2011 – Portal 2

Portal 2

 portal2
Developer(s) Valve Corporation
Publisher(s) Valve Corporation
Distributor(s) Valve Corporation (online) Electronic Arts (retail)
Director(s) Joshua Weier
Producer(s) Gabe Newell
Artist(s) Jeremy Bennett, Randy Lundeen
Writer(s) Erik Wolpaw, Jay Pinkerton, Chet Faliszek
Composer(s) Mike Morasky, Jonathan Coulton (Ending Theme: “Want You Gone”), The National (“Exile, Vilify”)
Series Portal
Engine Source
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release date(s) Retail   April 21, 2011 Steam  April 19, 2011
Genre(s) Puzzle-platform game
Mode(s) Single-player, co-operative multiplayer
Distribution Optical disc, digital distribution

Liam:   Despite the fact there will be no way for us to directly compete in this game I still really wanted to play it. I found the single player game to be one of the most enjoyable, touching and genuinely funny games I have ever played. Ever since I first played it I have recommended it to anyone in earshot and I am finding it quite hard to not turn this entire write up into a sales pitch for what is probably one of the best games ever made. Ps. Buy it!

The game is a first person puzzle game when you take the role of a silent protagonist named Chell. You have a gun but instead of bullets you fire ‘portals’. You walk into one portal and you appear from the other, you can also manipulate other objects such as ‘companion cubes’ through the portals. All the puzzles revolve around using these portals to overcome any obstacles in the ‘test chamber’ such as lasers, turrets and poisonous insta-death water and making your way to an lift taking you to the next puzzle chamber. All this is done under watchful supervision and constant dripping sarcasm from GLaDOS, a malicious and often narcissistic artificial intelligence system. I don’t want to spoil the plot for any of those that haven’t had the pleasure of either of these games, but needless to say there is a reason why GLaDOS is upset with you. You monster.

I can’t think of many console puzzle games that have broken thought to the mainstream, aimed at the casual market they tend to dominate the handheld computer space like the excellent Professor Layton series or the once ubiquitous Tetris. Portal does this excellently though by combining traditional FPS mechanics with a truly amazing story line feature impressive voice acting with what is a fiendish puzzle game which will have you scratching your head.

We will be playing the co-op game and I fully expect this to be an utter train wreck. The co-op game requires both players to co-ordinate their way through test chambers by working together to figure out the puzzle. The way the chambers are designed mean that one player cannot essentially ‘carry’ the other player – both are required to be involved. I have no idea how this is going to pan out after being awake for 28 hours. There is a high probability that one of us will lose our temper with the other during this game.

Joel:   Well… this is a game that’s been on my wish list for a long time. I was really pleased when it ended up on our list as my crippling apathy was a real obstacle in picking this up and so I was finally inspired to grab it. Liam, despite our “no practising” rule kindly conceded to let me “work through the single player game” which was nice. So I did. At least, I started to and made pretty decent headway, but I’m yet to finish it what with the aforementioned apathy. And “The Last of Us.” And “Resident Evil 6.” And half a dozen other top drawer games – it’s hard work finding the time!

So having racked up a fair few hours on it, I can honestly say it’s one of the most original (conceptually at least) games I have played in a long time. The careful balance of wit and threat from the omnipresent GLADoS (I think I’ve capitalised that correctly, but that pesky apathy is preventing me checking) is one of the real delights of this game, as is the whole concept of “thinking with portals” which I must admit I’m guilty of bringing into real life on occasion. Then there’s your fair-weather-friend Wheatley, expertly voiced by Stephen Merchant. But I won’t go into too much about him. Suffice to say he’s nearly as funny as GLADoS.

So what is it? Simply put, it’s a puzzle game. Find your way from point A to point B via button C, using your portal gun – a device which projects either end of a portal onto particular types of surface. Sounds simple. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it makes you want to break things. I suggest familiarising yourself with Occam’s Razor before you buy Portal 2, it may save you some time and a few bars of blood pressure.

I really hope they make a third instalment because, as I near then end of the game, I am fairly sure it’s one I’m going to miss. Liam and I are going to be working through the co-op mode on the night, which is a lot like the single player mode except that on occasion, you have to string together both of your sets of portals to achieve your objectives. That requires teamwork, something Liam and I are not known for when playing together 🙂

We have devised a few metrics for gauging performance to try and declare some kind of winner, but as far as I’m concerned, we get to play Portal – Everyone’s a winner!

