REVIEW: Football Manager 2013
Name: Football Manager 2013
Genre: Manager Simulation
Developer: Sports Interactive
Players: 1 – Multiplayer
We are grateful to SEGA and Sports Interactive for making this review possible, thank you guys
Where to start, this year or this season FM gets 900 new features. team report is totally changed, 3D match is now improved the most since first showcase in FM 09. 3D match has been improved the most or the best this year since first appearing in FM 09. Graphics are now better, ball movement too, the player animations are more realistic and there are 100 more new animations. The crowd is now not reacting when you score goal getting up from their seats, fans now have flags that they wave, flares,scarf. Seats are now looking real. All this has contribute to atmosphere while watching the game. Team Report is old/new feature, team report is totally changed. Team Report is now more detailed where you can find squad depth, team compassion, tactic analysis and much more. Squad Depth is now divided on strength overview and position strength. In strength overview you can see three best players for each position in the team and in position strength you can see every player that can play on that position you choose and rating. You can now see which roles are the best in your team and which one are the weakest.
NEW UI AND 3D ENGINE:
Sports Interactive once again listened it’s community. They revamped the user interface of Football Manger 2013. Now UI looks much lighter, easier to use and faster. No more time loosing on finding some element of the game or something else, everything is on it’s place and can be found in a second. This is great thing especially for causal players or players that are playing this game for the first time. UI was probably one of the reason why some players gave up the game, cause they didn’t wanted to learn and remember the old UI. I have few my friends that tried older versions of the game and they gave up after few hours of playing, cause it was too complicated for them. This new feature is maybe the best. Like UI and 3D engine is revamped, programmers in SI decided to completly rewerite the code of the engine. Now players are more clever, they are passing each other ball, no moer stupid runs. Graphicly speaking engine doesn’t look so different, but SI said it is different. Now that AI of players is improved we are wating for first bigger graphic change or impromvent.
MULTIPLAYER AND NEW MODES:
Football Manager or any other manager was and will be forever single player game. Why? Since first manager game single player was always popular no matter how much multiplayer of the game change like this year in Football Manager 2013. You can still play over LAN or any other VPN program like Hamachi or Tunngle, but this year SI completly implemented the Steam in the game. Now you can create your leagues, cups or play 1 vs 1 against random people. There will be a leaderboard who is the best manager in the world. Every change made this year in multiplayer mode has bring up the level of multiplayer higher. SI introduce new modes in the game: FMC or Football Manager Classic and Challenge mode. FMC is mode for people or players that doesn’t have time or they don’t have anymore time like before to play the game. FMC is lighter version of FM, where some featuers are throwen away to make game faster. No team talks, press conferences are not so often in FMC and much more. With FMC you can finish the season in 1-2 days, they say. We haven’t tried the FMC, cause it doesn’t have all featueres like FM so we cannot review the game in that way. New mode is Challenge mode. This mode is similiar to that mode in FIFA serial where you enter the game in 75minute or on the half of the match and try to accomplish the challenge. SI did same here, you have numerous challenges to accomplish and this will be great to see who can beat challenge better, we already imagine competitions on every forum releated to FM.
Like I said to every my friend, SI again managed to bring even more better and fun Football Manager game. That chemistry between developers and community is the reason, ofcourse you cannot implement every feature requested. In my opinion this is the best Football Manager game in serial ever made, if you remember SI worked on CM serial too and probably made the best manager game ever in history CM 01/02. New UI made game faster and easier to navigate, new 3D engine brought realistic element to the FM. Multiplayer mode is changed and for the first time it could be important element of the game. Football Manager Classic is faboluos mode that gives players same feel like in real FM, but faster and easier to play. FMC mode is for those that doesn’t have enough time to play FM. Challenge mode will extend the time of playing the FM and it will bring more competetive aspect of the game. I would describe this year FM in few words: faster, easier, fun and more competetive
Players gather on the staircase leading down to the Ascalonian catacombs, filling local chat with group requests. A few run about, periodically charging up a nearby hill to repel another assault by harpies on a Durmand Priory dig site. Others dance, or run a sleep emote. A significant number are crammed in underneath the waypoint that links this part of the plains of Ashford to the rest of the world of Tyria.
Within the Catacombs, a norn ranger – Eir Stegalkin – searches for an ancient weapon that could help reforge her old guild, Destiny’s Edge. These heroes are the key to defeating Zhaitan, the Elder Dragon threatening the world. They also serve as mentors for each of the game’s five races, accompanying you on personal story missions. Another Destiny’s Edge member, Rytlock, has followed Eir into the catacombs, angry that she’s trespassing on his people’s land. We’re here to stop them from killing each other.
I’m grouped with an asura warrior, a tiny sword-wielding gremlin in red and gold armour – Pinky and the Brain in platemail. He’s telling me about his build. He has stacked an array of slottable utility skills – passive bonuses, in this case – and combined them with an advanced character trait that grants an extra boost for having several abilities of the same type. This is one of many builds that are possible across Guild Wars 2’s eight professions and dozens of weapon combinations. He’s proud of it: his critical hit chance, he tells me, is very high.
This is what waiting to do a dungeon has looked like since World of Warcraft first placed a swirling portal between five players and the rest of the world. That slight disconnection between theory and heroism, that tension between action and boredom. The moment stands out now because it’s the first time in over 30 hours with this character that I’ve found myself in it.
Events scale up as more players pile on.
