Vic B’Stard’s (late) week in review: Syndicate, American Nightmare, I am Alive, Silent Hill HD, Mass Effect, the Uncharted comic-book and Kinect Star Wars!

Vic B'Stard
Another late editorial!

Another (very) late week in review packed full of excuses. Thank goodness for the long Easter weekend or this mega-bumper edition of Vic B’Stard’s week in review may have never seen the light of day.

My lame excuse for missing out the last few week’s editorials is mainly due to a having to nut out a bastard of a review for The game causing the strife was Syndicate, EA Games’ reboot of Peter Molyneux’s real-time strategy game from the early 90s.

Not the Syndicate I remember!

Syndicate was not a game I enjoyed back in the day and not one that I was really looking forward to playing as a reimagined first-person shooter, either. I initially found the game a bit too much like a shit version of last year’s Deus Ex (another reboot – I can see where this is going – looking forward to another reboot of Pitfall, not).

Finishing the game, and the review, found me left with a bitter sounding rant that didn’t really reflect the rather large amount of fun that I (begrudgingly) had with the game. As punishment, I sat down a played through the game again and revised the review from fair to good. Whilst the single player campaign was alright, it was the multiplayer that swayed me in the end. I only wish that they had concentrated on the co-op game and given us a futuristic version of Left 4 Dead. Check out my review on here.

The nightmare continues!

The week before saw me finish my review for the rather nice Xbox Live Arcade game, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare. Whilst not the sequel that fans are crying out for, it is more Alan Wake goodness. American Nightmare certainly takes my award for the best Xbox Live Arcade game to date. I really enjoyed the first Alan Wake game and also had a pretty good time with the DLC (read my Alan Wake retrospective here) . The shift in genres between the retail Alan Wake and Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, from a Stephen King-esk horror in the woods to a spooky desert B-movie setting worked a treat; giving us something familiar, but different. I loved it, and you can read my review, again on, here.

I am Alive
Better late than never.

Following Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, I’ve also been playing Ubisoft’s on-off-on, long time coming, post-apocalyptic Xbox Live Arcade survival game, I am Alive. Whilst I’ve promised Game Console a review of the game, I’m finding the game a bit of a sod to play. I think I buggered something up earlier on, but the stamina bar, which rapidly decreases as you climb, seems to run out too quickly. Either I’m getting crap at games or my character is too much of a weakling to get on.

I am Alive is pretty unforgiving, harking back to a more brutal gaming past when losing all your lives meant starting back at the beginning of the level. In this day and age, we are too used to being spammed with autosave points whilst playing. I am Alive is an interesting game, melding survival with platforming. Still, I do believe that I am Alive has a whiff of game development training project about it. Hopefully a review will be forthcoming for Game Console at soon.

Gears 3
We’re in for a spot of bad weather!

Also on the review front, I’ve got the last bit of Gear of War 3 DLC, the Forces of Nature Map Pack to take a look at. Gears 3 multiplayer makes me curse that there isn’t more hours in the day. It is a phenomenal multiplayer game that I wish I could afford the time to play all day every day. Damn you Skyrim, Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty:Modern Warfare 3. The Force of Nature Map Pack is the last DLC included in the Gears 3 season pass and features five maps set during or after a nasty bit of weather. Look out on the Game Console pages of for my review soon.

kinect rush
Take a trip to deepest, darkest Peru!

I’ve also got a copy of Kinect Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure that I need to turn into a review for Game Console. I’ve had a cheeky go and it looks very similar to Kinect Disneyland Adventures (which I also reviewed, here). Players are invited to explore Pixar Park, which features attractions that house a series of mini-games based on the Pixar movies. I’ve only played the Up! sequence which has players chasing Mr Fredricksen’s house through the South American rain-forest. I’ll take it out for a spin with my two-year-old at the weekend and see what he thinks.

Konami have been rather good to me of late. Not only do I have a PS3 preview copy of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection that is well overdue for review, I’ve also just received an Xbox version of Konami’s Silent Hill HD Collectionthat needs some words.

Who is the blonde girl? Why can’t I play as Snake?

The Metal Gear Solid HD Collection lets us play graphically revamped versions of two the PlayStation 2’s top games, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Both of these classic games are presented in the HD Collection as their augmented Substance and Subsistence editions.

The third game is an HD version of the PlayStation Portable’s Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walkerwhich MGS creator Hideo Kojima has refered to in the past as MGS 5. The only problem with these HD versions is that the PS2 originals where of such high-quality for the time, it ‘s difficult to see at a glance how much they have improved on them.

The Silent Hill Collection presents the second and third games scrubbed up ready for current-gen consoles. Whilst the controls, oh so reminiscent of the original Resident Evil games, are a bit clunky by todays standards, the games still pack a punch in the scare department. A quick dabble with Silent Hill 2 had me wandering around the foggy town of Silent Hill dodging some of the most ineffective monsters since those in George A Romero’s zombie films.

silent hill hd
A trip back to Silent Hill gory HD!

Still, as a fan of the very similar Alan Wake, I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into these games.  I’ll admit that I never really took to Silent Hill the first time around. Apart from the demo, I never played them, which is great, as this set is the first HD collection where I’ve never played the originals.

One thing that is disappointing about both the Metal Gear and Silent Hill HD collections is the absence of the first games in the series, in both cases PSOne games. Understandably it would take some considerable effort to polish up an original PlayStation game to modern HD standards, but the original PSOne Metal Gear Solid has been previously updated as Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes for the GameCube. In any case, PS3 owners can download the original Metal Gear Solid (now) and Silent Hill (soon) from the PlayStation Network.

mass assfect
Mass Effect 2, heady, adult sci-fi, ahem.

