Tag Archives: Xbox 360

Gaming: Spike Video Game Awards Top Picks

Finish the fight...?For those in the know the news is out: Eldar Scrolls V and Mass Effect 3 teaser trailers have both been unleashed on the gaming world, but for everyone else thinking “What on Earth are the Spike VGAs?” and “Why didn’t anyone tell me something was going on?” Here’s a micro-explanation.

The Spike VGAs have been going on for a few years now, they tend to attract a lot of big Hollywood names and the associated glamour, with some previews for upcoming titles thrown in just to keep the gaming part of the name happy.

In the past the Awards have seen  a few unveilings and announcements such as  The Force Unleashed II and Arkham Asylum 2 – Arkham City last year (but more on that later).

There’s plenty of criticism for the awards since they have a lot of live music acts and celebrities and really play into the big franchises borrowed from other genres, but they do occasionally bring some exciting news-bites…which is what we were graced with this year.

On the Sci-fi side of the argument lies a little game called Mass Effect 3:

Earth finally comes into play, not as a dot to orbit around but a battlefield, and things look serious. There’s debate at present whether BioWare will opt for a continuation of Mass Effect 2’s more upbeat action style, slide back towards a more diverse RPG game or progress to something new entirely, since there has been much talk of a spin-off game.

The trailer shows the Reapers decimating Earth, clearly something has to be done but how will the game work? Will you be traversing continents now instead of galaxies? Being Earth-bound might be hard to swallow for some players, though the game has been screaming out for some perspective since it’s inception.

Next up is the return of the Caped Crusader:

 

So the Joker is nowhere to be seen in this trailer, though we know he’s around from the teaser a while ago, but instead we are greeted by Doctor Hugo Strange, who is keeping an eye on the inmates for new Mayor Quincy Sharp – who has taken credit for all your efforts in stopping the Joker in the first game.

The visuals are particularly impressive, though obviously it isn’t in-game footage, and the same brutality as before along with a host of new gadgets and bits and bobs should make this a tremendous game.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the big news for fantasy RPG fans. Take a look at the teaser trailer:

So there isn’t much to go on as of yet, but clearly the game continues the story on after Oblivion and involves dragons. Any fans of Bathesda or previous Elder Scrolls outings will most likely be salavating even though the release is almost a year away, on 11 Novermber next year.

Finally Portal 2 made an appearance:

A real ‘tease’ with this one, Valve are bound to produce a great game, particularly the co-op aspect, but this footage doesn’t really tell us anything about the same, except that it has Valve’s usual sense of humour. Definitely one to watch.

 

James Michael Parry

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Gaming: Do we need to get Kinect-ed?


Four years ago the Nintendo Wii broadened gamers’ horizons, getting them up off the sofa and waving their arms around to interact with games with its revolutionary motion-sensitive controls.

Last month Microsoft took the gaming experience a step further with the release of Kinect, an add-on to the incredibly successful Xbox 360 which lets players jump into games in a way they never have before. With a combination of an conventional RGB camera and two motion-tracking sensors, Kinect scans you into the game so every move you make is reflected on screen by your character.

The system, which is compatible with all existing Xbox 360s, was released on 10 November and sold a million units worldwide in the first 10 days after launch. Microsoft is confident to have it in five million homes worldwide by the end of the year. But with so much technology already hanging around widescreen TVs across the land, do people need another device?

There’s plenty of shiny futuristic features to the technology: voice control, hand control of the menus, as well as ‘scanning’, which means that the sensor can be shown a colour, analyse it and then use it in the game, such as the colour of your car in happy-go-lucky racer Kinect Joyride (which is obviously not a copy of any Kart-based franchise on Nintendo’s consoles…).

The camera also works as a normal webcam, allowing video chats via Xbox LIVE, but with webcams as standard for most laptops and Skype facilitating video chatting it’s hardly a unique selling point.

What Microsoft have failed to realise is that it’s the strength of the games which will sell Kinect to the masses, especially their current fanbase, and unfortunately it’s a fairly mixed bag. If things had gone according to plan we might have seen Kinect-enabled Fable III as well as Gears of War 3 but alas it was not to be. Perhaps Microsoft should invest in coming up with an IP which really lends itself to showcasing the technology…?

On top of it all it’s not cheap either – despite claims originally that it would retail around the price of a standard game – Kinect currently RRPs at £129.99 on its own, though it does come with the physically challenging Kinect Adventures, or you can pay £249.99 for a bundle with the new slim Xbox 360 console included as well.

