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Crysis 2 Review

Crysis 2 has been on the lips of most gamers the past few weeks, and it has generated a lot of hype over the internet. However, does it really live up to its predecessor? Well you can carry on reading this review or head down to your local retailer…I suggest reading the review first.

Developed by Crytek and published by Electronic Arts, Crysis 2 is the latest first-person-shooter (FPS) to grace our consoles and PC systems.

Crysis 2 is set in New York City in the year 2023. The city is in turmoil due to an alien infestation (this is portrayed in the opening sequence as a newsreel style broadcast, which added a nice authentic feel to Crysis 2) and a tactical team has been deployed into New York City via submarine to extract Doctor Nathan Gould.

This was where we were introduced to the new protagonist in Crysis 2, “Alcatraz.” All hell breaks loose when the alien race named the “Ceph” attack the city, destroying everything in their wake. Due to the attack, Alcatraz and his squad are forced to abandon ship and swim to the surface. A secondary attack is then directed at the squad, leaving Alcatraz as the only presumed survivor.

Laurence “Prophet” Barnes proceeds to save Alcatraz but seems extremely overwhelmed, as the initial support team sent to assist him had already been wiped out. Left with no other decision, since the Manhattan virus has infected him, Prophet equips Alcatraz with the Nanosuit 2.0., Prophet then kills himself in order for the Nanosuit to break the link with Prophet and correctly assimilate with Alcatraz.

I will not go into too much detail on the initial story, but I will tell you that the team at Crytek has developed a decent plot line, which offers about 10-12 hours of playtime.

Crysis 2 uses the Nanosuit as a window to the world. Everything you see and do is viewed from a suit perspective, which increases the appeal of this title.

Combat can be played out in two ways; stealth and sneak or all-out armoured assault, but be warned as combat is intense. I found myself loading the game very often after being riddled by bullets. Once you fire on an enemy, your position is given away and every bit of firepower is focused in your general direction. This is due to the A.I. in Crysis 2 being extremely intelligent (which we do not tend to see in other FPS titles), you can either stealth yourself and move away from your last known location or knuckle down and consider your options for the battle ahead.

Crysis 2 displays tactical options that can be viewed through the Nanosuit. These options provide gamers with areas where they can flank enemies, snipe enemies, resupply ammunition, and observe enemy movement; these options greatly assist with the planning of all-out assaults or sneaking past unsuspecting enemies.

Another nice touch is the suit upgrade menu being your actual hand; by selecting individual fingers, various different upgrades can be selected during the course of the game. However, only one of each upgrade can be active at once. This adds great replayability to this title, as previously unlocked abilities and upgrades can be used in completed chapters.

The initial campaign mode was a great experience; the only downside was on the rare occasion the A.I. seem to glitch and run into objects like walls and vehicles without correcting their course.

Crysis 2 is probably one of the best-looking FPS titles I have come across; the level design is stunning and the visuals promote sensory overload on occasions. The only downfall with these beautiful environments is that you tend to focus more on the visuals rather than the actual story progression, so don’t be entirely confused when you have absolutely no idea on what’s going on.

Apart from the graphics, the sound also plays a major role in Crysis 2; hearing bullets echo down the street, buildings being destroyed and even the sound of a much heavier Alcatraz when his armor is equipped is also a very well implemented sensory experience.

Online:
So generally most FPS games do come with a multiplayer mode, but is the online play as good as the campaign in Crysis 2, my answer hell yeah!

12 multiplayer maps await those of you brooding to get online, as well as six different modes of play that offer gamers various choices of what map to play and how to strategise individually or team assault. These include Crash Site and Team Instant Action. There are around 20 weapons to destroy opponents with, as well as some great customisation options to use to your advantage. My online experience was pleasurable although, there have been some complaints about servers being down on occasions.

Conclusion:
Overall, Crysis 2 offers a visually satisfying experience with the sound to match. Game-play encourages a think before you shoot approach, instead of the general run and gun approach that other FPS titles tend to offer gamers; this is where Crysis 2 is unique. The storyline is solid and offers a good all around experience.

