Moving Blogging Sites

Alright, so many things have transpired over the last few days; namely Adam moving on to go out to school and pursue an education in film making. We wish him the best of luck in his schooling.

We said a while back that we are changing our name to Button Mashers, and with Adam’s departure it felt like it was the right time for the site to… evolve. We have a new podcast current in the wings ready to be on iTunes. I will post a link to that on this blog so that you are all caught up. We are really exited about the change, and I personally believe that great things will happen. In fact, this is only the beginning of great things that we plan to pursue over the next year.

So the new site is:
http://tbmpodcast.podbean.com
The email for questions has also changed to
tbm.admin@gmail.com
We would still love to hear from you all!

Further details will be published at the new blog in the days to come that should help clear up any confusion you may have.

Thanks for you continued support,
Brendan Farmer

New Fallout 3 DLC at the end of January!

Bethesda has said Operation: Anchorage will be available for Fallout 3 from 27th January.

This, the first of three chunky DLC packs, will cost 800 Microsoft Points (GBP 6.80 / EUR 9.60) from Xbox Live Marketplace and Games for Windows Live.

There’s no extra content for PS3 owners, sadly, due to an exclusivity agreement with Microsoft.

The date arrives as Bethesda releases a long-awaited patch addressing numerous bugs in all three versions of the post apocalyptic role-playing game.

You can find a full list of updates over on the official Fallout 3 site, plus a download link for those playing on PC.

Operation: Anchorage adds a military simulation mission that whisks players back to a very different pre-nuclear wasteland world where Chinese invaders need repelling. Adventurers will fit into a tightly run special ops team and have to survive within the rules of the training program. We’d rather fit into tight Spandex, but beggars can’t be choosers.

There’s around five hours of content on offer, plus a new perk and plenty of unique items and weapons to collect.

Operation: Anchorage will be followed by The Pitt in February and Broken Steel in March. The former adds an industrial raider town to investigate, while the latter recruits players into the Brotherhood of Steel and bumps the level cap up to 30. Broken Steel can be played after finishing the main Fallout 3 campaign.

Source: Eurogamer.net

Left 4 Dead Review

Valve has been known for creating some of the most memorable games to grace the PC and more recently the Xbox 360. Left 4 Dead is the latest hit game to be released from the company and brings together the joy of slaughtering hundreds of zombies with the ability to share the fun with your friends. Never has killing the undead been so much fun in a video game.

Pros:

  • Cooperative is excellent
  • Hordes of zombies to be killed
  • The Director always keeps things fresh

Cons:

  • Not enough content
  • Only two of the maps are available for versus
  • Friendly AI is sometimes unhelpful

There have been a good number of games created about the zombie apocalypse, but none of them compare with Left 4 Dead. Unlike other games such as Resident Evil and Dead Rising, Left 4 Dead just throws you into the chaos and doesn’t give any long winded explanation as to why certain events are taking place. The only knowledge that you have is that there are zombies and they need to be killed, which is pretty much what makes the game as much fun as it is.

Left 4 Dead

The survivors

Left 4 Dead opens with a cinematic that shows a group of four survivors as they make their way through a city infested with zombies, only giving the player the information that it has been two weeks since the outbreak occurred. Here you meet the characters of Left 4 Dead, Bill, Louis, Zoey, and Francis. Each character has their own unique personality that is shown throughout each of the game’s four scenarios. Bill is a grizzled Vietnam veteran, Louis was a store manager before the outbreak, Zoey is a young woman who looks like she has never held a gun in her life, and Francis is a tough biker. All of these survivors play the same, but they offer their own dialouge along the way.

Along with the four survivors, there are some interesting infected in the game.  These infected, known as boss zombies, have special abilities that make them different from the typical zombie that just chases after you.  The Boomer is an overweight zombie that will throw up vile on the survivors that will alert a horde of zombies to your group.  Hunters will leap at you from long distances and bring you to the ground as they try to tear you apart.  Smokers are tall wheezing zombies who will use their long toungue to latch onto survivors and drag them from a distance.  One of the game’s deadliest infected is the Witch.  Don’t let this creatures appearance fool you, it may look like a small zombie that could not hurt anyone, but it will down anyone with one hit.  Last, but certainly not least is the Tank.  The Tank is similar to the Hulk, as in it will destroy anything in it’s path and will put a hold on your plans as every player must work as a team to take it down.

