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Review: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

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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.

Yup, this still works.

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

The verdict

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

Written by Pokeh

January 5, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Review: Defiant Map Pack for Halo: Reach

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Halo: Reach launched last September to much controversy among Halo players. Some people loved Armour Abilities, others not so much – some liked the smaller tweaks like bloom and the removal of the Battle Rifle – others thought it was the worst thing to happen to the series (talk about hyperbole, right?).

Indeed the Halo player base is so diverse it seems that the community can’t seem to agree on anything – so from what point of view am I reviewing this map pack from? I consider myself to be in between the casual and competitive crowd – I’m probably average in terms of player skill, and I generally don’t care if I win or lose a multiplayer game. If you’re the type of person who rages about Armour Lock and Bloom this review probably isn’t for you.

An interesting note to make is that these are the first maps for Reach that aren’t made by Bungie, the developer of the game. Instead this map pack was made by a division of Microsoft called 343 Industries (Or 343i as it’s often called) and Certain Affinity – a developer made up of a number of ex-Bungie employees, and it’s also played a hand in some previous Halo related content – such as the Blastacular Map Pack for Halo 2.

The Defiant Map Pack was released on the 15th March and comes with three new maps: two are traditional multiplayer maps, and the other is a new Firefight map. The Defiant Map Pack will set you back 800 Microsoft Points (approximately £6.85, or $10). So lets get this review underway by taking a look at each individual map:

Highlands

Highlands is the biggest map in the Defiant Map Pack – and it’s suited to 6 v 6 or higher games. Highlands feels like it could be a spiritual successor to Valhalla from Halo 3 – with two bases on either side of the map and key areas in the middle of the map that are worth defending.

On paper Highlands has all the right pieces to be a good map – there are key areas to hold, some vehicles to play with and different paths around the map so everyone doesn’t get congested in to one spot (an issue that Valhalla in Halo 3 used to suffer from). Instead of placing power weapons in the middle of the map, they’re placed on the sides, giving you some breathing room.

The trouble with Highlands is that there’s too many different places to go – the map is generally too big and there are too many places to go. In a 6v6 match (the only way you’re guaranteed to get a match on Highlands at the moment) the map feels empty and I found myself getting bored of wandering around with nothing to shoot. Objective games like Capture the Flag give the map a little more focus, but it’s not enough to save the map from becoming a complete snoozefest. If Highlands was a little narrower things could be better – what’s worse is that the Forge palette for Highlands is extremely limited, so if you want to change the layout of the map by adding in walls or doors then you’re out of luck, so what we’ve got is a map that’s too big for most game modes with no easy fix.

Condemned

Condemned is the second multiplayer map in the Defiant Map Pack and focuses more on infantry combat rather than the more large scale, vehicle focussed affairs provided on Highlands. The general layout of the map is simple: A large circular structure with a small, low gravity room in the middle.

Condemned works well for 6v6 games and is probably the best map in the map pack but it’s hard to imagine it working for less than twelve players unless you’re playing a free-for-all game. The middle, low gravity room is a fun gimmick, but you quickly realise that the entire room is a death trap since you can’t jump (or fall) as quickly as you can in regular gravity, opening you up to fire from all sides.

Condemned features a slightly better Forge palette than Highlands does but it’s still something that could be improved. You can spawn small scenery items and items that change the special effects on the map (Like changing everything to black and white, increased colour saturation, etc) but there aren’t any options for adding in doors or walls to block parts of the map off – so if you’ve got an idea for a cool map varient then you’re out of luck.

While playing I found that Condemned worked particularly well for Elite Slayer (as seen in the video above) and other objective game modes, but I found that the experience fell flat in standard Slayer modes.

Unearthed

Unearthed is the Firefight map that comes with the Defiant Map Pack – and promises to provide a more vehicle focussed take on the survival game mode. Similar to Beachhead (a Firefight map that shipped with the full game) you get a Rocket ‘Hog to ride around in.