As a human, I began my journey in Queensdale – rolling farmland ransacked by centaur warbands during a time of political discord, a symptom of a once-dominant race now in decline. If I had been an asura, I would have come from the jungles of the southwest, via a science fiction-fantasy story that drags in everything from mind-controlled golems to time travel. Tyria’s youngest race, the sylvari, are plant-people inspired by celtic folklore and Arthurian myth, making their home among the branches of a big tree.
The bestial charr, Guild Wars’ former villains, have been reintroduced Klingon style: Ashford is their homeland now, but the fragility of their warrior culture creates tension both within and without their race. The gigantic norn, who spend their early levels working their way down from the frozen mountain where they spend their exile, struggle the most to stand out: their Norse-derived society, which values individual glory above all else, is a pretty on-the-nose metaphor for what most MMORPG players spend their time doing.
Whatever choices you make at character creation, the result is a breathless charge into this new world, and it’s only when the game delivers its first instance at level 30 that the brakes are applied.
I’m not disappointed, exactly. MMO downtime produces friendships – even marriages, from time to time. It’s just that the journey to this point has been about anything but waiting. I’ve charged off into the countryside and fought bandits. I’ve intervened to defend towns from centaurs and disguised myself as a pirate to win a drinking competition. I’ve painstakingly customised a suit of armour – from stats to colouring – and warped sideways into a wholly different game, a sprawling fantasy conquest mode where whole servers crash into each other in the phenomenal, punch-the-air return of Dark Age of Camelot’s much missed factional PvP. Theorycrafting while waiting for groupmate number five is like getting the bus to work on Monday morning after a spectacular lost weekend.
It’s easy to make flash judgements at moments like this. Here, ladies and gentlemen, is one of your massively multiplayer online roleplaying games. We queue and talk shop: we sit on the bus and wait patiently for the next fun thing. Look closer, though, and every aspect of this picture has been made strange by ArenaNet’s bottom-up recalibration of the genre. Those group requests? They’re not class-dependent: Guild Wars 2 has no healers or tanks, and therefore no roles that must be filled before fun can be had. Those players charging up the hill? They range from level eight to eighty, with more powerful characters downscaled to match the encounter, the elite player rubbing winged pauldrons with Jimmy Leatherjerkin. That waypoint? It links to every part of the game I’ve previously visited, allowing me to instantly go off and do something else if I want to. These are the innovations and conveniences that make the game so enjoyable, that make it a viable prospect for players traditionally unwilling to step onto the MMORPG treadmill.
ArenaNet have built a cooperative model that superficially reflects what has come before – you’re still filling progress bars – but reworked it to support a different psychology of play. More adventure, fewer boxes to tick – and it works! Unfortunately, it isn’t enough to stop many players from wanting to stay in one place to tick boxes, and a lack of participation can leave those players feeling underleveled, particularly if they’re determined to endlessly rush on to the next step in their ongoing personal story chain.
At this point it usually falls to local chat to point out that you could be crafting, or playing world vs world PvP, or just climbing that hill over there, and that any of these things will earn you the experience you need by the dopamine trigger-load. The game desperately tries to teach these things, but it uses dismissible tool-tips and mouse-over explanations that no one in the history of computers has ever actually read. The experience can be overwhelming, both for players who don’t get it and for those who do and don’t understand why other players keep complaining. There are features in place to solve these problems, but the game could do more to tackle them.
These issues are defensible because they result from innovations that make the MMORPG fresh and enjoyable in a way that it hasn’t been for years. Second, and perhaps more importantly, they come from an attitude to game-making that seems to think more of its players than other games do. Guild Wars 2 expects you to want to charge off and help a villager – or to discover new items in its experimentation-based crafting system, or to leap into player vs player – because it assumes that you’ve got an active interest in playing and an inherent ability to excel. Its core design casts you in a flattering light, and as such it stands in stark contrast with MMOs that’ll crown you God-Emperor of the Universe if that’ll get you to shut up and get back into the machine.
Some elementalists just want to watch the world burn. Wait, no. All elementalists.
This is why the lack of a subscription fee is such a masterstroke. Just as Guild Wars 2 takes apart the mechanical absurdities of its genre, it strikes a killing blow to the old business model. Players have come to expect that you need to pick a pocket or two if you’re going to finance a game like this, and Guild Wars 2’s rejection of that assumption should be the moment that we finally see the idea for the anachronism it is. By being free beyond an initial purchase – which frankly makes it one of the best value propositions in gaming at the moment – Guild Wars 2 suggests, quietly, that you should rethink your policy vis-à-vis recurring hammer blows to the face.
There have been a few teething problems at launch. The game’s overflow server system means you can almost always get into the game, but you may find yourself in a separate shard to your friends, and it can be difficult to group up. Support systems such as guild chat, the auction-house-style trading post, and the in-game store are sometimes down. World vs world PvP queues can be lengthy.
These are the chief frustrations in a game that is otherwise remarkable in its comprehensive attention to the player’s urges, and when they’re solved then there’ll be very little that Guild Wars 2 does not do as well if not better than its contemporaries. PvP on both large and small scales, freeform cooperative roaming and tight, focused group play. Branching storylines for each race that never stray far from the fantasy wheelhouse but manage to be packed with enjoyable characters and variously funny and dramatic set-pieces. It’s all here, on day one.
World vs. world makes a brisk trade in heroic defense sequences.
ArenaNet seem to have wilfully ignored the fact that gamers have, over the last decade, segregated themselves into camps: PvPers and PvEers, hardcore and casual. GW2 wants you to be a generalist. Overcommit to a single part and the experience suffers: you’ll either burn out on chasing down vistas, grow weary of competing over the same four PvP maps, or lag behind the levelling curve of your personal story. The experience suffers when the pace falters, but it’s a solvable problem. You can always do something else.
