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Me and my InFAMOUS: Festival of Blood Review

festival of the blood infamous
Cole learned the hard way not to party in New Marais.
With Halloween coming up, you can expect developers to celebrate with sales involving the abundance of zombie titles. Some developers even developed a full release for Halloween, and others updated their games to feature monsters of all sorts. One such game to receive the latter example’s treatment is Sucker Punch’s inFAMOUS series.
InFAMOUS: Festival of Blood was released on PSN just this week, and new players may be happy to hear that inFAMOUS 2 is not required at all. Set in New Marais, Cole has been turned into a vampire by Bloody Mary and if he does not slay her by sunrise he will become her slave.
Publisher: Sony
Developer:
 Sucker Punch
Release Date: 26th October 2011 (UK)
PEGI: 16+
Platform: PlayStation 3
The game is actually pretty short, but that’s to be expected of a £7.99 release. Overall, I clocked in about two hours for the campaign as well as obtaining all of the collectibles. The story itself is narrated by Zeke as he tells Cole’s tale, whether it’s real or not, to a young woman in a bar. New Marais is bustling with activity as the Pyre Festival is underway. Everyone is in costume; there are balloons, shows and music through-out the city.
Upon trying to save some people who were attacked in the city’s catacombs, Cole is ambushed and captured. His blood is used to re-awaken Bloody Mary, and, essentially, the rest of the tale involves Cole discovering her origins and seeking her out. There is really not much more depth to the narrative than that.
The morality feature found in the previous two titles is gone. With Cole being a vampire, this is to be expected. Instinctually, he will want to devour blood from the citizens of New Marais, and he will need to in order to survive or use his powers to defeat Bloody Mary. Morality is no longer an issue.
The upgrades are also now no longer varied. Instead, the player will unlock upgrades for certain powers by accomplishing certain trophies (such as enhancing the ordinary attack through staking enemies in the heart twenty times). Whilst this may sound somewhat disappointing, given that it’s really just a small PSN game, it’s not really an issue to me. There are still power upgrades, and it serves a purpose as to really try out many of the game’s new features.
The game introduces a flying power for Cole. This uses up the energy he absorbs from blood, but it is pretty damn cool. I love turning into a flock of bats and flying around the town, occasionally attacking enemies in that very form with an ability unlock. Similarly, Cole obtains the power to bite pedestrians and use ‘Vampire Vision’, seeing what vampires can see. Ultimately, Cole can use this ability to detect enemies that appear to ‘teleport’ during their movement,  detect invisible symbols depicting a message from Bloody Mary as well as detecting the collectibles. Finally, Cole can also use it to detect First Borns, the boss enemies, hidden amongst the crowds of people.
The key feature, to me, in this release is the improvements made to UGC. During my run with inFAMOUS 2 I discovered that players enjoyed developing content with narratives. Consequently, Sucker Punch noticed too. As a means of improving UGC, Sucker Punch included a new cutscene mechanic so that users can create comic book stills to enhance their narratives, as well as including more assets to play with.
Otherwise, the game plays more or less like the originals. It’s a fun diversion and a nice little extra for InFAMOUS fans, as well as a cheap little gateway for new fans. At £7.99, I heavily recommend picking it up. Plus, as a bonus, at the time of this review PS+ users get an additional discount, so if you have PS+ then you have no excuse.
Overall, the game is a great little extra that I believe fans will appreciate. I certainly did. It’s a great distraction, it’s fun, and it offers more replayibility thanks to UGC, which is clearly the main focus here. The game has very lasting replaybility, despite how short it is, and is worth every penny. Pick it up today. It serves as an example as to what the DLC standard should be. DLC shouldn’t be a cash in, it’s something for the developers to make something fun and unique with their IP, and Sucker Punch certainly did that here.
Also, for those concerned about score, I’d give it an 8/10. Whilst the offline campaign could have had a little bit extra content, maybe a longer campaign or recovering districts from vampire packs, it offers great value for money and is of high quality all the same. Definitely grab this on PSN if you have a PS3 and enjoy either of the inFAMOUS titles.

Review: Yakuza’s Dying Soul

Cover art for Yakuza Dead Souls review

Recently there has been a resurrection of interest in the growing zombie trend.  It feels like every developer wants to jump on the bandwagon. It’s become something so common that, in all  honesty, it just makes zombie games seem generic, plain, dull and boring.

