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Review – Assassin’s Creed 2

November 21, 2009 1 comment


The first Assassin’s Creed was a polarizing experience, with reactions split between between people who were bored by the repetition of a few basic missions, and those who were so smitten by the core combat and free running that they didn’t mind the drawbacks so much. Though I was soundly in the second group, I’d have no problem recommending Assassin’s Creed II to the first.

Assassin’s Creed II’s main story missions take new leading man Ezio on a quest for vengeance through 15th century Italy, testing his climbing, combat and stealth skills in dozens of different ways with few recycled ideas. While several are variations on a theme (traveling to key spots to clear out guards, for example), they’re all so well integrated with the story that I never experienced the déjà vu that was so constant in the last game. You could play through just those missions, never straying from the path, and glean just under 20 hours of continuous fun — it’s that large of an undertaking.

But if you do want to do a little exploring outside the main story, you’ll find plenty of rewards for doing so. Helping out townspeople with odd jobs like letter delivery or beating up cheating husbands earns you money that can be used to purchase upgraded weapons and armor, more slots for injury-curing medicines, throwing knives, or just a new dye to jazz up your signature white duds. If you’d like your money a bit easier, you can go on the hunt for treasure chests nestled throughout the cities; a job that’ll go a lot smoother if you spend some coin on a map from one of the several art dealers in Italy.

Those dealers also sell paintings that can upgrade the worth of the village owned by your family, in turn generating more rental income for you. Money invested at the shops in your village will also net you some helpful discounts. On the non-monetary side, there are mysterious glyphs painted on buildings, map-revealing high points and codex pages to track down throughout the stunning, gorgeous rendition of Italy, each tied to their own gameplay or narrative rewards.

Assassin’s Creed has been expanded on so much that I kept wondering why, if this was the game Ubisoft wanted to make in the first place, the company even released the first one. This isn’t an experience coasting on the strength of its mechanics. This is a full, gorgeous world so filled with diverting adventures and quests that I don’t even have room to list them all.

The signature free running, which has Ezio vaulting to the tops of buildings with just a few button presses, is still just as fluid and empowering. But now, instead of using it solely for locomotion, your skills will be tested in six burial chambers of fallen assassins, great sequences that would be right at home in one of the better Tomb Raider titles.

The meta-story of Desmond, the modern-day man whose ancestral history connects the Assassin’s Creed games has been similarly expanded, going from a conventional conspiracy yarn to a battle with stakes so high that I’m not even sure I completely understand them. And, blessedly, it only interrupts the main action of the game a couple of times rather than every hour or so like in the first Assassin’s Creed.

Even Ezio, the new lead character, is miles ahead of Altair, replacing what was little more than a talking hood with a likable rogue whose journey to becoming an assassin mirrors his passage into adulthood.

The combat mechanic is the only facet of the game that hasn’t gotten a major overhaul in Assassin’s Creed II. Though the few new weapons are appreciated, the actual controls still feel a little too convoluted to give me the feel of being a masterful killer. Even when I was on point, whether my counter attacks would scratch an enemy or murder them seemed frustratingly random.

If you were burned by the first Assassin’s Creed and are worried about getting bored by the sequel, I understand your skepticism, but trust me: it’s misplaced. It would be a lot more fruitful to worry about how you’re going to find time for any other games this holiday season when Ezio’s Italy constantly dangles the next trinket in front of you, just a few rooftops away.

Source: Joystiq

Strategy Guide – Modern Warfare 2

November 15, 2009 1 comment

Want to be at the top of the list after every match? If you’re new to Modern Warfare, you have a bit of catching up to do – some players have been playing CoD 4 for the last two years. We can help with that. If you’re already a CoD 4 fanatic, and you’d like to quickly bring yourself up-to-speed on Modern Warfare 2’s additions, we can help you as well. We won’t pretend to be the best players ever – we get our asses handed to us regularly, just like most. But we have spent a lot of time absorbing advice from Infinity Ward, and much, much more time honing our skills on CoD 4. Plus we’ve been permanently damaging our wrists for the last 24 hours, and we needed to a break – so we wrote this.


