Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal Review [Gaming]

This one is going to be short and to the point. Simply, the game is only worth your time if you like exploration games with speedy elements. Said it would be short, didn't I?
All joking aside, Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal is good, but still won't be winning any awards. First we have the story, which - just like its WiiU counterpart - is barebones. Amy is fighting Lyric, then when he's knocked down, calls for 'help' on the communicator. Lyric then knocks Amy out. Sonic decides to gather his friends and go rescue Amy - and that's it. The cutscenes in the middle don't even matter. They don't even impact the story whatsoever, apart from saying where you are and how you got there. Shadow and Metal Sonic are in the game, but Metal Sonic plays no part in the story, and Shadow shows up being mind controlled by Lyric [why?], escaping the mind control after a beatdown, and then shows up during the final battle to help defeat Lyric. There are only three CGI cutscenes in the game. And you only need to watch those to know the whole plot anyway. The rest are text-based with semi-static characters on screen.
The stages themselves are fun to a point. Once you memorise which character is on which direction of the D-Pad, you can breeze through the levels, which are filled with a certain thing only a certain character can do. Sonic blasts through blue blocks. Knuckles digs underground. Tails uses gusts of wind to glide [no flyability]. And Sticks uses her boomerang to hit switches. And aside from those, the level design is built with multiple paths in mind. And those multiple paths hide secrets. And those secrets are needed to progress. Within the main levels, there are five crystal pieces and six blueprint pieces to collect. Collect the full set of crystals or blueprints, and you get an emblem. You also get an emblem for finishing the level. Emblems are needed to unlock other stages, and while not bad at first, you need all the emblems you can earn by that point in the game to unlock the final... um... Rival Race. Bosses are not bosses in the normal sense, but are rather races. A one on one to see who can finish first. The last one against Lyric is more boss fight in structure, but still has Rival Race written over it. Simply reach a certain point of the race and a transition to a platform takes place. Avoid attacks, then attack yourself. Repeat another two times. Race element begins again. Repeat the actions twice more. Lyric ramps up his attacks on each fight section, giving more things to avoid.
All levels have a nice graphic design, and the music fits well with the stages. Worm Tunnel stages give a better feeling of speed, and are the only 3D parts of the game. Those blueprints you collect give perks, such as locating things on the map [like crystal and blueprint pieces]. The controls are nice, but can sometimes be clunky. And while all levels are good, they don't feel as replayable as any other level from any other Sonic game. Collecting the crystal and blueprint pieces can become a chore and a bore if not actively collecting them during the first [or second] play of a level. That whole system of collecting emblems to progress has a feeling of Unleashed's Sun and Moon medals to it.

The game itself is nothing special. It just happens to have some good things about it. In terms of which Sonic Boom game you should pick up, this is the one I would recommend. But that recommendation is a very thin one. Neither of the games can fully be recommended, and if you are after a Sonic experience on a handheld, I would seriously recommend you check out the Rush games on the DS, or even go further back and play through the Advance games on the Game Boy Advance. While Sonic Lost World 3DS is a better game [and the first handheld 3D Sonic game], it is still hard to recommend it over previous games of past generations. And yes, I am aware of what I previously said in Lost World's review. But in all honesty, my opinion on that game was brought down slightly after playing for hours on end only on Windy Hill stages. Not because I can't be bothered to play the others, but because all other stages suffer the game's problems more than in Windy Hill.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Battlefield Hardline Beta [Gaming]

