
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed)
It’s so common to see old games get remakes and ports on to newer consoles these days – like older Sonic games or old Megaman games. Halo: Combat Evolved is different though, because unlike these other games, for once Halo: Combat Evolved is a game that I actually grew up with – it’s weird having a game that you grew up with to be considered “old”, and even weirder to see all of those “old” levels get a complete visual revamp thanks to the increased capabilities of todays hardware.
Halo fans have been asking for this since Halo 3 was released, and people became a lot more interested in the idea of a HD re-release of Halo 1 closer to the release of Halo: Reach. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary manages to make Halo look beautiful again, but retains the exact same gameplay that made the original game so fun in the first place. Yes, I said exactly.
Halo: CEA actually runs portions of two game engines at the same time – the gameplay is running on the same code that powered the original game, and the updated graphics are handled by much newer tech – though if you like you can hit the back button to revert the graphics back to how they were in the days of yesteryear – it’s staggering to see how much extra detail has been added in to the game, as you can see in the screenshot above.
But as I say – the game plays exactly the same as it did way back in 2001 – for both better and worse. Parts of the original Halo have aged well, others haven’t aged quite so gracefully. The core, on foot infantry combat feels as solid and as fun as ever – the original Halo pistol is way more fun to use than I remembered it to be, and the revamped sound effects help to bring the classic weapons up to par. Plasma Grenades in particular look and sound much more lethal than they used to – in fact, I would say that the sound design is stronger than what’s in Halo: Reach at the moment.
The vehicles haven’t aged very well though – the lack of a brake on the Warthog makes it feel slippery to control, the Banshee feels clunky and stiff to fly, and the Scorpion tank can only drive forwards, it can’t “strafe” like its modern counterparts. Consequently the more vehicle focussed levels in the game suffer for it.
Running Halo 1 exactly the way it used to is certainly a double-edged sword – on the one hand the game plays exactly how it used to, but on the other hand, the game plays exactly as it used to. Wort Wort Worts and all. When I think about it, I think I would have preferred it if a few issues from the original game were fixed here, and it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity to spruce the game up a little.
I also found it jarring at how repetitive some of the environments still are – you’ll find yourself getting deja vu as you walk through what feels like the same corridor again and again – it would have been better if some visual variety was added in when remaking the campaign – and the samey hallways and rooms could cause some confusion for newer players who didn’t play the original.
The remastered Halo 1 goodness only applies to the campaign though – there’s no real multiplayer aspect to Anniversary other than the fact that co-operative campaign over Xbox Live has been added. Halo 1’s multiplayer hasn’t been remade here, but a selection of classic maps have been released for Halo: Reach – and a code for these maps is included with the game (which I shall review at a later date).
Ultimately this is just Halo 1 with a prettier paint job, online co-op and some new maps for Halo: Reach. It’s a great opportunity for newer fans of the series to see where everything kicked off – though I am somewhat disappointed that Halo 1’s multiplayer wasn’t properly remade. Nevertheless, I’d like to see Halo 2 get a similar update at some point in the future.
What the game looks like
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary in action
Good: Faithful recreation of Halo 1’s campaign, bundled multiplayer maps for Reach, overhauled music and sound effects, addition of co-op over Xbox Live
Bad: Arguably too faithful to the original game, Halo 1’s multiplayer not remade, The Library still sucks
Another year, another opportunity to sum up our thoughts on the year in gaming. Rather than do a simple “Top 5″ like I did last year, I instead decided to split my best and worse in to different categories – this year has been a good one for gaming and it’s difficult to only post 5 of my favourite games! Nevertheless, here’s what stood out for me this year:
Overlooked by many, Bulletstorm ditched a lot of the modern design choices a lot of modern shooters abide by, favouring that you kill your enemies as stylishly as possible by using aspects of the level to your advantage… like man eating plants. If you haven’t played this yet then you absolutely need to give it a go. Now get to it dicktits.