The most recent victim to be infected by this plague on originality in gaming is the Yakuza franchise. Many of you will be now shrugging your shoulders or scratching your head wondering what this franchise is. Yakuza is a franchise that happens to be really popular over in Japan. It stars a number of Japanese gangsters in a town influenced by Tokyo’s very own red light district. The franchise is famous for the brutality of it’s combat mechanics, but it’s always been about the melee combat. As per standard with zombie games: Yakuza has been mutated into a third person shooter. So, at heart, at the core of it’s very own soul, is Dead Souls still a true Yakuza title?

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SEGA
Platform: PlayStation 3
Release Date: 16th March 2012 (9th June 2011)
Rating: 18 (BBFC)

Similarly to the previous title, Yakuza: Dead Souls features four playable characters – each specialising in their own weapon as well as having the ability to use many others. The story itself explores the mystery behind the sudden appearance of zombies in Kamurcho.

Whilst I might go as far as to claim this has the weakest story out of all of the Yakuza games that I’ve played, that doesn’t mean that it has a bad story either. As you continue through the main story of the game, the player witnesses the gradual progression of the virus and is exposed to the constant impact that the virus has on the district. This leaves an surprisingly meaningful lasting impression. It made the familiar district turn into a creepy and disturbing ruin, and you can’t help but feel melancholic as you struggle to survive. Yakuza: Dead Souls really handles the transition into a zombie horror really well. 

Furthermore, much like it’s predecessors, Dead Souls has a number of touching moments. These are far fewer than they were before, but they still exist and certainly leave a chill or two. It’s not just the occasional sad or moving moment that leaves an impact upon its audience. Yakuza is famous for the badass characters that it features, and in particular Kazuma Kiryuu (aka Dragon of Dojima) is the cream of the crop. His entrance in the last chapter of the game is enough to spread a wide and goofy grin on my face. The character is the embodiment of the words ‘badass’ and ‘cool’, and Dead Souls doesn’t fail in delivering an incredible Kazuma performance. In all honesty, it might actually be my favourite entrance for him so far in the franchise. The title is rich in exciting and incredible moments which can be found even in the gameplay.

For many, though, there exists the disappointment that the series has shifted from a brawler to a third person shooter. I was amongst the many who were concerned, but after adjusting to the new genre for Yakuza it just seems like a minor complaint. At it’s very core, it still feels like a Yakuza title. If anything, the transition compliments the dark focus of the game. It makes sense that the familiar cast would pick up armaments to fend off this new threat to their home. Make no mistake though, as physical combat still returns. It’s just not as central to the game as before. The player may pick up nearly anything they see to be wielded as a weapon. This ranges from a bicycle that continues to break down until you’re swinging just a wheel around, to a frozen zombie that can be smashed against their infected brethren. Despite the dark tones, the title still retains its sense of humour and I’m sure fans would appreciate this. Accompanying this sense of humour are the mini-games which also make a return. It amuses me every time I walk through the quarantined zone to find a store which I can pop by to have myself some ice cream, or play on the arcade machines. It’s ridiculously fantastic.

Initially, trying to adjust to the game’s third person shooter mechanics and controls can be a very daunting and frustrating task. There’s no real way to change the sensitivity and it can be an overall mess. It’s soon overcome with experience as early as the first section in the first chapter of the game. The game’s action is very fast paced, and is actually pretty well refined for something that first appears clunky. There’s a lot of particular focus on being able to skillfully dodge attacks, otherwise the player is left temporarily vulnerable as a stray zombie manages to grab on to them. It can be a fairly challenging title, and as of such anyone looking for an easy time should probably overlook this game.

Dead Souls can be quite graphic, which is also further enhanced by the relatively brilliant visuals despite the aged engine. Yakuza is known for being quite graphic and Dead Souls is by no means an exception.

Yakuza Dead Souls is still rich in content and has an exciting and dramatic story, but that doesn’t change it being the weakest of the PlayStation 3 bunch. Still, that doesn’t mean that I can’t recommend it. As a spinoff, it’s excellent and plays the third person shooter role reasonably well with that Yakuza flavour.

For those who care about scores in reviews, for whatever reason, I believe this review justifies an 8/10 for Yakuza: Dead Souls. A 8/10 means that the game was great, but was set back by a number of problems that sometimes interferes with the experience. Yakuza: Dead Souls was completed on the normal difficulty in roughly forty hours, but is not yet even near 100% completion.


