Rhythm Circus » Games http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk Newest online source for anything Film, Game and Music! Sat, 07 May 2016 15:02:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.4 The New 8-Bit Heroes http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/featured/the-new-8-bit-heroes/ http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/featured/the-new-8-bit-heroes/#comments Sat, 27 Sep 2014 16:26:16 +0000 http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/?p=19994 The New 8-Bit Heroes HeaderIn modern times the pixel has found itself to be something of a jagged ambassador to computer-game culture as a whole. Where sprites once bounced along the forefront of graphics technology, they’re now a fond memory of a simpler time. The pixel’s value to gaming is far greater than just nostalgia and aesthetics however; the principles and mechanics championed in yesterday’s ‘Golden Era’ are of seemingly increasing relevance today. 

Mystic Searches is a celebration of yesterday’s gaming, but also of one of it’s most recognised domains; the Nintendo Entertainment System. It’s a brand new ‘grey cartridge’ game which is being developed not only for compatibility with the yellowed’ NES in your attic, but via USB port, your home computer or laptop too. 

Mystic Searches PosterThe game’s realisation is particularly personal to the project lead and documentarian Joe Granato who, as a child, actually plotted out the original basic designs in thick crayon and scribble. The rebirth of Mystic Searches will incorporate these blueprints, but also expand upon them in collaboration with new talent. Joe’s new team will consist of a fantasy novelist, an accomplished illustrator, a graphic designer at IGN, and amongst others, a film score composer.

The unique production process behind ‘Mystic Searches’ will be also chronicled through a concurrently developed documentary, The New 8-bit Heroes. As well as exploring the genesis of the game, this film will also feature a number of industry professional’s who will offer insight and advice to members of the design team in their quest. Such oracles include, Yacht Club Games, producers of Shovel Knight, Sivak (creator of BattleKid), Brian Provinciano (creator of Retro City Rampage), and also veteran’s who were involved in original NES game development such as Marc Erickson, who created the unforgettable box art for popular titles such as Megaman2, Strider, and Tetris.  

Mystic Searches itself is in part inspired by both classic games such as The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy, but also more contemporary titles like 2012’s stunning Journey. One aspect of the game that reflects this duality is it’s highly unique ‘double platform’ system. Both the 8-bit and contemporary iterations of the game have the ability to exchange and unlock items between each other, giving gamers a reason to get immersed in both.

Mystic Searches and The New 8-bit Heroes are both slated for an October 18th, 2015 release, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the NES’s release in America, and the project is currently live on Kickstarter with a range of backer rewards tincluding; physical copies of the documentary and the game; signed, hand drawn concept art; beta testing opportunities; personalised prose literature where the backer features as the hero of the story; production credits in the film and game; and instruction manuals on how backers can create their own hardware-playable game for the Nintendo Entertainment System using modern tools.

Fans of NES and gaming are encouraged to support this historic project by following The New 8-Bit Heroes’ website and Facebook page

Words> Samuel Cochrane

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Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/film/pantani-the-accidental-death-of-a-cyclist/ http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/film/pantani-the-accidental-death-of-a-cyclist/#comments Wed, 28 May 2014 15:44:17 +0000 http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/?p=19489 gallery17

Top level cyclists have that knife-edge ability to capture a once unassuming public’s imagination to their sport, whilst also surrounding themselves in scandal. Perhaps this rings true for all athletes, but, as one of history’s most famous, Armstrong showed us best how the cult of personality can be felt eerily more so in the pedals more than anywhere else. Whilst the documentary covering Lance’s confessions may have had its spotlight, a nice companion piece has arrived in the form of Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist. As a storytelling tool it lacks a few crucial spokes, but such limitations could never outrun the captivating story of its iconic Italian rider subject.

gallery15Marco Pantani, whilst not the all-time greatest in cycling, was still pretty miraculous. A high class mountain climber, his ability to aggressively take on and overtake so many riders when uphill was topped only by the fierce way in which he drew in fans, from his Italian people and beyond. He is the only cyclist thus far to win the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the same year, but ‘il Pirata’ – as he was known – never got to rise to greater heights due to consistent doping allegations and the transpiring tragedy to which they led. Dying at age 34 from cocaine poisoning, the film follows Pantani’s life from start to its far too early finish, with his entire legacy dotted in between.

As you can imagine from that synopsis alone, Pantani’s tale is far too interesting to ever make an uninteresting watch. Even if you think hearing one tale filled with raw passion, a defying rise to fame and heart-breaking crash means you’ve heard them all, gaining a greater context into the world of cycling (particularly today where corporate interests have become so involved) will have to intrigue at least some newcomers. Indeed many of the interviews – such as conversations with Pantani’s mother and fellow cyclists – contain deep candour and warnings for anyone who aspires to be the top of their game.

Where Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist wobbles is its handling of the documentary format. In comparison to Jiro Dreams of Sushi’s stunningly captured cooking scenes, or The Imposter’s near total running time of re-enactments, here there’s but a handful of oddly chosen dramatic reconstructions. Sometimes the footage is also awkwardly edited together to atone for what wasn’t originally captured, such as when Pantani was injured by a car during a 1996 race (embarrassingly so). Interviewees are used to fill space where a narrator is sorely missed, and the stylistic choice of posting quotes from the conversations before we actually hear them can be a little distracting.

gallery7Perhaps where the film most needed to shift gears is in its final focus. There’s attention paid to whether the professional cycling behemoth wanted Marco out, with the ‘disgraced’ rider himself believing them to be a mafia. It doesn’t quite hit tinfoil hat territory, but where The Armstrong Lie could involve itself in its own central lie; this film lacks a definitive conclusion and doesn’t dig much up to throw on the table. It is nevertheless an exceptional story that captures Pantani’s charisma, which is no small feat given the fact that he’s sadly not around to contribute.

