Thursday, May 24, 2007

Civilization 4: Beyond the Sword - Preview

Civilization 4 is one of my favourite games of all time. I recently posted my review of it. In July, the game will be receiving its second expansion pack, Beyond the Sword. This time it is making some major changes to the gameplay, particularly, as the name suggests, beyond the sword.

The first of these features is something called "Corporation." Basically, these are companies that you can found in one of your cities. You then, based on what the company is, assign it resources. From these resources, the company provides you with huge bonuses. An example Firaxis gave was one company that takes grain, and can provide you with Oil. This could be very useful in the late game if you don't have oil. Furthermore, the more of the same resource you have, the bigger the bonus. This I think is very good as it means there is an advantage to gather many resources, something I do quite often and end up having to trade them for minimal prices. So what is the drawback? The city you found the company in must pay it a small maintenance fee for its services. I am looking forward to this feature and it could change the game dynamics, allowing for more peaceful players to hold out until beyond the sword, and then produce units very quickly.

Another main change is that espionage has been made more important. You will now be able to funnel some of your income in to spying in much the same way you can with research and culture. Once you have done this, passive spying will start occurring, allowing you to see your enemies demographics, cities and stop their spies entering your territory. Also, the Spy unit has been given more abilities and now can conduct various tasks in a city. On top of this, there will be Great Spies to compliment your forces. No details have been released as to what they will be able to do. This could potentially have a very big effect with veteran players who will know how to use this information to their advantage.

There are of course many new wonders for the game but one of the more noticeable ones is one that will be tied with your religion. Basically, it will give you more influence over people following the same religion as you and also helps to spread your religion. Some of the powers it gives you include being able to start Holy Wars (awesome!) and win diplomatically before the UN is built. This will deffinitly encourage me to try and get a religion before everyone else.

One of my favourite changes is actually one I thought of quite a while back. The idea is that, some of your far flung cities may start their own civilization, much like America did. I think this is a very good because before, if your economy was sturdy, there wasn't much of a punishment for having cities miles away from your capitol. Also, it will prove very interesting to see what the AIs opinion of you is and it will be another person to keep on your side. Combine this with the vassalage update in Warlords will create a much more dynamic and interesting diplomatic game.

Furthermore, the game will come packed with many additional scenarios. Some of these will just be your standard recreation of a historical event, but some of them a re-writing the Civilization game as we know it. One such example is Afterworld. It has been created by the guy who did Omens for Warlords. Omens changed the game greatly, in Afterworld, he wants to demonstrate what can be done with Notepad and Civ 4 Mods. It is set in the future on a distant planet. I will not go in to detail about the story, but it ends up with you controlling 5 elite men against a planet full of mutated alien things. There are no cities or technologies in this game. Another one is actually set in space. Not much information has been revealed, but it looks like it will be set across multiple planets. See this image.

On top of all this the game will be packed with the usual extra units, civs, leaders and technologies. This time with a particular focus on the later half of the game. One of the most noticeable units is paratroopers that can parachute somewhere. This expansion pack is looking fantastic. There is far more than in Warlords, some of the scenarios looking incredible and will give people online ideas that will spawn in to more Mods. This game with hit stores July 23rd and I can't wait.

Read the two IGN interviews here and here. You can also read about Afterworld here

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Dojo is Online

This week has been a big week for Nintendo. Some of the things in this article are mixed, however it is good to hear from Nintendo again. I will start with the most significant and work my way through them. There are a total of 8 updates so I have tried to summarize them in the title.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption Has Been Confirmed for August 25th
That's right, the most anticipated game for the Wii now has a launch date. This launch date covers both the Wii and DS versions. A series of screen shots were also released, the game is looking very good with graphics rivalling Halo 2. Although no additional details have been released about the gameplay, expect something big at E3 as I get the impression that it is trying to compete with Halo 3.

