The Last of Us – First Impressions

Buy it. NOW!

Buy it. NOW!

PlayStation 3 Exclusive

If Naughty Dog are to be remembered for anything, I bet you it would be the Uncharted series. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Uncharted games, they’re some of the most cinematic games I’ve ever played and they have some of the best characters written for video games. But in my eyes, from the 2 – 3 hours I’ve put into The Last of Us so far, I think this my be their greatest achievement yet.

The Last of Us is set against a post apocalypse setting 20 years after a viral infection nearly wipes out mankind. You play as Joel and you’re tasked with escorting a young girl named Ellie across a dangerous US, having to deal with both the infected and bandits. This is a third person game like their Uncharted games, but is much focused on stealth and melee combat rather than being an all out shooter. Due to the rarity of bullets, you’ll end up only using your gun when you’ve got no other choice.

They will hunt you. Find you. Kill you.

They will hunt you. Find you. Kill you.

There’s nothing quite like a memorable opening to a game. Setting the tone for the rest of the game and establishing the characters. The Last of Us has easily one of the best openings to a game I’ve ever experienced. It blew my mind. Never before have I felt such an emotional connection to characters and what’s happening all around them. Believe it or not, I actually replayed the opening 30 minutes again straight after. I’ve never done that before, usually saving such a feeling for a second play through. But I had to see it all again and I’m still looking forward to playing it yet again when I go through the game on a harder difficulty.

The rest of the game since then has been exceptional too, don’t think it the lets it foot off the gas for one second. Characters are so lifelike, the writing, voice acting and graphical quality all help towards this. Coming to the end of a generation of consoles, you’d expect we’d seen the best from the PS3. Naughty Dog has quite the reputation for having such high graphical quality and they have stepped up the bar once again. Even I had my doubts, but they were put to rest at the very second I saw playing out in front of me. The animations are just as good too, from the simplest animations of walking and running to complex and totally believable animations that play when you’re strangling an enemy from behind.

Combat seen in the game is simple, but mastering to lure enemies and strike at the right time is essential to your survival. Even when playing on normal, it doesn’t take many bullet to put you down. The hand-to-hand is incredibly violent and get more violent as you start to get your hands of metal pipes and 2×4’s. The Uncharted series may have had a focus on shooting, but many fans will confess that the shooting took a little while to get use to, enemies felt like damage sponges and shots didn’t feel like they had impact. Naughty Dog have finally nailed it, maybe the feeling that each bullet counts helps towards the feeling, but the shooting in The Last of Us has a great weighty feel to it.

Mine FTW!

Mine FTW!

The enemies seen in the game have some fantastic A.I. behind them too. At one point I had grabbed someone from behind but got spotted as I tried to choke him out. At this point I saw 2 enemies in a warehouse run into cover and out of sight. It was at this moment I had just finished choking out the guy, only to be flanked by an enemy whom had no weapons and had to rely on using his hands to take me down. I never saw him coming and turned around straight into a punch to the face off him. After dealing with him I then moved into the warehouse and the last guy was hiding behind a box, but I didn’t know where. It was only when I walked into the open did he pop out and get a couple of shots at me. I felt like I had been outsmart for the first time ever in a game.

Infected on the other hand behave a lot like many other infected in games and will simply chase you down once they’re aware of your presence. Clickers and Runners are the two types of infected and the Runners resemble the infected from the movie 28 Days Later or even the remake of Dawn of the Dead. On the other side of the coin though are the Clickers, these guys are blind and use a sonar like ability to find out and rely solely on sound you make. These guys a frightening and will kill you once they have a hold of you. They’re very hard to take out to, so good luck, I died several times when thrown in a room full of infected.

As I’m in the early days of the relationship between Joel and Ellie, it’s hard for me to say what the chemistry is like. Early signs are good though, and if it ends up anything like the way other characters interact with each other, then I know I’ve got much to look forward to. Now the game also includes a crafting system, and whilst a simple mechanic within the game, crafting items on the fly in the middle of a fight is a great risk/ rewards system and can help turn the tide of the battle.

Multiplayer is looking to be just as brutal.

Multiplayer is looking to be just as brutal.

I’ve currently not had the chance to play the multiplayer, but it’s something I can’t wait to get stuck into later. Called Factions, you must initially pick a faction to join, being aligned with the hunters or fireflies. Each player begins with a small number of survivors that must be kept alive and grown over time. You accomplish this in two modes, the first of which is Supply Raid. In this mode, your team has 20 reinforcements. Once they’re exhausted, the match will go to sudden death. In the Survivors mode, no one can respawn. Once you die, you’re finished until the next round begins. Matches are best of seven, meaning the first team to win four rounds, wins the match.

