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All reviews - DVDs (2) - Music (10) - Games (20)

The Rifles - No Love Lost

Posted : 9 years, 11 months ago on 23 July 2007 05:35 (A review of No Love Lost)

The Rifles certainly is one of the better bands that have come out of the British indie scene the past couple of years. Packing as much melody as your average Kaiser Chief-wannabe band, but having so much more personal sound, their debut album is nothing short of a fun piece of plastic.

At times, No Love Lost sounds like what a love baby of the Cure and the Clash would sound like, the guitars filling the latter punk-band spot and the vocals having as much emotion as a Boys Don't Cry chorus.

While there's no denying the record has some weak spots, notably the last song 'Narrow Minded Social Club' is a bit too much pretentious for a band that you just want to hear to drink a beer to, the band makes up for it by the sheer number of anthems. "She's Got Standards" is a rocking opener, and the fantastic melodies in Local Boy and Peace And Quiet susses all doubters.

All in all, two thumbs up for this new band.


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Deftones - Saturday Night Wrist

Posted : 10 years, 8 months ago on 28 October 2006 10:20 (A review of Saturday Night Wrist)

On Saturday Night Wrist, the Deftones finally deliver what fans were waiting for. Three years in the making, the internal friction between members, most specifically front man Chino Moreno’s perfectionist way of working and his side project Team Sleep which he toured with during the writing process of this new record, caused some anger and frustration between the band members. Still, it’s like we’re used to in the ‘Tones camp and in the end it only makes for a more varied and finished record, a record with more bells and whistles than some bands have put into their entire career.

Unlike the dark, and perhaps over-produced fourth record, "Deftones", which was troubled in the shadow of their third, most praised effort "White Pony", Saturday Night Wrist sees the Sacramento boys back with clear sound and more importantly, a line up of songs as diverse and emotionally charged as WP. Whether this is the Deftones'€™ last record or not, it is clear that whatever happens, the gods of 'emocore'€™ have delivered another classic that will be haled by critics and fans alike.

Moreno'€™s voice is crystal clear again, a breath of fresh air after the echoing end result of self titled. The instruments are just as refined and every drum beat, every riff pumps into the listeners ear as if it€™s Deftones€™ final chance to really shine again, to deliver something that can be hold as their high point for many years to come. Deftones, you remain just what we have always loved about you: unique and emotionally charged, with rocking melodies. You don't care what the rest of the world is doing, so your music stays timeless.

A short track by track review:

Hole in the Earth
The first track of the album, functioning as the first single as well, is so Deftones and so different all the same. Very reminiscent of the Cure but with louder guitars, the song deals with Moreno's position in the band when not all was well, singing '€œI hate all of my friends'€. The repeating of the song title works in a good way, settling the listener in the way Chino'€™s lyrics work every so often. Most important for all, the track carries an energy that disregards the negative lyrics and transfers it in a very positive feeling. Chino wasn't lying when he called the record up-beat.

Rapture
Poised to be the fans' favourite of SNW, the track could remind one of the "Around The Fur" record, with Chino fiercely screaming through most of the song. '€˜It'€™s a rapture / but a different style' cements the frontman'€™s reputation once again as the master of writing insanely cool lyrics. Especially the contribution of Frank Delgado on the turntables makes for a haunting experience that would fit on White Pony.

Beware
A live favourite that used to be called '€˜Beware the Water'€™ has such thick riffs that its difficult to not bang your head to it. Cricket noises in the distant give a taste of what'€™s to come further down the record: its all about underlying vibes creating a cohesive experience just like every Deftones record does. The heavy ending at the end should please all long time fans. It clocks in at six minutes as well. Long and meaty, just what the doctor ordered. The record’s 'Change (in the house of flies)'€™, but harder.

Cherry Waves
And so the new age of Deftones sound begin. A soft, emotional song with dolphins in the background, the band takes its listeners through the ocean and back. A love song? Perhaps. With Moreno'€™s cryptic lyrics, one can never be sure, but if any 'Tones song could be about drowning in another human being, this is it. Two couplets and a chorus are followed with some fantastic drumming on Cunningham's part. Can we get a blanket now? We sink deeper into the fantasy world SNW is creating. For some this is the ultimate song on the record, to me it's just very, very good.

Mein
And so, the fear of every Deftones fan arises. System of a Down's frontman Serj Tarkan in a Deftones song? Thankfully, Mein is anything a fan could wish a new song should be. Pounding guitars and drums, and vocals with so much melody that it should be forbidden. Serj pops up later in the song and fits right with the song. The song is very rhythmic and up beat. One of the surprises on SNW.