The smart thing to do though is to wait for an established franchise to take the plunge and embrace the technology to show the world what Kinect can really achieve. In the meantime relax, gaming is supposed to be recreation after all. If you want a work out though, there is a certain console from Japan which you can flail your arms at to your hearts content, if you need a clue its name rhymes with ‘money’.

Gaming: New Halo: Reach trailer

There may still be seven weeks to go before Bungie’s final (allegedly) outing into the sci-fi adventure universe of Halo, but Microsoft are keen to rack up the anticipation factor, which is why we now have a shiny new HD trailer.

September 14 will come around quickly once the summer weather wears off and people quickly retreat inside from their barbecues to shelter in the warmth given off by the whirr of their Xbox 360s – unless you can afford a glossy black one of course.

Halo is the backbone of the Xbox legacy, so you can understand why MS are pushing it so hard, but what can we get out of this latest trailer?

With a lot of exposure for the multiplayer aspect of the game through the Beta test, this trailer focuses on the campaign mode, which will see you take command of Noble Six. No rookie this time around, unlike the slightly lacklustre ODST, this squad are hardened Spartan IIIs, but not the tough cookies Master Chief and his pals are, so things should be a little tougher this time around.

The trailer opens with the planet Reach, the fall of which is well known by veteran Halo players, suggesting the ending of the game won’t be too happy. Proceedings take a distinctly Avatar-like turn as we see numerous flying transports (the pre-cursor to the Hornets seen in later games) crossing mountainous forests, so there may be levels similar to Halo 3‘s opening trek.

Soon Spartan troops are being briefed, including glimpses of the skull-faceplate-painted character known as ‘Ghost’, alongside humans, meaning the days of stealing human characters’ Shotguns will soon be here again.

Next an armoured convoy with air support speeding across a sandy plain before being attacked by The Covenant, which should be exciting since the series has been aching for an out and out mass vehicle battle for years, hence the popularity of the ‘Heavy’ multiplayer modes in Halo 3.

The Elites rear their head as the enemies once again, but this time around you have the advantage of armour upgrades (or downgrades?) to give you a helping hand, and The Covenant forces begin to overwhelm the backgrounds just as they did in New Mombasa.

A quick glimpse of what looks like a fighter jet we’d recognise from an American war film stirs up some questions before soon revealing it’s attached to a space rocket, which leads us to a Star Wars-esque space battle, but there is little time to absorb it as Bungie snatches Reach away from us again to keep us wanting more. As it should be.

With all their pedigree Bungie have every reason to make this an unforgettable title to see out the series on, with people growing tired of modern warfare once again it’s time to return to sci-fi, so everyone will be too engrossed by the time Call of Duty wants to fight back.

James Michael Parry

Gaming: Exclusive Interview with Mark Meer, Commander Shepard from Mass Effect

While many people play computer games, there’s generally little thought for the voices behind our war-torn characters, until now. This Is Entertainment, in a totally original and never-before-seen stunt, has sought out one of these unsung heroes to ask them a few questions and find out some juicy game secrets.
The man in question is none other than Mark Meer, better known as the noble/dastardly Commander Shepard from Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2 and the imaginatively titled concluding episode: Mass Effect 3.
This Is Entertainment managed to catch up with him between saving the galaxy and having some herbal tea :

This Is Entertainment: How does it feel to be one of the most identifiable computer game characters of this generation?

Mark Meer: First of all, thank-you for opening with a flattering question. I feel lucky and honoured. As a long-time collector, I’m pretty thrilled that I get my own action figure later this summer. Of course, it will really be a Mark Vanderloo action figure… he’s the guy who Shepard’s appearance is based on. It’s also quite an honour to get to play the male version of a character Jennifer Hale is voicing – she’s one of the best in the business.

TIE: Have you played the games yourself? If so, what did you think of them?

MM: I have, and they’re great. I’ve usually seen some animatics and concept art during the recording process, but to see it all put together in gameplay always makes me pretty proud to be a part of it. As a player, the one problem for me personally is that I’m privy to many of elements of the plot, including the many alternate ways that any given situation could go. Here’s two equally geeky frames of reference: it’s a bit like playing through a Dungeons & Dragons module that you were Dungeon Master of a few months ago. Or like being Dr. Manhattan…except with pants. On the other hand, with something like the Dragon Age games, I can enjoy watching the plot unfold as it would normally, and then have fun slaying myself as a Werewolf or Darkspawn or what have you.

TIE: Mass Effect works on a varied morality system, if you were Shepard for real, would you be the noble hero, or the man who did whatever it takes to get the job done?

