Kapow! Right in the kisser

So then, Kapow! Comic-Con. My first ever Comic-Con, and although i was only able to attend the Saturday, what an event it was. You may be thinking, this is a gaming blog, what relevance has a Comic-Con to that? Well, thanks to IGN, plenty.

IGN Arena

Upon handing in my ticket, the first attraction on offer is the IGN arena, complete with master of ceremonies for the day, Christian Stevenson, who kept the upbeat mood going very well. The IGN arcade, complete with 10 Xbox 360’s and various games, including WWE All-Stars (perfect opportunity to experience the over the top action firsthand) and Portal 2 (which i missed out on, but looks excellent), kept many occupied throughout, along with exclusive Dirt 3 and Operation Flashpoint: Red River sections, which were also welcome.

WWE All-Stars is great fun, but technically not great and out of date. But i do love the exaggeration angle the game plays; it’s almost a parody of itself. You think those moves look painful choreographed in the ring on TV, wait till you see these babies.

Don't try this at home. I dare you.

IGN were also offering the chance to ‘man up’ as it were and attempt the fastest lap on Dirt 3, Top Gear style. I admit i chicken-ed out on this opportunity, but nevertheless, it looked fun.

The most exciting gaming experience of the day came with my first ever 3DS experience. After being shown the basics by the lovely ladies of Nintendo, i got my hands on one (not a lady), firstly on Nintendogs, which doesn’t interest me in the slightest i’m sorry to say, but the 3D on the game looked amazing. Later on in the day i got my hands on Super Street Fighter IV, which was excellent, the Circle Pad feeling so natural, along with the D-Pad offering the usual, natural feel that Nintendo have always been so good at.

Along with both Insert Coin Tees and Retro GT providing excellent gaming t-shirts, and even video game branded energy drinks, there was plenty for the gaming world to behold at Kapow!

Comics:-

I love comics. I have read them for as long as i can remember. My first memory was buying Adventures of Superman #445 years ago when on holiday in Great Yarmouth. It’s one of those memories that stays with you until the end of your time, and, for me, Kapow! was another. This was my first taste of anything like it, i suppose like many in the UK, as there hasn’t been anything like it before.

There was so much on offer, great stalls selling comics, graphic novels, most at reduced prices, along with action figures, framed artwork, and plenty more. I got myself a copy of Superboy: Boy of Steel HC, along with The Avengers Volume 1 HC. The latter, along with issue 1 of said Avengers comic, signed by the artist, ones of Marvel’s best ever, John Romita Jr, who was a pleasure to meet. Definitely the highlight of the day for me.

The DC Superstar Creator Q+A was also excellent. 4 geniuses behind table, a 100+ in the audience asking whatever we wanted. Awesome. Frank Quitely (Vincent Deighan) and Paul Cornell were really funny, and refreshingly laid back and honest. I took the opportunity just after to speak with the DC Comics sales person (forgot his name), regarding the lack of DC Animated feature films released in the UK, particular as All-Star Superman was referenced quite a bit in the Q+A. Hopefully something will be done about this. But i digress.

An event such as this can only be good for the UK entertainment industry, whichever of the media was on show. It was such a great day, and will do it all over again next year. TTFN.

Wrestling games; fun, but shouldn’t be {Part 2}

WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2008

After the introduction of new gameplay and several new features in SVR 2007, this edition delivered very little in addition to that. The main push of this game was the introduction of the ECW brand, and its own roster. The combat system was also altered to include ‘styles’, such as Powerhouse, Dirty, Brawler, etc. For example, a hardcore style wrestler will gain lots more momentum from using weapons instead of regular attacks. These styles unfortunately make for very unbalanced combat (surprise), and were always more fun to be dirty/hardcore anyway. These styles were however tweaked for future releases in a more productive manner.

There were alterations/additions to the game modes once again, with a tournament mode added, such as Beat the Clock, and King of the Ring, which was resurrected in WWE TV that year also. Season Mode and General Manager Mode were merged into WWE 24/7 mode, with the aim being to transform your chosen wrestler into a legend. Training, matches and even rest was manageable, but not without an adverse effect on your character, but once again, it is mostly a breeze for the most basic of players.

“I had onions for lunch”

Roster wise, as usual a few changes here and there, mostly down to the aforementioned ECW roster, but most notably, the first WWE game since SD: Shut your mouth to include Jeff Hardy, as he began his quite remarkable rise through the company at the second attempt.

This game is really only for WWE completion-ists, and, although some of the skills and attributes is the most redundant of the next gen WWE titles.

Wrestling games; fun, but shouldn’t be {Part 1}

WWE games have forever existed on one format or another, or many at once, in the case of the Smackdown VS Raw series, for as long as, well, any of us will probably remember. In the previous generation of consoles, a differently developed WWE title was released for each; the Smackdown series was always Sony’s package, ultimately becoming the Smackdown VS Raw series of today. The Xbox had the largely inferior and clunky Raw series, which was abandoned after 2 titles. Finally, the Gamecube had, in my opinion, the best wrestling game of that generation in Day of Reckoning and its sequel. (I’ve completely ignored Wrestlemania X8, it was that bad).

All the above games from came from THQ, who still have the license to this day, with the imminent release of WWE All-Stars, just in time for Wrestlemania this weekend. So, enough of the history lesson, here is my run down of each next-gen WWE game to date.

