Posts Tagged ‘xbox’

Game 43: Second Sight

Posted: April 2, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 605/1001 according to the list

Genre: Action
Platform: Gamecube/PC/Playstation 2/Xbox
Year of Release: 2004
Developer: Free Radical Designs
Publisher: Codemasters

Can you quite believe that we have covered a game from every year in the last 15 years with the exception of 2004? It’s a bit of a strange oversight to be honest so I was able to this gap in our coverage to push forward the playing of Second Sight. I previously owned the title on the Gamecube but, as it always is, I was strapped for cash and as such traded it in. I then found it on eBay rather cheaply so thought it was worth a flutter for one of the select few games that successfully managed to bring psychic powers to a console.

We previously covered the Free Radical game Timesplitters 2 and we will one day be covering another game by them. So, let’s get on with it.

Our Thoughts

It is all too common for developers to pigeon-hole themselves within a particular genre after creating a successful franchise. So when Free Radical, the makers of the classic Timesplitters series decided to venture into single-player action it was always going to be somewhat of a gamble. This was especially so since Free Radical really became noteworthy in their execution of multi-player shoot ’em ups. When playing this, however, there is absolutely no doubt that this is a Free Radical game. This can be seen by the menus, the character designs and (most obviously) the sense of humour.

Of course with this being after Timesplitters 2 (which we previously covered here) everything that these games hold in common have been given a good deal of polish. I can agree with the above, but what is also clear is that this game takes full advantage of it being single player. Through the game, you play through two storylines – before and after – that intertwine, with both having different gameplay with the possible abilities. And the powers you get are so different that you couldn’t easily use them in multiplayer, both because of how and when they’re unlocked, and how many are more focused on solving puzzles and progressing through the game using them.

It is the powers themselves which are the game’s ace in the hole. In total there are five psychic powers you are able to unlock (Projection, Telekinesis, Psi Power, Charm and Healing) and these get powered up as you progress further along the game. You can also use weapons which you pick up on your travels such as pistols and submachine guns. An interesting weapon included with these are various strengths of tranquilizer darts so you are able to fight your way through levels without bloodshed. This is not always avoidable but there is the option.

This is something that I love about Second Sight, the fact that there is usually more than one way to complete your objectives. Yeah, aside from the shooting your way through method, you can sneak past as well or use your powers to good effect – either to sneak or to fight. You can ask scientists for help or kill them to get past them.  This is actually made very clear in the tutorial level, where you have to go through the same area  twice – just sneaking through, after that by shooting (with blanks) the guards in the level. There is less of an option when you are playing ‘in the past’ as you storm Russian army complexes in the snow. In this, whilst you are in possession of a tranquilizer gun, it is more advisable to blast your way through. Speaking of which, the shooting mechanics are an absolute dream to play with.

There is something very satisfying about headshots (ah, I love headshots) and the controls are executed so cleanly that they are fairly easy to achieve without the feeling that you are being spoon-fed. I also loved that the sniper rifles had an automatic zoom, something which pays dividends at the beginning of the Rescue mission. I can echo that on the controls, which were very easy to pick up on. I’m not great at these games – not my favourite genre – but Peter had to admit I was actually quite adept and picked up the game fairly fast – in part from practice with other games, in part because I’m actually not that bad with these games and have been informed of such by others, but also because the controls themselves didn’t get in the way. From sneaking to shooting to using powers, they made sense and were intuitive, and with the exception of a slip-up or two, they didn’t ever get in the way.

This game, somehow, even managed to make escort missions enjoyable to play. Usually they are as dumb as a sack of hammers and will happily flaunt themselves in front of the opposition whilst jumping up and down in the air pleading to know what a gunshot wound feels like. This game not only worked out kinks in the AI so that the woman you escort is actually scared and will not run off ahead but also allows you to use your healing ability on her, meaning that unless you find yourself out  of her eye line you are able to make sure her health bar is always as near as full as possible. She’s also suitably creepy and crazy, adding to the atmosphere. But yeah, this is a rescue mission where you do have to escort, but don’t have to worry that much about it either. Yes… some of the dialogue she spouts as you escort her over the rooftops gave me the creeps. Especially when she asks if you are playing a game of hide and seek.

