Love it, hate it, love it again.. hate it again, this game divides my opinion of it like no other.

The Last Guardian Review

The Last Guardian first announced all the way back in 2007 has at long last been released. While always curious I was never to fussed about whether this game was actually going to be playable and while I’m glad it’s finally in the hands of the players one does wonder what the team was actually doing for all those years?

Have you ever wanted to run around some ruins with a big bird, dog, cat thing which *ahem* shoots lightning out of its tail? Well then The Last Guardian is most certainly for you. All jokes aside that is pretty much the game. As ‘the boy’ players wake up alongside ‘Trico’ a beast of some description chained up, covered in wounds and the remnants of armor, in a tutorial like sequence you build its trust and soon set out together on a quest of simply heading up. The story is very simplistic but not in a bad way. The boy narrates the story, but these moments are very rare and left intentionally cryptic. The story is instead mostly told through the interactions between the boy and Trico and is more about the journey than the final destination. There is little use of cinematics, no other main characters and no collectibles or similar story telling devices used throughout the game. The story has a very fairy tale like quality to it or a very Legend of Zelda type vibe and while not particularly complex it’s unlike anything else I’ve personally ever played. As such it’s hard to criticize the story seeing as it’s very unique and more importantly the kind of story that can only be told in video game format, but seeing as the game was in development for so long one wonders why the story could not have been something so much more?

As always gameplay is the most important aspect of any video game experience and this is where The Last Guardian is at its best and unfortunately at its worst. Even before embarking on the adventure the controls feel wrong. The camera for example I found to be very sticky and delayed, there are many moments when I simply wanted to stop and look around, the camera unfortunately did not make this as nice as it could have been, at other times as many other reviewers have mentioned the camera can be truly awful in tight spaces, particularly when riding on Trico. The gameplay itself mostly consists of platforming, light puzzle solving and a sprinkling of combat, the whole time players only ever control the boy with Trico acting of his own accord or taking basic instruction from the player. Again the controls just like the camera feel delayed and as such take some getting used to, when it clicks it clicks well but at other times simply moving around can be a pain as the controls often fight against you. One of the biggest joys of the game and one of the most frustrating is Trico himself. At times Trico will do exactly what you want him to do or will even do the right thing without the player needing to issue instruction. At other times however Trico will simply not obey player commands, will often leave you behind, will stand about looking confused and so on. I’m all for creating a believable creature after all the story and gameplay are built upon the relationship between the boy and Trico, this however means there are often unbelievably infuriating moments throughout the game where I literally wanted to smash the controller against the wall or wish I could make Trico shoot himself in the face with his lightning tail.

As mentioned above when the gameplay clicks it does so incredibly well. Platforming and exploring around the giant ruins as the boy is great fun and often awe inspiring. The puzzles while simple are satisfying to solve and make use of Trico in some fun and interesting ways. The biggest surprise for me was the combat aspect of the game. It’s not combat in the traditional sense, the boy can’t directly attack the lumbering suits of armor that chase him about but the mechanics at play here are more deep than you would expect. The boy can jump on enemies to topple them over, shove them to make them drop objects or push them off ledges, throw items to stun them and even pull their heads off. When Trico is at play the suits of armor will use spears and swords to attack him and planes of glass to make him cower away. In response Trico will enter a fit of rage and smash all the suits of armor in sight as he constantly strives to protect the player from harm. Later on in the game the boy gains access to an item to take control of Tricos lightning tail which adds another level of complexity to the combat. Unfortunately the suits of armor are used sparingly and like the rest of the game these exciting situations can be plagued by the wonky controls and while fun these sections are extremely easy. It’s a shame because towards the end Trico and the boy work in tandem to successfully defeat small armies of enemies and one can only wish there was more of it or that it posed more of a challenge.

Soundtrack wise the game is pretty good. It’s used quite sparingly but what’s on offer here is used nicely for both quiet moments and the games more dramatic and action oriented sequences. From quiet subtle melodies to rousing and loud assaults on the ear drums the soundtrack has a quality to it that remains consistent and engaging throughout the roughly 10+ hour playtime. In many ways however the soundtrack can be considered to be somewhat uninspired and often comes across as very by the books. It can leave a lasting impression but equally it will often pass by  having fulfilled a purpose but nothing more.

