There are some games that leave an indelible impression on you for life, and Assassins Creed II is one of those games. From the start, we become embroiled in a dark plot that is taking place in a near future time, meeting a character who is mentally transported back in history to the time of the Renaissance Italy, envisaging the life of his predecessor, Ezio Auditori. It is a neat concept, and it only gets better. To begin with, you learn the basics of the complicated and amazing fighting system. The variety of moves and weapons are outstanding, and give you a flowing method of attacking enemies that really is a work of art in itself. Then there is the ability for you to climb around the buildings of the open world of the cities that you exist in, and it really is an open world when you are able to scale the sides of huge churches and cathedrals, leap from rooftop to rooftop, glide across ropes, walls and wires that criss-cross the streets and leap through the air into uncertain emptiness, only to grab onto a projected street sign at the last moment. Phew!
The glistening world of Renaissance Italy is recreated with a stunning degree of accuracy. Even down to the filigreed costumes, it looks immaculate, like a Renaissance painting in itself, but one that lives and breathes! A lot of the time you can just amuse yourself by climbing to the top of a steeple when the moon is high and admiring the astounding view.
The storyline then adds another level of brilliance to the proceedings. You are implicated in a conspiracy involving a mysterious century-spanning religious sect no less, and have to expose the perpetrators and face them personally, in a slew of heated, passionate battles and combat.
There are sub-games that keep things interesting too, such as flying through the air on Leonardo da Vinci’s makeshift glider, and hurtling through the countryside on a horse and cart being pursued by your mortal enemies. This all adds more texture and excitement to an already dense and enjoyable game.
Ultimately, you play through a massive amount of satisfying and inspired levels to a breath-taking ending.
If you are looking for zombie-based co-op games, Left 4 Dead 2 is the one for you. It has a huge amount of options for the discerning co-op game player, and the inventive four-way survival engine has you really watching out for each other’s backs (well, mostly, unless you’re playing with some douchebags, which rarely, but occasionally happens) as the hordes of zombies attack. The variety of evil undead that sweep towards you are impressive, and brilliantly animated to give you no chance of sitting around until the next crazed fiend approaches. There are some great, if wildly difficult, Easter eggs and achievements, such as the garden gnome challenge, that will keep you revisiting this game regularly.
There are many other elements to Left 4 Dead 2 that are worth mentioning, such as the realistic landscapes that are beautifully rendered, and the non-linear routes that you can take to the end of the levels, which keeps things nicely fresh. The end sections to each level also give you a real buzz (just like the juddering chainsaws you can pick up), both in their exhilarating build up and when they’re taking place. Running around a disused theme park or igniting fireworks at a stadium rock show, defending various abandoned houses and shacks while the waves of chilling ghouls approach is a top gaming experience that everyone should enjoy.
Also available are add-on levels that keep expanding the game universe, and there are some really great ones out there, such as Highway to Hell, Suicide Blitz and many more. I’ve played through a few of these and they are every bit as good as the original levels introduced by keen enthusiasts.
Don’t be left for dead, play Left 4 Dead 2 today!
There aren’t many books like Naked Lunch by William Seward Burroughs. Some might say that this is a good thing. Others might not. Whatever the case, this book is an incendiary piece of modern literature. It was scrawled in the burning pits of passion of post WWII Beat era bebop prose New York. All the rules of literature are destroyed in one fell swoop, swallowed whole, and then defecated out again in a small, but luxurious pile in a corner of a run down, cockroach-infested, rented apartment.
The characters featured in the book are searingly original, based somewhere between weird science fiction, exotic, dystopian wasteland dwellers, or decadent, deviant party-goers at the edge of oblivion. Many of them exist in The Interzone, such as AJ, with his raucous antics, the irascible Dr Benway, and many more, come screaming from the page.
The words in this book are like firecrackers exploding in the night. Wild imagination fizzes off every page from every line. This book just keeps on inventing, and is more cinematic than any film could achieve, far more than any book that has ever been released before or since. The humour is scorching hot too, as piercing and honest as any Lenny Bruce skit, but shot through with a psychotic, psychedelic mania.
This book is a node at the intersection of reality. If you read it, your brain will never be the same again.
This game really puts the ‘detective’ in Detective Comics’ most famous exponent – Batman. You feel as if you are really going undercover in a film noir epic as you follow in the footsteps of Gotham City’s most famous son. The game is deep, with acres of map to explore to find hundreds of hidden clues and easter eggs. It’s very nice to look at too, the art design is immaculate, and evokes that haunted, gothic science fiction atmosphere that fans of Batman want from a game. Particular scenes of note are the Scarecrow sections when Batman is under the influence of hallucinogenic narcotics and has to guide himself away from the clutches of a hideously huge Scarecrow, complete with glowing lamp eyes. Pretty hair-raising stuff.
