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Monday, December 20, 2010

Greed Corp review

It’s not often that strategy games make it to the console market before their natural habitat, but that’s the case with Greed Corp.  Xbox 360 and PS3 owners have had their mitts on the game since the start of the year, and now it’s finally made the jump, entirely intact, to the PC. This first effort from W!Games is certainly worth a try, but it may be a little too shallow for some.

There’s a story here of sorts – four greedy corporations have exploited the resources of their planet so much so that its literally begun to crumble apart, leading, through inevitable videogame logic, to a conflict that causes even more death and destruction. There are a few attempts to shoehorn some extra narrative in, but for the most part, this back story does nothing but inform the art style and the gameplay.

Then again that’s all it needs to do. You’ll be checking this game out for the quirky, intriguing strategy that’s quite unlike anything else out there. Playing on a series of hex-grid maps, anywhere from two to four teams take it in turns to construct buildings and units in order to take over their enemy’s territory. However, in order to gain resources, players must build harvesters which pummel the ground until it collapses, creating a very interesting tactical situation where players must seize ground only to destroy it. By the end of a match most of the map will have disappeared, leaving only a few lone hexes wobbling precariously above the abyss.
There are only a few buildings and units to take care of, but these produce a surprising amount of variety. The only moveable unit is the walker, which is used to seize enemy territory and defeat other walkers. The rules are fixed with no probability or chance involved – walkers are one-shot weapons that are used up in destroying a single foe. So, three walkers can defeat two, but will lose two of their own. Equal numbers means total destruction for both sides, but the attacker gains control of the contested hex. These simple rules make Greed Corp more like a board game or a chess match, where thinking ahead is everything.

Aside from the harvester there’s only one other building, the walker-building armoury. The last options left are the carrier which can transport walkers anywhere on the map in one move (useful at the end-game when most territory has been destroyed), and the cannon. This fixed weapon can blast walkers apart, but more importantly it can damage the terrain, possibly causing a chain reaction that can crumble numerous tiles. It’s great fun to back your opponent into a corner before using a well-placed shell to destroy his little fortress.

W!Games have done very well to create such an interesting game with such a small amount of options, but it’s not perfect. Getting to grips with the game is fun and scoring that perfect win with every move planned in advance is highly rewarding, but after completing a few missions the effect starts to wear off. The opening moves of a match change game-on-game, but too often these moves result in matches of attrition, with teams gradually wearing down each other’s supplies until one finally overwhelms the other. It’s certainly not always the case, especially in matches with more than two teams, but the irony of the game is that its main mechanic, the destruction of territory, leeches the strategy out of many situations.
The single-player game features one campaign for each of the four teams: the Freemen, the Cartel, the Pirates and the Empire. The difficulty is progressively upped along the way, but given that the only difference between the teams is their appearance, the single-player mode gets old fairly quickly. Multiplayer options help to flesh out the game and improve its longevity, since human unpredictability nearly always helps to improve strategy games.

It helps that the game looks and sounds great. The visuals are well designed, particularly with regard to the look of each team. From the grey, armour-clad Empire to the rustic wooden Freemen who are depicted as hippy tree-huggers, but yet still smash the land apart – story, bah! The soundtrack is also a pleasant surprise, with scratchy gramophone-jazz tunes accompanying the quirky destruction. It’s a shame that the gaps between tracks are so long, but that is hardly worth moaning about.

By all means grab a demo and give Greed Corp a go. It’s a very interesting take on turn-based strategy that will really appeal to some. W!Games have devised an intriguing system and done a really good job embellishing it with cracking visuals and sound. It’s a very accomplished product for its price, though whether it’ll keep players in for the long run is questionable.

James Bond 007: Blood Stone – Crush! Frag! Review!

Despite the nostalgia felt for the Nintendo 64′s GoldenEye (it’s not as good as you remember), 007′s only had one truly great video game adaptation: 2004′s Everything or Nothing (it’s better than you remember). Oddly enough, it was a third-person shooter, kicking the precedent set by previous Bond titles — Tomorrow Never Dies for PS1 not withstanding.

