Dishonored has been heralded as a new step in the right direction; a step back towards letting players actually play games. A sandbox game that allows for a variety of choices and solutions, Dishonored combines stealth, action and strategy into a single game that will appeal simultaneously to a wide variety of different players and styles.
Players step into the boots of Corvo Attano, the personal bodyguard to the Empress of a strange, Dystopian world. In the gritty port city of Dunwall, Corvo fails in his charge and the Empress is assassinated under his watch. Rather than sit and stew though, Corvo seeks the identity of the assassin and vengeance for what he did. However, just how Corvo goes about that vengeance is entirely up to the player.
Dishonored is, primarily, a game that allows players the choice to accomplish the mission however they see fit. For instance, Corvo can go in with bared steel, cackling like a madman and leaving a sea of blood in his wake. For players that don't want to play the game that way though, it isn't the only option (just the easiest more often than not). Players also have the option of manipulating other NPCs into doing the dirty work for them, or moving so stealthily that they can reach the objective without having to kill anyone. There are even non-lethal combat options, which are more difficult to make effective, but which keep the body count at an absolute minimum. For the truly skilled player it is entirely possible to finish Dishonored without getting any blood on Corvo's hands.
Which path a player chooses to take also has an effect on the world. Dunwall is currently dealing with plague, and the more bodies that Corvo leaves behind, the worse the plague is going to get because of all the additional death and food for the rats. However, the more guards Corvo kills, the more guards will be posted at later missions. This will just amp up the difficulty, so being sneaky might be challenging, but it will result in fewer guards being posted in future missions, which definitely sounds like a major advantage.
Beyond the creativity that went into designing a game with multiple ways to win, Dishonored also offers players a unique control system that helps them get the job done. With stealth and combat often so closely related, Dishonored takes a few hints from Assassin's Creed and makes sure that players have as little downtime between moving quietly in the shadows and pulling steel. After all, sometimes all it takes is a second of hesitation for Corvo to be stretched out dead in an alley somewhere, and the player left cursing and grinding his or her teeth. Of course, as with any game, practice makes perfect. Once players are more familiar with the controls and the world, it's just a matter of time until Corvo can slip through the shadows and bring vengeance on the person responsible for the Empress's murder.
The first time Square Enix showed Hitman Absolution to the public, there was quite a bit of outrage. The first slice they showed was filled with action, something that Hitman fans despise, and certainly was never associated with the Hitman series in the past. Thankfully, Hitman Absolution maintains the spirit of past Hitman titles while adding enough new features to make it worthwhile.
As is normal for Hitman titles, missions consist of hunting targets through specially designed levels that offer many different options when it comes to finally killing your assigned targets. While most of the basic Hitman formula remains unchanged, there are a few key additions, not the least of which being the Instinct system. This system allows you to see guards through walls or other obstructions, as well as their assigned patrol routes.
Instinct also allows you to cheat your way past checkpoints where guards might see through your disguise. Going right along with Instinct is a full-on radar system that not only shows guards locations, but the direction they are facing. For more veteran Hitman players, neither of these mechanics exist on the highest levels of difficulty, but for someone new to the series, they should be extremely helpful to navigate the often confusing world of Hitman.
While Instinct is certainly interesting, the most interesting new feature is the game's extremely autolog-esque leaderboard system. This system allows you to compete with your friends and people all over the world to perform the best hit in all of the games missions, which adds a massive amount of replay value to a series that used to have very little unless you were obsessive about perfection.
Though Hitman Absolution shares some of the best things about past Hitman games, it also carries on some of their greatest failings. Even the greatest hit imaginable can be broken by any number of AI problems, such as broken pathing or animations. For instance, I had just pushed a guard down one of the games innumerable deep pits, when a nearby guard "sees" his body through the ground. The guard then proceeded to stare through the ground at the dead body, constantly reiterating the victims need for medical assistance.
However, Absolutions greatest flaw lies in its attempt at creating a more cohesive narrative. Instead of cutting at the end of a hit and transitioning to the next one, Absolution attempts to link these missions together with lengthy sequences requiring you to Evade the Police over and over and over again. Without an objective other than to escape, these sequences quickly become tired and monotonous. However, it seems as if the developers realized this, as each level is split into very distinct sub-missions, each with an independent score, allowing for leaderboard competition without playing through the entire level again.
So, is Absolution the game Hitman fans wanted? It probably is not, but that shouldn't keep you from enjoying what is a quite good game with a few glaring but manageable flaws.
In the single-player game, you'll be flying as one of four different pilots. You'll begin fighting off German attacks that venture above the island of Great Britain, but end up fighting with the US and New Zealand forces over Germany itself. The character all tell their story of why they're fighting there, but the voice-acting that follows the cutscenes is absolutely dreadful, resulting in you not wanting to really be any of these terribly boring pilots.
The campaign itself jumps around some, since missions with your earliest squadron can only be played once you've progressed, and moved out of the area to some new group. You'd think that having crossed the channel and being based off the continent would prevent you from heading back to Great Britain and having to defend them, but it doesn't. There are a number of different airplanes that can be unlocked, especially if you're willing to play at a higher difficulty.
Likely, you'll play at the higher difficulty, even without the bonus of more easily unlocking planes. That's because the AI is not very difficult at all, and will often not even notice you trying to devastate their ride. The missions, also, are only somewhat different as you go through the game, and though there are some novel takes on the essential elements, they mostly consist of your dog-fighting enemies or bombing buildings.