Finales are where it really picks up

Finales are where it really picks up

There are four different scenarios in Left 4 Dead that all make fighting through the zombie apocalypse quite enjoyable. No Mercy is the typical zombie situation in which the survivors must make it to a hospital where evacuation is supposedly awaiting them. Dead Air has the group moving towards an air port where planes are dropping from the skies. Blood Harvest is a more grimmer scenario where the survivors must hold out in a farm house while waiting for support to come. Lastly, Death Toll puts you in a small town enviornment where the group must fight for their lives at a dock house where a boat awaits them. Each scenario can last anywhere between 45 minutes to a few hour depending on the difficulty settings. The last level is where the action really happens, also known as the finale.  Players must wait for rescue to come as they fend off the infected for around ten minutes.  Now none of these scenarios are related story wise, but they all offer their own spin on the zombie outbreak.

The thing that sets Left 4 Dead apart from the pack is the ability to play the entire game cooperativley, even when playing alone you have the help of bots that will take the place of actual players.  The AI allies work well most of the time and will help you along the way, but sometimes they will act strange at some points.  For example when two survivors are downed a bot sometimes runs between the two, not reviving either.  Adding even more fun to the notion of killing zombies is actually pretty simple, add three of your friends.  Playing cooperativley has never been so much fun as it is in Left 4 Dead.  Team work is essential as you traverse through each of the scenarios, especially when you hear the dreaded sound of a tank heading right towards you.  Players are able to revive downed comrades and can share items such as pain pills and med packs to restore health.

In addition to the superb cooperative play, Left 4 Dead offers a very different versus mode.  In versus two teams of four rotate between playing as the survivors and the infected.  While one team tries to make it to the safe house the other tries to stop them at all costs.  Every special infected is playable in this mode, except for the Witch.  Players can throw up on unknowing victims as the Boomer and can pick of a stray survivor as the Hunter.  Each team is scored based on how many survivors make it to the end of the level and how long it took them to make it there, among other factors such as how much health is remaining for everyone.  Players take turns playing as the infected every level to try and get a higher score than their opponents.  The only negative thing about this game mode is that only the No Mercy and Blood Harvest scenarios are available for play.  This does seem odd that all of the levels are not playable, but versus does not suffer too much as a result.

The effects of the infection can be seen everywhere

The effects of the infection can be seen everywhere

Left 4 Dead’s AI Director changes the game with every play through, making players’ lives frustrating and exciting enjoyable at the same time.  Weapons, items, and enemies will always spawn at different locations in the scenario based on how the player is doing in the game.  Fly through the first level?  Well don’t expect the second level to be as simple.  Hordes of zombies will swarm the survivors if they remain in the same location for too long and sometimes the better weapons such as the Assault Rifle, Hunting Rifle, and Automatic Shotgun will not even spawn in a level.  This keeps the game fresh and offers much replay ability for a game with only four scenarios.

The only thing that stops Left 4 Dead from being a perfect game is the lack of in game content.  The four scenarios do offer much game play, but more certainly would have been better.  Never has a game been so much fun playing cooperativeley with friends.  The scenarios all offer their own unique take on the zombie apocalypse and are layed out very well.  Left 4 Dead will certainly keep players busy for a long time, hopefully new content will help the only flaw with the game in the near future.

Tis the Season

With the holiday season in full swing and almost wrapped up, we have not had much time to record a new podcast or make too many updates to the blog.  I just wanted to make a quick post to let everyone know that we are still working on stuff and that everything will be back to normal in about a week.  I’m gonna try to get Adam to record some footage of us playing Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix and we’re working on a ‘Best of 2008′ article. 

So sit tight, we’ll be back soon!

I would also like to use this oppurtunity to wish our readers and the rest of the crew a Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Frank

Call of Duty: World at War Review (Irish Team)

Call of Duty: World at War has been the subject of much hype and anticipation since its announcement back in May. Being, essentially, the sequel to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, World at War has had very high expectations set for it. While ultimately the game falls short of its predecessor, it is still an excellent game and it comes very close to matching Call of Duty 4’s high level of quality. People may argue however that it is not entirely fair to compare these two games, which were developed by different developers, they share so many similarities that it is only natural to compare the two.