MM: Well when gaming, I tend to play ruthless on the first round, and noble on the second. It feels like I’m redeeming myself for all the poor bastards I screwed over on the first playthrough. Since there are few opportunities for a second chance at real life, I’d probably do my best to try to be noble.

TIE: There are countless dialogue choices throughout the two games, is there any line in particular which you’d class as your favourite?

MM: I could trot out “I have to go”, since I say it enough. Renegade Shepard has plenty of awesomely snide/badass comments… it’s hard to choose. As a side note, I had a blast doing all the Vorcha in ME2. Screaming and screeching at the top of your lungs in the soundbooth is always fun.

TIE: How did you begin to build the character of Shepard at the beginning of making ME1? Did you have a lot of room to experiment or were BioWare very clear on what they wanted word for word?

MM: To approach Shepard as a character is a bit tricky, because many of the lines you record will have to serve for both the Renegade and Paragon versions. And ultimately, the player is the one who’s deciding what Shepard’s personality and background are. First and foremost, Bioware wanted Shepard to be a marine – whether ruthless or noble, that’s who Shepard is at his/her core. Occasionally, we’d change bits of dialogue on the fly to make it flow better or sound more natural, and when Mac (Walters – Head Writer) was sitting in on sessions, he could approve those on the spot, rather than us having to pause in recording and phone Bioware for clearance.

TIE: What’s your favourite part of voice acting?

MM: I suppose it’s different to other sorts of performing since there’s the chance to play an incredibly wide variety of parts, including ones that you might not be cast in if the project were, say, a film or television show. Plus, you get to show up in your pyjamas and drink soothing herbal teas while you work.

TIE: What was your reaction to the controversies which were raised over the first game’s adult content? Were you surprised?
MM: Baffled, really. Most of what was being said was outright fabrication, so what was really puzzling was how these people who had never played the game were speaking with such authority on its content. But ultimately, most everyone realized it had been blown completely out of proportion and that some fairly tasteful partial nudity did not equal “virtual orgasmic rape” or whatever the hell they were trying to call it. As I recall, most of the “pundits” involved sheepishly recanted within a week.

TIE: Other than Shepard, who’s your favourite character in the series? And why?

MM: It’s hard to choose. I’ll have to go with my top three – Wrex, Tali, and Mordin. I guess I just like aliens…

TIE: According to me sources (i.e. Mr Google) you’re a keen gamer. Are there any titles you are particularly enjoying playing at the moment? Or looking forward to?

MM: Currently playing Red Dead Redemption, eagerly awaiting Fallout: New Vegas, Dead Rising 2, and DC Universe Online. Naturally, I’ll be eager to see the next Dragon Age and Mass Effect 3 as well.

TIE: Outside voice acting work you do improv shows, how are those going at the moment?

MM: Very well indeed. I just got back from the Los Angeles Improv Comedy Festival and the General Fools Improv Fest in Regina in time for Edmonton’s own Improvaganza. A lot of comedy has been made up on the spot and a lot of beer has been consumed. While I was in L.A., some friends of mine and I did a special super-hero themed show at the Eisner Award-winning Brave New World Comics in Newhall. The show’s called “The Harold of Galactus”. If you know both improv and comic books, you’ll find that name hilarious. Otherwise, you’ll just be confused and angry.

TIE: Mass Effect 3 is due late next year and we’ve heard it’s going to be more ‘light-hearted’. For fear of danger to your family from the BioWare overseers, is there anything else you can safely tell us about the game?

MM: Two words. Chimpanzee sidekick.
James Michael Parry

Gaming: E3 Special – Microsoft Press Conference dissected


So, E3 (that’s Electronic Entertainment Expo for long) has finally returned once again to bring us a week of exciting gaming announcements. Microsoft were up first at 10.30 am this morning to a slightly delayed start, but talking piece of the conference is the very sleek, slim and new Xbox 360 (that black shiny thing you’re gawping at in the pictures).

Before all that though, there was plenty of Xbox-related goodness to get through. If you don’t fancy watching the feature-length event in full, which you can easily do online here at Gamespot.com, allow me to break down the excitement into bite-size chunks.

The event began with a immersive look at Call of Duty: Black Ops, Treyarch’s stab back after the Activision/Infinity Ward fallout debacle following Modern Warfare 2. The game looks great, with all of the series’ staples in place, but you can’t help feeling it’s more of the same. There was a nice touch though with the news that add-ons and DLC would be coming to Xbox 360 first for the next three years.