Honourable mentions: Gears of War 3, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
Game: Sonic Generations (Xbox 360, PS3, PC Version)
SEGA has been on a mission to bring the spiky blue Hedgehog back to his former glory as of late, and Sonic Generations was a mighty good effort. Though a touch on the short side, Sonic Generations does feature a lot of replay value with different missions to complete outside of the main game, and if you’re at all like me, then you’ll have fun trying to get the fastest possible time on the games levels. In all, I’ve put over 40 hours in to Sonic Generations just with this simple goal in mind (I get can quite competitive with myself over things like this). If you can forgive the extremely kid-friendly nature of the games main story, then you’ll have fun with Generations. You can read my full review of Sonic Generations here.
Honourable mentions: Super Mario 3D Land
Best Puzzle Game
Game: Portal 2
Quite often puzzle games will fail to grab me, but Portal is one of the rare exceptions to the rule. The core game is simple, but the puzzles that can be presented to you (especially in the games co-operative mode) can be tricky to get through for the first time. Combine this with a well written story and an intriguing cast of characters that keeps you wanting more, and you’ve got a recipe for a great puzzle game, and efforts made by Valve to try and merge console and PC gaming by letting gamers on PlayStation 3 and Steam play together should be praised too, though it’s a shame that Microsofts restrictive policies prevented such a feature from making its way to the Xbox 360 version of the game.
Best Indie Game
It was a tough choice between this and Bastion, but I eventually decided to settle on Waves because of its simple pick up and play nature. You could just dismiss it as a clone of Geometry Wars – and to some extent you’d be correct, but Waves provides just enough new features that it can stand up on its own. Much like Sonic Generations the replay value comes in trying to beat the high score of yourself and your friends. The soundtrack could benefit from a few extra tracks, but overall Waves is a great little game.
Honourable mentions: Bastion, Solar 2
And with that the Internet shouts out “What the eff bro? Why isn’t Crysis 2 here? Or The Witcher? Or Battlefield 3?” Well, I like to think that a games looks come from more than just how many polygons or how many individual grains of sand a game is rendering at a time – Bastion just looks so gorgeous that if you took away the user interface you could mistake the games locations as real works of art that someone drew as a hobby, or to sell at an art show, not for some “stupid” video game that you can pick up for a couple of quid . Bastion simply looks beautiful, and blurs the line between video games and art in ways that Crysis or Battlefield could only dream of (I also think that Crysis 2 and Battlefield 3 look a little bland). In Bastion you forget that you’re looking at a bunch of pixels and polygons, in Battlefield you do not – and that’s why Bastion wins this for me.
Honourable mentions: The Witcher 2, Gears of War 3
Game: Sonic CD (XBLA, PSN, Steam, iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7)
Is this technically cheating? Sonic CD was originally released way back in 1993, though the recent port of the game was the first time I’ve ever played it. Every stage in Sonic CD is full of catchy tunes that, for me, are very reminiscent of the early 90’s and late 80’s – so to that extent the games soundtrack is somewhat nostalgic to me even though I’ve never heard it before. The game had a different soundtrack in the United States, though as far as I’m concerned the Japanese & European version of the games soundtrack (as you can hear in the video above) is far superior.
Honourable mentions: Bastion, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
Best Action/Adventure Game
Game: Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
I love Assassin’s Creed: Revelations because it gives us what so many games do not: closure. Games are all too happy to give you a cliffhanger at the end of the game in the hopes that you’ll buy the sequel. Of course Assassin’s Creed: Revelations does this – but as far as Ezio is concerned it’s nice to know that we’ve gotten the whole story. And as strange as it may sound, it’s also humbling to see a video game character age, and to see the changes in character that age brings along with it.
But Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is absolutely a fun game to play, bringing together all of the features that we’ve seen before and bringing them together with a bit more added to them. There’s now a little more to capturing and defending Assassin headquarters, recruiting and training Assassin’s has been expanded upon, and there’s a simple yet deep bomb crafting tool. I enjoyed Assassin’s Creed: Revelations so much that I’ve decided to go back and play through the previous two games that Ezio starred in – Assassin’s Creed 2 & Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. I do wish, however, that Ubisoft would hurry up and add a co-operative mode to the Assassin’s Creed series.
