News

E3 2011: Day 2 Impressions

As soon as I awoke this Wednesday to an uncharacteristically cloudy LA day, I had but one priority: to get my hands on the still very oddly named Wii U, as well as the portable powerhouse that is the Playstation Vita. So that’s exactly what I did once the show floor opened to a now very purposeful, hot and busy press.

Read the full article I wrote for Zath.co.uk

June 9th, 2011
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News

E3 2011: Day 1 Impressions

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Nintendo Press Conference

Nintendo kicked off the day with a conference that left many people confounded. I’m still not sure what to make of it myself, but nonetheless, we’ll try to make sense of the festivities. Project Café is dead, long live Wii U. The naming conventions continue to defy logic and suggest that this iteration isn’t in fact, a whole new console – which it actually is.

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Read the full article I wrote for Zath.co.uk

June 8th, 2011
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News

E3 2011: Day 0 Impressions

 

Well E3 is well and truly here, and on the day before the show floor opens up to a hungry press, two of the console companies along with EA and Ubisoft held press conferences to demonstrate their latest and (hopefully) greatest, and of course, to brag about copies/consoles sold.

Read the full article I wrote for Zath.co.uk

June 7th, 2011
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Reviews

Monday Night Combat

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade

Price: 1200 MS Points

Developer: Uber Entertainment

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Just hearing the title, Monday Night Combat, almost makes me want to invite all my neighbours over, even the weird ones, crack open some popular branded lagers and have a ruddy good time. Unfortunately my neighbours all hate me and I only have one controller but that’s beside the point; Uber Entertainment’s Monday Night Combat aims to deliver an online 3rd person shooter experience wrapped in the shiny exterior of a futuristic game show or sporting event, more accurately characterised by the flare of something like a demolition derby, as opposed to an afternoon cricket match.

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Monday Night Combat is a class-based shooter with a bold, stylised aesthetic; so needless to say, some of Valve’s loyal Team Fortress 2 fans immediately jumped to claim it was a shameless rip-off. Not so; Valve didn’t invent class-based shooters nor originate cartoon-like graphics, and anyhow, that’s where the similarities end. To their credit, Uber Entertainment have attempted something quite novel, marrying regular multiplayer shooter conventions with the dynamics of a tower defence game.

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There are two solitary modes: Blitz which is essentially you, and your friends online if you wish, against waves of varying types of robots and Crossfire, which tasks you and your 5 team-mates with defending your ‘moneyball’ from the ‘Pros’ (players) on the other team and escorting your bots to attack their moneyball. During gameplay you earn cash for killing both bots and players, allowing you to upgrade your stats, which are divided in to 4 separate sections and build turrets to aid you in defence of your base. This is all happening while a brainless and desensitized future audience watch on in glee and a suitably cheesy commentator fills the airwaves.

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From a conceptual standpoint, Crossfire mode is a surprisingly fresh take on the online shooter. Whether you’re vehemently pursuing a newly found nemesis, tearing through hordes of bots or strengthening your bases’ defences you’ll find it difficult to cite boredom as a symptom. And thankfully, strategy is justly rewarded, meaning teams who fail work together, build turrets and successfully defend and attack, will fall by the wayside.

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For an XBLA game it’s also incredibly intricate in its classes and bot features. Every one of the six classes is generously endowed with unique skills ranging from cloaking to personal firebases. Unfortunately there are some fairly pronounced issues with balance in regards to the support class at present, who is able heal and drop virtually unavoidable nukes amongst other things. But with any luck those imbalances should be ironed out soon, provided Uber Entertainment plan to provide ongoing support for their game, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t, given its success.

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There’s a distinct feeling that they’ve endeavoured to flesh out its combat features as much as possible, which is admirable, considering the title and the nature of the game, and therein lies its greatest merit. The array of options when it comes to attacking and killing your foes is almost daunting when every class is taken into account. Even though it’s primarily a shooter, all the classes have melee tackling options, showcasing the finest animations in the game. And let me tell you, there’s nothing quite so maniacally satisfying as hurling your opponent off the edge of the arena as he desperately tries to retaliate with gunfire in his last remaining seconds.

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Players are also able to spawn their own class-respective bots, at a cost, and annihilators that are as large and daunting as they sound. As you can imagine, with all these mechanical minions along with various explosions, the previously tactical battles can occasionally devolve into something of a cluster-fuck, not helped by the small maps, and may even lower the frame rate temporarily. Fortunately this isn’t too often the case and a little pandemonium doesn’t do anyone any harm!

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There appears to be a heavy focus on short-term progression, within each game, as you’ve plenty of skills to upgrade and ‘juice’ to collect (to allow for an ungodly rampage) as you go along, but alas, there’s very little in the way of advancement over any prolonged period. You can change your tag and eventually buy custom classes, but they only allow for minor alterations of stats and don’t affect weapons, skills or appearance whatsoever. I’m well aware that this is just an arcade game, but it seems that a little further development could have dramatically increased longevity and even immersion in the world of pro combat, perhaps allowing players to compete for sponsors and customize their armour etcetera.

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The thematic elements of the game present a bit of quirkiness; there’s some sort of obsession with bacon, which frankly, there’s nothing wrong with and the commentator has some horribly corny lines. This aspect would be bearable if there weren’t so few that you’re hearing the same forced jokes twice in one short game, and god help your ears if you plan to play for any prolonged period. I did really like that idea that your stat upgrades are like sponsorships from the drug companies, but some elaboration on the idea would have been well received, because as it stands it’s just a slightly more interesting skin on an age old feature.

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There are no complaints in the graphical department. The strong, bright colours embody and compliment the arcade-y atmosphere as well as fit in thematically with the futuristic game show. The sound design is slightly odd with seemingly random pieces of music beginning to play while you’re waiting to respawn from banjos to rock guitars but it certainly doesn’t detract from anything. My only complaint in regards to sound pertains to weapon noises, in that it’s often difficult to hear your own gun firing where there are other things going on which is a little off putting for me personally, but it’s a minor issue.

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Monday Night Combat is a whirlwind shooter experience, which I should mention, takes a little practice within each class, to get used to. The titular combat is brilliantly implemented and exceptionally creative, cleverly mashing classic tower defence with a chaotic shooter experience, even though it’s tarnished temporarily, by a few balance issues. If you’re looking for something to do while we wait for triple AAA titles, MNC is perfect fit, in a line of brilliant XBLA titles this summer. I could almost forgive the lack of progression if it wasn’t for the very few (and small) maps and so reluctantly I must cite those flaws. Right now it remains an enjoyable throwaway experience – you get the bang and the bots for your buck, but unless there are some serious updates or DLC in the works, don’t expect to be smelling the bacon once the holiday season sets in.

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7/10

August 19th, 2010
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