OXCGN’s Ori and the Blind Forest Review


Imagine a forest where shining lights dance on the trees, where the ground and plants explode with all the colours of the rainbow. Now imagine a score, swaying in harmony with the environment, its delicate beauty accentuating the lush world, feel the anguish as it shifts and the darkness overcomes the light, what was once beautiful is now a blind withered forest.

These are the first images of Ori and the Blind Forest, a stunning platformer that has truly captured my heart. You play as a teeny, white creature named Ori who is sent to save the forest from the looming Owl whom is hell-bent on its destruction. You must save each tree that represents the elements – water, fire and air – and restore balance to this paradise before it’s too late.

Now the absolute first thing you notice about this game is how incredibly pretty it is. The art style is phenomenal; from the enemies you encounter to the powerful colour schemes employed for the different environments, each still could be hung in a gallery.

My jaw dropped when I began this game and there were many moments where I just had to stop and stare at all the things this game had to offer. It also has an immersive soundtrack that perfectly fit into every new area, action sequence and story moment; keeping me sucked in the entire time I played.

The music is so effective that even when I had stopped playing these tunes still swirled around in my mind, reminding me of the game. The score still rattled around in my head

Ori and the Blind Forest is incredible and not just in an artistic sense.

This is one of the strongest platformers I have ever played, offering an experience on par with Rayman Legends or Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze. It is challenging, at times feeling incredibly unfair, but the controls are so polished that you know every mistake is entirely your fault. The gameplay is split between helping Ori defeat new enemies by avoiding their projectile attacks and avoiding traps and other follies in the environment; one false move and Ori is dead!

The save system adds pressure to the game because there are no checkpoints. Instead you collect spirit to form “Soul Links” that let you save anywhere in the game. The effective use of this ability is crucial to success as there is always a new challenge lurking around the corner.

I  have one gripe with this system and it’s during the infuriating escape sequences. These fast paced sections must be completed in one run otherwise you must start again from the beginning and never in these areas does it let you produce a soul link, which would be fine if these rare sections weren’t so cheap.

This world and its areas are quite hard and Ori is a fragile creature, with very little health. It doesn’t take much to send Ori to its death especially since you may encounter new places that aren’t intended for your level, which I managed to do quite a bit. For a while I found this reddish area that had creatures shooting out lasers, green, rolling rhinos knocking me out at every turn and these reddish blobs shooting billions of projectiles at once. These were all intended for a much later date and I only found it because the entire game is set on one huge map.

This map evolves as you unlock new abilities exposing areas that hid in secret. It covers an enormous area that sadly has no fast-travel so you’ll have to manually make your way through areas all over again, which didn’t bother me too much since I got to see these amazing places again filled with sweet memories.

There are many moments of Ori and the Blind Forest that stick strongly in my mind, and despite its difficulty I want to play it all over again and explore every single section on the map.

This clever and gorgeous game is shaping up to be a strong contender for the best game of 2015.

TL;DR

Ori and the Blind Forest is a platformer set in a creative and bright world set on a huge map, begging for you to explore it. It can be incredibly difficult, but that is all part of the challenge and makes you want to improve skills. This game is stunning in every way and is the most enjoyable gaming experience I’ve had this year.

Pros:

  • Beautiful setting with a stunning art style
  • Challenging level design
  • Beautiful soundtrack

Cons:

  • Unfair escape sequences

9.5/10

This Xbox One digital copy was provided by Xbox Australia.

OXCGN’s Saint’s Row IV: Gat Out of Hell Review


(Editor Note: Daniel Geikowski, wrote this review for us with a promotional copy provided by Deep Silver) Saints Row is a franchise that identifies itself with the term “ridiculous.” The first was a GTA knock-off. The second embraced a little more silliness. Volition found their niche with The Third. Finally, IV took the game to superhero-proportions by giving the player super powers. To put it simply, this is not a serious series, and it’s one of the funniest games out there.

Volition and Deep Silver have ported Saints Row IV and its new expansion Gat Out of Hell to next-gen consoles, and quite honestly, I’m not entirely sure it warrants your purchase.

For a full review of IV, please check out our original review. This review will award a score for each ported title individually, and the package as a whole. The version being reviewed is the Xbox One.

