Suikoden II Review

Right. I’m going to try to do this review with the utmost professionalism and restraint.

Suikoden II is THE BEST GAME EVER and if you haven’t played it you’re not human, let alone a gamer!

I said I’d try, not that I’d succeed.

Suikoden II tells the story of Riou, a member of the Highland Army Youth Brigade, and Jowy, his best friend when, one night, the camp is attacked, apparently by the City-State. The rest of the unit is wiped out trying to flee while Jowy and Riou work out that maybe there’d be an ambush at the ONLY escape route. Clearly, these two characters are the only smart ones in the game.

Our heroes attempt to report to their commanding officer and over hear him talking to the best villain in any media, Luca Blight. A man so cartoonishly evil that he literally laughs his head off while murdering a woman who is acting like a pig. Really. This happens.

Anyway, Jowy and Riou eavesdrop that the attack was actually at the order of Luca, who is prince of the Highlands, to make it appear that the City-State broke a recently signed peace treaty and inspire his country into a war that no one wants. The only way for our heroes to escape is to leap off a waterfall after promising that, should they get split up, they will return there. Riou gets found by a few State soldiers and nursed back to health and that’s as far as I’m going with the story. The story line is so unique and charming that I can’t go into detail without giving away spoilers. This review would turn into a two thousand word essay on that aspect of the game alone.

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The game play itself is as you’d expect for a turn based RPG. You select your attack, or item, and choose which enemy or ally you want to use it against. You have magic taking the shape of runes and your characters can link up together in ‘Unite’ attacks. This is where two or more of your party attack at the same time, using up both of their moves, to do a special attack . Typically, Riou and Jowy’s is the most affective unite in the game, but it makes it fun taking a different party than you usually use and trying out all the various abilities you can use.

It’s a good attempt to make every single character feel useful. In some games with there are characters that I just never use, Mass Effect is the biggest example of this. As soon as I get Garrus and Liara I never use anyone else.

I said, ATTEMPT because that’s exactly what it is. In reality, you will have five other characters you like, either personality wise or combat wise and you will simply never use any of the others unless the game forces you to. This is particularly annoying when you get lumbered with an awfully weak character and told you have to spend the next hour with them in your party. There are several times I was wiped out and I place the blame firmly on one characters head. He knows who he is.

This also makes it frustrating in possibly the most memorable scene in the game for me. You are charged to ambush an important member of the Highland army and need three groups of characters to take him down. You can get away with only winning with Riou’s group, but he becomes so much more difficult to beat if you fail with the other two. It’s the toughest boss fight in any game and features the most memorable scenes ever for me.

There are also several mini games within the main game including a lovely little iron chef game, again, I’m not making this up. A chef joins your army and receives challenges from others and you have to select what food he makes. It’s hilarious, if a little out of place. I refuse to believe that the leader of an army defending itself from the Highlanders has time to cook.

But it’s not all sunshine and roses. The game has a special place in my heart, however it can still be frustrating at times. The dungeons are possibly the worst part of the game. I understand that they want to test our skill, but the general feel of any dungeon in the game is, if you want to get from A to B you first have to go through X then back up to M before going to C, then back to S. It has the most circuitous routes I have ever seen, including one time when I went the entire way through the dungeon then realised I was BEHIND where I started! We have magic, why didn’t we just blow a great big hole in the wall and save ourself two hours and fifty thousand random encounters?

Oh lord, the random encounters. Remove the word random and replace it with “Every two step” encounters. That’s a far more honest term for them. The main culprit being in the final area, which I suppose I can understand, but it doesn’t make it better. I swear, in the space of a ten second corridor I was attacked five or six times. Luckily the game employs a system where you can ‘Let Go’ an enemy, so if you are far too strong from them, you can immediately exit the combat with no penalty which sounds good, but it absolutely destroys the immersion and flow of the game. So, I get attacked by six Highland soldiers, I tell them it’s fine, they can leave and they go without a fuss? They’re not very good soldiers then are they? Maybe this entire war could have been avoided if I just told Luca Blight, it’s fine, he’s excused.