Now, I'm fairly new to the Battlefield series, but I can certainly see the differences between the main series and Hardline - a cops and robbers spin-off. We have the way you earn equipment, the equipment itself, the vehicles, and even the opposing factions. Now, since this game is in beta form, I won't be doing a full review. But this post is to give an insight into just what the beta holds, and how that reflects the final game.
First off is the Battlefield [and perhaps most other team-based shooter] staple mode - Conquest. This mode plays much the same as previous games. Each team has a base, and between both are five command posts which are contested over. Kills knock off tickets from the opposing faction, as does owning the most command posts. The winning team is the one which can reduce the opposing team's tickets to zero. However, owing to the new theme, this mode plays a little differently. Vehicles do not have on board weapons [except the helicopters, but not for the pilot]. In that respect, they are just transport. But any passengers in the vehicle can still use their weapons. Thus, having a fully stocked vehicle ensures better success. Since the vehicles' power have been considerably lowered, factions are now set up to not have uber powerful RPG's and the such. They can still be powerful, a number of weapons can certainly overcome a vehicle if you keep with it enough, but there won't be any one hit kills on vehicles or infantry from vehicles. Except getting run over, of course. Bikes are fast, and are light, and as such come with a jump bonus in points.
Points are very much the same as previous Battlefield games - in that earning enough of them in a single class or vehicle, even weapons, will net you service stars - but added to the mix are coins and money. Coins are earned for achieving a certain number of points, kills or bonuses. As such, they sort of act like ribbons. But collect enough of them, and you earn a bounty. These act as nothing but trophies, but look good when others see your profile. Then we have money, which is used to buy weapons and gadgets. While not much more than a simple change, it affects how you approch things. For one, you no longer need to use a weapon in order to earn points and unlock more of that particular weapon. But you do need to meet other critera. These are either getting kills with the opposing faction, or completing assignments or missions. There is also a loadout for each class - one for the police, and one for the criminals. There are a number of loadouts this time, but only one unlocked from the start. The others are unlocked through either points or Battlepacks, which make a return.
Now then, the two new modes. First off is Heist. The criminals break into a bank and take two bags of money to select drop off points, while the police try to stop them. The mode itself takes a bit to get around, in terms of learning the best way to tackle the objective, but once you do it is very fun to play. Teamwork is required of both teams. The criminals have to protect the team member who has the bag of money, as they will be main target for the police. The police, meanwhile, can set up traps near the drop off points to catch the criminals off guard. Whether that be an ambush or a well placed trip mine, the criminals have a tough job to get to the drop off points - providing the police set their traps well.
The more interesting of the two though, is Hotwire. This is a special conquest mode where the special vehicles dotted around the map are the command posts. To capture one, you need to be driving at speed. But the opposing faction is working to the same objective, and both teams can employ the same tactics from conquest here. A fully stocked vehicle, especially a special one, can protect or destroy. Crashing into someone dips their vehicle's damage slightly, and if you can trap them, it becomes easier to destroy them. Once a special car is destroyed, it will respawn. The key is to have your team be in command of as many special vehicles as possible. Just like with conquest, whoever owns the most command points will knock tickets off the opposing team. But unlike conquest, infantry kills have no effect. Only the special vehicles do. Whether that be driving them or destroying them. Of all the modes, this one was the most action packed. And as you'll see in my gameplay video, especially fun.
Dotted around maps are more powerful weapons. These are where your RPG's and uber weapons come in. If you pick one up, you have to keep it. If you swap out to another weapon, you will drop the pick-up weapon. These are more tactical advantages than anything, and the specific placement within buildings show this. If used carelessly, they can be more damaging to your efforts than anything. You need to be in the right place to use one of the more powerful ones, such as a stinger, but find a regular gun [well, a powered up gun, anyway] and you can turn the tide of battle - so long as you don't get caught in crossfire.
The maps. Dust Bowl is a more open map. What little built up area it does have offer little protection from the war. Set in a desert, it has a very wild west feel, but in a modern sort of way. The gas station is a nice touch. Downtown is a city. Very tall buildings, straight roads, a multi-storey car park, and a little park area. Both Downtown and Dust Bowl can be played on both Hotwire and Conquest. Bank Job is a Heist only map. The bank takes up most of the map, with a road running the whole way round it. Again, there is a multi-storey car park, and this is where one of the drop off points are. On all the maps, there are numerous places for snipers to set up. There is room for multi-level warfare. And there are numerous places to hide.
Battlefield Hardline feels more arcade-like than the main series, whether that be from the slightly boosted speed, the set-up of the modes and maps, or the focus on infantry rather than the full range of military knowledge. In sorts, Hardline is in between Battlefield and Call of Duty. In other words, the speed and quick action of Call of Duty is mixed with the tactics and depth of Battlefield. Some might say otherwise, but that's how I'm calling it. One thing I do note though, is that the levelling system seems to be quicker. Whether that is just for the beta, I have no idea, but I've been playing only a few hours, and am almost up to the level I am on with Battlefield 4 [16]. I'm sure the levelling won't be so heavy-handed in the final game, but it just struck me how fast I was going through levels. Maybe it's the modes themselves, and the points you can earn from them being greater. And now, for the video itself. It is a highlight reel, showcasing elements from the beta. It has both factions, all three maps, and all three modes within it. All weapons used are the default set. I did not change anything.
Enjoy. Battlefield Hardline Beta Highlight Reel.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Funday February [Network]

I don't normally start the news out this way, but there was something announced within the last days of January that really struck my interest. Frontier Developments, hot off the release of Elite: Dangerous in December [and with continual updates to it] have now announced another self-published game. This one is something a bit special though. It's a spiritual successor to Rollercoaster Tycoon. Coaster Park Tycoon is set to raise the bar of theme park simulation games, and if you haven't read the announcement itself - the details are here. Since Frontier worked on the third Rollercoaster Tycoon, I think this is a great idea from the company. Since they don't have the power to make another RCT [Atari's IP], this was the next best thing they could have done. And it means they have complete control for future games [or further support].
From one game to the next, I'll be doing another Star Wars Battlefront video this month, but this time the focus will be on the first game. I know it's a bit late, but a few months ago was the original Battlefront's 10th anniversary. The 10th anniversary for the second game will be coming soon [and wouldn't it be perfect for the new game to release close or on the anniversary date itself], and I'll be doing playthroughs of it after the anniversary date just like with the first. They'll still be highlight reels, but hopefully showcasing what makes the games great.
But before that, we have the open Battlefield Hardline beta. As some know, I've slowly been growing to like the Battlefield franchise after purchasing Battlefield 4 end of November. That purchase was was in anticipation of the new Star Wars Battlefront. Since then, I've been playing over various weeks, and have come to like it. Enough to try out the Hardline beta, which I will give impressions on, and possibly even do a gameplay recording.
And now we finish on what's happening around the network of Cyber Digital Services. As mentioned when the Super Smash Bros. 4 WiiU review was posted, the Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal review has been delayed into this month. Story uploads continue as normal, and at the minute, nothing new is planned.
As always, small updates will be posted through social media.
That's it for now.