All Points Bulletin Review

Ever wanted to play GTA online? No, we’re not talking about those unofficial mods that let you gather up with a few of your friends and chase each other on motorcycles. You’ve probably wished for it at some point – a full-blown online GTA, with hundreds of other players in the town, and perhaps a MMO system to make the world persistent? Say no more! All Points Bulletin, the next big thing from Realtime Worlds, has been developed with that kind of gameplay in mind exactly!

Gameplay

We already said that APB is pretty much a MMORPG version of GTA, and it really is just that – though with lots of improvements over GTA’s gameplay in order to cope with the massively multiplayer world. You can choose to join various sides which are constantly in wars, customize your character in a completely unique way, even forming gangs of similarly-styled soldiers (one of the trailers for example shows a gang of punks versus a trio of guys that looked like they just came back from shooting up some cops in “Reservoir Dogs”). Of course, there’s a great emphasis on vehicle action, and just like in GTA you can hijack random vehicles from the streets, engage in drive-bys and adrenaline-pumping chase scenes.

The combat system is very flexible, and you’ll have to think out of the box to be successful in APB – forget about ducking behind a crate and popping up only to empty your magazine – in APB, this is only effective until someone decides to ram their truck in said box – which, we assure you, will happen before you’ve even considered it as an option. The streets are chaotic, and with over 100 players in a single town you can have some massive shootouts, even playing on the side of the police if you wanted. The total world consists of over 100,000 players split into towns, so you can imagine the overall feeling the game produces.

Graphics and System Requirements

Yet another title on the Unreal Engine 3, Realtime Worlds have made numerous modifications to the engine to help it handle the large worlds better. It performs very well in drawing the huge cities and the various detailed vehicles and players with all their customization options. The city skyline looks beautiful as you’re cruising around with your gang in another stolen vehicle, and of course the combat parts of the game see the most attention to detail, with large explosions and lots of special effects.

Other

The game sadly requires a monthly fee to play – your initial purchase of the game itself only gives you about 50 free hours, after which you’ll have to pay up and subscribe. But seriously, there’s no room for even wondering here – no other game can offer you a similar experience right now, so the price is more than justified.

Conclusion

APB should definitely see lots of success. It’s already proving to be highly popular among players, and some of the innovations it brought to the genre will surely become a staple of it.

Anno 1404 Review

Starting with Anno 1602, the Anno series has been a highly successful one, spanning over several games so far. They tend to be popular mainly among fans of the genre though, so if you don’t play city building games often, you may not be familiar with the franchise.

The Anno series is all about designing a successful empire, while attempting to keep peace with (or eradicate) the other nations around you. Each Anno game has been set in a different time period, visible in the title – and Anno 1404 is the “oldest” one so far.

Gameplay

For a city building strategy game, Anno 1404 offers a remarkably interesting plot, which we’d spoil by touching even on the surface – but it would suffice to say that you’ll encounter mysterious plots and conspiracies, things which you don’t normally see in games of this genre. The city building element prevails through the majority of the game, as you’ll have to expand your colonies and develop newer and better technology.

Initially, you’ll only have access to technology needed to move your cities forward – however, at some point you’ll be able to start building combat technology, which is where things get serious – you’ll have to decide which of your neighbours are your friends and which should be dealt with, and manage your strategy accordingly.

The game features a very fine element of balance in this regard, as the player’s choices of alliance early on in the game can have a huge impact on the final outcome of the scene at hand – this adds an extra layer of replayability, as you’re always left to wonder what would’ve happened if you had wiped out that guy you considered a threat instead of siding with him.

Graphics and System Requirements

Anno 1404 offers some beautiful graphics – the cities have some impressively detailed buildings, the style of architecture is very neat, and the natural parts of the environment look really great as well – you can see some small bits of detail if you just look around the mountains and hills. The overall Oriental theme of the game gives it a unique setting, and as with the previous Annos, it feels like a completely new experience just because of that.