U, U, D, D, L, R, L, R, A, B, Select, Start
The first instrumental from Deftones ever, it'€™s a nice transition from the first to the second part of the record, but not very special in any way. This instrumental reminds one of Mogwai and it really is a song to set the general vibe of the record.

Xerces
You'd expect an ear-shattering hard song after the interlude that was the last song, but Deftones just aren't as straight forward as that. The instruments provide a melody that show Deftones are the masters of their own sound: it just sounds like them through and through. Moreno's vocals are reminiscent of Team Sleep, but that isn't such a bad thing. Then the chorus kicks in, with riffs that have an undeniable punk vibe. Yes, I get it now, this record is more varied than an orgy.

Rats Rats Rats
Ah, but here is the hard stuff. At least, the couplets are, but the chorus turns in White Pony sound in a mix of agression and melody. Then after two choruses comes the killer part... what a fucking trip! Deftones meets Slayer.

Pink Cellphone
A hip hop beat with Annie Hardy talking about buttfucking and foreskin? The song is addicting, maybe not up beat enough to form a good dance song but a good and funny listen all the same. On the 'clean' version of the record, the finale is missing and that's a shame, because it's funny as hell.

Combat
Nice and hard, with Chino screaming to his listeners "which side are you on?". It ensures there is enough for the metal heads to bang their heads too. Thankfully there's some melody thrown in for good measure and after two choruses the song surprises.

Kim Dracula
It has the same feeling as Combat to it, but without the surprise at the end. If anything this is the weak spot of the record, but that is more telling of the quality of it all instead of the lack of in this song. Just a catchy song, nothing more.

Riviere
One hell of an ending for a record. Beginning in silence, then blasting into a mix between Pink Maggit and This Boys Republic. Chino's voice just screams emotion. Cound me impressed.


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Metroid Prime

Posted : 10 years, 8 months ago on 26 October 2006 11:23 (A review of Metroid Prime)

Time to be totally honest here: the underdog turns out to be an all-time classic. Metroid Prime, surrounded by so many rumours about development troubles, is nothing short of a breath-taking experience. We would even go as far as mention it in the same breath with the Nintendo 64 classic Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. No doubt you are wondering to yourself how on earth a game can be this good. We’ll tell you.

The first hour or so in Metroid Prime acts like an intro, giving you time to learn the basic controls while the story develops. Nintendo seems to have a patent on engrossing game intros. Instead of most other games where a boring trial is present, here you actually feel like you’re learning while having fun. You are excused when thinking in this first hour that the game is nothing special, but at the end of this beginning, you’ll find yourself totally engrossed and you’ll realise the perfectionism of this game. You won’t be able to put it down from there.

People new to the series (and you’re excused for this as well: the last Metroid game was on the Super Nintendo) have nothing to worry: Metroid Prime introduces you to the female bounty hunter in the orange robot suit, Samus Aran, all over again. It will also introduce you to an entirely new way to playing shooters. In fact, Nintendo is calling this new genre the first person adventure instead of first person shooter. You’ll move around with the analogue stick, but you won’t be able to look upwards and downwards: this also means no strafing. Unless you use the R button at the top of the controller to look around freely (while unable to move) or to lock on enemies or items, not unlike the latest Zelda games.

But there’s more to it: for instance, the C-stick will allow you to change your gun. Actually, your gun stays the same, but there’s different (endless) ammunition to use. There’s also the ability to use rockets, although these do no run on an endless supply. The real innovation lies in the age old D-Pad: you can use this to change your visor. In Metroid Prime, you see everything through Samus Aran’s visor: from the steam making it all moist, to the water leaving little drops on it. You can change the standard visor into three other visors, with one being used a lot: the scan visor. With this, you can lock on computers and little tiles spread everywhere in the gaming world. They hold lots of information and they are the only thing driving the story of Metroid Prime further. No real cut scenes, just text. It’s different, but it works quite engrossing. It’s not for everyone of course, so some players might grow tired and skip through all the text. We’d advise against this, as there is some really interesting information stored in most of it.

Samus is also able to roll in a ball, the Morph Ball. The camera will flip to third person and you’re off rolling around. At first, this seems like a handy mechanism to roll through tiny holes and past hard to reach places, but later in the game, puzzles especially designed for the Morph Ball will prove to be one of the most enjoyable facets of the game.

In the intro, you’ll land on a Pirate spaceship (the Pirates are the baddies in the game, that use an evil substance and the horrible Metroid creatures for their own good) and you’ll get to grips with the controls by infiltrating the ship. You’ll get used to everything fairly quickly, and just when you feel secure enough, you’ll face the first boss, and what a boss it is. Beat it and a timer starts counting down: race to the surface of the ship in a hurry to survive. The word exciting doesn’t do it justice.