The fight dynamics in the game are reasonably good, but don’t advance much beyond punching, kicking, and a handful of different Batarangs and weapon choices. Where it does get interesting are the stealth power-ups that allow Batman to silently swoop down and snatch up the thugs and villains that he has to contend with. This gives the game an authenticly exciting feel, as you’re never entirely sure if the criminals will notice you or not, always keeping you on your toes. Sometimes the line of vision is not entirely clear and you feel unfairly busted, and then you have to play through the same section again when you’re mowed down by machine gun fire, but there’s enough skull-cracking, bone-crunching fun to be had that it doesn’t really matter that much.
The bosses are excellent, covering a swath of characters from Gotham. We meet Poison Ivy in all her botanical glory, along with the deliciously delinquent Harley Quinn, the harrowing Scarecrow as already mentioned, Krok, Viktor Zsasz, The Riddler (never in person, as far as I’ve found yet, but in the background, taunting us mercilessly), and of course, the king of quips, the jester of death, The Joker himself – as voiced by Mark Hamill of Star Wars Luke Skywalker and Batman – The Animated Series fame, no less! These give the game a real nostalgic Batman feel, echoing all of the greatest elements of the movies, TV show and comic books, but in a hefty punch-packing package.
Batman: Arkham Asylum does not disappoint on any level and will keep you coming back for more bat-tastic amusement.
I played this game when it first came out on a friend’s Playstation, and to be honest, I sucked at it. I just couldn’t get the hang of the movements and various actions to be able to control the character without getting run over or crashing my car and turning into a human fireball within a matter of seconds. My gaming ability was not strong back then. So, I let it rest for a while. A long while. Until the game came out as a bundle package on Steam along with GTA I-IV, GTA San Andreas and GTA Episodes from Liberty City, in fact. I decided to play through the games starting with Vice City, since this was where I left off, and I’m glad that I did. I’ll tell you why.
Vice City is a game crammed with wry humour, kitsch pop references, amazing music and slick visuals in abundance. Oh, and violence. Lots and lots of violence piled on top of more violence. It’s sick, it’s harsh, it’s gratuitous, but somehow, it’s intensely satisfying. You play a cold-blooded killer hunting down the gangsters who set you up and stole your boss’s drug money, and the dynamics of the game ensure that you revel in the experience. Vice City is a hilarious mash up of all things 80s, capturing the feel and mood of the time immaculately. Sleek speedboats? Check! Scantily clad beach babes? Check! Cool as helicopters! Checkarino! Flash, snazzy cars! (I’m using 80s lingo here deliberately by the way!) Check’sinthepost! Dodgy drug deals and scorchingly neat weapons? Oh hell yeah! They’re all here. You get such a kick driving along the seafront while The Buggles ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ blares from your radio and cops are chasing your tail. It’s a total blast!
The storyline manages to hang together nicely, incorporating parodies of tv shows and movies from the same era that it’s set, making this a multi-layered experience. It’s nostalgic, but in an unflinching, ironic way, and puts you right on the set of a John Hughes movie or in the middle of Hill Street Blues, or of course, Miami Vice (as a villain, of course, as that’s much more fun!). Get hold of a copy to intoxicate yourself with this heady mix. It’s still refreshingly stylish, dark and gruesome today as it was when it first came out.
Dumb Ways to Die is a game that contains exactly what it says in the title, and it’s all the better for it. The tasks that you are thrown into are deceptively simple and straight-forward, and the graphics are as plain as they come, although that’s not to say they’re not unique and charming, as is the dinky retro 80s video game music… but wait… it all happens to be IMMENSE AMOUNTS OF FUN! Yes, the major factor involved in this game is gameplay enjoyment, and it has oodles of it! And what’s that? It’s fiendishly addictive too? It takes a little while to get your head around some of the activities (I still can’t manage to get the plane to fly by blowing on the screen however hard I try!), but once you get into it, you’ll be hooked for days.
It also contains mini easter eggs such as revealing characters from the game at the intro screen train platform, and giving you a full rendition of the theme song as a nifty reward, which is pretty amazing. Although the graphics are basic, that doesn’t mean that they’re not stylish. Their simplicity lends them a quirky, distinctive and downright cute (if not rather unsettlingly morbid!) cartoonish character of their very own. Sheer brilliance all round! Now just watch out for that… oh dear.