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Transformers: Dark of the Moon Review

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the latest video game in the profitable franchise to be released for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The game is dynamic in its approach to gameplay and is fairly entertaining. Yet as an add-on game to the film of the same name, did the rapid production compromise the quality of the game?

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a prequel to the series and partially a promotional package for the film, also known as Transformers 3. For those who are familiar with the franchise, ranging from the original animation (sometimes referred to as G1) to the newer Michael Bay film trilogy, I would say that it is acceptable to realise that the story in the game is fairly basic. In fact it is probably just a rouse to make yet another encounter between the Autobots and their age-old nemeses the Decepticons.

The game occurs sometime before the events in the film. The leader of the evil Decepticons, Megatron is still at large and is in the process of unleashing his minions on the human race, who never had a say in any of these robotic politics to begin with. Optimus Prime and the Autobots seek to right the wrongs and decide to take on the Decepticons once more. To be honest I find the entire story a bit tiresome and I wonder if there is really such a big difference between the two competing sects anyway.

It is great to see the storyline, or the lack thereof, take a bit of a backseat in the game as it instead focuses on the exciting action elements of Transformers and does not bore us with the romantic tales or escapades of the somewhat irrelevant human characters that are seen in the films. It seems to me that the robots in the series were always somewhat unable to escape their very basic level of programming – to destroy Autobots or Decepticons respectively.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is certainly an enjoyable third-person shooter, although it fails to live up to the standards of its predecessor, Transformers: War for Cybertron. The latter featured a massive game environment and an approach to the franchise that could in many respects be called a reboot of the saga, while the former unfortunately falls into the trap of having too small a game-world. It features narrow, sometimes irritating roads, tunnels and paths that you often bash into if you are not exceedingly cautious. This makes the fact that you can turn into a really fast, nitrous fuelled car often irrelevant.

In the game a robot can take on one of three forms – Robot Mode, Vehicle mode and a mode that sits somewhere in-between called Stealth Mode. A frustrating aspect of this otherwise glorious idea is that you quickly realise that Stealth Mode is often the most efficient form as you do not have to reload and you are a lot quicker than in robot form. This makes the presence of the other two modes a bit irrelevant, although I did enjoy how it allows for playing the game in different ways and for blasting enemies with a variety of weapons, rather than relying solely on the cannons in Stealth Mode.

A refreshing aspect of the single-player Campaign Mode is that you play as different characters. Among the characters that you can play as are Autobots Bumblebee, Ironhide, Mirage and Optimus Prime and Decepticons Soundwave, Starscream and Megatron. This makes for good fun as the player has the chance to play as a variety of different types of transforming robots. This allows not only for diversity in gameplay, but also for a chance to play as both the good and the bad guys.

I found minor irritations during the course of the game, most of which could probably be countered through practice. Firstly I had a problem with how the game saved. It saves checkpoints in a linear fashion and if you are not careful you can reset the chapter, and thus your most recent save gets terminated.

Some characters have problems, for instance Starscream seems a bit incompetent at locking his missiles onto targets and Megatron is a bit sluggish, which makes him a lumbering target. Of course as I mentioned above these things could probably be countered by paying more attention to the overall game dynamics.

One problem that does persist, however, is the fact that part of the strategy in the game relies on you taking cover, which there is despairingly little of and often results in the death of your game character.

The game is construed in the manner of an old-school arcade title. You mass a score, unlock some achievements but mainly will focus on blasting your way through the 7 chapters of the game. You cannot skip cutscenes, but they are reasonably short as the game lacks an in-depth storyline. Loading times are not the worst, but sometimes the game loads as you are battling an enemy which can become irritating.

For the most part the game’s graphics are captivating. There is a particularly good use of lighting that adds emotion to the robot characters. There is a stark difference between the smooth appearance of Mirage in his racing car form and the human vehicles that are seen when you play as Ironhide, that come off as badly textured blocks of polygons. There are some parts where enemies go through you, weird camera angles and grass tends to penetrate the robot’s head. This is evidence that the game was rushed in order to act as a promo for the accompanying film.

The sound effects themselves are effective, especially when coupled with the rate that your dual shock vibrates at with the big explosions. My distaste for the sound really stems from my intolerance for the Autobot’s posh voices and cringe worthy wholesomeness. The Decepticons come off as being cooler, but Soundwave’s voice in particular sounds very forced. The use of very repetitive one-liners in the game also becomes tedious.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon brings back the unique strategic options that were available to players in War for Cybertron. The ability to transform is not something that a lot of other shooters can plausibly replicate and this allows for quite a lot of fun through versatility. The three player co-op mode found in War for Cybertron no longer exists unfortunately and problems found in the campaign mode, such as low durability persist which undermines an otherwise exciting online brawl.