A packed Los Angeles Convention Center, or more specifically a theatre inside it, greets Senior Vice President Don Mattrick as he tells us that this year is the 10th year of Xbox and pushed home firmly the idea of making gaming simple.

Keeping up the momentum of his opening sermon, Mattrick ushers on Hideo Kojima, creator of Metal Gear Solid, to talk about the new game Metal Gear Solid: Rising. which was teasered at E3 ’09. The presentation was brief but showed off the snazzy visuals and distinctly Japanese fighting style which allows you to slice through anything.

Then comes the first part of the grand plan of simplification as the retail name of Microsoft’s Project Natal: Kinect – which was announced yesterday – is casually thrown in by Phil Spencer, who becomes the audiences’ guide for the rest of the conference.

He also talks about games, making the bold statement that “everything you see and hear from now on is exclusive to Xbox 360”, which you feel would have packed more punch right at the start, but MGS: Rising denied them.

The first ‘Xbox Exclusive’ to be rolled out is the hugely anticipated Gears of War 3, which Cliff Blesinski, Project Lead at Epic Games, is over-eager (as usual) to show us. Blesinski throws out the big guns, literally, showcasing the four-player coop of Delta Team – complete with female squad members – fighting off the new Lambent-mutated Locust, including a very quick and deadly Lambent Berserker which now hops around manically. Largely it’s more of the same, but when the same was as good as Gears 2 and there is SO much more, you can’t help but be excited.

Next is Peter Molyneux (thankfully without Milo in tow), to show off Fable III in all of it’s samey-ness, though things look a little more exciting and fast-paced than before, and the prospect of ruling an Albion moulded and shaped by your choices is an intriguing prospect.

After a random trailer for Codename Kingdoms, which resembles 300 in game form, we are treated to a visit from Marcus Lehto from Bungie to show us some in-game footage from the campaign of upcoming title Halo: Reach. At first glance the game already retains the sense of scale and wonder which Bungie have kept all the way through the series and the visuals are looking highly polished – a criticism of ODST’s minor upgrade.

On top of the visual changes the Elites have returned as main enemies, leading to a fan-boy resurgence as your Noble-team Spartan-III silently assassinates one from behind, prompting a short but very satisfying animation. The scene ends with you being ejected into space amid a colourful battle, perhaps suggesting some space vehicle combat?

With the “blockbuster game” demos out the way, the second act is left for Microsoft’s answer to the market-dominating Wii – Kinect (already proving to be a spelling nightmare.) What follows is a fairly drawn out series of demonstrations which range from a re-hash of what we were shown last year (Milo has become an affectionate tiger now), to genuinely interesting – if a little niche – titles.

The in-house launch games are all very avatar-heavy, with names like Kinect Sports, Kinanimals and Kinect Joy Ride, and have a very thin veil over the fact that they are ripping off Nintendo’s Wii Sports (& Resort), Nintendogs and Mario Kart Wii respectively.

Luckily Harmonix turn up to save Massivesoft’s bacon with the groove-busting Dance Central (think Dance Hero) showing off what the hardware can do, albeit with practised professional dancers…mostly at least. The North American launch will be November 4, but the jury will remain out until one of the ‘real’ games developers implements Kinect into a traditional game genre.

There was a big push for the multi-media aspect of Xbox ownership during the presentation, including a deal with ESPN to show matches free to Xbox LIVE Gold members, though no news if this will make its way out of North America.

Once the executives were happy they’d pushed their new, strangely named, add-on enough, (not before fondling the inside of a virtual Ferrari a bit) they moved on to welcome back Don Mattrick to round up everything great about Xbox, before lifting the Xbox 360 which had been sitting in the middle of the stage the whole time to reveal a smaller, shinier, blacker version beneath.

Though this was expected ever since the PS3 went slim last year, it still provoked the biggest response from the audience, and as an unexpected bonus, everyone at the conference was sent one free of charge – well done for them fending off the ash clouds to turn up maybe?

The biggest surprise was how quickly the company is shipping them out, claiming they will be available to buy later this week, and the unit includes built-in Wifi, something which surely should have been corrected already.

So, there you have it, all of the big news and excitement from the Microsoft camp. The Nintendo and Sony conferences are held tomorrow so expect the news from there in the next few days, if you haven’t been beaten into the ground with tweets about it before that of course.

