Darkest of Days Review

Have you ever wondered what would happen if we were able to go back in time and prevent certain accidents from happening, certain important figures from dying? Darkest of Days takes a stance on the perspective that this has already happened and is actually the reason many of history’s great characters survived to make it into the history books. In an original and interesting storyline, it takes the player through a variety of time periods trying to solve history’s problems.

Gameplay

You take the role of Alexander Morris, a soldier from the 19th century period who gets rescued by a team of time travellers, destined on keeping history intact by interfering with it whenever needed. As the plot is unveiled, it’s revealed that the organization has been working hard to protect certain people from getting killed in accidents, thus preserving the integrity of time as we know it – until their leader had gone missing, causing history to start getting disrupted again.

The player must travel through a variety of time periods, engaging in historic battles, going as far back in history as 79 AD where the protagonist witnesses the eruption of Vesuvius in Pompeii. You can use a large number of weapons, both from the specific time period you’re currently in as well as from the future where you came from.

Additionally, there’s another group of time travellers tasked with making sure you’re doing your job well – if you kill too many innocents, you’ll have to fight a squad of those guys, who come with equipment even more advanced than your own.

Graphics and System Requirements

The engine was written exclusively for the game, and incorporates various bits of technology that are needed to cope with some of its specifics. Since you’ll be engaging in some large-scale historic battles, expect to see up to 300 characters on your screen at any one moment – so you’re probably guessing that there has been a good amount of optimization done to handle that properly.

Still, the game looks very pretty, and all of the historic moments have been depicted with pinpoint accuracy, down to the last detail in the clothing of the characters. Every period looks unique and memorable, and can be easily identified from the others.

The engine is kind of heavy on the system, despite the amount of optimization work done for it – don’t expect to get away with smooth framerates if you don’t have a strong machine to back you up. A 256 MB DX9-compliant video card is a must, as is a strong processor if you want to handle the particle effects properly and without straining your computer too much.

Other

One of the things we were slightly disappointed with was the short time spent in the more interesting time periods – most of the game is played in a small number of periods, giving the other ones 20-30 minute segments for you to enjoy.

Conclusion

Darkest of Days has an original idea and an acceptable implementation of it – it delivers what it promises, and it has the potential to become one of your favorites if you love intense shooters.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare: Mobilized Review

The great positive reception and immense popularity of the Call of Duty series has fueled their spreading over several different platforms – the Nintendo DS representing the mobile ones. Modern Warfare: Mobilized is the third installment in the mobile CoD series, and in the spirit of the previous games aims to recreate the feeling of its “larger” counterpart for the PC and consoles, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Gameplay

At first glance, the interface seems very similar to that of the previous two games, with the top screen showing your player’s view, and the bottom displaying a radar and your HUD. After looking around for a few seconds though, you’ll notice that it has been refined and greatly improved, with some of the useless elements removed, making way for a clearer weapons display and a more diverse radar (which isn’t limited to one type of figure anymore). As in the computer game, you can control airborne spy drones, as well as the almighty AC-130, the scary-looking gunship that gets everyone to duck behind cover when you’re playing MW2 online.

You’ll no longer be fighting against enemies whose actions are no more intelligent than those of a dummy (as was the case with the previous two games). Instead of standing in one place and stubbornly taking your fire while doing their best to hit you, your adversaries will now surprise you with tactics like taking cover and using it to move around and flank you, using grenades to flush you out (something which you’ll soon grow to hate), as well as rushing at you with all they’ve got when they sense you’re close to death. Really, if you’re familiar with the last two games and you feel you’re good, forget everything you’ve learned.

Graphics and System Requirements

Modern Warfare: Mobilized looks okay for an NDS shooter. The actual gameplay screen is completely clean of any obstructions, and you only see your weapon and the world around you. The enemies have been animated well, and when they throw themselves behind cover the sequences look very well-done. We mentioned the interface has been cleaned up – you’ll surely enjoy the new style of the radar, though it still lacks an overlay of the map itself, which would’ve helped tremendously with navigation for newer players.