After this intro, you land on the planet you’re going to walk around on for the rest of the game. This planet is so engrossing because it presents it’s own ecosystem. Every interesting plant or creature (be it offensive or just going it’s own way without noticing you) can be scanned and more can be learned of it. It feels like you’re walking around in a living, breathing world and while there’s no interaction between other characters at all (which makes the feeling of total abandonment stronger), you’ll feel like you’re really there. Raindrops on your visor only makes this feeling stronger.

The game takes on a Zelda-like structure from there. While factually the game is one big world, it is still divided up in themes such as an ice world, a lava world and an industry world that can’t be visited all at once. Rather, you’ll have to find new items to enchant your suit to reach places you couldn’t reach before. Mostly, these items are acquired by beating a boss or solving a giant puzzle, and the feeling of accomplishment when you succeed in collecting a new item is unparalleled.

The big world does bring a few drawbacks. Sometimes, despite the maps in the game, it’s easy to get lost, and getting back to a place you couldn’t reach before can be a right pain in the butt thanks to extensive backtracking and some maze-like environments. This sometimes borders on irritating, but it’s a small problem that you’ll want to forgive, since the rest of the game is such an accomplishment.

It’s hard to pinpoint what makes this game so good, rather it’s a mix of all sorts of elements that makes it such an adventure. The boss battles really are highlights in the game, with all sorts of ingenious ways to battle them, not to mention the size of the creatures can really intimidate. The simple joy of reading about the environments, jumping your way through levels like it is a platformer and solving clever puzzles with your morph ball is enough to make even the most jaded gamer smile.

Conclusion

So, Metroid Prime is far more than we could hope it would be. It’s definitely the game that makes a purchase of the GameCube worthy, and maybe it’s even the best game of this generation, although that is, of course, too early to tell. With the few small niggles in the game not providing any real trouble and most of the game being not only beautiful to look at and ingenious to play through, but also a downright challenge for any gamer to take part in, what we have here is no doubt an all time classic. A high quality, substantial adventure was what the GameCube was lacking, but Metroid Prime presents it on a golden plate for you. Buy, buy, buy!

Pros:
- Big adventure in immersive world.
- Satisfying gameplay and way of exploring more and more of the game world.
- Probably the deepest shooter ever made.

Cons:
- Some backtracking makes for some boring minutes.

This game is for: Everyone should try this just once to see if it’s for them. Even shooter haters.
This game is not for: No one. Try it before you die.

Written by Michel Musters (Moz La Punk) / Previously published on [Link removed - login to see]


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The Mars Volta - Amputechture

Posted : 10 years, 8 months ago on 26 October 2006 09:47 (A review of Amputechture)

Oh no, it's another The Mars Volta record! I can hear the critics sharpen their knives already. Except for the EP 'Tremulant' and to some extent, their first record 'De-Loused In The Comatorium', the press has been bashing these ex-At The Drive-In boys like there's no tomorrow. And it's easy to see why they do such a thing. Songs that last almost 17 minutes, with some kind of structure somewhere in the background but mostly progressive use of guitar solos, high pitched singing and shifts in dynamics, Mars Volta records can be a pain in the ass to understand.

However, for people like me who love to learn to listen to music, again and again to try and see the structure, getting familiar with the melodies how difficult it may seem, this is pure heaven. Why spend time on records with three minute singles that you know from front to back in a day, when you can go on an exhaustive rollercoaster like this for weeks?

In fact, 'Amputechture' is one of Mars Volta's most accessible records to date, although that isn't saying much. Album opener 'Vicarious Atonement' begins the record quietly, much like second track on 'Frances the Mute', 'The Widow' did last time. Then the over 16 minutes long 'Tetragrammaton' kicks in and we're back to the familiar sound this band is known for.

But there are, thank god, surprises. 'Day of the Baphomets' features singing we're not yet used to from Cedric Bixler-Zavala, and it makes for a good listening experience.

Nowhere does the structure of the entire record not the songs itself get anywhere near the complexity of 'Frances the Mute'. That record will probably forever stay Mars Volta's jamming record, which is saying something since each song on every record itself sounds like a big jam anyway. 'Amputechture' is more focussed, but in a Mars Volta way.

Only for people who love this kind of stuff. I do, so I'm good.


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Lost Season One DVD Box

Posted : 10 years, 8 months ago on 24 October 2006 08:51 (A review of Lost - Season 1)

You might have picked something up about Lost somewhere the past couple of years. It's a big success, so logically, it's everywhere. Don't be turned off by the fact that this is an extremely commercial product, though, because this first season will suck you right in and won't let you go far after you've watched the last episode of the 25 present in this box.