Conclusion:
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a fun action title that deserved more attention than perhaps the developers had enough time to give it. High Moon Studios has proved previously that they are capable of revamping the franchise with Tranformers: War for Cybertron. Unfortunately Dark of the Moon becomes more of a promo for the film than a game of its own. It is, however, proof for me that Transformers works infinitely better as a video game than as a film franchise.

The films tend to bore me with their redundant explosions and lack of character development. The human characters in them don’t interest me and I struggled to get through the second film. The game excludes humans for the most part, though they appear on screen or radio from time to time as they are not a big part of the game.

The game does not make any real attempt to blow up an artificial plot which I have always found is not more complicated than Autobots hate Decepticons and vice versa. This however, works well in the game context. It allows the player to take control of the awesome transforming robots with their barrage of weapons. It promotes action over story which in the case of Transformers works. It also means that we don’t have to force ourselves to feel emotion for robotic characters on the cinema screen. In taking control of the characters we automatically feel for their cause and it is really fun to become these transforming machines, rather than try to be compassionate about them in the films.

The Breakdown:
Storyline: 5/10
Gameplay 7/10
Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 7/10

Predominantly reviewed on Xbox 360.

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PC Reviews PlayStation 3 Reveiws Xbox 360 Reveiws

Call of Juarez: The Cartel Review

Call of Juarez: The Cartel lacks certain qualities both aesthetically and in its narrative structure. It makes use of exaggerated sex, drugs and violence that sells action-thrillers, but something seems to be missing.

Storyline:
Call of Juarez: The Cartel strips away the Old West backdrop of its predecessors, although it tries to incorporate modern cowboys. It is not entirely clear why this is the case; perhaps it is an attempt to compete with rival companies or perhaps to avoid competition with Red Dead Redemption. The cover of the box suggests a first-person Grand Theft Auto. The Cartel, however, does not allow the player to diverge from a linear plot, as do sandbox games like GTA.

The government decides to form an interagency task force which consists of agents from the DEA, FBI and LAPD to take down the Mendoza cartel; an infamous syndicate involved in drugs, sex trafficking and arms dealing. As the story advances it quickly becomes evident that no one can be trusted, which makes for an interesting riddle that begs to be deciphered.

The story is not without flaws, it is obviously pretty standard and taking control of bad cops is not new either. The greatest problem is that the characters are stereotypes of tough street cops. It seems odd that the game styles itself as a modern western, as only one character, Ben McCall, seems to be a complete Wild West gunslinger. It would be interesting to have a more blatantly blown up, Rodriguez-inspired narrative, about crazed vigilantes (The film Machete definitely came to mind). Ubisoft however, has opted for subtlety as an attempt to promote a serious tone, but the characters are in fact so clichéd that it is difficult to take them seriously.

Gameplay:
Without fail what begins as a clean mission plan will soon turn into all out war. The Cartel relies heavily on the premise that the task force of three agents is a small army that can handle any number of attackers. You will even have chance to blow up helicopters with hand-held weaponry. Aside from this, you spend some time in a car either as the driver or as a shooter. A central weakness is that strafing, shooting and taking cover constitute the majority of the game, making diversity scarce. Sometimes you will have to carry bags of money while under fire, protect a witness or spray paint tags to confuse enemies, but this is the limit of puzzles in the game.

Each character has a unique hidden agenda that involves doing certain tasks for people behind your allies’ backs, without letting them catch you in the act. A major glitch in the game is that sometimes your allies will suddenly materialise as you are gathering questionable items. At stages you can also kick down doors, or activate Concentration Mode which slows things down, allowing you to get the better of your enemies. This becomes monotonous after a while and seems to hamper the freedom of normal mode.

Graphics:
The game is laced with so many glitches that it is hard to list them all here. When taking aim a rifle often flickers as if it is not a solid object. Game characters typically walk through rocks and textures often pop in and out resulting in tarnished surfaces. On one stage, at a shipping yard the graphics become so horrible that you cannot see that it is raining as it should be. Many NPCs (non-playable characters) and game-world objects move in a synchronised manner, which damages the illusion of a natural world. Also a lack of attention to detail in some areas, like the shining metallic grill of an otherwise blown-up truck is hard to miss. Some parts of the game are more credible.

Sound:
NPCs will constantly say things multiple times and the developers have relied heavily on cursing and bloodlust to give the main characters tough personalities. This causes them to become their characters’ stereotypes with poor vocabularies. If you ever have to redo a part of the game various times, the characters’ lines will drive you to mute the volume and in addition, the music does not contribute to the rapid adrenaline of gun fights either.

Online:
An exciting aspect is the three-player co-op mode. Players can take control of one of the three characters on both a secure and a public setting. However, the AI for single player allies are quite good as far as killing goes and it seems that there is little point in including people, who are bound to be less accurate thanks to the poor aiming system. You can play head-to-head although the controls of the game seem heavily geared towards single-player and do not work well for fighting against other players.