Despite being able to run on just 1GB of RAM and a DX9-capable video card with at least 128 MB of memory, Anno 1404 still requires a fairly capable CPU for some reason – you’ll need at least 3GHz of processing power to run it smoothly, especially when you get to the combat part which can put extra strain on the CPU due to the heavy use of particle effects and such.

Other

Anno 1404 still offers no multiplayer, which has been a commonly requested feature by fans of the series. Still, the single player should keep you well interested for long enough, and even after you’re finished with the campaign you’ll probably have a good desire to come back and do it once again, this time trying out different things.

Conclusion

Another solid installment in the Anno series, Anno 1404 proves that its developers are far from running out of ideas and should keep fans of the series satisfied for a good while.

Batman: Arkham Asylum Review

Games based on the Batman series have been hit-and-miss, as is the case with most movie/comic book-based video games. The newest one, Arkham Asylum though, immediately made an impression even before it was released – the amount of polish that was thrown in the game’s pre-release media made it obvious that this one has been designed a bit more carefully and sensibly. Batman fans and video game fans alike were, naturally, very excited about the upcoming release of the title.

Gameplay

Batman: Arkham Asylum puts the player in the feet of our favorite comic book character, who’s on the trail of his arch nemesis the Joker yet again. The game is played from a third person perspective, and is a combination of action and stealth – there are scenes where you’ll be mopping the floor with your enemies, reliving your favorite scene from a Batman movie in your head, but at some other points of the game, you’ll be forced to lay low and sneak behind your enemies’ backs if you are to survive.

It wouldn’t have a true Batman feeling if it wasn’t packed full of gadgets though – Batman: Arkham Asylum gives you access to a small arsenal of unique high-tech toys made by Batman himself, including the all-famous Batarang. The Riddler makes a cameo in several places as well, leaving the player clues to guide them through the levels. You’ll have to solve some puzzles from time to time, though nothing too challenging – and the main focus is on the action and stealth elements. Also, you have access to a “Detective Mode”, which is sometimes required in order to progress through a specific area.

Graphics and System Requirements

The developers have utilized the latest Unreal Engine 3.5, spicing it up with some PhysX support (those of you who’ve got a PhysX component in their computer should enjoy a lot more eye candy and better framerates). The game looks terrific, mimicking the noir feeling of the movies and comic books almost perfectly. The asylum has been designed with lots of imagination – even though it’s a cliched, beaten-to-death setting for creepy games, it still feels fresh in this one.

Arm yourself with at least a 2.8 GHZ dual core processor and 3 GB of RAM, plus an ATi HD 4770 or better if you want to fully enjoy this game though – it is quite heavy on the computer and will make it cringe in the heavier scenes if you’re not prepared accordingly.

Other

If you’re playing on a console and not on the PC, you sadly won’t get to enjoy the PhysX effects, as they’re PC-exclusive. You won’t be missing out on that much though, mostly small details like leaves floating around, pieces of clothing getting torn apart realistically, etc – certainly nothing that’s absolutely necessary to experience the game in its fullest.

Conclusion

Batman fans who haven’t played this yet better take a few days off and hit the couch with the joystick – because once you’ve started up Batman: Arkham Asylum for the first time, it can be pretty damn hard to let go.

Battlefield: Heroes Review

If you’re a fan of shooters, you’ve most likely played at least one Battlefield title in your lifetime – the games are known for providing intense warfare-style action, with each being set in a unique time period. The first BF took place in World War 2, followed by Battlefield: Vietnam and then Battlefield 2 which took the game to our current times making references to the war in Iraq.

Many fans were wondering where the series was headed for next, and certainly very few people expected this – Battlefield: Heroes is completely different from the previous ones in every way you can imagine.

Gameplay

The first thing you’re going to notice is the art style – the game is no longer realistically-themed like its predecessors, instead featuring a bright cartoony look – more on that in detail below. Another drastic change is that it’s completely free to play – it came out in roughly the same period as id Software’s Quake Live, another free-to-play title, and provided some healthy competition for it.