Honourable mentions: Saints Row The Third
Biggest disappointment of 2011
Game: Battlefield 3
Yes that’s right Internet, I just went there. Battlefield 3 is a game I have given hundreds of chances and fails to entertain me every time. I originally tried the beta on my Xbox 360, and I wasn’t impressed. I eventually moved on to trying the beta on my PC, and wasn’t impressed again, and I was close to cancelling my pre-order. However I eventually decided to give Battlefield 3 the benefit of the doubt because hey, it’s Battlefield – I’ve liked them all since the first Bad Company, so why would this be any different? I simply put it down to Operation Metro being a crappy map.
Launch day comes and I install Battlefield 3 to my PC, open the campaign and I’m bored out of my mind at the second level. I don’t think I have ever played a campaign that’s so… boring before – with the possible exception of Homefront (which I knew would probably be pretty bad before I spent a whole £2 on it, so to that extent Homefront wasn’t really a disappointment because I had low expectations). I do the logical thing and jump in to the multiplayer modes – and, in fairness, I enjoyed it at first.
My problem is that I work 12 hour shifts in my job – and when I get home I just want to chill – I’m not really in the mood for video games, so because of this I start falling behind the crowd – and it’s gotten to the point now that everyone has the best weapons, the best perks, the best upgrades for their vehicles and I feel like I’m still at square one. I’ve been left behind and playing catch-up is proving to be too frustrating. I simply don’t have the patience for shooters where you have to play 24/7 just to remain relevant. For these reasons I’ve already abandoned Battlefield 3 in favour of Halo: Reach, Gears of War 3 and Team Fortress 2.
Dishonourable mentions: LittleBigPlanet 2
Most anticipated for 2012
Game: Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 absolutely, categorically, without question is what I’m most excited for next year. Mass Effect 2 was a masterpiece and I loved every second of it, and I have no doubts that Mass Effect 3 will be the same. My only problem is that I’ve played through Mass Effect 2 so many times that I’ve lost count of what I’ve done through each play run of the game, so I’m going to have issues when it comes to importing my character. Or I could just play through Mass Effect 2 again! I’m sure that won’t be a problem.
Honourable mentions: Halo 4, Assassin’s Creed 3 (we all know it’s going to happen)
That’s the year in a wrap for me, though my back log of games has increased dramatically this year so I’m kind of annoyed I haven’t had the chance to play all of them before writing this up. Nonetheless, this is how I feel about the games that I’ve played this year. Here’s hoping that 2012 will be a good one!
- Developer: Infinity Ward (campaign), Sledgehammer Games (multiplayer)
- Publisher: Activision
- Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (reviewed), PC, Wii, DS
There’s not a single franchise in the entire gaming industry that invokes such intense Internet debate. Originally starting out as a World War 2 shooter, the Call of Duty series branched out in to the modern era with Call of Duty 4 – this is where the Call of Duty series really started to kick off, with each new entry in to the franchise breaking sales records each year. Some think that over the years the Call of Duty series has gotten stale, and that Activision has simply gotten lazy and is just milking the franchise for all its worth. Does Modern Warfare 3 manage to make things fresh again?
The short answer to that question is a rather abrupt “no”. Modern Warfare 3 doesn’t re-invent the wheel, and it doesn’t really try to either. If you’ve liked the last 5 years of Call of Duty games then you’ll like Modern Warfare 3 – but if you think the series has been getting old then no, Modern Warfare 3 won’t change that.
The campaign is the shortest in the series – I beat it, according to the in-game timer, in 4 hours and 49 minutes (and 13 seconds!) to which I expect that most people reading this let out an audible sigh but to be completely honest with you I thought that Modern Warfare 3 has the funnest campaign in the series to date. Each level is short (as you’d expect), but they keep the action interesting, and you’re never stuck in one place fighting enemies for too long – which I thought was a problem with a lot of the older games. Modern Warfare 3 keeps things at a brisk pace, constantly moving forward and keeping gameplay interesting, moving from infantry combat to vehicle combat to break things up a bit.
As you may expect, Modern Warfare 3 is a heavily scripted game, going from one set piece to the next with little to no deviation from the main path, and it can hold the players hand a little too much times with a lot of “Yeah I get it” moments. There’s not a whole lot of player freedom in Modern Warfare 3, and some gamers may not like being confined to the small combat spaces and scripted vehicle sections. In short: Modern Warfare 3 is the complete opposite of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – it’s short, to the point, and very much a “do as you’re told” game. Oh, and there’s no Dragons in this either.