Other

Online multiplayer is fully supported by Modern Warfare: Mobilized, and up to six players can play together in several types of game modes, such as “survival”, where you’re allied with the other players in a small fortress-like setting, trying to last as long as you can against oncoming waves of enemies, or “arcade”, where you’ll be playing cooperatively trying to beat the single player levels on a clock.

Conclusion

Call of Duty Modern Warfare: Mobilized is the definite mobile first person shooter experience, and the best alternative to the computer/console game you’re going to get. If you’ve got friends with NDS consoles of their own, you’re going to have a blast playing this online with them.

C.O.R.E. Review

Shooters for portable consoles tend to be a bit of a risky business. Sometimes they get it just right, while in some other cases we get games that are downright unplayable. C.O.R.E. was met with even greater doubt from the community than usual, as it was coming out for the Nintendo DS, where few shooters have managed to find true success (such as the Metroid series). The game, however, turns out to be surprisingly fun and even has its own fair share of innovation that spices up the genre somewhat.

Gameplay

The game takes place several decades after a powerful meteorite has hit Earth, and governments having established an underground research facility to investigate the scene of the crash due to some anomalies and strange occurrences spotted there. As the game begins, the command center for the underground operation had lost all communication to the research facility, and a team is sent in to investigate (which you’re part of).

Controlling your character is easy and smooth, unlike some attempts we have seen before on the Nintendo DS. You have access to a very impressive arsenal of weapons, including the standard toys like a pistol, machine gun, shotgun, etc as well as some more advanced pieces, like several energy-powered weapons and even one which we couldn’t find an alternative for in another game. None of the weapons feel overly powerful or, on the other hand, useless, and everything finds its application as you’re making your way through the game.

Graphics and System Requirements

C.O.R.E. could’ve looked a bit better, admittedly – sure, it’s an NDS title, but if we have to draw a comparison with another one, we’d probably point our fingers at Metroid again – it looks noticeably better than C.O.R.E. does, although C.O.R.E. on the other hand manages to get in some very impressive effects for the weapons and in the surrounding environment, plus we found the use of screenspace better in C.O.R.E.

Speaking of which, as you’re playing you’ll have access to a very good and cleaned-up menu which gives you a lot of useful information, including the status of your weapons, armor, etc. We didn’t feel like anything was missing from the screen, and the HUD was designed great.

Other

If you want to give the game a try with your friends, you actually can – though sadly, not online. You can only play locally against 3 other players with a single cartridge, though if you all have your own cartridges the player limit goes up. There are several game modes featured, from the standard free for all and team-based deathmatch, to capture the flag and even “team arena”, where you don’t respawn after you’ve been killed.

Conclusion

C.O.R.E. makes it easy enough to get into it through its intuitive control scheme, and from then on it simply drags you into a game developed with high regard to quality.

Borderlands Review

Gearbox Software are a well-known game developer – and if you think about it, that’s a curious fact considering they’ve been coming out with only a handful of games (most of which based around their own franchise, Brothers in Arms).

However, looking at their release history, pretty much every title that’s come out from their studio has been a highly successful one – and their newest Borderlands is set to solidify their name as a developer in gaming history.

Gameplay

Borderlands is a combination of first-person shooter and RPG. The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, reminiscent of the world from Mad Max – everyone is fighting for their own survival, anarchy prevails, and people have split up into small groups to increase their chances of making it alive. In the beginning, you get to choose your character from four possibilities, and each will offer you a completely unique gameplay experience.

The game follows a non-linear plot, where you have one main quest you’re following, but can also take on various side-quests that are given by friendly characters. Doing so gives you access to more money and upgrades, which in turn helps you progress through the game at an easier pace.

Scavenging is a major part of the game’s play style, as you’ll have to collect the weapons of your fallen enemies to sell later. One of the interesting aspects of the weapons system is their semi-random generation – much like in Diablo and similar RPGs, you have a set of “base” weapons which the game modifies before giving to you. That way, you can find the same-looking shotgun with completely different stats, for example increased firepower or reload speed, better accuracy, etc.

This makes it important to constantly look around for new weapons and collect everything, as you never know if the one you’re using won’t turn out to be a kids’ toy compared to the one laying on the ground that you just passed by.