The atmosphere itself was quite good too. The story is divided in two parts, as said, one before the happening that gives you psychic powers, one after that, and the two mix between. The feel of both parts is quite different. In the before storyline, you’re part of a military group and you go through bunkers, strictly designed, as you often see in similar games. In the after story line, you have psychic abilities and escape from a research facility. There’s far more computers around, and parts of it are more technological and more absurd, while others seem grubbier, when you get to the rescue missions and have to sneak out over rooftops and through back alleys. This inter-mingling of timelines is something that Free Radical have always enjoyed doing their games. Whilst it was okay in Timesplitters 2 it was only really perfected in this game.

When examining the output of the studio as a whole Second Sight marks the stepping stone between the second and third entry in the Timesplitters series. It was because of this game that they were finally able to produce a well executed single player mode in their next game. Looking back on this game makes it even sadder that Free Radical went into administration in 2008 resulting in its takeover by German developer Crytek. It marked the end of one of the great small British games developers and since Timesplitters 4 still appears to be shelved we will have to look to the multiplayer of recent release Crysis 2 to see those Free Radical Designs credentials back in action.

Final Thoughts

We have spent a lot of time complimenting this game and mourning the loss of this UK-based developer. This may be a game on the 1001 list but it is never featured on any ‘best of’ lists in magazines so I guess a lot of it really is down to personal taste. It is a game that I love dearly and am glad to have an excuse to play again.

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Game 530/1001 according to the list


Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: PS2/Gamecube/X-Box
Year of Release: 2002
Developer: Free Radical Design
Publisher: Eidos Interactive

Of all the first person shooters out there I have lost the most of my time on the Timesplitters franchise. As much as I loved the first installment it was still fairly rough around the edges since it appeared that they rushed in order to have it as a release title for the Playstation 2. For the sequel, however, they had plenty of time to iron out the kinks and add a lot of elements that would go on to become known as Free Radical’s trademark humour. With critics upon the games release naming it as an essential title for shooting multiplayer it is little wonder that this made the 1001 list.

Our Playthrough

In Timesplitters 2 there are three major gaming modes: Arcade, Challenge and Story… so we gave them all a good go.

Our Thoughts

So here we are. Another game inspired by Goldeneye 007. Well Perfect Dark doesn’t really count as they were by the same developer. Granted, but in any case we see another step in the game’s lineage. Probably helped by many former employees of Rare going to off to form Free Radical Design who were the brains behind this game. The sequel to the warmly receieved Timesplitters that improved upon the formula in every way. An odd order, but true, it has improved on the previous games mentioned here that I’ve played. Good graphics, good multiplayer, rousing music and what seemed to be the start of an interesting story and gameplay.

Whilst our 5 hours of gameplay did mainly focus on Arcade and Challenge modes there is a very good Story mode, but from my many hours of experience this was the weakest of all game modes, despite completion of it leading to a wealth of unlockables. Why’s that? It seemed fun to play through, and rather jumpy at times. Which is where I suppose I should mentioned the thing you can do here you rarely see in such games – coop story mode. Play through the levels together, rather than on your own. Yes the option of a co-op story mode is indeed an extreme in it’s favour. I mean there are very few games that can boast such a feature. Some games in the Halo franchise being the main ones that come to mind. As well as some RPGs that I can think of, my beloved Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale being the obvious ones for me.

I guess that the multi-player was just so ahead of it’s contemporary competition that it’s hard not to focus on this as being it’s extreme strength. The story line itself just is not enough to drive this game. You find it hard to connect with Cortez and Hart during their quest through history… even in the explosive finale. Something that was very well improved on in Timesplitters: Future Perfect where the story mode becomes such an incredible asset that it still pains me that Timesplitters 4 has remained in development hell for the better part of a decade. Everyone knows Free Radical games for their sense of humour (and their love of monkeys) and this is something that is lacking in the Story missions but is present in spades within the Challenge and Arcade modes. I guess that the increased use of cutscenes and witty dialogue with it’s fair share of idiotic puns (“time to split” anyone?) are what I miss most of all.