Those of you who don’t feel like slaying hordes of xenophobic aliens in a four wheeled death machine with an unlimited supply of rockets (and if you don’t – what’s wrong with you?) can take advantage of the elevated walkways to get the jump on some unsuspecting squid heads. Bip Bap Bam!

Unearthed is a great map – and it’s nice to get some more Firefight maps that take advantage of the arsenal of vehicles within Reach – it’s just that I think that 343i are missing a trick with this one. So far all of the Firefight maps in Reach only have Rocket ‘Hogs, Ghosts, Wraiths and Mongooses – but what about the rest? No Falcons, no Banshees (none that you can use at least), no Revenants, and no Scorpions. I’d really like to see future Firefight maps that properly take advantage of the vehicles in the game, rather than just having Beachhead 2.0.

The biggest problem with Unearthed isn’t necessarily with the map itself, but rather the monumental effort it takes just to get Matchmaking to give you a game on it. It took twelve attempts over the course of about 30 minutes just to get one game on Unearthed – and after that I decided that I couldn’t be bothered any more. Perhaps this is a situation that’ll improve over time as more people get the Defiant Map Pack, but my initial thoughts weren’t positive – what’s the point in a new Firefight map if you never get to play it?

Overall thoughts

The Defiant Map Pack isn’t bad – but it’s not great either – we’ll file this one under “it’s okay”. More Firefight maps are a welcome addition but I feel that these should be bundled separately from the other competitive maps – so that way people who aren’t interested in Firefight don’t get forced in to buying a map that they don’t want.

Beyond that the two competitive maps are okay, but nothing revolutionary or groundbreaking, and at times lack the smooth flow and focus of other Halo maps, with Highlands in particular being devoid of any action in even the most populated game modes.

Only the hardcore Halo fans need apply here – more casual players will probably be content with what’s already on the map, or would be better off buying the Noble Map Pack that was released several months ago. I feel that there’s a serious issue with the value that these maps provide – since outside of the dedicated Defiant Map Pack playlist it’s unlikely that you’ll see these new maps appear in Matchmaking. Is it worth paying 800 points for three maps that you’ll rarely get to play? I’m not convinced that it is.

Written by Pokeh

March 17, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Review: Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit

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  • Developer: Criterion Games
  • Publisher: EA
  • Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PlayStation 3, PC, Wii

Need for Speed has suffered a somewhat troublesome past – with some rather mediocre offerings in the mid 2000’s. You simply have to look at MetaCritic to see how the franchise suffered near the beginning of the console generation. Need for Speed: Shift revived the series back in 2009 but as someone who isn’t particularly interested in racing simulators I was still sat there waiting for the triumphant return of the series.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is that triumphant return I’ve been waiting for.

Hot Putsuit feels very much like a sequel to 2005’s Need for Speed: Most Wanted – a game that had you and a gang of other street racers well, racing. But the twist was that you had to avoid being taken in by the police, who got harder and more faster cars as the game progressed, and I had long considered it to be one of my favourite racing games I’d ever played.

Hot Pursuit is similar to that sans the obnoxious douchebags and excessive green-screening. Hot Pursuit ditches the bloat and simply gives you what you want: a cheap excuse to drive expensive cars really fast. Though this time you get to play as the police as well as street racers – offering a different angle on gameplay by providing you with more objective based gameplay over traditional point a to point b racing.

Hot Pursuit doesn’t make too much of a fuss over any kind of plot or story – all you need to know is that you’re in the fictional racing wonderland of Seacrest County – a huge, open world area ideal for high speed racing – there are moments where it takes itself too seriously or is just flat out strange (why would a car manufacturer want to give a notorious, illegal speed racer a car to test drive?) but it’s never enough to spoil the game. Much of the “plot” is just told through mission briefings in the menus so you don’t even have to pay attention to it.

Playing as a street racer is effectively the same as it was in Most Wanted but with a few improvements. As you progress through the game and level up you gain access to power ups like deployable spike strips, a jammer to put a halt to enemy attacks, an EMP that stuns other drivers and an epic turbo boost should you want to fly ahead of the competition.

