Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Darksiders coming to PC

Vigil Games have revealed that their end of the world action adventure Darksiders will be unleashed on the PC this June.

The announcement on the official Darksiders website simply says that they're working on a PC release with ""Key features such as user-defined resolutions, interface and both keyboard and game pad control sets are all up to the standards for today's discerning PC consumer."

There's been no word on whether this new PC version will come with any additional content, but the game will be available through digital distribution.

Darksiders was originally released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in January and both received favourable reviews.

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Free Napoleon: Total War DLC out now

Sega have released new DLC for Napoleon: Total war in the form of new units and an alternative version of the Battle of Waterloo, fought from the perspective of the British. The good news is that these new re-enforcements are completely free.

The Imperial Guard Pack contains six new units including, Polish Guard Lancers, Dutch Guard Lancers, The Guard Chasseurs à Cheval, Dutch Grenadiers, Guard Seamen and The Empress Dragoons.

There's no doubt that British gamers will jump at the chance to fill The Duke of Wellington's er...Wellington Boots and give Napoleon a ruddy good blighty style kicking. And all before being back home for crumpets by tea-time. Stiff upper lip and all that.

You can see the full content list for The Imperial Guard Pack and download it for free here.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Single Review: The Twilight Sad - The Room

In a time when it seems any young man with a guitar and a fake cockney accent can lead a band, it’s great The Twilight Sad buck this trend with their powerful, piano led new single 'The Room'.

The Scottish four piece demonstrate they’re different to the norm with the A-side featuring little prominent guitar work with the exception of the brooding bass of Craig Orzel. Brooding is certainly the key word here with foreboding lyrics like “Don’t tell anyone else that you were seen at the cherry tree, look what you have done” and “You’re on your own because you said you failed to care.” 'The Room' feels very dark thanks to the gloomy but powerful vocal style of vocalist James Graham – imagine if Editors Tom Smith sang with a Caledonian brogue and you’ll be about right.

The Twilight Sad start building to a climax about two minutes into 'The Room' with the haunting piano melody getting heavier and dominating the track to such an extent the vocals are somewhat obscured. Despite this, 'The Room remains an intense, brooding single that will almost certainly stir powerful emotions in the listener.

The B-side comes in the form an acoustic version of The 'Neighbours Can’t Breathe' which is played beautifully by guitarist Andy MacFarlane. This track is pleasant, relaxing and even touching with the main theme being “don’t frown.” Like 'The Room' this is a highly emotive piece of from the four piece from Kilsyth.

This is a good single and it’s refreshing that The Twilight Sad aren’t just group of lads churning about cheery, paint by numbers indie pop. Both of the tracks on 'The Room' demonstrate how powerful just a single piece of music can be.


Released 29/03/09, Fat Cat Records and originally written for Gobshout)

Just Cause 2 Tops UK Charts

The newly released over-the-top sandbox shooter Just Cause 2

has exploded its way straight to the top of the UK charts.

PC gaming is represented by just two other titles in the top ten. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has dropped from second to third, while in its 20th week in the charts Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 jumps from tenth to sixth.

The full all-formats software chart is as follows:

1. Just Cause 2 (Square Enix)
2. Pokemon SoulSilver (Nintendo)
3. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (EA)
4. Pokemon HeartGold (Nintendo)
5. Just Dance (Ubisoft)
6. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Activision)
7. God of War III (Sony)
8. Final Fantasy XIII (Square Enix)
9. Wii Sports Resort (Nintendo)
10. Wii Fit Plus (Nintendo)

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Swing Youth - Jennifer/Hey Keith

Who’d have thought that it’d be possible for music to be simultaneously both incredibly catchy but utterly unremarkable? Somehow Swing Youth have managed to straddle this strange gorge with considerable ease on this double A-side, the follow up to their debut single 'Blade of Grass'.

'Jennifer' is the better of the two tracks, and it begins well with a bouncy upbeat introduction and some creative high-tempo riffs that you can’t help but want to dance to. Unfortunately the lyrics, which appear to be about meeting a girl online, aren’t nearly as interesting as the melodies. The main hook consists of vocalist Dave Channel repeating mumbling “Jenny’s here again” while lyrics like “I feel locked up, I feel left out, I feel messed up, I feel afraid” just scream cliché. The tune may be catchy and bubbly but boring lyrics and dull subject matter obscure the potential Swing Youth demonstrate with this one.

The four-piece follow a similar pattern with the second track of this release, 'Hey Keith'. The effervescent baseline is the best part of this one although the lively harmonised backing vocals also deserve a mention. Unfortunately, Channel’s mockney vocals are less pleasing on the ear and the drawl in which they’re delivered ultimately means the lyrics of 'Hey Keith' are as unmemorable as those of 'Jennifer'. It’s possible to forget this one as abruptly as the track itself ends.