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Back into the positives come the battle systems, of which this is an AWFUL screenshot…I decided I wanted to use more screenshots of games but promptly forgot until I was almost at the final boss battle…Ahem…

Anyway, you control various infantry, archers and magic users made up of the various 108 characters you can collect. Some are stronger than others and some your main focus should be not getting them killed. If they are defeated in battle they can die permanently. For real. And if they die, you cannot get the best ending in the game.

That’s right, multiple endings! This brings me to the last obnoxious point of the game. You need all the characters to get the true ending, however, there are characters that if you miss you can NEVER get back, therefore making it impossible to get the best ending. There is one character where if you don’t go to a certain bit of a certain city at a certain time, he doesn’t appear again and you have to reload a save usually cutting out hours and hours of grind. There are some characters where, if you’re skipping through dialogue too quickly, you can accidentally press the wrong reply and tell them to get stuffed when they ask to join you. Again, these characters will NEVER appear again.

Saying that, they do try and make it clear what characters are recruitable. A characters sprite stands out from a mile against the NPC sprites and all characters of importance have a portrait to accompany their speech, so if you see one you can bank on either having to kill them later or them joining you, or sometimes both.

Overall, I feel my first paragraph sums up my feelings towards the game. It is my favourite of all time. The characters are likeable and well rounded, that goes for all 108. They all have their unique quirks and most of them have a funny line or two to make you warm to them. It does get harder to like characters you recruit towards the end though as they are with you for such a short period of time. And typically these are the strongest characters in the game as well.

If you like JRPGs, play this game. It is hard to come by, but I’m sure you can emulate it if it comes to that. In fact, if you don’t like JRPGs try this game out anyway. The story is a roller-coaster that included bits that made me laugh and, I’m not ashamed to admit, parts that made me cry. There are truly heart wrenching scenes in this game and you’ll always remember the first time you complete it.

10/10 – No surprises if you’ve read any of this review whatsoever. I could forgive a lot because the story line is so good, but the combat is so well presented and executed that it doesn’t NEED to be forgiven. Plus the fact the battle system breaks up the tedium regularly so it never gets dull means that, if I could go higher, I would. I seriously can’t recommend it enough.

The Problem with Triple A Titles

I have always been a gamer. Even my choice of friends eventually boiled down to who had the best video games consoles when I was younger. My householde was too poor to afford the original PS when it first game out. My first console ever was a sega master system and that was about fifteen years after its release. The only games I owned were Ghostbusters, which was a strange title where you would attached a vacuum cleaner to the top of the car and drive around sucking up ghosts, and Alex Kidd. That is I owned Alex Kidd because it came with the system, not that you suck up Alex Kidd using a vacuum cleaner, although I feel that would have made it more interesting.

It wasn’t a very good game. In fact if it wasn’t for Alex Kidd then I would have said my purchase of the master system was pointless. However, one of my friends had a sega, I can’t remember what kind, with a football game on that we played a lot and I had access to a PS1 through another, so my childhood was mostly spend playing games albeit on other people’s consoles.

Now, in the space year 2013, I have struggled to get into a lot of games. I have owned, played for a bit, then got bored of several mainstream titles including, but not limited to, Gears of War, Flashpoint, Call of Duty and Battlefield. So my question is, why? Why am I finding it so hard to enjoy these titles? You have to image that retro games are retro for a reason. Because either they didn’t work, or have since been surpassed. All I know is, if I want to unwind, I reach for Crash Bandicoot before I reach for Skyrim.

The modern day game is focused around realism. It’s a really frustrating fact. Back in the day, a game could be about absolutely anything. It could consist of a Marmite monster travelling forwards in time to find a world conquered by Golden Syrup and is tasked with freeing the world from the tyrannical pancake beast. But today, the ideas bucket appears to be running dry and most developers run to first person shooters for their yearly income.