What's the story? 48 people survive a plane crash and have to survive on a deserted tropical island. I know, it sounds cheesy, and you'd be forgiven to think that all you're going to see are some chaps trying to make a fire with stones and talking to a ball they gave a name (hold on... wasn't that Cast Away?), but actually Lost has more in common with the X-Files than anything.

See, this island isn't your ordinary island. It has something walking around making a lot of noise and chomping off heads... it has a polar bear... it has a mysterious hatch that can't be opened...

but above all, it got a great set of characters that grow with each episode. Each episode is mixed with some flashbacks about a certain person's life before the crash, so you'll get to know them better and it makes for diverse watching material.

Of course, what happens on the island is still the most important factor in Lost, and you won't be able to contain yourself thinking about what is going to happen in the next episode. Well, guess what, you won't have to, because with this box, you'll be able to watch the entire season in one weekend.

Highly recommended, frekkels.


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Lumines (PSP)

Posted : 10 years, 8 months ago on 24 October 2006 04:54 (A review of Lumines: Puzzle Fusion)

The PSP is one powerful piece of equipment… and this is a freaking puzzle game? Don’t fear, as this is the best looking and best sounding puzzle game ever.

If you are not familiar with the game Rez (released for the Dreamcast and later on for the Playstation 2), you’re really missing out on something quite remarkable. While Rez plays, basically, like a standard shooter (a shooter in the way R-Type is a shooter – only Rez is in 3D), it creates it’s own image and fan base by doing something original with graphics and sound. While reviewers are keen on telling their readers that graphics and sound don’t matter compared to gameplay – and to a certain extend that’s true – we’d beg to differ. When graphics and sound are actually helping the gameplay to become more interesting – and this is the case in Rez – then isn’t it true that gameplay isn’t always the most important factor? In Rez, you fly around, shooting enemies in a world so strange and still so consistent, that you’ll be fully immersed by it in no time. The music changes a bit complementing the quality of the player’s skills, the flashy, colourful graphics bring the player in some sort of trance.

Well, the creators of Rez, Q Entertainment, are back with a vengeance. If we had something to say over at Sony’s console division, we would have forced them to package every single PSP with Lumines. It is, without a question, the perfect companion for the PSP. It’s the PSP’s Tetris, you might say. And while we’re pretty sure that the game will not reach as much success and fame as Nintendo’s old Game Boy seller, as far as the quality of the game goes, there’s not a big gap between the two at all.

See, Lumines wouldn’t be as great on a Game Boy as it is now. Just because of one simple fact: the PSP can offer better graphics and sounds. Doubters, stand up now. Let your voice be heard. ‘Graphics shouldn’t matter, Moz! It’s the gameplay that counts! That’s why Tetris is one of the best selling games ever!’. True, but just like Rez, Lumines just wouldn’t be the same game without the flashy graphics and catchy music. It’s part of the whole package, a package that will make you addicted and will often give you a sort of trance during playtime.

The concept is fairly simple, just what a good puzzle game needs. The entire time, squares of four blocks are falling down. Blocks can only be two colours. So for instance, a square with two green blocks and two white blocks. You can move the block before it falls down, you can change the way the blocks are positioned in the square, all before the square hits the bottom of the screen. The only thing you have to do, is make squares (that means four blocks) of the same colour. It sounds so incredibly easy, and it is. But it takes a true Lumines master to keep it up at a steady pace. In the normal game mode, you continue doing this, and after a few minutes, when you’re past a certain score, the music and the graphics (backgrounds, use of colour) change. This goes on and on and on… as long as you can keep up. When you can’t get rid of the blocks and they reach the top of the screen, you’re done for, just like Tetris.

There’s also a ‘line’ going from left to right every few seconds. When you make a square with four the same colours, you have a small amount of time before the square disappears. This happens when the line goes past the square, so try to make more squares before the line goes by. Those are combos, and obviously result in a bigger score.

When you read through this short summary, you may begin to question yourself two things. The first question: can’t I just play Tetris instead? Yes you can, but Lumines has the same addicting gameplay, plus a couple of twists that makes things fresh again. The second question: it really doesn’t sound that interesting, does it? No it doesn’t, but be honest, does the concept of Tetris sound interesting? It doesn’t, but it’s still an amazingly playable and addicting game. The same goes for Lumines.

Other options include to play unlimited time on a single skin (that means keeping the same music and graphical flavour forever), short bursts of a few minute, and multiplayer through Wi-Fi connection.