The Dojo is Online for SSBB
A couple of weeks ago, the Super Smash Bros website was taken down and replaced with a counter. Yesterday, that counter ran out and the Dojo is now present. This site will contain all the information about the upcoming and much anticipated SSBB. The site will contain detailed information about everything from character to maps.

SSBB has been reconfirmed for 2007
No one thought that 2007 was going to be a dry year for Nintendo, so no one was devestaed at the delay of SSBB. However, it has been moved back in to the last quarter of 2007. Expect more details to be revealed at E3 and definitely a hands-on.

The Dojo is getting daily updates from now until launch
The official site of the SSBB will be receiving updates every single working day from now until launch (supposedly). Although so far they haven't revealed anything new, it is only a matter of days until they do. I will be summarising what they have revealed every week.

Mario Strikers is coming this Friday in the UK
For the first time in quite a long time, a game will be coming to the UK before the US. This game, although not making heavy use of the motion sensing controls, will have online play. This will feature ranked matches and friendlies. The single player will have a world cup mode. All the characters are of Nintendo property (no David Beckham) and it is not really based on football. You will be able to execute mega kicks that smash the ball in to six pieces, the opposing player then has to try and save each one with the Wiimote. It will be interesting to see if the online works well, I am hoping to get this game because...

BWii Has Been Pushed Back to November
One of the games I was most looking forward to this summer has been moved back till November. This took some of the sweetness from finding out Metroids release date. Hopefully, this will give them time to perfect the game and make it really good.

Nintendo have no plans for a Wii headset
Nintendo revealed, when in a discussion about Mario Strikers, that they were not making a headset for the Wii. The reason was to make it more children friendly. I find this quite stupid as the console has parental controls, so parents could block it, the DS has it and things like Xbox Live have never had any problems relating to complaints. On the note of Xbox Live...

Geometry Wars might be coming to the Wii and DS
It is wildly rumoured that the hugely popular mini game from Bizzare creations, first featured in PGR 2, may be coming to Wii and DS. It will make use of the Wiimote and stylus respectively to drive the ship. It will feature a more in-depth single player and a multiplayer modes. It will be interesting to see how these turn out.

That was your Nintendo news update. I hope you find something in their that interests you. Also, it is worth noting that in the release list that Nintendo revealed, there was a new Tiger Woods, but I didn't think that was news worthy enough to go in the main bulletin. Make sure you check in every week to get the latest updates from the Dojo.

Halo 3 Beta Analysis

Last Sunday I got the chance to play on the new Halo 3 beta trial. My first impressions that I got from the GS video were quite critical of the game. It looked very similar to Halo 2, the graphics didn't look like they had changed much, the voices were the same and the gameplay looked the same. You can read my full analysis of the video here. h

However, when I actually got to play it, I saw that it was different. The graphics have been greatly improved since Halo 2 with a lot of extra detail in the water. Also, the physics engine has been revamped. The explosions look a lot better. Finally, where in Halo 2, if you zoomed in on some textures you could see them repeating, however, in the Halo 3 they looked realistic. You can see dents in metals and reflections in the water. Overall, the graphics have in fact been improved since Halo 2 and there is still some time to polish them.
The gameplay has not been changed very much. This is quite predictable as Halo 2 multiplayer is regraded as one of the greatest online shooters. The most notable change is the items you can "deploy" These include the much famed bubble shield, as seen in the trailer, and grav boosters. These are very cool and quite fun. However, they are very rare and so do not actually effect the gameplay very much. I picked up 3 in about 4 hours of playing. Although this could change, they do not have enough impact at the moment. Also, there are other subtle changes such as the guns now track the enemy. However, the game still feels the same as Halo 2. This is not a problem as Halo 2 was fine.
The game still retains the fun, tried and tested, gameplay. One of my highlights was when I was defending the flag. The map was completely silent, there was no sign of the enemies. We stood their, guns trained on the flag. Then, one by one, silently, you would see "X has killed someone on your team". Each death would be slightly closer to the flag, but there was still no sign of the enemy. I was really scared, you got the impression that there was an assassin moving slowly towards you. Fortunately, they pushed the time limit too far and so they had to make a dash for it. We mercilessly cut them down.
As to whether this game is good will come down to the single player and whether the MP is continued to be played and supported to the same degree as Halo 2. In conclusion, the multiplayer is a strong as ever, providing instant action with good quality graphics and no lag problems.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Civilization 4 Review

