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Blogs about video games full of wit, charm & a sprinkling of charisma!

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Palmerama Reviews Gears Of War Jugdement! The Judgemental Reivew!

Developer: People Can Fly/Epic Games Publisher: Epic Games/Microsoft Studios Format: Xbox 360 Release Date: 22/03/2013   Gears of War Judgement is the fourth title set in the Gears universe, and takes place 30 days after the Locusts emerge from underground and try to take over the surface (colloquially known as E-Day). This time however the focus is put upon Baird, as he was the only one who really didn't get that much of a spotlight in Gears 3. In Judgement, Baird is still a lieutenant, and is leading a group called Kilo squad which is made up of himself, a much younger Cole, Onyx cadet Sofia Hendrik, and Garron Paduk, former major in the Union of Independent Republics (who the COG were fighting in the Pendulum Wars before the Locust arrived).   Single Player/Campaign:   The campaign starts off with Baird and the other members of Kilo squad being out on trial for disobeying orders. The orders they disobeyed are yet unclear and the game play is through flashbacks as the story unfolds through each members recollection. The story line is broken up into sections reminiscent of Arcade Mode in Gears 3. There are three stars in the corner of the screen that you have to fill up through killing Locusts and increase the speed of filling up the bar in the different ways you kill them such as an execution or gibing them (one hit kill). You also get penalised for each time you go 'down but not out'. Once you have completed a section you press up on the d-pad to continue where a summary screen comes up telling you how good/bad you have done.   The Declassified options do make the game more challenging!   In each section there is a 'declassified' option which gives extra intel into the story and gives players an extra challenge. These challenges can be either having to complete the section in a certain time frame, only being able to use certain weapons, extra enemies to fight or certain objectives added. These certainly help to give the game more challenge and veteran Gears players will jump at the opportunity to complete these before they have unlocked the Insane difficulty (I know I did). They also help you accumulate stars quicker, the more stars you collect the more content you unlock which includes an extra mission set during Gears 3 where Baird reunites with Kilo squad.   Overall the story feels a bit lacklustre. It is an enjoyable ride and veteran Gears players will enjoy Baird getting his own story, but it always seems to meander, staying on the same line & never deviating until you get to the rather disappointing boss fight against General Karn (Queen Mira must have had a plethora of generals). Every Gears game has had parts and locations where you felt that more in depth context could have been used and a bit of back story was needed. Instead the setting of the level was mainly a situational backdrop for the characters to get through. This feels like that all the way through which is disappointing. The arcade break up of each segment really doesn't help to engross you into the story either.   You'll learn more about these characters from the character select for multiplayer then from playing the campaign!   When you collect enough stars you will unlock 'Aftermath' which is a little tidbit that explains what Cole, Baird & Carmine were doing while Marcus, Dom, Sam & Anya were trying to get to Azura. They meet up with the rest of Kilo squad & you find out what happens to the characters in Judgement after Halvo Bay. It's a fun short mission, but its more in the style of Gears 3. It can feel a bit odd and it does make you realise how better designed the amply was in 3. Case in point, the movement in Judgement is more "chunky" as it were. There's more of a delay coming out of a roadie run or a combat roll, whereas in 3 it was much smoother (ample's really hard to describe to someone who hasn't played it).   The controls have changed for Judgement swell. You no longer use the d-pad for selecting your weapons as now you are relegated to only having two weapons instead of three. You switch weapons with Y and the grenade button has changed to LB and tac-com is now down on the d-pad. This does take some getting used to as I did keep throwing grenades away when trying to find out where my teamates were (this happened alot in multiplayer).     The multiplayer has always been a staple of the Gears franchise and has always had its own identity. However the new set up does dramatically change things up. As mentioned earlier the amount of weapons has changed & in multiplayer its changed more dramatically.   Instead of the option of 2 weapons, you only get the choice of one with your snub pistol taking the other slot. This isn't too jarring as you can pick up weapons that players drop and ones spread about the map, but every Gears game has struggled to try and stop each match being a gnasher shotgun fest (hence why the sawed off was introduced in 3), but most matches I played had everyone running around with the gnasher. What also made this annoying is that the gnasher is very inconsistent in terms of power. Active reloads only happen in the campaign, but the gnasher can have you one shot killing someone one moment then having someone take 3+ shots up close the next. Its very frustrating and shouldn't have been an issue as it could have easily taken the patched version from 3. Also if you weren't a fan of the sawed-off in 3, then I've got bad news for you. It's back, and this time it has two bullets per clip instead of one.   Free-For-All is a great addition to the multiplayer! Does not make up for lack of modes though!   