The day we give up on achieving ultimate realism is the day gaming starts becoming fun again. Health meters are one of the biggest casualties in gaming and I think the industry is weaker because of it. Sure, it’s not realistic to be able to put a number next to how injured you are, or to gaffer tape a medikit to your face and be all right again, but it beats the hell out of sitting behind a brick wall for a few minutes waiting for the blood to disappear from your screen.

I mentioned a while ago that Painkiller was one of my favourite shooters of all time which is still true. It’s a fun, fast paced, flowing, free for all that doesn’t let a little think like realism get in the way of having a good time. Sure, the story was absolute rubbish but the game play more than made up for it. The enemies were interesting and varied and there were endless different ways to kill them all. The shot gun was extremely satisfying and sent monsters flying half way across the map with a single shell, there was a gun that fired logs at enemies attaching them to walls, trees or whatever else was around and a gun that shot shurikens and lightning.

What does Call of Duty have to compare? More realistic guns, I would concede, but are they fun to use? Ducking in and out of cover, firing at anything firing back isn’t my idea of a good time, especially when, in some cases, you can’t tell if an enemy is dead until your face has been replaced with lead. Spec Ops is the only game that is an exception and that’s only because of the storyline. It doesn’t change the fact that the game play is uninspiring and uninteresting.

Even RPGs have evolved. I’ve played Oblivion recently and Dragon Age Origins and was disappointed with both. It’s a bad sign when I have to use the developers console in order to complete a game, which I had to do for DoA. I did this for Oblivion too, but not even cheating could save it. I found it boring, bland and unimersive. What kind of world do we live in when we’ve even made fantasy games dull? The combat wasn’t visceral enough, it felt like I was swinging my sword through thin air even when the enemy was two inches away and it had a habit of shoving you into an area and not telling you anything. Plus the conversation system was a load of rubbish that took me out of the game every time I had to use it.

Dragon Age was just generic, however the story line was enthralling enough that I had to keep playing it to the end, with likeable characters, solid story telling and well written conversation, I just didn’t want to have to deal with the combat so ended up cheating.

Compare it to games like Planetscape: Torment. Roughly 99.9% of people reading this would have just said, “Huh? What’s that? You’re just making up games now.” Planetscape is possibly the most underrated RPG in the history of gaming. It’s narrative is outstanding and compelling and, while combat trips over it’s laces and impales itself on its sword, the back story behind the characters, the games pacing and originality are what set it apart. You get experience based on your conversation techniques. Persuading an NPC to see things from your point of grants far more xp than smashing his head in with crowbar.

Bringing this rant disguised as a blog back on topic, modern day games have failed to hold my interest because they’re crap. Realism is boring! When will developers realise this? I play games to get away from real life. To enter new worlds, meet new people. To BE someone else. The less realistic the better as far as I’m concerned.

I long for the day we give up on ultimate realism and return our focus to making games FUN.

The Walking Dead Review

I never really understood the appeal of Zombies. I get that the dead returning to unlife is scary and if it happened in real life I’m sure I would find myself sat in the corner softly whining, leaving all the big tough men to deal with the problem. But I’ve never been afraid of them in video games.

I loved the original Dead Rising and even found the second one to be a bundle of laughs. Maybe that’s the problem. It’s hard to be scared of something when you’ve clocked over a hundred hours killing them with chainsaws. However, I have discovered an exception to that rule.

 

The Walking Dead is developed by TellTale games, famous for such enjoyable funfests as the rebooted Sam & Max series. It’s based on a series of comic books I’ve never read, in the same world as a TV series I’ve never seen, so I can honestly say I went into the game as an every man. I failed to see how a company that’s become popular with adventure games could make a Zombie game truly scary. And yet, they succeeded.