Civilization 4

System: PC

Type: TBS

Graphics: 8/10

Sound: 8/10

Gameplay: 10/10

Story: n/a

Multiplayer 9/10

Overall: 9.5/10

This is one of my most anticipated reviews for one of my most anticipated games. The wait to get this game working was a long time, but it was definitely worth the wait. I hope the wait for the review is the same. The game, although doesn't flow on my computer, is truly addictive. The graphics and the user interface make is very approachable whilst still retaining the depth and addictivity this series is famous for.

In this game you are put in charge of one of the worlds Civilizations at the dawn of man. There is a great choice of countries each with their own unique units and starting technologies. Then you must choose a leader, each leader has different skills, some will make it easier to make money, whilst overs will make it easier to make war! Your decision of who you choose and who the enemy is will greatly effect the outcome of the game. Some leaders are very aggressive whilst others will never attack. The choice of leaders and Civilizations is truly fantastic you will almost certainly find a country that matches your playing style.

This game is said to be addictive, smoking is addictive, and people can quit smoking. This game really is impossible to quit. The game is similar to a Pringle in that each turn isn't quite enough to fill you up, but enough for you to want more. Civilization 4, as you might have guessed, is turn based. In your turn you can do anything and everything, but only once. This structure is well established and means you can play the game at a leisurely pace, working out your next move thoroughly. My only criticism of this is sometimes, at the start, quite a lot of your goes will be just skipping to the next go. This can be quite dull as you are just watching a city build one unit, which is relatively slow. Once this phase is over, all of the goes present you with many decisions and things to control and the first turns are a small price to pay for the balanced game that follows.

The game has been made very intuitive with many controls hidden so as to not confuse new players. The interface is very clear and it is easy to get to grips with. There are a lot of things to remember and manage in this game, but fortunately the computer looks after some of the micro-management areas automatically. Sometimes I feel the computer takes away a little too much, but you can override the computer and control the computer without too much trouble. The city management is an excellent example of this. The computer, by default, controls what squares the city works, however, you can both override the computer or tell it to focus on collection a certain thing, such as production. Also, you can make the governor choose which units to build and even whether to hurry them or not. In addition to this, the game will give you tool tips suggesting what you should build and alerting you to citizen unrest. Sometimes, these can get a bit annoying, particularly if you empire is going through a period of decay and each turn you are painfully reminded about something you are fully aware of.

Moving units is done by clicking where you want them to go. How quickly they get their depends on the type of unit they are, for example, horses can move faster than troops, and the terrain they are crossing. An example is an explorer, who has two movement points. This means on a normal square he can move two squares. However, a hill will use both points as it is more difficult to ascend. This is fine, except with that same hill, it would take a unit with one movement point the same amount of time to get up. Now obviously, they couldn't have it so that the one movement point unit couldn't get up, because they would never have enough movement points, and we know it isn't impossible to climb a hill, just harder. However in history, hills have had a great impact on military plans. Hitler took his troops right round a set of hills to save him time early on in WWII. In the game however, it is just as quick and more advantageous to cross the hills. I think that units with one movement point should have to spend an extra turn at the top to slow them down. This is not a big criticism and is doesn't effect the game much, just a little frustrating if you are trying to defend a place surrounded by hills.