Graphics and System Requirements

Borderlands is unique not only in its gameplay, but also its graphics – the game is designed in a cel-shaded art style, and it looks simply outstanding. It’s not as cartoony as, say, XIII, but also looks less realistic than even Valve’s Team Fortress 2. Borderlands is a great example of the flexibility provided by the Unreal Engine 3, as most companies are using it to create highly realistic environments, while Gearbox have managed to do the exact opposite and have done their best with the engine to draw the animated characters.

The game is a bit lighter than most other UE3 games, mostly due to the simplicity of its assets – with fewer polygons and lower-resolution textures (as anything more detailed would’ve spoiled the looks), it can easily run on a 2.4 GHz Pentium 4 coupled with 1 GB of RAM and a GeForce 8600 GS.

Other

Beating the game on your own is fun, but if you give it a go with a few of your friends in the co-operative mode, you’ll never want to go back to the single player again – the online play in Borderlands is a truly captivating experience.

Conclusion

A game that will surely be talked about for long, Borderlands pushes the boundaries of the FPS genre in ways few developers have dared go so far.

Killing Floor Review

When it comes to zombie shooters, there have been numerous attempts to create something original in the genre – and most of them have been just copies of the previous, with one or two added features. Some games have managed to stand out from the crowd though – and in some rare cases, even non-commercial projects have caught the spotlight.

Killing Floor started out as a freeware modification for Unreal Tournament 2004, which was subsequently adopted into a complete commercial product that’s now enjoying a steady fan base (which, as of recently, has expanded to Mac users as well).

Gameplay

Killing Floor has several players fighting together as units in a special response team in an outbreak of zombies. The gameplay is very dynamic, with levels being divided into several parts, during which players need to survive against an oncoming wave of zombies. After each section, they can visit a store to purchase better weapons, using money that’s earned by killing zombies.

Some of the weapons are slightly unbalanced though, some positively, some negatively, as the shotguns tend to be a lot more useful than the other weapons for their price, as an example (and weapons like the flamethrower see less use because of their low price/usefulness ratio). The zombies’ AI is commendable, on the other hand, as they don’t always rely on blind rushes to get their “job” done.

Graphics and System Requirements

The game uses the Unreal Engine 2.5, which is getting a bit old for today’s standards. You can see some repetitive textures here and there, as well as the engine’s “trademark” square-patterned light beams. However, this makes it very good for older computers which can enjoy it without much strain, and this has helped the game retain its player base despite the heavy competition from other similar games such as Valve’s Left 4 Dead and its sequel.

The atmosphere is a bit more serious/grim than that of Left 4 Dead though, with some references to demons and Satanism, as well as more brutally-looking zombies and effects. The characters are more generic and not as uniquely designed as L4D’s, though that doesn’t kill the atmosphere and it’s still enjoyable to exchange voice commands as you’re on your way to the next wave.

Other

The game has a few bugs in several occasions, one of which may prevent you from progressing on a level, though it can be averted in most cases. It can also get somewhat repetitive fast, so try using some of the more underutilized weapons if you want to spice up your experience and feel that the game’s getting dull.

Conclusion

If you’re crazy about horror-themed entertainment, Killing Floor is one of the games you must not miss – it may not be as polished as Valve’s series, and may not have as many players behind it, but the fun you can have in it is still on par with its competition.

Left 4 Dead 2 Review

Left 4 Dead 2 is the sequel to Valve’s hit online zombie shooter, Left 4 Dead. Despite gaining some criticism over the fact that it was released just one year after its predecessor (and not as a free expansion, either – a full-blown game with regular price) – it still managed to live up to the expectations gamers had about it and surpassed Left 4 Dead’s popularity timesfold. The game remains one of the most popular online shooters right now, and keeps bringing new players in.

Gameplay

Left 4 Dead 2 puts the player in the role of one of four survivors in a zombie apocalypse, who have to make their way through a variety of levels mimicking the style of classic horror movies, looking for a way out of the whole mess. There are new weapons, with the addition of a new category, melee weapons, as well as new types of zombies – and new special ones, like the Jockey who can take control of a player and attempt to steer them in the wrong direction away from his/her buddies.