As well as the reviews, I’ve also been trying to make some headway with Mass Effect 2. Yep, I said ME2. As much as I love the game, the Mass Effect saga is a heady affair that I find difficult to play for extended periods. My main reason for getting back into Mass Effectis that I’m keen to get through the second game in order get onto the third game and find out what the hoo-harr is all about with the seemingly controversial ending of the saga.

As I said, I’m only two-thirds of the way through the second game and I’ve been nowhere near the third game. But it has been impossible to avoid hearing about the fan’s disappointment over an ending that some are saying it a complete let down. My complete ignorance regarding the ending of Mass effect 3will not stop me from putting in my two pennies worth.

For me the ending of a game must be in keeping with the tone of the tone set during the game. In the case of Mass Effect, being a three-part saga, the tone has been set by playing though three games. being over half-way though the story’s second act, I already have certain expectations of how the story will conclude. Expectations that, it seems going by internet chatter, I’m unlikely to get fulfilled.

Whilst I can’t comment on the ending that I’m going to get, I can write about the ending that I expect. At the end of the day the story is Bioware’s and the gamers are experiencing the developer’s art through choice. I respect Bioware’s rights as artist to control their audiences experience. The question is whether or not it is good art or not.

Mass Effect 3: will the ending disappoint?

So far, for me, the Mass Effect story has been a bit of a buccaneering space opera; more Star Wars than Alien. Whilst the stakes are high, the tale isn’t bleak. The bad guys are getting defeated and the good guys gaining ground. Whilst the third act must up the ante, nothing that has gone before foreshadows a cataclysmic defeat. Hell at the beginning of the second game the lead literally comes back from the dead! Then there is the extended works set in the Mass effect universe, the books and comics; again these are not dark works of science fiction, they are tales of good vs. evil, of heroes and villans.

If the third game sees fit to fly in the face of the emotional attachment that players have invested into the Mass Effect story, again whilst respecting Bioware for asserting their rights as artists, the developers are deliberately choosing to be cruel to their audience, which reeks of arrogance and/or stupidity. Nobody wants to partake in what is ultimately a pointless struggle, and I think that Bioware realise this. The developer’s recent announcement of a free extended ending DLC pack for the game may provide the closure that fans need. Perfect timing for me, as I’m unlikely to be playing Mass Effect 3 for few months yet.

Modern tomb raiding!

Moving on. As purely a leisure pursuit, which is difficult to do as a games reviewer, I’m currently revisiting the  Uncharted series with the aim to play though each of the three games consecutively. I was inspired to play though the games again by the Uncharted DC Comic, which I’m throughly enjoying. I’m really not one to play though a game more than once, so it is a credit to Naughty Dog for giving us a game that still hold its own four years after release.

The Uncharted games are as close to perfection, in my opinion, as a game can get. A great plot, interesting fully realised characters (including a lovable rogue cut from the same cloth as a couple of popular space pirates) and a game-play that never seems to be working against you. The first game Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is the game that made me go buy a PlayStation 3. If you are a PS3 owner and have never played the Uncharted games there is something very, very wrong with you. I’ll let you know how my Uncharted playthrough went at a later date; in the meantime, check out my Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Explorer Edition unboxing here.

issue one
Nathan Drake’s adventure continues!

The Uncharted comic-book sees Nate, Sully and Chloe in an original story separate from the video game adventures. The absence of Elena, the appearance of that double-crossing Brit, Flynn, and the first meeting of Nate and Chloe, suggests that the story actually pre-dates the first game, Uncharted: Drakes Fortune. This time Nate and Sully are following in the footsteps of aviator and supposed Hollow Earth proponent Richard Evelyn Byrd on a quest to find the legendary Amber Room of the Russians.

The adventure sees Nate and Sully up against Russian mobsters, a pair with a grudge against the Drake family, on a journey that may well take them inside the hollow earth and onto the fabled city of Agartha. I’m only up to issue four of the six part story written by industry veteran, Joshua Williamson, penciled by Sergio Sandoval and inked by Pol Gas. The DC comic  is a series of six issues, the last of which is due out at the end of April; so look out for the collected edition something after that. The books perfectly capture the style of the games, both in the writing and the visuals. If you are a fan of the games, I recommend reading the comic-book. You can get hold of the Uncharted comic-book, with free delivery, from New Zealand’s number one comic book retailer, Mark One Comics

kinect star wars
Will the force be strong in this one?

Another package has just arrived. Apparently the force is strong in this one. Kinect Star Wars; the game that every Star Wars fan fears.

For nearly thirty-five years Star Wars fans have been pretending to swing lighsabers and do battle against evil as Jedi Knights. Now, with the Xbox Kinect, what was once just a dream is now a reality. But there is a good chance that it will be also be a bit shit. I’ve had a dabble and from what I’ve seen so far, the game is likely to divide its audience more that the prequel trilogy. Kinect Star Wars could also be the game that confirms what we really already know, and that is that the Kinect is for kids and lazy arses that want to control the telly by waving their arms. I’ll let you know how I get on.

That’s all for now, but in the meantime I’ll leave you with Han Solo dancing in Kinect Star Wars. Solid proof that George Lucas hates us all for being too critical of Jar-Jar Binks and is out for revenge.