The replayability of this game is fantastic. There is a wide variety of random maps. Each different map has different rules for how the map should be generated so you have an idea of what map your going to get, whilst still retaining enough randomness that no two maps will ever be the same. Furthermore, when you start a game, there are hundreds of things you can customise to make the game different. For example, you can randomise the AIs personalities, so that if you get used to them and know their plans too well, you can change them to keep you guessing and making it feel like the first game all over again. Another thing is you can make the barbarians and/or the AI more aggressive for a more competitive game. Thirdly, you can choose to start in different eras and set special rules such as only allowing one city to be built by each civilization. On top of this, there are a wide variety of scenarios you can play. These scenarios recreate famous periods in history or alternate history and because it goes in to more details, there are many more relevant units. Furthermore, you can download many more Mods to customise the game and provide you with even more scenarios. All this adds up to a game that you can keep coming back to and never get the same experience.

The AI is very intelligent throughout the game. They will hold grudges, remember how you treated them and notice subtle things like you trapping them. All these will contribute to their opinion of you and thus how they treat you, you diplomatic attempts and ultimately whether to go to war with you. The AI play very competitively and you will never see them do anything particularly stupid. The military command is superb. They will often outmanoeuvre you. They use their troops special abilities very well, making sure to protect their week units and only attack when victory is almost certain. They play very tactically, once I was at war with two people, one of them attacked me with a large number of troops on the west, consequently I moved my entire force in that direction, only to find the other person sending down a large armada from the north. My forces were split and none of them were where I needed them. I then lost most of my cities and had to pull back to my capital to regroup. Although I don't think they were working together, the second person was definitely waiting for a opening in my defence. It is not uncommon to loose a game, even on low difficulties, when there are many AIs as some of them might sneak in with a late space race victory.

The graphics are excellent. The models look very nice and despite the game being set on a grid, the cities and terrains sprawl in to neighbouring squares making the game look very flexible. There are the occasional graphics error and units appear to being growing out of the city when they are defending them, however overall the presentation is excellent. The animations for the fights, although not dynamic, are very interesting and amusing to watch. It is just 3v3, however, there are neat explosions with grenadiers and each unit attacks differently. Also, you can tell how the battle is going based on how many troops are still standing, although things can change half way through.

I cannot properly comment on the sound, as my computer is not powerful enough to run it. However, the little I have heard is very good and fits with the game. The ambient sounds are excellent. A case of this is when you send soldiers in to a forest, you can hear birds chirping as they fly away, you can hear waves lapping if you are near the sea and mountains emit hawk sounds. They are so fantastic that sometimes you won't even notice them and they just settle in to the background. This all adds up to an excellent sound track. This made much better because you can tell Civilization where your music folder is and listen to your music instead. It is frustrating not being able to skip tracks, despite this, it remains a nice feature and leaves me very positive about the music.

The multiplayer is fantastic. It is easy to set up an online game and find people to play. The games can support huge numbers and as host, you can choose all the features you would normally be able to offline. Naturally you can store friends and send private messages, but some other features are a bit lacking, such as no support for Clans. In addition, the game provides many alternatives for MP games. These include play be email and hot seat. Hotseat unfortunately suffers from the aforementioned early goes problem. It is even more severe, as all players have too keep getting up to press enter. You need enthusiasts for the Hotseat as in the late game, when the turns are much longer, it can be tedious for the rest of the players, who are just sitting there. Recently, a tool called the PitBoss was released. It allowed players to sign in to the game at any time, take their go and then leave. This way people from different time zones could play. I haven't tried this but it is meant to be very good and more ways to play can't be a bad thing.

In conclusion, this game is stunning. You will be able to keep playing on this game again and again. The gameplay is addictive and fun. New players will find it accessible whilst old veterans will find it plenty deep. There is a huge online community to provide you with new Mods that will completely change the game dynamics. The multiplayer is well done, if lacking in features such as clans. The game feels very well polished and the sound and visuals are things to set your watch by. On a side note, the instruction manual is very detailed and interesting to read. It is a thick as the actual box.