The Police get some toys to play with as well – along side the exotic cars that the street racers get, EMP and deployable spike strips the cops also get to call in a road block or a Helicopter to try and put a stop to these street racing mavericks. It adds some depth and strategy to an otherwise excellent and finely tuned arcade racer. Of course – racers can avoid these with precision driving or by taking advantage of the numerous off road shortcuts to avoid any potential hazards.

Controls are responsive and easy to grasp – making Hot Putsuit a great entry point in to the series. The AI of other cars remains challenging throughout the game but never really gets unfair. Usually if you fail to win a race or an event you know that if you just try a little bit harder next time that you can do it better. Of course if you’re not doing so great in the main events of the game then you can always do a free roam of Seacrest County to try and hone your skills.

Or if you’d like you can take things online – all of the progress that you make online and offline is the same – meaning that you can still unlock new cars and power ups by playing with your buddies if going solo isn’t your kind of thing – though it’s worth mentioning that you’ll need EA’s online pass to play, so keep that in mind if you plan on getting Hot Pursuit used.

Hot Pursuit looks beautiful – as you can no doubt tell by the screenshots and video in this article. The game runs at a silky smooth frame rate and the environments look gorgeous – though some times the world around you looks a little lacklustre when you stop to look around while taking a sreenshot – though I suppose that’s something to be expected when you’re blazing past scenery at 200 miles per hour.

Something that I feel is missing from Hot Pursuit is the customisation options that were available back in th’ day. You can change the colour of your car but that’s about it – while Hot Pursuit gets the racing part right there’s a part of me that yearns to be able to do more with what you get – it’d be great to share your creations with your friends online too.

As a whole package Hot Pursuit is a great game – the single player will keep you occupied for weeks or even months and the online suite only adds to that – Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is simply the best Need for Speed that I’ve played in years.

What the game looks like

Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit in action

The verdict

Good: Huge open world to race in, beautiful graphics, solid and refined controls, challenging AI

Bad: Requires online pass for multi player, little car customisation, environments look a little bland in photo mode

Opinion: Changes that Crysis 2 needs for its retail release

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I was fortunate enough to get the original Crysis with the video card of my computer that I custom built way back in 2008. Unfortunately I found the game to be rather boring – with convoluted suit controls getting in the way of an otherwise fine run and gun shooter – playing the game with a 360 pad helped, but after about 3 – 4 hours I got bored and didn’t play it again.

Crysis is used as a benchmarking tool for PC gamers to get to know how good their rigs are. If your computer could run Crysis at the highest settings then you were some kind of Internet god. Crytek – the developers behind the game announced that the games sequel, Crysis 2 would be getting releases on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. “Finally!” I thought. Something that I can benchmark my 360 with!

With the multi player beta released on the Xbox 360 just a few days ago I decided to give it a spin – and indeed my complaints about control issues seem to have been addressed (well – partially, I’ll get on to that later). The graphics look gorgeous even if they take a noticeable hit on the Xbox compared to a high end PC – though there’s still a lot that I can criticise. With this being a beta I decided that I’d write down what needs fixing come the games March 25th release.

Proximity Alarm perk needs to go

Crysis 2 – like every other FPS game on the planet uses an EXP system to rank players – giving them points that they can spend on new weapons and perks as they go, Call of Duty style. This is fine – though one perk in particular, Proximity Alarm should be ditched.

Reason being that this perk has a chance of promoting camping when everyone discovers what it does. Given the close quarters nature of the multiplayer map in the beta and that you can turn invisible at will (more on that in a bit) makes giving people a warning alarm for when an enemy gets close a potential game breaker. Why walk around and get myself killed when I can just hide in a corner with my shotgun and wait for my alarm to go off?

Cloak needs nerfing

Using your armour powers is a big part of the core gameplay with Crysis 2 – somewhat akin to the armour abilities found in Halo: Reach. Hitting the left bumper hardens your armour – allowing you to absorb more hits at the expense of movement speed. Hitting the right bumper lets you turn invisible – useful for moving through open ground or sneaking behind enemy lines without being seen.