For what it’s worth I actually enjoyed the entirety of the games campaign – the brevity of it works in the games favour – Call of Duty is just a game that doesn’t work well with a long campaign, and shouldn’t be stretched out to try and fill some kind of pre-determined quota. The clear focus of Call of Duty is with the games multiplayer any way.
Not that I’m dismissing that the games campaign is important, or should be tossed aside because it doesn’t matter, I’m simply saying that the campaign should only be as long as it is enjoyable, and for me Modern Warfare 3 got things just right.
As for the multiplayer, I didn’t care for it, and I didn’t care for the multiplayer in Battlefield 3 for the same reason: weapon and perk unlocks.
I’m tired of it.
It was a novel idea at first – a compelling way to get people to keep playing your game so they can unlock a certain weapon or a certain perk, but after five years of games copying this formula I’m getting a little tired of it, and in Modern Warfare 3 going through all the trouble to unlock even the most basic weapons and perks feels, well – boring.
As I was playing through the multiplayer I was wondering to myself “What’s the point in playing this?” when I could just put in my copy of Modern Warfare 2, or Black Ops and get the same gameplay experience, only I don’t have to worry about being at the bottom of the food chain. For these reasons I guess I can’t really offer a very insightful opinion in to the multiplayer here, and I dare say that those who aren’t tired of this formula are enjoying the game just fine, though I’m struggling to see the value for money here when you could just buy a map pack for Black Ops and be done with it.
Is Modern Warfare 3 worth your time? I’d have to answer that question with a no. The campaign is fun, yes, but absolutely not worth the £40 entry fee and it’s certainly not game of the year material. That is, unless you’re addicted to Call of Dutys multiplayer, in which you probably already own the game at this point any way.
What the game looks like:
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 in action:
Good: Engrossing campaign doesn’t outstay its welcome
Bad: Formula for Call of Duty (and other modern military FPS’) getting old now, multiplayer too similar to that of the other Call of Duty games
- Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC (Reviewed)
The Assassin’s Creed series has to absolutely be one of my favourite new IP’s to be released this console generation (last years Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood was second only to Mass Effect 2). Though I was admittedly somewhat late to the party – I only got the first Assassin’s Creed just a few months before the second instalment was released. When I first started Assassin’s Creed 2 I figured it’d be a similar deal to the first game – you play as a new Assassin, do some quests and then in a few years time Assassin’s Creed 3 will be released and we’ll be playing as someone else. Little did I know that I was about to spend the next three years playing as one of my favourite video game characters of all time.
You can argue all day about whether or not you think the plot in Assassin’s Creed is any good or not – I personally enjoy the stories of the Assassin’s themselves (Ezio and Altair) far more than the main, overarching plot of the series with Desmond and the modern-day Assassin’s and Templars, but as far as I’m concerned Ezio is a fantastic character, and it’s great that, as players, we get to live out the key events of this one man, from birth to well, I won’t spoil the ending of the game for you.
I’m very much fond of the idea of living out one characters life – and Assassin’s Creed is in a unique position where the end of one characters journey doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the series. Assassin’s Creed has almost unlimited potential to go on for as long as it likes – it basically has the entirety of human history to create stories out of. To that end, to see one character grow from an enthusiastic, womanising young man to a much older, wiser, and (in my opinion) somewhat jaded character makes Revelations one of the most humbling games I’ve played in recent years. It’s a real shame that I can’t really go in to more detail on my opinion on the matter without totally spoiling the game – but I nevertheless feel that people who have played though Ezios adventures will very much appreciate and enjoy his final instalment, and suffice it to say that “Revelations” is a perfectly apt title for this chapter of the series.
Revelations takes us away from Italy and takes us to Constantinople – the play space feels roughly the same as Rome in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood though the game isn’t entirely limited to this one location, thanks to some flashbacks that show you what happened to Altair after the end of the first game. Much like other cities in the game, Constantinople proves to be a great location for the series, with plenty of rooftops and walkways to free run and sneak around in. Getting around is very much similar to how it’s been in the previous games, though Ezios new Hookblade allows him to zip-line between certain buildings. Though the free running ability mostly works well, there are still some occasional issues with it – sometimes Ezio (or other characters) will exhibit some strange behaviour in certain places (for example in the video below, Ezio starts moving down a ladder when I’m pressing up), and there will be some situations where you can’t help but wonder to yourself “Ezio, what the hell are you doing?”
