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henben

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  1. The trouble with today's rubbish review sites, with their "73%=average" school of marking, is that it's hard to tell if a game is flawed but worthwhile, or dross from a big company they're scared to cross. RDR is the former. In fact, it has flashes of brilliance. With a bit more polishing it could have been the spiritual successor to Goldeneye. The good: The game really makes the most of its Western theme - from the presentation (the scorpion crawling round the main menu) to the level design (not one but TWO levels where you run along a train - and it's actually done, rather than a desperate attempt to introduce some variety) to the gameplay. In particular, the way you can tap X to have your character press himself up against a barrel or duck down below a wall really gives you that "pinned down at the OK Corrall" feeling. The Dead Eye aiming feature manages to feel suitably western rather than just a Bullet Time ripoff. You can lean around a wall, wait for the enemy to pop up, target your shots in slow motion and then unleash a volley of fire. Then duck back to reload. When the combat works, it feels like a proper Western shootout, not just Quake in cowboy hats. There's a shedload of unlockable characters and levels for the deathmatch mode (which is called 'Showdown'). You unlock them by spending dollars earned playing the single player mode - although the way you do this is a bit oddly designed. You have to choose between unlocking Showdown items and buying weapons for your character, and you're not told what exactly you're unlocking. The single player levels are very varied, and you play about 5 different characters, although most of the time you're the eponymous Red. There's a bit of horse and buffalo riding, which is excellent - especially the bit where you have to destroy an enemy stagecoach, trampling enemy soldiers as you go. There's a Civil war battle where you get to use a flare gun to guide your side's cannon fire. The storytelling is good. Not the story, as such (although that's quite good too, and even has a tasteful Native American strand), but the way the cut scenes are pared down to the essentials. Oh yeah, there's a rifle that lets you bayonet people when you run out of ammo, or use a carefully judged mixture of stabby stabby and shooty shooty. The bad: Some of the level design doesn't make the most of the combat system. The combat works well in corridors or wide open areas, where you have time to use the 'X-to-take-cover' mechanism. Unfortunately, too many levels just put you in a cramped arena with lots of baddies and you end up doing the old circle strafe dance that we've all been doing for 10 years now. The AI acts like you're playing a bot match, too. There's almost too much variety. There's a single stealth-ish level where you play Red's Injun cousin. Just as you're beginning to get the hang of creeping about and using the bow and arrow, it's all over, and you never play that character again. The stealth elements feel like the developers are checking off a box in the feature list. Also, there's exactly ONE room where you get to upend a table to use as cover. I'm not going to have a section called "the ugly" like you all expected. The graphics are effective enough - they have a bit of a chunky Timesplitters feel in places, but there are also some great touches - like the decks of cards fluttering through the air when you tip up tables. I only rented RDR, but I'd have been happy to pay £20 or so for it. I've not played the deathmatch much, but it seems like it could have legs. Overall: 73%
  2. henben