Stop the Press

Stop the press everyone, I have just finished my review of

Civilization 4

I am reading through it one last time then I will upload it. I did it because the F.A. Cup final was on and I wasn't in the right mood to watch it. At the same time though, I was downloading Alien Arena, an online FPS for the PC, so I couldn't do anything online. So I wrote this review. I have tried to be concise however the game is very deep and so if I was too concise, it wouldn't make any sense. I hope you like it, it took me about an hour and half to write. Peep show last night was hilarious and I am looking forward to Dr. Who so much. Enjoy the review, tell me what you think and please post comments!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Halo 3 Beta Not Working

Users using Crackdown to get their copy of Halo 3 will not be able to download Halo 3 at present. Bungie is working on a solution and hopes the issue to resolve this issue shortly.

Why was this not tested, and tested again and again. This was easily going to be the most downloaded thing since the dawn of downloading for consoles. They knew it was going to be big, so they knew they needed to prepare the servers. what's more, they knew the exact number of people who were going to download it. They know how many copies of Crackdown they sold and they know how many passes they gave away. OK, maybe not everyone is going to download it, but it is a fair bet that most people are, so prepare the servers for all of them and have a bit of spare bandwidth.

However, despite popular belief, I do not believe this could have been a bandwidth problem for the aforementioned reasons. So why, Bungie? Some people have said that it was staged so that the traffic wouldn't be too much. We will never know if this is the case, as Bungie would never say, but it is certainly possible. Why else, well, it is very wide spread, so it could have been a fault with Crackdown. If this is the case, and Bungie get found out, they are basically dead. This could have been found out in the first test. I can't think of any reasons other than just a genuine technical difficulty, but is that likely, doesn't happen on XBLA ever.

Why ever this has happened, it is very bad press for Bungie, even if it isn't their fault. They have been building up to this for ages, the fact that it didn't work, its appalling. People in America have stayed up just for it to get their hands on it at some un-Godly hour, and haven't. Some have even skipped work. The forums have gone insane, blaming it on Bungie, then Microsoft, then Sony then whoever it on the other side of the pond to them. Forums have broken down into a demonstration of why we really have time zones. Both England and America are going at the other like dogs. Admitted the Americans might be a little tetchy, no Halo 3 and having not slept for 24 hours or something, but still. The racist comments are so ridiculous and unrelated.

Also, Halo 3 is confirmed for the 26th of September for the UK, 25th for the US which is a lot earlier than everyone thought. Still, Bungie has never released things on time, so it will probably be delayed.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Halo 3 Online Beta Analysis

In a week today, Crackdown owners will log on to Xbox Live to play the Halo 3 Beta. However, today GS and other game news companies got their keys to log in. GS are broadcasting there's online here. Here is my analysis.

First of all, you should probably bare in mind I watched this in Full Screen mode over a wireless internet connection so the quality isn't fantastic. However, the graphics don't look much better than Halo 2. Yes, you can see some extra details like weeds blowing in the wind. However, if it didn't say "Halo 3 Beta Trial" I might not have noticed. If some had hadn't played Halo 2 a lot would definitely not notice. Some of the textures look better.

Also, all the sounds are recycled from Halo 2. The voices saying "Headshot" and the beeps counting down to re-spawn are still there. This is good and bad. Good is the sounds were fantastic in Halo 2, bad is they could still have been improved.

New content is limited. There are a few new weapons, there are pieces of equipment that can be deployed by pressing X. These have a selection of uses, such as the bubble shield as seen in the TV advert, to a thing which when you stand on, sends you flying. Quite a lot of these things feel like they could have been included in a map pack. The game also features a semi-tracking thing on your gun. This doesn't appear to have much of an impact on the gameplay.

I don't know what I was expecting to be improved, but there isn't much that I can see that has actually been improved. The whole game feels like extra content. Quite a lot of the new stuff is map specific, most of the global changes are quite small. All in all the game looks an upgraded version of Halo 2. Fair play to Microsoft, people are going to go out and buy it in droves, but I guess I was expecting something more for the most anticipated game for 2007 possibly for ever.