Saint’s Row IV

Saints Row IV casts the player in a role signifying the ultimate ascendance of the Saints: the President of the United States. The game starts out comical enough, but the proverbial things hit the fan when aliens invade and cause massive destruction. The President gets thrown into a simulation of Earth where he attains superpowers, and must ultimately defeat the alien menace to avenge Earth and humanity.

In this Re-Elected edition of the game, the base game includes all previously released DLC (missions, weapons, items, etc.). For its price tag, it provides value, and still holds up as a genuinely fun game. While the game does not contain very many technical issues like Gat Out of Hell, it still does not run at a constant framerate and ultimately comes off as unimpressive for a game on current generation consoles.

If you have never played the game before and have interest in the franchise, whether as a returning fan or a new one, I would ultimately say that it provides value for its entry fee. However, as of the time of review, the framerate issues are not justifiable (especially for a game that runs better on PCs with worse specs than the consoles) – especially when you can get the game cheaper on Steam.

7.5/10

Gat out of Hell

Ever since the original, Johnny Gat has been a series staple and a personal favorite of mine. Rude, sarcastic, and always witty, Johnny brings comic relief to a game that is arguably entirely based on comic relief – and that’s a feat.

Gat Out of Hell sees the player from IV, the President of the United States, sucked into hell via Ouija board. As it would turn out, Satan himself was impressed with the destruction and chaos caused by the President in his term, and wishes to wed the President to his daughter Jezebel. Johnny Gat, of course, takes it upon himself to follow the President into hell to – wait for it – assassinate the dark lord and free his friend.

The expansion revolves around causing enough chaos in hell to attract Satan’s attention, and you have many tools at your disposal to accomplish this goal. The usual activities return with hell-themed renditions; for example, the activity focusing on insurance fraud has you playing as one of the grim denizens of hell, and you must throw yourself in front of cars to rack up not dollars, but years off of your “sentence” in hell.  You also have missions to accomplish, which largely center around recruiting various people throughout real and franchise history to join your team, such as William Shakespeare, Blackbeard, and The Twins (latter being from the franchise) to piss off Satan.

Satan

You also have powers like in Saints Row IV, but these are more focused on a hell-like vision. Johnny Gat has wings and can fly, and his powers are generally focused on summoning demonic imps, doing super stomps, and things of the like. Unfortunately, while it sounds great on paper, the execution was not so entertaining. Navigating with the wings is very clunky, and God help you (pun) if you need to jump a small distance – it’s no easy task. You also cannot sprint. The game wants you to fly around and explore, but all of the activities and mission starts are generally on the ground… defeating the purpose. I hated running around on the ground. Also, at one point you get a chair with a machine gun on it and you roam around like something out of Garry’s Mod.

This brings me to my biggest criticism of Gat out of Hell: it just feels like an idea that sounded awesome on paper, but simply didn’t follow through in execution. When I first booted up the game, I was seriously confused because, as one would expect from an interpretation of hell, I expected everything to start attacking me. Nope. The strange skeleton-like denizens of hell just mind their own business. The only people posing any threat to the player are Satan’s demons, which are like the police in the game.

Johnny as a character felt off. It reminded me of Gears of War: Judgment, in that the character was more of a distant representation of someone you thought you knew from previous games that you would come to understand better, but whose performance and delivery ultimately fizzle.

Johnny Gat

The game itself was just not visually appealing. While I understand that hell can only have so much visual variety with this vein of interpretation, the game itself just looks bland. Buildings are all the same shade of greys and browns, every “citizen” of hell looks the same, and at the end of it all, it just feels not funny or scary – it feels weird, and not in a good or entertaining way.

On top of this criticism, the game is a genuinely bad port. The game jumps from around 20 to 60 FPS constantly. Even with enabling the optional v-sync in the options menu, I can’t see any visual change – and I’ve played the PC version back in 2013. The game lacks anti-aliasing and looks very dated. Saints Row IV on PC was a very optimized game; my current PC, which is probably around the power of the current gen consoles (maybe a little less), runs the game better than this.

In effect, you really aren’t getting your money’s worth in this situation. The expansion will only run you a few hours, and I could only recommend it to a die-hard fan of the series that wants to see the story continued. Maybe these issues will be alleviated with a day-one patch, but that’s what we said with Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Assassin’s Creed: Unity. At this point in time, it’s a very poor rendition of the title that would only benefit someone who has never played the game before and does not own a capable gaming PC.