Wow.  In other words, keep an eye out – it may be a while, but we’ll be getting around to this better future game. Well, I always said that it was a better game. The book itself is a bit contradictory on the issue. Basic summary: The single player mode improves in the third game, but the multiplayer and arcade modes are great. And that’s very true, it’s addictive and fast enough that it leaves you wanting to play another round, helped by a competent AI that actually makes the game more difficult, rather than just being there to be slaughtered. It managed to fool me at least – and as is well known, I’m not the best at those things. The fact that you can play with a maximum of 10 AI opponents during the arcade modes bring a fantastically chaotic feeling. Also the variety of gaming modes within the Arcade section is great. Not only are there the typical Deathmatch and Capture the Bag modes but also aptly named Assault, Vampire, Shrink, Flame Tag and Virus. MONKEYS! Yes, yes, yes, monkeys. FLAMING MONKEYS! Purple monkey dishwasher? I didn’t spot that one. Nevermind.

Worth mentioning are the graphics. They’re not OMG brilliant as we’ve been before here – they feel off at times. Considering that this game is nearly 10 years old they are still very acceptable. It helps that the characters are stylised in a cartoon-like fashion which means it has aged far better than other games released in the same era. Unlike the first Timesplitters which looks pretty bad a few years later so who knows how it’ll look now. The feeling is that they could have made a bit better use of that – it’s trying to be just realistic enough that, during a few cutscenes, it seemed a bit jarring. Oh? The first cutscene of the game has two guys talking to each other. The movement seemed unnatural – not entirely a cartoony talk, but still mouths opening and closing without matching the tone of speech. I didn’t feel the same way, but fair enough.

I guess that this is something that we will have to compare when we get to Timesplitters: Future Perfect.  My only hope is that we don’t have to wait until game 500+ to get there. Agreed.  And I’m sure we will, as this game makes for some useful filler time as well.

Final Thoughts

So there we are. A nice follow-up on some of the FPSs we’ve covered before, with possibly the best multiplayer experience we’ve had so far It’s a shame the single player falls flat in comparison, which is something that’ll get better in the coming sequel to the game. The graphics are good – not great and dated at times, but more than bearable. And the music… I was jamming to it while waiting for Peter to be ready for a multiplayer match. Worth a try for that experience alone.

Game 32: SSX Tricky

Posted: February 23, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 492/1001 according to the list

Genre: Sports
Platform: Playstation 2, Gamcube, Xbox, Game Boy Advance
Year of Release: 2001
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports BIG

Multitasking is considered by some to be the spice of life, this is especially so with this blog. At any one time we typically have 2-3 games on the the go and SSX Tricky is a perfect candidate for a game you can just pick up and play on multiplayer whenever you want. This in stark contrast to games like Uplink and the forthcoming Final Fantasy VII which are best to cover in either one or two long sittings.

If you have previously read my profile you will know that SSX Tricky ranks as my favourite sports game of all time. Since the only sports game we have covered to this previous is this blog’s namesake it would be fair to say this is the first sports game we have covered that feels even slightly true to life.

Our Thoughts

So here we go, a sports game, and not for one of the largest sports out there; one that says that I am “full of class”, unless I suddenly find myself careering headfirst into a mailbox. It is a very revealing game and quite on the ball too as well as being the only sports game that I will defend to the hilt.

This playthrough has been greatly helped by me finding my old memory card on which is a file where I had unlocked all the tracks as well as master rankings for two snowboarders. Yeah, it’s been a great hep in seeing the game, although the fact that you almost completely ignore the male characters means that there was still plenty of early gameplay for me to pick up on. What do you mean? I had the rankings for both a male and a female. Well, okay, you did something for one male. The others were completely ignored. Even if he did seem to be the cutest one anyway, so that would explain that…

I mean when you view her level-up video it’s no wonder that my favourite is Kaori. Who wouldn’t love a panda backpack that break-dances? Yeah, breakdancing pandas sound… cute. Not that I had a chance to see that now. Just click the link a few lines ago. Ah yes. How did that get there? Well, in any case, it’s worth checking out.

