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Unit 13

Unit 13, Box Art, Review

I’ve been interested in Unit 13 since the day it was announced, and that having a third-person shooter, featuring different team members and abilities, would have been great on the PlayStation Vita–a handheld device. The title was also developer Zipper Interactive’s (the developer of the SOCOM titles, which was often met with mixed reception) last videogame release. Was Unit 13 yet another average release to add to Zipper’s repertoire, or did it finally break the developer’s recent mold?

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Zipper Interactive
Genre: Action//Third-Person Shooter
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Release Date: March 6th, 2012 (NA); March 7th, 2012 (EU); March 8th, 2012 (JP)
Rating: 16 (PEGI)

The player takes control of a soldier in the special forces Unit 13. Instead of playing a generic all-round soldier, the title offers the player a choice of playing a select number of classes which can be chosen before each of the thirty-six missions in the standard campaign. Each mission rewards the player with experience, allowing each team member (read: class) level up, obtaining new equipment. The beauty of the game is that each class is entirely what they would be expected to be, and they are clear in what their functions are. Furthermore, each class has their own role in a mission, allowing different approaches to the mission.

Unit 13, Gameplay, Screenshot

Someone took this food fight too far!

Infiltrators are the standard stealth class. Players must sneak around the field, whilst killing as few enemies as possible–killing enemies results in a lower final score. Additionally, infiltrators can destroy cameras, deactivate alarms and can take advantage of smoke grenades. Alternatively, players can assume the role of the unit’s Gunner class to enjoy massacring their foes, allowing the player to storm the field and unleash pure, brutal carnage. In total, there are six available classes: Commando, Technician, Pointman, Gunner, Infiltrator, and Marksman.

Unit 13 isn’t limited to the thirty-six campaign missions either, as players may also participate in the High Value Target missions; each of these missions are ranked out of five stars. These missions are also typically more challenging than the campaign without losing the enjoyment. Unfortunately, players looking for further challenge from either mission sets will be disappointed, as there are no difficulty options available; instead, missions generally just get more challenging as the player progresses and that is that.

As a launch title for the PlayStation Vita, Unit 13 would have been expected to attempt using the various hardware features of the handheld (such as the touch screens and SIXAXIS). Fortunately, the title uses these features sparingly. The player can touch the screen to reload their weapons but may also use one of the Vita’s face buttons if preferred, opting to implement a less intrusive means of adapting the touchscreen. Meanwhile, the motion control and rear touchscreen aren’t even used at all. Unit 13 handles the hardware with class.

Unit 13, Gameplay, Screenshot, Vita

Taking a break to party.

Although, as a launch title, it would have been preferable had the title also taken advantage of the Vita’s ability to render high quality graphics, instead looking a little average. It’s also a bit odd watching someone get blown up with absolutely no blood effects. Despite the plain visuals, the soundtrack paints a better picture and often further intensifies the gameplay.

Regrettably, the biggest disappointment in Unit 13 isn’t even a fault in its performance or quality, but rather in its lack of community. Whether this is a result of its popularity or low platform sales, this reviewer found absolutely no one to participate in an online match with. It’s a shame, because it would have been interesting to see how well the title handles its multiplayer cooperation mechanics.

Unit 13 was a pretty good game, for what it’s worth. The soundtrack was good and, even though the multiplayer was non-existant, the gameplay was solid and well refined. Certainly, the PlayStation Vita could do with some more titles like this, and it is a shame that the development studio closed some time after launch.

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The Walking Dead

Box Art The Walking Dead Video GameIn this popular era of zombie apocalypse games, we’re playing high-action, fast-paced, blood’n’guts shoot ‘em ups were we want the highest score and to be as competitive as we can. But for the video game The Walking Dead, the developer Telltale Games (which I might add, is very appropriate), have crafted a beautiful, emotional, impacting and rememberable adventure and will go down in history as one of the most genuinely statuesque gaming experiences you may ever play.

Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Genre: Adventure//Point-and-Click, Horror
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows PC (Reviewed), Mac OSX, iOS
Release Date: April 24th, 2012 — November 20th, 2012
Rating:  18 (PEGI)

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dark souls 2, trailer, screenshot

Taking a Look at Dark Souls II

dark souls 2, trailer, screenshot

Could this be metaphoric for what could be to come?

I’m sure by now everyone has heard about Dark Souls II, and I’m also sure everyone has already done a fair bit of speculating on what the new addition to the Souls series will hold for all of us die-hard fans. I’m here to share my own opinions on what we may be able to look forward to and what we may not be looking forward to. Firstly, I’d like to preface that all of this is just my own speculation and is likely to change as more and more information about the game is released.

Anyway, let’s start with what we already know about Souls games. After making Demon’s Souls, From Software started work on their next instalment and looked to release on more platforms than just the PlayStation 3, but Sony wouldn’t let them make a direct sequel and have it be a multiplatform title. From Software went ahead and made Dark Souls as a “spiritual successor” to Demon’s Souls. Of course there are plenty of similarities between both games: the combat, leveling up and purchasing items with souls, the general layout of game progression with fog gates and boss fights; it’s pretty much just a new story and world. Yet, even there we have some subtle links such as Patches appearing in both games, and the 6th Arch stone in Demon’s Souls linking to the “Land of Giants” which I like to think gave some inspiration to the setting in Dark Souls, but that’s just my own thoughts on the matter. So now let’s move on to where that takes us with Dark Souls II.

Most of us were expecting the next game to also have a new name like the change from Demon’s to Dark, but given the fact that had From Software not released Dark Souls as a multiplatform title, chances are it would’ve been titled Demon’s Souls II and we’d now be looking at a Demons Souls III. They had done this in the past with the King’s Field games and Armored Core as well. So the fact that the new sequel is titled Dark Souls II even though it may not closely follow the story in Dark Souls (or be related at all) isn’t that crazy. On the other hand, this may be attributed to the current game industry’s fear of releasing new IPs under new titles. It’s never helpful to a game studio to release a new game and then have no one buy it due to unfamiliarity or not even knowing what it is. It’s just generally safer to make sequels to existing game series even if they take a noticeably different route with them. I’d like to hope that isn’t the case with Dark Souls II, but from what we’ve heard from the new Director–and the fact that there is a new Director–we’ll have to keep that fact in mind; for now, we won’t be able to really tell about that. With that out of the way, let’s move on to what we can hope to see in the new title gameplay/story wise.

Recently an interview was released with one of the new Directors, Tomohiro Shibuya (Yui Tanimura being the second new Director), and we got our first taste of where Dark Souls II will be taking us. The Director made some frightening claims such as making the game more “accessible”, having the story be more straightforward and direct, and making the title more action packed. From the get-go those sorts of things sound like a very big danger for the Souls series, but not all of it has to be bad. Demon’s and Dark Souls alike are both known for their incredible difficulty and that’s typically one of the reasons why people find the games to be so great and entertaining, but they also happen to have some downfalls that work to drive away new players. Things like the Poise system, or how important blocking is, and what to look for in new equipment, or how Sorcery and Miracles work. The games don’t do that good of a job of explaining these to players, and while it is pretty easy to just mess around in the game testing different things out, reading stat descriptions, or even just looking up a detailed explanation on the internet, a lot of people will just dismiss it as poor game design and get frustrated. The addition of a more detailed tutorial may be a bonus to the new game as long as it isn’t weighed down with scripted scenarios keeping veteran players down, of course there was mention of keeping the player’s options limited at the start of the game which is something to look out for.

Making the story more straightforward is a little harder to look on the bright side of. Discovering things like Petrus’ betrayal, the Darkwraith covenant, Ash Lake, or just having to speculate as you piece different item descriptions with item placements together to try and uncover parts of the story are some of the most enjoyable experiences when you’ve already beaten the game. Players can play multiple times and still notice new plot details. Having details like those openly presented to you on your first play through really cheapens the experience and doesn’t help to encourage exploration or discussion within the community. As for the new action, I’m just hoping they’ll keep it tasteful to the Souls series.