Words > Graham Ashton

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Eurogamer 2013 Overview http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/featured/eurogamer-2013-overview/ http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/featured/eurogamer-2013-overview/#comments Sun, 13 Oct 2013 17:59:41 +0000 http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/?p=18360 dark-souls-2This year’s Eurogamer was probably the biggest yet; with the imminent launch of the next two big consoles weeks away, devotees of the digital had come from far and wide to queue at Sony and Microsoft’s stands, which dominated the show floor with fans and employees eyeing one another disdainfully across the neutral stretch of carpet. Meanwhile the fortress like exterior of Earls Court had been given a Third Reich visage courtesy of some creative and bombastic advertising from Wolfenstein and a man dressed in the full armour set from Dark Souls 2 was attacking the traffic outside West Brompton tube, making it clear that more publicity dollars had been thrown at the event than ever before. Given its popularity we were only able to secure tickets for the Thursday and Sunday, not nearly enough time to see even a fraction of what was on show. So, taking advantage of our early entry we high-tailed it to our number one priority: Elder Scrolls Online.

elder-scrollsElder Scrolls games, which achieved the apex of their popularity last year with the magnificent Skyrim (I recall queuing for that game first thing at a Eurogamer two years ago), have always felt a bit like single player MMOs with their massive scale, high number of quests and emphasis on player freedom. But as I sat down to play Elder Scrolls Online I quickly realised that it was this solitary aspect that remains the series true soul. Dropped at an inn on an island created for the demo, about 30 dark elf assassins (the character creation menu seemed a little pared back for the show) mobbed the quest giver, acutely aware that we only had twenty minutes to get a taste of Bethesda’s new foray into world building. In Elder Scrolls games I’ve always enjoyed taking the time to smell (not to mention pick and alchemise) the roses, wandering endlessly in the landscape in the hope that I’ll stumble into an interesting encounter and generally enjoying the ambience of the world. This leads me to hope that in the final game the world is big enough and the servers small enough to allow for a wide spread of players, because whilst epic battles might feel great in games like the forthcoming Destiny, here a mob of players dashing around together made my heart sink.

After being distracted by an NPC who believed herself to be transformed into a skeever, I was tasked with infiltrating an enemy encampment and, as a shadowy assassin, promptly changed into my disguise. But no sooner was I at the encampment’s entrance than a dozen other players turned up for a full frontal invasion. So much for stealth. Given the multiplayer nature of the game Bethesda have seemingly added more enemies and given them more health, but the melee combat system in the game is even more clumsy than it always has been. My unfamiliarity with playing with a mouse and keyboard was also a source of immense frustration and I hope that there is controller support in the final game. Swinging your blade wildly in front of you is normally fine, but here with sometimes three people facing down the same enemy on a crowded battlefield (think the civil war missions in Skyrim) more nuanced strikes would feel much better.

It’s an immediate and refreshing novelty to be able to use first person in an MMO and this instantly makes it feel like an Elder Scrolls game, and given the tired state of WOW and the dearth of interesting alternatives, Bethesda may be entering the MMO genre at just the right time, but if the failure of The Old Republic is anything to go by than it takes more than a great pedigree to win over that crowd and it would be tragic to see Bethesda broken by a botched MMO launch like EA and Square Enix before them.

Dark-soulsFeeling the need for a good slap round the face to get over the Elder scrolls online, I headed over to the Dark Souls 2 booth for a sadomasochistic fix. We were given twenty minutes to fight our way through the demo and promised a reward for defeating the so called Mirror Knight at the end within the allotted time. Dropping in to an available booth I quickly realised that I had my work cut out for me since I was unable to choose the type of character I wanted to play, being lumbered with a generic fighter, but whatever, this is Dark Souls so I took it as a challenge and within seconds I was slicing up undead soldiers and falling to my death down a pit that looked too shallow to be fatal.

Admittedly I had issues with the demo, but hopefully they are limited to it and not the final game. There was no chance to look at the menu system, which in a game like this is integral to conveying the narrative and managing the ever-important gear and stats. Worryingly the view control was unresponsive and the auto aim was nowhere near fast enough to keep up with enemy movements. I’m hoping that this was simply a bad demo, attempting to show a stripped-down ‘arcade’ version of Dark Souls 2 that is not representative of the final game. Admittedly, the range and effects of the items and spells in the game seems to have improved and the new ability to dual-wield weapons more effectively opens the game up to new styles of play.

titanfallNext up was a long queue for Titanfall, Xbox One’s most interesting looking exclusive. The game is by Respawn Entertainment, formed by refugees from Infinity Ward following their spectacular split with Activision. The game features the same solid mechanics, twitch pinpoint shooting and sense of pace that you’d expect from the architects of the Call of Duty empire and as a result I was terrible at it! After an hour of queuing I spent a frustrating ten minutes being killed over and over again by teenagers. That’s not to say the game is not without depth. My competence aside the split between being on foot as a soldier and being astride a huge war mech, gives you a completely different feel for the battle, mixing things up strategically. As Ne-Yo says, it’s the way you move. As a soldier you’re double jumping huge distances thanks to a jetpack and wall running Mirror’s Edge style from building to building, traversing whole environments without touching the ground. It’s hard to believe that Faith’s unique brand of first person parkour hasn’t been re-used before, and it’s very refreshing to see it in a shooter.