Above: We’ve been practicing

The first page of this guide contains a break-down of the strategies and custom load-outs we prefer for mid-range and long-range schemes. The second page contains our strategies on some of the available modes, and the third page is a list and description of all of the killstreaks, deathstreaks, perks, and equipment you can look forward to unlocking.

 

Assault Tips

Your most versatile and important custom class will be an assault class. Our current preferred rifle is the SCAR-H with a holographic sight. As a secondary we take the SPAS-12 shotgun – you can use a machine pistol if you like, or a missile launcher for taking down helis, but in our opinion, the SPAS is tough to beat, especially once you unlock the accuracy-increasing grip attachment.


Above: The SPAS-12 is handy in situations like these, though pistols also work

The SCAR-H devours ammo pretty quickly, so Slight of Hand is a must-have. The other perks we favor are Stopping Power and Commando (longer melee range) – which equates to fewer bullets expended and easier knife kills. Before you unlock the SCAR, however, the FAMAS is your best bet. Its three round bursts deliver a lot of damage and are very accurate. Even with the continuously firing SCAR, you’ll want to tap the trigger in bursts when dealing with long-range opponents.


Above: The view through a holographic sight mounted atop a SCAR-H

The general strategy when playing free-for-all or team deathmatch is to stay in motion, or at least check your back as often as possible. There’s nothing wrong with squeezing up against a bit of cover near an enemy choke point and camping for a while, but you’re bound to be flanked eventually. Find a rhythm that works – generally you can stake out a bit of territory that is “yours,” and run back and forth defending it. For a better idea, watch this 11 kill streak we scored in a free-for-all match on Rust:

On smaller maps, you may want to use a sub-machine gun. Once you unlock it, the P90, as in CoD 4, is the most deadly. The strategy remains nearly the same, as it does with light machine guns, though you can afford to keep more distance when using the big guns.

 

Sniper Tips

Being a bitch-ass annoying sniper is a little easier in MW2, mostly thanks to the early availability of the best rifle in the game, the Barrett .50CAL, the SPAS-12 shotgun and tactical insertion. As with the assault class, we’re big fans of the SPAS, and you’ll see why in the video below. As a secondary for snipers, it is brilliantly effective, because you generally only need to pull it out at very close range (someone in your roost).


Above: Sniping is a gentleman’s game, none of this frivolous bullet spraying!

Tactical Insertion is likewise a wonderful tool, and it’s unlocked pretty early. If you haven’t played with it yet, TI is a flare which sets your next respawn point. Once you die and respawn on your flare, you have to drop another (it only lasts one death). The brilliant thing is that you can hide your flare near your stakeout and absolutely own a piece of the map. Snipe without fear of being shot from behind, because when you inevitably are, all you need to do is wait a few seconds, respawn, and knife or shotgun the invader. Then set another TI and go back to sniping. This technique is especially effective on Afghan, where there are lots of nice bunkers and lookout points. It also works well in Estate – note where we leave the flare in the video below, that’s a great spot…and then note us owning with the SPAS-12, picking off a few guys with the 50-cal, and calling in an AC-130.

As far as perks, not much is different. Sleight of Hand is still very handy (ha ha), Stopping Power will minimize the number of grazing shots, and Commando is hugely useful when someone invades your sniping roost and needs a good knifing. If, however, you like to be invisible, you can always go with perks like Cold-Blooded, Ninja, or Scrambler. Once you’ve leveled sufficiently, you may try One Man Army for the ability to switch classes mid-battle. You can even chain together multiple classes with the One Man Army perk, switching from sniper to close-range to heavy assault freely (though it does take a while to make the change).

One thing you should definitely avoid doing is silencing your rifle. It may be tempting, since it wasn’t possible in CoD 4, but you lose so much power and range that you’ll find yourself winging enemies you should have dropped, and you’ll soon become frustrated. We use the FMJ attachment, which increases bullet penetration.

 

Riot Shield Tips

Riot shields are excellent tools for team games, though they don’t really have a place in free-for-all matches. While you can kill with the shield (two melee attacks to the face, or one to the back), its primary purpose is to distract enemies while teammates pick them off. If you’re using a riot shield, you are a bullet sponge – soak up the lead, push the opposition back, and try to get them to bunch up. If you do that, your team can wash them with bullets like ants under a faucet.