WWE Smackdown VS Raw 2007

The first of the next-gen WWE games was a brief reinvention for the series, but not without its problems. Presentation was improved significantly, in line with the jump in console power, and the grapple system had a total overhaul, making analogue sticks the tool for executing quick and strong grapples. It took some getting used to at the time of its inception; but is a system that some may now consider, especially 5 incarnations on, to be largely out-dated. Even with this better control system, the AI was still very easy to overcome, even on Legend difficulty, and the General Manager mode is tedious more than anything, and ultimately, not very rewarding. Match types were increased by bringing in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, now a popular yearly event in WWE television, and is brilliant fun with a few mates round. There was also the introduction of ‘hot-spots’, where in key places around the ring, such as the ring post, a grapple icon will appear. Once activated, a cut-off animation will show your opponent (or even yourself, should you be on the receiving end) being thrown in the ring post, or other item around the ring. This incarnation also introduced fighting ‘in the crowd’, which, in reality, is a weapon-filled area over the crowd barrier in the top right of the screen, but is largely pointless.

The create a wrestler mode is not much different, but instead other create modes have been included/improved. Create an entrance has been improved, allowing full control from the video screen, to the pyrotechnics used. There is a create a championship mode, allowing the creation of any title belts you desire, and then fight for them. Stables can also be created/amended, and can be adjusted based on experience points obtained in season mode, to be more efficient as a team.

As usual, the roster is usually out of date in some form when the game is released, as characters change, leave, be recruited so are missing, and, in the case of SVR 2007, die. This is the final WWE game to feature Chris Benoit, due to his untimely and controversial death in 2007, a few months after the games release.  This is also Kurt Angle’s final WWE game, in fact he had already been released before the game’s release, as well as Lita, who had retired in the month of the game’s release.

Overall the game is still one of the best in the series, and, like most of these titles, plenty of fun on multi player, but far too easy in single player. But these games are all about being your favourite (or not so favourite) WWE idol, not much more.

Severed heaven

1st of March saw the release of my first DLC must for this year so far, Dead Space 2: Severed. Which i thought was very good indeed, but very short. It’s 2 chapter-length plays through as fast as the first 2 chapters of its parent game, but even so, what is there is quality. Severed follows Gabe Weller from Dead Space: Extraction (annoyingly not available on Xbox 360), as he rushes frantically around the Sprawl to ensure his wife Lexine flees to safety from the Sprawl’s necromorph outbreak. The story elements, much like the main game, are told very well, and certainly drew me in. I wanted Gabe to succeed, and i made sure he did. In only 1 hour. I felt disappointed by the length of the DLC, am i being harsh? I haven’t purchased any DLC content since Fallout 3, but they certainly had more on offer, and didn’t cost that much more. I do hope there is more Dead Space 2 DLC, even with my misgivings about this one; as i would still purchase any future content.

Dead Space 2 – Sprawling into your life

So then, another great sequel hits the market. Make no mistake, the original Dead Space is excellent, and still well worth investing in, although not required before the follow-up, courtesy, plot wise at least, of a recap video available from the title menu.

Synopsis –  Dead Space protagonist Isaac Clarke awakes in the Sprawl,   a densely populated metropolis built on a shard of Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, with no memory from the last 3 years. He is, however, in the hospital, complete with strait-jacket, and subsequently released, which ties in perfectly to the story from Dead Space: Ignition, the XBLA/PSN puzzle game, told in a motion comic format. The Sprawl is now the latest location for the Necromorph outbreak, courtesy of the man-made Marker, which Isaac must again survive.

Watch them kids, they’ll ave ya

Visuals – Improved on the original, and it’s worth noting straight from the off that Dead Space now identifies Isaac Clarke   the man, no longer just an engineer, but a character that can be related to. Any character/story development scenes are told as Isaac removes his helmet, with really cool, Transformer-like animation. So now we see Isaac Clarke’s face throughout the game, with the modelled actor for each character also providing the voice, which brings a level of realism, and certainly believable enough character’s to empathise with.

Sounds – One of the best attributes of the original game, it’s more of the same in the sequel, if not better. Jason Graves’s soundtrack is fantastic – as haunting as any horror/thriller soundtrack can be. The voice acting is also very competent, and they bring a level of realism, and certainly believable enough character’s to empathise with throughout the game. The atmosphere created by the aforementioned soundtrack is that of tension, and you certainly feel it as you progress through the game. The different variations of necromorphs encountered during the game, such as Stalkers, for example, instil their own measure of fear and panic into the gamer, whether it be charging at you screaming, or spying from behind crates, making enough sound just so you know you’re in for a rough ride in a particular section of the game. Well worth turning the sound up/having surround sound for this one if possible. It must be noted also, that the sound effect for the removal/remounting of Isaac’s helmet is also very cool.

Gameplay – The first Dead Space felt a little fiddly at first, especially when frantically trying to heal yourself in battle, for example. This has been remedied here – on Xbox 360 for example, this has been moved from ‘X’ to ‘B’, to use any healing containers currently in your inventory. Known as quick heal (there is also an achievement/trophy for using this 10 times); this mechanic is also used to replenish static charge in the same way, albeit a different button of course. It certainly feels a lot more natural this way, as does reloading your weapon, which is easier also.

This allows more concentration on the action at hand – of that there is plenty, particularly on the harder difficulty settings. It’s as frantic as the first Dead Space, in fact even more so, with a good variation of enemies, each with their own unique abilities and tactics, and at times prove to be very formidable foes, echoing the fact that you truly are alone in the Sprawl.

Overall – This game is what sequels are all about. Everything has been improved, the graphics, the sound, the story, the added bonus of the multiplayer, and all this does not detract from the core feel of the original, and what that such a good game. I don’t replay though many games, but I will certainly attempt the challenge of hardcore and zealot difficulty levels, the former only allowing 3 saves and NO checkpoints. In short, well worth the purchase, go get it!