Blog Archives

The D-Pad Review | The Last of Us | Naughty Dog Nailed It!

imageThe story of how naughty dog got it right

Survival horrors have long been a genre crying out for something fresh, something different that still gives us the same sense of enjoyment and fear as when the style burst onto the screen with the likes of Resident Evil and Silent Hill. We’ve averted (somewhat) global catastrophes at the hands of super evil mega corporations, rummaged through mist covered streets while being hunted by the evil that lurks within and, more recently, battled horrifying demonic entities across blasted landscapes and broken space stations. That’s not to say that this reviewer hasn’t quivered in fear when dark shadows dart across the screen or god forbid something falls off of a wall, but we’ve done and experienced all this before.

The Last of Us brings a new dynamic whereby, instead of blasting your way through hordes of enemies with an abundant supply of weapons and ammunition at your disposal, you are instead placed into a situation where a length of string and chunk of brick are your only options (you get the idea). This may seem like a restrictive feature, but having your resources limited and scarce really makes you think about each encounter and, instead of charging in guns blazing, you have to carefully consider each of your decisions, which keeps the tension at a great level. Naughty Dog got it right with this game and you will struggle to find something else in the current market that captures the joy and fear on a level we first experienced in the original Silent Hills. Of course, this game is not purely fear inducing from start to finish, but it happens just enough to keep you on edge and at no point does this feel forced.


The Last of Us is set in a very bleak world and Naughty Dog is not afraid to show you exactly how bleak it is. There is gore in this game; how can you have a horde of infected creatures baying for your blood and not involve an element of gore? This game is not ‘Manhunt’ though, nor is it a hack and slash with limbs flying left and right, instead when forced into a combat situation it feels necessary rather than entertaining. You fight and kill because you need to survive in a hostile world, you are in a desperate predicament and when having to attack and kill a survivor or infected alike you are only doing so because there is no alternative. You may be forced to go to extreme lengths to survive but you feel for Joel and Ellie’s plight and although this will shock a few gamers, you will empathize and understand their motives and that’s what truly sets this apart from what we have seen before. Your only goal is survival.

The Last of Us has Naughty Dogs super-high production qualities that we first saw in the ‘Uncharted‘ series and by no means is it bad thing. The PS3’s resident explorer brought a world of vibrant, lush and beautifully rendered jungles and ruins and this game has been given the same treatment. A good portion of this takes place in an open and sprawling land filled with the remnants of society and nature has reclaimed large areas, which is a change from the confined alleyways and labs we normally see, although they are in there.

The only drawback to this is that because of the nature of The Last of Us you notice the exploration-combat-cut scene style narrative that was also in Uncharted, but because Nathan Drakes adventure shot by at a high speeds you tend to forget that you weren’t actually in an open world while the illusion of it played out well; The Last of Us doesn’t always manage that. As with most games you will be in a situation where door B was the one you need to use and you’ll never quite understand why you couldn’t open door A, or you will be in an area where the cover is positioned nicely in order to push you towards the enemies and the end of combat. The combat within The Last of Us has pretty much been cut and pasted from ‘Uncharted’ as well, but the darker and more sinister theme fits the style well. Cinematic fights scenes always made for good viewing in ‘Uncharted’ and the brutal combat of The Last of Us is no different. There are plenty of tricky fight sequences that keep you on edge and the gunplay which is not too frequent as well as the constant lack of ammo makes every situation feel risky no matter what you decide to do.

Don’t be concerned about the slower pace though because the game play and cut scenes integrate together perfectly and you don’t notice load times too much and the areas connect seamlessly.


Ultimately it would be easy to stereotype this as a zombie survival, but although you can draw similarities, it is at its core an entirely different experience. The ‘Non-Human’ enemies you face are infected rather than undead and although they are a consistent antagonist throughout, you appreciate and sympathise with their condition; the ‘Runner’ infected, as an example, is fully aware of what they are doing but is helpless to control itself. The focus though is not on the enemies but instead on an engaging story set in a ruined world with the threat of attack playing behind the scenes; combat is not the focus.