Conclusion

All in all, there’s nothing quite interesting to add to the few words I’ve used to describe Lumines. It’s so simple, but it’s also very impressive. You just have to know a few things. It’s the best launch title of the PSP. It’s the most addicting launch title of the PSP. And it is a perfect title for a handheld system. You have to own this.

Pros:
- Addicting gameplay that rivals Tetris
- Mix of music and visuals is extraordinary
- Best PSP launch game that is actually suited to a handheld

Cons:
- Takes over your life
- Not as beginner friendly as Tetris

This game is for: Everyone who bought the PSP. It’s a real handheld title.
This game is not for: The real puzzle haters. This is a puzzle game. Plain logic, folks.

Written by Michel Musters (Moz La Punk) / Previously published on [Link removed - login to see]


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Super Mario Bros.

Posted : 10 years, 8 months ago on 24 October 2006 10:06 (A review of Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt)

Ta da, ta da da da, ta!’ With a little imagination you don’t see a baby typing here but the first few opening notes of a game that nearly every person recognises. Super Mario Bros., the first Mario platformer ever, has been played by nearly every gamer you can talk to these days.

I remember my first experience with it. It was my eight birthday, and I was expecting to get my very first console in my house, bought by the in my eyes never ending supply of cash held by my parents. The entire furniture holding the television was wrapped in present paper. That morning when I woke up, I hurried myself downstairs and ripped apart the paper to see the shiny grey machine standing under the television. ‘The Mintendo’, as my inexperienced brain named it, was finally mine.

The Nintendo Entertainment System, also known as the NES, was for many the first experience with the phenomenon called gaming. It came with a cartridge with Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt on it. Ah, Duck Hunt. I could tell you stories about that game, but that’s not where this article is about.

Super Mario Bros. then. I played it to death. Literally because I can’t seem to start it up on my NES nowadays. Actually, my NES doesn’t start up any game anymore. Instead, it’s sitting in my ‘classic console cabin’ enjoying it’s old days on our planet. But last year I picked up Super Mario Bros. again, in the ‘Classic’ GameBoy Advance range, and since then I can’t stop playing it whenever I get the chance.

Especially in holidays or when I’m somewhere else, I’m playing the game like there’s no tomorrow, because on a handheld it’s the perfect time killer. It’s not really a challenging game. Although it gets a bit hard at the end, the control methods are so easy that’s it’s basically the perfect pick up and play game.

This past holiday I realised just how I have perfected my Super Mario Bros. skills. I know the secret pipes that bring you to levels deeper in the game, but I don’t use them because it requires no skill. Instead, I jump and run to the game like a maniac, knowing where to find all the 1 Ups, which paths are best to go to (should you take the pipe or run on in the outside world? Depends on where the most coins are really), and generally I’m just so fast and so good in it that I’m amazing myself with it.

You really get to know the game when you play it for thirteen years straight. Did you know, for example, that once you’ve hit a block that has multiple coins in it only once, an invisible timer runs which decides how many coins you can exactly extract from the block? If you’re perfect at jumping with Mario (which means you have to jump exactly when he hits the ground again), you can easily get at least fourteen coins out of a block. But jump wrong a couple of times and you could get as little as four.

Or what about this? If you hit enough enemies with a Koopa shield in one go (I think it’s about eight enemies, although I never really counted it), you get a 1 Up too. My head is littered with all these little facts that I just discovered in the progress of playing this game.

So in short, is Super Mario Bros. the perfect game? Untouchable? Well, depends on how you look at it really. At the one hand it IS perfect. Everything is right about the game, and no title ever bettered it. The balance is just unflawed. Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World are all extremely impressive efforts, but do they manage to combine the pick up and play feeling with such balanced gameplay that you can reach the ‘gamers euphoria’? No, I don’t think so.

The ‘gamers euphoria’ is a term I made up for a certain feeling. It’s a feeling you can also get at sports. Once you are so engrossed in a running competition, your brains seems to shut down and you just keep running without thinking, without feeling any pain or feeling tired. I sometimes have this with certain games. Goldeneye is a good example. Often I just played this on automatic pilot, not even realising I was playing this game in multiplayer, but still killing everyone in my sight.

But Super Mario Bros. is the one that makes you feel this in such excess that it’s frightening. Frightening because almost no game can do it. And you have to wonder: how does this game manage to do it? Did Miyamoto and co. added some sort of addictive eye-drugs in the game so that you went with the ‘flow’? I don’t have the answer, the only thing I have (and will have for the rest of my life) is that unstoppable and uncontrollable urge to play with a little fat Italian plumber called Mario, out to rescue some chick called ‘Peach’. It’s a story that these days most gamers would dismiss. With titles like Metal Gear Solid and God Of War excelling in the story-telling department, why does a game like Super Mario Bros. stand above them?