These lads from Watford can obviously play their instruments well and do demonstrate an ability to deliver the sort of indie-pop that will get audiences dancing at live shows. However, there also needs to be some substance infused with the style and unless Swing Youth can inject some creativity into their lyrics it’ll be difficult for them to draw in the crowds they’ll need to succeed.

(Originally written for Gobshout and Released through Bloody Awful Poetry on March 25th)

Monday, 22 March 2010

Kings Bounty: Armoured Princess Review

Armoured Princess is insane; a feat in itself considering this is the follow up to 2008's utterly mad strategic RPG Kings Bounty: The Legend. Now, the demons from the original are back and in this expansion you follow Princess Amelie as she travels through a portal to the alternate world of Teana in an effort to protect her homeland, which thanks to her ditzy actions has been frozen in time. Convenient really because this mad as a hatter tactical RPG is quest based and there are plenty of those here to keep you occupied for hours upon hours.

Like almost every fantasy RPG that's ever been created, your first task is to choose Amelie's class, either Warrior, Paladin or Mage. This will ultimately have influence on your battle tactics as you play through the main story. What this choice of classes won't do however is actually cover Amelie in that much armour. An armoured bikini may look sexy, but it hardly screams practicality on the battlefield. Unless bone idle enemy troops really just ignore all that exposed flesh are just going for the breasts in some perverted idea of a military strategy, but that seems unlikely. Anyway, I digress...

No matter what class you choose the quest based story plays out in the same way. You'll wander around, talk to people, accept quests, equip magical items and kill things. You'll take quests from a variety of RPG clichés including Kings, Warlords, Pirates, Barbarians and Dwarves, but if you're about to close this page while muttering ‘Not another bloody RPG' fear not because Armoured Princess doesn't take itself seriously at all. The text-based dialogue is genuinely witty (if occasionally poorly translated) and you'll want to talk to everyone in order take on as many quests as possible during your progress through the brightly coloured, cartoony Islands of Teana. Why? Because you'll need all the gold and experience you can find in order replenish your troops who generally have the life expectancy of anonymous henchmen in a James Bond film.

Yes, the strategic hex-based battles from Kings Bounty return and boy, are they tough. This expansion assumes that you've mastered The Legend and really piles on the pressure from the outset. ArmouredPrincess makes the steep learning curve of another RPG, Divinity II: Ego Draconis, look flatter than a pancake...which has been driven over by a steamroller. Multiple times. But this is an RPG after all and RPG enthusiasts know that gaining levels is more addictive than drugs and more pleasurable than sex. You'll play ArmouredPrincess for hours at a time just to reach the Holy Grail that is the level up screen.

As you roam about the world on horseback you'll run into enemies but these aren't random encounters, you can see them on the map. Hover your cursor above the enemy and ArmouredPrincess will tell you the strength of the unit which can range from very weak to Invincible. However, once you're off the first Island you won't find many easy foes and you'll need to gain levels through pitting your wits against higher level opponents. These battles aren't impossible but even with a lot of planning, strategy and patience you'll still lose large numbers of troops. This doesn't matter that much, because troop numbers can always be replenished through buying more with gold before you take on more quests and enter more battles.

So what do these battles involve? Well, you control an army consisting of up to five different types of troop. The number of troops you can command is determined by your leadership stat which rises as you level up, complete missions and find bonuses. You could choose to field an entire army made up of hundreds of weak units like peasants and skeletons or you could choose to field small numbers of elite units like Vampires or Mages. However, it's most likely you'll go for a mix of the two and lead armies containing various units stolen straight out of Dungeons & Dragons.

No matter how many troops you command, your units are represented on the battlefield through single characters who you'll order about a small hexagonal grid. These battles are strategic turn based affairs and you'll definitely need your thinking cap on in order to succeed. There are various magic spells at your disposal in to even the odds but you're still likely to lose large percentages of your army in every battle, despite the help of your special little dragon friend. Yep, that's right. Amelie owns a Dragon who also levels up and learns skills. Your brightly coloured little pal will save your bacon on numerous occasions as you make your way back and forth across Teana in order to complete quests. Winning a tough battle really is a satisfying feeling...even if your ‘victorious army ‘is reduced to a couple of useless peasants with pitchforks when the conflict is over.

Armoured Princess isn't without its flaws. The graphics are nice and bright but they're now starting to look a little basic, but given the cartoonish nature of the series isn't a massive problem. The battle sounds...or lack of them is also a slight downer but you'll no doubt be too deep in thought thinking about your next tactical decision to notice. The camera can occasionally be a problem while exploring as scenery can obscure an army of invincible enemies which will attack your army before you've even noticed them. You also can't overlook the fact that ArmouredPrincess is bloody hard! It's an expansion pack after all but even on its easiest setting it provides a stiff challenge. If Napoleon Bonaparte himself was alive today and had access to a computer, he'd no doubt be tested by this one. Of course, some experts may not see a huge challenge as a bad thing.