At the end of a two minute countdown, which is accelerated per kill, you can call in your mech which can either shadow you as a walking turret or ferry you around the level. Despite its massive firepower potential, the mech has a lumbering quality that makes it vulnerable to being flanked by multiple mobile soldiers, giving the game a cat and mouse feel, with the cat and mouse constantly changing roles. Even after being taken down in the mech you can eject and use your descent as an opportunity to fire down on the battle field, turning a defeat into a tactical advantage. Adding to the tactical nature of the game is the fact you can marry up different classes of mech and pilot, specialising in long or short range attacks or more supportive classes. In short there’s a lot that can potentially set this apart from the crowded FPS genre but more than that, it has the sense of fun that is so often lacking.

If the queue for Titanfall reinforced anything it was the sense that here the videogame had fallen to the status of fairground attraction, with the staff of any of the show’s biggest booths clearly well versed at feeding people through intricate barrier systems or weeding under eighteens out of lines they shouldn’t be in (you must be this tall to ride this game). Feeling a little flagged by it all I decided to explore the cafe area, where the guys from Shut Up and Sit Down were running a board game arena. This is the first year this has been at the show and, whilst well attended, had nowhere near the bustle of the rest of the show making it perfect for a gaming detox.

Taking a seat and meeting the other players, including Quinns and Paul who started Shut Up and Sit Down, a great site for board game reviews and general high jinx, and we were taught the rules for Ladies and Gentleman, a wonderfully farcical game with a tongue-in-cheek satirical look at gender roles of the early twentieth century. Players are divided into pairs of husband and wife (and are encouraged to role play) with an odd numbered player assigned the role of courtesan. Whilst the husbands make money on the stock market, in the form of a frantic tile matching dexterity game that might be the best stock market simulation out there, the wives sell and choose dresses at their boutiques, presenting them to their husbands to buy at the end of the round. After six rounds the couple with the best dressed wife wins, provided the husband didn’t buy the least amount of items for the courtesan, who spends the game playing the husbands off one another and threatening to cause a scandal at the end by turning up without a dress. It seems strange to say this about a videogame show, but this was my highlight of the event and proof to me that more and more gamers are (or should be) embracing board games, which are currently exploding with creativity in much the same way that the indie games scene is.

Teslagrad-Positive-NegativeThe indie section of Eurogamer was awesome. There was a wide range of games on offer and it was easy to get settled on one. Each game had the developers on hand who were willing to talk enthusiastically through their ideas, a far cry from the impersonal pit crews or hired in PR guys surrounding most of the triple A games. A stand out for me was the charming platformer Teslagrad, which sees you take on the role of a young boy (who I assume is either famous Russian inventor Nikola Tesla or a relation) traversing a steam punk environment made up of clever puzzles utilising magnetic polarity and electricity in fascinating ways. The art style is a beautiful watercolour animated aesthetic that is slightly reminiscent of Japanese anime by Hayao Miyazaki with a lead character sprite that has the look of Astro Boy. The artwork gives the game a satisfyingly nostalgic, melancholic tone. Teslagrad has just gotten through Steam Greenlight and I can’t wait to play more of it.

chromaJust when you thought there couldn’t be any more fresh ideas in the realm of the platforming genre indie developers just keep on thinking them up. Chroma is a case in point. In it you control a cute pixel art character made of pure light and moving him throws shadows amidst the game’s scenery. At any point you can switch to his shadow, and walk on these and other shadows to traverse the environment. This is an incredibly smart central mechanic which, like Fez, constantly alters your perception of the world and how you interact with it.

 

shiftlingsAnother game that shows a clever approach to 2D platform puzzle solving is Rock Pocket Games’ Shiftlings which sees two players controlling alien astronauts attached via an umbilical cord. When one is super inflated the other is normal sized, and the press of a button switched them around. Like the recent Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, each character can be controlled with an analogue stick or two players can team up to tackle the physics based puzzles. The game also seems to relish the fact that things can break in unexpected ways, which is frankly what you’d expect when presented with a see saw, an electric fence and the ability to increase your mass by several stone mid jump. The result is an hilarious but brilliant brightly coloured mess that will have co-op gamers arguing over puzzles and ‘accidentally’ killing one another in a quantity not seen since Portal.

Other standout games included Prison Architect, a kind of theme hospital over laid with some social discourse; Eden Star, a graphically flashy and physics based take on Minecraft’s harvest and build gameplay loop; and Fist of Awesome, a kind of twisted pixel art streets of rage that replaces Axel with a disgruntled lumberjack punching his way through a forest of bears and dears (which apparently went down very well with Bill Bailey who was at the show, and whom we also sighted at the Titanfall queue).

We ended the day by attending the Live Eurogamer podcast, with a panel of indie game devs discussing the nature of being indie and the often vulnerable position they have to place themselves vis-a-vis the public in order to get the recognition they need. It was an appropriate ending to the show in which, for the first time, I felt my interest shift firmly from the triple A space to the indie space. My impression of the show as a whole was sore-footed disappointment, mixed with wide eyed amazement, the latter courtesy of all the talented creators who are bursting into the industry via the ground swell of the indie revolution. That alone reminded me of why I fell in love with videogames when I owned my Megadrive back in the day.
           
