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Friday, September 25, 2009


Batman: Arkham Asylum is an action-adventure stealth video game based on DC Comics' Batman for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. It was developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Eidos Interactive in conjunction with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and DC Comics. The PS3 and Xbox versions of the game were released on August 25, 2009 in North America and August 28, 2009 in Europe.[5][6], and the PC version was released on September 15 and 18 of the same year, in North America and Europe, respectively. Square Enix announced that it would publish the game in Japan for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in Spetember.[2]

Batman: Arkham Asylum, written by veteran Batman writer Paul Dini, is based on the long-running comic book mythos, as opposed to most other Batman games which are adaptations of the character in other media besides the source material. The Joker, Batman's archenemy, has instigated an elaborate plot from within Arkham Asylum where many of Batman's other villains have been incarcerated. Batman investigates and comes to learn that the Joker is trying to create an army of Bane-like creatures that threaten Gotham City, and is forced to put a stop to the Joker's plans. Much of the game's characters are voiced by actors from the DC animated universe, in particular Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Arleen Sorkin reprise their roles as Batman, the Joker, and Harley Quinn, respectively. The game is played as a third-person perspective action-adventure game with a primary focus on Batman's physical combat abilities, his stealth skills to take out opponents quietly, detective skills, and an arsenal of gadgets that can be used in both combat and exploration.


Batman uses detective mode to solve puzzles and follow enemies otherwise unseen throughout the game.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is played as an over-the-shoulder, third-person perspective action-adventure game, similar to Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space.[9][10] The player controls Batman as the masked vigilante makes his way around the island and structures of Arkham Asylum. In addition to running, jumping and crouching, Batman is also able to glide from heights using his cape, and use his grappling hook to ascend short heights or escape and hide from foes on gargoyle statues. In order to track Joker and other archenemies, the player can switch in and out of "detective mode" which activates special visors in Batman's Cowl.[11] In this mode, most of the game world is rendered in darker colors, but objects of interest and people are highlighted, including limited x-ray ability to detect the location of people. Special objects that Batman can interact either directly or with a number of gadgets that are gained over the course of the game are also highlighted. The detective mode can automatically be switched to special scanning modes to track the presence of compounds, fingerprints, and other unique data, which are used to direct the player to the next location to explore.[12]

Gadgets include the batarang, an explosive compound sprayer and detonator, grappling gun, and a frequency scanner that can be used to overload security panels.[12] Some of these can be used both during normal exploration of the game world as well as in combat. The game world, though presented in a linear path, allows for exploration at any time, and recently-acquired gadgets can often be used to access areas that were previously inaccessible. Exploration of the world is prompted by items and clues left by The Riddler for Batman to find; in addition to objects to be collected, some of the Riddler's riddles require the player to seek the item in that area that is the answer to a riddle and scan it with Batman's visor.[9] Solving theses riddles unlocks special content for the game, including challenge levels that tests the player's skill at the game's free-form and "predatory" combat system, as well as character bios, patient interviews and detailed character trophies. Riddles, as well as defeating foes, also lead to experience points, which can then be spent on several possible upgrades to Batman's arsenal, as well as his health and moveset, at any time.


The game uses a "Freeflow" combat system,[12] accomplished by using three primary buttons: attack, stun and takedown.[10] used to emphasize the primarily-physical system of combat that Batman employs. Additionally, Batman is able to use Batarangs and his Bat-Claw as supplemental combat tools which can help to extend combos. Countering opponent's attacks can also extend this combo; a brief indicator is shown when playing at lower difficulties to indicate when an opponent is ready to attack. By chaining regular and counter-attacks in combos, the player can build up a special experience point multiplier, which increases further if timed well. When this surpasses a specific threshold, the player then has access to an additional special attack that can quickly take down a single foe. Batman can take damage from his foes, and can be knocked out or killed should it fall too low; when combat is completed, Batman regains a portion of his health related to the experience earned in combat. As the game progresses, the player will come up against opponents with knives and stun prods that require different tactics to deal with, as well as Titans that can be ridden on to attack other enemies. Certain enemies will also try to get their hands on guns, requiring the player to stop them from doing so.

The player can also employ "Predator"-type tactics through stealth to improve the odds in their favor. This includes silent takedowns by sneaking up on foes, dropping from overhead perches and snatching a foe into mid-air, or using the explosive compound on destructible objects to knock foes off their feet. Some areas features sections that require the player to employ these tactics to avoid alerting Joker's henchmen and failing to meet an objective. Harder areas, such as the Extreme challenge maps, put explosives on gargoyles generally used to escape out of sight, requiring players to be more stealthy and cautious of their surroundings.


The Joker attacks Gotham City's Mayor's office, but is foiled by Batman, who escorts him for incarceration at Arkham Asylum. The same night, a mysterious fire at Gotham City's Blackgate Prison has caused several hundred prisoners to be temporarily relocated to Arkham, many of whom were among the Joker's most recent crew. As Batman escorts the guards taking the Joker inside, the asylum's security is overridden by Harley Quinn and the Joker is able to escape and take control of the facility, enlisting the Blackgate prisoners in addition to other rogue characters imprisoned at the asylum. Batman quickly realizes that this has been part of Joker's plan including the Blackgate fire, having double-crossed a security guard to help him escape. The Joker threatens to blow up bombs scattered around Gotham City should anyone attempt to enter Arkham, forcing Batman to work alone; however, Batman is able to rely on Commissioner Gordon and other loyal guards, after Batman is able to free them, to help secure prisoners he has defeated, and Oracle is able to guide him through the Asylum over the radio. Batman is able to gain access to an adjunct of the Batcave he had set up years ago on the island, and is able to use his sleuthing skills to learn of Joker's plan. It is eventually revealed that the Joker is seeking a chemical called Titan that is produced in the asylum, which is based on the same chemical that Bane uses to become super-powerful, though the Titan formula is much more potent. Not only does the Joker plan to use it on the various Blackgate inmates to create an unstoppable army, he plans to dump the waste product into Gotham's water supply, which could have disastrous effects on the city. This also has the side effect of causing Poison Ivy's plants to mutate and take over the island.