There are only 4 modes in multiplayer: Overrun, Free-for-all, Domination and Team Death match. Overrun is a new feature where a team of COG have to defend certain positions against a team of locust. There are different classes on both sides and this is definitely the best thing about the game. Free-for-all is the first non team game in Gears and is frantic and fun. Domination takes away the uniqueness of the previous Annex mode, and does it more CoD style 3 bases to capture/defend. Team Death match has also had its identity taken away as its now just another run of the mill 1st team to so many points, compared to the (better in my opinion) mode in Gears 3.   Overrun is definitely the best thing about the multiplayer. One of the reasons is because its the only mode where you can play as the Locust. For some reason you can no longer play as the Locust (farewell Theron Guard), this has a dramatic effect on the amount of characters to choose from. There are about 9 characters (10 if you pre-ordered), 4 of which are available from the start and the rest you have to unlock. Two of which are just re-skins of other characters, which is just lazy. I'm sure more characters are coming later but they've already been planned and could have easily been put into the game. You do get to customise your character with different skins that you can unlock or purchase. There are some good stuff in the game. You can pretty much jump from any platform now which can hep the dynamic of a match. Some of the new weapons are pretty neat, the spot and stim grenades are a great addition and give some variety to grenade tactics.   Overrun is definitely the most addictive of the multiplayer modes!   Survivor mode is a new addition and is the replacement for Horde mode. Its a mixture of Overrun and horde. The structure is the same as Overrun, where you have to defend e-holes and then a generator if you fail to protect the e-holes. You have to try and survive for 10 waves, with each wave increasing the strength of the type of enemies. This is one where its best to work with your friends as you really need to play as a team as the computer is relentless. Its very challenging and I have yet to get to wave 10 (damn wretches).   Overall I felt very disappointed in Judgement. The previous games have always had a lot of content and in comparison Judgement feels very thin. There's only 4 multiplayer maps, too few characters, and a sense that everything has been scaled back. There are some frame rate issues aswell if there is to much stuff on screen.   The only thing that seems to have evolves from Gears 3 is the micro transactions. There are plenty of choices in weapon & character skins but about 75% of them require you to pay for them. I know its only cosmetic but with the lack of character choice its really aggravating, and the cost is ludicrous at 300 MS points for each character skin.   The multiplayer has its own feel but has lost its identity by utilising and transforming 'Gears' own take on modes back into what thy are in COD or Halo. The multiplayer fights remind me of Halo where if players see each other they throw grenades and then shoot.   The short development time the game had is blatantly obvious. If you're a big Gears fan chances are you've already got it and I“m fighting with/against you now. If you're not however I would recommend waiting for a price drop. This feels more like an expansion pack then a fully fledged game and is definitely not worth the full asking price!   6/10




Most Dissappointing Games of This Generation!

The year of 2012 has been rather a disappointing year for gaming so far. After the stellar releases of 2011 (though the disappointment there was they were all sequels), 2012 has come acrop with fan favourites such as Ninja Gainden becoming mediocre thanks to its simplified 3rd instalment & the Resident Evil spin off Operation Racoon City whilst an interesting idea, it failed when it came to the simple gameplay & ludicrous AI. The biggest disappointment in the world of gaming this year has to be with the whole furore over the Mass Effect 3 ending leaving millions of fans (myself included), feeling let down as the credits rolled. Recently I became a quarter of a century old and one of my housemates got me some games as a present. One was Mafia II which I like alot & it gave me a chance to try out the dlc that I missed out when I traded in my old copy (it was for Portal 2 so I think it was fair). The other game was Homefront. When this game first came out I was very intrigued by the main story (A unified Korea invading the U.S.), which was quite original for the military FPS genre. However after hearing the reviews of how short the campaign was I decided to leave it. While playing I actually enjoyed the campaign but it just ends. Quite abruptly too. I thought great in one month I've been disappointed by the ending of two games. Then this gave me the idea for a blog and write about these and the other games that I have been disappointed by this generation.   Oh and before I begin let me give out the obligitory !SPOILER WARNING! For these games.       Home Is Where the War Is! Is That Where the Rest of the Story Is?   