It’s the drugs, I tell you, it’s the drugs.

Written by Michel Musters (Moz La Punk) / Previously published on [Link removed - login to see]


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Bright Eyes - Noise Floor (rarities)

Posted : 10 years, 8 months ago on 24 October 2006 09:23 (A review of Noise Floor: Rarities 1998-2005)

On Noise Floor, Conor Oberst presents a collection of b-sides and rarities that spans a large amount of his musical career. As is the case with so many other bands, this b-side record misses any form of cohesion. Of course, there aren’t really classics available on it either, as all the good songs have appeared on ‘real’ records, but there are, thankfully, a few stand out moments.

Press through the frankly abysmal a cappella effort ‘Mirrors and Fevers’ and you’ll arrive at the two-hit wonder that is ‘I Will be Grateful for This Day’ and ‘Trees Get Wheeled Away’. While this isn’t the case, both songs sound like they are left from Bright Eyes’ most recent records, ‘I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning’ and ‘Digital Ash In A Digital Urn’. Both songs have sounds, structures and melodies that remind one very much of these records.

Drunk Kid Catholic is indeed a great song, featuring Mark Bowen. The next great piece of art comes in the form of ‘Blue Angels Air Show’, with fantastic sounds that set the mood. ‘Bad Blood’ and the Daniel Johnston cover ‘Devil Town’ are both lovely songs for the ones that prefer the ‘harder’ works of the one-man band, while ‘Amy in the White Coat’ will surely please listeners that need an emotional pinch.

So, this collection isn’t half that bad, but of course they are just left overs and they will never overcome the shadow of Bright Eyes’ real work. A record for the fans.

Written by Michel Musters (Moz La Punk)


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Perfect Dark Zero

Posted : 10 years, 8 months ago on 23 October 2006 09:19 (A review of Perfect Dark Zero)

Perfect Dark Zero has incredibly high production values. Everything screams quality, starting with the opening song where we see Joanna Dark, the main character of the game, crawl around while a cheesy rock song sings about little girls. We’re not kidding either. It all feels a bit like a James Bond movie, and I’m sure Rare was trying to give that feeling, so it’s all good. It’s shiny, especially on your new HDTV, and you’ll definitely won’t have complains about the graphics during the entire course of the game.

However, when we said ‘everything screams quality’ a few sentences back, we were talking about graphics. Because all the other, probably more important elements in the game, deserve their own judgements, and here at Moz La Punk we’re not afraid to make them. At all.

For anyone left in the ‘dark’ (see what we’ve done there? hah!), Perfect Dark Zero is the long awaited prequel to the Nintendo64 smash hit Perfect Dark, itself an unofficial sequel to the godly movie tie-in Goldeneye. While it’s debatable if Perfect Dark was as good as the James Bond game EA tries to remake every year (and failing at it), one can agree that the N64 game featured more of everything: more intelligent AI for the enemies, a more engaging single player with a better story line, awesome graphics (for the time) and heck, even the multiplayer was bettered, which was no mean feat since Goldeneye’s multiplayer was top of the bill. PD saw you playing around with Joanna Dark, a secret agent on track of DataDyne’s conspiracy with aliens.

200 slaps a minute

Enough with the background already! Perfect Dark Zero takes place some years before the futuristic Nintendo64 game, in the year 2020, where Joanna Dark is still a rookie and a much younger person, complete with trendy haircut, slim body and an American voice. If we could call a videogame character hot, she would be called hot, but honestly, you won’t find her sexy during the game. Why’s that? Because the voice acting is so heart aching terrible that it rips your ears from your head and punches it through your mouth straight into your stomach. It slaps you in your face at 200 slaps a minute while laughing and spitting to humiliate you. All the reviews are right: voice acting in Perfect Dark Zero can only be the work of Satan itself, as no one else would be so cruel to give us voices that are this anal.

It’s not just Joanna and the other lead characters: the enemies sound more alike to South Park characters than anything else, and it really makes killing them a lot more uninteresting. It’s a shame because their AI isn’t that bad… although we’ve seen better even in Halo 2. They often just walk straight at you, guns toting, and you can shoot them with ease if it wasn’t for the lack of auto aim, which is good or bad depending on your taste. Because controllers aren’t as sensitive as the keyboard and mouse combination, some auto aim is favorable, especially in the single player. A bit of practicing will get you anywhere though. To get back on subject, next to the voice acting, the story is just as bad and it’s really not worth it for us to describe details of it to you: trust us, it’s terrible. There is no motivation whatsoever to play on story-wise, and it backfires on the game soon enough.