Batman, after defeating several of his archenemies, is able to return to the Batcave to create an antidote to Titan, and uses it to destroy the mutated plant life and put a stop to Joker's army. With all of his henchmen defeated, the Joker invites Batman to his "party", where Batman sees Joker holding and manipulating Scarface and sitting upon a throne of mannequins. Joker then reveals that he has recaptured Gordon and attempts to shoot Gordon with a Titan-filled dart. Batman jumps in front of it, taking the injection himself. With Batman attempting to resist the change, Joker feels defeated. He shoots himself with the Titan gun and becomes a massive monster. Joker proudly displays himself to news choppers before Batman defeats him in a final battle. As he transforms back to normal and is taken back to his cell, the staff regains control of the asylum. Batman then hears that Two-Face is robbing the Second National Bank of Gotham. Batman summons the Batwing, and flies away towards Gotham. Following the credits a box stamped with the word Titan is seen floating in the water, upon which a hand (that randomly alternates between Scarecrow, Killer Croc, and Bane) rises from the water and grabs the box.


Batman performs a glide kick on Victor Zsasz.

Batman[13], along with allies Oracle[13] and Commissioner Gordon[13] appear in the game. In addition to the Joker, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy,[14] Batman encounters other foes. Batman is forced to defend himself from an enraged Bane,[15] sneak up on Mr. Zsasz before he can harm innocent guards and doctors,[16] battle his way through hallucinogen-induced nightmares brought about by the Scarecrow,[11][17][18] and silently collect samples from Ivy's plants located in Killer Croc's lair without disturbing Croc.[19] The Riddler does not appear in the game, but communicates to Batman to challenge him to find the hidden clues he has placed around the island.[13][20] Other Batman allies and enemies are presented in the game as character information that can be unlocked from finding the Riddler's clues, often by finding objects or areas based on that character such as a collection of umbrellas (representing The Penguin) or posters revolving around Two-Face.

Several voice actors reprise their roles from the DC Animated Universe TV shows. In particular, Batman is voiced by Kevin Conroy,[11] the Joker by Mark Hamill,[21] and Harley Quinn by Arleen Sorkin,[11] who voiced these parts in Batman: The Animated Series.


The story was co-written by Paul Dini (Batman: The Animated Series, Detective Comics)[11] while Wildstorm crafted the appearances of the characters.[11] The game is based on the 70-year Batman franchise as a whole rather than being tied to any particular media adaptation. Arkham runs on Epic Games Unreal Engine 3.[23][24][25] The Windows version makes use of Microsoft's Windows Live service, allowing players to earn gamerscore, as well as the nVidia PhysX engine for improved physics.[4] In April 2009 ads began appearing in the PlayStation Network service advertising the ability to play as the Joker.[26] IGN later confirmed that the Joker would be available for the PS3 as a free download from PlayStation Store,[27] but would only be playable in the challenge maps.[27][28] PlayStation 3 players can unlock the Batcave Outpost personal apartment as well as Batman's suit, gadgets, and the Batmobile for use in the PlayStation Home online community.[29] A demo of the game was released on the PlayStation Store on August 6, 2009 and Xbox Live and PC on August 7.[30] According to the news ticker on the game's main menu screen, Rocksteady has announced that new free DLC will be available on September 17, 2009. [31] The first DLC is the 'Insane Night' Map Pack, which features the 'Totally Insane' FreeFlow Combat map and the 'Nocturnal Hunter' Predator map. The second free pack, 'Prey In The Darkness', was released on September 23, 2009, containing two more maps. The downloadablce content is only available for the PlayStation 3. [32]

A Collector's Edition has been released by GameStop.[33] The package features a 14 inch Batarang in the style of the game, a 50 page character journal, a bonus disc which includes interviews with voice actors, an exclusive Crime Alley challenge map, and a Batarang Box Set.[34] Additionally, an exclusive preorder challenge map from Gamestop was announced called Dem Bones. It places Batman under the influence of Scarecrow's 'fear toxin' causing him to hallucinate and all the enemies to be seen as skeletons. [35]


NFS Shift

Need for Speed: Shift is the 13th installment of the long-running racing video game franchise Need for Speed published by Electronic Arts. It was announced in January 2009 as part of a three-game announcement that includes Need for Speed: Nitro and Need for Speed: World Online.[3] Shift was developed by Slightly Mad Studios—who, under their former name Blimey! Games helped develop GT Legends and GTR 2 together with SimBin Studios. In the new franchising model for the series adopted by EA, Shift takes its place focusing on simulation racing and realistic drifting rather than the arcade racing of previous titles in the series. It abandons the street racing formula of previous games and focuses on simulating the "true" driver experience


[hide]System Requirements

Operating System Windows XP (Service Pack 3) or Windows Vista (Service Pack 1) / Windows 7
CPU Intel Core 2 Duo 1.6 GHz or faster
Memory 1.0 GB (Windows XP)