Everything I’ve played so far suggests that The Last of Us is shaping to be the game to beat this year, like many reviewers have stated. Unfortunately, with the next generation kicking off this holiday season, I hope The Last of Us doesn’t get forgotten about as the GOTY nominations get announced. Now please excuse me as I go off and play some more of The Last of Us.

-ast

Advertisements

State of Decay – First Impressions

The Zombie Game we've always wanted

The Zombie Game we’ve always wanted.

Version Played: Xbox 360

Back in 2006 when I was gearing up to buy my Xbox 360, I was buying it for one game. That game was Dead Rising. With zombie games, no matter how many we receive, I’ll play them all regardless of seeking out reviews. Dead Rising remains one of my favourite zombie game franchises, but it wasn’t the zombie game we have all wanted. The survival zombie game we all crave has only really just been introduced with Day Z, yet that is only on PC. State of Decay is the survival zombie we’ve all been waiting for. Available on Xbox 360 and later to be released on PC, State of Decay puts you in the middle of an open world ravaged by zombies, with your main goal, to survive day by day.

State of Decay is the first game from Undead Labs, and by god do they impress. From the first few hours with the game everything is looking very promising. Having an open world to explore and survive in is what we have always wanted in zombie games. The world feels lived in, yet torn apart by the apocalypse. You start the game by returning from a 2 week-long trip with your friend. Upon returning your attacked by zombies and from there you find survivors and slowly learn what has happened in the 2 weeks you’ve been away.

Imagine yourself holding off a horde attack from the house.

The game revolves around survival, gathering food, ammo, medical and building supplies to help grow and protect your community of survivors. Keeping them happy and healthy is the key to success from what I’ve seen so far. Fractures can develop between people and at times you’ll be task to take people out with you to talk to them about the problems they may be causing within the group. Everyone you encounter can become your friend, and the more friends you have the better. This is because when you die, your character is dead for good and you will switch to one of their friends. All that levelling up you’ve done with the character, the bond you’ve developed, all gone and ripped apart if they fall victim to the zombies. You will be switching between friends regards of you dying anyway as your characters will need rest, so when they do, you should switch and take someone else out.

You can also use these friends you gain and survivors you choose to save to help upgrade your home base. Improving the food, helping with training people or even just being a good shot helping guard the base from the watchtower. The people you meet are just as important to your survival as you are. When out in the world searching through abandoned homes for supplies, if you come across more than you can carry, then radio your base and send out someone to pick up the rest of the supplies. Of course this is all risk and reward, you could just drop off the supplies you have and come back, but then it’s much faster sending someone out to help but they run the risk of getting attacked by zombies on the way.

The zombies in the game shamble around at first, but once they have spotted you or heard you, then they run straight at you. Usually in zombie games, I would welcome a large group of zombies to tear through, but in State of Decay, taking on more than one is always a risk. Melee weapons and firearms are your main zombie killing tools. With melee, much less noise is made, but weapons can break and they’re horrible for crowd control. Firearms on the other hand can take out a small group with well placed headshots, but make a lot of noise, which can attract more zombies than you may have bullets for. Each gun in the game can take different types of ammo, so having the right kind of bullets for the gun you’ve just found is an intense feeling. Tip: Raid the gun shop as soon as possible!

In your inventory (upgradable by the size of the bag your carrying), you also have access to consumables, from painkillers to snacks, these will fill your health and stamina bar back up. You also can carry objects to distract zombies and even kill them with the likes of homemade Molotov Cocktails and mines. This being an open world game, there’s plenty of cars to drive around too. Cars can deteriorate over too much running over of the dead, as much fun as it is. Also, this seems like a truly consistent open world too. Houses I’ve fully emptied out don’t respawn more supplies and cars, once damaged, don’t heal or respawn either. Maybe this will change once you’re a far enough distance from the location it may reset when you revisit it later. So far though, that hasn’t happened and I hope it doesn’t, it adds to the survival aspect of the game.

Driving is made more fun when your car is covered in zombies!

Driving is made more fun when your car is covered in zombies!

Even with being a few hours into the game, I’ve not touched the story very much. Not that it’s bad, in fact, learning more about the early days of the infection is very interesting and I can’t wait to see what’s in store later down the line. But with so much to do, so many people to save, so many houses to explore and raid, there’s always something for you to do. Early insight into the story though has me interested in what’s to come, and that can only be a good thing. The game is also quite good-looking too. Whilst not on par with a lot of major releases, it’s still nice to look at for a cheaper, smaller release.