I’d like to try and not draw too much speculation from the trailer that was released. It was entirely pre-rendered, with no game play featured and was potentially just done to generate hype for the announcement. Whether or not anything we saw in it will feature in the actual game is still up for grabs. So any claims about how we’ll be locked into playing a single character or how we’ll have a love interest isn’t for sure. I’d like to believe that From Software takes note of how grand of a formula they’ve made for making role-playing games and will stick to it. Something like the “morality system” that was mentioned could just as well be similar to the World Tendency system from Demon’s Souls as that was vaguely linked to how you interacted with non-player characters. As long as they leave us with the ability to create our own character and going around killing any NPCs we like, I know I’ll be pleased.

All in all, at the current time there isn’t much we can really tell about what Dark Souls II has in store for us. Plenty of iffy points were brought up, but until a more detailed trailer or more information is released from From Software there’s no reason to get incredibly worried. I for one will be keeping my hopes up that they still manage to make an exciting game at least on par with the previous titles.

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Assassin’s Creed III

Assassin's Creed III Box Art ReviewI’m not going to lie. I was a fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, up until the launch of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, the fourth iteration of the game in five years,  and three consecutive years. It was at that point that I found myself tired of the series, but Ubisoft’s promise of something new and great resurrected my interest. The trailers made Assassin’s Creed III seem rather fresh. With hopes that the new title might revitalize the decaying series, I entered the title into my PlayStation 3’s disc tray.

Assassin’s Creed III is the penultimate title in Desmond’s story. The world is nearing its end, and the present day Assassins are nearing the end of their quest to save it. Unfortunately, a key stands between them and salvation, and the answer lies in Connor’s memories which can be visited through the Animus device. Connor is a half Native-American and half English Assassin who played a significant role during the American Revolution.

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Action-Adventure, Historical, Science-Fiction
Platforms: PlayStation 3 (Reviewed), Xbox 360 (Related), Wii U, Windows PC
System Release Date:  October 30th, 2012 (NA); October 31st, 2012 (EU)
Rating: 18 (BBFC)

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Clan of Champions

Clan of Champions Review ArtClan of Champions is an an action game with underlying role-playing game mechanics launched on Steam, and soon the PlayStation 3 too. As part of the Gladiator series, originally titled Gladiator Vs, Clan of Champions is the third game in the series. The Gladiator series has gone generally under the radar, with each previous title simply passing as an underwhelming release. But how does the recently localized title fare?

Developer: ACQUIRE
Publisher: NIS America (EU/NA)
Platforms: Windows (Steam), PlayStation 3 (PlayStation Network)
Genre: Action
Release Date: October 30th, 2012 (Steam), November 20th, 2012 (PlayStation Network)
Rating: 16+ (PEGI)

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Way of the Samurai 4

Way of the Samurai 4 Review Box ArtI was often recommended to try playing the Way of the Samurai franchise, but I never did get the chance. With Way of the Samurai 4 just released, it was now time to truly play the game for myself.

Way of the Samurai 4 sees the player take the role of a samurai during the period of transition in Japan, when the small country started to become influenced by western powers. The player may freely choose to side with the Japanese military, isolationists, or even the foreigners themselves. As a foreigner to the franchise, would I feel isolated?

Publisher: NIS America (Europe), XSEED Games (North America), Spike (Japan)
Developer: ACQUIRE
Genre: Action, Adventure
Platform: PlayStation 3
Release Date: October 5th, 2012 (EU); August 21st,  2012 (NA); March 3rd, 2011 (JP)
Rating: 15 (BBFC)

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DmC Devil May Cry Logo

Preview: DmC – Devil May Cry

DmC Devil May Cry Logo

Developed by Ninja Theory as a reboot to the fantastic Devil May Cry third-person action series,  DmC Devil May Cry received a lot of criticism for its radical changes to the franchise. Whilst still a similar type of game, DmC was developed using the Unreal Engine and featured a completely different Dante — the protagonist — than the previous titles. It also seemed far darker and serious than before. As a fan of Devil May Cry myself, I was sceptical. Admittedly, I approached the demo of the game at Eurogamer as such.

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