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Bioshock 2 – Classic game review

3 Apr

Bioshock 2

Welcome to Rapture. An underwater city designed to bring together the world’s best and brightest to create a utopia deep below the sea. Scientific progress has flourished to the point where humans can improve their own bodies by ‘splicing’ up with ADAM, a type of sea slug that allows people to rewrite their own genome.

This can be used to make people stronger, faster, smarter and more and is mass-produced in the stomachs of young girls. But it’s also addictive – and the majority of Rapture has fallen under its influence. The people of this underwater dystopia will stop at nothing to get their fix – and you’re in their way.

And this Ayn Rand-esque world forms the setting for the coolest, edgiest first-person shooter I’ve ever played on the Xbox 360. A game so good that I’ve just completed it for the fifth time and rushed out to buy the original at the first opportunity.

You play Subject Delta, a Big Daddy forced to commit suicide by Sofia Lamb, but brought back to life by her daughter and your ‘Little Sister’ to save her from the cult of the Rapture Family – which Lamb is manipulating to spread her ideals and control the city. Genetically attached as you are, you can’t survive without your Little Sister – and in this world of spliced up maniacs, she can’t survive without you.

Within this engaging storyline, you are forced to choose between good and evil – do you save those who wronged you or let them live? You must use the little sisters you find to get ADAM for yourself to improve your own chances of survival, but do you set them free and take less benefit for yourself or harvest their bodies for your own selfish ends? I’ve always saved them – largely because the process of harvesting these small girls is too disturbing to want to watch it more than once.

Gaining this ADAM allows you to ‘splice up’ yourself. You can add cool new powers such as ‘incinerate’ – a plasmid that allows you to shoot flames from your hand, ‘hypnotise’ which allows you to turn splicers against each other amongst others and the many gene tonics that can be used to improve your strength, speed and ability to fight off enemies.

Bioshock 2 screenshot

But the storyline elements are just part of the brilliance of Bioshock 2. Because not only can you become sucked into the world of Rapture, the gameplay is just brilliant. Running around this atmospheric world, you’ve got a wide range of weapons to deal with a wide range of enemies. And the ability to combine weapons with plasmids is inspired.

Because there are a great deal of possible combinations with which to deal with the splicers. You can set them on fire and then finish them off with your machine gun. Or freeze them with a bolt of electricty and then use your drill to deal a deadly blow. You can turn their own security guns against them or set traps for them to run into. You can shoot them in the chest with your shotgun or just hit them round the head with it. Or you can pin them against the wall with your speargun.

There are so many ways to kill your enemies in Bioshock 2 that you’ll never get bored of doing so. And when you’ve got normal enemies with guns, ones that can teleport themselves around the room, ‘brutes’ that are super-strong, fellow Big Daddies and the undeniably scary ‘Big Sisters’ that screech before they attack, it’s a good job too.

All of these reasons are why, despite the fact that Bioshock 2 is no new release, I’m still moved to blog about it now. The storyline is both engaging and moving and the gameplay is just awesome. And what’s more – you can pick it up on Amazon now for less than a tenner.

If you haven’t played Bioshock 2 or it’s predecessor before – buy it now. You won’t regret it.

Bioshock 2 - Eleanor Lamb

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Championship Manager 03/04 – retro game review

3 Jan
My current Barcelona team on Championship Manager 03/04

My current Barcelona team on Championship Manager 03/04

Of all the hours wasted on all of the Championship Manager/Football manager installments, I look back most fondly on those spent dominating world football for over a decade with Barcelona.

And winning the Premiership with Reading. And taking Boston United into the Championship (before being sacked for finishing in the bottom half…)

All on Championship Manager 03/04.

For me, this was the golden age of football management sims. Everything before was just not quite realistic or detailed enough. Everything afterwards was just too realistic or detailed.

The last game of this type that I bought was Football Manager 2009. Far too detailed, far too many options and far too much to do. It would take a serious amount of hours just to finish a season. I still enjoyed it, but it was too much.

Championship Manager 03/04So the arrival of this in the post for the princely sum of £1.99 made me very happy indeed.

But when I booted the game up and began to try and play it, I was absolutely gutted.

It would seem that I’d actually played my original version of the game (which I’d given away so that I could actually concentrate on my dissertation) on the very same laptop I now own – this must have been a few years after the game came out.

And worse, I’d messed around with the editor to try and cheat a bit – adding players like David Beckham to Reading and so on.

So whenever I started a new game, it was doomed to be a cheat. I’d ruined the game for myself. All I could do was boot up the one save game that remained available from before, titled ‘barcelona’

Well I can tell you now that I’m now a further four years ahead of where I had been all those years ago when I’d started playing ‘barcelona’ and consider that £1.99 to very well spent indeed.