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2010 – Madden NFL 11

Madden NFL 11

madden11

Developer(s) EA Tiburon, EA Canada
Publisher(s) EA Sports
Series Madden NFL
Platform(s) PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Wii, Xbox 360, iOS, PlayStation Portable, Android
Release date(s) August 13, 2010
Genre(s) American football simulation
Mode(s) Single-player, Multiplayer

Liam:   Pad up fat men. It’s time for gridiron. Blue 42, Blue 42, hut, hut, hike!

American Football is a series of advertisements for fast food, terrible cars and erection medication all leading up to the Super Bowl which is a really important set of advertisements for fast food, terrible cars and erection medication; also occasionally featuring Janet Jackson’s nipple. At points during this onslaught of consumerism, two teams of heavily armoured fat guys are directed head first into each other by two blue eyed American heroes called quarterbacks. There are also cheerleaders and massive hot dogs.

Now that the intricate explanation of the sport has finished I can go onto explaining the game. It’s pretty much the same… but instead of adverts every 30 seconds, Microsoft Visio diagrams appears and ask you to make totally meaningless choices between throwing it a short distance to a guy who then collapses on the floor or throwing it a long distance to a guy that then collapses on the floor. You can kick as well but this involves taking off one of your big burly Americans and bringing on a tiny European guy, who has never fully recovered from being rejected by the Lazio youth team – why the hell would you do that?

As you can probably tell, I don’t know much about American football – although I have to admit I find it fascinating. The game we are playing Madden 11, has all the good bits of American Football (you know, the actual game without the adverts) and even has a handy mechanism for skipping the endless tactical decisions that make games like this entirely unplayable for the uninitiated. As we didn’t get a chance to play Jonah Lomu Rugby (if it was up to me we would be playing that instead of Goldeneye) I really wanted to get a contact sport in and when it comes down to utterly over the top hits and hijinks, American Football is good value for entertainment so much in fact that I am actually going to my first American Football game this Autumn (or should that be Fall). Madden is the premier American Football franchise and is named after ex-commentator John Madden who as far as I can tell is the Andy Grey of American Football without the rampant sexism.

The main reason this game is on the list is that despite really only being played in a single country, this game franchise has managed to rack up over 100 million sales. That’s pretty impressive in anyone’s book if you consider that is only a few million less than the FIFA series which represents a sport played worldwide. Due to its massive sales it has a huge amount of resources thrown at it by EA meaning that the end game is a highly polished and fluid affair. There are only a few sporting series that are in this top tier of games, dominated by repeatedly high sales and yearly releases and we are lucky enough to see two in this challenge. Sadly we couldn’t find a space for the third – the Tiger Wood’s golf series.

I know Joel is going to be terrible at this. He lacks any sort of sporting mind set and I believe when he was doing his testing phase he was getting his ass kicked by his little boy. Great news for me as this should be a perfect opportunity to crush his already waning spirit as well as throw in some hilarious puns about tight ends, huge sacks and penetration. That’s right, beating Joel, contact sports and terrible dirty jokes after being awake for 27 hours straight… I can’t wait.

Joel:  We’re getting so close to the end now, I can almost smell it. I think in some weird way, I’m actually going to miss writing these things… The only drawback of them is that every now and again I have to try and write about a game I’ve never really played. Aside from testing this (where, as Liam rightly points out, I got my ass handed to me by a nine-year-old) the only American football game I’ve ever played was on the Atari Lynx. A little research leads me to the conclusion that it was the originally titled “NFL Football” going by screenshots on the intertubes. I was pretty rubbish at it too, but I seem to remember it being pretty good fun. Though it seems at least one reviewer disagrees with me:

SUMMARY:

It doesn’t help if football games on other portable game systems are no more sophisticated than NFL FOOTBALL. The bottom line is that this game is a futile exercise in boredom, and is certainly not fun to play nor worth the price asked for it.

(http://www.atariarchives.org/cfn/08/07/0052.php)

Interestingly, this is how I usually feel when I try, most years, to watch the Advertbowl. For a game with a scheduled playtime of 60 minutes, you can watch in amazement as this stretches into four hours or beyond. All the while not having a clue what’s going on. Which is a shame, because, I think it would probably be pretty good otherwise.

Anyway. What to say about this one? It’s a massive franchise, probably propping up the US-side of EA all by itself, having released a game every year since 1990. In fact, in researching that last statement, I’ve just learned that Trip Hawkins actually founded EA games just so he could start work on a predecessor to the line. So there you go, it not only props up EA, but is, in fact, its raison d’etre. Well you learn something every day.

The more astute among you are probably beginning to notice I’m doing everything I can to avoid talking about the actual game – You’re right. I’ll stop wasting your time now. I know nothing. I don’t stand a chance here. I might just take a nap. No not really, that would be cheating, but I’d probably do better.