The gameplay is even more intense than before, with the AI Director doing its best to keep players on their toes throughout the levels, while making sure they get a few seconds of breather after a massive fight, in order to prepare for the next one.

Graphics and System Requirements

The four survivors have been designed extremely well, as were those in the first game – each has their own personality and behavior, and they look and sound unique, which greatly adds to the atmosphere of the game. The writing is superb, and the dialogue between the characters reveals them as near-lifelike human beings bit by bit, such as the slightly cynical gambler Nick, or the amiable and somewhat naive country boy Ellis – after just a few rounds they grow on you and it’s part of what brings you back for more.

The overall graphics quality is good, as can be expected from Valve’s Source Engine, which has been presented in its latest incarnation here. The survivors’ flashlights cast very realistic shadows from the objects around the levels and the players themselves, and the addition of daylight levels as opposed to the all-night style of the first game is a refreshing change. Source is known for its scalability on older machines, so you should be able to run the game even if you’re not up to date with your hardware.

Other

Valve have a tendency to continuously update their games post-release without any extra fees, and Left 4 Dead 2 is no exception – it received a free content package after its release, containing a whole new episode – though when we say free, we only mean the PC version of course – due to Microsoft’s policies, the update costs 560 MS Points on the Xbox 360.

Conclusion

If you’re a fan of horror movies/games and you want a game packed with tasteful dark humor that you can enjoy with your friends, Left 4 Dead 2 would have you glued to the screen.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review

Modern Warfare 2 is the follow-up to the massively successful Call of Duty series. Ever since coming out, the game has built up to the top of the ladder of online shooters, and still ranks #1 in terms of players online at any time. This huge success came despite some negative backlash from the community against the way the servers were structured in the new version – it seems that people have calmed down with time and have came to terms with the new rules (more on that below).

Gameplay

The game features a rather short single-player mode, which managed to stir up some controversy due to the depiction of a group of Russian terrorists slaughtering an airport. The selling point of the title isn’t the single player though – its power lies in the online play, managing to gather together thousands of players every day. You can unlock various new weapons, tools and ranks as you progress through the RPG-like levelling system, giving you access to a very powerful arsenal on the battlefield.

Some of the criticism from the community came as a response to the removal of dedicated servers – in other words, you can’t host your own private game, you need to rely on the IWNet (Infinity Ward Network, the game’s centralized account system) to connect to other players via “lobbies” – which, while convenient for newcomers, precludes more advanced players from customizing their gameplay to greater extents.

Graphics and System Requirements

The game uses the newest version of Infinity Ward’s proprietary engine, and it performs excellently for the task of giving you tons of eye candy – the game looks spectacular, and the graphics combined with the rest of the effects really make you feel like you’re in the center of the action. The system requirements scale appropriately though, and you’ll need a powerful machine to run the game with everything enabled – at least a GeForce 6600GT or Radeon 1600XT, or any other DirectX 9-compliant card; and a 3.2GHz processor if you’re using a single core.

Other

An underrated aspect of the game’s multiplayer is its cooperative mode, which allows you to play with your friends in a variety of exciting situations – so if you’re getting MW2, make sure you give that one a try, if you manage to find any lobbies for it. Also, since the game was released, more content has been made available for it in the form of DLC map packs (one released so far and more coming up), though you’ll have to pay for those as they’re not free.

Conclusion

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 managed to become one of the highest-ranking games of its time, and we’re yet to see anyone take the crown from it – and despite its occasional flaws and hiccups, it deserves its popularity in all aspects – so if you want a refreshing shooter, give it a try.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat Review

STALKER was a massive hit when it came out. Set in a fictional near future, it revolved around events in “The Zone”, a common way to refer to the Zone of Exclusion around Chernobyl. In the game’s fictional timeline, a second major disasted in Chernobyl causes the military to completely cordon the zone, at the same time creating a self-sustained area inside it, where bands and organizations fight against each other for dominance and survival. Call of Pripyat is the second expansion to the original, set shortly after the events of the first game.