In BFH, you can create an account and start shooting up the place without having to pay a cent – however, if you want to get access to some of the cool-looking character customization parts, you’ll have to buy some “BattleFunds”, which cost real money.

Don’t worry though – cosmetic attributes are pretty much all money can get you, and they don’t give you any in-game advantage. The other thing you can spend your cash on are stronger variants of some of the weapons, but those can be bought with “Valor Points” as well, which you earn for free by just playing – the only difference is that buying them with BF frees you from having to play a certain number of hours a week in order to earn enough VP to keep them.

Graphics and System Requirements

Battlefield: Heroes is extremely stylized, featuring a vibrant and colorful art style. Some criticized it for looking too similar to Valve’s Team Fortress 2, but just a few looks at media from both games is enough for anyone to see the obvious difference – besides looking cartoony, the two have nothing in common and their styles are very unique. Battlefield: Heroes is a lot more cheerful and less serious than TF2, offering such items for customization like pirate and ninja clothes, stylish suits, jetpacks (cosmetic only) and even shoulder parrots.

Even though the game makes a heavy reference to World War 2 (for example, the two main sides are the Royals, who resemble the Allies very much, and the Nationals, who’re an obvious reference to the Nazis), its action takes place in a fictional setting, allowing the designers to include lots of items that don’t tie in with the WW2 period at all. The engine is extremely lightweight and the game runs at high framerates even on a notebook – which, combined with the fact that it’s free, makes it extremely available and in turn very popular.

Other

If you find BFH enjoyable and decide to stick around (which isn’t that hard, believe us), make sure you keep an eye out for special promotional codes which are distributed in various outlets (for example, gaming magazines) – they give you access to exclusive, limited items that can’t be obtained by any other means – make your friends jealous!

Conclusion

You literally have nothing to lose by giving Battlefield: Heroes a try, but be careful – just a few hours of comically crashing airplanes into enemy tanks can be enough to make you pull out your wallet and play dress-up with your soldier!

ArmA 2 Review

ArmA 2 is the sequel to ArmA: Armed Assault, and for those of you who haven’t heard of the title, it’s a military shooter that puts a strong accent on realism. The new game in the series raises the bar even further when it comes to realistically depicting the situation on a battlefield, and gives the player even more freedom of choice for completing the missions.

Gameplay

The single player campaign takes place in a fictional country with a modern-day setting, and spans over a small number of missions that can be completed in several hours by more experienced players. Most of the enjoyment from this title comes from its online play, which has been emphasized on very heavily. The game is very varied and realistic, offering more than 70-80 different weapons, each replicas of their real-life counterparts almost down to the bolt. Their behavior is simulated on a very good level as well, with bullets losing their speed over a long trajectory, forcing the player to “lead” their shots over distance.

There are also lots of vehicles available to the player at any time as well, ranging from civilian ones to military vehicles like tanks and jeeps, and even airplanes at some points. This may sound too similar to the Battlefield series for some, but you must play with ArmA 2′s vehicles to see what realism in a military game really means – the way they’re depicted is really impressive.

Graphics and System Requirements

The Real Virtuality 3 engine used isn’t very popular with developers, and there are only a handful of games using it. Still, it offers great graphics quality, especially when it comes to rendering particle effects, support for textures of very high resolutions and various grades of depth mapping, and also high-polygon models that give a sense of realism to everything.

The engine is highly optimized too, able to run on some older machines that would normally struggle with games of this age – if you lower your graphics settings appropriately, of course. The major bottleneck here seems to be the processor, which the engine is very demanding on – so if you want to get the most out of it and enjoy it with good, stable framerates, maybe you should consider investing in a better processor if your current one isn’t up to par.