In fact, most of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is similar to its predecessors – combat is still mostly blocking and counter blocking, you still need to renovate shops and landmarks to earn money, and you can still recruit, train and summon Assassin’s to help you. One of the new additions to Revelations is a base defence mini game that you can play. If you get too notorious the Templars will take notice of you and attack one of your Assassin bases, in which you have to command your army of Assassin’s to defend the base as waves of enemies approach. It’s a fun game to play, though if you play your cards right you may never even see it beyond the mandatory tutorial mission.
Which is perhaps the biggest problem with Assassin’s Creed – there’s a decent amount of content here, but you may never see or use all of it unless you’re trying to 100% the game. The main story is about in line with the length of the other games (maybe a bit shorter), and there are abilities and tools at your disposal that you might completely forget about when you’re just focussing on completing the story. To get the most out of Assassin’s Creed it’s absolutely worth taking your time to explore all of your options before you jump in to the next story mission. Bomb Crafting is an excellent new addition to the game, but I found that I very rarely used it. Is that the fault of me, as the player for forgetting to use it? Or the games fault for failing to really provide you with a compelling incentive to use these abilities? I’m not so sure.
Graphically the engine that Assassin’s Creed is running on is starting to show its age a little – the game doesn’t necessarily look ugly, there are some beautiful moments in the game, but I’m not at all a fan of the orange fog that’s often seen in the city during the day, and when you’re on top of a tall building you start to notice a lot of familiar patterns that can make Constantinople look a little bland from a distance, but what’s here is certainly serviceable, though strangely enough when I look back, I still think that Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is the best looking game in the series.
As always the games sound design is superb – a lot of the familiar sounds are there, the voice acting is as good as it’s always been, and the soundtrack (which according to iTunes, contains 80 different tracks) is incredible once again, a definite treat for those holes on the side of your head for sure.
Much like its predecessor, Revelations contains a multiplayer mode – though it’s mostly similar to Brotherhood. If you liked the multiplayer there, then you’ll like it here. If not, then you’re out of luck.
But as is the case with the Assassin’s Creed series – this instalment is similar to previous titles with some minor improvements. Fans to the series are sure to enjoy the epic conclusion to Ezios story arc, but if you never cared for Assassin’s Creed then Revelations is unlikely to change your mind. Lets just hope that the next Assassin that we get to play as is at least half as likeable as Ezio has been!
What the game looks like
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations in action
Good: Satisfying conclusion to Ezios story, incredible soundtrack, minor but worthwhile additions made
Bad: Free running system is about due for some fixes and tweaks, graphics are starting to look a little dated
- Developer: Sonic Team (360, PS3, PC), Devil’s Details (PC)
- Publisher: SEGA
- Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC (Reviewed)
Sonic the Hedgehog has always been a strange franchise for me, simply because over the years the series has attracted two different types of fans: those who love classic Sonic, and those who love the more modern iterations of the blue blur that we’ve seen in the last ten years or so. It makes it difficult to judge a Sonic game this way, since quite often it seems that the one side hates the other side, and I can only imagine what it must be like to develop a game under these circumstances.
Though there are titles that the fanbase can almost universally agree were bad games, there are others where there was more of a grey area – but recently Sonic games have definitely been on the up – Sonic Unleashed, released in 2008 – was the series’ first step in the right direction, but was marred by boring “Werehog” levels and hub worlds.
Then last year DS and Wii owners got to try their hand at Sonic Colours – which was similar to Unleashed but without the Werehog and hub worlds – instead all of the levels had power ups called Wisps that allowed you to exploit the level in different ways. It was a fun game – this time peoples complaints were that it was too short, and that sometimes the controls were a little unresponsive.