Let's start with the game I mentioned earlier, Homefront had alot of things going for it when it was annouced. Boasting a massive 32 player multiplayer on massive maps (which is actually quite fun and the leveling system is not as unbalanced as CoD's), and a story which is interesting. After the death of Kim Jong Ill in 2012 (freaky eh?), his successor manages to unify Korea & Annex China & Japan. In 2027 Korea attacks the U.S. with a massive EMP strike & invades. You take the role of a fighter pilot recently recruited into the resistence movement. you spend the game going through different areas of occupied America, helping the resistence in a number of missions. Whilst the characters you are with aren't that well developed, the landscapes you go through are very well done and set the mood for the game perfectly. The music is also a highlight of the game. The downside is the single player is incredibly short. Even by CoD standards. When the story was being advertised everywhere I was looking forward to playing a military FPS that actually had an original story to it & was written by the man who did Apocalypse Now & Red Dawn. The final piece of the game is where you are fighting for control of the Golden Gate Bridge. One of the hardest fights of the game & as you get control of the bridge you end up in a jeep shooting at an enemy goliath, then you get blown from the jeep, and watch one of your teamates run towards the enemy cavalry holding a flair as a signal for an airstrike & as the enemy gets bombarded, the camera pans out and fades with a voice over saying how they will win the fight. Then the credits appear. All in all it took me about 4 hours to complete the game. FOUR HOURS! All I was left with was the question "Is that it?" It was blatantly left for a sequel which makes me furious as I hate it when developers do that.       Bringing Tedium to New Heights!   Ah the Fable series one constant disappointment after another. Out of the trilogy though its Fable III that takes the 'P' in RPG (see what I did there?). Peter Molineux once again claiming that this time you will be flooded with hard and tough choices to make in the game. And once again you're not. Bascially the premise of the story is you're the brother/sister of the current king who has become selfish with his wealth when it comes to the needs of the kingdom. So you escape the palace and go on a quest to unite the land and overthrow him. Along the way you make promises to each group of people that you need to help overthreow your brother that you are intended to keep once you become king/queen. The game is simple Fable fare where you can fart & flirt with most NPCs and if they take your fancy you can marry them and have kids (the novel aspect of Fable II where now the novelty has worn off). You can also buy properties and take part in pointless & uninimaginative mini games to help earn you some money. Once you overthrow your brother the game completely changes and you find out that the reason he was being stingy was so he could protect the ingdom from a pending evil, which is now your job to stop. You have a certain amount of time to raise enough funds to protect the kingdom or it will be destroyed. You spend the rest of the game, stuck in your castle, either keeping the promises you made to the people (which means less money), or go back on your word (which means money for the treasury). That's it. Those are the "tough choices" you have to make in the game. Which aren't that tough and if you could actually tell these people what was going to happen im sure they would have agreed instead of calling you a selfish bastard. What really annoyed me about this game was the 'interactive' pause menu. Instead of pressing start and going into your inventory to see quests & what not, you end up in your "throne room" where all the wepaons you have are on the wall, and all your outfits are in their own room. What entails is bloody tedium which makes measuring the hight of your lawn with a ruler more fun. What's makes it worse is you only have like four weapons & outfits. Armour class & type have no bearing what so ever & your wepons level up or 'evolve' as you use them. Also the map is intereactive which increases the tedium of trying to navigate it.     Full Motion Capture Disappointment!   I hated L.A. Noire when it came out. Most likely that's down to it being my first professional review & I had only two & a half days in which to write it. Anyone who has done a review can tell you that's not a long time. Especially for a game as large as L.A. Noire. Because of this every negative aspect of the game that I found jumped out at me as this glaring error of epic proportions that hampered my way towards completing the game. Once I was done with it I immediately traded it in for a copy of Mortal Kombat & with Scorpion, every enemy I told to "get over here" I imagined to be Cole Phelps. After about a year I got convined to play it again as I had forgotten most of it & i hadn't actually completed it. To my chagrin, the things that annoyed me the first time around were still there (though obvioulsy no where near as hate inducing). Whilst the game looked great & the attention to detail was astounding, it was the gameplay that really got to me. It was so simple. The combat was still unispriring and the gunplay reminded me of the GTA games on the PS2. The detective elements which drove the lure of the game aswell as the motion captured faces, became boring and predictable. Searching for evidence became an annoyance all its own with far too many red herrings. To me the story culminated into a frantic mess. Parts of an over arcing story kept coming in an out at conventent times, and the downfall of Phelps towards the end seemed force and was too out of character from what he was for most of the game. What made me disappointed about this game was that Team Bondi seemed to spend more time focused on the motion capturing than anything else and the rest of the game suffered because of it.     A Prime Example of a Game Becoming Dissapointing The More That Gets Added to it!   