Weather this game is worth getting or not will come down to the single player. The multiplayer will stand up to inspection, but doesn't look like enough of an improvement from Halo 2 for it to get my stamp of approval just on its own. It is slightly worrying that the future of the Halo franchise rests on the single player. Remember, this is just a beta on a wireless internet connection, all could change.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Spiderman is an Emo!

Today, I went to see the new Spider Man film. It was nothing short of fantastic. The plot was gripping, the fight scenes were cool and whole film felt well polished.

*Warning, the following part of the post may contain Spoliers*

I have never seen any of the original Spider Mans, so I was slightly worried that I would understand. Fortunately, I seem to have picked up enough through all the various Spider Man cartoons I have seen. The whole story is centred, obviously around the black suit, but more subtly on his arrogance. The suit enhances this element of his personality, thus worsening the situation. Half the film is about the facts, the other half is about reversing them.

The cast all play their rolls fantastically, and it is genuinely believable. You will jump at points, feel sorry for the characters and want to hit Parker for his arrogance.

For those who are in need of an explanation for the title, when Spider Man puts on his black suit, he suddenly has an Emo fringe, a very nice touch. Also, a special not should be made to the CGI. It is fantastic, and at some points you don't even realise it is CGI. The fights work really well, switching between real and CGI seamlessly.

Throughout the film, Spider Man has to face many new enemies. Starting off with Green Goblin's son, also, what turns out to be the murderer of Spider Mans uncle. Near the end he faces a rival photographer, who he ruins the life of while he is wearing the black suit, gets some of the black suit on him. There are some very nice effects when his uncles murderer turns in to sand. For example, when he got shot, the sand turned in to glass and shattered, very neat.

Despite all the cool action this film features, there is still a strong story running though it. It also contains some very clear themes such as arrogance and how you can be your own worst enemy.
*No spoilers guarantee*

Overall, I really enjoyed the film. It felt really well polished. I also discovered they they are doing a "HD" version with bigger films to create higher quality. Unfortunately, this was all sold out. My only criticism, is this film is very long. Having said this, at no point were you bored. Also, I am now really hyped up about Pirates of Caribbean. It looks really good.

If you have seen this film,or if you are going to, please leave a comment by clicking on the "Leave a remark" link below

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Future of Games: The Next Gen Experience

Now, following my playing with Crackdown, I have been thinking about where games as a whole are going. It is kind of ironic how, you play a game to interact, yet what amazed me about Crackdown, was that it was full of spontaneous events, like the exploding cars. Now because of the hardware that is inside the 360 and the PS3 I think we are going to see rise to a new way playing games, a new type of games that will encompass all genres and change them dramatically.

I think, one of the things we are going to start to see, if the player is going to become less important. No, that wasn't a typo. I think, because the systems will be able to render better AI, combined with the potential of online, players are going to become part of a whole. Obviously, quite an important part, but games are going to shift to become dynamic films. People game for three reasons, firstly, the play to have fun. Secondly, they play escape from the reality which is their dull life, but thirdly, they do it so they can experience something that they wouldn't be able to do in real life, or if they could, it would have risks (such as join the army). I think, by making the experience more realistic, people will feel more inside, and it is more realistic having proper AI who seem just as human as you.

Another shift I think we are going to see is most games are going to become more open-ended, non-linear and the ability to roam. The hardware is now powerful enough to support truly huge worlds (ref: Oblivion) and still maintain good quality. One of the coolest things I have ever experience in a game, is when you wander in to a fight. This can never be achieved in linear levels, because it is all carefully scripted to "provide the best user experience." If the AI is good enough, the best user experience is one where they can return again and again and it will be different each time. No, this isn't the end of levels, but I think you will be able to walk around between levels, and to enter a level, you would receive the information, and then could drive to the location.