Words > Dean Bowman & Thom Haley

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Interview: War Thunder Developer Pavel Kulikov http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/featured/interview-war-thunder-developer-pavel-kulikov/ http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/featured/interview-war-thunder-developer-pavel-kulikov/#comments Sat, 12 Oct 2013 11:09:42 +0000 http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/?p=18279 wt_logo

War thunder is a free to play online combat game about non-stop fighting between planes, ships and tanks. The first open beta players have already taken to the skies in massive 16 vs 16 player dogfights. At this year’s Eurogamer expo we caught up with lead developer Pavel Kulikov of Gaijin Entertainment to get some more info:

 

How important is teamwork between players in the game?

It’s very important, of course, this is the case with any online game. But in our game we have many different types of plane, fighters, strike fighters and bombers. Bombers have greater firepower but are slow, so players in fighters will want to cover them for example. Players can form into squads and enter the battle together which makes it much easier to accomplish a mission.

What kind of customisation options are there for players?

Well, once you choose your favourite plane you can choose between different colour schemes and decals. There is a broad range of decals which can be applied to any part of the plane, we don’t restrict players in their placement. Currently four decals can be applied to any plane, which is enough to make truly unique custom designs, which our players so far have proved.

There is a tremendous variety of planes available in the game, how important was historical accuracy in the design?

I think for us it was the most important thing, for every plane we called experts and gathered hundreds of pages of information, with all major modifications, all original wt_presskit1data, photos and blueprints. Of course, we can’t just make the plane, searching Google images, we put in a huge amount of work gathering all this data and putting it together into 3D models. This means we have around 300 planes with realistic stats and which take realistic damage. There are no hit-point bars in our game, you can hit over 150 different parts of the plane from the pilot, to the fuel tanks and armour. Every detail can be damaged which will effect other details so you could slightly damage your enemy so he can’t control, say, the left wing, making him easier to take down.

So is it the next generation hardware that allows you to do this?

No, this has been the main concept for us for about six years, our fist game had all the basic concepts here but it was simpler, with fewer parts but we still had no hitpoints, the damage was real and the physics was real. Basically the improvement is more about the research we’ve been doing and now we have six years of experience and data that we can take advantage of and use to improve the game.

War Thunder features Oculus Rift support, how does this change the experience for players?

Well, in my opinion, Oculus Rift is was all virtual pilots have always wanted because when you’re sitting in a cockpit seat, you want to know what is going on around you and it [oculus rift] allows you to quickly look around. In the past virtual pilots have been known to use three big monitors and some custom tracking devices to get a similar effect but Oculus provides a completely new level of immersion and flexibility for players. In terms of development it has been a lot of fun and it almost seems like the hardware was made for our game.

Does this mean then that players using Oculus Rift will have an advantage over players on conventional screens?

wt_presskit15I think so but this is really more important in the ‘full real’ battles, we have three modes, arcade mode, historical mode and full real mode. The other modes are more suited to new players but full real battles are for more experienced flight sim players. The improved visibility will help in these battles but it shouldn’t be a problem since we know in our community players have spent a lot of money on large monitors and custom flight sticks which are supported by the game so oculus rift is simply another way to play, rather than the best way.

Aviation games are kind of a niche genre, how are the community responding to War Thunder?

We have been getting a good response from the aviation game community who are already congregating around our game because there aren’t many aviation games out there that are as easy to pick up as ours but that have the depth that experienced players want. We are getting a good response because of the different historical battles in the game too, as well as the details we’ve included on different historical pilots. It’s exciting too because we in the aviation game community haven’t had a big title like this in quite a while.

As the MMO grows, how are you aiming to expand the experience for players?

Well, we already have the different game modes but as the new content for ships and tanks arrives later this year and early next year we will include missions for specific vehicle types, so planes vs planes, tanks vs tanks, ships vs planes etc. Each player will like to control a different type of vehicle so for every type of player we want to provide the experience they will enjoy.

 

If you want to take part in the open beta head over to the War Thunder website and sign up now!

 

Interview> Thom Haley

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NFTS show at Eurogamer http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/featured/nfts-show-at-eurogamer/ http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/featured/nfts-show-at-eurogamer/#comments Sat, 12 Oct 2013 11:05:40 +0000 http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/?p=18264 This year at Eurogamer being filled with numbered sequels and remakes (HD or otherwise) we saw some of the most exciting ideas coming from the indie area. Newly present this year was the grad show from the National Film and Television School’s new Games Design & Development degree. It says something that new blood graduates are being showcased in the same arena as Triple A franchise titles and it was exciting to experience some new ideas and share words with the creators/developers themselves.

This area of the show definitely stood out over the identical rows of monitors with guns hovering bottom-centre with its focus on narrative and largely non-violent gameplay.