I'm a massive Gears fan (or was). I've got all 3 games, read all the books, and have stood up for the game on a number of forums. However the longer that this game has been out the more disappointing I have become with it. Being the thrid game in a trilogy the game tried to be bigger, longer & more epic than the previous two. It does do that, the campaign is the largest of the three and the story ends nicely. However one of my friends pointed out that they do run out of ideas how to keep the campaign going. After playing through it again I realised that she was right. Most of the campaign involves you looking for fuel, and when you do find it, it gets destroyed so you have to look for more. That being said, Dom's final moments were to me, brilliantly done & if you had read the books, had great emotional impact. However the main focus of the story seemed to be Marcus & Cole, and to an extent Dom, but leaving Baird & Carmine in the background, which is a shame as out of all of them they were the ones that could have done with more screen time & characterisation. The main gripe for me was multiplayer. Whilst the majority of the gameplay had been improved, there were two new guns, the retro lancer & the sawed of shotgun. Both were hated by veteran players (especially the sawed off), but they were there for novices which was fair enough (sort of before people satarted to abuse it). However the multiplayer was a vast improvement over Gears 2, and me & my friends enjoyed it immensely as it was balanced and you won through skill and not having access to more powerful weapons because you were a higher level (I'm looking at you CoD). Unfortunately Epic decided to throw dlc after dlc at the game & now it has become to bloated with content and gameplay tweaks to the game that it just isn't fun anymore. It was released in september & this month the 4th map pack dlc is released. That doesn't include the 6 title updates, two non map multiplayer dlc & the single player dlc. All this in such a short space of time has really spoilt the game in my opinion. There are too many maps and quite a few aren't that well designed. It's too much too soon, Epic didn't give the players enough time to digest one piece of dlc before giving them another. Not to mention that if you didn't buy the maps you couldn't play the game on the servers. Which is just digraceful behaviour.     If They Stay Like This One Will Be the Final One!   Ah Final Fantasy, how the might have fallen. Alot of people are contributing the decline in JRPGs to SqaureEnix as they are the industry leaders. I say that's not the case, there are plenty of good solid JRPGS out there, Xenoblade Chronicles & The Last Story are to name but a few. What I found most disappointing about this game (as did many others) was just how bloody linear the game is. It's pretty much just one corridoor after another. Considering how vast the lanscapes were in XII you think they would have expanded on that in a new generation on consoles. Instead we get treated to a film with walking elements. Whilst the story is still epic Final Fantasy, unlike prevous titles the beginning is so confusing you need to spend at least half an hour trying to figure out who is what. It took me awhile trying to figure out who or what the Pulse were, and who was a Pul'sie, a fal'cie or a l'cie. After explaining my confusion to my firend he told me that it takes a couple of hours for the game to actually explain to you which is which. A couple of hours? Not in those first two hours AFTER them. That is not good story structure. Even then by the end of the first disk I was still trying to figure it out (or maybe that's just me being slow on the uptake). Whilst the linearity of the levels was infuriating enough the enemies are in the world like in XII and you can choose to fight them or go round them. However, due corridoor design of the levels most of the trime its impossible to evade enemies so you have to fight them anyway! It's pretty much just being able to see the random encounters. The combat goes back from the realtime of XII to a turn based system but you can only control the leader of your group, and the character progression in this game is something called Crystarium, where you unlock new abilities and spells. Later in the game you can pre select how your other party members fight but thats several hours into the game. Also the combat system itself is another hurdle to overcome in terms complexity. It took me awhile to get to grips with the mechanics, any by the time I got to grips with them I get new abilities available and have to figure out how to use them (really hope it's not just me that had these problems). As the game progresses the story does improve and as you come to grips with everything the characters become more likable as you leanr more about them (even that whiny git Hope). But when you get to the third disc, the game switches into cinematic mode and the combat becomes one boss fight after another, which just gets tiresome after awhile. Especially as some boss fights can last 20 minutes or more, and some bosses will require trial and error when it comes to tactics (seriously someone in the comments, tell me you had the same problems so I don't feel like a complete plonker). It's just disappointing that throughout the game you have to endure so many things to experience the story.     I think I shall wrap it up there before I depress myself thinking of the hours I wasted. Anyone agree with me on these games? Dissagree? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!   Honourable Mentions:   The Baconing (Just not as good as the original two). Mario Kart Wii (Why is there no co-op grand prix like in ALL the others?). Mass Effect 3 (I think you know why). Halo Reach (Poor uninspiring level design). Duke Nukem Forever (I know there's alot but mainly only being able to hold two weapons). Devil May Cry 4 (Stop whining Nero or should I say Dante Jr?). Aliens Vs Predator (The PC classics are still the best). GTA IV (Boring mandatory side missions, bad car handling). Star Wars The Force Unleashed II (So much wasted potential. Still better than the Phantom Menace).



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