The problem is that this doesn’t seem to have any kind of disadvantage – which can make it difficult to distinguish invisible enemies from the scenery – and can at times make camping problematic as enemies simply hide in corners without any real warning signs to the player.

Taking a page from Halo: Reach – it may be best to make it jam a players radar, or perhaps have it slightly impair the players vision – simply so that it provides the user with an advantage that’s not too overwhelming. Nobody wants to play a game that just involves people hiding in corners.

Clunky movement controls

As far as where the buttons are mapped on the controller Crysis 2 is perfect – but the movement speed of your character feels clunky and sluggish – certainly not as rapid and responsive as you’d expect from a super soldier. I don’t really need to go in to great detail about this: movement controls need to be more responsive – and slightly faster player movement wouldn’t go amiss either.

Melee needs to be toned down

In a first person shooter melee should always be a last resort at close quarters – but in Crysis 2 it feels like every enemy encounter finishes up with a melee. People use cloak and sneak up on people because the melee is an instant kill, people will storm through hails of bullets to melee you. Even the almighty shotgun is sometimes bested by a smack to the face – in a game about shooting people this isn’t the way forward.

The range that you can melee someone by needs to be seriously reduced – as does the power of the melee. Make it a one hit kill from behind, but a two hit kill from any other side.

The killcam is… erratic at best

Much like the fabled Call of Duty series Crysis 2 shows you how you died from the perspective of the person who killed you – or at least that was the plan. Sometimes the killcam will give me a third person view of myself as I died, others it’ll glitch underneath the map, and in rare cases it’ll actually work.

The killcam also seems to lie about player positions during playback. Sometimes you’ll find that your character is in the wrong place, or that the person who killed you flat out missed all of his shots and still some how killed you. Problem with collision detection or just lag? Either way it needs to be addressed.

Connection issues need to be resolved

This is a beta and I have no doubts that this issue will be resolved – but waiting in a lobby for several minutes only to have the connection randomly cut out on you when the match starts isn’t cool.

In its current state Crysis 2 is looking promising – provided that Crytek can sort out some of the big issues with the multiplayer then Crysis 2 definitely has the potential to be one of the multi player greats of 2011. Here’s hoping that all goes well for the 25th March!

Written by Pokeh

January 26, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Review: Monday Night Combat

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The Xbox Live Arcade is still an area that’s a bit hit and miss for me – games released on the platform are always on the opposite ends of the spectrum for me: a game can either be amazing (See: Battlefield 1943, Geometry Wars 2, and Scott Pilgrim vs The World). But at the same time I find that all too often I find myself regretting my non-refundable purchase just a few hours after buying (See: Splosion Man, The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, Tutles in Time: Reshelled, and even Shadow Complex).

This makes it incredibly hard for me to commit to purchasing an Arcade title these days, I’ve learned through the years of owning an Xbox 360 that quite often the demos for Arcade games often just leave you playing the best bits of the game. It’s with great relief then, that Monday Night Combat isn’t one of these regrettable purchases.

Released back in the Summer of 2010, Monday Night Combat is third person shooter meets tower defence meets Team Fortress 2 – which seems to have caused a great deal of unfounded controversy. Sure – it’s obvious that Monday Night Combat borrows its cartoony art style from Team Fortress 2 but that’s where most of the similarities end. Dismissing Monday Night Combat based on the art style would be a huge mistake to make.

Monday Night Combat pits two teams against each other: the Hotshots and the Icemen (essentially red vs blue) in some kind of futuristic bloodsport – I’d love to go in to more detail, but Monday Night Combat is strictly a multi player only affair without any single player. The objective of each game is simple: destroy the other teams money ball. To do this you’ll have to escort your bots over to the enemy base – as they’re the only ones that can destroy the money ball shields. Once they’ve done that you can let loose until it’s destroyed.