James Michael Parry

Gaming: Top 5 Xbox LIVE Games

Online gaming is massive, something I’ve touched on previously in my blog, and nowhere more so than Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE, but for those of you who are yet to be bitten by the bug, yet to see your Xbox 360 reach it’s full potential, I bet you’re sitting there thinking: “Paying a fiver a month to play online? Why should I?”
The answer, is quality. The Xbox LIVE community thrives because of the people who make it what it is. Only last month we heard the story of players continuing to play Halo 2 after Microsoft decided to shut original Xbox LIVE down. Nowhere else would you get the same sort of devotion, except perhaps the most dedicated hardcore Counter-Strike servers.
So to initiate the unconverted, I’ve decided to pick out the top five games which show the best of what Xbox LIVE has to offer. While there might not be many surprises on the list, and there are many many more excellent games to be enjoyed online, these five together give the most enriching and entertaining all-round online experience.

1) Halo 3 (Developer: Bungie // Publisher: Microsoft)

So first up we have the big daddy of modern online gaming, the game that took the idea to a whole new level. By March last year over a billion matches had been played on multiplayer and it still ranks highly on the weekly Xbox LIVE play figures, reaching number three on week May 24th according to Major Nelson.
But just because a game is popular, doesn’t mean it’s automatically good, we all know what sheep people can be. In Halo’s case though, the Bungie team have learnt from the multiplayer in Halo 2 and improved everything about the matchmaking and game types to provide as wide a range of game types and general destruction as possible.
Standard deathmatches are all well and good, but fancy driving around the map with explosions everywhere from infinite ammo rocket launchers? Well you can thanks to the ‘Rocket Race‘ gametype – although it is rare to come across these days – as well as the more traditional ‘King of the Hill‘, ‘Gladiator‘ and ‘Team Swords‘ all being hugely enjoyable modes.
Another feature which in many ways was underused is the infinitely customisable ‘Forge’ mode, in which players can customise any of the maps in the game with additional crates, explosives, weapons, vehicles, practically anything in fact, leading to some inspired custom levels.
The latest DLC pack ‘Mythic‘ – released with Halo ODST – included a map called ‘Sandbox’ with large areas above and below the actual map for exactly this reason, sadly Bungie made little effort to introduce the best custom levels to the rest of the community and so the level failed to fulfil its potential.
Despite that Halo continues to be consistently fun to play despite being released in 2007, and the generally team-based play means the learning curve isn’t too steep.
2) Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (Developer: DICE // Publisher: EA)
While many of you at this moment are no doubt incensed with anger at me choosing this game in place of the astronomically successful Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series.
The reasons this game tops it for me are two fold: firstly – Modern Warfare is hard. Now I’ve no problem with things being challenging, but Call of Duty is not a game you can just pick up and enjoy, you have to unlock the higher ranks for decent weapons and perks and though the Death Streak perks on MW2 initially give you a tiny edge, it’s easily the most frustrating game I’ve ever played for the sheer “Here we go, oh no I’m instantly dead”-factor.
On Battlefield though, team play takes a new meaning as you can spawn on your team mates. Of course they still die just before you get a chance to appear, but you find you can get out of a fix pretty quickly if you just hide in the foliage for ten seconds.
The multiplayer is based around a class system, namely Assault, Engineer, Media and Recon, and are as self-explanatory as they seem. There is some range, but not enough to make any one class miles better than any other, and a good balance in multiplayer is key.
The maps on the game are nicely varied, and the destructible environments give a certain uneasiness, since a place of safely can be deleted in an instant by a stray tank shell.
The vehicles themselves are what make the multiplayer so enjoyable. You and friends commanding the skies from a HIND helicopter or creating a Tank convoy to storm the enemy position. Not that vehicles make you invincible either, meaning a solid defence can take them down.
The lack of multiplayer modes, which are set to be increased come the next DLC instalment, don’t make the game repetitive or dull at all, and you really get a sense of a prolonged skirmish even in short games because of the amount of time in the action, though if you get the timing wrong when spawning you can find yourself with a long walk to the objective.