Armoured Princess carries on with what Kings Bounty did before it in providing an addictive quest-based tactical RPG which is a pleasure to play. Sure, it doesn't really add much apart from a few new units and a new campaign tothe original but if you enjoyed The Legend and want more of the same -and a new challenge - then you should definitely check this out. ArmouredPrincess is an enjoyable, addictive romp which will provide hours of fun, though if you're new to the series, and want to skip the original, you should really play it on Easy. Don't worry no one will judge you...much.


(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Monday, 8 March 2010

Gear Grinder Review

Ah, the back of the box blurb. If you're somehow unwise enough to not read a review prior to your visit to the shops, or an online retailer, it's what can ultimately convince you whether to spend your hard earn cash or not. Naturally the game PR people will do everything they can to make their product sound unbelievably awesome; after all it's their job to make you want something you don't actually need! Sure they can slightly bend the truth here and there, but it's not cool if they just outright lie to you...and this is where Gear Grinder enters the equation. According to Head Up Games:

"Gear Grinder is full of destruction on wheels! Equipped with enormous trucks, the player fights with installed weapons through adrenalin floating missions and leaves behind a trace of devastation"

Now, for starters ‘a trace of devastation' doesn't make much sense, but adrenaline is marked in bold because that particular word is a big fib. (And spelled wrong, but that can be forgiven seeing as Head Up are German) Gear Grinder is supposed to be an action racer, and while there are plenty of guns, crashes and needless explosions, most elements of the mission based gameplay are rather bland. This ultimately makes this a mostly unenjoyable experience.

Gear Grinder is predominantly a driving game, be it racing, time trials or destruction derby style battles, but it also has a very tedious story tacked on to join everything together. You play as a convicted murderer called Jack Hammer, who sounds like he should be a porn star rather than a felon...perhaps the recession means even that industry is making cutbacks? With him being a murderer, and his stupid name, it's not exactly easy to warm to Jack. He's spared the death sentence in order to complete missions with the use of a big truck for a group known as The Agency. They've planted a bomb in his brain to make sure he'll follow orders. Now, we'd all be annoyed if this happened to us but Jack says;

"I'm outraged! And when I'm outraged, everybody around me is going to suffer. If I don't relieve this stress I'm going to explode, bomb or no bomb!"

He's a complete git about it and the mission that follows requires you destroy as many cars on the road as possible. Now, there could be anyone in these cars! Families, old people, upstanding members of communities...and Jack are a complete arse and kills them all. He's not a nice character which makes it difficult to play as him. Sure, Grand Theft Auto IV's Nico Bellic is also a homicidal maniac but he doesn't go killing innocents for the sake of it (Unless you make him, which still means it's you who has problems rather than Nico!) Oh and by the way, you have to destroy other road users. This mission is a time-trial and you get more time for exploding cars. These time-trials, along with the more traditional checkpoint based style, are boring and unfortunately repeated throughout the almost 50 missions that make up Gear Grinder.

Of these it's the racing missions which are the most enjoyable. These come in both the standard format where it's just a straight run to the finish, and the more violent races involving weapons and other quirky features. For example, one particular race see's the driver at the back of the field blown up at certain intervals...and if that's you it'sgame over. This does add the adrenaline mentioned on the back of the box , but it's perhaps the only time. The destruction derby style battles take place in a closed environment and the idea is just to stay alive as long as possible. Your opponents are a bit stupid so the only challenge about this is getting to grips with the awkward keyboard controls. If you want to play Gear Grinder, you should probably use a pad.

Almost every mission has a bronze, silver and gold trophies which if attained provide you with new weapons, upgrades and paintjobs for your truck. Unfortunately, you'll often find yourself replaying many of these boring missions because it's almost impossible to get to the later sections of thegame without the extra equipment they provide. Sure, you've got to give credit to Heads Up for trying to add replayability to Gear Grinder, but having to replay dull, even frustrating, missions just to get the things needed to advance further into thegame is a tedious affair. It doesn't help that the levels, tracks and the graphics in general, are average at best.

So Gear Grinder's racing sections may be somewhat enjoyable but are nothing compared to the likes of GRID, which incidentally is widely available at much lower price than the £26.99 it costs to buy Gear Grinder. A rubbish tacked on story, the fact that Jack Hammer is a total smeghead, and the boring missions mean Gear Grinder isn't really worth your time. (Unless you like trucking and you like to truck!) If you want the adrenaline advertised on the back of the box, you can find that during every blood boiling rush hour on Britain's roads. Hey, at least that gets you emotionally involved and excited, which is something Gear Grinder never does.


(Originally written for Game-Debate)