You begin the game as Lee, a convict being taken from one prison to another. The nature of his crime appears vague at first, although you do find out the gory details as you play through the game. Suddenly, the cop escorting him crashes into a pedestrian crossing the road and swerves off the road.

Lee comes to, just about alive, and finds the cops body outside the car. Believing him to be dead, Lee takes his time inspecting the wreckage when, surprise surprise, the cop turns into a Zombie and tries to kill him. This is the first time I’ve been scared of Zombies in a loooong time. You to push yourself away and frantically scramble with a shotgun, left by the dead cop, trying to force some shells in it before the Zombie cop turns you into desert.

As you go through the game you’ll discover colourful characters, all with a back story, some more likeable than others and have to make choice based on the groups survival. More often than not, your choices will decide whether a character lives or dies.

This in itself may not sound like an outstanding basis for a game, but a lot of the time you are given just a few seconds to make your decision. Several times I was given a choice, picked one out of panic then face palmed a few scenes later.

The game subverts the common representation of a Zombie game, deciding, correctly, that the Zombies are scarier with the fewer you have to kill. In the first episode you barely kill ten enemies. When you compare that with Dead Rising, where there is an achievement for killing fifty thousand, it certainly increases the fear factor. Like I said, once you’ve killed enough Zombies to fill the entire grand canyon, it’s difficult to feel threatened by them.

The story is probably the stand out point of the game. The exact nature of the Zombies remains a mystery and there is absolutely no hint of biological warfare or a mutated disease, which is fantastic as far as I’m concerned. That approach has been done to death. Mysteries lose all their intrigue once you explain it.

The game play is where the game falls flat on its face, knocking a few teeth out. All the combat tends to be is mash the ‘Q’ button until you have a chance to shoot or stab the bogey, then press another button to do that. However, it works because of the fairly linear story and still has the option of failure, which is where a lot of mainstream games fail nowadays. Most titles are so scared of you missing anything that they hold your hand through the entire game which detracts from the experience.

The only other downside I can see, is that it’s one of the games that claims your choices have an outcome on events and while that’s true enough in the short term, by the end of the game every single player will be in just about the exact same situation with the exact same characters alive. This isn’t a bad thing per se, but it’s the fact it claims to the contrary that does. There’s nothing wrong with a linear story, despite what modern day games believe. In fact, in these occasions the story tends to be better.

In conclusion, the characters are likeable, the atmosphere is perfect and the choices, albeit almost pointless, are difficult enough that you feel like you need some time to think about it even while the game is screaming at you to make a quick decision. The game play can hardly be described as game play, but it’s the uniqueness of the storyline that will get you hooked. I shows you exactly what a survival horror game should be like. It’s panicky, scary and a struggle just to survive.

8/10 – A fantastic experience, let down slightly by a few lies here and there. Overall, it has more than enough charm to get you hooked. If you’re going to get a Zombie game let it be this one.

X-COM: Enemy Unknown Review

It’s getting increasingly difficult for me to continue doing these reviews, hence the six month hiatus from this site. For starters I’m poor and it usually comes down to me choosing whether to buy a video game or eat that week and not matter how good Mass Effect is, I can’t use it as nourishment. More’s the pity.

Another reason maybe that modern day games tend to be, let’s say, uninspiring. I’m not a fan of the Call of Duty games nor many others actually so it kind of makes sense that all the games I enjoy are old and it makes even more sense that the modern ones I enjoy tend to be remakes or rehashes of good games from yester-year.

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Such as, X-COM: Enemy Unknown, which is a reboot of the 1994 release of the same name, or the slightly different name judging by my research. It’s either UFO: Enemy Unknown, X-COM: UFO Defense or just plain X-COM: Enemy Unkown. I don’t know, give me a break, I was like, two years old when it was released.

The original was exactly that; original. It featured new mechanics never seen before or since, with a possible except of the old GOOD Syndicate game, which made it rather hard to classify at the time. To be honest, I’m finding it hard to classify now as well. Third person, turn based, shooter with base management and some air combat as well? Or TPTBSWBMAAC for short.