And now SEGA has released Sonic Generations to mark the Hedgehogs 20th anniversary, in which Sonic Team has taken the opportunity to try and cater to both new and older fans of the series by letting players control modern and classic Sonic. Sonic Generations takes a trip down memory lane as we revisit levels from previous games like Green Hill Zone, Seaside Hill, and Rooftop Run.
First and foremost: as you can see from the screenshots and videos in this review, the game looks incredible on all platforms – but especially on a good PC where you can run the game at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second. Green Hill Zone looks prettier than I could have ever imagined it to, and the graphical updates to the more recent games are certainly most welcome. Ever wondered what Planet Wisp from Sonic Colours on the Wii would look like in HD? Generations gives you that chance.
Sonic Generations has nine stages in total and splits them equally in to three eras: Genesis, Dreamcast, and Modern. The Genesis era has stages from Sonic 1 to Sonic 3 & Knuckles, the Dreamcast era has stages from Sonic Adventure to Sonic Heroes, and the Modern era has stages from Sonic 2006 to last years Sonic Colours – covering most of the main games of the spikey blue hog’s 20 year career – both the good and the bad.
The soundtrack is equally amazing – with each act featuring remixes of the original track that went with the original level – Sky Sanctuary and Seaside Hill are among my favourites – but the whole soundtrack as a whole is pretty solid. There’s some cool sound effect too – when you boost as modern Sonic the music will distort, and when you’re underwater the music will get muffled – the classic stages even include the old sound effects for springs and jumps – and if you don’t like the music then Generations gives you the opportunity to change the level music to any of the tracks that you’ve unlocked. Hate the new remix of Green Hill Zone? Play it with the original music instead.
As I touched on earlier – Generations lets you play as both classic and modern Sonic. Each stage has two acts – Act 1 is the classic stage, where you play as old school Sonic the way you used to back in th’ day. Sonic plays exactly like he did in his early days here – with the only difference being that you only need to hold down one button to perform a spin dash – though you can still do it the old fashioned way if you want to.
Act 2 is the modern stage – which you play as Sonic using the gameplay mechanics that have been established since Sonic Unleashed in 2008 – albeit much more refined. Modern Sonic has a boost ability, and he can home in on enemies, as well as perform an air stomp to attack enemies from above. Though unlike in Sonic Unleashed modern Sonics levels have more emphasis on platforming rather than boosting your way through a stage for a few minutes, so modern Sonic definitely has more engaging and challenging gameplay than he used to.
Which style of play you prefer will probably depend on the year you were born. Older gamers will most likely get more out enjoyment out of the classic levels and the opposite will probably be true for younger gamers. Sonic Generations starts off easy – the first two thirds of the game have a steady difficulty curve – but I found that the last third of the game suddenly got much harder – especially the final act.
This especially applies to classic Sonic where enemies will often be waiting for you on the edge of platforms where you’re about to land. You might not necessarily lose a life because of it, but it can be damaging to the flow of the game when you’re constantly bumping in to enemies just because you didn’t perfectly land a jump on your first ever try – though this becomes less of an issue when you go back and replay levels, should you feel inclined to do so.
Speaking of replay value, there’s a lot of it here. Once you finish the main story there’s a wealth of additional challenges to try out – even if you don’t care about the concept art or music that you can unlock by playing them, they’re still fun enough to warrant going through by yourself – and once you finish the game you can unlock the ability to transform in to Super Sonic upon acquiring 50 rings in a level.
Unfortunately finishing the main story won’t take you long – I finished it in a little over four hours – I think this game could have benefitted from a few more acts or stages. Handheld games like Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush didn’t get any representation in this game – I think that some zones from those titles would have been welcomed by fans – even a few more acts in existing zones would have been nice to make the game last a little longer, I just hope that SEGA does a good job at releasing some more levels as DLC.
Nevertheless, Sonic Generations is the best Sonic game in years – even the most jaded of Sonic fans should at least give this a rental. Sonic is clearly starting to make a real comeback in the quality of his games – if Sega can keep this up then I can only see good things to come.
What the game looks like
Sonic Generations in action
Good: Reimagined levels of yore will give you a nostalgia overload, lots of replay value, easily the best Sonic game in the last ten years, high production values
Bad: Main story is a bit on the short side, cheap traps on later classic levels, voice acting is a little ropey