5/10

SUMMARY

At the end of the day, there is a pretty solid amount of content awaiting players who pick up the physical package. When grouping both together as a package, you get more value than purchasing either game individually – but take them on their own, and there’s not really much to recommend, especially with the technical issues. Maybe these issues were specific to the Xbox One, but there is no excuse for this.

Combined score (Physical package)

6.5/10

Review conducted with version supplied by the Deep Silver.

OXCGN’s Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor Review


It’s easy for developers to take successful mechanics from other games and incorporate them into their own, and this is mostly what Shadow of Mordor is, combining the parkour free-running of Assassin’s Creed, mixed with Batman Arkham’s combat and adding an intricate hierarchical system in a Tolkein world that will consume you for days and days.

It really doesn’t feel like a Lord of the Rings game, rather it just takes the setting – orcs, Gollum and some lore – to create an average story to pull you through the game. Basically, you’re living on the Black Wall when orcs invade your home and gruesomely murder your family right before your eyes. You’re the last to be killed off, but your soul becomes trapped with an Elf and as one being you return to the world to diminish Sauron’s forces and break your curse. It was hard to become invested in the story, with an exception of a few flashbacks, when the cut scenes were so dry, dull and fairly short – not going into enough depth to grab your attention. Most of this is all excusable, though, because of the amazing gameplay mechanics that shine an innovative light onto video games.

Shadow of Mordor 1

Combat works in two forms: stealth or slicing and dicing, where you can attack with your bow, sword or dagger. During stealth you perform all the usual sneaky assassinations present in Assassin’s Creed, including ledge kills, haystack deaths, air assassinations or the simple backstab. On the other hand whilst fighting with a sword you are encouraged to swing your weapon around the place, jumping over enemies and countering quite often. This countering system is very forgiving, working nearly every time. In the middle of your sword slashing, you can still perform a counter perfectly as long as you tap the corresponding button in time.

Along the way you’ll gain experience and unlock many moves and abilities giving you a variety of ways to take out your targets. I especially enjoyed ‘shadow strike’: where you aimed at your enemy and are transported right next to them to deliver a killing blow.

All of the combat feels swift and polished, leaving most mistakes your own fault, although sometimes the game can feel unfair. Stealth mechanics felt a bit clunky, similar to earlier Assassin’s Creed games, and a lot of the time when I would be attempting to jump across roofs, my character instead jumped straight down to the ground with a thump. Also, just navigating my character whilst climbing felt like a bit of a challenge at times, and more often that not didn’t go the way I intended.

The only element that is fresh, new, and quite incredible is the hierarchy system of Sauron’s forces. Whenever the protagonist kills an enemy in most games we’re rewarded with experience and a chance to become stronger. In Shadow of Mordor this system is still present – but the enemies can do the exact same thing. If they kill you they gain power, challenge others and move up the ranks with the goal to become a warchief. High stakes are now present in every single fight, and you’ll see yourself constantly trying different battle tactics just so some low level orc doesn’t get a lucky killer blow.

Uruk Nemesis System

Throughout the world you may come across many opportunities to gain intel on captains or war chiefs, and this is absolutly essential whilst hunting these opponents. With intel you can learn enemy’s strengths and weaknesses, giving you a complete advantage on the battle field. Some are completely immune to certain attacks, others terrified of things such as fire or wild beasts. Having this intel makes the game more exciting but, at times, it feels like some of these characters are overpowered. It wasn’t hard to find a war chief who was completely immune to every combat attack (even stealth hits) and instead find your only weapon would to be fire barrels that may or may not be present where your opponent lies.

There is one way to get around this though, which is an interesting concept as you progress in the game called ‘Branding’. This system allows you to take complete control of orcs and order them to do your bidding. The most satisfying part of the game for me was when I branded my own captain, raised his power to the limit through challenges and fights, and got him to take out a war chief that was impossible for me to even hit. Seeing my obedient orc trample that war chief to the ground gave me an amazing sense of accomplishment, and left me in utter awe that this is what games can do now and how our enemies can mature and change just like our character.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is an incredible game, and the only thing I could nitpick on is that sometimes there are repetitive environments with no outstanding landmarks. Other than that, there is an immense amount of joy in this and you will easily be glued to the screen – strategically planning your attacks on every captain. Shadow of Mordor borrows from a lot of games but introducing a refreshing, intricate hierarchy system makes it stand out being one of the best games of 2014.