Interesting concept and one that I found curiously compelling. I like my real time strategy so a game that feels like its in real time but allows you to carefully calculate your next seven moves as if your playing a rather violent version of chess is right up my alley.
You are the commanding officer of the X-COM Project (Short for eXtraterrestial COMbat Unit) and are charged by all the world’s governments to sort out the mess that they’re too busy for, and yet threaten to pull funding for the smallest thing like a very curious episode of Dragon’s Den. Where are their own military forces? You’d have thought they could spare a few men to help out when the future of the human race is in the balance.

But I digress. You start out with a rag tag band of mewing schoolgirls and have to turn them into hardened veterans while defending the Earth’s populace from increasingly frustrating alien enemies. You receive distress calls from various countries around the world and are plonked into a small map with between ten and twenty enemies and don’t get to leave until they’re all dead. Should you fail, or simply ignore a country for too long, their panic rating will increase and if you allow it to get too high, that country’s government will pull its funding. It’s still possible to complete the game without some countries, but it becomes incredibly more difficult.

While going through this, your tasked to capture and interrogate enemies and try to discover why the aliens are here as you build up your base of operations, which is possibly the most important aspect of the game. The aliens will keep on evolving, so if you get a few research projects behind, you’ll discover that the difficulty curve suddenly resembles a two hundred foot cliff face.

The actual combat involves you moving around your units into strategic positions and adequate cover and taking shots at the enemies while they try and do the same to you. Your shots have a percentage to hit and there is nothing that will increase the chance of your keyboard getting smashed more that your sniper missing a ninety nine percent hit chance. On the other hand, there is nothing that will make you smugger than ripping apart a squad of aliens in a single turn, especially if you kill an alien with a twenty percent hit chance along the way.

There is a lot going on in the game and this review has barely hit on a handful of them. The biggest thing I’ve missed out is the air combat, mainly because there isn’t any in this version. Sure, there pretends to be. You build up a few jets to take down UFOs but all you do is watch your plane shoot at the enemy while giving it a few buffs if things look hairy. Not that I ever needed to use any buffs as you don’t really need to bother with UFOs until towards the game and by then I had the best ship avaible and was killing every type of enemy craft with one or two shots.

X-COM is one of the games where I will happily be playing it for what I think is an hour or two, then decide to get a drink or a bite to eat and discover that it’s nearly four in the morning. It’s an extremely immersive game and I even found myself getting attached to the generic soldiers you get given.

If you haven’t already played it, which let’s face it, you probably have as I am about a year and a half late to the party, then I can’t recommend it highly enough.

9/10 – I’m removing a point because of the stupid bug that spawns a group of enemies right onto your squad AND gives them a free turn. I lost two squads because of it. I have never raged harder. (It’s worth noting that this has since been fixed…so they say.)

Sinister (Film) Review

It appears that reviewing Horror films is going to be part of my so called blog as well, so I will embrace that by reviewing a new release that, again, me and my girlfriend went to see.

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I was sceptical going into this film, because (as you might just about to be able to read from that image) it was from the same producer as Paranormal Activity, a film series I think is unique. Unique as in it’s the only film series I know where nothing ever happens. Period. Ever. Three films so far. That’s almost five hours of nothing happening and somehow people still found it scary. The only way I got through the film was taking the pissing out of it mercilessly.

However, the producer also did Insidious which I reviewed early. It received a ‘meh’ rating from me. All in all, I wasn’t expecting anything great.

It didn’t start off well either. It began with the cliched scenario that a family wanted to start again so moved house. That idea is only less unique than humans needing oxygen, but okay, I’ll go with it.

Things went slightly better when it turned out that they had moved into a house where several murders had taken place (well, they happened in the backyard. That’s the guys argument) so that the main character could write a book about the deaths. The main character had such depth and complexity that I completely forgot his name.