Soulless

It would help if the gameplay was incredibly interesting. It would make up for the lack of a good story and heck, maybe even soften the pain of the voice acting. But somewhere down the line, the development of this game must’ve gone wrong. It’s not that playing Perfect Dark is like a bad trip, and it’s not like the gameplay is terrible. It just feels… soulless, for the lack of better words. It still feels a bit like Goldeneye and Perfect Dark, which is good, only time has passed since those titles. Even worse, it’s almost as if Rare put some kind of slow motion filter on the control. Moving Joanna Dark feels like moving a cow with your bare hands sometimes, and the characters around you move just as ‘fast’.

I’ve really tried to keep myself interested in the main game, and the game tries hard enough: it throws all sorts of shiny graphics and vehicles towards you. And it succeeds in some cases. The weapon arsenal is varied enough and half of the weapons feel meaty and right, the other half feel like toy guns. The level design is often top of the bill and especially the variety in surroundings is worth a compliment or two. Almost every level has a different setting and it really sets the mood. In the first half of the game, an infiltration in a night club and going through a snow covered Japanese garden are the highlights, while the second half of the game has such captivating moments like a full on assault of you and your army buddies on a bridge, and working your way through a lush jungle. But the variety in levels don’t change the feel and simplicity of the gameplay, so even the most interesting looking levels can feel like a chore to walk through.

Online

The multiplayer, then. A lot of people can attest to the fact that the shooters from Rare never were about the single player experience, but the multiplayer. And this time they even take things online. How can that possibly go wrong? Well, it certainly doesn’t. Featuring up to 32 players in a single match, six levels that can change size depending on the number of players participating and some healthy options for modes (next to the necessary capture the flag, there’s also the Dark Ops mode which sees you battling it out in a team just like Counter Strike).

I’ve heard from various persons and I read on a lot of message boards that they really enjoy the online gameplay, but I’ve also heard from various persons that they really didn’t had a feel for it. I belong to the second group. Personally, I was incredibly hyped for taking Perfect Dark Zero online but it just doesn’t do it for me. How is this possible? I’ve spend literally years with Goldeneye and Perfect Dark multiplayer, and here I am, ignoring PDZero’s multiplayer and favouring a match of laggy Call Of Duty 2? It’s not that Rare didn’t get the mode down to a quality offering, because there’s really not a lot of lag and the games looks great online.

Conclusion

So, we’re left here with a bitter taste in our mouths and we have no other choice than to call Perfect Dark Zero a failure. We might get a lot of negative feedback about this, yelling at us for not liking this ‘godly gift from the boys at Twycross’, but we’re not here to lie. We’re not here to hide our opinions. If you fall in love with the multiplayer, you don’t need our score anyway. It’s just our opinion and whether or not you agree, is an entirely different matter.

So, Perfect Dark Zero fails. You’ll be playing it through the end, maybe even on the difficult settings, just because you’ll want to like it. It looks so good that you want to love it. But most gamers that have played with good shoot em ups for the past couple of years, will be left cold by everything that happens in the game. The gameplay isn’t refreshing nor fun, the story and voice acting are terrible, and the online modes are solid but again, it might just not be your thing. Rare certainly got our thumbs up for their other launch game (Kameo), but as far as this product is concerned: get back to that drawing board, chaps!

Pros:
- Mildly entertaining single player
- You might fall in love with the online game
- Graphics are good enough

Cons:
- Single Player just isn’t that much fun
- The online deathmatch isn’t for everyone
- Graphics are often too shiny or plastic
- Voice acting and story are terrible

This game is for: Everyone wanting a playful shooter around the Xbox 360 launch.
This game is not for: People expecting a worthy Perfect Dark sequel or a great shooter.

Written by Moz La Punk / Previously published on [Link removed - login to see]


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Tom CLancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfig

Posted : 10 years, 8 months ago on 23 October 2006 05:25 (A review of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter)

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (what a name! we’ll call it GRAW from here on) might be a fairly bad game on most consoles, but on the Xbox 360 it shines. We’ll tell you why in our review.

We can bore you with the details. The number of levels, the number of weapons, the way Achievement Points are given out (always important for the people who want to impress girls online… maybe)… but in truth, only one thing is important when it comes down to GRAW on the Xbox 360: it takes the franchise to an entirely new level thanks to immersion.

Immersion. How important this word remains in games. We don’t need fantastic graphics with all sorts of effects. We don’t need a game to look exactly like real life. We need a game that is consistent in what it offers the player, both in looks and gameplay. We need to feel like we’re there, be it in Hyrule saving princess Zelda, or in the Mexico City of the near future saving the American president.