1.5 GB (Windows Vista/Windows 7)

Hard Drive Space 6 GB of free space
Graphics Hardware ATI Radeon X1800 XT 512MB or greater, NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GT 256MB or greater.
Sound Hardware DirectX 9.0c compatible
Network 512 Kbps or faster
Input Device(s) DualShock 3, Xbox 360 controller
keyboard, mouse, Wheel
In-game screenshot.[4]

According to an interview from Shift's producer, Geever, the game has been in development for two years. He also mentioned that the game will feature a new "Driver experience". G-force will play an important role in the game, as it will affect both the player and the AI. The in-car view will also return, making its first appearance in a Need for Speed game since Porsche Unleashed. The in-car view will be highly detailed, and it will be possible to see the driver changing gears and moving his head to get a better view of the mirror. The crashes will affect the players visuals. While crashing, there will be a temporary blur on screen. The sound aspect will have detailed car crash sound, as well as a sharp gasp of breath from the driver before a collision. [3]


Car customization

The car customization options will include cosmetics as well as performance mods and will be more in depth, affecting aspects such as alignment, aerodynamics, tires, brakes, differential, and gears.[5] Nitrous will also be an option for tuning, but different from previous Need for Speed games as it will be simulated more realistically.[5] It will be also possible to customize both the interior and the exterior of the car.


The game will also feature both fictitious tracks and real-life tracks such as Brands Hatch.[3]

Race types

Races types in Need For Speed: Shift range from traditional circuit races, Point-to point sprints & Time trials to specialized race events like Drifting events and Car battle modes.


  • Physics model of NFS: Shift is based on those of the “Ferrari Project”
  • Eero Piitulainen of Richard Burns Rally has developed a totally new tyre-physics model which is mainly responsible for the new physics
  • The difference between the 3 physics-models is in assist levels, while the lowest setting will provide around 10% of more tyre grip for beginners
  • Professional setting will require a wheel in order to successfully manage throttle/braking and steering inputs
  • Shift will feature different car classes - from normal cars like the Golf GTI up to racing cars like the Aston Martin DBR9
  • All cars can be upgraded and tuned from the inside-out
  • Most tracks are licensed European and American circuits with few fictional tracks
  • There will be few city-circuits
  • Head-physics is the key difference point to other titles[6]
  • The career mode will span over a total of 125 events


The game features 72 fully-licensed cars, ranging from classic cars to modern sport cars. Cars in the game include the Bugatti Veyron, Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Pagani Zonda, Corvette Z06, Ford GT, Honda S2000, Mazda RX-7 FD, Nissan Skyline GT-R 34 and Toyota AE86. [7] Electronic Arts announced on May 29 that the featured car for the cover of the game would be the 2009 BMW M3 GT2.[8


The soundtrack of Shift will remain similar to that of EA's prior driving sim, Need for Speed: ProStreet, featuring a scored soundtrack rather than a general track list[9] as is seen in previous titles such as Need for Speed: Most Wanted, and Need for Speed: Carbon. Below is the list of the game's soundtrack[10]:

Need for Speed: Shift soundtrack
# Title Artist Length
1. "Kalemba (Wegue-Wegue)" (feat. Pongolove) Buraka Som Sistema
2. "Pieces" (feat. Plan B) Chase & Status
3. "Ghosts N Stuff" Deadmau5
4. "Anything 'Cept the Truth" Eagles of Death Metal
5. "Insight (The Nextmen Remix)" (feat. Asheru) Fort Knox 5
6. "I Dread the Night" Gallows
7. "This Time We Stand" In Case of Fire
8. "Pull Up" Jamal
9. "Paranoid (Part 2)" Kanye West
10. "Underdog" Kasabian
11. "The Streets are Ours" The King Blues
12. "Te Convierto" Mala Rodriguez
13. "Mean Street" Mando Diao
14. "Click Click" (feat. E-40) MSTRKRFT
15. "Whachadoin?" (feat. Spank Rock, M.I.A., Santigold, and Nick Zinner) N.A.S.A.
16. "Run With the Wolves" The Prodigy
17. "Lost Weekend" (feat. Mike Patton) The Qemists
18. "Transmitter" Regular John
19. "Under Control" Rootbeer
20. "Electro 411 (Lies in Disguise Mix)" Shinichi Osawa
21. "Baditude" Spoon Harris & Obernik
22. "Dogonim" Tokio
23. "Oh What Have You Done" Twisted Wheel
24. "High Life" (feat. Sway) Two Fingers


In addition to the standard edition, a Special Edition of Need For Speed: Shift will be released. The Special Edition features numerous bonuses over the standard edition, including exclusive packaging, a Need For Speed: Shift poster, and an unlockable car and race which are redeemable online.[11]

To promote the game in Australia, a TV special, Need For Speed: Shift Challenge was broadcast on One HD before the game's release. The special pitted two teams of Australian athletes against each other in both the game and at Oran Park Raceway.[12]


Tuesday, December 2, 2008


With its staggeringly impressive 250 additions and enhancements, Electronic Arts’ launch of FIFA09 has made football gaming fans around the globe sit up and take notice, and it seems that FIFA is now a serious challenge to its main rival, Pro Evolution Soccer.
With the use of real life current data, players are now passing and running in the style of their real life counterparts, with superbly realistic collisions taking the game up to a whole new level. John Erikson of is particularly impressed by the animations of the players when they are off ball, running into free space, and calling for the ball, and I agree that this does add some stunning realism to the game.
Not only do players now act like the real life footballers, but they also look like them. The close-to-reality feel of the game is enhanced with the host of leagues that are now included, from the English Premier League to the German Bundesliga, which will surely give the game strong appeal to football fanatics worldwide. The audio of the supporters is very effective too, with the fans of different teams doing their particular chants.
The feel of the online play of FIFA09 is refreshingly free from time lag, and compares very well with PES. All this means better ball movement, and better teamwork.
The sheer accuracy of the FIFA09 has led to rave reviews, and if you are in the market for a football game, it is now a pretty tough call to decide between FIFA and PES. Paul Vale, of the UK newspaper The Daily Star, is one critic that feels that his allegiance has now changed, describing FIFA09 as “one of the most complete sports simulations ever created”, citing the game’s smoothness.
With the launch of FIFA09, FIFA has thrown down the gauntlet to PES.