Actually, I do remember. It was Ellison or something similar. I only remember now because at first I thought it was Alison.

Anyway, the guy finds an old fashioned film projector left in the loft by the previous residents. Instead of doing the smart thing and trying to return it to its previous owner he watches them and is shocked to discover that the films are the recordings of four family’s deaths.

That’s all the story I’ll give because I’m conscious that it’s a new film and don’t want to ruin it.

The film was actually quite scary. It was the type of film where Ellison would be walking down the corridor and you KNOW something is going to jump out or be creepy but you don’t know when. It’s not my favourite type of horror, but it does it’s job.

Ellison is an infuriating character as well. If I had just watched a family be killed on camera I would have told someone about it, like say, I don’t know, the police? But no. He just keeps watching them and trying to find out the killer etcetera and he keeps saying he’s a great father while completely ignoring his children.

And the twist at the end of the film…It was so blatantly obvious they might as well have just told you at the beginning of the film. It was very cliched, very obvious and very uninspiring.

However, the story itself is quite interesting. The videos of the family’s deaths are genuinely creepy and unnerving, so much so that every now and then I still get the tune that was played over one of them in my head, usually late at night when I’m trying to sleep typically. It’s been a long time since a horror film had that effect on me, so it has to take points for that.

The atmosphere took a fracture though when I realised that it was very unlikely anything bad would happen to Ellison (at least not till the end) so I never got a sense of danger. Sure, it was creepy and scary and if I was Ellison I would have been sat in a corner crying but I never felt like he was in any danger.

Overall, I enjoyed Sinister, as much as one can ‘enjoy’ a horror film anyway. It was different to the usual rubbish like Paranormal Activity and was much scarier than Insidious, however I am dreading the sequel (cause there WILL be one). I don’t think the ending of the film left it open to another one. It was all done and dusted and any attempt for a second film will undermine the feelings of the first.

8/10 Not unique enough for 9, too scary to be a 7. A nice little film to watch if you have an assignment to write and need to stay up all night.

First Look: Painkiller Hell and Damnation Beta

Many years ago a company called People Can Fly made one of my favourite games ever. It was called Painkiller and told the story of some bloke killing things…Honestly, this is the only game where I can say the story doesn’t matter. It was fun, fast flowing with solid combat and varied enemies. Then, last year, Nordic games announced that they were doing a reboot, sequel thing.

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The thing about the original Painkiller was it came at a time when Doom and Quake were on their way out and the rubbish games like Halo and later Call of Duty started making an appearance. The so called realistic shooters. Painkiller’s philosophy was that sacrificing realism for fun was worth it and I found myself agree completely.

I know it’s not very realistic when I could run out into a group of ten enemies and come out with nothing more than a chipped nail, but it was fun. A word most youths don’t understand now-a-days with all the realism clogging up the fun gears.

The disappointing thing is, this new reboot doesn’t seem to have changed much. The full game will be released on 31st October (Haloween. I see what you did there Nordic) so I will be doing a full review when it comes out but I played the beta for about an hour so thought I would give my opinion on it.

The beta featured a couple of levels from the original game. That was the first disappointment. The hilarious Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw once said that a reboot or sequel should jump off from the original, explore new ideas and boot out the ones that didn’t work. The new Painkiller appears to do neither. The soul collecting aspect is still annoying, it takes a good minute or two for souls to leave your dead enemies and, while just throwing enemies at us worked brilliantly for the first game, the somehow seemed to have ballsed that up too.

I was swamped by about fifty enemies and I took them all out using the Painkiller weapon (A melee, spinning saw type device) and still came out with nine tenths health. There’s not being realistic and there’s just being too easy, Nordic.

I didn’t see any cutscenes in the beta (Not that I was looking too hard) but I’m sure there will be. I can see them trying to force the storyline down our throats when really, no one gives a crap. But who knows, maybe they’ll make the story make sense.