Other

Those of you who enjoy mods (modifications for games) should find ArmA 2 to be quite delightful in this aspect, as it gives a great degree of freedom to modders, and the community is constantly coming out with new content for it, which attributes to the game’s longevity to a great extent and in case you get bored with the regular modes of play, you can just hop in a random mod and experience the game in a different manner.

Conclusion

Military shooters are quite numerous today – and some of the new ones seem to just tread on the same old roads, trying to milk gamers of their money by adding several new weapons and calling it a new game – and in that situation, ArmA 2 really shines with its uniqueness.

Bionic Commando Review

The newest Bionic Commando revives the series through a multitude of changes and improvements to the gameplay, the most notable of which was dropping the 2D sidescrolling premise and developing the game entirely in 3D. The final result is quite pleasing, as the game offers a delightful mix of action, adventure and exploration, while keeping the good, old-school platformer feeling despite no longer being confined to two dimensions.

Gameplay

Bionic Commando is played in 3D, with the character having various abilities that allow him to traverse the terrain with ease – the most notable of which is his “bionic arm”, which is primarily used for attacking but can also serve various other nifty purposes. To keep with the platformer style of play, falling damage has been completely removed, which has been explained by the character’s specialized boots. Some of the levels’ elements are designed to keep you moving along the main path, as otherwise the game could’ve become too non-linear, which wouldn’t have fit its style that well.

The storyline is a major aspect of Bionic Commando, and it’s been developed very deeply and intricately, managing to keep you guessing until the very end. The end of the game (we wouldn’t really count this as a spoiler) hints at a possible sequel, but nothing has been officially confirmed by the developers yet – so we guess we’ll have to wait and see about that, but if they manage to continue the story in an interesting enough way, they have our thumbs up for this.

Graphics and System Requirements

The game runs on the company’s own engine, called Diesel Engine – so far it’s only been featured in a handful of games, and Bionic Commando seems to represent it best so far – the advanced graphic effects can draw you to the screen with ease, and the level designers have really done their jobs well – the environments are rich and believable, and you feel truly immersed in the world that surrounds you, unlike what some other games achieve when they go for a linear plot.

In order to handle all this eye candy properly though, you’ll need the proper equipment if you’re a PC gamer – a relatively good computer is required to run Bionic Commando smoothly, and the engine isn’t particularly well-optimized for low-end hardware, so even though you can change a few graphics settings, you’ll still be left with mostly low framerates if your machine is a few years old.

Other

Be sure to give the multiplayer a go – it includes some of the classic game modes, like free for all deathmatch and team-based modes, and if you get bored after you’re done with the single player campaign, this should keep you interested for a good while afterwards.

Conclusion

Some of you may be a bit disappointed that they’re losing the sidescrolling aspect of the game – others will surely welcome the change and the innovations to the gameplay. Regardless of how you see the new style of gameplay, make sure you give Bionic Commando a try.

Champions Online Review

Massive multiplayer games are no longed limited to RPG titles, and it has been like that for a while now – as technology kept improving, developers were given new ways to incorporate massive worlds that can handle hundreds/thousands of players, yet still do this in a genre that requires more detail than an RPG – such as shooters, adventures, etc. Champions Online leans more towards the action genre, with lots of references to super heroes – and those of you familiar with the “Champions” comic books should already have a good idea of the premise of the game.

Gameplay

The game concentrates mainly on the action aspect, giving the player various ways to dispose of their enemies in direct combat. There is a good combo system that allows you to gain steady bonuses from consecutive hits, and the combat feels nice and smooth, despite the game being played online – a common problem with making online versions of fighter games is that lag can make all the difference between losing and failing, and a lot of players aren’t willing to sacrifice that much of their skill aspect – this isn’t a problem here though.

There are some very cool options for character customization, such as setting your own custom animations for your character, allowing it to move around in a manner entirely designed and customized by you. This is something unique in this genre, as we’ve never seen another game that offers such a fine degree of customizing your character and making it more personal – imagine giving your guy a “tough” walk and the appropriate outfit – and you can easily stand out from the rest.