The downside:
Crysis offers some great A.I. that will challenge you greatly but on the odd occasion, you will witness them either running into cars or walls like mindless zombies. There have also been some complaints about servers being down on occasion when attempting to play online.

The Breakdown:
Gameplay: 9/10
Storyline: 8/10
Graphics: 9.7/10
Sound: 9.5/10

Predominantly reviewed on PlayStation 3.

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What to expect at rAge 2011

The rAge expo has officially kicked off this weekend at the Coca-Cola Dome in Johannesburg.

ITF Gaming had the opportunity to join in on all the fun by hosting some awesome prize give-aways compliments of Apex Interactive and the team on the Nintendo 3DS stand. The Nintendo 3DS stand is showcasing an array of upcoming 3DS titles to test out, so make sure to swing past the stand and chat to the guys about anything and everything Nintendo related. The team from ITF Gaming will be situated at the Nintendo 3DS on the 01/10/2011 from 10am – 12pm and on 02/10/2011 from 12:00pm to 13:00pm.

Apart from all the Nintendo awesomeness, ITF Gaming has compiled a list of the must see exhibitions at rAge 2011. If you are only joining in on the rAge action on Saturday, then this will give you a preview of what to expect.

Things to check out at rAge 2011:

Nu Metro:
Batman Arkham City
Lord of the Rings: War in the North

Megarom Interactive:
The Darkness 2
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon
Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure
Final Fantasy XIII – 2
Xmen Destiny

Electronic Arts (EA):
Need for Speed the Run
Battlefield 3
Mass Effect 3
Grand Slam Tennis
The Sims 3 Pets

PlayStation:
Tekken Hybrid
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record
Dragons Dogma
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City

Microsoft Xbox 360:
Gears of War 3
Kinect: The Gunstringer
Kinect: Star Wars
Kinect: Disney Land Adventures
Forza 4

Nintendo:
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
Dead or Alive
Resident Evil
Street Fighter
Steel Diver
Pilot Wings
Kid Icarus
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

A few of the major highlights to look out for on Saturday and Sunday will be at the main stage, this will include: Tomb Raider, The Darkness 2, Guildwars 2 and a host of epic presentations and give-aways.

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A look at EA Games rAge 2011

The EA Games stand at the rAge expo 2011 was a demonstration of why the company is one of the principal global interactive entertainment software companies of today.  Sports game fanatics had a chance to play Need for Speed: The Run, FIFA 2012 and SSX (or Snowboard Super Cross). The FIFA series is of course one of the best-selling video game franchises in the world and no annual video game convention would be complete without a preview of the latest FIFA-endorsed version.

Need For Speed: The Run, the 18th game in the popular series is the first game to have been rated T for teen since Need For Speed: Undercover, back in 2009. Contrasted with the very legit, governing body signed FIFA game, The Run features illegal street races across the most hazardous roads in North America. While it appears to follow a linear plot about a racer who must reach the finish line in order to pay his debts both to crooked cops and vile criminals, The Run promises to contribute to the development of story in racing video games.

The EA games stand also offered war FPS (first-person-shooter) fans a chance to frag each other in the Beta version on Battlefield 3, or to play the game’s demo as a single-player experience. It also featured a Mass Effect 3 demo, that I did not look at too closely, as I am anticipating its release and do not want to spoil my experience of the game. It did, however, look promising.

The one game demo that did look out of place amongst the aforementioned titles was The Sims 3: Pets, but then again, as one of the heirs to the best-selling PC games in history, this could not be left out simply according to aesthetic standards. EA has once again showcased its dexterity in creating new versions of the most popular games today. As these games continue to develop I look forward to playing the final releases of the games on show at rAge and excitedly await any future releases from the team at Electronic Arts.

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FIFA 12 Review

FIFA 11 was once again the leading football video game across the globe last year. This year, continuing demands for innovation in the series have led to new features including: a trinity of Player Impact Engine, Precision Dribbling and Tactical Defending. While these new features improve the game as a whole, will veterans of the FIFA games enjoy them? FIFA 12 delivers an authentic Match Day experience, faster and easier navigation, and over 500 officially licensed clubs.