One thing that I think needs to be noted is that this one of two snowboarding games on the list (the other being 1080° Snowboarding). It was during this time that there were quite a few snowboarding games out there and I was a bit of a fan despite no inclination to take to the slopes. The only main franchise absent here is Coolboarders… and if you have played them it’s pretty easy to see why when compared to the sublime madness of SSX Tricky.

It is insane, in a good way Mind you, you can tell this game is from the early noughties, as the characters would have been hip then, while now several seem, well, dated. The characters (and the voice actors behind them) are one of the main reasons that SSX Tricky is so fantastic. So much time was taken to flesh each of them out and make them as distinct from each other as possible. With voice actors as varied as David Arquette, Bif Naked, Lucy Liu and Macy Grey lending their talents you can get an idea of the different personalities on show. This is further elaborated in the making of videos that are packaged on each disc (with the explanation behind Brodi being particularly eye-opening). And the care put into the characters does show. They’re distinctive personalities, and you do start to like and dislike some of them – further helped by them actually being friends and enemies of you during the game – more likely the latter than the former.

The friendships actually matter in the games since an enemy can actually sabotage your chances by knocking you over. also the cutscenes watching the prospective boarders bicker can be fun. Especially since every boarder speaks in their native tongue (or at least in the right accent). This global view is a nice touch and one that the makers of Dead or Alive should heed when marketing their games abroad. Something actually taken a step further when they replaced one American character (Mac) with a German one (Marty… so cute) for the European release of the game. Then there’s the next step of customization, outfits and boards. With the latter being actually useful, and the former just… looking cute I guess. Some of the female’s outfits just scream fan service. (The females’) Not just them. You can have Brodi ride shirtless and he is nicely toned. We need to play more when we’re done with our writing then (oh jees) but yea a perfect example of the fanservice is Elise’s PVC policewoman outfit.

The next part, then, are the tracks. A nicely varied bunch, although some of them can get somewhat confusing. Some of them are truly insane. I mean Tokyo Megaplex is essentially a giant pinball machine with sections of zero gravity (with possibly the greatest potential for tricks). Then there is Hawaii’s Aloha Ice Jam where you are racing down a giant iceberg, which by sheer coincidence is melting (with a lot of tricky jumps and fast slopes.) The amount of thought that has gone into the construction of each track is mindboggling. It will take weeks of playing to uncover every conceivable route and discover each hidden shortcut. One of which means you have to dodge marauding penguins. Something Peter obviously wasn’t great at, as he squeed audibly several times over (imagine me glaring at him) …it’s cute. And yes, the later courses get worse. The early ones are fairly easy, but as you get further, you’ll be falling down ten times a minute.

That can depend on your ability though. There is a steep difficulty curve, but it’s done in such a way that warrents replay upon replay of the tracks. I cannot begin to count how often I have played the first track… It’s very true, and it’s not a bad thing – figuring out more ways to get through the tracks and do more tricks is very rewarding and the game does reward you for it.

The most rewarding aspect of the game, however, has to be the tricks. Even after years of playing this on and off there is a great deal of satisfaction that can be derived from executing a truly magnificent trick. It is, and it really makes you happy when you manage something like a 900 degree turn. Followed by a rail 50/50 and whatever more there is?

The best ones are tricks that simply defy the laws of gravity. Like executing a double back flip whilst doing the worm on the board. Kaori pirouettes, JP break dances and Marisol… well I am not really sure how to describe what her personal uber trick is. Yeah, it makes you wonder how that works. But then, at times, when you’re that high in the air, it feels like time slows down as you’re up there. Once you max out your characters stats and equip them with their uberboard then the tricks you can accomplish are stunning. The best one being where you do such acts of insanity that it can only title it as “???”. That’s quite insane, as I’ve never reached that, despite doing some impressive stunt even excluding the faceplants.

And if you do it well, you get ‘rewarded’ with Run DMC. Just an example of the great music used throughout. Each track gets their selection of songs which help add to their overall feel. There is also commentating by beat boxer Rahzel. Some of the quips that they have him come up with (depending on your boarding expertise) are genius. Mostly assuming you’re good enough. He is invaluable to the game’s atmosphere and was sorely missed in this game’s sequel SSX 3. I can see why that would be.