The Good:
Plenty of cop chases
Instantly join races with press of a button
Doesn't take long before you're driving a cool car.
The Bad:
Lots of quirks and nagging gameplay issues
Emulates Most Wanted, but doesn't necessarily improve upon it
Story isn't much to get excited about.
For the most part, the reaction to the last few Need for Speed games was the same: "Why aren't they more like Need for Speed Most Wanted?" "Where are the cheesy cutscenes and the over-the-top cop chases?" It seems as if EA heard those cries, because for better or for worse, Need for Speed Undercover feels like Most Wanted.
In Undercover you play the role of...wait for undercover officer. Along with agent Chase Linh, played by the attractive Maggie Q, your job is to take down a group of street racers that have somehow become involved in an international smuggling ring. The story is told via campy cutscenes that fail to capture the charm of Most Wanted thanks to uninteresting characters and a predictable plot. Having a story provides incentive to make it through race after race, but the whole "this is cheesy so it's cool" thing feels kind of forced this time around.

It won't be easy, we'll have to use our powers of acting to take down the street racers.
Like many other Need for Speed games, all of your racing will take place on the streets of a fictitious open-world city--here it's the Tri-City Bay area. You'll start with a lousy vehicle, but it won't be long before you're able to snag a pink slip to a nicer ride. As you progress you'll earn cash, which can be used to unlock (50+) new vehicles from manufacturers such as Nissan, Dodge, Cadillac, Ford, Porsche, Lamborghini, BMW, Aston Martin, Mitsubishi, and more. If you're into tuning individual aspects of your ride or purchasing individual parts you can do that, but if you're not into tinkering you can purchase an upgrade package and be on your way.
Not only will you earn money for winning an event, you'll earn driving points for dominating it--basically beating it really, really bad. You can power up a number of your driving attributes, but they don't have a noticeable effect on how your car handles. As long as you drive fast you'll probably dominate, but there are occasional races where you'll totally obliterate the time needed to dominate an event, but you'll still lose to the CPU. The game also encourages you to drive with style and drift, draft, and drive really close to other cars, but other than increasing your nitrous there's little to gain from doing so. That said, the new J-Turn mechanic, which lets you bust quick 180s, is invaluable when chasing down rivals or evading the cops. You'll use it because it's useful, though, not because it gets you heroic driving points.
The cops are back in full effect in Undercover, and for the most part, their return is welcome. The challenges in which you must ram and take out a certain number of police cars are great fun, as are the challenges where you must cause a certain monetary sum of damage. Of course, you don't always have to ram cars to take them down; you can also run into log trucks, electrical towers, billboards, and more to leave a little surprise for your pursuers. It's too bad that some odd quirks hamper the cop chases. The environmental hazards that you can unleash certainly look cool and are effective, but quite often you won't see any police cars get hit by the objects, yet when the cutscene ends the cars are trashed. Sometimes you won't have to do anything at all to evade police--the game says "go" and you stay still and nobody finds you. Cops are capable of laying down spikes, but you can go the entire game without them ever doing so. The biggest problem, however, is that the cops don't do much other than bang on the side of your car and yell at you, so if you last long enough they sort of fade away on their own. This makes the chases less challenging than they could have been and also makes them feel artificial, like you're just fulfilling some sort of time requirement until the game decides you've done well enough to escape.
Undercover isn't just about messing with the Man. There are events where you need to maintain a lead for a specific amount of time or get a certain distance ahead of your opponent. Sometimes you'll have to shake the cops while trying to keep a stolen ride in pristine condition, and there are checkpoint races and circuit races as well. There's not a whole lot that's original here and the races are generally extremely easy--you might not see another car for an entire race once you've cleared the starting line. They're difficult on occasion, but this is usually because of the occasionally choppy frame rate, which makes the otherwise great-handling vehicles a chore to drive when it rears its head. What's odd is that there's really no obvious reason for the game's sometimes poor frame rate; the city doesn't look much different than those in Carbon and Most Wanted.

You might not want to crash into a cop car in real life, but here, it's all good.
That said, the game does do a few things very well. The online cops and robbers mode, where the robber tries to pick up money and take it to a drop-off point while another person plays the cop and tries to ram them, is quite a bit of fun. But mostly what the game gets right is its pacing. The races are short--sometimes as short as 20 seconds, and almost never longer than five minutes. Another cool thing the game does is it lets you instantly jump to the closest race by pressing down on the D pad. If you want to find a specific event you can press up and you're taken to a GPS map, where you can instantly go to the race of your choice. It'll save you a lot of needless backtracking, and combined with the short races, makes sure that Undercover never gets boring.
If you're one of the many people who loved Need for Speed Most Wanted, flaws and all, you'll find a lot to like in Undercover. It's not very original, but there's no denying that it's just good fun to run from the cops and wreak havoc on a city in the process.