Whether you consider Guild Wars 2 revolutionary depends and, appropriately, it depends on you. If you’ll accept nothing less than the fall of the house of Warcraft, then no. If you’ll accept nothing less than EVE’s green light, the player-driven persistent world that seems to get further away every year – then no. Guild Wars 2 isn’t chasing a single vision. It’s pluralistic and the pointed critical thought apparent in each of its component parts belies a whole that is smooth to the touch. Trying to impress upon someone why Guild Wars 2 is important is like trying to stab them with the sharp end of a ball. The temptation is to bludgeon.
It’s important, ultimately, because of that pluralism, the collective egoless talent on display. In losing the monthly fee ArenaNet have given themselves the freedom to excise the MMORPG’s accreted dross: the subscription-prolonging treadmill, the trickle-down economics of fun that says that only your elites have paid enough to get to see the cool dragon. Then, that spirit of change has passed through every other assumption that MMOs make about themselves and their players and touched each in turn. Nothing is ever so fixed that it shouldn’t be broken and remade. It’s not perfect, but it is ideologically and structurally sound in a way that few MMORPGs manage at launch, if ever.
Guild Wars 2 is not a revolution, but it is a call to arms. Tomorrow’s MMORPGs will be held to account against its standards: generosity, variety, and respect for the player’s ability and time. Of course, by that point, it won’t be Guild Wars 2 waving the banner. It’s not a revolution. It just quietly suggests that we start one.
But here’s GO: full of doppelganger Desert Eagles and de_dust déjà vu, quantum-leaping from some parallel timeline whose game industry briefly intersected with ours. Playing it is like running into a college crush at the supermarket. You immediately notice differences. Oh, you’re married? Your hair looks different. But that experience of reconnecting is pleasant—they’re mostly still the person you admired during geology.
In other words, GO’s familiarity helps and hurts. Minor deviations from the CS you might’ve known or loved are easy to identify. The MP5 is now the MP7, but it lacks the same clicky report and underdoggy “this is all I can afford, please don’t kill me” personality. The TMP is replaced by the MP9. Ragdoll physics don’t persist after death, curiously. You can’t attach a suppressor to the M4 for some reason.
I’m not particularly bothered by this stuff; I don’t need the MP5 reproduced precisely as it existed in 2004 or 2000 to live a fulfilling life. What does bug me are some small but significant changes to firing feedback. When you shoot someone in GO, they don’t wince. There’s a sneeze of blood, and audio that conveys that you’re hitting them if you’re within a certain range. But they don’t do this, and I don’t understand the decision to omit a flinch animation on character models.
Especially at long range, it takes a little more effort and squinting than it should to tell if I’m hitting someone or not. And counterintuitively, bullet tracers, new in this version of CS, are an unreliable source of feedback. They seem to trail the path of your actual bullet by a few microseconds. With rifles and SMGs, my eyes would wander away from my enemy and crosshairs–what I should be watching–and try to interpret where my bullets were falling based on the slightly-delayed, streaky particle effects. The small upside to tracers is that they mitigate camping a bit.
ar_baggage, like the other Arms Race maps, is mostly a contest of who’s best at hitting W and Mouse 1 the best. The GunGame spin-off is fun for perfecting your reaction time and proficiency with different weapons, though.
The changes made to existing maps are clever and careful, though. Cracked glass is more opaque, making it modestly more difficult to go on a sniping rampage in areas like cs_office’s main hall. Adding a stairway to the bottom of de_dust makes the route more viable for Terrorists while retaining that area’s purpose of a bottleneck; moving the B bombsite closer to the center of the map discourages CTs from hiding deep in their spawn point.
Considering these smart adjustments to classic maps, it’s puzzling that GO’s “new” mode and the new maps bundled with it are so gosh-darn mediocre. Half of GO’s 16 total maps are new, but they’re all locked to the Arms Race (a rebrand of the famous community-created mod GunGame) and Demolition (GunGame sans insta-respawn, plus bomb defusal) modes.
After 50 hours logged, I’ve stopped playing these modes completely. In the shadow of Valve’s talent for mode design (Scavenge in Left 4 Dead 2, Payload in Team Fortress 2), Arms Race and Demolition are safe, unimaginative, and most of us have played their predecessor. I would’ve loved to see VIP scenarios revisited. It presents a ton of design headaches (if your VIP isn’t good, everyone hates them forever), but it’s an experience that’s absent from modern FPSes.
Nobody likes a radial menu. I’ve gotten comfortable with GO’s, though. Keyboard shortcuts help.
But yeah, the new maps. Aesthetically, they’re likeable. de_bank mirrors the indulgence of fighting around Burger Town in Modern Warfare. de_lake and de_safehouse let you duel inside a multi-storied cottage and on its surrounding lawn. But tactically, they’re trivial compared to their parent maps. Most of them are compact (de_shorttrain is literally an amputated de_train) and designed to support instant-action, meat-grinder gameplay that reminds me more of Call of Duty.
What I’m lamenting, I guess, is that Valve and Hidden Path missed an opportunity to add a new classic map to the lineup–something that could’ve joined the legendary rotation of Office, Italy, Dust, Dust2, Aztec, Inferno, Nuke and Train. They could’ve tidied-up lesser-known but beloved community maps like cs_estate or cs_crackhouse. Instead, the eight we get feel more like paintball arenas–too fast, relatively fun, but frivolous. They lack the personality, purpose, or tactical complexity of their predecessors.