It looks the same game as Painkiller, just not as good. I’m hoping that they would have changed things for release, but I doubt it. I wouldn’t get my hopes up about this game if I were you. If you played the original Painkiller it will seem lacklustre and if you didn’t, you’re probably more interested in Call of Duty number two billion.

FIFA 13 Review

If you like Football and video games it’s impossible that the release of FIFA 13 has slipped you by. I tried as hard as I could to completely ignore it’s existence, but after playing it at a friend’s house, I realised I had to get it…so I did.

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As a general rule, I don’t buy Fifa games as soon as they’re realised. Partly because they’re always hideously expensive, partly because they’re always THE SAME BLOODY GAME just with new players, so I went into this game wondering weather that statement will be proved true or false.

As far as mechanics to go, what do you want me to say? There’s been about twenty of these games, not including all the Euro and World Cup spin offs. You press a button and the player kicks a ball and if you’re really advanced it’ll go into the net. For the most part my above statement is true. There are many…let’s call them…distinct similarities between this game and Fifa 12. Unfortunately they seemed to have kept the mechanics that pissed me right the hell off in the previous game.

For example, the fact it’s never clear whether your player is technically in control of the ball. Soooo many times have I pressed a button thinking my player would tackle the opponent only for him to shoot from the halfway line because apparently I had taken control of the ball without realising. And vice versa, I would try to have a shot at goal only for my player to go sliding into a nearby opponents shins and get sent off because the ball was a bit too far away, even though I had been in control of the freaking thing about three seconds ago.

There are new features, although there might as well not be. The arena from the previous games has been taken out. (The arena being a place where you could kick the ball around while you decide what to do for those who have never played a Fifa game). The most arse buggeringly annoying new mechanic is the first touch system where the flight, speed and direction of the ball determines how easily you can control the ball. But, of course, this only seems to work at the exact point where I don’t want it to. I must have played ten hours or so of the game already and have never had the first touch system work in my favour. (I’m probably supposed to press a button to make it work, but I can’t for the life of me work out what it is). I will pass the ball along the floor three feet and the receiving player will belt the ball five feet in front of him and promptly get tackled. Even more frustrating when I’m in the box and just want the bastard to shoot!

And there seems to be a delay between pressing the button and the player actually doing something! I know footballers are perceived as stupid, but we could at least TRY to give them some credit! They don’t need three seconds to pick their nose before they realise Im trying to make them shoot! That’s just when they’re stationary! I’ve lost count of the amount of times I run into the box, tell the prick to shoot only for him to take four or five more touches, STRAIGHT into the goalkeepers arms.

All of this could be forgiven if the game wasn’t bugged up the arse. I’ve been stuck on three loading screens already and had to play one match three times. At one point the game crashed when I had the audacity to pick an option out of the menu. At one point I saved the game, came back a few hours later to find that I had to play the next three matches over again because it hadn’t freaking saved.

That’s all…well, most of the bile out of the way. I feel better now, so I’ll talk about a few things I like. Although not much has really changed mechanics whys, I have to say, it feels far more unique than it’s predecessor. I play it on a pretty low difficulty (I’m crap at it OKAY?!) and even now I can never take anything for granted. During the phase where I had to play the three matches over and over again the scores ended 1-1 at first, 1-2 to the AI on my second try and 3-0 to me on my third.

It means that I can’t go into a game thinking the match is already won, which is something I’ve been striving for for a long time. In Fifa 12 I was at a point where the current difficulty level was far too easy, but the next one was far too hard. I like it when I have to work for a victory. It would be nice if I wasn’t fighting the controls as well as the AI though. Sometimes it feels the ‘difficulty level’ translates to ‘how crap the controls are’.