Developed by Treyarch, the developers of Call of Duty 3, World at War leaves modern warfare behind it and instead returns the series roots, the war torn battlefields of World War 2. Following in the footsteps of Call of Duty 4, World at War’s campaign mode follows the stories of two characters; an American soldier fighting in the lush jungle on the Japanese front and a Russian soldier battling through drab German cities and flat countryside with the Red Army towards Berlin. With largely forgettable characters and a story that could have been improved considering its basis in reality the single-player story mode is perhaps the one great stumbling block of what is otherwise an excellent game. While the changes in setting between missions are refreshing and keep the environments from becoming stale and too familiar you never really feel like you get to know any particular character and some of the main moments in the story have less of an emotional impact as a result, this flaw is highlighted even further when you consider the thrilling story and relatable characters in Modern Warfare campaign.

Apart from the setting differentiating the paths of the two main characters the enemies they face fight you in completely different ways. The Germans fight like any other enemy in a first-person shooter game but the Japanese rely mainly on ambushes, this means that on the higher difficulty settings you must adapt your playing styles to suit both types of enemies. On the Pacific theater section of the campaign one minute you could be strolling along a road through a jungle apparently no danger in sight and then all of a sudden the road could be teaming with Japanese soldiers and you have to find cover immediately or you’ll torn to shreds. The Japanese soldiers aren’t afraid to get up close and personal either and you will frequently see ‘Banzai’ attackers charging at you with their bayonets raised above their heads so your knife will turn from being a handy commodity into a necessity.

Call of Duty: World at War is powered by the ‘Call of Duty 4’ engine so its visual style closely resembles that of Modern Warfare’s. The lighting effects on objects and people have the same look that they did one year previously as well as the characters movement animations. It is definitely noticeable however that the engine has been significantly tweaked to produce better overall visuals, this is especially noticeable in certain areas such as the Japanese jungles or the water in the game.

Since it uses the same engine the game feels almost identical to its predecessor. The movement feels the same, the view-bob, the sprinting, the knife attacks, the shooting… so in other words nearly everything. As I am sure you know Call of Duty 4 played amazingly so to say that World at War plays nearly identically can only be a good thing. However some of the guns in the game don’t feel as powerful as perhaps they should and this was the first thing I noticed when playing the game, I couldn’t exactly put a finger on it, maybe the sound of the gun shot was quieter or maybe the guns had less recoil but having played a lot of Call of Duty 4 the previous night it was definitely something I noticed. But as I progressed in the game I became accustomed to the weapons and this didn’t bother me anymore.

Perhaps the main hallmark of the Call of Duty series has been its incredible multiplayer, and Call of Duty: World at War is no exception to this legacy, it still offers the same addictive multiplayer to be found in Modern Warfare. The game essentially has everything that was in Modern Warfare’s multiplayer added to the game and improved upon. Perks are making a return including some new addition, players can once again create their own classes to suit their playing styles. Prestiging makes a triumphant return and the level you have to hit before you can prestige has been raised from 55 to 65. One of the complaints with prestiging in Modern Warfare was that players got no bonus from prestiging however that has changed in World at War. If a player prestiges they will unlock extra custom class slots, a small incentive I’ll admit but an incentive none the less. Overall I have also found the multiplayer to run a lot smoother than it did in Call of Duty 4.

One of the big things in Call of Duty 4’s multiplayer was ‘kill streaks’ in which a player could call in a recon plane for a kill-streak of 3, an air-streak for a kill-streak of 5 and a helicopter for a kill-streak of seven. This system has returned with World at War but it has been modified to fit in with the era of technology in the game. You can still call in a recon plane once you get a kill-streak of 3 which does the same thing of showing enemy positions on your map as it did previously, when you get a kill-streak of 5 you instead call in an artillery strike which fundamentally works the same way an airstrike did. The big change however lies when you achieve a kill-streak of seven, instead of calling in a helicopter to provide fire support you call in a pack of dogs who charge around the map killing enemies in their way, they are quite vulnerable by themselves but their strength relies on their speed and weight of numbers. The dogs also serve a tactical purpose as well, since they seek out your enemies if you follow one of the dogs they will inevitably lead you to an enemy, this works particularly well if the enemy is hiding and you can be led right to them.