The usual archetypes are present though – a virus has swept across humanity, killing a vast portion and turning others into blood crazed killers. From trailers released it also appears that the virus can spread through bites and life as we know has come crashing down. This has happened hundreds of times before, in small print, on consoles and on the big screen, but what sets this aside is that the writers/Naughty Dog make little to no attempt to explain the source or development of the virus, as these explanations can become quite preposterous at times (2008’s film ‘The Happening‘ I’m looking at you). What Naughty Dog and the writers have done is make a concerted effort to tell the story of the surviving humans and how life continues in the aftermath as they struggle day to day for survival. The best way to generate an image is to think of AMC’sThe Walking Dead‘ – the living characters are the focus and the human interaction is the most important aspect on display.

Continued character development is a key feature to telling a great story and the experiences in the game certainly compliment this. Beginning in the modern day world we are introduced to Joel and his life in the first panicked days of the outbreak. Flash forward then, to 20 years in the future and the remains of an all but devastated United States. For spoilers reasons I won’t go into too much detail as the story definitely needs to be played, but a world weary Joel takes on the mantle of guiding a young and naive Ellie across a blasted and infection riddled landscape which makes up the remainder of the game.


This may not seem earth shattering and we’ve been in a similar position with ‘Enslaved’ but the dynamic between Joel and Ellie, his tired and worn experience and her youthful naivety make for a great partnership. This is something that The Last of Us does well, the main characters (portrayed by Ashley Johnson – Ellie and Troy Baker – Joel) feel like people and the survivors they meet and interact with feel just as real. You genuinely feel for these characters; couple this with a well thought-out and executed story and you have a world of survivors and villains that are well-fleshed out and sometimes so disturbing that you will notice and remember when things happen to Joel, Ellie or any number of the supporting cast.

With the general abundance of zombie-survivals available across multiple platforms, you could be forgiven for saying Naughty Dog are merely jumping onto an already existing fan base and making ‘Uncharted: Undead’. However it is clear that those who created The Last of Us have drawn from the best sources when writing and creating this world and have included the best elements from computer games (Uncharted and Fallout) and television (Walking Dead) and although we find comfort in the familiarity of the style we get to experience something which is so much more.

The Last of Us is sure to become a hallmark of the PS3 and with is fantastic visuals, strong game-play, disturbing world and emotion provoking story you will never regret having played this and will remember it as the time when survival-horror made its comeback. Stay Alert, Stay Alive

Preview By; Simon Moore (Si)

Halo 4: Xbox 360 review

imageSo the end of 2012 brought us Halo 4 which represented a new beginning for the franchise on two fronts, the first being the start of a new trilogy (the Reclaimer trilogy) and the second more crucial one is that it is the first entry in the franchise created by 343 Industries, the team created solely to continue the Halo series.

Lets start by saying that visually the game is absolutely stunning, quite possibly one of the best looking games released this generation. Everything has been given a complete re-tooling, weapons from the older games are given an overhaul but when all said and done it’s still recognisable as a Halo game. Sound too is very good, Neil Davidge had an impossible task in following Marty O’Donnell‘s iconic score but he does an impressive job of making his own mark (listen out for a familiar tune in the end credits though).

The campaign picks up a few years after the end of Halo 3 and is exactly what you would expect from a Halo game, it’s great to be back with the Master Chief and Cortana again. The only negative side to it is that a lot of the nuance to the story is lost if you haven’t read some of the expanded universe novels or watch the Forward Unto Dawn web series but it’s still a fantastic ride from start to finish.


Multiplayer is also very good, I don’t usually bother as a rule but found myself playing a lot more than I expected. Firefight mode has been replaced with the Spartan Ops mode which actually has a story and cutscenes to further flesh the mode out and the suspicion is that this will in some ways lead into the inevitable Halo 5.

All in all 343 have crafted a hell of a debut effort, one of the games of 2012 for me, and I look forward to seeing what they can do going forwards as it’s likely to be a hell of a ride.

9/10 Lopez Green

Tomb Raider: review


GamepadGlory or Gamepadsnory ?

Before and build up –

Initially when I first heard about Tomb Raider I was not all that excited about it. It sounded like a great idea but with all the failed additions to the series in my eyes it started to get frankly stupid. With the new style, the origins story and the concept of it being open world it certainly had my attention. In the build up to Tomb Raiders release the more details the publisher released the more and more impressive it looked. The adverts and game play footage added to my excitement showing the games more in depth cinematic moments.