Bots spawn automatically every couple of seconds – or you can increase your number of bots by spawning some of your own. Each class in the game; Assaults, Assassins, Gunners, Snipers, Supports and Tanks each have their own special type of bots to spawn.  Of course you’ll need to defend your own base against enemy attacks too, so you can build turrets in certain areas to slow down the enemy attack.

This combination of fast paced combat and tower defence gives Monday Night Combat a unique style of gameplay over pretty much every other game available on Xbox Live. The classes are well balanced against each other and the levels are well designed. Everything in Monday Night Combat feels like a tight and refined multi player experience. The design of the maps can sometimes make spawn camping a problem, though this seems to be a rare occurrence (a well organised team attacking your money ball with often try to prevent you from leaving the spawn area).

It’s unfortunate that the high level of level and class refinements appears to have come at the cost of content – there’s only four maps (with an extra one available as free DLC) and there’s no single player part to Monday Night Combat – which is an even bigger shame than the lack of maps. All of that life and personality that’s in the trailers? Very little of that makes its way in to the actual game. Even just a few bot matches with some cinematics in between them all would have been a welcome addition. There’s a co-operative mode where you can fight off several waves of robots, but with only a single map to choose from the experience can get a little old.

Regardless of this Monday Night Combat is simply fun to play – even in matches when I’m losing I’m still enjoying myself, which is refreshing in a shooter, where losing often means that you’re subjected to several minutes of unbearable arse kickery. Monday Night Combat should be a definite buy for fans of competitive shooters – especially if you like Team Fortress 2.

What the game looks like

Monday Night Combat in action

The verdict

Good: Refined and well balanced gameplay, fun character personalities, unique blend of third person shooter and tower defence gameplay

Bad: No single player, lack of maps and game modes, spawn camping can be problematic at times

Written by Pokeh

January 9, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Review: Geometry Wars 2

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Two dimensional shooters are among my favourite genre of video games – they’re about as simple as a game can get and yet they’re still incredibly entertaining. Over the course of the years the main objective has always been “shoot everything until you run out of lives and get a high score”. It’s certainly an addictive formula – and the best part about them is that pretty much anyone can pick one of these titles up and get to grips with it in about 5 minutes.

The Xbox Live Arcade arguably owes its success to Geometry Wars – what with it being one of the most popular games around among the early days of the service. Geometry Wars was simple, fun, addictive – and perhaps most importantly: cheap. At 400 Microsoft space Points (About £3.40) Geometry Wars certainly provided good value for money.

A few later we got a sequel: the creatively titled Geometry Wars 2 which retains the same basic formula. You fly a spaceship that’s being attacked by swarms of angry shapes (don’t ask). You use the Left Thumbstick to fly the ship, and move the Right Thumbstick to fire your weapon in any given direction. Hit one of the Triggers when things are getting a little too hairy and you can deploy a bomb that destroys all enemies that are on screen.

There’s no denying that Geometry Wars 2 is a pretty game to look at – though perhaps a title that you should pass up on if you suffer from epilepsy – everything save for the dark background is a bright, luminous colour and enemies will explode in to a shower of particles. Shiny.

So that’s all pretty much just like the original game: simple, fun, and super purdy – and Geometry Wars takes the addictive gameplay of the original and expands upon it with five new game modes to try out.

Deadline, Pacifism, King, Waves and Sequence are all new additions

Deadline: Much like the original game except you have unlimited lives. The catch? You have three minutes to get the highest score that you possibly can. Things start of slow but usually get pretty frantic towards the end.

Pacifism: You can move but your weapons don’t work. Swarms of enemies will start to chase after you and you have to fly through gates to destroy them. Surprisingly this is my personal favourite.

King: You can fly, and you can use your weapons – but only when you’re in one of the hills on the level. Hills disappear after a certain period of time and you then have to make a dash for the next one.

Waves: Similar to the classic Geometry Wars except you get enemies that fly in a straight lines.

Evolved: Just like the original Geometry Wars. Fight off swarms of various shapes until you run out of lives.

Sequence: Sequence gives you a series of individual waves to fight that are always the same. Each wave has a set time limit before you fail and must move on to the next one.