Gameplay

In Call of Pripyat, it’s assumed that the first game ended with the player destroying the organization controlling The Zone (as the game featured multiple possible endings). There have been various additions to the gameplay, such as upgrades to the weapons and changes to the trading system. There are now also daily “emissions”, a new type of anomaly caused by the disasters in the area, which causes deadly outbursts of radiation, forcing the player to seek cover.

A much-requested Free Play mode has been added as well, which allows you to continue playing the game and exploring its world freely after you’ve finished it, completing some of the “perpetual” quests and enjoying the game’s atmosphere – which, by the way, is in some aspects even better than the previous games.

Graphics and System Requirements

The X-Ray engine has been slightly upgraded for this version, bringing in some new post-processing effects, and new eye-candy such as water realistically flowing down walls when it’s raining – if you’ve got a computer that can support it at the highest levels of detail, it will be a fantastic experience, guaranteed. The game portrays both outside and indoor environments very realistically and in a captivating manner – and the new effects utilized for anomalies are just spectacular.

Despite that, Call of Pripyat’s overall system requirements are actually lower than those of the previous two – apart from eye candy, the engine also received a lot of optimization, it seems. This is always great to see, as many developers nowadays tend to concentrate on buffing up the graphics quality without any regard for how much they’re shrinking their potential customer base.

Other

The game does have a few bugs and glitches, as the developer is known for releasing products like that. However, the latest patches fix most of what could be troubling you, and the game becomes a smooth and enjoyable experience. Online play is there but not very heavily accented, as the primary spotlight here is the single player experience – though still, you may want to have a few rounds blasting other people with the game’s guns (mostly the sniper rifles, due to the way it’s balanced).

Conclusion

A solid game that grabs you and just doesn’t let go until you’ve beaten every single side-quest and explored every last ruined factory. It’s not just your regular shooter, it’s an absolute masterpiece that really deserves more attention than it’s received.

Red Steel 2 Review

Red Steel 2 is the sequel to a semi-popular title for the Nintendo Wii, set in a unique world that combines elements of western with fantasy and oriental culture. The game is, again, a first-person shooter, though its gameplay has changed from its predecessor somewhat, with the game now being a lot more refined and streamlined towards the action side of things.

Gameplay

You play “The Hero”, an unnamed character who’s robbed of his precious Katana sword in the beginning of the game, and must fight his way through a multitude of enemies and solve various quests until he manages to ultimately obtain his sword back. As mentioned above, you play from a first-person perspective, with the fights featuring a fine balance between gunplay and swordfighting – a combination that we’ve certainly rarely seen in other games, the most notable probably being Devil May Cry and its successors.

The storyline has been very deeply developed in Red Steel 2, with all of the characters possessing unique personalities that help them stand out from their associates and enemies, and create a complete environment that just drags you in and gets you involved in the lives of the characters on a more personal level than most other games on the market ever manage to.

Graphics and System Requirements

The game is Wii-exclusive, which probably tells you a few things about the quality of its graphics – it’s true that it’s not exactly top of the line when it comes to serving you eye candy, and the Wii’s hardware limitations are coming through more and more obviously with each game that comes out for it. Red Steel 2 has managed to overcome those problems by creating a very unique and captivating art style, which manages to give the game its own charm.

This is something that may probably bother fans of the previous game though – knowing what the previous title looked like, we can say that Red Steel 2 is a huge departure from that style. So, expect a completely different game with regards to its looks. Is it better or worse though? That’s certainly a subjective thing to say, but from our personal point of view, the art style is much more professional-looking now, and everything ties in together more closely.

Other

Some of the side quests may start getting a bit repetitive at one point – that’s a common concern that people have been addressing, and the general consensus is that you should concentrate on the primary plot line and only do side quests occasionally, for the bonus resources. This doesn’t mean that you should absolutely preclude yourself from engaging in the game’s additional quests though – just make sure you don’t overdo it.

Conclusion

It’s certainly not the Japanese-styled shooter the first one was – but if you love a quality action experience packed full of interesting characters and intricate plot lines, this should be on top of your list of games worth checking out.