First impressions –

The first time I took control of the new, more human, Lara I noticed two things. Firstly, they really were not kidding when they wanted it to feel like she is being put through her paces and secondly how much attention to detail the design team had invested into the environment. The way in which the light scatters across from the candles and the warm glow it gives, the water running down walls into a pool below and grimy stones on the ground and walls. I was very satisfied with the way Tomb Raider looked and what the team had achieved with their time and efforts. I love the new sound and how it gives a real sense of the environment. You know that feeling when you look at a game for a little while and then you look at the time and realise 10 minuets has passed and all you had been doing is looking around and at the beautifully crafted world, that happened to me and I’m not ashamed to say a fair few times with this game.

Gameplay & Combat –

Lara feels very responsive, her movement is very fluid and with a solid camera behind her it doesn’t take long for anyone to get good at this game. The bow is definitely the hero weapon with five different versions of it, all improving on the last, its a fun weapon to use. Climbing feels natural and easy to navigate. It doesn’t take long for you to master all the different ways in which you can dispatch your foes and get into the story. This is the point when you can sit back and enjoying the game.

50% in –

So with being quite a way into the game and having found my feet with the controls I find myself having to dispatching my first tormentor with a gun. On screen Lara is nearly throwing up at this ordeal but within five seconds is trying to lob her next enemies head off with a climbing pick. I soon realise this game is not actually open world, sure you do get the sense of the island being open but its not, everything in Tomb Raider is set in one direction. In fact there are even areas in the game, if you go past a certain check point, you will find yourself having to go to the nearest base camp just so you can fast travel back to the area you may have missed. When I think about an open world setting the first couple of games that come to mind are Far Cry and Grand Theft Auto. These are true sand box, go anywhere you like or climb pointless mountains for no reason to find things you don’t need… that’s open world. If all you have in front of you is a straight line then this is not open world.

There are a few hidden tombs around but they are not very difficult to find, there will be a huge painting at the entrance of most. The ones that don’t give you so many clues to where the entrance is make you feel a little patronised by the time you have finished them.

I also noticed that all of the other characters who were part of the original exploration group are under developed and not as well delivered as Lara. This brings the game down but only ever so slightly.


The end –

After finishing the game I felt fairly satisfied with how the story ended. I liked the transformation of Lara from a young, innocent woman into the proud warrior we all know and love as the game progresses. I do however feel the games ambition was too much too soon, I mean where do they go next with this. They have definitely set the tone and bar with the Tomb Raider reboot but, unfortunately I am going to make this reference, its like comparing Uncharted to Uncharted 2.

Verdict –

Beautifully crafted with amazing detail, a lot of love and heart has been put into making this game. Lara is perfectly executed in all ways but the game lacks in its ambitions, they just don’t quite reach their goals and it leaves you expecting something else to happen but that never comes. A little more attention needs to be paid to the supporting cast but I think with more time and drawing on the experience of making this title the dev team will be able to nail this. I want them to open up the beautiful new world they have created in future instalments. The new direction they are taking the Tomb Raider series in is great.

7.5 / 10 Whippyice

Assassin’s Creed III Liberation: PS Vita review

Hello my friend, we meet again. It’s been awhile, where should we begin?

Liberation is the Vita its first Assassin’s Creed outing and aims give a console quality experience on the go and for the most part it does exactly what you would expect.

Instead of trying to cram the console version of Assassin’s Creed onto the portable developer Ubisoft has opted to introduce a new character to the franchise. This story revolves around Aveline a female African-French Assassin and is set in New Orleans at the turn of the American Revolution. The game is sectioned into bite sized chapters which is ideal for jumping in and out of play on the go. Liberation plays much the same as the console version, an open world setting, collecting missions along the way to progress the story with optional side quests. I found it very similar to Revelations in its set up and design.

Graphically Liberation is decent in places and stunning at times, but only times. Theres nothing better than climbing up to the highest point on a map and taking a good old look around before performing the impossible ‘leap of faith’ into a cart full of straw. Annoyingly it was a disappointing mess of washed out browns in some of the swap based levels. By the time I had purchased the game there was already an update which addressed most of the frame rate and sound issues that many gamers had reported. I did find Aveline falling off the occasional ledge or missing a jump for no apparent reason but it happened so few and far between it never become a real issue. The music is great, the voice acting is simply terrible. The comical accents reminded me of René from the TV show Allo ‘Allo! I’m glad that I had the option to turn the subtitles on so I could turn the sound down.