Apart from these tweaks to competitive multiplayer as well as the inclusion of new modes the games main multiplayer strength is the addition of a ‘co-operative’ mode. The co-operative mode offers numerous ways to play through the single-player campaign online or offline. You can play split-screen co-op mode offline or you can play online with up to 3 other people. The game ramps up in difficulty for each extra person in your co-op game, the amount of enemies at particular points will increase dramatically and it can be very tough, even with the extra players, to battle through the increased numbers of enemies. If a player is downed by an enemy you can run over to them and revive them although you cannot fire a weapon will you are reviving someone leaving you vulnerable for a brief period of time. The co-op offered is split into two modes; ‘Competitive Co-Op’ and ‘Campaign Co-Op’. Campaign co-op is basically the main single player campaign just played with more people, more enemies etc. The competitive co-op however gives players points for each kill they get as well as extra points for special kills such as headshots or knife attacks. This adds a competitive element to the mix resulting in some really fun online play. You can also find special items called ‘Death Cards’ that and another layer of depth to the co-op, one can be found hidden on each of the game’s 13 missions and they offer special abilities that either make the game harder or easier e.g. Enemies die only from headshots.

Once you complete the main single player campaign you unlock a special co-op mode called ‘Nazi Zombies.’ This seems quite out of place however I have found it to be immensely enjoyable and it has turned out to be one of my favourite multiplayer modes. The mode places between 2-4 players in a run-down house and the players are simply tasked with staying alive for as long as possible. It is broken down into rounds and the number of zombies, health, AI’s and speed increase with each round. You earn points for each zombie you kill and you can spend these points unlocking new sections of the house or purchasing new weapons. The difficulty starts very low but it quickly ramps up until you’re only just barely surviving by the tenth round. If a team-mate is downed by a zombie you can revive them similar to in the main co-op modes, only one player has to be alive at the end of each round and then the others will respawn although they’ll lose the weapons they have already bought. T seems to me like a mixture of Left 4 Dead and Gears of War 2’s ‘Horde’ mode.

Overall I have found Call of Duty: World at War to be an immensely satisfying game. While it may not be quite as good as its predecessor it still takes the same winning formula and integrates it with very positive results. If you are looking for a brilliant multiplayer experience or indeed a decent single-player game World at War is the game for you….But! the main thing it highlighted for me was how brilliant a game Call of Duty4: Modern Warfare was, as I’m sure you can tell from my cross comparisons, and how much I am looking forward to Infinity Ward’s next instalment in the Call of Duty franchise….

Score: 8/10

By: Rory

*Reviewed on the Playstation 3*

The War to End All (Review of Tom Clancys Endwar)

Real time strategy games have never translated to console very well, from the Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth port (which some would call a complete disaster) to last March’s disaster port of Universe at War: Earth Assault it seemed very unlikely that we would ever find get a truly good RTS for consoles. The next attempt at the genre was Tom Clancy’s Endwar and this one does not disappoint.

 

One of the biggest new ideas that surrounded Endwar was the unique way of controlling your units. Instead of trying to copy the traditional style of RTS (point and click) the fine folks at Ubisoft attempted to re define how RTS games should work on consoles.

 

The control system for Endwar is a rather simple formulaic system. All commands must include who, what, and where. The control system in it’s self is rather ingenious and work like a charm. While there were a few instances where my units could not understand an order or would interpret the order incorrectly (including one that nearly cost me an online victory) but overall the games voice system will still be the standout of the game.

 The games single player is at its best a story written by a Tom Clancy fan boy the story is presented through the eyes of three (often quite similar) factions. In the year 2020 the United States is about to finish construction on the Freedom Star, A large orbital space station that allows the United States to deploy Marines anywhere in the world ninety minutes. Many organizations including the EU and Russia Federation have said the Freedom Star breaks many international laws. About three days before the Freedom Star is set to launch a mysterious organization named the FA (Forgotten Army) begin a campaign of terror against the factions. From there the Freedom Star is attacked before launch leading the United States to launch a botched raid in Copenhagen to secure the Foreign Minster of the EU. After a few more incidents a nation declare war on each other and you are thrown into the next phase of the game.  