 

4PM4PM

4PM is a first-person narrative adventure, or interactive story, dropping players in the shoes of Caroline, a young woman having a bad run of things. There’s a good atmosphere in the current alpha build and the potential for some sensitive storytelling, implemented through time-skips covering the previous 24 hours in Caroline’s life, triggered by navigating the frame story set in the present. I wasn’t able to see too far into the story on my playthrough but hints of Caroline’s past and themes of obsession, compulsion and addiction beginning to rear their heads. Developer Bojan Brbora says he aims for Caroline’s story to be just the beginning of an episodic story spanning multiple characters and countries.
Keep track of development on the official website

 

Sandman1269514_434823193303497_154043735_o

Taking cues from folklore as well as greek myth, Albert Bentall’s Sandman has players embodying the titular spirit, ferrying sleeping children safely down the river of sleep, using rhythmic rowing controls. The randomly generated courses will eventually allow for a great deal of replayability, not simply through variety but because Sandman’s enigmatic narrative is sparingly dished out through snippets of dialogue from npcs but through the levels themselves. In the build I played the controls needed a lot of work but the game’s sense of place was very strong, with good sound design and Oculus Rift support adding to the immersion. It will be interesting to see where this one ends up further down the river.
Stay in the know on the Sandman website

 

Starr Worldstarr

The first of two mobile games in the NFTS show, Starr World is inspired by classic business management games like Harvest Moon and puts you in charge of restoring a dilapidated waterside themepark to working order with the added impetus of winning over Annie, one of the park’s employees. This is achieved through a series of minigames which can be tackled in an order of the player’s choosing. The romantic comedy inspired script could make this stand out from other games like it, though this is dependent on the strength of the writing as the game progresses. Thankfully microtransactions, at this point, have no part in the script.
Follow Starr World on the official facebook page.

 

Voice of the Silent LandCreature_Charge_05

Taking cues from so called ‘beautiful games’ like Shadow of the Collossus, Alexander Macleod’s, Voice of the Silent Land is a one-on-one combat game being developed for PC and mobile, which sees players using bow mechanics to battle giant monsters by targeting their weak spots. The rich artwork and allegorical story of a comatose woman’s subconscious struggle towards recovery could allow for some poignant moments as this title progresses.
Follow the game on twitter or the official facebook page.

 

Off GridOff grid

This non-combat stealth game is the story of an office worker hoping to reclaim his abducted son after he is discovered to have downloaded a song illegally. With visible data trails some solid stealth gameplay and a wry take on digital espionage, Off Grid seems to be coming around at just the right time. Its bleak aesthetic suggests modern online paranoia, despite its having been in development some time before the NSA scandal.
Keep tabs on Off Grid on the dev blog or on twitter.

It will be interesting to see what comes out of this new course at the NFTS in coming years, if their very first show is anything to go by, the industry may have found a new first port of call for young development talent.
For more information on any of the games shown here or the course at NFTS, visit nfts-games.com

Words> Thom Haley

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Pro Evolution 2014 http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/featured/pro-evolution-2014/ http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/featured/pro-evolution-2014/#comments Thu, 26 Sep 2013 17:35:09 +0000 http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/?p=18202 PES-2014-cover

History has seen many great rivalries, Thomas Edison vs Nikola Tesla, Tupac vs Notorious B.I.G, Tom vs Jerry but they all pale in significance when compared to football rivalries and the digital representation of this in manifested in the battle for dominance between FIFA international soccer and the subject of this review: Pro Evolution soccer.

PES2014_S_o-PauloThe soccer (or football to you and me) battle has gone back and forth through the years and even across multiple consoles, it all began on the SNES when FIFA stood alone as the choice of the fans. It would be around two years before Pro Evolution entered the battle under the name International Superstar Soccer, but FIFA’s dominance continued until the Playstation until its uncomfortable transition to 3D saw International Superstar Soccer (now known as ISS Pro) seize the initiative in 1998 – bundling it with a demo of the unreleased Metal Gear Solid proved the winning combination for Konami. FIFA languished for years as a clear second to ISS Pro who had again changed it’s name to Pro Evolution Soccer, but as the new console era dawned, along with it came the rise of the western development studios among the top of them was EA. FIFA once again dominated as Pro Evo struggled to recapture the form it once had.

With the 2014 entry in the series Konami have made a conscious effort to improve Pro Evolution and once again try to reclaim the top spot; the biggest feather in their cap is to once again call on the talents of Hideo Kojima’s team, but this time in the form of a new engine. Pro Evolution 2014 is powered by Kojima’s brand new fancy FOX engine that will be used in the new Metal Gear Solid game, and no that doesn’t mean a cardboard box and a two hour cutscene about nuclear disarmament are required to score a goal, what it does mean is that with a brand new engine comes a new feel to the gameplay and improved visuals. Although some of the player likenesses are still a bit off, the animation is a lot more varied and fluid, and the gameplay has been improved measurably thanks to the new physics engine. Everything is taken into account from making the ball a separate 3D object to the players weight, height and speed, which changes how everything reacts from the bounce of the ball to hard hitting tackles.

Konami have made great strides in recreating the real match “feel” thanks to the improved AI and various other factors, the Heart system really helps; the stadiums coming alive if your performance is good cheering you on and giving your player a lift. Likewise if you start to play poorly the fans will left you know about it and player performance drops down as they lose heart.

