Monday, November 24, 2008

The Christmas Gaming Gift Guide 2008 Part 2: Worth a look

Welcome back to Part 2 of my Christmas Gaming Gift Guide for 2008. This time I am focusing on 10 games that are by no means essential, but are still definitely worth a look. Some of these are slightly older games that were released earlier in the year and should now have started to come down in price.

Quantum of Solace - Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, DS, PS2 - Out Now

Forget comparisons to GoldenEye, Quantum of Solace is more likely to be held up against Call of Duty 4 and World at War, seeing as it's based on the same engine that powered both of those games. Early reports are that it can't quite match them for depth and quality of gameplay, but for Bond fans this is probably the best 007 game for a long time. It's is based both on the new film and also features flashbacks to the story of Casino Royale, with both single player and multiplayer modes.

Gears of War 2 - Xbox 360 - Out Now

I seem to be the only person that isn't particularly excited about Gears of War 2, but I would still like to check it out one day. All that I've seen would suggest that it is more of the same, but bigger, badder and louder than before. I did really like the multiplayer in the first game but I wish that they had included a lone wolves modes they all required you to be in a team - hopefully they have rectified this with the sequel. Horde mode also sounds interesting, but not enough to get me to shell out £40 to find out.

Mirror's Edge - PS3, Xbox 360 - Out Now

I have been quietly keeping tabs on Mirror's Edge since I first saw it splashed across the cover of Edge magazine, but it has never particularly grabbed me - mainly because of my slight apathy towards first person games. The visual style does look great admittedly, but the game has garnered quite a bit of criticism for its extremely brief lifespan (it can be completed in under six hours) and it ended up receiving a 5 out of 10 score when Edge finally came to review it. The storyline, written by Terry Pratchett's daughter Rhianna, is apparently very bad as well. It may be wise to rent this one before spending out around £40 on it.

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts - Xbox 360 - Out Now

I loved the original Banjo-Kazooie on the N64, it was very nearly a Super Mario 64 beater (but not quite), so I was slightly disappointed to learn that Banjo's long awaited return would not be a platform game, but more of a freeform racing/adventure game. You explore Showdown Town, build various wacky vehicles and then complete challenges in order to earn jiggies and unlock further levels. Once you've earned a jiggy, you then have to ferry it somwhere else before you've earned it which sounds like a pointless extra step in my opinion.

The Last Remnant - Xbox 360 - Out Now

Square-Enix has released something of a small avalanche of titles upon Xbox 360 owners recently, which is heartening to see for RPG fans like myself. It seems that the machine may actually be on the way to some kind of acceptance in Japan (or at least Japanese publishers are eager to secure western gamers money). Very little is actually known about The Last Remnant at the moment, except that it appears to be a more traditional turn-based game than the recent action oriented Infinite Undiscovery. It's getting very average scores on GameRankings so far, so it may end up being just another average RPG, but it's worth keeping tabs on.

Race Driver: GRID - PC, PS3, Xbox 360, DS - Out Now

A bit of an oldie this one, having been released way back in the spring, but still well worth a look nonetheless. The seriousness of previous Race Driver games has been toned down quite a bit and now the game is more of an arcade experience. The engine that powered Colin McRae: DIRT has been utilised again here and the racing is extremely fast-paced and exciting. I am not so keen on the Japanese Drift or Touge events but the game doesn't actually force you to play them, unless you want to wring all of the achievement points out of it.

Trackmania DS - DS - Out Now

Trackmania DS
was developed by the same team that also worked on the DS version of Race Driver: GRID, so they have some experience in how to squeeze the power out of Nintendo's handheld. The track designer that was a key component of the original PC games has made it over in tact, along with online play which is an extremely impressive feat. DS owners have been waiting for a decent racing game since Mario Kart DS was released several years ago, and finally they have got one!

Infinite Undiscovery - Xbox 360 - Out Now

Infinite Undiscovery has been getting pretty mixed reviews so far, and it does suffer from both a crap title and a lousy beginning, but if you manage to get through this then you will discover an enjoyable and oftentimes amusing action RPG. The main protagonist, Cappell, always seems to have sex on his mind and this can lead to some funny situations, at least until the game starts to get more serious on Disc 2. I have seen the game going for as little as £14.99, and at that price it's worth a look.

Ferrari Challenge: Trofeo Pirelli - PS3, Wii, DS, PS2 - Out Now

For those who prefer driving simulators to arcade style racing games, Ferrari Challenge: Trofeo Pirelli could be just the ticket. Ferrari fans will also be in their element here - as while you are initially only allowed to race the Ferarri Challenge car, as you progress through the different racing seasons you will unlock other models from throughout their history. It's also pretty much the only serious racer for the Nintendo Wii - it's just a shame that they insist that you use the rather unnatural remote and nunchuk combo rather than letting you use a Classic or Gamecube controller instead.

Super Smash Bros Brawl - Wii - Out Now

I know this game has been out for quite some time, but for those new to the Wii it is still most definitely worth a purchase. Featuring around 40 classic characters ranging from the usual suspects (Mario) to the more obscure (Kid Icarus, it contains a huge array of game modes. You needn't fret if you don't have any Wii owning friends to play with - the game fully supports online play, and even if you're not connected to the web there's still the surprisingly long and enjoyable Subspace Emissary mode to play through.

Join me next time as I take a look at some budget titles that you should consider putting on your Christmas list!