Pros:

+ Innovative and amazing hierarchy system

+ Intelligent enemies

+ Smooth combat

Cons:

– Simplistic and dull story

– Repetitive Environments

TL;DR

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is an incredible game, borrowing from the likes of Assassin’s Creed and Batman Arkham, and combining it into a satisfying Tolkien world. It may have a simple narrative but with an intricate hierarchy system and an abundance of clever, unique enemies, Shadow of Mordor will keep you occupied for hours.

8.5/10

Review copy was not provided. This was a release copy as purchased by reviewer.

OXCGN’s Watchdogs Bad Blood Review


If you’re ready to hack your way through the streets of Chicago once again then get ready to experience Watchdogs Bad Blood, the first DLC for this open world game. You’ll be racing across streets, sniping opponents, hacking cameras equipped with their own weapons and stealthily taking out enemies with your new RC.

Set after the events of Watchdogs, Raymond “T-Bone” Kenney is doing his last job, hacking away in a heavily guarded building and escaping when the alarms are set off. Once he safely makes it back to his hideout he receives a phone call from his old friend, Tobias Frewer, of which he hadn’t had contact with for years. Basically Tobias is in trouble and being the nice person that you are, you decide to help him using your hacking skills one more time till you leave Chicago and begin your new life.

The story in this DLC suffers just like the main game, it gets interesting as it’s coming to the end. It is made up of three acts with 10 missions and it wasn’t until the last three or four missions where I actually became invested in the story. If the drama in the third act was present throughout the whole DLC, it would’ve made for a better story and it desperately needs that when you have a character like T-Bone leading it. T-Bone is just as dull as Aiden Pearce, failing to have any sort of personality. He felt like such a boring character and with his clothing and lifestyle I expected someone quirky. It felt like the writers were trying to make him comedic with his actions and dialogue, but every joke sadly fell flat. It also didn’t help that some of his voice acting felt stiff and forced especially as he talked to Tobias on the phone or responded to radio broadcasts.

The gameplay is pretty much the same as the main game, hacking through buildings, sneakily killing off guards with explosions until they’re all taken out. It is as swift and smooth as in Watchdogs and oh so satisfying when you can avoid combat completely. Once again I used the silence pistol to take out enemies as T-Bone has an amazing aim that fails to sway even the tiniest bit. You’ll be able to execute perfect, silent headshots once again.

There are a couple of features added to the game including a stealthy RC. There are a handful of opportunities where T-Bone can deploy an RC that can maneuver through vents and sneak past enemies. It can be used to hack other objects and unlock doors as well as stun your enemies when they step in your way. The RC was easy to control and added some new puzzles with your limited first person view. It was satisfying creating distractions for guards as you stay undetected.

WDBB_SC_Eugene_167927

Another addition is guns attached to cameras so you could shoot safely in a dark, hidden place. These made for some tense moments as you frantically switch from camera to camera, picking off enemies from every direction and hoping that no one will reach T-Bone and sneakily shoot him in the back. These additions are quite exciting and feel like a sense of what we might see in the sequel.

I appreciated that there weren’t many car chases that resulted in a cheap death and instead we had some truly hard missions. The game got incredibly challenging, especially in the last act, but it was a satisfying difficulty encouraging you to change your style and take advantage of all the abilities you have. They force you to move change cover constantly as you are overwhelmed by the amount of enemies enclosed in such small places.

Bad Blood introduces interesting features that meld into Watchdogs perfectly, giving a larger variety to the game, but the failing narrative clouds the enjoyment to be had. T-Bone is a lifeless character that would’ve been more interesting on mute. There is still a lot to enjoy in this DLC and with a good, solid couple of hours to play fans of Watchdogs can get a lot out of this.

Pros:

+ Guns on cameras!

+ Challenging but not unfair

+ Solid missions

Cons:

– The story takes too long to kick in

– T-Bone is a dull protagonist

TL;DR

Watchdogs Bad Blood is a solid DLC that introduces new features including a stealthy RC and armed cameras that give variety to the missions. It has a good level of difficulty, with lots of challenging missions as you reach the end. This DLC suffers in narrative with a story that takes too long to build drama and an ordinary main but there is still a lot to enjoy and it’s exciting to see what new things Ubisoft can add to the series.

7/10

This review was conducted by a promo code provided by Ubisoft Australia.