And there are minor details in the game that add a little extra to it. The new career mode looks fantastic. You start out a young up and comer and have to mature and develop as a real footballer would, including going out on loan. My Pro started playing for Everton and immediately got loaned out to Doncaster Rovers! While I have no strong feelings one way or another about Doncaster, I really like the idea of not being ready for Premier League football. During previous Fifa titles I got bored playing for the same team over and over. The top level gets boring after a while.

And after every match, you get a nice voice over from some bloke who reads out the scores for you. A really nice little touch. I love feeling as if there’s stuff going on around me. Like there’s a big world that I’m just part of rather than the game placing blinkers on me. You also get regular updates during matches about current scores, penalties and red cards. All in all it makes for an immersive game.

So can I recommend it? Probably not. Cause, let’s face it, if you enjoy the Fifa games you’ve probably already bought it or plan on buying it and if you don’t enjoy the Fifa games you probably haven’t read this far into the review.

8/10 – It’s the same game as Fifa 12 but tarted up a bit and with, overall, slightly tightened up mechanics. If you are still playing Fifa 12, I think an upgrade to Fifa 13 is ultimately worth it.

Insidious (Film) Review

Something a little bit different today, last night my girlfriend and I were trying to find a film to watch. We fancied a horror, but couldn’t find anything that interested enough. In the end we settled for a film from last year (2011) called Insidious.

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I was a little bit sceptical at first. I do like my horror films, but I always find there is a fine line between what makes a good and a bad horror films. The bad ones through you in straight away not giving you a chance to feel for the characters at all and the horror is more at the situation the people are put in. Whereas a good horror film will spend a few minutes characterising so that when the horror  starts happening you’re scared because you don’t want the characters to die.

That’s why I think the Saw films did quite well. No matter how much gore and blood featured  in the film, in the end, the audience liked the character of Jigsaw and that’s why they kept coming back. It also explains why the series declined slightly after (SPOILER WARNING) Jigsaw died.

There is a third category for films to fall into that I like to call the “Paranormal Activity” category. This is the category where NOTHING EVER HAPPENS. I’ve seen two of the Paranormal Activities and I can honestly say I can’t remember a single interesting thing happening in them except a couple trying to make a sex tape.

So which category does Insidious fall in? Well, not the Paranormal Activity category, luckily. One of the early scenes is the heroine playing the piano and singing which is scarier than anything that happens in Paranormal Activity.

So the story SEEMS to be somewhat cliched. A couple are having a rough time of things, so they move to a new house for a fresh start. It starts to feel like the house is haunted, the woman gets scared, the man says she’s crazy until she starts getting hysterical and their son falls into a coma.

At first I thought the film was going to take an unexpected twist when the man (I can’t remember any of their names. I think the bloke was Josh, the son is Dalton and the girl was Renai…Renee? something like that) finally agrees to move out of the haunted house. It was at that point I was like “Oh? They move out of the haunted house? A little bit anti climatic, but at least it was original and much more realistic than them staying there”. But naturally, whatever is haunting them follows them.

I was really impressed by house they set the scene for this haunted house setting, then suddenly change it later. I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t seen it, but I will say it turns out that the house isn’t haunted. It’s actually something very different.

And of course, the “twist” ending could be seen coming a mile away.

Overall, not much scary about it though. At some points things would jump out at them in traditional horror style, doors would randomly close etc. I didn’t really find myself scared at any point, but I did find myself getting immersed in the story. A lot of effort went into creating something different with more originality than most horror films coming out at the moment. It’s not perfect by far. Not being scary is quite a handicap for a horror film.

I would like to see a sequel, maybe next year, with a similar story but with more horror aspects. Now that they have one film explaining their main selling point, a lot more of their next budget can go into set pieces. Personally, I am looking forward  to Insidious 2 and may even be tempted to see it at the cinema, which’ll be the first time that’s happened in a long while.

7.5/10 – It takes a major hit for not being scary. However, I enjoyed it and I really liked the story, so it’s convinced me to be lenient. A good little waste of an hour and a half at least.