3) Left 4 Dead 2 (Developer: Valve // Publisher: Valve)

If you prefer the dead to the living, then zombie dismember-em-up Left 4 Dead 2 is right up your street. Not only is it the most varied zombie game I’ve ever come across (though Dead Rising 2 is shaping up very nicely) it gives you the chance to be a zombie, and not just a trudging brain-muncher either.
The ‘special’ infected (the game’s term for zombies) have fantastic powers, from releasing your tongue as a lasso to ensnare your victims, covering them in toxic gunge or pouncing on them from a nearby rooftop to claw up their face.
It may all sound a bit brutal, but this is a battle for survival after all, and this game like no other makes you value your life as you manically swing a cricket bat, or gnome, to defend yourself from hoards of evil nasties.
The bedrock which the first game set down has been well build upon this time around, with ‘Survival‘ and ‘Scavenge‘ modes adding some variety to the usual run-of-the-mill campaigns, which themselves are very varied and enjoyable in their own right. ‘Realism‘ adds a challenge for veterans of the first game, taking away helpful pointers such as weapon highlighting and friends’ outlines when out of view, making things instantly more treacherous.
Xbox LIVE is woven into the structure of this game, it would be a shadow of itself without the help of random online strangers, however tool-ish they can sometimes be.
Learning how and when to use the special infected, particularly in the short sharp bursts that ‘Scavenge‘ offers, is even more enjoyable than tearing through the infected with your AK-47 as one of the very vulnerable survivors.
As much as it’s fun to work with your friends, it’s even more fun to hunt them down and devour them, with the sadistic pleasure we all feel seeing our friends in some mild peril – albeit in video game form.
This game also gets the ‘Pick Up and Play’ award for simplicity as Valve, with their considerable experience in first person shooters (stand up and take a well-deserved bow Half Life), have created the most intuitive control system, keeping things simple to make the learning curve as shallow as possible, and it pays off – gruesomely.
4) Red Faction: Guerilla (Developer: Violation Inc // Publisher: THQ)
Computer games give you the ability to enact your greatest and wildest fantasies from the comfort of your own sofa, and who in their right mind hasn’t liked the idea of blowing up everything in sight?
Thanks to Red Faction: Guerilla that dream came one giant jet pack flying leap closer, with Violation Inc’s highly impressive ‘Geo-Mod 2.0‘, a gameplay engine which dynamically maps the destruction of buildings, allowing you to cause the roof of a building to fall crushing the building beneath it ad other such havoc with the game’s various structure-deleting equipment.
In multiplayer this engine takes a more significant role in gameplay as towers fall to become bridges and the building you’re safely hiding inside quickly crumbles around you, forcing an energetic and varied style of play.
Game modes here are more inventive than most games too, but all containing a fair amount of destruction for good measure, naturally.
The highlight is the ‘Destroyer‘ game mood, which is pretty much as it sounds, one player tries to destroy as many buildings as possible while the rest of the team protects them, and the other team does the same. There are bonus points on offer if you kill the enemy destroyer.
It tends to work better on some maps than others, since sometimes people are too efficient and blowing things up and there is nothing left on the map by the end of the game, but it makes for some interesting matches.
Another key thing to mention is that the standard weapon is a sledgehammer, adding a satisfying twist to the standard melee attack, not to mention some amusing unlocks as you reach higher levels (ostrich-hammer anyone?)
5) Splinter Cell: Conviction (Developer: Ubisoft Montreal // Publisher: Ubisoft)
As the lone wolf of stealth action, Sam Fisher is getting on a bit, but at the risk of ruining his ‘one-man-army-super-badass’ image, Ubisoft decided to bring in some now acquisitions for their highly-addictive cooperative mode ‘Deniable Ops‘.
Players control either ‘Archer‘ (American, cocky, sarcastic) or ‘Kestrel‘ (Russian, cold, calculating) in missions in secret complexes, installations and generally other covert things. What makes the game mode work is the free-roaming parts, which allow you to work with your partner to navigate a large area filled with enemies by working out a strategy.
Of course you just wing it a few times, but then get separated and killed pretty quickly so decide perhaps a tactic or two wouldn’t be a bad thing. As much as it sounds like a lot of thought, after a while it becomes second nature, depending on how good your partner is, and you find progressing cooperatively even more rewarding than pumping your friends full of lead.
One place where the game really favours the coop mode over the standard campaign is the much touted ‘Mark And Execute‘ system, which allows players to highlight a certain number of enemies depending on the weapon they are using them, and then press a single button to kill them all automatically in a matter of seconds.
Because the two games are connected together there is a bit of leeway between one player pressing the button and the other, meaning you can often watch your characters executing half a dozen enemies through various walls and other obstacles, suggesting their bullets have suddenly gained wall-felling powers.
What began as feeling like a bit of a tacked-on option in the run up to the game’s release flourished considerably, thanks to – or even cause of – some significant delays, and made the title overall far better value for money.
So, if you’re Xbox-ing away at home on Mass Effect 2 for hours on end, blissfully unaware of the outside world, try connecting your Xbox up to the magical wonderment that is the internet and watch your games instantly become even better.
James Michael Parry