After a wildly successful tour of duty in the modern era, Activision's Call of Duty series heads back to the 1940s with World at War, a WWII-focused shooter that attempts to do many of the same things that the previous game did, but in a different time period. It's interesting to watch those different facets of a modern game as they're molded to fit into an earlier conflict, and it works better than you'd probably think. At times, though, it still feels like a knockoff of a better game.
The game's campaign splits time between two different fronts. For half the game, you'll play as an American Marine taking on Japanese forces as you push from their forward island bases all the way back to Okinawa. The other half puts you in Russian boots as you strike back against the Germans, pushing them out of the motherland and sieging Berlin. You know, just like the real thing! Like the previous game, the campaign jumps back and forth between the two perspectives. So you'll play a level or two as one guy, swap to the other for a bit, then swap back. This keeps up over the course of the game's 13 missions.
The campaign provides a good amount of first-person shooter variety, but it excels when the levels are wide open and all hell is breaking loose around you. There are more than a few moments where you're charging against an entrenched enemy, and the game does a good job of making these moments feel appropriately chaotic. You'll also see the requisite vehicle sequence and some up-close indoor battles. Overall, there really aren't any surprises coming out of the single-player--it's a quality single-player campaign from beginning to end.
You can also play the campaign mode cooperatively with up to three other players joining you via system link or over the Internet. Most of the cues for this aspect of World at War seem to come from Halo 3's co-op. You can enable competitive scoring, which makes you want to kill everyone before your partners can. You can also find and unlock "death cards" in each level. Each one you collect lets you enable a little modification in future co-op matches. These are, essentially, the skulls from Halo 3. Some of these cards let you fire explosive pistol rounds while you're downed, or make it so your enemies only die when you shoot them in the head. This gives the co-op some pretty decent options. Still, it's a little jarring that the game dumps you back to the lobby after every mission, instead of letting you just keep on playing with no breaks.

Black-and-white footage abounds!
The competitive multiplayer probably has the best chance of roping you in for hours and hours. This portion of the game feels like a really well-made mod for Call of Duty 4 that replaces all of the modern stuff with World War II stuff. Most of the things from COD4 are represented in some way. Instead of calling in radar when you get a three-kill streak, you can call in a recon plane... which has the exact same effect of showing dots on your map that represent enemy locations. Since helicopters and World War II don't mix, they've been replaced by dogs. Calling in the dogs on your foes is pretty funny and useful in multiple ways. While wily players can stick the dogs with a knife or gun them down before getting ripped apart, you can still follow your dogs to find the enemy. It's a clever addition.
The game has the same sort of player customization and experience point system as last year's release. So as you play, you'll gain levels, which in turn unlocks additional items and configuration options. You'll be able to set perks on your player--these are special skills and enhancements like the ability to reload faster, or a gas mask perk that makes your soldier able to withstand the effects of gas grenades more easily. There's also a new vehicle perk that lets you give your soldier enhancements like faster turret turning speeds.
Some of the multiplayer maps contain tanks, which let one player drive and another work a machine gun turret atop the tank. The tanks are probably going to be a dividing inclusion. While I like rolling around and gunning down enemy soldiers from the relative safety of a tank, I really don't like that the vehicle levels have to be open enough to accommodate the tanks. While only four of the game's 13 multiplayer maps contain vehicles, these maps seem like they come up in the rotation a bit more often than the others. If you're setting up private matches, that probably won't matter to you at all. They just feel too large, like you're having to hunt around for the action.
Fire seems to be a big visual theme in Call of Duty: World at War. Large portions of the campaign are devoted to running around with a flamethrower and burning as many Japanese soldiers as possible. You'll run through burning buildings. And if you play long enough, you'll be able to unlock that flamethrower for use in multiplayer. The fire effects, thankfully, are good enough to warrant their featured position. The flamethrower snakes around as you wave it and burns up most nearby grass and trees as you go. Creeping through dark, but still-burning buildings shows off the game's terrific lighting, as the soft glow of the flames reflects and flickers onto the nearby walls. All of the lighting, really, is well done. The game has a really dingy, dark look to it that helps make everything you're doing feel at least a little dreadful.
You'll get a bit of Hollywood-style voice acting via Keifer Sutherland and Gary Oldman. Both play characters that guide you through most of the campaign mode, making sure you're pointed in the right direction and giving the general sort of wartime orders you'd expect to hear out of your sergeant. They also serve as announcers in the multiplayer mode. The multiplayer mode feels a lot more chatty this time around, as most of the soldiers will curse and/or shout about something whenever they get a kill.

The larger levels are cool in single-player, not-so-cool in multiplayer.
The rest of the game's audio is fine, too. The weapons sound period-accurate and the battlefields always sound pretty intense. There's a lot of modern-sounding guitar rock on the soundtrack, which kind of makes the whole game feel like some kind of poorly-edited YouTube video. It's like what I imagine would happen if you asked a 15-year-old to make World War II footage interesting or something. It serves its purpose by picking up alongside the action and fading down for the quiet, creeping times. But it still feels out of place. The developers changed the clinky, weird noise that grenades make when they land. While this might sound more realistic, it also has the maddening effect of forcing me to retrain myself to hear the new grenade noise after killing someone online. So the martyrdom perk, which has soldiers drop a live grenade every time they die, is, at least until I can get used to the new sound, way more effective. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, mind you. In fact, that chintzy grenade effect from the previous game always seemed a little out of place.
Of course, these are all pretty minor points in the grand scheme of things. Call of Duty: World at War is a perfectly competent game with exciting multiplayer options and a campaign that's worth playing. But in most of the ways that actually count, last year's game was better.