Visually many people have likened The Last Guardian to the likes of PS3 era graphics, while the game was intended for a PS3 release I find this criticism to be unfair. The game is not the most visually impressive thing to experience on the PS4 nor is it the worst. The game takes place entirely in one location and the sense of scale and the interestingly designed buildings constantly beg for exploration. The games biggest fault on its visuals however is that the entire journey looks the same, the areas at the start look the same as the areas at the end apart from the segments taking place in the games big finale. The lack of visual variety for the most part is pretty disappointing as most games always do something to shake things up visually from time to time. That said what’s on offer here can be truly beautiful and awe inspiring, particularly as you get higher and higher the game is often best enjoyed by taking a step back and taking it all in. From the peaceful tranquility of small wooded areas to gazing out at the next massive tower you have to reach.

So one part masterpiece, one part infuriating, tedious trash. Despite the criticism however The Last Guardian is unique, coming out in a year in which most AAA titles involve massive killing sprees with machine guns. It often evokes feelings of nostalgia taking players back to a time when more games like this where made during the PS2 and PS3 era. I can’t recommend that people pick up and play this, but at the same time I feel it HAS to played so that you can figure it all out for yourself.

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Happy 15th Birthday Halo!

Celebrating 15 years of Halo CE and why its still an incredible game.

November 15th 2001 the day that Halo Combat Evolved launched with the original Xbox. Despite being 15 years old Halo CE remains an incredible title which has aged incredibly well. It remains my favourite game of all time, not based on nostalgia or the fact it launched an entire franchise of amazing titles, no it remains my favourite game because it was and is an amazing game, its gameplay, soundtrack, story and just about everything else cannot be beaten and has never been surpassed.

A bold thing to say but that is genuinely how I feel about this game. From first awakening as the Master Chief to the very climatic and breath taking final moments this game is one hell of an adventure. Firstly, I would like to mention the gameplay which even in 2016 is still exhilarating and fun. Whether it be blasting grunts up close with the iconic and stupidly powerful magnum on the opening level or engaged in all out-vehicle combat with the tank. The gameplay is by far the strongest component of the entire game. Halo CE throws new things at you as the game progresses. Every Level has something iconic or memorable associated with it which makes the 10-mission long campaign very fulfilling and replayable. Iconic and exciting guns, action packed vehicle sections a plethora of powerful enemy’s, interesting and diverse environments, the list goes on. Halo CE was and still is a fun and exciting game to play and I believe it always will be a truly timeless gem of incredible gameplay. The entire campaign can also be played in coop and often over looked is the fact that the game also boasts a ridiculously fun multiplayer mode.

The gameplay is not the only thing that Halo CE does so well, its story while simple remains a well written and engaging journey. There is only a small cast of characters although this is the game in which one of gaming’s most iconic characters makes his debut. Master Chief the mostly silent super soldier who players take control of in the game. Badass, awesome, heroic, legendary, just a few words that describe the man in the armour. The great thing about Master Chief in Halo CE is that very little is revealed about him and he undergoes limited character development, while this at first sounds like a fault with the game it instead allows the player to become and be the Master Chief. This game, more so than any other title in the Halo franchise is where the player IS the Master Chief. Of course, another iconic character is Cortana, the smart AI leading the player from objective to objective while slowly unravelling the story without ever being expositional or treating the player dumb. There are great characters besides these two however such as Captain Keyes and 343 guilty Spark, easily two of my favourite characters from the entire franchise. The story again is for me timeless, it’s easy to follow and not overly complex but neither is it dumb or silly. It moves along at a great pace, the player learning things about the world as the characters do. Just like the gameplay it introduces new things as the title goes on. What starts out as a desperate fight for survival against a covenant of aliens evolves into a story about saving all sentient life in the galaxy. It really is a fantastic premise, one which is executed perfectly, if there is fault to be found with the plot it is trivial. What separates Halo CE from other games including those found in its own franchise is that it works perfectly well as a standalone title. No prequel or sequel or expanded universe content is needed to enjoy Halo CE’s plot. The game can be enjoyed at any time, by just about anyone looking for a decent plot and for me remains one of my favourite stories of all time to be found in any media.

What is the glue that keeps the gameplay and story stuck so flawlessly together? The soundtrack of course. The soundtrack of Halo has naturally progressed over the years, but for me nothing can beat the original. From the iconic monks chanting to its most dark and unnerving tunes, the soundtrack has something that accompanies all of the games story beats and action sequences. It works so well with the game and can easily be enjoyed without it as well. Its moving, its touching its certainly memorable. A soundtrack so majestic that it can easily be enjoyed for years to come. Graphics and sound are perhaps the two things were the original title does show some age, but this never stops the game from being enjoyable, and there is of course Halo CE Anniversary (Celebrating 5 years) which rectifies the games graphics and sounds. Not to discredit the games original look and sound of course, which even after 15 years are not off putting in the slightest.

So yes, I love this game truly LOVE this game, it means a lot to me as an individual and so naturally there is a certain nostalgia associated with it. The point of this however was not to get all nostalgic about the Halo franchise celebrating 15 years but instead to showcase that even after 15 years Halo CE is still fundamentally a video game masterpiece, which for me has never been beaten and probably never will be. I’ve been enjoying this game for 15 years since I was 7 years’ old and I’ll probably enjoy it for the next 15 as well.

Cortana: Halo, It’s Finished.

Master Chief: No, I think we’re just getting started.

Rise of the Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration Review

Celebrating 20 years of one of gaming’s most iconic heroes in spectacular fashion.

 

The award winning sequel to 2013s Tomb Raider reboot finally arrives on the PS4. Unlike its predecessor this game doesn’t focus on Lara being marooned on a dangerous island and instead focusses on Lara undertaking her first Tomb Raiding expedition as she follows the trail of a mysterious prophet said to be immortal. The story primarily takes place in the cold desolate region of Siberia a drastically different region from the previous game which blends together wilderness, soviet installations and other interesting and curious locales which are a joy to explore. This isn’t an open world but a majority of the game and side tasks take place in big richly detailed hub areas, with more linear story driven moments linking these environments together. The game is truly at its best in these large hub areas with countless collectables, optional puzzle tombs, side quests, challenges, hunting and thrilling story missions to do at the players own pace.

One of the game’s biggest strengths is its diverse gameplay which blends seamlessly together rather than feeling like separate segmented bits of content. One moment you will be engaged in an all-out gun fights the next you could be exploring a tomb or crypt or hunting deer to make upgrades to Lara’s skills and weapons or you could simply be clambering around the environments on the hunt for more resources and collectables. The content on offer here is brilliant that is if you’re the kind of player that likes to see and do everything, otherwise the main story alone can be completed rather quickly. The game is at its best when everything is rolled up in one package as some segments of the game are often a bit weak. Combat for example has changed very little since the previous game and this is certainly one of the games weaker aspects, many of the games puzzles are also a tad too easy, sometimes even trivial. And while this game like its predecessor is brilliant they are very similar to each other and that familiarity can be off putting.

Overall this game offers an interesting if somewhat anticlimactic story, rich and diverse gameplay and hours of content to stick an ice pick or two in. This is in regards to the main game alone, what makes this package truly exceptional is its plethora of additional content all included on the disk. Detailed below.

Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch, reuse of environments, reskins of enemy’s, a predictable and somewhat uninteresting story, relatively little new content or ideas and yet… still a satisfying and fun little side quest which sits nicely alongside the rest of the main game.

Endurance Mode, Here the focus is on survival as players are dropped into the wilderness which changes each time you play. This is a fun mode in which players have to contend with a hunger and coldness bar and see how long they can survive whilst collecting artefacts to escape with. While this mode is very fun and challenging it can get somewhat ridiculous the longer you survive, such as two bears chasing after you while a flame trooper attacks you whilst also getting shot at with arrows by another faction, yup it really does get that crazy.  Includes Coop to improve survival rates.

Cold Darkness Awakened, easily the weakest piece of content in the entire game, essentially Tomb Raider with zombies, this mode feels uninspired and gets pretty boring very quickly. Fight zombie like enemy’s, solve some puzzles, really not that great and highlights many of the weaker aspects of the games combat systems.

Blood Ties, explore croft manor as Lara in an attempt to save it from the evil clutches of her fiendish uncle. Mostly an explorative story driven journey though croft manor with countless collectables to find and a small sprinkling of puzzle solving. Also included in Blood Ties is Lara’s Nightmare in which Lara yet again fights off zombie like enemy’s. The tight confines of the manor and the emphasis on making every shot count means that they work much better here than in Cold Darkness. This segment of content is short and not particularly re-playable but still an enjoyable addition to the overall package.

The game also includes a plethora of additional weapons and skins as well as a new difficulty mode to boot. Also comes in some well-presented packaging where the game case is in fact a mini art book. If you’re looking for an action packed adventure game brimming with content, you can’t go wrong with this amazing 20 year celebration.

Also on Tumblr: http://yummiestparrot.tumblr.com/