If there’s one criticism I’d have to give of this game, then it’s the learning curve that makes that a lot of the cool stuff stays locked just a bit long. Especially the cooler tracks are a long wait away. If you are more skilled with racing games then it makes a real different to the amount of time it takes to unlock all the tracks. Theoretically it may only take a few hours if you give it a good enough go. Thanks. It doesn’t help that the practice sections were not covered for the purposes of this review. The slope used to practice tricks is especially useful as it helps you realise how much of them rely in the timing.

As I mentioned in my profile this is my top sports game and I really hope Jeroen can see what I fell for. I can absolutely see that, and it might well be the best I’ve played so far. But we do have California Games coming up. As well as another 45 sports titles… Joy! Well, if this is part of the best, then these should turn out to be okay. But whether they’ll beat SSX Tricky… we’ll see. It’s a good start.

Final Thoughts

How can I finish now, having already mentioned everything there is to mention? The characters and level design of this game stand out, and it sets it apart from more normal sports game where you keep running around the same field with football players whose only differences are the shirts and hair colour.  The graphics are good – sure, it looks outdated by now, but it’s on that edge where it’s actually quite good still. And then there’s the sound, and I keep humming along to the songs I do know.

If you feel you have to try a sports game, this is the one you’ll want to go for. Truely. Until the next one that’ll make us change our minds, of course.

Game 21: Lego Star Wars

Posted: January 21, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 657/1001 according to the list


Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2005
Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Publisher: Eidos Interactive/LucasArts

It’s the game that came as a result of the accumulated wishes of every lonely child the union between the genius Lego toys with the now legendary Star Wars (the original trilogy… since the prequel trilogy wasn’t exactly classic filmmaking). However, what the people at Traveller’s Tale were able to do was take a series of films people take very seriously (some would say too seriously but I could not possibly comment) and find a way to inject it with a fantastical sense of humour which would then become the trademark of a highly phraseworthy series of games (with Lego Batman being their magnum opus in my personal opinion).

Our Playthrough

The copy we own is actually the Complete Saga edition meaning that we will have played through sections of both the original Lego Star Wars as well as those of the prequel trilogy. We’ve more or less played through all the episodes so we should have a good grasp on both games… seeing how the 1001 list specifically mentions only one game we’ll be focusing on that in our write up.

Our Thoughts

I guess we’ll have to look at the Star Wars experience later, but I think it’s worth going over the general qualities of these games first – as said; all of the games in the series are brilliant. It’s just a pity that Lego Batman didn’t end up on this list somewhere, it’s awesome beyond measure… but we digress.

 

It really is a gaming combination that shouldn’t work, especially since the idea of a Lego computer game is a touch strange. They’ve managed to pull it off brilliantly. To be fair, the Lego parts of it aren’t what you’d think – there are no conventional building things and putting them together in any arbitrary manner (except for two characters you can design yourself in most of the games). However, almost everything is made of Lego, and building predefined objects with them, or using the Force to create them, or anything like that, is a large part of the gameplay and in fact, destroying all these Lego objects is part of the fun of the game.

Similar fun can be derived from having Chewbacca pulling the arms off of the adversaries with the apt comic side-effects of course. Yes, or your protocol droids (C3PO & co) losing their limbs one by one as they get shot or damaged. I still think the best noise is when you use Jedi powers to push R2-D2 off the edge of something (tee hee). For those of you who know Darths & Droids… it is very much deserved too.

One thing that is remarkable in this is how close they remain to the overall story of Star Wars. Granted bits have to be fleshed out to create adequately paced levels, but they don’t actually play with it as much as you would expect so in that way purists were not too annoyed. Yeah and the cutscenes aren’t serious and boring copies of scenes from the movie, but, through the humour in there, are lovely to watch as well. (And to come back to that, in Lego Batman this shows off even more, as it doesn’t follow an existing story. Instead there’s a simple original one, which allows for a lot more charm in the cutscenes. Robin is lovely in it and will steal your heart. Get a room you two.)