The Good :
ncredible amount of freedom to approach each mission
50 square kilometers of visually stunning African landscape
Hefty single-player campaign should take at least 30 hours
Diverse reward and upgrade systems feed off each other very well
Robust map editor on all three versions.
The Bad :
Story does very little with politically-charged setting
Traveling for long stretches can become tedious.
In Far Cry 2's chaotic world of mercenaries, gunrunners, and armed militias, you'll find yourself dropped into a dizzying web of shady clients and paper-thin alliances. All manner of names and faces are introduced during the course of the storyline, but the real star isn't anyone brandishing a smuggled weapon in search of blood diamonds; it's the daunting and awe-inspiring 50-square kilometers of African landscape that make up the game's open-world setting. Aside from providing the opportunity to soak up an amazing sunset, Far Cry 2's free-roaming terrain brilliantly harmonizes with the first-person combat. The diverse landscape and myriad environmental factors work alongside a wide assortment of weaponry to give you tremendous freedom to approach each mission. Combined with solid multiplayer, Far Cry 2's sheer breadth of action provides you with plenty of reason to stay lost in the African wilderness despite an underwhelming plot and the occasional sense of tedium in navigating from one location to another on the gargantuan map.

Far Cry 2's story is filled with potential. You're a mercenary working for a client who's sent you to an unnamed African nation engulfed in civil war, and your job is to take out a notorious arms dealer known as "The Jackal." He quickly proves to be an elusive figure, so you'll need to begin working for various warring factions that the Jackal has armed so you can trace the supply line back to your target. The two primary organizations at the heart of all this bloodshed are the militaristic UFLL and the revolutionary APR. You'll spend the bulk of the story working for these two groups, getting to know their power structures, and taking on all of the violent tasks they throw your way. Complicating things is the fact that your character has malaria, which means you'll need to occasionally play nice with the more ragtag Underground, the only group with the medical connections necessary to keep your potentially life-threatening symptoms at bay.
Each story mission can be played in multiple ways. There are 12 potential buddies randomly scattered throughout the storyline who you can befriend (nine of whom are available to choose as your silent protagonist), and they're often keen to tack on their own interests to the quests handed out by the UFLL and APR. Instead of just taking out a target, you have the option to earn extra reputation points by working alongside your buddy to first squeeze any remaining assets from the soon-to-be-deceased. This also earns you the ability to increase your level of companionship with that buddy. It's a neat reward, but it doesn't shed much light on their backgrounds. But that's par for the course; the main story is delivered in such a rushed, quick-and-dirty way that you never feel very involved in the game's overarching conflicts. The plot is less Blood Diamond than it is early Grand Theft Auto, a long roster of changing faces that scroll by far too quickly to capitalize on the politically charged setting.
Although disappointing for a single-player campaign that could easily drain more than 30 hours of your time, any shortcomings in the plot are mostly forgivable thanks to Far Cry 2's overall structure. The game is organized in a way that provides a daunting amount of freedom to explore, earn currency, and wreak havoc on the game's landscape and its denizens. It's all laid out in a manner typical of sandbox action games. Pulling out your map reveals a collection of icons that signify available missions and points of interest that you can meander toward at your own leisure. Among these are dozens of side missions that you can take on, with various forms of rewards. Delivering transit papers to trapped refugees earns you malaria medication, destroying rival convoys for gun merchants unlocks new weapons for purchase, and performing assassinations for mysterious voices at the other end of your cell phone rewards you with diamonds. You can also rough up militias stationed in small camps and turn their dwellings into your own safe houses. The side missions can feel a bit repetitive when played through in rapid succession, but they offer a great change of tempo when sprinkled throughout the main narrative. But what's most clever is how their differing rewards intermingle so wonderfully with your needs in progressing through the story: Malaria pills keep your HP and stamina up, diamonds buy you new weapons and ability upgrades, and safe houses provide temporary shelter to stock up and save your game.

The freedom of choice that goes with selecting which mission you want to perform carries over to how you execute them, and that's where Far Cry 2 really shines. There are a variety of factors that affect the way you approach each mission, from the number of people you need to kill, to the landscape, to the weather and time of day. If your job is to take out a key figure hidden deep within a militia camp in the jungle, you'll do well to take a nap at your safe house until nightfall and silently stalk your prey under the cover of darkness. If it's a windy day and you need to take out a bandit outpost in the dry plains, you can start a fire from far away with a flare gun and let the breeze and arid conditions collude to spread the flames toward their camp, finishing off the survivors with a sniper rifle. Need to clear out a bunch of scattered guards? Why not shoot an oil drum near an ammo stockpile and watch as the bullets erupt in every direction like deadly pieces of popcorn? Of course, you can also get up close and personal with pistols and machine guns, but the moments in which elaborately planned assaults succeed are some of the most gratifying points in the game. The whole process of staging an attack only becomes more intricate and rewarding as you slowly upgrade your safe house into a full-blown armory and unlock new weapon and vehicle abilities--all done through the gun shops.

The sheer variety of weapons plays a big role in your ability to craft a personalized approach to each mission. For every situation, there's a weapon ideally suited to delivering mercenary justice. From the AK-47 to the Molotov cocktail and the remote-detonated improvised explosive device, they all feel like weapons that could easily be plucked from the civil wars of Africa. Furthermore, your weapons will cycle through an authentic level of wear and tear, particularly those picked up from ragtag militiamen; secondhand weapons will show dirt, frequently jam, and eventually break, which means that it's best to buy them from the shop. All of the above makes for a uniquely desperate and makeshift style of combat compared to other first-person shooters.