In FIFA 11 the best way to obtain the ball was to put pressure on the opposing team. The game took the stance that the best offence is a good defence. By launching an offensive assault of fullbacks en mass, the player was able to almost haphazardly gain possession of the ball. FIFA 12 has revolutionised this system by introducing ‘contain’ and ‘jockey’: that means you must constantly control the opposing players’ movements and force them to make errors. It is a much more strategic way of going about things and better mimic’s real-world football. The new system also means that slide tackling is less effective, unlike FIFA 11 where it was the most dependable option for defence. If you are not extremely cautious with your timing, you will give the opposition a clear path to your goal posts.

Tactical defending also adds realism to FIFA 12. If you actually mark your man, as opposed to running around while you wait for the ball to be kicked or thrown, you are more likely to gain possession and if you keep up your fitness, other players will sometimes fall behind giving you a decisive advantage over the opponent. Veterans of the series may find these new additions challenging, but the pressure system of last year can be toggled on. However, bear in mind that this style of play is a much more primitive mode and restricts both strategy and realism.

Precision dribbling means that you can get those extra few feet, while the Player Impact Engine notes how fast players are travelling, making player clashes relative to their movement. This means it feels like you are looking at a real-world game of football, as opposed to a bunch of polygons with preset animations that occur according to certain actions. Career mode has been tweaked to be closer to the real-world business Sport in today’s Football. You must pay close attention to the statistics in order to make progress. You must even contend with the testy players as they whine about certain things, which I thought added realism to this feature.

FIFA 12 is another extremely polished EA title. The graphics are solid and emphasise the realistic approach that the game’s creators are aiming for. The professional players’ likenesses are almost flawless and the stadiums are accurate in their design. Crowds do sometimes look like clones, but let’s be honest; you’re not really playing the game for the appearance of the audience. Lighting only heightens an already impressive graphic experience.

The cheers of the football fans, commentators and accompanying soundtrack are all done in the usual vain of the EA FIFA series, but the quality is clear and adds nicely to the overall experience.

Online:
You can participate with your friends in online friendlies or take part in the almost intimidating ten leagues of online play that EA offers. Here points must be earned to advance up the ranks. The highest three leagues will then progress to the Continental Cup at the end of each season. You will always faceoff against teams that are a similar rank to you. In friendly matches you can post your best results, share game experiences and challenge other people. Then there’s EA Sports Football Club that is supposed to recreate real-world challenges. Players must complete challenges like keeping the match at a certain score for a certain time to mimic real-world matches. This will have to be monitored over a period, however, as it is a fairly new concept.

Conclusion:
Not only is EA still the king of authenticity in nearly all major sports leagues, but now it is really creating its own leagues through online networks that are accessible in titles like FIFA 12. The game has few flaws like minor graphics defects and only adds realism to the ongoing series of FIFA games. If the new features are too much for someone to handle, the game offers easy-to-learn tutorials, and players can toggle on older game features to adjust gameplay to their desired preferences.

The Breakdown:
Gameplay 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 8/10

Predominantly reviewed on PlayStation 3.

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2up Gamers: 3rd Encounter claims more victims

No, not really. People didn’t die, nobody was suffering. The 2up Gamers phenomenon has just spread like wildfire and all gamers are keen to attend these events. The third event, aptly called “The 3rd Encounter” took place on the 20th of January 2012. Friends of Design were also gracious enough to offer their venue for the event once again. These gatherings usually take place on the first Friday of each month but an exception was made, due to the presence of a special guest.

Many attendees arrived early to get seats before the wave of other gamers arrived. Man, were they smart. When things got underway, quite a few people were standing in the back. Needless to say, word is getting out and the 2up Gamers community is growing…fast!

After the welcome by the 2up Team, the founder and owner of Friends of Design, Eva Csernyanszky welcomed all in attendance and also told everyone what they were all about. In addition to that, Eva spoke about the Game Design course that they are offering; which is the first of its kind in South Africa. After hours courses will also be available for those who have full-time jobs. I think that these are Friends you really want to keep an eye on (see what I did there?).