A really good feature is the gaming hub where unlocked characters run around and it’s fun to create a brawl (even better in The Complete Saga where you can repeatedly slice JarJar Binks in twain). Not just that, aside from allowing for repeated studs collection from features in there, it serves as a nice way of using a lot of mechanics and have some battles with each other as well.

The extras are a remarkable mix of incredibly useful to incredibly idiotic. All are great fun to try out but there is only a handful which you can make regular use of. Yeah, and some are easier to use than others – from just getting extra studs when you kill someone, to your blaster shots exploding when you hit someone – not something you want when you’re close to it. That was so annoying, especially since you need those exploding blasts to break through certain shiny obstacles. Not necessarily – you can get characters later that make things explode through bombs, those are easier to handle and less necessary in fights. Ah yes, sorry about that… so, we’ve covered how faithful the game is to the movie series, their great sense of humour and collectables. Onto gameplay which is not perfect.

 

The camera can get particularly annoying when playing with a friend as it will go to any lengths to keep you both in shot, even if it means forcibly dragging your co-player into a ravine. Of course they then re-spawn falling into the ravine and you’re screwed in terms of stud collecting. Not just that, sometimes when you want to get a good view, to fight enemies or do tricky jumps, it zooms in to an awkward angle where it’s hard to see where you’re going… or the camera moves just as you need it stable to judge where you’re going. This isn’t a regular problem, to be fair, but when it does happen it is extremely annoying, like the driving levels they insist on including.

These are worse here than they are in other instalments like Lego Batman (so this is worth remembering). The controls don’t work well, the camera problems are made worse and it’s hard to see how what you’re doing has any effect. They realised there was something good, but they just needed to tighten the camera and controls for later games. I guess it’s near perfect by the time they started developing Lego Harry Potter where I assume its broomstick levels rather than driving (minus the obligatory double-decker bus in the third film). Something I am more and more looking to finding out, although I’m tempted to wait for its inevitable Complete Saga version, when all the levels are in there.

I really hope that they choose to do an Alice in Wonderland one or one involving plenty of fairy tales. That would be hilarious. There’s plenty of options still available, both movie franchises and otherwise (and I’ve mentioned Star Trek as an option I’d personally love). In any case, even if Star Wars isn’t your option, it’ll be worth trying out one of these games. I don’t even like Star Wars that much and I thought it was brilliant.

Final Thoughts

So yeah, this serie of LEGO games are a lot of fun. Lego Star Wars is great – although it’s probably worth going for the Complete Saga by now – but Lego Batman works just as well, and while we haven’t had a chance to play them yet, the Indiana Jones and Harry Potter games are said to be as good. Try which you like best – we think they’re different and innovative enough to fit in on this list.

Last, while it’s far from the same, there’s a Lego Star Wars 2.5 – the Quest for R2-D2 – available for free online. It might be worth a try to see whether you like it. It’ll be good fun anyway.

Game 19: Soulcalibur II

Posted: January 15, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 507/1001 according to the list


Genre: Fighting
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2002
Developer: Namco
Publisher: Namco

It is with great pleasure that I introduce our first attempts at covering a fighting game!

Being a long-time exponent of the fighting genre it was great to see so many included on the list itself, and there are fewer better ways to introduce them than with SoulCalibur II. Having started out in Japan as an arcade game this was successfully ported onto the PS2, XBox and Gamecube with the latter being the best reviewed of the three. Each version also contained an exclusive character with Link appearing on the Gamecube, Heihachi Mishima was on the PS2 and comic-book character made his way onto the XBox.

It was thanks to this game that the Soul series was able to join the ranks of fighting games alongside Tekken, Street Fighter and Virtua Fighter.

Our Playthrough

There is only way that you can play through a fighting game; play every mode in the attempt to unlock all the characters as well as teaching Jeroen who is the true king of beat ’em ups (as other people have found out in respect to Tekken). We will be playing the Gamecube version that I bought in New York with birthday money… the fact that this means I have to keep my Gamecube since it’s unplayable on my Wii does make it slightly annoying.