The latter situation is what you’ll come across in GRAW. True, the game has killer graphics and it does simulate real life. We can honestly say it’s one of the best looking 360 games out there, which says a lot. The suits your character and his fellow soldiers are in, the heat waves, the surroundings – all look incredible smooth.

But while these elements help to make you feel immersed, the thing that really draws you in the game is that it’s one big story, one big adventure, without the feeling that you’re playing through levels. This is what separates the Metal Gear Solids from the Splinter Cells. While you essentially play through the game in levels – you get dropped by a chopper, do your missions and get back in the chopper to fly to the next destination – the story keeps running through it all in real time graphics, and you never feel like you missed anything or you’re just playing through levels to reach the end of the game. You’re playing in your own action movie.

And still, even though it’s all Mexico City and all about immersion with nothing out of place, there is enough graphical variation to shake a stick at. Within the first few missions you’ll get used to the urban appearance of the modern city, after which you’ll have to adjust your tactical skills for some adventures in the night. But rocky desert landscapes also pass by. While the colour scheme largely stays the same, the variation in day and night and the different parts of the city ensure that your senses are never bored.

Essentially, GRAW often makes you feel like a GTA game might. You feel like you have a massive, realistic city at your disposal to explore and cause havoc in. This is of course not true. The level structure ensures you always have a limited amount of space to explore. While this would kill a game like GTA, it’s best for a genre like this.

So what exactly do you do? Someone unfamiliar with this franchise might ask him- or herself that. You run a small group of anti-terrorist soldiers. From a third person perspective, looking over the shoulder of your character – not unlike Resident Evil 4, actually – you try to sneak past enemies or kill them in silence, while telling your team with simple button presses what to do. They can shoot the bad guys down for you, or stay in the shadows so you can take the lead. Sneaking around is made easier with a little flying camera that can spot enemies from a distance for you – but look out. Enemies can spot the cam and shoot it down. You can also opt for a less discreet way to accomplish your goals – send a chopper or a tank to the enemy base and cause some havoc.

While GRAW is one of the easier games in the genre, it remains a game that asks a great deal of patience from it’s players. Often you’ll have to solve a level like a puzzle – get to know the structure and enemy positions piece by piece so you can figure out the best way to get around it or go right through it. This also ensures that you’ll die quite a few times – even in the normal mode for the less experienced ones – but it never really takes away from the fun you’re having, because you actually feel like you’re learning this game inside out while doing so. You will release your mistakes and try to act different the next time.

GRAW isn’t overly difficult like some other games in the genre, mainly because the enemy AI. They’re not particular smart at all, and place that with the often scripted events, and the game sometimes becomes less tactical and more action orientated. It delivers a more balanced game because of it, maybe not pleasing the die hard fans of the genre, but surely leaving the game open for mass market appeal more than some other games that have gone before.

While the single player of GRAW is quite exceptional, the online mode (or multiplayer or system link modes if you’d choose) are excellent additions to the mix. Up to 16 human controller characters can enter a battlefield to work against or with each other. 16 players can even team up to take on 16 computer controlled soldiers. Awesome would be a good word to describe those situations.

Graphically, playing GRAW online is of course a drawback from the single player experience, but such is to be expected with 16 human players in a match. Like in Call of Duty 2, the maps in the online game feel like they are taken out from the main game and slightly altered, which gives a neatly familiar feeling to the experience. The fact that we experienced almost no lag whatsoever and that the communication between teams seems to work fine is admirable and makes the online game a seamless experience worthy of anyone’s time. Of course there are different modes to try out here to keep variation at hand.

Conclusion

While we told you all the good and less good points of GRAW above, let one thing be clear: we are very excited for this game, and we believe it’s one of the best games available on the Xbox 360 right now, with the possible exception of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The game, with all the graphical bells and whistles and, more importantly, truly exceptional gameplay with a polished online mode, really feels like a next generation game and that’s exactly what 360 owners needed. While it can get difficult at times, we’d suggest all 360 owners with an appetite for tactical action try this beauty out. We think you have a good chance to get totally hooked by this experience – we sure did.

Pros:
- Gameplay is well balanced, difficult but not to the extreme.
- Graphics and presentation are admirable, truly next gen.
- Online mode is solid with a steady framerate and little lag.
- Gives the player a feeling of immersion thanks to ongoing story and locations.

Cons:
- Might be too difficult for some parts of the mainstream.
- Might be too simple for the die hard tactical shooter fans.
- AI of enemies (and sometimes team mates as well) could be a bit better.

This game is for: Everyone thirsty for some tactical action, almost all 360 owners.
This game is not for: People that really can’t cope both tactical gameplay or action.

Written by Moz La Punk / previously published on [Link removed - login to see]


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