This review is entirely subjective and should not be considered fact. This review is the author’s opinion and nothing more. Feel free to discuss the review in the comments below, but try to keep it civil. You are also entitled to an opinion that differs from the author, and don’t forget it! The author can also be contacted at CrashScreen@GamingAdvance.com.

GAME and Me

This will be a little rant, so if you’re not interested in hearing why you should avoid supporting GAME in their time of need, then just skip this little post.

Seriously though, don’t support GAME.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “you reap what you sow”? That phrase best defines GAME. If you’re not familiar with GAME, or their current situation; GAME are a European based retailer whom happen to specialise in video games. Recently, they hit a snag with insurance, and were unable to cover the games that they would try to sell. Obviously, this means they need to pay up front, which obviously means that they stand in a risky situation. Failure to sell any of their products would result in severe debt versus their old method of only having to pay the game publisher their share of the money at sale. As a result of this risky situation, most publishers refused to sell them any of their titles at all, which was completely understandable.

Initially, many consumers found it difficult to grasp why the publishers wouldn’t support GAME. As the ground collapsed under their feet, GAME reached out for help from the game publishers. Many of those publishers simply turned a blind eye to what was going on and walked away. GAME were desperate, and needed all the help they could get to survive. Considering their alarming situation, it was easy to sympathise with the company as publishers such as EA simply gave them the finger outright.

As a gamer in the United Kingdom I should be supporting them. If GAME were to go under then gaming in the UK will take a massive hit. It’s pretty clear to see. The publishers though? Would it not affect them in the same way? Well, yes it would. If GAME went down, that would be one less significant way to reach out to the European consumer. That being said, that doesn’t mean the publishers would want to help the retailer out.

As the main source for many gamers in the European market, GAME are so significant that they can bully around publishers. It’s been known that they do this for quite some time. They also exploited the second hand market for video games – a market that leads to absolutely zero income for the developers and publishers of the titles sold. For quite some time now, the games industry has been struggling to combat this pre-owned dilemma. Unfortunately, this war usually leads to the consumer being punished rather than the retailer. Whilst I don’t disagree that pre-owned games are almost as bad as piracy – an argument I will save for another time – I did not agree with how the publishers handled it. All the same, the retailer didn’t think twice about screwing the publisher over as they were blinded profusely by their own greed.

So when GAME extended their hand, hoping for a kind hearted publisher to grab them and lift them away from the collapsing depths of their former glory, the golden castle they built crumbling into dust, it’s no wonder that the publishers kicked GAME down. They fell, and they fell hard. A quick look at their online store front will show a lack of stock on anything worthwhile. But as I said, as a gamer I should be supporting them, shouldn’t I? Yeah, I should be, but I refuse to. I will not support them.

Excluding the paucity of their pre-orders, all of which the users were only informed of their cancellations two or three days before their launch, there was another issue in their midst. Their empire was crumbling around them, but what didn’t help them that all along their foundation was decaying. Customers were abandoning ship as torrents of bad news struck in the dark of the night. Between their titles being far too expensive these days (Metal Gear Solid HD Collection was retailing at £40, while selling everywhere else at £30), their pitiful customer service and their poor reliability, it was no wonder that customers were flocking elsewhere. I purchased a plethora of transactions to empty out my reward card, swarming like a vulture as I attempted to feast on their rotting remains, only to discover that my money, reward points, and vouchers were taken but I failed to receive my order. They sold me products that were out of stock. It happens, I guess. But what fuelled this rant to begin with was my discovery that users have been complaining about said items for over a month to no avail.

Purchasing from them, regardless of whether you’re being a vulture or a white knight to their rescue, also supports them. But they’re not really accepting your donations. They’re trying to leech everyone dry as much as possible before they close shop. I got a refund, but they’re no longer giving money back. And if they go, they run with the money.

At this stage, GAME is a lost cause. Like a mortally wounded animal, it squirms and struggles, but ultimately it should be put down. It should be put out of it’s suffering. While I don’t deny GAME deserves what it got, I can’t help but feel pity as I recall my fond memories as a child: the grand opening of the first specialist video game store in my local area. I was able to discover so many titles I was unaware of. Now? They’re just a pitiful mess, and it’s time to let go.