If there's one drawback to the combat, it's that it tends to be a little too forgiving after the first few hours of the game. Your health is divided into several individually regenerative bars like Resistance: Fall of Man, but once it gets low, you can inject yourself with a syrette for added health (though if it's really low, you'll first need to perform a slick self-heal such as yanking bullet shells out of your leg or snapping a broken arm back into place). You can eventually upgrade the amount of ammo and health you have to further tip the odds in your favor, and even have a buddy rescue you whenever you die (though you need to keep an eye on him because he can be permanently killed in a scuffle). Most of the challenge arrives when you're looking at your map in search of the next mission and then get surprised by a bunch of roadside bandits while you're driving one of the game's numerous run-down SUVs or river boats (which exist alongside hang-gliders, trucks, licensed Jeeps, and dune buggies as the types of vehicles you can operate). However, there are still very few moments when you don't feel like an everyman caught in a nasty situation, and that sort of improvised payback is what makes Far Cry 2's combat so engrossing.
Visually, Far Cry 2 is a stunner. Though not as technically amazing as the jungles of Crysis, Far Cry 2's depiction of the sprawling African wilderness makes up for it with environmental diversity and intimidating scale. Several landscapes are represented here: dense forests, rolling plains, arid deserts, craggy badlands, and even shantytowns and hut villages. You'll see trees swaying, the charred remains of a brush fire, and several forms of wildlife running around. It all looks incredible in the transitional period of the day-night cycle when the sun is falling or rising through the horizon and everything is cast in a warm glow. The game also sounds great, with tribal music accompanying you at all times, from a relaxing ambience in calm situations to a rapidly escalating roar of drums in battle. The voice acting during mission briefings feels strangely hurried (as if it's some trick to squeeze more dialogue onto the disc), but that's largely offset by excellent enemy banter during combat.
Adding to Far Cry 2's value is the 16-person online multiplayer. The gameplay modes on display are nothing terribly special (you'll see variations of Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Territories), but the fighting captures a lot of the appeal of single-player, including vehicles, fire-based weaponry, and a great sense of scale in each map. But what sets the multiplayer apart is that you don't need to settle for the included maps; each version of the game comes with a deep but intuitive map editor capable of letting you create everything from dense urban locales to sprawling forests. And downloading new maps is simply a matter of seeking out featured selections or hitting "download" when a Quick Match search lets you know that you don't have that one yet. Such uninspired gameplay modes are certainly a letdown, but the map editor has great potential to inject loads of lasting appeal into Far Cry 2's online component.

lthough the original Far Cry was available only on the PC for the first year and a half of its existence, Far Cry 2 will see an expanded audience with the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 versions all available out of the gate. However, its roots are clearly on display when taking in the differences between the three platforms. Far Cry 2 looks best running on a PC, with clearer textures, better foliage, and less pop-in. The console versions also suffer from the occasional loading hitch when you're driving into a highly populated city. Another key difference is that the PC version lets you save anywhere you want, whereas the 360 and PS3 games only let you use predefined save points. However, the latter difference isn't quite as lopsided as the graphical disparity; saving anywhere gives you more room for experimentation in approaching your missions, but the console versions provide a more clearly defined sense of consequence that adds extra tension to the combat. You'll definitely want to go with the PC version if you've got a system capable of approaching the hardware requirements, but the differences aren't so great that you won't have a blast with either console version (which are virtually indistinguishable from one another).
Overall, Far Cry 2 is a game in which you can quite literally get lost for hours at a time. But that feeling of exploration is precisely what makes the game so much fun; your creativity never feels stifled when approaching a mission, and the game's overall structure of side tasks, friends, rewards, and upgrades is a diverse ecosystem rivaling the landscape itself. No matter whether you're a PC fan whose played through the similarly structured Crysis or a console owner new to the world of open-ended first-person shooters, you won't be disappointed by Far Cry 2.


Crysis Warhead GameSpot Review:
Warhead is a fantastic stand-alone expansion to a superb shooter, and should be played by anyone who likes games with guns.
The Good:
The action is focused and intense
Amazing visuals that look--and run--better than before
Improved AI makes fighting aliens more fun
Team Deathmatch has been added, along with a number of great multiplayer maps.
The Bad:
A little too linear at times
A few remaining AI quirks.
All of the claims you may have heard that Crysis could only run on nuclear-powered supermachines were greatly exaggerated. But if for some reason you worry that this stand-alone companion to the ultragorgeous first-person shooter will bring your PC to its knees, you should know that it's highly scalable and ran smoothly on a number of machines during our testing. It also looks better, with clear attention given to the game's artistic sensibilities and the lusher, denser environments. But rest assured, developer Crytek has enhanced more than just the graphics engine. Vehicles are more fun to drive, firefights are more intense and focused, and aliens do more than just float around you. More emphasis on the open-ended environments would have been welcome, but a more exciting (though shorter) campaign, a new multiplayer mode, and a whole bunch of new maps make Crysis Warhead an excellent expansion to one of last year's best shooters.