Even with these questionable adjustments and shrug-inspiring new maps, GO produces quintessential Counter-Strike moments. Being the spear-tip of a rush with a P90. Being the last person on your team and feeling the glare of your teammates as you try to win the round. The feeling of each kill you make increasing the safety of your teammates. Knife fighting for honor. Accidentally blinding your team with a misguided flashbang and getting everyone killed. Building a rivalry with an AWPer over the course of a match. All of that is preserved.
GO is a $15 ticket to reconnect with those sensations; it retains CS’ spirit as a competitive game driven by careful tactics, cooperation, and individual heroics alike. It’s still a game about positioning, timing, and, say, thinking critically about how much footstep noise you’re generating. GO preserves CS’ purity in that regard–it remains one of the only modern shooters without unlockable content, ironsights, unlockables, or an emphasis on things like secondary firing modes.
cs_office is still a wonderful siege.
Atop that, there are some touches that rejuvenate the game we’ve been playing for 12 years. The new scoreboard is terrific. There’s both a server browser and a party system, if you prefer that. There’s a slider for scaling the UI. New players can practice against bots offline. And although a few of the weapon models are unambitious (the Nova and sawed-off shotguns look like drug store toys; the AWP and the Scout resemble one another a little too closely), I love that there’s multiple sets of character models for both teams–cs_office and cs_italy’s Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists look and sound completely different.
I expect you’ll like most of the new weapons, too: the PP-Bizon is a cheap, 64-shot SMG. The MAG-7 shotgun is slow-firing (and slow-reloading, as it’s magazine-fed) but absolutely deadly. I like that heavy machine guns are no longer total novelties, and are viable in a few situations. The Molotov and incendiary grenade fold into Counter-Strike’s core concept (iterating on tactics between rounds) beautifully because they’re throwable walls of fire that can deaden the momentum of successful enemy tactics.
In summary: go, go, go. I’m hopeful that the competitive community will fill in the map and mode gaps left by Valve and Hidden Path. Zombie Mod is a good start.
Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds. Also: pusher of buttons, fetcher of quest items and avid parkour enthusiast. I’m also a dab skeletal hand when it comes to rolling giant glowing weighted balls into the sockets of improbably elaborate stone machinery.
You’d think all that reaping would keep Death busy on its own, but according to Vigil’s lite-RPG adventure, you don’t know the half of it. Death finds himself in a green and pleasant fantasy land in search of the Tree of Life. There he hopes to find absolution for his brother, War, who apparently prematurely annihilated mankind during the course of the preceding game. But this realm, the Forge Lands, has its own problems – gloopy problems by the name of Corruption, which seeks to wrap its black, slimy tendrils around the very forge of life itself.
So it is that Death finds himself distracted from his primary goal by a series of dungeon crawls to aid the people of the Forge Lands, combining a mixture of platforming challenges with minor puzzling and a healthy dash of hack-’n’-slash. Comparisons to the Legend of Zelda games are warranted – and welcome – given the way the sprawling overworld hub tapers off into dungeony spokes, full of flipswitches and pressure plate puzzles.
Well, I say puzzles, but for the first ten hours of the game it mostly seems to be the same puzzle, to which the solution is: roll a glowing ball into a glowing socket. Sometimes you have to roll a ball into another socket first, in order to access the second ball. Sometimes you have to find some explosives to blow up an obstacle. Sometimes you have to roll a ball onto a lift, ride it up, then throw it onto another from your newly elevated position. This is not cryptic stuff. I have been more puzzled by food packaging.
Ghost horse wants ghost carrot.
Later, you gain access to much more elaborate powers, such as the ability to create lurid green and purple clones of yourself – all the better for pushing buttons with – and the ability to open portals, but the level of challenge rarely soars above ‘gently pondersome’. That said, the pondering is not unpleasant. It’s not about austere brain-searing perplexity so much as spending a little time in environments that feel pleasingly tactile and open to exploration. It’s just the right-sized mouthful before the platforming or combat starts again, and if any one of the game’s several parts is slightly undercooked, at least the quantity of the serving is exactly balanced.
As for what else you get on your plate: along with that dollop of Zelda, there’s a lukewarm ladleful of Prince of Persia. Environments are etched with traversal routes – scuffed walls indicating you can run along them, while distinctive crevices offer handholds. Later a spectral grapple power enables you to swing from hooks embedded in the ceiling. The movement between all these points has a pleasing rhythm to it but is rarely taxing. It’s not until you journey beyond the Forge Lands that issues of timing raise their head.
There you find yourself leaping between platforms which sway beneath a dirigible hauled by a pair of giant serpents. This makes a rare and spectacular change from the familiar sequence of grapple points and wall traversals, but is quickly gone. Mostly, platforming challenges are nakedly prescriptive: Death’s acrobatics don’t give him freeform access to an environment; rather, if you see a ledge, you are meant to go there. It may be that the game sacrifices some of the wonder of its world for legibility, but the opposite is often true as well: chesthigh platforms that seem well within Death’s capability to clamber over will not oblige unless you use the prescribed handholds.
The low challenge of this rhythmic dance between obstacles feels like it is designed to contrast with the sweaty palms of combat. This is much improved from the button-mashing of the previous game, now taking its cues from Japanese-style brawlers like the consoles’ Bayonetta. You must more thoughtfully intertwine combos and dodges, building up meters and then spending them on a series of upgradeable special powers.
Shooting this did absolutely nothing.