GAME need to be put down, and they need to make way for whoever steps up to take their mantle as King of the UK Video Game Retailers. The longer you support them, the more you’re going to be hurt.

Z.H.P and Me

ZHP

After listening to the most recent TGS Podcast episode and hearing Totalbiscuit’s comments about this nifty little PSP title, I couldn’t help but pick it up myself to play on my PlayStation Vita. I do not regret this whimsical purchase.

I can’t really talk much without spoiling the fantastic introduction, but the game is very self-aware. The title is very satirical, and parodies several superhero tropes. In the first five minutes alone, the Unlosing Ranger gets knocked down and is killed, but not before passing on his power to a random bystander who he leaves to fight Darkdeath Evilman – the final boss. Our new hero takes up this challenge… and dies.

The game itself plays similarly to NIS’ more famous Disgaea titles. The player moves the hero character on a grid and can carry out multiple options. Z.H.P. feels like the middle ground between a turn based and real time strategy JRPG. There are a multitude of dungeons and a unique way to level up your character whom gets stronger after every defeat. It’s a pretty cool and nifty title, and if you’re looking for a pretty fun, cheap and light hearted game to just pick up and play on your brand new Vita or your PSP, I absolutely must tell you to pick it up.

Speaking of which: PSPGo for £55 for those in the UK. If you haven’t got either system, pick this up and buy the game. You’ll be able to use the games you have on it on your Vita eventually, and all PSP games are dirt cheap on PSN now.

Expect a full review in the near future. Although that requires beating this very challenging game.

Yakuza: Dead Souls and Me

Kazuma Shaving Yakuza Dead Souls of the End

So, I received Yakuza: Dead Souls through the mail today and I’m totally loving it. For those unfamiliar with the Yakuza franchise, it’s a series that’s incredibly successful in the land of the rising sun. The series involves the Yakuza, who are the Japanese version of the Mafia, and is a very character driven game. The gameplay is a blend of action and role-playing game elements and is absolutely crazy and intense. Honestly, it’s easily one of my more favourite franchises.

The new game takes all the serious drama and development in the past few games and throws it out the window in favour of a complete (narrative) genre-shift. The setting of Kamurocho has been invaded by zombies, and the cast of incredibly badass criminals get together to fight off the zombies. This is pretty much Yakuza vs. Zombie. And it is awesome.

For the most part, the game feels relatively clunky but it’s easily adapted to. During the first stage I found myself failing to even shoot a zombie efficiently, often being attacked before I could strike them at all. After about fifteen to thirty minutes of playing, I managed to pick up on it and started finding myself headshotting, evading and blowing up zombies. It’s really fun, but I’m realising that this certainly isn’t the best title for anyone to be introduced to the franchise. Which screws up my plans.

Y’see, I planned to make this my first review (when I finished it). Now though, I’m not so sure. I’m thinking I should go back and quickly replay the third or fourth title and just review those first. Maybe I can spark interest? For those who’ve actually played the game though, I’ll write the review all the same. Maybe, just maybe, you may be interested enough in reading my opinions.

And if you’re not? Tough shit anyway.

Gaming and Me

So, welcome to this first edition of “Gaming and Me”. This is my personal blog and I intend to fill it with video game reviews, subjective articles and maybe even some news updates if they interest me enough. I’m even part of a relatively unknown Podcast.

So, obviously, I’m pretty much an unknown right now. You need to know where I’m coming from. Let’s try and get along and get to know each other, because I believe that you need to understand a person before their reviews or opinions before you can really consider their reviews. I mean, let’s be honest. If I say anything crazy like “Mass Effect 3″ was terrible, or if I say anything crazy like “Mass Effect 3 was brilliant”… all I’d insight would be rage. People don’t take to opposite opinions too well, but if they understand where a person is coming from then I feel that they’d be able to accept it or even debate it in a more orderly fashion than they would have before.

So what does this mean? Between gaming articles I’ll be posting random little articles about myself and an experience (limited to gaming) so that we can gain an understanding. Feel free to ignore those posts, but this is just to explain that they serve a purpose.

So who am I? I’m a student at a software development course that focuses on, but is not limited to, computer games development. Video games happen to be most most major hobby, although I enjoy other things as well, including physical activity. Currently, my most frequently used gaming systems are my own PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita and DS (I didn’t miss out the ‘3’ part, but I am missing out on the ‘3’ part).

So, there’s a quick brief. I hope we get along.