 

Unit One Move to Foxtrot (a common phrase in Enwar)

Unit One Move to Foxtrot (a common phrase in Endwar)

 

 

 

After war is declared you are then asked to select one of the three major factions, Russia, The United States, or the EU. One thing you will notice when you begin the global conflict (and by global I mean the northern hemisphere) is that every side is the same in some respects. They all have the same units; the only variation on those units involves the unit’s statistical behavior. For instance, EU units are much faster and do better in urban areas, the USA (or JSF) infantry units can employ sharpshooters for use in long distance combat, and then there are the Russians. The Russian (or Spenzena Guard) are slower moving units who specialize in defensive combat. At the time of me writing this review I have never lost a single game to Guard. The Russian in among them feel really unbalanced, essentially all there good for is defending structures but in any conquest mode they just get destroyed.

 

Now after you choose your side in this global conflict you’ll begin to play the Risk…. literally. You capture territories in hopes of one day ruling the world. Another interesting bit they add to the game is a RPG like upgrade system. After every battle (victory or lost) you are graded on your performance (the grade is based on speed and tactical genius). Depending on how well you do you are award X number of command points to use on upgrading your units and powers such as Air strikes or Electronic Warfare. Though this system is really only in place to train you for the massive online campaign Theater of War, which is really the truly awesome part of Endwar.

 

How very heroic.

Strike a pose... and then be picked off by a sniper.

 

Endwar’s online is very similar to the end segment of the single player game, when you first log on your asked to select a faction and then select a battalion. Mainly by selecting a battalion you’re just defining how you plan to fight. If you choose a mechanized battalion you’re focusing on more ground forces such as tanks and transport. After every battle your awarded upgrade points which you are allowed to distribute among your battalion. The one problem that I begin to see was there is a great disparity between those who have played the game for awhile. The first three games I played before figured out that I need to upgrade my group. Then about 10-12 games in I was facing new player and just destroying them, in less then five minutes I would have control of the entire map and have WMD on stand by ready to deploy. The gap between those who have played for awhile and those who have just begun will expand to the point of closing the community off to newcomers unless given help at the beginning.

 

Overall Tom Clancy’s Endwar will be one of those overlooked gems, a game that people said they played but really never touched. One that will be looked back upon with fond memories of grand online battles and truly revolutionary online multiplayer that will get you sucked in and maybe never come out. Endwar will also be remembered for its truly revolutionary idea of control. Endwar is a definite buy for anyone interested in a truly great RTS for console go check out Tom Clancy’s Endwar.

 

Score: 8.5

 

Adam

Left 4 Dead Moments

Let me get to the point with this blog, buy Left 4 Dead right now.  This game is one of the most enjoyable games I have played in a long time.  No other game is so much fun, even when you realize there is no hope of beating a level.  I have experienced so many moments of madness while playing this game in the two days since I bought it.  Here are some of the most memorable:

  • Playing the ‘No Mercy’ scenario and turning around to see a tank charging at me. Then throwing me out of a window and into the street.  Then after some how surviving a hunter pounces on me and my team has no way of getting to me.
  • On ‘Blood Harvest’ the rescue vehicle arrives just as my friend goes to grab some spare ammo.  Zombies swarm on him and starts screaming as we get away safely
  • Having a tank chase after two of my friends into a safe house.  One of them shuts the door but locks the tank in the room with them.  They then run out of the room screaming and we some how manage to survive.
  • Playing as the tank in versus and killing all of the survivors as they try to camp in a small room
  • Playing as a boom and smoker and snagging stray survivors as they try to catch up to the group
  • My friend making it to the safe house with 1 health remaining

There are just so many fun moments to be had when playing Left 4 Dead.  Definitly worth playing with some friends who happen to scream a lot.  Expect a review sometime this week.

-Frank Munro

LittleBigPlanet Review

Who thought that a 28 year old guy, playing with dolls, building play areas out of cardboard and other materials would not only be perfectly fine, but fun as well?! Of course I am not sitting in a closed room playing with Barbies, I am talking about Little Big Planet for the PS3.