Geometry Wars 2 also adds in multiplayer, but unfortunately this is limited to local play – there’s no support for Xbox Live multiplayer, which is a huge, huge disappointment. The biggest problem with local multiplayer is that everyone has to share the same screen, and things can get a little confusing when things get hectic.

That disappointment aside the overall gameplay is as solid and refined as you’d expect – there’s a wide variety of enemy types each with their different behavioral types – some will avoid your shots, some enemies will follow you, and some will split in to two when hit among other traits which keeps the game interesting to play.

One aspect of traditional 2D shooters that’s missing in Geometry Wars 2 are the power-ups: there’s little sense of progression in Geometry Wars because your spaceship never changes – some kind of leveling system that provides you with better weapons or a temporary shield would have been a welcome addition to the game.

Geometry Wars’ audience is ultimately the gamer who loves to mindlessly blow things up – if you enjoy the likes of Space Invaders then Geometry Wars 2 is definitely worth a go – and at a paltry 800 Microsoft Points (about £6.85) it’s well worth diving in to.

What the game looks like

Geometry Wars 2 in action

The verdict:

Good: Classic 2D shooter with simple and intuitive controls, looks beautiful, enough game modes to keep you occupied

Bad: No online play, shared screen makes local multiplayer a little confusing at times, little sense of progression

Written by Pokeh

November 20, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Review: Scott Pilgrim vs The World

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There are few cases of video games based off of movies and comics that try to break the mold and try something new and different. Indeed, with Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game the developers could have thrown together a 3D model of Michael Cera and create another generic and boring video game tie in.

Thankfully that’s not what Ubisoft did here – taking advantage of the comics/movies homage to retro video games by creating the entire game out of pixel art (or sprites as they were known back in th’ day). The visual style proves to be a welcome change of pace from the multi-milion polygon rendering behemoths of todays typical video game.

Animation is generally pretty smooth too, though there seems to be too much “emphasis” on the, err… breast physics of female bystanders, and there seems to be a lack of variety among enemies – it’s not uncommon for your screen to become filled with clones of the same old bad guy. I’m not expecting every single enemy I encounter to be unique, but there’s something wrong when all I’ve got are three identical douchebags to pound on screen at a time.

Scott Pilgrim takes its gameplay from retro beat ’em up games – you walk down a linear path beating up pawns who really should know better before getting to the stages boss. It’s a simple formula but it works well – and the addition of four player co-op certainly adds some extra enjoyment to the title – it’s just a shame that said co-op is offline only.

But don’t assume that Scott Pilgrim is just a copy and paste job – it mixes things up a bit by applying a leveling system that grants you additional moves as you move up the ladder for each of the games four playable characters – accompanying this are numerous shops scattered throughout the levels that allow you to boost your fighting skills such as your strength, defence and health. You can either do this as you go along, or you can grind the easier levels of the game for money so that the later, more difficult levels become easier.

Combat isn’t without its problems though – blocking in particular feels unresponsive and it can be difficult to get out of a barrage of enemy attacks – jumping in particular can feel stiff and clunky at times. Scott Pilgrim is a game that takes some getting used to.

Of course, you can’t have a retro styled game without retro inspired music, and Ubisoft have gone the extra mile here by getting chip tunes band Anamanaguchi to craft the soundtrack. The result is a suite of cheerful, upbeat, and memorable musical pieces (Protip: go and check some of their stuff out – a lot of their music is released free of charge.

Ultimately what you’ve got is a game that ticks almost all of the boxes – what the game does is done well – the only real missing feature is online co-op, but as it stands it’s still one of the best Xbox Live Arcade/PSN Games that I’ve bought to date, and has proven to be well worth the 800 MSP asking price – even during the flood of games at this time of year I still find myself returning to it.

What the game looks like

Scott Pilgrim vs The World in action

The verdict

Good: Retro gaming with a few modern ideas sprinkled on top, excellent soundtrack, high replay value

Bad: Lack of online co-op could be a deal breaker, enemies can get repetitive, controls can feel stiff at times