It’s gratifyingly tough: enemies attack in groups, and often simultaneously, forcing you to dodge in and out of combos, or lay down floor-clearing area-of-effect attacks before singling out opponents. You might assume Death would be quite the natural at this whole killing thing, but his skillset is initially limited, constraining the player to basic mashing and constant, panicky evasion for the first few hours. But as your moveset increases you can take the offensive in a much more considered way, equipping talismans, armour or weaponry that lets you vampirically absorb health with every blow or knock enemies over.
Attacks fill up two different power meters. The lesser of these is Wrath, which can also be topped up with potions, and grants you access to a number of powers unlocked with skill points as you level up. These are powerful dash moves and roomclearing melee sweeps in which you manifest as a giant winged Grim Reaper. Alternatively you can invest in summoning powers, bringing ghouls and crows to fight at your side. The second meter measures Reaper power, which builds up slowly as you deliver blows and eventually enables you to assume Death’s ‘true form’ for a good number of seconds – worth saving for the most dire circumstances.
Such circumstances might easily be any one of the apocalyptically irritating boss battles. They are tricky customers, partly by design, partly by failure of design. Clipping issues occasionally deflate your efforts. A later boss enemy floats just off-screen above you. This is infuriating because you haven’t learnt any aerial combos with which to dispatch him, and all the more so because it feels like you’re trying to swat a fly inside your own head. Oh, and he can turn invulnerable. Oh, and he can resurrect other foes. Who thought this was a good idea? I ask only because I feel I should apologise to their mother for all the terrible things I said. I’m sure she’s a fine woman.
Boss battles and other combat difficulty spikes aside, Darksiders II offers a rewardingly deep system of combos that must be exploited with intelligence and precision. It’s this that makes the lack of challenge in platforming or puzzling an amiable respite rather than a bore. In fact, the sum of the game’s parts makes for a pleasingly Zen experience, as you tool back and forth across the world, summoning your ghostly horse with a tap of a button, swiping creatures off their feet as you gallop past.
Fall off an edge and you turn into the Reaper and teleport back
Aesthetically, it’s a little conservative – nailing the sort of themes that teenage boys enjoy before they’ve lived long enough to encounter the notion of cliché. But if the broad brushstrokes are banal, the detail is extremely accomplished, drawing its caricatures with enough idiosyncratic flare to be memorable, and breathing drama into what might otherwise have been check-box landscapes.
The voicework is a pleasant surprise too: as Death, Michael Wincott’s deep sardonic rasp channels the sound of a thousand whiskey hangovers, in a script that is enthusiastically hammy but not cringingly corny or crass. Jesper Kyd’s score is a winsomely eclectic mix, sweeping between far-flung musical and mystical traditions, matching wispy Celtic vocals with strident pentatonic chimes, murky synths and shades of Mongolian throat-singing, and somehow delivering pulsing, moreish hooks without their repetition ever grating.
From a technical perspective, Darksiders II doesn’t step up its efforts to match the capabilities of the PC. The art style ensures it’s a relatively handsome game in spite of its occasional bleary textures and lacklustre graphics options, but this is a hasty port, only just maintaining a cruising altitude of ‘mostly operable’. Changing resolution causes major spasms, leaving some menus in the wrong shape, while standards such as hotswapping between keyboard and gamepad are still absent. And though given its DNA this is clearly designed with a gamepad in mind, even those controls seem to be a little unreliable, as context sensitive commands sometimes fail to register.
Should a patch or two put these teething troubles behind it, then Darksiders II will provide a pleasant amble. Its platforming and puzzling may be undemanding, but in balance to its respectably rich combat challenge, they make for as relaxing a journey as you might expect in the company of Death.
Dishonored is a game about many things. It’s about revenge; armed with deadly weapons and supernatural powers, you seek vengeance upon all of those who orchestrated your downfall. It’s about a city; the plague-ridden industrial port of Dunwall is lovely to behold, exciting to explore, and seething with secrets. It’s about people; an array of vibrant characters await you, and as you get to know them, you are drawn further into their intrigues, hopes, and heartbreaks. But above all, it’s about choice. The incredible variety of ways you can engage or evade your enemies makes Dishonored impressively flexible and utterly captivating.
You play as Corvo Attano, former bodyguard to the empress and current death row inmate. The prologue chronicling Corvo’s crime not only inflames your desire for revenge, but also sparks your affection for a vulnerable character. These dual fires foreshadow the choice you have to make each time you encounter an enemy: do you walk the bloody path of brutal vengeance, or take the nonlethal high road and rise above the violence that suffuses the city? Your actions have small, yet tangible consequences throughout your quest, and it’s up to you to decide what kind of retribution you want.
A cadre of conspirators helps you escape imprisonment, and you find out that they are plotting to bring down the very men who wronged you. These characters embody familiar archetypes–the dutiful admiral, the egotistical nobleman, the cheeky servant–but Dishonored is not content with one-dimensional portrayals. An excellent voice cast (which includes a number of notable actors) and stylish character design help bring these people to life. As you listen to them talk (you remain mute throughout), read their journals, eavesdrop on conversations, and learn whispered secrets from an arcane, psychic item you acquire, you come to know the characters and the world they live in. This kind of knowledge is engaging, so even when the main plot follows some well-trodden paths, you’re always interested and eager to press on.
Exploring Dunwall is another one of Dishonored’s great pleasures. The city prospered from the whaling trade in the recent past, but has fallen on hard times since the influx of a deadly plague. Brick walls and wooden beams loom over alleys crawling with rats, while granite facades and metal barricades block off the cobblestoned plazas of the wealthier neighborhoods. Dunwall evokes a British city in the grip of the industrial revolution, but painterly coloring and slightly exaggerated proportions give the place a unique feel. The lovely artistic design shines on the PC, bursting with detail and making Dunwall an immensely appealing place to inhabit.