2005 – Need for Speed: Most Wanted

 

Need for Speed: Most Wanted

nfs

Developer(s) EA Black Box
Publisher(s) Electronic Arts
Composer(s) Paul Linford
Series Need for Speed
Engine EAGL 3
Platform(s) Nintendo DS,Microsoft Windows,PlayStation 2,PlayStation PortableXbox,GameCube,Game Boy Advance,Xbox 360PlayStation 3
Release date(s) November 25, 2005
Genre(s) Racingopen world
Mode(s) Single-playerMultiplayer
Distribution CD, DVD, GameCube Game DiscGame Boy Advance cartridge, Nintendo DS Game Card

 

Joel:  Awesome – we’re back on the racing games! I especially like them because Liam’s rubbish at them so they are almost guaranteed wins, though after 22 hours that might not be the case… What’s to say about NFS:MW? Well, according to Wikipedia it’s the ninth release in the franchise, which sounds about right.  I’ve had a bit of a love-hate relationship with this series – I played a few of the really old ones on PC through and they were alright, if a little arcade-y. The series got a massive overhaul with NFS:Underground which was awesome and horrible at the same time. Pros included Lots of cool cars, lots of customisation options, a pretty large city to roam about and I think it was the first game I played with a decent implementation of a drag race system, where winning was based on decent gear changes and well-timed use of nitrous. The cons however were that you were forced to bolt ridiculous neons and hilariously large spoilers to your car in order to progress, not to mention hideous car paint. The physics were at times infuriating, often resulting in you getting what became affectionately called “nubbed” – this was where your car might clip a tiny nub of scenery and come to a dramatic screeching halt, or flip over or something else equally ridiculous. Anyway, I seem to be talking a lot about the wrong game. The follow-up, NFS:UG2 was basically the same game. I quickly grew to hate it. Then, however, came this, NFS: Most wanted.

After a pretty decent graphical overhaul, a soundtrack featuring rock giants such as Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed, Killswitch Engage and Mastodon and the removal of Drift mode (I hate drift racing in games… so much) and some physics upgrades we were given a pretty decent game. The premise is reasonably simple: escape the five-o in progressively faster cars whilst they become smarter and more aggressive. There is of course a “story” featuring some melodrama and a little deceitful twist at the end, but as with most of the NFS games, the plot is paper thin and largely irrelevant. Major publications gave this game very decent reviews and rightly so – it is indeed pretty decent.

So I think I’ve got a pretty good chance of coming out on top here. But the pressure will be on as we’re quickly running out of games and if Liams predications are correct, I’ll be a bit behind overall here. Still, we’ll have MarioKart Wii in a couple hours so that should be OK.

 

Liam:  Shockingly I actually quite like this game, although if you have been reading my reviews on the previous driving games you can probably understand why. To me, games like Forza and Grand Turismo are for driving enthusiasts… purists who really care about weight to power ratios and torque. If these games are the anoraks wet dream The Need for speed series (not all of the games in the series, but generally) is more like Top Gear. In fact I am waiting for my caravan destruction mini-game.

NFS:MW is pretty indicative for the series and includes the high octane arcade thrill that fans of the series will recognise. This game was also a launch title for the xbox360 (and I used to own a copy some time ago) and has been recently rebuilt and released. The games plot is awful. Some guff about beating a series of other street racers to win back the BMW you lose in the opening few minutes of the game.

In my not so humble opinion there are two reasons why this far superior to many other driving games:-

1, Visuals. The game looks stunning. We will be playing the PS2 version which is graphically less impressive than the xbox360 version which was a launch title for the console but is still a massive leap forward. The game is slick, colourful and most importantly fast. Neon signs whirl past your screen, reflecting off your paintwork as you whip through checkpoints at breakneck speeds. When you brake, you don’t ease onto the break pedal before slowly pulling away. You use your handbrake, going sideways round the corner revealing the shiny broadside of your suped up motor – complete with lurid graphics and neon under-lights. This all happens subconsciously as you concentrate on getting round the tracks but this bombardment of stimuli (aided by a pumping soundtrack) really keeps you on your toes.

2, Pursuits. One of the main mechanics of the game, as you would expect from a street racing game, is that the fuzz occasional get a bit peeved with you dicking about on the public highways and decide to try and stop you. This leads to a Smokey and the Bandit style cat and mouse chase complete with destructible scenery to smash up following police cars. Massive fun!

I think in a straight point to point race I will probably struggle. I am a dab hand at the more creative games though. Speedtrap being my favourite where you set aggregate speed records at various traffic cameras. We don’t know exactly what we are doing with this game yet but I really hope we get a bash at this.