Graphics and System Requirements

Some very eye-catching graphics await you at Champions Online, as the Game Tech engine allows for some great levels of detail, both on the characters and the surrounding environment. Fights are accompanied by the appropriate cool-looking effects, and you can easily recognize what attacks your enemy is using on you, or may be planning on using – allowing you to better coordinate your own style of play.

There are lots of references to popular culture as well, especially other games – if you’re an avid gamer, you should easily recognize some familiar characters, both as NPCs and probably as elements for character customization. It’s quite interesting to see someone reminiscent of Team Fortress 2′s Heavy Weapons Guy running around, or perhaps your favorite supervillain from a cartoon – you’re very likely to recognize such elements here.

Other

The game is for PC only, even though an Xbox 360 version was planned at one point, but it was canceled a few months before the PC version came out. Also, if you’ve played lots of RPGs before, you’re probably well-familiar with the HERO character creation system – the one used in Champions Online is very similar to it, and you should feel just at home picking your character’s traits and stats.

Conclusion

Champions Online is a delightful combination of solid action and deep RPG elements, all put together in a captivating world. It’s an experience you shouldn’t miss at any cost!

Cities XL Review

If you’ve played any of the SimCity games, then surely you’re familiar with the concept of a city building game. You control your own town, and are tasked with developing it and helping it prosper, by expanding the various zones and building better amenities. The game is suitable for those who enjoy a more relaxed style of playing, and should be perfect for you if you’re coming from the fanbase of another similar game.

Gameplay

Building your city’s zones is quite similar to the SimCity games, and you actually have the same three types of zones available – residential, commercial and industrial. In order for your city to be successful, you’ll have to cater to the masses’ demands, and build the appropriate types of zones that your city is lacking in – for example, if you want to open more job spots, you should concentrate on commercial and industrial zones, while you’ll also have to support the incoming residents appropriately by building residential zones.

There’s a good degree of realism to how the zones interact with each other, for example building a residential one right next to an industrial sector will cause the quality of life in that zone to decrease drastically, and with it the prices of apartments/land. You also need to select appropriate “classes” for the zones you’re building – that is, what grade of citizens may work/live there, from low to high.

Graphics and System Requirements

Cities XL is done in a 3D engine, which is only shared by the last game in the SimCity line. The graphics look moderately good, and if you zoom in close enough you’ll see a satisfying level of detail on the buildings and streets. There are realistic transitions in the weather, and the game feels really varied even if you play it for a long time.

The system requirements aren’t affected that largely by the game’s good looks, and you should be able to run it on even a moderately good computer – you’re provided with several options and settings that you can tweak to accommodate it to a low-end machine more accordingly. But generally, if you can run SimCity 4 without hitches, you shouldn’t experience any slowdowns in Cities XL either.

Other

The game used to feature online play with a monthly subscription at one point, though that was dropped due to lack of popularity/revenue. The multiplayer mode allowed you to visit the cities of other players and interact with them to some degree, plus it gave access to a new feature – the bus. After the service was shut down, the bus has been made available for the regular single player mode, so you can make use of it if you’re playing now.

Conclusion

It differs from SimCity 4 in many ways, but it also sticks to the basic formula that makes this type of games so successful – and while it could use the odd touch of polish here and there, it’s still a satisfying experience that should keep you entertained for a while.

Colin McRae: Dirt 2 Review

The Colin McRae series of video games has enjoyed tremendous popularity while it was active, releasing multiple games that have all been huge hits with racing fans. After the tragic death of Colin McRae himself though, the series was halted for a while and there were no new games on the market with his name. Colin McRae: Dirt 2 is the first to be released since then, and many fans were wondering what to expect after the pause, and whether the series has managed to retain its integrity.

Gameplay

The new Colin McRae puts an equal focus on multiplayer as well as singleplayer, and you can play all of the available game modes against computer-controlled opponents, or real live humans online. The feeling of the driving, and the overall level of immersion in the game, have been tremendously improved – the game’s powered by an all-new engine that can handle physics very realistically, so expect to be able to perform various real-life stunts that were previously not very easy to do due to limitations of the game’s technology.