Next to take the stage was Andrew Royal, the communications manager at TAKEALOT. Mr. Royal’s constant theme throughout his presentation was about “what gamers want”. He backed this up by giving away Mass Effect 3 N7 Collector’s Editions to 3 lucky attendees. The best part is that they get it on a platform of their choice and get a Mass Effect 3 T-shirt for bragging purposes for when they’re in public. As you can guess, there were many envious gamers in the room, myself included. Royal also informed everyone about their current competition in which the winner will get 1 game each month for 12 months. Yes, that’s 12 games in total. All you need to do is sign up for their Gaming Newsletter before the 31st of January at www.takealot.com .

The special guest of the evening was Brad Pidgeon, the social Media and community manager for EA Asia Pacific, Japan and South Africa. Brad started off by showing a trailer for their upcoming game, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. He atated in his presentation that: “This is what Fable should have been”. He’s able to say this due to the fact that he worked at Microsoft for eight years prior to working at EA. He explained EA’s plan to listen to both the good and bad from their community and grow from the suggestions. It may sound like all talk but if Pidgeon is planning many return visits, there may be some hope.

The room then lit up when Pidgeon showed us a trailer of Mass Effect 3. Needless to say, there were a lot of BioWare and Commander Shepard fans in the house. Also, not wanting to be outdone by Royal’s N7 giveaways, Pidgeon intends to send an EA hamper for the next 2up Gamers event on the 2nd of March. Ooh, ooh, pick me, pick me! Pidgeon is also keen to see some local events like game tournaments happening with the best players competing with each other in games such as FIFA.
To end his presentation, Pidgeon showed gamers the latest trailer for The Sims 3: Showtime Expansion Pack, featuring Katy Perry. Many a gamer was offering applause after the trailer; not at all shy of their love for The Sims.

Bianca Mcfadyen and Ralph Spinks from EA South Africa were also present at the event and mixed with the gamers in attendance. El33tonline made the trip once again, but this time in the form of Lisa Konigkramer and Oliver Snyders. They handed out some goodies once again. Don’t you just love their generosity? Shortly after the talks, people went off and socialised, played games and had some yummy pizza, which arrived shortly after. The food also didn’t last long after the mountain of Pizza was attacked… These were some really hungry people.

All in all, the event was great. New friends were made and loads of laughs were had. These events just keep growing and growing; it’s clear to see why. See you all on the 2nd of March!

Into Twitter?

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Mass Effect 3 Launch: Reaper Attack Survived

Friday, March 9th; a handful of Cape Town citizens have assembled at the MWEB headquarters after reported Reaper sightings in the city. Seeking refuge, I encountered Desmond Kurz, the leader of the M-Cave. To my surprise, I was greeted with open arms and a bag filled with goodies. After I had arrived, many more gamers, members of the press and other special guests started to pour into the building.

It wasn’t long before we were all ushered into the M-Cave and encouraged to sit down in front of one of the many screens, PC’s and consoles to take the battle to the Reapers. After every last attendee was inside, Kurz, the Head of Gaming at MWEB, hopped on the mic and welcomed all the guests to this special area of their offices.

After the initial welcome, Kurz proceeded to thank the many sponsors who helped make the event possible. Many attendees were eager to continue with their gaming but Bianca McFadyen from EA South Africa had other plans. McFadyen got the attention she deserved when she started giving away prizes in the form of Mass Effect 3 T-shirts and of course, copies of Mass Effect 3 for the PC and PS3. I was lucky enough to have my name end up being drawn but was for a PC copy of the game. I forfeited the prize so that someone who could actually play the game on their PC would be able to enjoy it. Next time I’ll win something, you’ll see.

Those who have seen our coverage of the 2upGamers 4th Dimension, may have seen that one gamer was brave enough to remove his shirt and dance in order to attend this launch event. Well, it seems that his topless dancing certainly paid off as he was lucky enough to walk away with a Mass Effect 3 Collector’s Edition, courtesy of EA South Africa. However, not before he was asked to remove his shirt again in order to get the prize. So, who’s laughing now?