State of Decay is a fantastic game so far, giving off every impression that it can only get better. The developers, Undead Labs have said this game is very much the foundation of an open world survival zombie MMO. Depending on the success of this game, we may get that game in the future. They do deserve every single sale this game receives, and if you have yourself an Xbox 360, I recommend picking this game up as soon as you get the chance. It does fall into the premium side of the Xbox Live Arcade price point, at 1600 Microsoft Points. But very much like Minecraft before it, it’s definitely deserving of the higher price point.

-ast

Resident Evil: Revelations HD (Demo) – First Impressions

Survival Horror is back!

Survival Horror is back!

Version Played: XBOX 360 Demo

Being a long time fan of the Resident Evil franchise, with it since the very beginning. I’m sure you understand my concern with the franchise at the moment. After the abysmal Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City and the underwhelming Resident Evil 6, I found myself worrying that the best times had come and gone. There was however, a shining diamond, the one game that was both well received from critics and fans alike. That game was Resident Evil: Revelations on the 3DS.

Now Capcom is releasing Resident Evil: Revelations on PC, XBOX 360, PS3 and Wii U. With updated HD visuals, extra difficulty modes, a new enemy type and extra characters for the Raid Mode, it’s safe to say Capcom are now in rehab, recovering and trying the please their loyal fans once again.

Resident Evil: Revelations HD takes place between the events of Resident Evil 4 and 5, and sees Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, teaming up with their respective partners, Parker Luciani and Jessica Sherawat aboard the seemingly abandoned ‘Queen Zenobia’ cruise ship, as it heads towards the city of Terragrigia. Like all past Resident Evil games though, nasty creatures await.

The demo only offered up around 20 minutes of gameplay, however even in that short time, I was given a taste of a lot of the various mechanics the game has to offer. In the section you play, your mission is to locate Chris and then find the key to the room he’s located in. Your given a small section of the ship to explore, and it’s immediately apparent that the game has a great atmosphere. You are alone (no Co-op here, yay!) and it can get dark, with nothing but your flashlight to help you see. Apart from the little mini-map at the top right of the screen, the HUD is very minimal which helps with the immersion also.

Unlike previous Resident Evil games, the controls here are much more friendly to use. No longer having to play finger twister to reload or throw a grenade, the new control scheme makes the game all the more enjoyable. It controls much like any other third person shooter now, but don’t think that’s what this game is. No, Resident Evil: Revelations HD is more survival horror than action unlike previous games. With little ammo and enemies that don’t go down with a simple headshot, encounters can become very intense. Each bullet missed, is one step closer to dying. If you play smart though and take your time, you’ll be able to manage your ammo and health fairly well with the use of Genesis.

Genesis is a scanning device you have access to that you can bring up at any time. You use this device to scan for hidden objects hidden around the levels. It’s always worth pulling the Genesis out in every room you come across to make sure you don’t miss out on those vital 5 bullets or that lifesaving green herb. It can also be used to scan enemies, alive or dead, each scan counts towards a percentage at the top of the screen. Once 100% is reached, I received a green herb. Whether or not you get better rewards later on is yet to be seen, but it does hold its advantages it seems.

Through the start of the demo your given glimpses to the creatures you’ll be facing, then you’ll be up in their face, fighting them off in the later part of the demo. Now the creatures in this game spawn from the T-Abyss virus which has been made and modified using the original T-Virus. It is a marine type virus, and the creature design does a great job of showing that. You’ll only be facing the Ooze monster in the demo, they’re slow, but take quite a few bullets to take down and can do so serious damage. They show signs of marine life with their dripping wet look and their swordfish-like arm blades. I can’t wait to see what else is going to be on offer throughout the full game.

The graphics are also a great, Capcom has done a fantastic job with updating the visuals. Main character models look great as do the enemies. However the environments, whilst looking good, feel empty at times. It’s here when you can tell this was once a 3DS game, with very little going on, everything feels so static. Other than that, I didn’t run into any problems.

Resident Evil: Revelations HD (due out next week!) is looking to be a return to form for Capcom. Delivering a survival horror Resident Evil game to the home console and PC fans. Let’s just hope they can use this mentality when moving forward in the main storyline. If Resident Evil: Revelations HD can prove anything, it’s that we don’t need zombies, fixed camera angles and cheesy dialogue to have a classic Resident Evil experience.

-ast

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon – First Impressions

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon OST Cover, it rocks!