The final thing I think will happen will be far more freedom in how you complete tasks. This has already started to happen in a lot of games, but I think it will become standard, and even more freedom will be granted. The reason this didn't use to happen was because it meant developers would have to script for many more situations. Once again, it comes back to the AI. They will no longer have to script every event, the AI will work out what to do on the fly, This change will bring a new level of immersion to every game.

Lets put all this in a game example. Before, you would select your mission from a list and click go. You would magically be put on the terrain at a set point. So you start to play, you might examine the map, work out your best plan of attack. So you run down the route, only to discover the developer didn't want you to do that and you will find an invisible wall or a rock if you are lucky. So, you do what the developer wants you to do, you practice your headshots, watch the AI do the same thing again and again. After a few tries you succeed. In the new game, you will find the location, arrive from any direction, do the mission whenever you want, maybe you want to try blowing up four cars in a tunnel first, fine. Once you have decided to attempt the mission, you travel to the location, maybe you want to fly there, perhaps use a massive tank. There is no loading screen, the whole game is one continuous mission, the individual goals start when you jump out of your helicopter on top of their base, or at the edge of the map.Then you will work out a plan based on your resources and the terrain and attack. If that fails, you could try again if you made a stupid mistake or go back to the drawing board so to speak, try a different plan, maybe come from the other side, the freedom is yours and the AI will adapt to survive. Maybe you brought a back up squad, you will see them take cover, blind firing. You see them chuck a smoke grenade and charge forward, one of your squad mates shouts at you to come and help, because they don't want to die. You charge through the smoke gun blazing, and you see one of your men fly through the smoke, you cry out in anguish.

That IS the next gen experience, thankyou for reading.

In other news, Mario Strikers, the first WiiConnect24 MP is coming out May 25. Am I going to get it, I don't know, depends on how the controls work I suppose. I went on the original, it was pretty fun, but I can't really see myself actually buying it. Also, I am doing a podcast tomorrow, do make sure you check back here to find out when it is, and of course listen live. Finally, I am going to go see Roving Mars at the IMax tomorrows, for my brothers party, so I'll review that or something when I get back...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Crackdown: First Impressions

"Woah, oh my word, that is INSANE" was my reaction walking away from Crackdown for the 360. I did not have high expectations for this game, it looked terrible from the minute I saw the box. The screen shots all reeked of GTA wannabe but failing miserably. When this was coupled with the Halo 3 online beta, something which would sell itself, I thought that proved the games uselessness. When I learnt that my friend had rented a copy, I was over the moon, not because of the game, but because of the Halo 3 trial. However, I dutifully had a go, mildly encouraged when he said it was more like Mercs but then disheartened when he said he hadn't been overwhelmed by it.

The controls scheme was quick to get used to and worked well. I started on a bad foot with the polices because I shot one of their number. To survive I hoped in the first police car I saw and started driving round running the people who were shooting me over. I should probably set the scene. Basically, I was in this circular area, which is like the start area. The story is your this GM policeman and you need to stop 3 gangs. Graphics aren't stunning, you should note.

Now, I am going to do a full review, but you are probably wondering what made me become so overwhelmed by this game. Once I got in to the game I found it pleasant to play, the jumping was pretty crazy and quite fun (I got one level up and could jump 15ft) and the vehicles were varied and interesting. However, to be honest I still preferred the sandbox that is Mercs. Then, something absolutely insane happened. I mean, INSANE. I was fighting some people on the top of a tunnel and then suddenly BANG. 15 cars flew up, on fire, from the edge of the tunnel. I was thrown in to these boxes from the force of the explosion. That in itself isn't incredible, for example there was lag so previous gen could generate that. On Mercs, you could set that kind of explosion up easily. What set this apart was it was a complete surprise. I didn't chuck a grenade, I don't know what caused it, all I know is that I was shocked. There were plenty of fighting going on below to have caused it, but WOW, it was incredible. From that point on I really started to enjoy the game.

Like I said, full review coming soon, that is just a taster. Sorry for the lack of posts, there hasn't been much news thanks to E3 approaching.

"All your base are belong to us"