Conclusion:
Call of Juarez: The Cartel has a mediocre, action-orientated storyline, with certain twists that keep you on your toes, but fails to break any radical boundaries.

This title provides an exciting environment for single-player and cooperative fire fights, but unfortunately it is riddled with glitches that often interfere with the gameplay. For instance allies get in your way and checkpoints are activated even though you have died before reaching them.

The series could have been reinvented by this game, yet it fails to meet expectations. It is nonetheless a fun game to play and includes elements of black humour that some will find enjoyable.

The Breakdown:
Storyline: 7/10
Gameplay 6/10
Graphics: 5/10
Sound: 6.5/10

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News

FIFA 14 Demo Released

The playable demo of FIFA 14 is available to download worldwide for the Xbox 360 on Xbox LIVE for Gold members, for the PlayStation 3 from the PlayStation Store, and for PC via Origin. The demo will become available for Xbox LIVE Silver members on the 17th of September 2013.

Fans will be able to play in the Camp Nou as FC Barcelona, AC Milan, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund, Boca Juniors, or the New York Red Bulls. Furthermore, players will also be able to test themselves as one of the unique FIFA Ultimate Teams with the chance to earn additional players customize their demo squad.

For more details on FIFA 14, click here.
For more details on FIFA 14 Ultimate Team and Legends, click here.

FIFA 14 is scheduled to release on the 27th of September locally. Are you excited for FIFA 14? Let us know in the comments!

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News

PES 2014 Demo Released on consoles, Game Modes Revealed

The PES 2014 Demo has rolled out across all territories on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, which was confirmed by Konami UK in the below tweet:

Good morning! Don’t forget, the #PES2014Demo hits PSN in the UK today – and Xbox Live tomorrow. Let us know once you get it!

— Konami UK (@KonamiUK) September 11, 2013

In addition to this, a picture from PESFan has shown all the game modes available in Konami’s latest football simulator.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 is scheduled to release on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC on the 19th of September. Are you skipping EA’s latest FIFA offering for PES 2014? Let us know in the comments below.

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The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review

The Legend of Zelda series is a classic and very much like the first Mario games, in that it’s possibly one of the first game series ever played by people who grew up in the NES/Famicom era. Nearly 30 years since its inception, the series is still going strong. A spiritual successor of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is the latest entry and does an amazing job at keeping the series alive and in the high ranks of video game history.

The Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds Review

The story follows series protagonist, Link, a courageous boy who is tasked with saving Princess Zelda and the land of Hyrule after getting caught up in a series of events while performing a simple delivery. A sorcerer by the name of Yuga has some evil plans for the land and Link decides to stop him in his tracks. The story is interesting and will definitely keep the player hooked for long periods at a time. Unfortunately, while the plot is interesting enough, it still felt a little too familiar in its execution. However, the pacing is very good and things start getting exciting pretty early on.

Gameplay is viewed from a top-down perspective while playing like a hack and slash title. The top screen of the 3DS is the main screen where most of the action will take place while the bottoms screen will display the map, gear and items. The title plays really smoothly and is very easy to get into. Fans and newcomers alike will take to the gameplay very quickly. The game can also be very addictive, so much so that I had to force myself to put it down for a little while so that I could write this review. It’s just a pity that because of its addictiveness, players will end up immersed for prolonged periods at a time, resulting in the fun being over a little sooner than they expected.

The game is easy to get the hang of while still offering a suitable challenge most of the time. Enemies don’t scale as Link becomes more powerful so after the halfway point in the game, enemies are dispatched pretty easily. Clearing dungeons is a very big part of the game and each one has to be handled differently. Most of them require a specific item to be utilised throughout. Thanks to a particularly enthusiastic merchant in the game, these key items can now be rented for a small amount of Rupees, the in-game currency. The items can be bought as the game progresses but for the early stages of the title, item renting is convenient and gives the player more options as to which dungeon they’d like to tackle first. Renting items has a catch though; if Link falls in battle, those items are collected and taken back to the merchant, leaving the player in the dungeon without the necessary items for its completion. Backtracking to rent them again is costly and a little annoying. There’s also a benefit to buying the key items at some point and that’s because they can be upgraded once they’ve been purchased, making them so much more effective.

The Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds Review

There is another downside to the item renting feature; previous Zelda games have given the player these items once they had cleared a dungeon and that feeling was rewarding. Because players can now get all the items so early on and without having to find them, it takes away that exciting feeling of obtaining a new item. Thankfully there are still a host of collectables to be found throughout the game and these can actually help the player on their quest as opposed to just being a distraction, so exploration is very important.

Puzzles have always been a big part of the series and this title is no different. Each dungeon has a set of puzzles that ultimately solve one big puzzle, which is opening the door to the dungeon’s boss. Even boss fights function as a sort of puzzle, with each one needing to be defeated in a certain way. After a certain point in the game, Link is actually able to transform into a painting by merging with nearly any wall. This really adds to the experience as it gives the puzzle more depth, making the player think just a little bit harder. The puzzle portions of the game are really well done and solving one always feels so satisfying.

Being able to turn into a 2D painting really adds a new dimension to gameplay. Even navigating certain areas will require the player to think outside of the box a little bit. Merging with walls also allows Link to slip through rifts in Hyrule, which will then transport him to Lorule, a sort of alternate version of the former. Lorule has its own set of enemies, dungeons and NPC’s. The two worlds are almost identical, save for a few geographical features.

The Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds Review

Another good thing to report is that A Link Between Worlds is less “hand-holdy” than previous titles. Players are left to their own devices to solve the game’s many puzzles. There are ways to get hints in the game but I found that I never actually needed it.

Despite being displayed in a top-down perspective, the game looks great. Animations are smooth and some environments look like a visual upgrade from A Link to the Past while some of the new ones have been well designed. The game is also very colourful and it is simply a pleasure to look at. This is especially true when playing the game in 3D; it certainly is a feast for the eyes.

Audio is very much on par with the visuals. Sound effects of certain objects sound really good and really add to the experience. The soundtrack is comprised of remastered tracks from A Link to the Past in addition to some new tracks added specifically for this title. They work really well in delivering a score which actually makes you want to go out and have an adventure.

The Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds Review

Conclusion:
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is an excellent game. It delivers a story that motivates the player to keep progressing but may come across as being just a tad too familiar and also just seems to be over a little too soon. Gameplay wise, this title is a treat. It’s very easy to get into and very hard to put down. Unfortunately enemies do become easier to dispatch after the halfway point because they don’t scale as Link gets stronger. Renting items is convenient in terms of options but takes away the feeling of finding a new item after clearing a dungeon and can be quite annoying when having to re-rent your items because Link fell in battle.

Visually, the game looks lovely. Animations are smooth, environments are a pleasure to explore and the game is just really nice to look at. Audio is also rather pleasurable and does especially well encouraging the player to enjoy their adventure in the game. A Link Between Worlds isn’t perfect but it certainly is a great addition to the series and possibly one of the best 3DS games to be released this year.

The Breakdown:
Story: 8.5/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Graphics: 9.5/10
Sound: 9.5/10

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News

In Pictures: GeekFest 2015

GeekFest 2015, hosted by the team at Dark Carnival,  was an absolute blast as always. This year, felt like the biggest year ever! Held at Huddle Park, in Johannesburg South Africa, the event drew in thousands of attendees. Not only did the event host the latest Mortal Kombat Tournament, but it also had a range of activities that attendees could take part in.

There was real snow (okay it was a gel, but hey it was snow none the less), Cosplay competitions, market stalls, and live bands. Additionally, there was a beer garden as well as a rather intense Zombie Run. Attendees even had the opportunity to bring their four-legged friends along in order to geekout with them too.

Overall, with a host of activities and plenty to do, GeekFesst 2015 was an absolute success. All we can say is congrats to the folks at Dark Carnival for putting together such an epic event. Additionally, we would like to congratulate Jonathan Bester on hosting an amazing Mortal Kombat Tournament as well as send out a huge congratulation to the tournament winner, Terry-Lee Cloete.

A big shout out to the folks we ran into, which included Devin Green, Martin-J Tshoaedi, Carla Van Der Westhuizen (who was incognito), as well as Han Cilliers, who did a great wrap-up article for GeekFest 2015, which can be found here.

Images are not to be altered or used without the permission of ITF Gaming and the Photographer, Darryl Linington.

Gallery photography by Darryl Linington.

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News

Hashtag Escape is the latest craze in South Africa

We had the amazing opportunity to test out, with fellow media, the latest craze to hit South Africa – Hashtag Escape. Run by Christopher Tsatsarolakis and Stratis Kouvdis, located at 39 Grant Avenue, Norwood, Johannesburg, Hashtag Escape offers South Africans a new and unique experience.

Essentially, you and a team of 3-6 friends are locked in a mysterious room… Once your team enters the room, you will have 1-hour to solve various riddles and puzzles in order to escape the room.

Granted, being locked in a room can be slightly daunting for some; however, the team at Hashtag Escape monitors the room constantly. This is done by Closed Circuit Television in order to make sure the players are safe at all times. In addition to the safety of the players, the team also uses the system to relay hints and tips… Just in case your team is struggling.

Overall, Hashtag Escape is well-worth checking out… It’s fun, interactive and a great friendship/team building experience. The two main rooms have been previewed in the videos below; however, the team is developing a third room, which – from what we have been told – is going to blow your mind!