Of course, there are tangible benefits to exploration as well. Sewers, alleys, apartments, and estates all hide items that restore your health, reinforce your arsenal, teach you secrets, or allow you to gain new supernatural powers. The large areas you must traverse to get to your targets are riddled with out-of-the-way places to explore, and finding them reveals not only hidden goodies, but alternate routes as well.
Figuring out how to move through the environments is an enjoyable pursuit, and one of the first powers you get allows you to teleport a short distance. The quick pop and blurry whoosh of this power provides a nice audiovisual accompaniment to the thrill of defying natural law, and if you choose to supernaturally augment your jumping ability, your range of locomotion is drastically increased. Though you’ll likely have some awkward moments as you try to go places that the game won’t let you, Dishonored’s level design is consistent enough to make such moments easy to avoid once you get the hang of things.
In addition to these superhuman movement abilities, you can choose the power of possession. Slipping into the skin of a rat or the scales of a fish allows you to navigate small tunnels and reach new areas, and when leveled up, you can even possess other humans for a short while. Acquiring and improving your supernatural powers requires runes, though, and there aren’t enough for you to max out every power. There are no bad choices, thankfully, though some clearly favor lethal or nonlethal approaches. Pacifists will appreciate the ability to stop time, for example, while assassins might favor the power that instantly turns corpses to ash.
Powers are equipped in your left hand and are accessed with a radial menu. This menu also contains your pistol and your crossbow, each of which has a few different ammo types. Sleep darts are the only nonlethal munition in the bunch, and they are invaluable to players who try to play the entire game without killing anyone (yes, it’s possible). The rest of your options are decidedly deadly, including grenades and razor-flinging proximity mines.
With such nasty weaponry and formidable powers at your disposal, you have a startling array of ways to deal with hostiles. Simply sneaking by them is often effective, as is creeping up from behind, applying a sleeper hold, and dragging the bodies to a dark corner. Killing can be quiet too. A deadly drop from above makes no noise, and a properly timed windblast can blow an enemy off a high ledge, never to be seen again. If you prefer to see the whites of their eyes, your sword is always in your right hand, ever ready to duel. You are a formidable swordsman, able to block and counterattack against most blows, but clanging swords bring more guards or thugs, and they won’t wait until their allies are out of the way to take a shot at you.
Enemies are prone to fatal dips in intelligence from time to time, but they are generally tenacious and alert enough to put up a decent fight. Once you start experimenting with powers, weapons, and environmental elements, Dishonored’s amazing flexibility shows its stuff. Summon a swarm of rats to devour an enemy, and then possess one of the rats to sneak up behind those foes who come running. Blow enemy projectiles back in their faces, killing them instantly. Freeze time, enter a room with hostiles, drop a live grenade, exit and close the door, and then watch the explosion through the keyhole.
Sure, you didn’t really have to watch, but taking a playful approach can result in even more supernatural fun. Blow bottles off a shelf from a hidden perch to terrify the maids. Snatch a painting while a guard is looking at it instead of waiting for him to walk away. Throw a corpse off a balcony onto a guard, but freeze time before it hits, so you can watch his reaction when you appear in front of him as he gets clobbered from above. Dishonored has multiple save slots available, and taking advantage of the ability to tear things up and then reload a fresh start encourages you to engage in some absolutely delightful mayhem.
Yet even though it allows you to wipe the recent slate clean, Dishonored still begs to be replayed from the beginning. Unlocking different powers, finishing missions in different ways, striving to be more or less murderous, and seeing a different endgame all offer appealing incentives to give it another go. It’s a rare game that feels so compulsively replayable, but Dishonored is such a game. The compelling abilities, the bold artistic design, the colorful characters, and above all, the freedom of choice–these are the things that mark Dishonored as one of the truly remarkable games of this year.
“Track drivers see the same corner thousands of times, rally drivers see a thousand corners one time,” reads one of the insights on WRC 3′s numerous loading screens. It’s a message that succinctly sums up what a rally game should ask of its players: control, adaptability, and a healthy respect of the unknown. While developer Milestone seems to understand the brief, the derivative way in which the game’s elements have been combined keep it from hitting all the right marks. Unimaginative construction of a game based on a sport all about flow and flair is not going to win many fans.
As with previous games in the series, an emphasis has been placed on the realism of the handling model. Everything from suspension stiffness to brake distribution and maximum steering angles can be edited to suit both your driving style and the kinds of conditions you can expect in your next race. To the game’s credit, adjusting these variables has noticeable effects and makes them something worth fiddling with for racing game veterans. Changing the suspension stiffness to hard, for example, allows you to navigate level surfaces much faster at a cost of significantly reduced stability when things get bumpy.
On a less positive note, no matter what you do, all of the game’s cars have a lightweight, feeble feel to them. No amount of tinkering with the front and rear differentials or traction distribution can completely remove the sensation that you’re controlling a high-powered hovercraft, rather than a loud, mean, aggressive rally car. The issue is not so bad when driving the game’s lower-powered cars, but it’s especially pronounced as soon as you step into an official WRC vehicle. And while you can certainly work your way around tracks with practice–the lightweight feel allowing for precision driving as you throw cars into hairpins and through technical sections of fast chicanes–the handling doesn’t quite live up to its uber-realistic billing.