I picked up the game immediately, remembered all of the old players I’d amassed and am just as hopelessly addicted as I was back then. It doesn’t matter that the editor is out-of-date. I don’t mind that I’ll never get to give Messi a run-out in my Barcelona team. It’s more fun to make superstars out of total unheardofs – players that will never exist in fact.

If I put in a CM session then I can actually complete a good portion of the season, even though I play as two managers (Barcelona and, currently, Fulham) In Football Manager 2009 I could play for a few hours and only play a handful of games.

Sure it’s now 2019 in my game and Wayne Rooney is about to retire – one of the few ‘real’ players left as he was 16 when the game started. Sure about half of the clubs in Spain have gone bankrupt and the chances of selling a player are remote. And sure, winning the league fourteen years in a row does suggest that the challenge has gone a little.

But I still absolutely love it.

The only negative I can really pull this game up on is the saving style. I can’t remember if it used to do this, but now when it auto saves every month it creates a new file. Which doesn’t half use a lot of disk space – it completely filled my laptop’s allocation before I realised what was happening.

But that is an option you can turn off, so it’s hard to mark it down.

In short, I absolutely love this game and I would recommend it to anyone over the current versions of the popular football management sim anyday. The only reason not to is that it is out-of-date.

But then the ability to see into the future is quite useful in football management. Word to the wise – a couple of kids called Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo get quite good.

FIFA 11 – Manager mode first impressions

5 Oct

Every year I do the exact same thing when it comes to buying the latest football game. I run out on the day that it is released, hand over my hard-earned money and then fire up the Xbox with excitement.

And every year I’m left disappointed.

I’m a fairly hardcore football gamer, you see. Manager mode is my sanctuary and, more often than not, I’ll have spent hours and hours turning Reading into a real force in English football – turning unheard of players into big names and playing every game along the way.

So when I upgrade to the new version of FIFA, I’m always left slightly disappointed by what I’ve left behind. It’s not just a game, it’s a team. I could still tell you most of the players I had in my FIFA ’09 manager mode team, so it’s something of an attachment.

This year was no different, except that the little touches of class that FIFA 11 offer have helped to soften the blow enormously.

Where FIFA 10 rubbed salt into the wounds by coming equipped with glitches that made my new signings disappear and my console freeze every third game, the latest version just feels altogether more polished.

I’ll concentrate on manager mode because it’s where my vice lies and it’s a real improvement over the previous version.

On FIFA 11, you’re not just tied down to match days for example – a feature that made transfer windows an absolute nightmare of few real opportunities.

Instead, you can work on a day-to-day basis – more like the Championship Manager games of old.

The method of signing players is much more intuitive and, dare I say, realistic than before, without being off-putting.

The data that you’re given post-match is also beautifully detailed and for a geeky stats man such as myself, it’s truly immersive. And the opportunity to watch highlights of the game – brilliant!

There are a couple of disadvantages – the talksport.net product placement is about as subtle as a fart in a lift and a little off-putting in my opinion.

And there doesn’t appear to be a way to improve your coaching staff and stadium as in previous versions, which was something that I always enjoyed.

But overall, manager mode feels more polished.

Gameplay

Such is my addiction to manager mode that I’ve got this far with barely a mention of the gameplay. And that’s a good thing.

Another big thing that I’ve found with upgrading football games is that it always takes you time to get used to the new style of gameplay. Everything always feels a bit different, largely because it is.

Yet I didn’t find this much of a problem with FIFA 11. The first game that I played seemed to pass a little slower than I was used to, but after that I didn’t really notice it at all.

All I noticed was the little improvements that they’ve made.

The headers – oh joy, the headers!

It was only when I scored with a bullet header from around the penalty area that I realised that this was something I could never do on previous FIFA games. If you didn’t head it from the six-yard line or closer, it wasn’t going anywhere other than straight at the goalkeeper more often than not.

But this just feels a bit more, well, realistic.

The tackling too feels as though you have just that little bit more control over it and the referees reactions to them feel a bit more human too.

They let you play on more, but realise when there is actually and advantage and when there isn’t. The days of being able to foul someone, leave the ball for a couple of seconds and then run off triumphantly could well be numbered.

In general, FIFA 11 just seems that little bit more polished than previous versions. It’s not a complete overhaul by an means, but this is a good thing.

If it isn’t broken don’t fix it.

But if there is one thing that EA Sports need to take note of, it’s the commentating. Update it please!

Andy Gray’s monologues are great, but when you’ve heard them hundreds of times already, the last thing that you want to do when you boot up your brand new game is to hear them again.

So for FIFA 12, please give me something different to listen to!

Ice Age 3 game review for guardian.co.uk

13 Jul

An unashamedly blatant plug for my first piece of published work on guardian.co.uk, a game review for Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. I’m hoping that it will be the first of many.

In the mean time, you can find my Guardian contibutor page here.