Upon the announcement of Bizarre Creations’ new take on Daniel Craig’s version of James “Blonde,” my mind raced back to sitting on my parents’ basement couch, spending way too much time replaying that pesky stealth mission and going head-to-head with an anachronistic Jaws, and I hoped that some supernatural force would shine its light down upon Blood Stone and take me back to those happy days. But it turns out that the light was shining up from below, and that the supernatural force was, in fact, the Devil.
A more appropriate name for Bond’s new mission would be something like “Straight Line: The Game.” Not only are levels nearly impossible to get turned around in, but if Bond could set down a skateboard and ‘dude’ his way through the stereotypical super villain hang-out zones, Blood Stone might resemble Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam. There are points, namely during chase sequences, when the player-controlled protagonist literally cannot fire any bullets until the game lets him. Even then, there’s hardly any aiming required and whatever the computer lets you shoot at always explodes in the most convenient fashion.

The case could certainly be made that the game’s creators simply wanted you to feel like you’re in a James Bond story, complete with those epic, destructive set pieces we’re all so familiar with from the films. That’s fine, as long as you don’t mind watching the game control itself during those awesome moments and wondering not only, “Why am I not doing this?” but also “Boy, I’m sure tired of looking at his back. Another camera angle would be nice.”
During those precious times when control over 007 is yours, opportunity arises to murder hundreds of innocent guards without any moral repercussions. Taking up any seemingly endlessly supplied peashooter will provide that violent outlet, especially since there’s no difficulty in doing so. Pulling back on the left trigger will line up the poor sap and the right will do him in. Easy squeezy. If you really want to decimate the playing field, however, using the never-failing X button while up close will slice and dice an enemy faster than you can say “Slap Chop!” Doing this provides “Focus Aims,” which are essentially a knock-off of Splinter Cell: Conviction‘s “Mark and Execute” moves, except here it’s just “Execute.”

Never fear! Bizarre made Project Gotham Racing and Blur, right? The driving must be plentiful and great! While the former is certainly true, the Rule of Straight Lines applies here more than ever. Remember all that slick dodging and weaving Bond does in his nifty rides? You get to do that! And if you don’t, expect numerous, painful, and lengthy ‘Restart to Checkpoint’ situations. Other cars manage to fly right in front of you, around you, and sometimes above you in an effort to push your skills to the limit! Thanks to the punishing restarts and “Hey man, you’re too slow!” fail conditions, these sequences sometimes feel like a Stuntman rip-off — and no, that’s not good, you idiot Stuntman lovers.
James Bond 007: Blood Stone is the most disappointing game I’ve played in a long while. I had considerably high hopes for another solid Bond adventure to scurry through, but this isn’t it. The multiplayer mode isn’t even worth trying — if the network can sustain a match long enough for you to get a kill, that is. It’s a sad, miserable package — and I’m not just talking about James Bond’s junk, either (there’s not even any sex in this game — blasphemy!).

Things We Liked: Acceptable shooting mechanics. Gives the “feel” of a Bond movie at times. Melee combat is stylish and cool.

Things We Disliked: Extremely linear. Takes control away from the player at nearly every opportunity. Frustrating chase sequences. Combat is for babies.

Target Audience: Babies for the shooting. Masochists for the driving. Moms who want a “clean” James Bond experience – no sex here! Stuntman-loving jerk holes.

Developer Confirms Kinect Is Coming To PC

A Korean developer has told IncGamers that Microsoft is definitely bringing Kinect to PC, confirming its latest online title will feature support for the device.

GamePrix, based in the Republic of Korea, has launched a new, PC-only MMORPG that promises to ‘resemble console games’ by featuring a combat mode similar to that seen in Tekken as well as Kinect support.

Describing Divine Soul, the firm writes: “the game's support of gaming pads make it resemble console games even more, and is scheduled to support Kinect, a new control system of Xbox360.”

The firm’s Jason Lim told IncGamers: “Kinect will soon be available as a new controller so it might be supported like joy pad mode in the future.

“Currently in MS, there are many game companies that are trying to apply for
this system.”

Discussing the new combat mode, Lim said: “We added PvP combat mode among the contents in online games. In fact, we do believe that this certainly has an advantage as an online game since many players can fight in a tournament and global tournament will be also available.”