Above: Screw productivity, we get points for being distractions

Shields are also useful for defending and capturing objectives, and especially for holding up flag carrier pursuers during Capture-the-Flag.

Below is another video, this time of a death with a happy, triple-killy ending in team deathmatch – mostly accomplished with the secondary shotgun:

 

Source: GamesRadar

Review – Modern Warfare 2

November 10, 2009 Leave a comment

We checked out more and found another interesting review posted by David Ellis in 1up.com. He gives A grade for this game. Then we do not wait to share it with our fans here.

“Borrowing themes from American invasion epic Red Dawn and TV series like 24, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 attempts to capture the insanity and life-and-death situations of real-life combat. Once again you hop between several engaging story arcs as you globe-trot on missions to stop a war and ultimately bring a madman to justice.

Right from the outset, MW2 fixes one of the issues some people had with the original game’s story — instead of setting the action in a fictional Middle Eastern country, the game opens up at a firebase in war torn Afghanistan. Though pixel counters would say otherwise, this game still looks amazing in action. Whether sprinting down cramped alleyways or racing down the side of a frozen mountainside MW2 moves at a frenetic pace that rarely stutters.

The original Modern Warfare dealt with themes of life, death, action and consequences. The sequel goes after these concepts in a manner rare for the video game world; it treats its audience like an adult. Footage of a particular sequence involving the death of innocent civilians (which I won’t spoil here) leaked online before launch and caused a preemptive uproar from misinformed pontificators. Hopefully this signals a step forward for the “videogame as art” debate, a move from electronic toy to a true multimedia device for conveying adult stories to adults. While the rest of the story is certainly entertaining and contains plenty of jaw dropping moments, it’s unfortunate that it never really matches the emotional zenith of that moment.

Though the set-pieces are new and bigger than ever MW2 doesn’t radically change the solid Call of Duty formula. Infinity Ward is one of the very best at creating a polished, guided-shooter experience. If you follow the game’s prescribed path, the action unfolds like a well-timed performance. However, if you’re a curious player like me who likes to “peak behind the curtain,” the game punishes you quickly and severely. For example, move too far ahead of your squad and a phantom sniper will take you out with a single shot. I know these criticisms aren’t new to the series, but whereas many games reward exploration and initiative it seems a little backward to force you down such a rigid path. But MW2 does finally retire the perpetual enemy spawn machines of its forebears.

Adding two- or four-player co-op to the campaign would have seemed like a no-brainer, but rather than potentially break the scripted campaign experience MW2 includes a new two-player co-op mode called Spec-Ops instead. You and a buddy can battle through a series of bite-sized challenges; borrowing scenarios and locations from the single-player story, each mission has you and a partner completing tasks together (like surviving an enemy onslaught in a shopping center or racing against one another in snowmobiles). Spec-Ops is more than the usual “battle against waves of enemies” but not quite a full, stand-alone story. Instead, it sits in a middle space that’s surprisingly fun and engaging.

Though still a blast, the single-player campaign isn’t the reason thousands of people still play the original MW on a daily basis. Create-a-class, new perks, and fresh customization options add an element seemingly more at home with a MMORPG than a console shooter. All the offerings from the first game have been expanded exponentially for the sequel — you can now choose from over a dozen kill streaks that include custom spawn points and resupply drops that can radically change the course of a match. By constantly bombarding you with bonus points for just about everything imaginable, Infinity Ward might have created the most mainstream “hardcore” shooter ever. Even when you rank last place in a match, you’ll still feel like you’re making progress and accomplishing something.

Two years ago Infinity Ward took a gamble by transplanting their successful Call of Duty series from the romanticized era of WW2 to the distressingly familiar landscapes of today’s conflicts. That gamble paid off in a big way, and since then, the original MW has been one of the most-played online console shooters. Mixing real-world locations with bombastic set-pieces MW2 continues the guided, thrill-ride experiences of its predecessor, and adds even more depth to its multiplayer offerings. It might not have fixed all the problems from the first game, but there’s just so much quality content packed into this game that it will almost certainly be one of the most-played games in your library for a long time to come.”

Source: ModernWarfareReviews.com