    PSP

    Cooling a 333MHz processor without a fan isn't as hard as you seem to think. Obviously, the amount of heat produced isn't a simple function of clock speed, but it's a rough indication. I'm typing this on a 600MHz iBook without a fan - I don't think even the latest Apple laptops have fans (although they do get quite warm). Apple design their laptops to run cool enough through simple conduction and convection. Bear in mind that Intel and AMD chips run hotter than the equivalent models from different families, such as the PowerPC. So the PSP chip will likely run a lot cooler than even a 333MHz Pentium. In summary, it won't be producing that much heat, and it'll have been designed to cool itself passively. I imagine the back of the thing will reach a pleasant blood heat in operation.
  3. Bit disappointed by the demo for the rubbishly titled Soldiers: HOWWII. After a clumsy intro, you're given a tank which only has enough fuel to go about 20 yards. Has anyone figured out how to refuel it? Or are you really supposed to always end up facing big German tanks on foot? The whole level feels a bit weird. You only have control over three squaddies - although you have AI teammates - which means that there aren't many strategies available to you. You end up watching your men sat in the tank shooting everything while you twiddle your thumbs. It should be fairly easy to handle just three blokes, but I found the control scheme a bit of a struggle. And haven't we moved beyond having your units yell something like "For Freedom!" every frigging time you ask them to move? I hope for Codies' sake that it doesn't "represent the quality of the final game".
  4. I can think of two ways to make a game replayable - either offer the player challenges that can be tackled in many ways (like, say, Operation Flashpoint) or offer a range of challenges so varied that the player can never exhaust them all (like the later entries in the Worms series, or Perfect Dark multiplayer). As AI and environments get more complex, you'll see a lot more of the former. Take Far Cry - you can either blast through a level in a jeep, running as many people over as you can, or sneak through the bushes without anyone seeing you. Console games don't seem to do well at offering a huge range of options - TimeSplitters 2 is the only decent example I've played recently. Multiplayer makes games more replayable because other players provide an ever changing and increasing challenge. I'm sure lots of people are still playing Halo's vs. modes and I imagine Halo 2 will be played on Live for years and years. You could also make the game environment so much fun to hang out in that players are willing to boot the game just to 'visit', without a particular goal in mind. GTA Vice City is the closest I've seen to this yet. Pikmin could have been like this, but blew it with the ill-advised time limit system. Animal Crossing and the new GameCube Harvest Moon sound like they might be part of the way there. Of course, you can also go the lazy, joyless route of making the player replay stages to unlock extra sections of a game they've already paid for (a la Super Monkey Ball). But that's just wrong.
  5. Apart from the scores thread, I've not seen any discussion on the content of the latest Edge (134, cover date March). Maybe you all subscribe and you're done chewing it over already, in which case, apologies. Is this the first or second issue to come out since the old team left? Anyway, I'm glad to see there hasn't been a grating shift in tone or content. Good points: 1. More proper features instead of "Prescreen focus" malarkey. Looks like they have reached the same conclusion as Stuart Campbell: printed games mags need to get away from the "news - preview - review" format. 2. The features about budget games and approval processes were both very strong. We all have a rough idea of Hollywood's inner workings - if only at third hand through watching movies like The Player - but we see the machinations of the videogame industry through a glass, darkly. More of this sort of thing, please. 3. No mass exodus of columnists. I thought RedEye's last column was a resignation letter, but unless they've had him replaced in a Dread Pirate Roberts stylee, he's still there. Biffo's on good form, although I still think it would be better if they made his entire page Mode 7 and let him draw the snakes and that. Bad points: 1. The scoring seems a bit lenient. Nothing got lower than a 5. They didn't like the core 'chalice' idea in Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles; if the game is so fundamentally flawed, should it really get a 6? This could just reflect this month's crop of games - I hope so. Marking from 5-10 is still better than the usual standard, where everything from big publishers gets 70% just for existing, but still: 5 SHOULD BE AVERAGE. 2. What was the intended audience for the next-gen feature? The explanations of concepts like "Bezier curves" and "subdivisional surfaces" were so condensed that they only gave you a vague idea of what was going on. I reckon a bit more hand-holding would have been in order here - a couple of extra pages and some diagrams would be nice. 3. Similarly, in the PCI Express article - printing a fuzzy JPEG block diagram from some industry PowerPoint isn't much help. Either explain what it means properly ("Switch"? "Mobile Docking"?) or leave it out. 4. Nagoshi's column - is all this talk of alcohol is a metaphor, or a cry for help. Is he OK? He's Edge's best writer - post him a new liver at once! 5. Not enough coverage of independent games. There's lots of really inventive stuff going on outside the major publishers. I hope Edge will cover the Independent Games Festival ( http://www.igf.com/ ). 6. They need to poach some of 1-UP's comic strips. I've got more negatives than positives here, but I think it's actually going in the right direction overall.
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