Konami stated prior to launch that they would focus on this years entry before going next gen to ensure the best possible experience and it seems to have paid off for them. There’s  a wealth of modes from the impressively comprehensive and 44102-pes2challenging training mode to the usual suite of exhibition, championships and, of course, master league.
FIFA may have the presentation rapped up with the visual edge and of course the official license, but Pro Evolution Soccer has nailed it with the gameplay meaning this is one battle that will not end soon and with the next gen looming it’s game on all over again for football fans

Words > Jason Potter

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Eurogamer 2013 preview http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/featured/eurogamer-2013-preview/ http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/featured/eurogamer-2013-preview/#comments Sun, 15 Sep 2013 13:09:03 +0000 http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/?p=18092 EurogamerVM_ExpoLogo_SMALL_Positive_RGBIt’s only a couple of weeks until Britain’s premier videogame trade fair, Eurogamer Expo, opens its doors to hoards of fanatical gamers. With two next gen consoles dropping in the next couple of months and with their architects Sony and Microsoft locked in a battle of wills the likes of which has never before been seen, it’s shaping up to be a very very big show (and its unsurprising that it has already sold out). But with these two black boxes overshadowing everything like the monoliths from 2001, it’s easy to forget some of the other interesting things that will be going down. For one thing there’s another exciting piece of hardware on the scene in the form of the Oculus Rift, which genuinely points to an exciting new future for gaming. Then there’s the Nvidia Shield, you know, if that’s your thing.

Meanwhile the indie renaissance continues completely unphased by all this pomp and the show floor is sure to be flooded with unexpected gems that make you shout WHAT THE FUCK ISTHIS! and remind you why you got excited about videogames in the first place. Also this will be the first year that the rapidly growing and innovating world of board games will be represented, meaning that big or small, digital or analogue, Eurogamer’s got your bases covered. Here’s a little list of what Rhythm Circus is looking forward to seeing and why. We’ll weigh in with whether they lived up to expectations in our post event breakdown.

bao_logo_master_final_simplified_psd_jpgcopyArkham Origins
Just as Nolan’s philosophical take on the Dark Knight tore up the superhero movie rulebook, Rocksteady’s daringly innovative Arkham Asylum and its sequel Arkham City were performing even bolder feats in videogames, innovating, amongst other things, a combat system that is likely to be a template for a long time to come. Arkham Origins is the first in the series not by Rocksteady or writer Paul Dini (responsible for the 90s animated Batman that remains its high water mark), and we’re just hoping that Warner Brothers don’t fuck it up.

WiiU_Bayonetta2_logo01_E3Bayonetta 2
Bawdy, subversive and utterly insane, Bayonetta’s tongue in cheek narrative ran the gamut of 70s sexploitation, Japanese anime and biblical mythology, all wrapped up in an action game with controls so tight and deep that they prove beyond a doubt Platinum’s mastery of the action game genre. If they can retain it as an exclusive this may be the saving grace of the Wii U.

Logo_FINAL_For_Light_BackgroundsCastlevania: Lords of Shadow 2  
The reboot of the storied and beloved Castlevania series was unexpectedly awesome. Taking gameplay queues from Devil May Cry and with one of the most rousing orchestral scores in recent memory, it was a polished delight dripping in gothic excess. But it was THAT epilogue that makes us wonder what’s next for Belmont.

 

_bmuploads_2013-04-05_1984_dark_souls_2_logo_tm_fixDark Souls 2
The original Dark Souls was a surprise hit, firmly avoiding the kind of hand-holding prevalent in modern games and it remains one of the only games this generation that teaches players humility. But with From Software pushing new creative leads on the project and aiming to make the game more accessible for new players, there are worries that the sequel will lose the feel of the original or, much worse, become easy. We like the stick From Software, the carrot can’t get us off anymore!

1374TESO_FINAL_LOCKUP-forDARKbgThe Elderscrolls Online
Bethesda’s fantasy giant is getting even bigger but will it stumble and fall? Previous Elderscrolls games have essentially been MMOs you have to play by yourself so going online could be the final piece of the puzzle in making the best game in the series and potentially the best MMO ever. Although, ever since Morrowind the series has been getting more streamlined and losing evidence of its table-top rpg influences so opening things up this much could simply dilute the richness of the game to an instant noodle broth. Let’s hope it has that WOW factor.

 

 

KI_logo_screen6Killer Instinct
ULTRAA ULTRAA ULTRAA?

 

Oculus_Color_logoOculus Rift
Few pieces of hardware have been so eagerly awaited as Oculus VR’s true virtual reality headset, the fruition of the dreams of every child of the eighties, and few have so much potential to steer the games industry onto a completely fresh track. Now with the legendary John Carmack as Chief Technical Officer that dream seems even closer. When we get to strap that sucker to our faces at Eurogamer it will be closer still.

project-sparkProject Spark
When LittleBigPlanet launched onto the PS3 it presented a bold experiment in user generated content. Well, Project Spark looks set to explode that idea into the stratosphere (where it will no doubt become a bullet hell shooter or some such). The potential hinted at so far seems fascinating and astounding.

 

TengamiLogoBlackRGBTengami
The pages of this interactive pop-up book inspired by Japanese mythology look to be filled with atmosphere and topped up with puzzle solving.  Technically, an inventive form of point and click adventure Tengami looks to be a valuable player in the recent renaissance in narrative games and perhaps it’s a sign of being starved for new gameplay mechanics but pulling tabs and opening flaps sounds pretty good right now.

titanfall_logo_psd_jpgcopyTitanfall
Shaping up to be the most exciting and original launch title for either system Titanfall’s ambitions are as gigantic as the huge mechs that you stomp around the battlefield in. Can Respawn Entertainment, founded by former Infinity Ward veterans Jason West and Vince Zampella, pull it out of the bag again?