If you didn't play Crysis, Warhead's story may be initially confusing, given that you hit the ground running with little exposition. You play as Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, the brash Brit who was a bit player in the original game. Psycho tends to play by his own rules, always willing to ignore orders and jump into the fray if that's what the situation requires. The story runs parallel to the events of Crysis, though his strident attitude--and a dramatic cutscene near the end of the game--definitely make this Psycho's tale, even if the actual plot remains the same. In any case, you and your US Special Forces team are investigating a tropical island besieged by North Korean invaders. However, your greatest menace comes in the form of aggressive aliens that turn the luxuriant jungles and glowing beaches into a frozen wasteland. You and your teammates, clad in nanosuits that grant you special abilities such as super strength, temporary cloaking, super speed, and additional armor, confront both threats across a variety of large environments.
Psycho's brazen confidence does more than just establish a gutsy protagonist: It sets the stage for a more focused and intense series of battles that keep the pace moving more smoothly than before. Warhead still offers some of the same kind of sandbox levels, but thoughtful enemy placement and map bottlenecks keep downtime to a minimum. You can approach assaults on beachfronts and Korean encampments in a number of ways, so if you're a stealth enthusiast, you can employ your suit's cloak setting and sneak in, or attach a silencer to your sniper rifle and take out your human foes from a distance. If you would rather employ hit-and-run tactics, you can jump into the heat of battle, cause a ruckus, and use your suit's speed function to zoom away. However, Warhead is clearly focused on the guns-blazing approach, gently nudging you into full-on encounters with its mission objectives, character dialogue, and level design. When you reach primary and secondary destinations, you'll get besieged by large numbers of enemies, both human and (later on) alien. Given that human foes also don nanosuits, they're not necessarily quick to fall; as a result, these sequences are exciting and challenging, and you'll need to use your suit abilities and cover opportunities to your advantage. The easily triggered explosions of enemy vehicles and hazardous barrels further intensify these pockets of activity.
A number of set-piece battles confirm this slight shift toward action-packed mayhem. Your first encounter with a hulking alien war machine may not have the same impact as a similar one in Crysis, but it happens earlier than you'd expect, and it establishes the alien presence with adrenaline-fueled drama. That battle is a wonder, as is a later defensive mission that has you fending off a series of aliens, and requires you to shift focus frequently and use every weapon in your inventory. Another great sequence is a train level that, at first, seems much like similar sequences in a number of other shooters. You can stay on the train and use turrets to gun down the opposition, as expected--but you can also jump off and engage the opposition at any time, giving even this near-cliche sequence plenty of replay value. A linear journey through an underground mine is the obvious misstep in regard to level design, given that it never so much as hints at the open-ended action that makes Warhead a superb shooter.

If you played only that level, you also wouldn't see the host of improvements that power the action, particularly the improvements to alien artificial intelligence. The general design means that these robotic rivals will occasionally still be floating around above you, but they have more obvious smarts now, and they find ways to pummel you with ice pellets while remaining just out of sight, staying on the move, and using cover more often. Human enemies also seem more aware of their surroundings, flank you more often, and activate their nanosuits' armor to minimize damage. They also use the limited visibility that the jungle affords them quite well, hiding in brush to stay just out of sight. There are some remaining problems, particularly if you take potshots from a distance. Occasionally, the AI won't react when you snipe at an enemy, and foes using turrets will sometimes let you walk right up behind them. On the whole, however, Warhead makes clear improvements over the original in this regard, which in turn makes for better combat overall.
Vehicles feel sturdy, which is just as well, because you'll be driving them often, either to cover ground more quickly, or just to take pleasure in mowing down enemies with your mounted weapons. You can have a good deal of fun blazing a trail through the jungle while showering your foes with steel death, and the destructible environments further exaggerate the devastation. A scene in which you speed across the tundra in a hovercraft is done particularly well, offering a good sense of speed but pushing you into enemy hotbeds, giving you the chance to stop and fight or zip away with a quick glimpse of Koreans riddling aliens with bullets.
The improved vehicle handling is also noticeable on one of the new multiplayer maps, on which two teams battle in--and out of--the tanks and helicopters scattered about. This is good stuff, and it showcases Warhead's new Team Instant Action mode, a mode noticeably missing from the original Crysis. It's just good old Team Deathmatch, but it's done well, and the maps are improvements on those of the original. Snipers are still a threat, but the size of the maps are better suited to deathmatch battles, and more thought and care seem to have gone into small but important factors, such as weapon-cache placements and player spawns. The Instant Action and Power Struggle modes are still accounted for, and many of the original maps return, offering a large suite of online options that make online Warhead combat more appealing than its predecessor. Note that unlike Crysis, the expansion requires the online component to be installed separately, and isn't accessible from the single-player game.

Both online and off, Warhead is a beauty. As mentioned before, the game looks better than Crysis, and it runs better too. A test machine that struggled a bit to run the original at high settings ran Warhead smoothly with the same settings. Yet as much as you may have heard about Crysis' technical prowess, you'll still be impressed when you feast your eyes on the swaying vegetation, surging water, and expressive animations. Don't overlook the improved art design, though, which surpasses the original's oft-sterile look thanks to several striking vistas, such as one featuring an icy naval vessel stranded in the frozen tundra. The audio is almost as terrific. Various creaks and groans make heading down a narrow glacial pathway all the more harrowing, and weapons sound appropriately powerful. The voice acting is strong, and the understated soundtrack sets the right tone without ever getting in the way.
Warhead's single-player campaign should take you no more than six hours or so to complete, but not only does it invite multiple play-throughs, it costs only $30--and doesn't require you to own the original. In other words, there is no reason why anyone with a capable PC shouldn't play Crysis Warhead. It's more focused, it's more intense, and though it doesn't provide as much of the sandbox feel as Crysis veterans would wish for, it still delivers on every other front. Play this game.