I'm Currently Playing...

Blur [Xbox 360]
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 [PS3]

Sunday, 1 August 2010

A New Dawn- DedicatedToGamers.co.uk

If you've been enjoying Birkett's Blog then why not take a look at my new gaming site that I have only just set up. It can be found at www.dedicatedtogamers.co.uk and I'd love it if people could get joining the forums, posting comments etc. to create a burgeoning community.

I'm aiming to create a great gaming site, delivering quality reviews, previews and news, as well as specific features from a number of different writers. Please pop over and join the site, it'd be very much appreciated.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Trailer- Halo: Reach

Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Format(s): Xbox 360
Release Date: 14th September 2010

Popping up today was the new Halo: Reach campaign trailer, entitled "The Battle Begins". Cue an intense orchestral score and vast, sweeping shots of space vistas. The trailer also climaxes with the looks of a huge space battle- a la Star Wars. With just over a month now till release, Reach looks set to send Bungie off in style.  Take a look at the trailer below...

Trailer- Medal of Honor (2010)

Developer(s): EA LA (Single Player), EA DICE (Multiplayer)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Format(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Release Date: 15th October 2010 (UK), 12th October (North America)

Moving towards modern warfare is not the most original undertaking for a series since, well, Modern Warfare, but EA's Medal of Honor reboot ought to be taken notice of. Not least for the excellent trailers that are being produced for the more realistic of first-person shooters (and a departure for the series), the multiplayer portion of the game is being expertly handled by the team at EA DICE who have experience in reams from the Battlefield series.

The latest trailer includes the single "The Catalyst" from the ever brilliant Linkin Park and their new album "A Thousand Suns" that is released this September. Proving an ideal soundtrack to the action, EA have also not ruled out further projects with the band. Indeed, bassist David Farell told USA Today "I definitely think we could do things with them down the road." Nothing has formally been announced at this moment in time, however with EA outputting the creative output of Harmonix, my money has to be put firmly on a Rock Band game dedicated to the band's outstanding career and that'll come most welcome, thank you very much.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Trailer- Gran Turismo 5

Developer: Polyphony Digital
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Format(s): PS3
Release Date: 2nd November, 2010

Sony have been ever so reluctant to settle on a confirmed release date until recently for prestigious racing title Gran Turismo 5 that it borders on ridiculous. But whatever us impatient gamers think of their marketing strategy, the end result will speak for itself and by the released trailers and screenshots seen thus far, it certainly looks mighty impressive. The visuals look insanely well detailed and beautiful- take a look at the recreation of Rome within the trailer- with an insane number of modeled cars (claims up to 1000) and tracks (including the Top Gear Test Track) also making sure this will be the racer of the year, nay, the decade.

Whatever you feel of Polyphony's reluctance to release the game that has long been thought to having been completed, you can't help admire their positive attitude towards giving the game every layer of polish that need be applied to make this the must-buy for the PS3.

Review- Blur [Xbox 360]

Developer: Bizarre Creations
Publisher: Activision
Released: 28th May 2010
Other Formats: PS3, PC

Straight from the Project Gotham Racing series, Bizarre Creations have taken inspiration from the unlikeliest of sorts by placing their latest 'realistic' racer in power-upped flashes of insanity in the same vein of Mario Kart. In fact, Bizarre were no holds barred in their admittance of such a design choices, basing a whole advertising campaign on it, seeing a cutesy Nintendo-like character contemplating what lay beyond the fencing from his colourful, cartoon world as real-life cars sped past in a swathe of intense neon projectiles and colour.

It's Project Gotham meets Mario Kart certainly, and make no qualms about it, Blur is worthy of such comparisons to either of the stalwart series. Similar to Project Gotham in nearly all aspects of its design, from the 'Kudos'-like system of 'Fans' to the similarity of 'Lights' to PGR's medal types. Working in favour of the overall experience, Bizarre have brought an understanding of what made the PGR experience so great to begin with whilst putting that added layer of power-up mayhem that their new footing gives. 