Our Thoughts

So buttonmasher, your first beat ’em up from the list. So it is. Although I’m not sure ‘buttonmasher’ is entirely appropriate. I tried to use some strategy; I just forgot half the controls at the second session which resulted in you doing the same punch for an entire round. It worked and I changed it around later, made my tactics more varied (which was much appreciated), it made it a lot more fun.

Although, as we can state, right now it’s not a genre I’m as proficient with as you are. Beat ’em ups/fighting games have always been one of my favourite genres. The Soulcalibur series being one I love (except the third one, which was pants).

That leads me to the question that matters here. We can go on about graphics, sound, gameplay, design, story and more of that in a bit, but what my main question is (as someone who knows nothing about this) – what sets the series, and this part in particular, aside from other similar games?

Firstly is the use of handheld weapons. The SoulEdge/Calibur series may not have been the first to introduce them into a conventional fighting game but they were the ones who have made them a real boon. Each weapon comes with a different fighting style (and dare I say personality) which leads to a highly varied gaming experience. Something I’ve noticed with the different characters that we’ve played.

In your conventional beat ’em up everyone has a set radius of attack, when you introduce long-range weapons such as large axes and the Valentine Blade versus shorter range ones like nunchucks and a rapier then you really have to formulate a variety of tactics. This nicely co-insides with a wide variety of characters where each of them has fleshed out back story meaning you can understand their intentions for fighting rather than it being a free for all.

The controls too were very well organised, especially on the Gamecube (less so with the Xbox version) meaning that it is not too much of a stretch to go from a simple vertical slash to a complex throw. The variety of tactics shows itself clearly, and broke me up during our two player games, where my performance depended a lot of what I could do.

The controls were well organised as long as you can remember them. I probably didn’t play long enough to get the reflexes and innate memory. Reflexes are something that develop from a lot of fighting game experience. Bear in mind I’ve owned titles from the Soul, Tekken, Virtua Fighter, Dead or Alive, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat franchises.

I guess that’s why (as you said when we were playing) button mashing isn’t rewarded as much in this game. The controls don’t seem to make it easy to execute combos or allow you to be effective that way most of time, while even going into a bit more makes the game better. The effort gone into getting the control pays off soon which means there is a great ‘pick up and play’ quantity even for amateurs. Yeah, it works for players on multiple levels, and the difficulty in the game seems to be able to scale based on that; although some game modes are more difficult than others.

The Weapon Master mode is an interesting side section, especially since it allows the purchase of different weapons for each character which then influences play even more. Such as a weapon which enhances strength but leeches from your health. The game seems to contain a relatively large variety, even if it does not show in all game modes.

Another interesting thing of note is the console-exclusive characters. I mentioned this already in the introduction but this is something that they actually repeated again in SoulCalibur IV so thought it worth another shout out. It’s an unexpected touch, but that makes it interesting. The PS2 really got the bad deal with theirs, since Heihachi Mishima is a stalwart of the Tekken series. If anything Link (exclusive on Gamecube) was the most interesting as they had to invent his attacks basically from scratch. Which means he’s horrid to play as… but worth a go (even if I have yet to actually do so). It’s weird when he whips out the bow and arrow and then follows it up with a bomb. Not something that’d normally fit with the game, but it also seems like it’d be possible to fit it in. But with all of them being different-range melee characters, one focussing on range doesn’t seem like he’d fit and the limited size arenas don’t help that feeling.

The arenas themselves are beautifully made though, such a variety of environments. Made me wish there were more of them. Makes me itch for the sole entry from the Dead or Alive series… now there is a game who knows how to make arenas. That’s for another time

Still, obviously this is a game worth playing for the fans. I’m not sure whether it’s the best for the beginners to the series (where I suppose the Super Smash Bros series would be better), but even then it seems worth a try to get something different.

Final Thoughts

The graphics are beautiful. Some may no longer consider them as realistic as they could be, but they hold up and the art style matches, with the arena being even more promising than the characters you play. The variety is surprising and shows how these games have moved past a simple matter of two characters fighting in a 2D environment, where forward, back, punch, kick and dodge is all you do and where everyone looks the same anyway. With a full storyline with some minor RPG elements, the fighting is almost little more than a gameplay element, which makes the game more fun to play.