 

1993 – FIFA International Soccer

FIFA International Soccer

 Fifa
Developer(s) EA Sports
Publisher(s) Electronic Arts
Cover Star David Platt
Series Fifa
Platform(s) PC, Mega Drive/Genesis, Master System, Mega-CD (As “FIFA International Soccer Championship Edition”), Game Gear, SNES, DOS, Amiga, 3DO, Game Boy, PlayStation 2 (on FIFA 06)
Release date(s) 15 July 1993
Genre(s) Sports
Mode(s) Up to 2 players simultaneously
Media/distribution ROM, cartridge, Compact Cassette, floppy disk

Liam: I fought tooth and nail to get this onto the list as Fifa is one of the biggest video game franchises in the world. The original Fifa has on its cover David Platt, McDonalds advertiser and occasional England football player. Readers of a certain age will remember the line ‘You mean to tell me that you signed David Platt for a Big Mac and a Filet o’ fish?’. Ironically a Big Mac and a Filet o’ fish would have been more expensive than the price I paid picking up this beauty of a game.

I freaking love Fifa (there was a brief period of time when PES was far better but the circle has most definitely swung back to Fifa). It’s the atypical ‘lads get together over a few beers’ game and I have clocked up a countless amount of hours over the years playing the various iterations of Fifa on every nearly console I have ever owned. The main reason I love fifa is that I am a rugby player, a front row forward at that, and I play football with the level of grace and skill you would imagine for a front row forward. However, when I play Fifa I am a beautiful proponent of Total Football – skilful, fluid and creative. I am a freaking joy to watch. Not sure how that is going to work with the older version of the game… I haven’t played it since it was the incumbent version and quite a bit has changed since then. I currently own Fifa13 on the PC (PC gamer supremacy) which I can output to the TV when I have guests or play on the laptop screen if the missus is watching the telly.

Joel isn’t really a football fan, evident by his support of Nottingham Forest. Playing the first Fifa should level the playing field considerably compared to playing a newer version – which Joel’s 9 year old son would put up a much better fight (actually he is pretty good!). Thankfully for Joel this will be past his bedtime so he won’t have to witness his dad being utterly humiliated (again)!

Joel:  Roight… Here goes…

This, for me, is a very difficult review to write. It’s causing me a fair degree of internal conflict, as the following wordage will no doubt demonstrate.

One simply cannot deny that this was the beginnings of what has turned out to be one of the most significant gaming franchises of current times – and with good reason too. This game launched when I (and, it would appear, a fair number of our audience) were at an age when there was little more in life than “footie” and video games. My current day feelings about the sport aside, this was massive to me at the time. Before too long, I had figured out all the moves, the weird physics bugs and the spot to shoot from to be almost guaranteed to score. I remember playing against Qatar over and over and over again trying to get higher and higher scores – the best I ever did was somewhere in the high thirties to nil I think. If memory serves, this might also be the game where you can actually run away from the ref when he issues you a card, preventing said issuance until he caught up with you. When Liam sends it over to me for testing, it’ll be interesting to see how I get on. (Don’t worry Liam, I’ll only play a couple of games, just to make sure it’s working!!) But what this game did in real terms was begin to change the very concepts of video gaming from being the reserve of sandal wearing, myopic, social outcasts to something that everyone did – Over the years I’ve known a few “gamers” whose entire library has been built of 5 consecutive releases of FIFA and one edition of International Superstar Soccer they tried but didn’t like because they didn’t have the rights to use real player likenesses and names. That was probably the case for the person who sold me a SNES with 13 games, 8 of which were football! Presumably it’s their copies of last year’s FIFA you see at your local game store for 49p – one of the worst value retentions I’ve ever seen.

On the other hand, I gave up on football a long time ago. I’m not getting into the whys and wherefores here, but it’s fair to say I have zero interest in it. As such, I haven’t played a football game in anger since FIFA 98 RTWC for the PC, of all platforms. I’m going to struggle with this one – I predict a humiliating drubbing from Liam. We’ll be ten hours in by this point too, tempers will be frayed and thumbs beginning to ache.. There’s a good chance this is the first time when Rachael will have to break out her umpire shirt.

Facebook Competition

A WINNER IS YOU!

Image representing Electronic Arts as depicted...

Image via CrunchBase

Thanks to EA Games we have some fantastic prizes to give away.

The first prize will be the winners choice of one these three games…

Fifa 13 – PC
Monopoloy collection – Wii
Shift 2 Unleashed Limited Edition – Xbox360

To be entered into this competition please like the 30in30Marathon Facebook page and share the post with the picture of the three games. A winner will be selected at random on the 26th of April and invited to select their prize.

Good Luck!