Version Played: XBOX 360

Remember the 80’s? I don’t, I was a 90’s child, but I grew up watching 80’s movies like no one else. From Schwarzenegger to Stallone, I loved them all… and their movies too. That’s why when Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was announced, I got pretty damn stoked! A game full of references to the classic 80’s movies with the one and only Michael Biehn (The Terminator, Aliens) voicing the playable character of Rex Colt.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is THE Kick-Ass Cyber Shooter. Welcome to an 80’s vision of the future. The year is 2007 and you are Sargent Rex Colt, a Mark IV Cyber Commando. Your mission: get the girl, kill the baddies, and save the world. Sounds very much like the basic outline for every 80’s action movie, and that’s what is so amazing about this game. It’s fun, funny and rocking the best soundtrack to a game in a long time!

Having sunk about 3 hours into the game as of writing this, I feel I have had enough experience within the world of the game to justify a solid first impressions. I’m really going to try a stay clear of spoilers for the sake of that this is simply a game you have to experience to for yourself, no words can do it justice. It starts with an 8-bit style cut scene playing out with a clear rip off of The Terminator theme behind it. From this alone I was sent straight back to my childhood, watching The Terminator in the afternoon, with my mum having taped it the previous night. With a great big smile on my face I watched the Predator references play out and played through a turret section with Little Richard’s ‘Long Tall Sally’ blasting through the speakers. If that hasn’t got your attention already, nothing will.

Now I usually hate tutorials in games, they slow the pace of the game and treat a lot of gamers as if they’re completely unintelligent. However Blood Dragon has a very funny and entertaining tutorial, it parodies other tutorials rather well asking you to acknowledge you can actually read first. After that, your set loose on your first story mission, with a mix of stealth and all out attack making sure you don’t get bored. With the 8-bit cut scenes splitting up the action and moving the OTT story along at a brisk pace, killing your way through the underground missile base is both a violent and intense affair. The first mission is an absolute blast, and that’s as far I want to talk about the story missions, I just would hate to spoil anything for you.

Now Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a standalone title, not requiring Far Cry 3 the play. At £10, it’s such a steal. Gameplay is the same as Far Cry 3’s, only with being a cyborg, you move around faster and can take more damage. You could almost get away with calling it a re-skin of Far Cry 3, only with a new texture pack. In reality though, there is a lot going on in Blood Dragon that pulls it away from feeling like just a re-skin. All new weapons, including a pistol exactly like the one Robocop has and a 4-barrel shotgun, make you feel like an action hero.

In place of Outposts from Far Cry 3, we have Garrisons. These are occupied by the enemy and you must go in and liberate them to take control of the Island, bit by bit. How you go about this is where the fun lies. All guns blazing? Stealthy? Or how about sending in a Blood Dragon? Yes, Blood Dragon is not in the title to just make it sound cool, they are in the game. Blood Dragons are large lizard like creatures that are very difficult to kill and shoot lasers out of their eyes. Sounds crazy? You should be use to this by now. By rather throwing a cyborg heart into the base or shutting down the barriers, you can lure a Blood Dragon into the base to eat and shoot lasers at the enemy. It’s a lot of fun, and with 13 Garrisons around the Island, there’s plenty room of experimentation.

The Island in Blood Dragon is half of what was on offer in Far Cry 3, which, for a downloadable title, is astonishing. Along with Garrisons, there are rescue missions and hunting missions available, each offering you weapon upgrades once completed. There are also a lot of fun collectables like VHS tapes and TVs hidden around the island. This wouldn’t be Far Cry without the wildlife too. Rest assured, they return… as robots and mutants. However they are really just re-skins of previous animals and I wish they had put a little more effort into them.

Graphically the game pulls out all the stops. For a 1.35GB download, it can stand side by side with a AAA retail release. Neon lights illuminate the landscape and give off a very TRON like vibe. Now to the soundtrack, my god it is good. Done by Power Glove, the soundtrack is what pushes this game to greatness for me. Electro has returned in full force, if you liked what Daft Punk did with the TRON: Legacy soundtrack or if you have a special little place in your heart for the music in Drive, you will love this soundtrack. After downloading and playing the game, I then downloaded the soundtrack and I’m even listening to it whilst writing this. ‘Blood Dragon Theme’, ‘Power Core’, ‘Combat II’ and ‘Cyber Commando’ are some of my personal favourites, I suggest you seek them out.

I hope from reading this, I have talked you into checking out Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. I also hope that I have given you a good enough idea of the awaits you whilst not spoiling anything major for you. The game shows all the signs of only getting better as it goes on, if you want a definitive opinion on the game then seek out a review, they have been very positive for the game. This is certainly a business model I would like to see more of in the future, taking existing resources and making something completely new and off the wall with them. If you end up picking up Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and/ or its soundtrack, I would love to know what you think, so let me know in the comments below.

-ast