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Christmas Gaming Gift Guide 2008 Part 1: Must Have titles

Just like last year, I am going to post a four part guide to help you decide what to ask your friends and family for this festive season, or maybe what you should be buying the gamer in your family. This first section covers 10 games that I consider "must haves" - some are new releases, some are coming out soon others came out earlier in the year. Part 2 will feature 10 games that I have my doubts about but are nevertheless worth keeping an eye on and perhaps picking up in the sales, then part 3 will cover gaming on a budget (more important than ever in these harsh times) and finally part 4 will have a round up of downloadable titles should you be on the receiving end of some points cards. Let's get things underway...

Fable II - Xbox 360 - Out Now

The original Fable didn't quite deliver in the way it was supposed to but nevertheless it was still a great game in my opinion. Peter Molyneux has been a bit quieter during the development of Fable II, but what has been shown off is quite promising - the way you make use of your doggy partner to help you spot things of interest for example, or the promised co-op play which will let you drop into a friends game and then drop out again at will, and take any experience and items earned back to your own game (there was a rumour that this wouldn't make it in time for launch, but now a patch is promised on day of release which will fix whatever issues they were having with it.

Fallout 3 - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - Out Now

The Fallout games are still held in incredibly high regard even today and there has been constant demand for a sequel for many years. Finally Bethesda (developers of the Elder Scrolls series) have given the fans what they want, and the third game in the series (not counting spin-offs Fallout Tactics or Brotherhood of Steel) promises to reel in new players as well with it's enticing mix of turn based RPG goodness, real time shooting and limb targeting, as well as its wicked sense of humour and post-apocalyptic setting. Here's hoping the Bloody Mess talent makes a comeback too!

Little Big Planet - PS3 - Out 05/11/08

Old school 2D platforming meets the power of the PS3 and the best community features that Web 2.0 has to offer in what is possibly the biggest exclusive Sony has for their platform this Christmas. Create your own levels using the incredibly intuitive built in designer and then share them with your friends, either alone or at the same time! I can't wait to finally try this having heard so much about it over the last year or so, but initial reports from the US indicate that Media Molecule have managed to deliver on all the promise that has been shown.

de Blob - Wii - Out Now

The idea of this game is extremely appealing to me - bounce around a greyscale world and paint the colour back in, while creating your own soundtrack based on which colour you use (each colour produces a different musical instrument). I love games that fuse visuals/audio in this way such as Rez or Lumines and this promises to give the same type of satisfaction. I can see how the game could start to get a bit repetitive but there are some other types of gameplay included (such as races which hopefully break up the action of the main time enough so that it stays fresh.

Motorstorm: Pacific Rift - PS3 - Out Now

The original Motorstorm was arguably the best of the PS3 launch titles, but it was far from perfect with a lack of track variety and gameplay modes. Now that Evolution Studios have had all the time that they need to work on the sequel there is a much wider range of environments to race around, from jungles to beaches, to volcanoes via swamps. Monster trucks have been added to the mix of vehicles and you can expect the same multi tiered tracks that branch of in every direction, only with much more polish than last time! The first game also lacked a split screen multiplayer mode much to my disappointment - this time it's in there for up to four players!

Valkyria Chronicles - PS3 - Out Now

I've been looking forward to this game since I saw the trailer back in the spring, and the more I see of it the more I can't wait to get my hands on it. It features beautiful cell shaded graphics, gameplay which is a combination of tactical turn based RPG (ala Fire Emblem) and real time action, and features cameos from Vyse and Aika from Skies of Arcadia! What's not to like? Easily the most interesting thing that Sega has done in almost a decade. The demo is out now on PlayStation Network - check it out!

Dragon Quest: Chapters of the Chosen - DS - Out Now

The DS is fast becoming the console of choice for RPG fans, not least because of the output of genre behemoth Square-Enix. If you have yet to experience the Dragon Quest series I really recommend it, and this entry in the series is perfect for handheld play as it is divided up into several chapters as the title suggests. The gameplay may be a little old school for some, but if the thought of battling blue slimes and one eyed monsters called "winkys" interests you, take the plunge!

Left 4 Dead - Xbox 360 & PC - Out 21/11/08

Zombie fans, Valve has a brain flavoured treat in store for you this winter! Take on legions of the undead before facing off against powerful boss zombies, with each encounter based upon your skill level. Doing well? Then you may come across an entire room of bosses to take you down a peg or two as the AI Director analyses your progress and adjusts the experience accordingly. The multiplayer modes also promise to be superb, with survivors taking on the infected. I'm not really a big fan of First Person Shooters, but this one sounds absolutely brilliant!

Final Fantasy IV - DS - Out Now

DS owners who prefer Final Fantasy to Dragon Quest, Square-Enix has you covered too in this stunning remake of the classic SNES game (which was never released in Europe originally). The game has been brought up to date with the same 3D engine that was used for last years Final Fantasy III, but there have been a few tweaks so now it is even better. This is one of the best games in the series, along with VI, VIII and XII and if you haven't experienced it before it's well worth a look!

Star Ocean: First Departure - PSP - Out Now

PSP owners needn't feel left out as Squeenix also has a classic RPG freshly updated for your gaming pleasure. Again, it never reached these shores when it was first released on the SNES, but the huge popularity of Star Ocean 3 made Squeenix reconsider things and has already released the game in Europe. The visuals have been given a considerable overhaul with new anime cutscenes by Production I.G. and the gameplay has also been tweaked, helping you become fully immersed in the Star Trek inspired universe that Tri-Ace have created.

See you again very soon for 10 more games that may be worth picking up, if funds permit!