The guys from Rectron were also in the house and were giving advice on what a gamer “should” have in their PC. They also gave away hard drives during the course of the evening. MWEB also handed out spot prizes to attendees who sat down at the “get along” table. This was a table where an Xbox 360 and a PS3 were set up next to each other, hence the unusual name. See? Co-existence can pay off.

The dinner for the evening was the exquisite meal of good ol’ pizza. To wash it down, tins of Red Bull were handed out. Needless to say, gamers were bouncing off the wall and used this energy to take the fight to the Reapers.

As mentioned before, all who attended the event were greeted with a goodie bag upon their arrival. Inside was a copy of NAG, a copy of GamesTM (a brand new gaming magazine in South Africa), MWEB merch, a R100 Kalahari.com voucher an EA game and a 30% off voucher for GamersGate (a local site with over 3500 titles available for download). Nobody went home empty-handed. Pretty awesome, isn’t it?

The event was a huge success. Even though all activity was scheduled to cease at 22:00, the guys from MWEB were gracious enough to let us stay a little bit longer. A big thanks goes out to Desmond Kurz and the rest of the MWEB Team, Bianca McFadyen and EA South Africa, Red Bull, Samsung, Kalahari and Rectron.

I had such a good time that my good ol’ friend Zombie Dredd (thanks for not trying to eat my brain this time) and I were the last two people to leave the venue. Thinking back now, I totally should have helped myself to one of the many posters littering the wall of the M-Cave. It might’ve been the end of the world after all.

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Dragon Age: Inquisition Review

Bioware’s Dragon Age series has had a bit of a rocky road as far as I’m concerned . Origins is without a doubt one of the most memorable RPG of the previous generation. The game boasted one of the best RPG combat systems I’d seen in a long time, but the world which it presented had a lot of problems. The scope in which it presented it’s world felt extremely off and the sheer amount of lore that had been written up for the story came off as being overbearing for both the writers and the player.

While Dragon Age 2 was unnecessarily stripped down in terms of the world, combat and mechanics, it delivered a much more cohesive experience and one that felt very suited for the type of game it was trying to be. It was rough as all hell around the edges, and it still came across as if BioWare didn’t really know where to take the series.

Dragon Age: Inquisition doesn’t take the series far from its roots, but it delivers one of the most well crafted RPGs in recent memory and an incredibly rich game of extraordinarily realized and vast scope.

Dragon Age Inquisition (4)

Inquisition picks up shortly after the tumultuous conclusion of Dragon Age 2, where the conflict between the Mage and Templar factions had escalated to the point that full on war between the two sides was imminent. In the opening scenes we bear witness to talks of a peace treaty being interrupted by a giant magical explosion that decimates the hierarchy of both factions and leaves only a single survivor in the form of the player’s character.

Your character doesn’t escape unharmed though, you’re left branded with a strange mark that allows you to tap into the mystical energies that are threatening to tear the world apart by way of a giant portal through which demons are pouring out. Since you’re the only one around who may stand a chance at closing off this breach, you’re quickly inducted into the Inquisition; and organization with the sole aim of closing the Breach and restoring order to the land by any means.

The story that subsequently unfolds is stellar, featuring some of the best writing and characters in any BioWare game to date. It’s the first game in this series to use the massive slew of lore in a way that feels right. No part of the story or world is put to waste, everything and everyone has their own tale to tell and almost every yarn spun is a good one.

Dragon Age Inquisition (2)

The cast is the most interesting and diverse of any game this year and each character is far more nuanced than they first appear. What’s more is that there’s a real sense of loyalty and mistrust between your fellow Inquisition members. Alliances need to balanced carefully and a thankful breakaway from the binary good and evil BioWare choice system delivers some much welcome moral grey areas to traverse.

As with all the BioWare games your party members serve to still be the highlight of the whole experience. Each of them is fleshed out with broad dialogue trees and fully fledged personalities for you to interact with and there’s not a weak link in the bunch. I had favourites to be sure but each party members was interesting enough to warrant you spending some with them.