The game does offer a new element of the gameplay, which are Ace kills. These allow your character to zoom in on the enemy and specifically target certain portions to shoot at, such as their engines or the pilot themselves. This option is a nice added feature, but it actually makes a game that is already too easy at the most difficult difficulty level even easier.
One feature that is nice is the extensive online play. There are four different game modes, as well as four maps for your flying pleasure. Up to sixteen players can play a map at a time, though it's very difficult to find that many people playing the game at any given time. The modes are fun, especially Team Survivor, where the last person standing wins it for the team. That will have you performing selfless acts to keep your survivors alive, like diving in front of bullets.
While Heroes Over Europe does certainly provide opportunities for fun in there, the simplicity of destroying AI opponents, combined with the lack of real opponents to fight, left there not much to do in the game. If you're a huge WWII buff who feels like they've missed out flying the aircraft of that day, then this simulation will offer that opportunity, but beyond that it's a merely average flight sim.
Like the previous games in the series, you are involved with the military and fighting with Special Forces operatives to save the world from some dire threat. In this case, the threat is from nuclear weapons, and it is up to you and your partner, down from three teammates in the previous game, to save the world from destruction. Another notable change from previous titles in the series is that this game is in first-person view, not third-person.
Playing through the game, you will be playing as either the heavy gunner Lang or the sniper, Graves. You can switch between these two characters depending upon the situation, giving you a lot of tactical capability. You can also heal your ally, and direct the AI controlling them. That will be essential in the game, since your ally provides a lot of necessary fire, and does a good job of killing the enemy as well as you. If you put your AI ally in the right spot, they can really provide the sort of fire that makes it worthwhile to have a buddy in a shooting game, but if theyre in the wrong spot, it can prevent you from being able to battle effectively at all.
Properly positioning your AI buddy is something that takes away from the realism, slightly, but adds dramatically to the sense of control that you have available on the field. Add in that you can take over that buddy of yours in a heartbeat, and you end up having a lot of fun battling through the chokepoints and set-pieces in the levels.
Despite numerous chokepoints and other confrontations, there isnt a lot of uniqueness when it comes to the level design of Denied Ops. There are a few different locations such as a castle, a whaling depot, and an African city. These levels generally have few differences in the missions in them, such as go-there-and-kill-everybody missions, and blow-that-up missions. If youre not looking for a lot of variety in your destruction, itll work just fine.
There is a lot of stuff to blow up, at least. Lots of things in the levels are destructible, giving your battles an epic feel at times. Youre taking on large numbers of enemies with heavy firepower, and this game really gives you the feel of that as you fight. Youll fight the same enemies over and over, but youll pretty well mow them down, if you do it right.
Conflict Denied Ops isn't a thinking-mans shooter, but it does provide a lot of play that doesn't do anything specifically bad. If youre willing to settle for its mediocrity, Denied Ops has some fun to be had.
The game plays directly into the story from the film. You are Lyra Belacqua, keeper of the alethiometer, the title device that allows you to answer any question you ask of it. You are trying to save your friend Roger from a group called the Gobblers who have kidnapped him. You have a daemon, Pan, who will adventure with you, as well as a huge polar bear named Lorek. The game often follows the same path that the movie did, while not giving you a chance or a reason to care about what happens to these characters. All told, it adds up to a mishmash that will have you wondering just what youre doing with that controller in your hands.
Trying to figure out the gameplay will have you doing that, too. There is a lot of the game that is spent on just roaming around, looking for clues to the next portion. There are a number of little side-games, but despite throwing the occasional change into the mix, they dont really do much your experience. In fact, theyll probably confuse you the first few times at how to perform in them, since documentation is nonexistent for a few of them. There are also numerous timed button sequences that require you to push one of your buttons at the specific time that it asks for it. These gameplay elements are not very fun, and dont add a whole lot that is positive to the experience.
If gameplay elements that are un-entertaining arent enough of a reason to keep you away, maybe graphics that will suck the magic of the movie right out of you are. The graphics in this game are dated and dark. The graphics in the movie itself were one of the best parts about it, but that tradition wasnt held to for the game. The sound effects, too, are low-budget, as they are either disruptive or not even present at all.
While there are games out there that take a movie and allow a player to participate in the storyline in a new and engaging way, this is not one of those games. The Golden Compass tries to bring the characters from the movie home to you, but with the large number of side games that are uninteresting, and a main game that isn't much fun either, its not really the sort of game you should waste your money on. Unless you have a child that is an enormous fan of the movie, this is probably one to hold off from buying.
The uDraw Tablet including Instant Artist allows owners to enjoy what was previously only available to Wii owners.
The design of the uDraw Tablet is sturdy enough even for the punishment that kids can dish out. It requires two AA batteries for it to run and of course the time that those last will depend on the quality of the battery, and thus the price you pay. It has a touchscreen that responds to the stylist pen or your finger, and you can draw as much as you like, it will not wear out as long as you don't scratch the screen. The stylist pen is the best choice for drawing sensitivity, but fingers can be fun for kids.
The uDraw Tablet comes with the base unit and the attached stylist pen and with a game called "The Art School" which teaches the user how to draw from the basics through to more advanced sketching and shading techniques, and it is very thorough. If you don't want to learn then you can just doodle away to your heart's content.
What it is Like
When you use the tablet the feeling of the styling pen is very much like pencil on paper. The crayons feel like crayons and the flow of colors is just as realistic. Overall the game feels like you are drawing, but then of course you are, that's the whole point of it. Imagine finger painting with the bonus of being able to make your fingers anything that you would want to use for drawing. Whether you are serious and want to learn how to draw, or just want to play around without wasting paper, this will do the trick.