Some of you will surely involve one of the new racing modes, Raid, which puts players behind the wheels of some very impressive-looking and quite largely sized machines, on medium-long races that will test your skills in some more unforgiving environments. There are also several extra game modes, and the overall replay value is very high and the game has a lot of potential for entertaining you.

Graphics and System Requirements

The new engine does its job perfectly when it comes to pleasing your eyes – you’ll see lots of effects, realistic collisions between the vehicles, and impressive representation of weather effects. The engine is especially capable when it comes to drawing detail over distance, as you’ll be able to see some very finely detailed elements of your surroundings even at longer ranges.

As you’re probably guessing though, this does come with its price – you won’t get to enjoy the new Colin McRae if you’re running on an old machine. Even the minimum requirements will leave some disappointed, so those of you who’re planning on playing it on the PC should prepare themselves with at least a Radeon HD 5750, or Nvidia’s equivalent which would be anything above their GeForce 400 series.

Other

The mobile versions of the game are somewhat stripped down as you might expect, but they still replicate the actual game quite closely. We were very impressed by the graphics the PSP version offers, as it managed to bring some very good-looking eye candy on the screen without compromising framerates in any way (though the loading times were somewhat longer than usual)

Conclusion

Rally fans have been waiting for this for quite a while – and if you’re one of them, then you should already be on your way to getting your hands on the new Colin McRae: Dirt 2 – it’s definitely worth every penny.

Return to Mysterious Island 2 Review

Who said the adventure genre was dead? The PC industry is certainly enjoying a great influx of titles in that department, one of the latest ones being Return to Mysterious Island 2. The game leaves off where the previous left, adding some twists to the story, and presents the player with some even more challenging and deep puzzles to go through, while at the same time unveiling an intriguing story moving the whole plot.

Gameplay

RTMI 2 doesn’t play much differently from other adventure games – its mechanics revolve mostly around a point and click system, where you have to explore various parts of the levels, find items, and figure out where those items go and which ones can be combined, etc.

At the beginning of the game, you’re presented with a short cutscene which explains what happened after the first one finished – those of you who’ve played the original Return to Mysterious Island probably remember that in the end, the main protagonist left off in a helicopter.

Well, it turns out that the helicopter was shot down shortly after, and not by any actual enemies but rather by the island’s volcano – so you inadvertently find yourself at the same place, trying to escape from it yet again. Another twist to the story is related to the volcano’s eruption – you’ll now be tasked with trying to save the island’s residents as well as freeing yourself from it.

Graphics and System Requirements

The graphics are executed well, though in some places you may spot a noticeable lack of detail, be it in a lower-resolution texture or poorly-detailed model. The main characters are modeled nicely on the other hand, each having its own unique charm and looks, and the monkey may look especially attractive to the younger players of the game. The island is designed very meticulously, with small pieces of details revealing the odd bit of information about it little by little.

It’s an adventure game, so you shouldn’t expect any slowdowns or framerate-related problems – quite the contrary, it handles its graphics nicely, from rendering the more massive scenes in the outside areas of the island, to drawing the indoor areas with great realism. It doesn’t require a modern-day computer to handle it well – you should actually be able to run it on a medium-class notebook and still get satisfying results.

Other

Some of the puzzles may come off as a bit hard, and you won’t be alone in that impression – many players have shared frustration over how difficult it is to get past certain areas, and you’ll probably be forced to resort to a walkthrough every now and then, especially if you’re not familiar with the adventure genre in general. We didn’t have problems finishing the game to the end though, so rest assured that it’s not impossible.

Conclusion

The good old days of pixelated 2D adventure games are over for sure – so we should enjoy what we have left. And Return to Mysterious Island 2 is a decent continuation of the adventure genre, despite its slight bugs and flaws.