This emphasis on smaller character arcs and conflicts serves as a great contrast between the larger scale of the overall story and the world changing decisions you’re expected to undertake as a key member of the Inquisition.

This is where the real scope of the game and it’s mechanics becomes frighteningly clear. It moves the focus away from you and your small band of warriors and finally brings attention to the fast network of Dragon Age’s complex politics and alliances and throws you into the middle of it all.

You engage with the various other factions and kingdoms by way of sending your advisers and agents out into the world to undertake missions on your behalf. These are undertaken in real time with the timer ticking down even if you’re not playing. Each missions reaps some rewards and serves to bolster the Inquisition’s power and influence.

You not playing an armchair general though, you can venture out with your own small party to acquire resources and fill requisitions for the Inquisition, which either add to the influence and power of your army, or expand your own personal suite of gear like potions and weapons.

Dragon Age Inquisition (5)

Progression in the main story is actually locked behind advancing the Inquisition’s might to a certain point, meaning that the game practically forces you into exploring. While this could have been a cumbersome and annoying restriction on the gameplay it instead serves to be one of the game’s greatest decisions as it forces you into engaging with the incredibly enchanting areas on offer,

Each of the numerous zones you’ll be roaming around is gigantic and really serves to cater to the wanderlust the game instills in you. From a desolated desert to a verdant mountain range and the dreaded marshlands, there’s a stellar amount of variety in the environments and a staggering amount of things to do and missions to undertake.

Whether you’re hunting down rebels for the nearby mayor or seeking resources for the Inquisition to utilize, you’re constantly progressing and building your forces. There’s no sense that you’re ever wasting time and nothing you do is ever in vain as it all comes back to making the Inquisition a more formidable force.

Dragon Age Inquisition  (8)

Inquisition takes the a lot elements of both Origins and Dragon Age 2 to create the best combat system in the series yet. There’s still a foucs on the real-time, moment to moment combat that sees you engaging enemies in action-lite manner, but the more tactical orientated nature of Origins is here in full.

You can pause the combat at any time to bring up a tactical view mode that allows you to map the actions and movement of each party member individually. A single button press will make all play out, leaving you free to plan accordingly as things unfold. It’s a fantastic system that accommodates a large range of play styles and challenge level without sacrificing any of the fantastic depth.

The combat’s fantastic level of depth is mostly thanks to the wonderful amount of class variety that Inquisition offers. Classes are still divided into the the tried and true warrior, rogue and mage archetypes, but the numerous amounts of sub-classes and specializations available to each opens up a massive amount of variation to the combat and makes it just fantastic to engage with on so many levels.

This is the first game that sees BioWare making use of the Frostbite 3 engine and they’ve leveraged it to some fantastic results. The environments are jaw droppingly gorgeous at times, with the foliage, water and particle effects from spells standing out as some of the best in class.

The texture quality all round is just fantastic and the facial animation on each character is a serious and much needed step up for the series. Subtle nuances in the facial animation speak far more than a whole string of sentences and the game capitalizes on that reality very well.

When you look at the sheer attention to detail and the massive scale of the world it’s quite the achievement. The art style finally differentiates the series from hordes of other generic fantasy universes and lends the game quite a bit of unique flair, which was very lacking before.

Conclusion:

Inquisition is the most fleshed out and fully realized Dragon Age game yet. It uses its  massive amount of interesting lore, some incredible characters and gameplay elements that are as compelling mechanically as they are narratively to create a game that is extraordinarily gripping. It makes you feel the weight and impact of each choice like few other games can and the result is a world that I’ll be happy to return to for a good long while.

The Breakdown:

Story: 9/10
Gameplay: 8.5/10
Lasting Appeal: 8.5/10
Graphics:9/10
Sound: 9.5/10

Sam Fourie

Ever so slightly unhinged, this one spends most of his time playing or writing about video games. Also dabbles heavily in tabletop, comics and the occasional bout of music creation.