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The Bureau: XCOM Declassified http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/featured/the-bureau-xcom-declassified/ http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/featured/the-bureau-xcom-declassified/#comments Wed, 21 Aug 2013 22:07:02 +0000 http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/?p=17814 2kg_thebureauxd_codebreakers_1Aliens are taking over the world via fiendish technologies such as contaminated water supplies and terraforming devices capable of corrupting idyllic 50s B-movie america into localised masses of grey, pre-rendered geometry assets. Fresh from the cookie-cutter and ready to thwart this nasty invasion is agent William Carter, a loose cannon, no-nonsense FBI agent with a mysterious past. What has mutated from the game’s original FPS model is now a by-the-numbers squad based cover shooter in the malignant cyan and orange colour palate of all modern sci-fi.

tbxd_header_imageThe player character has a fixed skill set which develops as you gain levels and experience from fighting enemies. You can also have two squad members with you of your own creation, chosen from various roles such as snipers, soldiers and support characters all of whom gain experience and abilities alongside you.

These characters are capable of dying permanently if left to bleed out during combat but since they are player generated, and therefore unwritten, they have no story significance and essentially boil down to different skill sets that are annoying to lose. It’s hard to care anymore after your fifth engineer succumbs to laser burns when you’ve got a replacement in the wings checking the cuffs on his red shirt, wondering if he’ll live up to the greats that proceeded him like agents Scotty, Barfbutt, and engineers 3 and 4.

There are even additional missions that your waiting roster of cannon fodder teammates can only take on themselves, being temporarily dispatched and returning with a level apiece and some prize like a new backpack or a man left alive in the field (a worrying thought if they ever put two and two together). This would be an interesting addition to the game but for the fact that there are only around 4 of these missions available throughout the short campaign so they basically function as a few ‘level-up’ tokens for your temporary meat shields.

2kg_thebureauxd_codebreakers_3Lack of drama notwithstanding, the combat has some interesting nuances with flanking and positioning playing a large role in your success, especially on any difficulty above easy. The special abilities, while adding some variety, don’t feel especially powerful. Underpowered is how the majority of the combat seemed to me; early on you have limited abilities due to your low level and around the half-way point there seemed to be a bump in enemy strength, forcing me to wonder if someone put the wrong kind of batteries in my plasma rifle as a joke, since even unshielded enemies were able to take entire clips of ammo to the face without breaking stride.

Though the combat may be bland at times it is nowhere near as derivative as the writing. Clichés litter every line of dialogue and are the bones holding up the entirety of the game’s cast. The aforementioned Carter, the morally ambiguous commander Faulke (A joy to hear this name yelled like an expletive every few minutes), the sassy and deadly female agent Weaver, the list goes on.

Despite this weakness, the game insists on killing its own pacing with lengthy segments where you simply walk back and forth between different areas of the XCOM facility watching people’s poorly synced mouth animations struggle to keep up with the rate at which you press the skip dialogue button. This is a big let down and a source of some confusion for me. The game insists on you navigating the now mandatory radial dialogue trees but with no opportunity to influence events beyond locking out a few minor objectives here and there. There is no sense of your involvement in the world until the end stages of the game where some interesting ideas are suddenly brought into play and a few choices you make then impact which ending you receive.

XCOM HQThe seemingly unnecessary sub-objective of the game’s organisation XCOM to “erase the truth” leaves you with a thoroughly unsatisfying ending, not least of all due to the game’s limited play time, giving you a sense of ennui at best and at its worst will make you wish for the time you spent on it back.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is an anomaly. This game is too late to the party, sitting in the kitchen passing off its friend’s stories as its own and going home alone early. No doubt the developers are keen to see this one put to bed, it’s continued existence likely a result of the wildly successful XCOM:Enemy Unknown, released just last year by Firaxis. Fans of the franchise may get a kick out of seeing the origin story of the titular organisation but beyond that, this is one UFO you’d do better not to believe in.

Words > Thom Haley

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Tales of Xillia http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/featured/tales-of-xillia/ http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/featured/tales-of-xillia/#comments Mon, 19 Aug 2013 19:58:40 +0000 http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/?p=17749 3066_tox_logo_noruby_tm_copy_jpg_jpgcopy

The Japanese RPG genre seem to be in a decline this generation (the one now ending that is) in the west at least, whether this is down to the rise of western massive budget Hollywood summer blockbuster style gaming or just gamers taste in general changing is up for debate, but the days of Final Fantasy 7 taking the PS one by storm are long gone. Maybe it’s just the RPG genre in general Mass effect a game that started as an action RPG rapidly skewed it’s balance in favour of action and spectacle, and back in Japan even the poster boy for Japanese RPG Final Fantasy has moved away from it’s traditional roots in to a strange mix of ideas taken from the west. Some JRPGs however still embrace the uniqueness of their once great ancestors such as the gorgeous Ni No Kuni and of course the Tales of series that has been going since the 16-bit era.

youBeing a fan of Tales of games is a bit like being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t love you back at times. For every Tales of Symphonia there is a Tales of Vesperia PS3 edition remaining stubbornly in Japan and even though we are getting the games with far higher percentage in recent years we are still lagging behind our fellow Japanese players. Tales of Xillia has now hit our shores, but back in Japan they are already enjoying Tales of Xillia 2, but enough of what we don’t have lets look at what we do.