You'll see no weapon-drops or items that you've not seen before, lets be honest, so everything from rocket-type shock projectiles, 'Nitro' and 'Mines' are all here, although Blur manages to add enough new design choices that the racing somehow feels fresh and skilful, allowing players to use each power-up differently and to their own preferred style. An example of such a statement derives when 'Nitro' is equipped. Sure, you can go ahead and use the power for an added speed boost (and sensational blurring of the screen), or choose to speed into a corner, only to hold back on the directional pad and use it for an 'air brake', slow-motion approach into the corner. Another example would be the use of 'Mines' where they can be dropped behind you in a normal fashion for static bombs on track, or be fired as a missile in front. It's such instances that Blur exceeds expectations and lifts itself from being another hackneyed power-based arcade racer into a true, skill-based racing game. The handling system rarely equates to anything on their realism levels of Project Gotham, although it needn't be. The handling feels responsive and weighty enough to make perfect racing lines remain the best way to first place, although there is enough room to allow the perfectly balanced and multi-coloured weapons to be effective, while not make racing an impossibility, nigh, an utter nightmare. In actuality, being hit from an opponent's weapon is so deftly handled in a short animation that the frequency of such occurrences never get too much and you'll be up to speed in no time. The only handling aspect I feel Bizarre could have refined is the drifting mechanic, which feels much too weighted down and difficult to pull off. With Blur pulling out a number of varying challenges to reach its 'One-on-One' meetings with the 'bosses' at the end of each section within career mode, the game is also deftly handled for each race to remain interesting and insane fun. In addition to building up stacks of 'Lights' in order to unlock further instances in career and more 'Mods' that alter power-ups, the four meta-game style challenges to get the chance to race/defeat each driver for another 8 lights range from nitro-ramming five cars (using nitro to shunt opponents) to drifting for a total of 1,500m. And it doesn't stop there, for the 'Fans' system will also award fans within each race for individual 'Fan Challenges' that lay about the track and might request that you exceed a certain speed or destroy a car whilst drifting, for example. Between the meta-game devices, fan challenges and the fan multiplier scoring system, you'd be hard pressed to find a more engaging racer. In my hours invested in the game, I've found myself so engrossed in the short and sweet modes that I've lost all track of time, only to look up and it being several hours later without me realising. If only Bizarre could have bolstered the number of modes (Race, Destruction, One-on-One and Checkpoint), then I'd have even more reasons to praise Blur than that which I already have.

The racing is nothing short of remarkable to say the least, where you'll often have to have eyes in the back of your head to maintain composure. The rear-view mirror and 'Shield' will often be your unlikely saviours when the homing missile-type red orb comes into blistering view of your screen. Also adding variation, such powers as 'Barge' (which releases a burst of energy circumvented around your car) also protect if released at the right time. There's none more satisfying a feeling than stopping the race leader in his tracks with a well timed projectile shot, or wrecking other opponents into crumpled heaps of metal (each car has a life bar that depletes through hits until either destroyed altogether or repaired through the 'Repair' pick-up) that come from the game's key mechanics.

The contrast between real-life cars (of which there are a bountiful array, ranging from sturdy Range Rovers to the more rallying supercars) and swathes of neon from weapon drops is bizarre yet extraordinary to look at and Blur is one of the more graphically impressive racers on the market to date. Such tracks as 'Brighton'- that models itself on its pier- also demonstrate Bizarre's intention in delivering fun within course design. Basked in unnatural light, Brighton is one example of the approach of the team, ensuring each track is entirely suited to the dynamism of the game. In spite of their experience in modelling tracks on famous cities, Blur still features real-world locations (such as Brighton and LA), although the developer has chosen to relax their stringent approach on sticking to each relative twist and turn, instead favouring a more altered track design which ensures each are ideally suited to play whilst still maintaining a familiar feel. Short-cuts are obviously an introduction to the PGR-like racing approach, and the tracks are much wider and less akin to tight and twisty sections, much more aligned to 90-degree turns and sweeping left and rights which further lend credence to Blur's racing style.

Bizarre might have left their preceding racer series to the confines of memory, but they have already informed us that Blur is only the start of a brand new franchise. Is it as good as Project Gotham? Without question! Blur has as much excitement as the aforementioned series to home in on racing fans, as well as the thrill and fun that comes with having brilliantly implemented power-ups and frenetic driving action, only bolstered when in multiplayer. Blur is without doubt one of the racing games of this generation.