The best way to test the handling model is in Road to Glory mode, a streamlined version of WRC 2′s Road to the WRC that does away with the likes of sponsorship negotiations and staff hiring. As it should be, the focus of Road to Glory is getting behind the wheel and proving yourself a worthy competitor at the top level. Events are spread across seven geographical areas, such as Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific, each with its own resident star driver acting as what is essentially an end-of-level boss. Beating all seven stars unlocks the Ultimate Battle, a final event that has you racing against all of them at once in a final showdown. Throw in a mix of traditional rally events, novelty distraction events, and a simple car modification system, and there’s just enough to keep you interested.
Different Road to Glory events have different rules about what type of car you’re allowed to use, meaning that current WRC cars, as well as classics from the ’70s through to the ’90s and smaller 2WDs, must all be mastered. And that’s part of the problem; you simply don’t spend enough time in a specific car for you to fall in love with it. Falling in love with cars, getting to know their handling and tuning options, and thus enjoying greater success in races are essential ingredients in any racing game that considers itself a simulation–they’re invaluable.
Combined with the constantly changing vehicles is a default difficulty curve that resembles a cliff. This is great once you grasp the mechanics, but it can be incredibly frustrating early on. Without exaggeration, a single botched corner adds enough time to send you plummeting from first to seventh: great for veterans who want a challenge; less great for newcomers who just want to get around the track in one piece. And given some of the event types on offer in Road to Glory, newcomers are clearly one of the target audiences.
Alongside the regular rallies are special events designed to test specific skills and provide some relief from the intensity of simply driving as fast as you can. These include the block smashing Crash n’ Run, the avoid-the-cones Rally School Contest, and races against aerial vehicles (including a helicopter and hang glider) known as Top Rally. Clearly, pages have been taken from the Dirt book of game design, but unlike in Codemasters’ rally game, such events are more chore than charm in WRC 3.
The problem is that they just don’t demonstrate enough inventiveness to get you excited; not once do you feel as though you’re playing something you’ve never played before. Aside from the Drift Contest and block smashing stages, your goal is the same across all of these distraction events: drive as fast as you can. You can’t help but feel that a massive opportunity has been lost to serve up some diversity. It’s just another example of good intentions, but unimaginative construction.
Aside from Road to Glory, WRC Experience is your only other option in single-player. Select a car, select a series type (from single race to full WRC championship), and head straight out onto the track to race. The championship series is a serious commitment, with all the countries involved in the real-life WRC included, and each event is made up of either six or seven stages. However, this is also the only place where you test yourself against the likes of professional drivers such as Loeb, Araujo, and company.
If you’ve three other friends to play with, WRC Experience is the best way to set up and play multiplayer games, thanks to the inclusion of hotseat play. The nature of a rally means that hotseat is a realistic and welcome addition, rather than a lazy concession to local multiplayer. Whether you want to play a single stage or commit to an entire championship, hotseat lets you race against your friends and adds some spice to a game that lacks much in the way of genuine excitement.
Online multiplayer is also available, with up to 16 players facing off in the same events available in WRC Experience. Most interesting are the Super Special Stages, which see two drivers racing on the same track at the same time–the gimmick being that the drivers start on different portions of the track, crossing onto the opponent’s side halfway through. It’s fun in places, but no substitute for the excitement of playing against friends locally. Also, bear in mind that you need a GameSpy login to play online through your PC.
Where WRC 3 does show significant improvement over last year’s game is in its visual quality. The terrible environmental textures of WRC 2 have been replaced by graphics that at least feel as though they belong in this generation and are no longer typified by fuzzy, low-resolution grass, trees, and rock faces. Despite the improvement, however, WRC 3 is still no match today’s most visually impressive racers, such as Dirt and Forza 4, especially when it comes to the quality of the vehicles themselves and particle effects like dust and rain.
While there’s no lack of passion for the subject, and there are some neat ideas on show, WRC 3′s problems are in the execution. Tighter graphics, improved game modes, and more race types would help things greatly, as would a more refined handling model. As it stands, the series is the best it has ever been, but it’s still not quite good enough.
Back in 1987, when the NES was at the peak of its reign, the video game world was not yet ready for the open-world urban crime adventure. But today, a quarter century later, Retro City Rampage lets you experience what the genre might have been like if it had been introduced on that now-primitive platform. In terms of its gameplay, it’s often not quite faithful enough to the games of the era that inspired it, and in terms of its difficulty, it’s sometimes too faithful. But all in all, Retro City Rampage is an enjoyable experience in which old meets new to create something both fresh and familiar.
In Retro City Rampage’s Story mode, you play as Player, a low-ranking henchman in a supercriminal’s army. Following an introductory series of stages that references The Dark Knight, Mario Bros., Mega Man 2, Frogger, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Super Mario Bros. 2, Back to the Future, and much more, you’re set free in the city of Theftropolis to spend your time as you see fit. You can complete story missions or ignore them, and spend your time causing chaos and competing in the score-based challenges scattered all over town.
Every mission in Retro City Rampage’s Story mode skewers video games, movies, or TV shows of the 80s. If you have any reverence for icons of 80s pop culture, don’t be surprised if versions of those icons show up in RCR and are made to suffer some indignities. (The Ghostbusters, for instance, are spoofed here as the Go-Go Busters. Their job is even messier and nastier than catching and occasionally getting slimed by ghosts.) Too often, the game is raunchy just for the sake of being raunchy, without any cleverness to actually make its off-color gags funny. But the game throws so much at the wall that, while most of it doesn’t stick, enough does to make for a good number of laughs, and there’s some particularly scathing humor about indie game development and major publishers.