Tales of Xillia is the latest in the Tales of Series, which is one of the premier Japanese role playing games, this latest entry gives us a choice between two separate playable characters that follow the same story, however playing as each character will give you a different view of the events as well as unique parts for each. Our choices for a hero are either Jude Mathis, a young medical student at the city’s hospital, or Millia Maxwell a woman who is actually a god like figure accompanied by mystical spirits. While at first this choice may seem like a hassle to anyone wanting to get the whole story of the game, it doesn’t withhold details from youbut is mostly a perspective type thing. On the bright side it does add extra incentive for those who like to replay the game again. Story wise it’s not all that memorable – what it does has been seen many times before – but it’s saving grace is that the characters are generally likable and the little skits that can be activated are normally humorous.

you2The battle system in the Tales of series are always pointed to as a high point and fans will be pleased to know it’s still intact you have you standard attacks on one button which can be altered by adding a direction as well as your special attacks, known as artes (again adding a direction will provide a new attack), and there’s a lot of freedom in how you tackle the battles, even more so with the new linked combat system that allows two characters to team up together encouraging experimentation with moves and party member combinations alike. All of this will have you gaining some serious experience points that will be poured into the new leveling up system called the Lilium Web, a node based level up system that allows for a greater degree of control over how your character evolve.

The greatest compliment you can pay Tales of Xillia is that it knows it’s audience and has catered to them, if you don’t like Japanese RPGs Tales of Xillia will not do anything to change your mind but that is a good thing, every change the Tales of team have made are natural feeling evolutions. The game manages to be visually charming, even though it is already two years old, and the gameplay feels fresh with new ideas while still managing to retain what made it good in the first place.

Words > Jason Potter

 

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Preview: The Bureau: XCOM Declassified http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/featured/preview-the-bureau-xcom-declassified/ http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/featured/preview-the-bureau-xcom-declassified/#comments Sun, 21 Jul 2013 18:36:13 +0000 http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/?p=17539 2KG_TheBureauXD_SectoidsIf you have an axe and you replace the head of it, then discover a split in the handle and replace that, is it still the same axe? XCOM declassified would be the game to ask. Officially announced in 2010 as a first-person-shooter developed by 2k Marin, an offshoot of Ken Levine’s Irrational Games studio, ‘XCOM’ was to be a prequel to the strategy series and initially had a survival horror bent, likely a hangover from the team’s work on the Bioshock series. The focus was more leaned towards investigation and tension with some frantic combat. This seemed like a bold change of direction from the series established format of tactical strategy, offering an immediate and gripping view of dealing with an unknown, extraterrestrial threat. The idea was axed however over concerns that it didn’t feel like an XCOM game.

2KG_TheBureauXD_CarterSquadBy 2011 the game had morphed into a first person shooter with elements of tactical strategy. This build was veering closer to the series roots with the player being able to issue tactical commands to a squad of agents, but the emphasis laid heavily on the players ability to shoot things in the face. Over the next few years a third person tactical view had sprouted from the slowly gestating body of XCOM, allowing players to pause time and issue commands to their squad.

Now in 2013 the game has taken on new form, emerging from the cutting room floor as a fully third-person tactical action romp. Perhaps it was a mirror of the length of the game’s development but the setting of the now catchily named, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, had moved on by a decade to the swinging 60s and an America coming down with a nasty case of cold war. The Bureau is a government body created to combat extraterrestrial threats to the USA, which laid the foundation for the XCOM organisation.

The game plays very much like Mass Effect with players assuming the role of squad leader, and being able to slow time to tell companions where to move and queue up actions for them to execute when they get there, with powers requiring a cooling off period before the can be reused. It’s a very useful tool and helps you to cross the game’s fine line between glorious victory and total disaster. This feature is basically mandatory since using weapons yourself feels demoralisingly underpowered at times, particularly when you find yourself unloading a clip into an alien’s giant head only to find him shooting you back when you have to reload. Add to this the AI’s tendency to go hog wild whenever not being told exactly what to do and you soon find yourself taking on the role of obsessive, nagging babysitter.

The powers available to you in the bureau range from the ability to deploy turrets and mines to calling in artillery, drawing enemy fire and forcing enemies out of cover. As you level up, you’ll gain new abilities and more options become available, offering you more tactical freedom and room for creativity, each level offering a choice of perk, usually a passive buff or additional effect to an existing ability, like extra damage or faster cooldown time.

2KG_TheBureauXD_BattleFocusThere are a lot of customisation options for your squad but the fact that you make the members up entirely yourself means that they aren’t really characters, reducing the presence of permanent death for squad mates to an inconvenience more than any significant event. You’ll mostly be annoyed that you lost their abilities. Fortunately you can keep a healthy stable of replacements at hq, sending them out on missions in the background to level up, ready for a glorious death under your command.

At the moment, the tone of the game feels torn between serious save-the-world action story and b-movie romp, the two elements not fitting so neatly together and not helped by lacklustre dialogue and distractingly overwrought voice acting on the part of the player character. It’s a shame the dialogue is lacking because The Bureau seems to be going for an emphasis on dialogue trees, with the player being able to opt in or out of additional exposition and objectives through their choices. I was unable to tell whether further into the game the player’s choices will effect the narrative or if there is any kind of morality system in play, but as far as I was able to see in the time I had with The Bureau it had not yet come into play.

The Bureau: XCOM declassified is shaping up to be a good option for those looking for a challenging tactical experience that rewards planning and squad management. Even if the writing isn’t out of this world.

Words > Thom Haley

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