Created by Media Molecule, Little Big Planet is a big step forward in the side scrolling platformer. LBP is Media Molecules first major release, and what a release it is!

You are Sackboy, a small stuffed animal, if you will, that is on an adventure through a world that appears to be completely self-created by using many household items. Everything from the ground you walk on to the baddies, platforms hanging from little ropes, the NPC’s, and even clouds and other inanimate objects, this game has all the cuteness without being to coodie-filled.

The environments that you adventure through are absolutely amazing. The level of detail that is used will have you stopping to just check out the scenery. The kooky characters that you meet up with just add to the entertainment.

So Cute

So Cute

Multiplayer is not only offered, but necessary if you plan on completing any level at 100% (collecting all collectables, getting high scores). This is great and all, but I am not a fan of feeling like I am being forced to play online to complete a game. The MP is fun to play, but there are some camera issues that can cause you to die, which can be frustrating after a couple of times.

The level creator is very deep. You can not only build entire levels with near endless possibilities, but you can upload your levels so that other people can play them online as well. This problem that I had with it was that every time I wanted to add a new part that I recently unlocked, I was forced to sit through a tutorial on how to use this particular part. Once again, being forced to do something mundane is not what I necessarily enjoy in gaming. I mean, figuring it all out on my own is part of the fun.

Catching some big air bro!

The more the better

One thing that I enjoyed the best was the sound and music. The music ties into what region you are playing in and it’s all great! My favorite was the South American music. The sound is just absolutely perfect!

Unfortunately, not everything is perfect. I felt that the story mode was a bit short. You could sit and play through it in about 5-6 hours without hunting all the items down. As I mentioned before, the camera can become very annoying in MP.

Other than these few minute problems, Little Big Planet is a great game for all ages, and should be owned by everyone that owns a PS3. Of course, non-PS3 owners can own it too, but that would not make it as fun to play….

Score: 9.0

-Sean Taylor

Gears of War 2: Review (Irish Team)

On its own merits, Gears of War 2 is among the best on the Xbox 360, raising the bar that much higher on an already stellar list of games. As a sequel, Gears 2 improves upon nearly every aspect of the original, ruthlessly cutting off the fat while shaping and refining its core structure. As a result, we are left with a relentlessly enjoyable shooter from start to finish, with the best multiplayer experience to be found.

Continuing half a year after the original game, Gears 2 puts you once again into the huge figure of Marcus Fenix, recently promoted to Sergeant of the Delta Squad. After a raid on a hospital in Jacinto, the last remaining human city, you, along with the remainder of the Gears are tasked to infiltrate the Locust on their home turf and destroy them once and for all.

Though the plotline in the original Gears of War was largely an excuse for mass murder (and genocide), Gears 2 boasts a deep and memorable story, with all the intensity you’d find in a Hollywood action film, and yet with the soft emotional touches akin to dramas and romances. The plot is above and beyond not only its predecessor, but the vast majority of shooters available on any console, be they third or first person. Although the game offers closure while still paving the way for a successor, the game ends on a lacklustre (if not disappointing) note with a regrettably poor boss fight, which requires little to no skill to defeat, and blows the impact built up throughout the campaign.

The core game play mechanic of the first, the cover system, returns once again; this time with a sleek and improved body. While being intuitive and quick, cover becomes easier to grasp and loses the clumsiness found in the original, improving your chances of survival on the brutal battlefield. Coming round for a second helping as well is active reloading, negating a reform due to its already ideal implementation.

However, Gears 2 also adds variety into the mix, introducing the “Meat Shield”, the ability to use a downed opponent as mobile cover while shooting with a pistol. Used in both single and multiplayer modes, including a new mode centred around the feature, the meat shield proves invaluable, offering support when in a tight situation or when stuck in a group of rather unfriendly gentlemen. 

Another famed feature of Gears of War was co-op, which steals the show in Gears 2. Offering drop-in drop-out co-operative play, Gears of War 2 truly epitomizes social gaming among the hardcore audience. Simple to set up and quick to boot, co-op becomes a near necessity when friends are about, offering a helping hand from a friendly face. The main reason why co-op is such a big help is due to the poor companion AI. Dom, Cole, and whoever might be artificially tagging along get caught up frequently, and at some points may fail to appear at all.

Gears of War 2’s graphical fidelity is something to be admired and is quite a feat considering the massive improvement over the original. Although the Xbox 360’s limit is in sight, Gears 2 proves that the Xbox is no box of bits, offering a visual splendour of detailed environments and vivid images. Colour has been added to the equation, and its beauty is truly visible in the lush rolling hills seen on the second mission. It permeates throughout the whole game, offering far more to watch than just murky browns and dirty reds. Pushing the bar far higher than one could have imagined, Gears 2 is a master class in visual design.

However, its graphical feat is let down by an annoyance which seems intrinsic in the Unreal Engine; texture popping. Seen almost regularly, texture popping is a most noticeable defect to the game, but luckily is overcome by the visual payoff.

Multiplayer, which took Gears a step above the competition two years ago, comes fully loaded with the addition of the best mode yet: Horde. Thrown against waves of Locust, up to five players battle to the death with increasing difficulty, and it quickly becomes the most addictive, engrossing and terrifying multiplayer experience to be had. Horde joins the familiar line up from the original as well as Submission, a capture the flag mode with a clever twist: the flag is a civilian armed with a shotgun, and you must knock him to the ground and use him as a meat shield to win. With the improved game play and graphics, Gears of War 2 will be the one stop shop for your multiplayer needs.

Though minor discrepancies and annoyances occur, they are completely forgotten during the relentless and terrifically satisfying rollercoaster of Gears 2. With improvements all round, and a well written and implemented story to boot, Gears of War 2 is an unmistakeable classic which can be recommended to anyone without the slightest hesitation. Fighting for the survival of mankind has never been such a visceral, visual and fantastic experience.

-Jamie

Impressions: Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead is Valves’s latest game that allows up to four players to join forces and survive a zombie on onslaught.  The demo features two chapters from one of the game’s five scenes, which lead the player on a path from a rooftop down to an underground subway system.

The game’s combat is typical of a Valve shooter and feels much like Counter-Strike and Half-Life.  There are a variety of weapons at your disposal, pump action shot guns, automatic shotguns, assault rifles, sub machine guns, and sniper rifles all make killing hordes of zombies an enjoyable experience.  The game can be played single-player, but the real fun comes from playing four player co-op with some friends.

At the beginning of each game players have their choice of four different characters to play as;  Zoey, a young woman who probably has never held a gun in her life.  Bill, a war veteren who can fight just as well as the other young survivors.   Louis, an electrical store manager who joins the group to escape the city.  And my personal favorite survivor, Francis a tough biker, who gives people named Francis (like myself) a chance to feel cool.  All of these characters play exactly the same, aside from a few dialogue expressions in certain situations.

Your life is in the Directors hands

Your life is in the Director's hands

When I had first heard of the game’s Director AI system I was a little skeptical.  I mean how could the game know what the player is actually doing and then change the game based on that?  Well I am glad that I was wrong because no two scenario play through are the same as a result.  For example say your team is not holding up too well against the zombie apocalypse, well it might spawn a pile of weapons around the corner for you to equip.  I began to experiment with the Director and got some interesting results.  For example, in the first level of the demo your crew is held up on a rooftop while zombies populate the rooms below.  If you go down the stairs or jump through one of the windows on the roof then you will be open to attack, but I decided to sit up on the roof to see what happens.

Now I do not know if what happened was a result of the game being on the hardest difficulty, but I was ambushed by zombies who jumped onto the roof from a near by building.  I was not expecting that to happen at all.  On the second level of the demo, which was an underground subway tunnel, you have the oppurtunity to pick up some more firepower.  I grabbed a sniper rifle and camped in a corner picking off zombies from across the tunnel without them noticing me at all.  After about five minutes of sniping the undead I was caught off guard when I stopped looking down the gun’s scope…a horde of zombies was rushing me and too be honest made me jump.

I have had so many memorable experiences play the demo for Left 4 Dead and it only offers two levels to choose from.  I cannot imagine the fun that the final game will offer with the added game modes and scenarios to play through.  This game promises to be a great title for anyone interested in horror games or those looking to shoot up some undead zombies with their friends.

-Frank

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