Shock horror… Liberation makes use of the Vita’s touchscreen, rear touch pad, cameras and gyroscope. These additional input methods feel very gimmicky to me and did not really add anything to the game apart from the chain kill finishing move which was fun… the first time.

Linking the the game to the PS3 version gives you an exclusive mission to play in Liberation, among other extras. This is a nice touch from the developer but also means they expect you to purchase both.

Overall it is a very enjoyable game and I am just about to go back thru it to get all the extras missed on my first play. I’d like to see this as the foundation for future releases which hopefully will improve on the flaws found here. Lets be honest no one really like the first Assassin’s Creed. So sadly I can’t say Liberation is the system seller we all hoped it would be, I kinda blame Golden Abyss for this. Golden Abyss proved from day one that the console experience can be had on a smaller screen without having to be on a smaller scale.

7/10 theflamey

Colonial Marines: How long is too long?

Aliens Colonial Marines: How long is too long and should it have happened?

Initially when Colonial Marines was picked up from the previous developer TimeGate it must have been a total mess, half coded, half imaged, half conceptualised with many ideas all mashed around the place. Its like looking into one of those guys garages who thinks he is great at fixing engines and machines only to get half way thought the thing to find out, oh I don’t actually know what I’m doing. TimeGate previously made Section8 which was a half baked game at best but with an amazing concept idea.

Now when I get an idea in my head, sometimes out of no where, like ‘hey I’m going to build myself a gaming room in the loft’ you get the ladder out, climb up there and start shifting things about. Then you take a look about the place and start assessing your surroundings, thinking to yourself ‘hummm… ok well I have the space now, but its totally bare’. You suddenly find yourself saying, right I need flooring, lighting, power points, internet points, TV, a desk, chairs, kettle, sound, it goes on and on. In the end its ‘hummm… ok now it sounded like a good idea but maybe its not going to work out’. This is the point where you either make the right or wrong decision depending on a few factors, such as do I have the money, skills, time, persistence to do this. Can I realistically make all these needs come together so that this works. If the answer is no, climb down the ladder, shut the door and get on with your life. I hope you see where I am going with this.

I strongly believe that during the games development Gearbox got in too deep and didn’t realise they should have climbed down the ladder. If they had decided to cut their losses and shut the door on the game, yes there would have been a lot and I really do mean a lot of upset fans, but the companies development skills and integrity for the most part would have remained intact and unsullied by this erm… well what do you call this? I think without being to harsh lets just call it a questionable effort to make something not so shiny, shiny again.

So when you are faced with a final product like Aliens: Colonial Marines, which you have without a doubt put effort into but know isn’t good, what do you do? Well you fabricate a portion of the game and hope the loving, adoring fans will keep the faith purely because of your history? If you come to that conclusion you really don’t know gamer’s or critics well at all.

Its not like the game is totally unplayable, there are sections of the game that bring up the feelings I would expect from a game in the Aliens franchise. When this game was going through Q&A did no one say ‘wait guys, this game looks like CRAP’. Who knows what went on and what they decided, only time will tell.

So going back to my opening question, how long is to long and should it have happened? I think when a game is tossed from one team to another, the vision can easily be lost. The concept changes, the drive is different, how can you make a game that fans with love when it is based on the half finished vision of someone else. Can you really take someone else’s product and touch it up with your own ideas when it has already been hashed and re-hashed again. You don’t have to look too far to find another game in the same situation with the same problems… Duke Nuke Forever. Can you start sculpting the statue of David and half way through decide to make the statue of Liberty using the same stone, who knows?

We the gamer’s know, that’s who.


FIFA 13: PS Vita review

Everyone seems to know the score, they’ve seen it all before …

My relationship with EA is a constant battle between love and hate. The past couple of years it has been leaning towards the side of hate. This years version of Fifa may just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Why you ask? well let me explain… after purchasing Fifa Football with my shiny new Vita around release day I was a very happy boy. Yes I had paid full price for a football game that had been released half way through the season, yes I had the far superior version on my PS3 but finally I could recreate a near console quality match on the go.

The game looked great, played well and even had most of the modes from its PS3 counterpart. It was kinda like a Fifa 12 -5 with added touch controls, which I enjoyed after a little practice. Tapping the rear touch pad as if it were the goal mouth is a great way to direct a shot in my opinion.