OXCGN’s Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution Review


It was a Naruto video game that made me become a fan of the series. I remember completing this Nintendo DS game to be left with a huge cliffhanger that bugged me for weeks and weeks. This led me to fuel my Naruto appetite by reading the manga and watching the anime so as a fan I generally enjoy most Naruto games but the only condition is that it has to be based on the original story of the manga and sadly Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution doesn’t deliver. Instead you witness a generic “let’s all fight to find the strongest” story that slowly bores you as you fight though rounds and rounds of opponents.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimte Ninja Storm Revolution is a fighter that throws some RPG elements into the mix. In the main story mode, Ninja World Tournament, you proceed through D rank to S rank matches till you find out who the ultimate ninja is. Each battle has you facing three other ninjas at the same time, fighting for battle orbs that drop from characters when hit. As you go up ranks these fights slowly get more challenging adding extra obstacles and opponents. Rails will appear allowing you to skate on and deal devastating damage, special orbs can be collected that gives you the chance to “awaken” and become stronger and character obstacles emerge and deal damage to whomever is in their way. You can also play battle challenges that add conditions to the matches.

naruto-rev02

In each fight there is multiple characters to play as and fight against that all have their unique jutsus and fighting styles. Each combat move correlates with the manga and anime, which is a nice touch for fans. Every character also has their own unique “Ultimate Justu” that is performed through beautifully crafted cut scenes. It is a bit hard when first working out how to fight, as there is no interactive tutorial. Instead you read through many screens of text but when you start getting used to performing combos the combat becomes quite fun. The only problem with fights was there would be that some characters feel too overpowered and quickly I could pick out those characters that would get me an easy win.

In-between battles the game encourages you to explore the game’s setting, Festival Island, where you can unlock characters for the tournament and earn money through jobs. These side missions range from fighting matches, completing quizzes, collecting items for others and playing rock, paper, scissors. These RPG elements become quite dull and repetitive and since your character seems to run around the place with an incredibly slow pace, I avoided these missions unless I desperately wanted a certain character in my tournament team.

naruto-rev05

The game offers more variety with its two other modes, Mecha Naruto Story and Ninja Escapades. I enjoyed Ninja Escapades a lot as it followed the backstory of the Akatsuki through unaired cut scenes alongside a couple of fights. You get to play as a variety of the Akastuki characters whilst Obito is recruiting members to achieve his idea of world peace. This mode has great dialogue and an intriguing story that is more than what the World Ninja Tournament offers. I only wish this was the main story mode and had a longer duration.

The Mecha Naruto Story was completely the opposite and was a horror to sit through. Basically Naruto stumbles along a robotic version of himself and alongside Hinata, fights though a tournament to obtain a crystal to regain Mecha Naruto’s memory. This story was filled with horrible dialogue that was repetitive and dumb and forced you to stumble across the Hidden Leaf Village to complete jobs. It also felt like it was trying to teach you a lesson about striving to be yourself and not worry about what others think, but it saturated this message throughout the whole story. I’m sure children playing the game would realise quite quickly what the game was trying to say and think that’s totally lame.

naruto-rev03

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution works perfectly fine but with too dull a story and tiresome side missions it ‘s a drag to play. The only thing I would recommend in this game is the Ninja Escapades but less than two hours of content is not worth the premium price. If you aren’t invested into the manga or anime you probably won’t find any joy in this game and if you are a fan you’ll be very disappointed.

Pros:

+ Ninja Escapades is fun and has a great story

+ Lots of variety in characters

Cons:

-Main story is dull and cliché

-RPG elements are boring and not worth completing

-Over powered characters

-Mecha Naruto is horrible!!

TL;DR

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revoultion is a good fighter that has a horrible story and RPG elements which clouds the enjoyment. There is joy to be had during Ninja Escapades, a series of animated cut scenes and fights that follow the Akatsuki, but the main story mode is repetitive and cliché. It’s not as great as other Naruto games and is a disappointment for the fans. I would recommend skipping this installment and going back to the Naruto games that follow the manga’s story.

6/10

This review was conducted by a promo copy provided by Bandai Namco Australia.

OXCGN’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review


The Amazing Spider-Man 2 shoots players back into the webslinger’s suit to experience the same old web-slinging action that we have known since the Spider-Man 2 era; but somehow, this game sadly feels like a step backward. Awkward controls seem to interfere with what could be a graceful web-slinging experience, and repetitive thug fights grow stale quickly.

Spider-Man 2 places gamers into a world based similarly-but-not-quite on the movie. Peter Parker likes to have long-drawn out conversations full of cheesy jokes and one-liners, that will surely have you rolling your eyes after Spiderman’s first interrogation sequence.

Players also get to relive the Uncle Ben scene again – in-case you weren’t sick of it already.

original (2)

The story mode spends most of its time introducing players to the random villains and heroes known in the Spider-Man universe – which leads the main thrust of the narrative to quickly get lost. Additionally, there is way too much time spent performing Peter Parker missions, where players are forced to walk and take investigative photos of objects and other things within the game world that instantly becomes boring.

The only nice surprise is to see Stan Lee receive a large feature in the game as Peter’s go-to comic book guy.

I must confess: I did enjoy the quick time sequences that featured during the game. It’s refreshing to have them back after game developers got over the fad, and there really are some cool sequences that really make you feel like the web-slinger himself.

Graphically, on the PS3 the game looks fairly awful: The open city is full of jagged edges and blurry textures. Loading times are also worth mentioning – the game will take so long to load you may consider taking a nap. This is particularly frustrating when you’re waiting for something to load and it turns out to be a tiny room; leading you into another load sequence within minutes.

TASM2 (2)

If you are a next-gen console owner, you’re probably bored waiting for that next big release – you may have already considered purchasing this game. Taking into consideration the game’s low purchase price, it does offer some value for money, but is destined for the bargain bin for those still on the fence.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 delivers exactly what you would expect going in. And with that in mind I think gamers who’ve enjoyed the past iterations of Spiderman or those tired of waiting for the next big release should consider The Amazing Spider-Man 2. 

Pros:

+ Quick time events are quite refreshing

+ Stan Lee cameo

Cons:

– Horrid loading times

– For a PS3 release so late in its cycle, graphically the game is poor.

TL;DR

6.5/10

OXCGN’s Murdered: Soul Suspect Review


I ain’t afraid of no ghost

Square-Enix, along with Airtight Games bring us their latest creation titled Murdered: Soul Suspect. Our story takes place in Salem, Massachusetts, were we are given a brief rundown on a serial killer that’s on the loose, being called the Bell killer, who has been haunting the Sale for quite some time, mainly targeting young girls.

Murdered: Soul Suspect has a great narrative with some compelling story telling and some great voice work, although some characters do seem to fall into stereotypes. The story definitely keeps you going, despite the game being someone short, clocking in at about 8 – 10 hours for the main story.

We then meet our main protagonist, Ronan O’Connor, who has a checkered past and a lot of body tattoos to show for it. Ronan, who we see for the first time being thrown out of a second story window by said serial killer. Ronan has his life flash before his eyes, summing up the major moments, like growing up as a street thief, meeting his love interest, Julia, who he marries, and even joining the police force. However, his life takes a a dive as his wife dies with no explanations given.

Murdered Soul Suspect Ronan
Meet our bullet riddled ghost detective, Ronan O’Connor.

This is where our adventure with Ronan starts, after reuniting with your wife in the afterlife, you are quickly sent back to the real world, as you are not yet ready to pass on, and in order to ‘cross the bridge’ he must complete whatever is unfinished business is, which is to solve his own murder.

You’ll quickly find that Murdered: Soul Suspect sets its own limitations on you early, as you’ll only be able to enter buildings when someone opens a door for you, making your exploration pretty much non-existent, outside of exploring Salem, and even then, it’s a relatively small sandbox for you to play in.

The game plays on the rich history of Salem,  specifically the era of the witch hunting trials. However, the use of it feels wasted, as most of the time ghostly apparitions of Salem’s past will appear simply to block your path, stopping you from going in a different direction other than the one the game wants you to go, taking away any means of exploration.

The atmosphere in Salem feels like an empty void, with a serious lack of population, and when people are around, they’re mostly lifeless, just standing or sitting around, doing the same robotic movements, with barely anything to say. You can interact with them, and very rarely will you need to possess them to continue the story. When you first start, you’ll probably try possessing every living person in sight, but they usually don’t have anything to offer other than two lines of dialogue that’s just filler.

Murdered Soul Suspect SS1
No wonder they haven’t caught the Bell killer, all these cops are too busy playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution (A vastly superiors Square-Enix game).

The ghost population seem more life-like than the living people (although that has a lot to do with the fact that you can interact with them), you come across various ghosts in Salem, which you are able to interact with. Some ghosts either don’t accept that they’re dead, or don’t act the slightest bit surprised or upset to know that they are dead, which seemed really puzzling. The ghostly population of Salem will give you clues to help you move onto your next objective, otherwise they will tell your their own problems and Ronan will offer to help, unusually hunting down clues and assembling the right ones to solve their murder. Unfortunately, these side missions don’t lead to anything and have no impact on the story other than those completionists out there.

Speaking of compleitionists, scattered across Salem are ghostly, some more well hidden than others, and usually refer to Salem’s past, but again, these have no impact on the story whatsoever and are really just a distraction. Those of whom do collect all these times in a certain area are treated to a short story involving said items, but ultimately it’s just a voice track with a still image, feels kind of half hearted.

The arsenal of abilities that Ronan has will slowly improve throughout the story, but realistically it’s only there to further the narrative and don’t have any other significant use. Most of the time you’ll just come to a scene and start looking for items or clues, which require you to just run around and find each clue individually, the game will keep track of how many clues you’ve found and how many there are in total, but finding all the clues doesn’t actually make the case any easier to solve, because most of them are dead simple to begin with. You’ll then have to piece together the relevant information you have to determine what happened at the crime scene just makes you feel like you’re running around doing busy work to figure out the obvious truth.

Murdered Soul Suspect dead body
Ronan, staring down at his own lifeless body.

Whether it’s your own mistake or the what the game is conveying isn’t obvious, sometimes when solving a puzzle, you may make a mistake. However, there don’t seem to be any repercussions throughout the game when the wrong choice is picked, the game simply informs you that’s wrong and lets you pick yet another answer until you get the right one, which really takes away all challenge of the game, at one point, I  simply picked randomly which clue I wanted to use until I got them all right, simply because it had no repercussions as to how many times I got it wrong, and it has no overall effect to the story or its ending.

Although you might be dead, that doesn’t mean you’re completely safe, as demon roam around Salem, looking on souls to feast on, yours included. This is actually where the game shines, in its means of combat. You must sneak directly behind them to kill them if you wish to continue onto the next area. However, sometimes these demons will go you first, and running away doesn’t always help, and you may have to teleport between the ghost soul residue scattered around the area. The unfortunate side of this is this style of gameplay is severely under utilised throughout the game, considering it’s really the only way you can die.

Murdered Soul Suspect Demon
OK, maybe I am afraid of that ghost.

Pros:

+ Fantastic narrative that’ll keep you playing till the very end

+ Soul sucking demons really set an eerie feel, and the combat system to counter or hide from them works well

+ Voice cast and acting is great, despite some of the characters being a little bland

Cons:

– The tiny sandbox that is Salem is dull and uninteresting, full of people that have no relevance to the narrative and are just there so it doesn’t look desolate (even though it still does)

– The game has no real challenge, you can make as many mistakes as you like and you’ll always get another chance

– Despite some characters having great voice talent, their actual characters can be rather bland and stereotypical, some don’t even seem surprised that they’re dead.

TL;DR

Murdered: Soul Suspect is a great concept and the story will keep you playing, but has its short comings. With a 8 – 10 hour main mission, completely pointless choices, uninteresting side missions, lifeless people and the environments surrounding them, and little reason to have multiple play-throughs, you’ll complete the game and put it back on your shelf. With the mechanics and abilities that Ronan has in game, this could have had so much more potential, but ultimately a lot of it was under-utilised and game suffers for it.

6.5/10

© Yvan Zivkovic 2014

Review conducted with a promotional copy provided by Namco Bandai Australia.

OXCGN’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Review


The World is Ours

Every four years to coincide with the FIFA World Cup, EA release a title dedicated to this large spectacle. With it only being released on current gen consoles, there’s a lot of things this game does right and a few that it does wrong.

If you’ve been playing the IGNITE version of the game on your PS4 or Xbox One, then you won’t see the same level of AI competence or graphical fidelity in 2014 FIFA Brazil World Cup as it uses the Impact engine. You will however see a level of authenticity that is still unmatched, from the kits of the 203 national teams that took part in the qualification process to the 12 stadiums that will be used in the World Cup as long as stadiums from each of the qualifying regions, as that is one thing that EA Vancouver lose focus on.

2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil is a vibrant game, from the moment you enter the menu to when you start a match. Country colours shine and stadiums are filled with spectators proudly showcasing the passion they have for their country on the world stage, holding up flags, signs and wearing their teams colours.

2014 FIFA World Cup Calender

With this vibrancy also comes a lower level of realism, as the game runs on the engine that powers the Xbox 360 and PS3 version of FIFA 14, players aren’t as responsive and don’t quite utilise the ball as much as the current gen counterparts.

You won’t get the same level of realism with the players when crossing in the ball from outside the box as in the IGNITE engine all relevant players in their position jump up to header the ball, nor the same level of fatigue when you over use players well beyond their limitations. Sure the game improves on the existing Impact engine used in the Xbox 360 and PS3 version of FIFA 14, including 100 new animations that you’ll see on the pitch as well as improvements to the passing, dribbling but it pales in comparison to the IGNITE engine.

Whilst the game loses that little bit of realism, it does in the interim become more fun. It doesn’t fall into the depths of being an arcade style football game, so even though goals are easier to score they still require a bit of finesse.

In keeping inline with this being the World Cup edition of the game, traditional game modes have been swapped in favour of World Cup style modes. Road to World Cup sees you either control an existing player within the squad or create a new player.

Here you’ll play in pre-qualifying friendlies to showcase your skill and be chosen for the captaincy and compete in the miSports training drills to increase statistics. This game mode will for the first time allow you to play through the entire qualification series right through to the actual World Cup as a single player within the squad.

One thing however that I found with Road to World Cup is that the default Be A Pro camera angle still falls victim to a severe drop in framerate. Regardless of having the game set at a lower difficulty, I found my player consistently prone to being offside and never marking his intended player due to a lack of responsiveness with this angle.

I’d have to run rings around the my defender to open up the chance for the AI to pass to me and even then with the Be A Pro camera angle wasn’t really providing me with the ability to play the game properly, so I had to change it to Tele.

This game is extremely vibrant
This game is extremely vibrant

Instantaneously, I found the game to flow better and I could actually utilise my player during a match. Playing on World Class difficulty eliminated some of the petty problems found on Semi-Pro but it gave way to a much more unrealistic outcome.

Australia could go up against the heavyweights in friendlies such as Sweden and Brazil, where we would draw 0-0 at the end of the match, however, when using the auto-sim function we lost 3-0 to Slovenia. Player attributes felt like they were thrown out of the window and Australia were playing World Class football. With the Be A Pro angle, I found my player would consistently lose a ranking never being able to rank up and proceed ed to the captaincy.

Changing this to Tele allowed me to improve my ranking again, bringing me to the point that whilst this camera angle allows you to enjoy the game more it’s severely hindered with the feeling that it performs at a lower frame rate.

If Road to World Cup doesn’t tickle your fancy then, Road to Rio de Janeiro may be what you’re after. If you don’t care for offline tournaments and just want to showcase your skill to the world, this mode will see players compete in an online tournament across the 12 venues of this year’s World Cup.

To aid you in this long journey to the World Cup, EA have featured a Brazilian themed soundtrack featuring artists such as Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez and Tinie Tempah to name a few. The game also features a podcast type radio show for players to listen to, where Andy Goldstein and Ian Darke can be heard in the menus or Men in Blazers (Michael Davies and Roger Bennett), depending on who you would rather listen to. It’s said that all four men have recorded over 50 hours worth of commentary so rest assured you won’t be hearing the same thing twice.

Make your country proud

Pros:

+ Less realistic allowing you to have more fun with mates

+ Vibrant and extremely authentic kits and venues

+ Another reason to keep your Xbox 360 and PS3…

Cons:

– Early adopters of the Xbox One and PS4 are left in the cold

– Still suffers the same AI problems due to an older engine

– Online still prone to random disconnects from time to time

TL;DR

Early adopters of next gen consoles may feel a bit stung by the fact that this game is only available on the Xbox 360 and PS3, but rest assured if you still manage to own either console it’s definitely worth picking up even if you’ll only play it when mates are over every weekend. The authenticity, soundtracks, plethora of game modes present, there;s no doubt you’ll be spending countless hours taking your favourite team to the World Cup.

7.5/10