What with the danger of being run over as you stroll down the sidewalk or being stomped on by criminals flying around in hover suits, Theftropolis doesn’t seem like a nice place to live. It is, however, a pleasure to look at, particularly if you have a soft spot in your heart for 8-bit worlds. The pixelated residents of Theftropolis are a wonderfully diverse bunch. Despite being quite tiny, they have a good deal of personality, thanks to their vibrant colors, their big hair, and jaunty hats–not to mention their expressive animations as they strut down the street, breakdance or otherwise pass the time.
The city has at least as much personality as its residents. Everywhere you look, there are references on shop signs and billboards to 80s video games and other pop culture artifacts. For that extra dose of nostalgia, an impressive assortment of color modes lets you make the game look as if it’s running on a wide range of 80s gaming and computer hardware; a CGA mode, for example, severely limits the game’s color palette and dominates it with blue and purple, recalling the visuals on early Apple computers. There’s also a fine selection of borders that can make the game look like it’s being played on an old TV, an arcade cabinet, or other setups, with optional scanlines to help sell the illusion. Regardless of your visual preference, the catchy 8-bit music is sure to please, and would have been right at home in an NES game.
Unfortunately, as alluring as the city is, getting around Theftropolis isn’t always enjoyable. Player moves sluggishly until he gets a bit of momentum going, and although all the vehicles around you are yours for the taking, many of them are too slow to be much fun to drive. Still, there are some speedy little numbers to cruise around in. The two driving control schemes let you select between an option in which you use a button to accelerate and in which pushing left or right turns your vehicle to its left or right regardless of which way you’re driving onscreen, and an option in which you push the thumbstick up to move up, down to move down, and so on. This second, far less realistic option allows for more responsive, turn-on-a-dime controls and more enjoyable vehicular shenanigans as a result. (On PC, you also have the option of playing with a keyboard, which works just fine.)
The Story mode’s 62 stages sometimes reference specific games not only in their plot setups and characters but in their concepts, and this often ends up being a liability. One mission is modeled on Paperboy, for instance, but the controls don’t feel anything like Paperboy. They feel like Retro City Rampage, and RCR’s controls weren’t designed for gameplay like Paperboy’s, so the mission doesn’t actually capture the feel, or the fun, of Paperboy. Players who are too young to remember Paperboy won’t get any joy from the reference, and players who do remember Paperboy will be frustrated by the way the gameplay fails to capture what actually made Paperboy enjoyable. That’s a recurring issue throughout Retro City Rampage’s story mode. Its attempts to mimic Paperboy, Tapper, Contra and other games usually end up feeling wrong. The one exception is Smash TV, which RCR’s controls allow it to passably imitate.
Like many 8-bit games, RCR’s difficulty is inconsistent, and sometimes quite high. There are times when the challenge is welcome; the final boss fight can be thumb-blistering and rage-inducing, but when you finally get the pattern down, your victory is rewarding, and you come away feeling like, having mastered the battle, you could now win it again and again without breaking a sweat.
But at other times, the difficulty is simply unfair. On one mission, for instance, you need to follow the not-so-heroic superhero Biffman across town. The game humorously parodies the commonplace missions in open-world games in which you must tail other vehicles without getting too close or too far away. Player finds the task so boring that you must not only follow Biffman but must also frequently stop for coffee, lest the sheer boredom of the mission put Player to sleep. It’s an amusing concept, but frustration arises when you must swing by a drive-thru restaurant. Sometimes, pedestrians mill about in your narrow path. Hit them, and the police are likely to jump on you, resulting in instant mission failure and sending you back to the mission’s start. Wait for them to clear out and you lose Biffman, resulting in the same thing. Sure, such difficulty issues occurred often in the 8-bit era, but the extra layer of nostalgia doesn’t keep them from being frustrating here.
But when it sticks to simple rampaging and havoc-wreaking, Retro City Rampage is goofy, cathartic fun. To use weapons, you can either press a button and make use of a lock-on system, or use the right thumbstick to aim and shoot as in a typical dual-stick shooter. There’s an enjoyable variety of guns and melee weapons to use. Wild power-ups like speed shoes and unlockable abilities like a ground-shaking super stomp keep the action pleasantly absurd.
And outside of the Story mode, there’s a good deal to do that benefits rather than suffers from RCR’s retro trappings. There are secrets aplenty to discover in the forms of warp pipes to secret areas and cheat codes you can enter, among other things, which makes exploring Theftropolis a rewarding pursuit. You can stop by Nolan’s Arcade to play a few simple but fun arcade games that reward you with content bonuses if you do well. And there are dozens of pick-up-and-play challenges which give you a quick burst of outrageous carnage and allow you to compete for a high score on the leaderboards.
You can also customize your character with a vast assortment of faces, tattoos and hairstyles, many of which have clever references worked into them. (Get the “Dennis Kooper” cut and you can finally live the dream of having hair like Dennis Hopper had when he played King Koopa in Super Mario Bros.!) Unfortunately, the in-game map doesn’t show the locations of shops, so locating the barber shop or other store that had the particular cosmetic item you’re looking for can take some time, until you have the lay of the land memorized.
Finally, there’s the Free Roam mode, in which you can cavort around Theftropolis as Player or a number of other unlockable characters. Retro City Rampage is a good amount of game for your $15, and if you’re old enough to remember the 80s, its shortcomings will be outweighed by the pleasures of jacking cars, spotting references, and discovering secrets in its enticing 8-bit city. It’s appropriate that there are so many time travel references in Retro City Rampage. Like the cold response Marty McFly got from his failed attempt to introduce 80s-style guitar licks to the people of the 1950s, a game like Retro City Rampage might have been too much for players of the 1980s to handle. But now, its time has come, and it’s well worth experiencing, warts and all.