We now move onto Fifa 13. This year we get back the title number to prove we are playing a new game, sadly this seems to be one of the major updates!!! There have been minor gameplay and graphical tweaks but Fifa 13 is really just a full priced squad update, this really couldn’t have taken more than a week to produce.


So it’s not that it’s a terrible game, far from it. I really, really enjoyed playing Fifa Football the first time round I just have to ask myself why didn’t EA give us the option to download an update à la Euro 2012? I guess it all boils down to greed. Bring back This is Football ….. Nah

3/10 theflamey

Tales from Space, Mutant Blobs Attack: PSN review

Keep rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ …

Mutant space blobby game is how I have known it since day one, honesty I didn’t know its actual name until checking just now. Yet having said that it is still one of the best games available for the Vita.

Tales from Space is basically a 2D version of Katamari mixed into a platformer. You play a one eyed blob who needs to get home, consuming anything thats gets in the way. The more you eat the bigger you get, the bigger you get the bigger the object you can eat … simple. There are around 25 levels to eat your way through each with a set of collectables to find, which is good news as you will want to replay this a second time.

The graphics are colourful and chunky which work perfectly on the Vitas OLED screen. The stylised cut scenes look like something found in a mid 90’s Nickelodeon cartoon which makes me smile.

Most importantly tho, Tales from Space is fun to play. The mix between using physical controls and touch n tilt are perfectly balanced. The touch elements do not feel forced and actually add to the experience. The top down tilt levels are optional.


If you haven’t played Mutant space blobby game yet and missed it on PSN+ I cannot recommend this game highly enough. Everyone with a Vita should play it and at around £5 it’s a total bargain.

April sees developer Drinkbox release their second PSVita offering, Guacamelee! I personally cannot wait.

7.5/10 theflamey

Aliens Colonial Marines: Xbox 360 review

I mean its like somebody is shitting in my eyes. Please, just look really close, you don’t see shit?

So Colonial Marines then, it’s hard to know where to start really, the game had been in development for quite a while and at one point was actually meant for the Playstation 2. I had high hopes for it as a lover of the Aliens franchise (even 3 and 4 were enjoyable in their own way) and the original story trailer released at the tail end of 2012 actually managed to make me more excited seeing as it became apparent that Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen were reprising their roles from Aliens in some capacity.

I preordered the game, picked up up and fired it up only to be greeted by the biggest mess of a game I have ever played, the graphics were appalling and would have been terrible in the PS2s era much less in the same time period as games like Journey, it was buggy as hell with the energy bar seeming to deplete for no reason and with the added bonus of the game repeatedly killing you because the weapons don’t seem to aim properly. The only positive thing I can say for it on any level is that the sound is very good, the pusle rifle sounds authentic but on the whole it just seems as if the people who developed it deliberately ignored 10 years of progress in the first person shooter genre and released a half finished game with a view to cashing in before word of mouth killed it.


The game was so bad that I took it back a week later to try and return and when I was told I had to trade it at a significant loss I didn’t argue the point as at this point I was just desperate to be rid of it.

All in all I would rate it at 0 out of 10. It’s insulting that a game can be released in this shape in this day and age, Lopez Green.

ICO HD: PS3 review

Every breath you take, every move you make, every step you take, I’ll be watching you ..

That’s it. Officially done with Ico. Literally never had less fun playing a game in my life. Every time somebody calls that pile of shit ‘art’, they set gaming back 10 years.

Oh boo hoo my name’s Yorda and I have magical powers but can’t think or defend myself because I have a vagina waaaaaaaahhhh.


Or maybe she just doesn’t want to get involved in literally the worst combat system in history, which is understandable, I guess…

1/10 – Iai

Lego Batman 2: PS Vita review

Its not the game we deserve, but its the one we have right now …

For what must be coming close to ten years now we have all been playing the same basic game in various guises, which isn’t a bad thing but this formula is getting a little stale.

So why have I parted with my money once again, well on this occasion Batman returns and every boy wants to be the bat.

The addition of voice acting really didn’t appeal to me as after hearing Batman rasp at Robin in the intro the novelty was gone and rest of the game was played on mute.

The campaign mode can be cleared within a few hours leaving the task of grinding out those in game bonuses, character unlocks and all important trophies. We all know the deal by now Bricks mean prizes!

The Justice League missions are a chore and once they have been accomplished I cannot find a reason to ever play this game again.


4/10 theflamey

%d bloggers like this: