Monday, 19 September 2011

Plants Vs Zombies - review

The PvZ cover-art
This review is a little late but I've just bought Plants Vs Zombies again, but on a different platform, the iPad. Yes, it really is that good.

Plants Vs Zombies is essentially a tower-defense game (or flower-defense as it's become affectionately known), which sees your home under siege by an army of the living dead. Your last line of defense is your front-garden and the huge variety of killer vegetation that inhabits it.

There are over 50 types of plant, each with its own unique ability. Peashooters fire projectiles, Cherry Bombs explode taking down multiple foes while 'Wall-Nuts' (Walnuts) create a barricade to keep those pesky Zombies at bay. Plant types are limited to begin with but players unlock a new plant at the end of each level.

Like most Real-Time Strategy games, farming resources is key to building a successful empire. In this case the currency for purchasing plants is sunlight, which can be collected whenever it falls from the sky or by planting Sunflowers. The more sun you have banked, the more defenses you can grow.

However, like all good tower-defense games, PvZ has excellent balance with multiple Zombie types with various strengths and weaknesses. There are Zombies wearing buckets and traffic cones on their heads for protection, Zombies that can pole-vault over your Wall-Nuts and even a Zombie resembling Michael Jackson that can summon back-up dancers. This is a tongue in cheek nod to the Thriller video and a prime example of the style of humor in PvZ.

Added challenge comes from later levels which take place at night. This introduces new varieties of flora (mainly mushroom variants) but also drastically inhibits the amount of sunlight available. This is just one example of the ever changing environment which keeps each of the 50 levels feeling fresh and a constant challenge.
Brains are off the menu

The iPad's added touch functionality adds to the fun and simplifies the experience but aside from that there are no major differences between this and the Xbox version.

Blending what is essentially simulated farming like Harvest Moon or Farmville with a Zombie apocalypse is genius and developers Popcap have done a wonderful job in creating a fun, challenging, well balanced game. PvZ is beautifully rendered and features a unique, jaunty soundtrack that compliments the mood perfectly. A must have for Zombie-lovers and Botanists alike. You'll really 'dig' it.

My top tip: Sunflowers are key to victory. Build up a sizable patch that is well protected from attack and watch the sunshine-credits roll in.

My Score: 9/10

Game Reviewed On: iPad

Friday, 9 September 2011

Halo: Anniversary - Looking Forward

117 is back
I can scarcely believe it's been ten long years since Halo: Combat Evolved first graced our living rooms. I remember first playing Halo with a good friend of mine (I didn't own an Xbox at the time!) huddled around a 19" portable television, elbow to elbow and loving every minute.  

Halo really set the standard for console based first person shooters and it's co-op experience was second to none. My friend and I spent countless hours tearing around the first level in a Warthog, mowing down the enemy and plunging off of the occasional cliff. Ah, fond memories! 

Being an Xbox exclusive, It could be argued that Bungie's masterpiece was single-handedly responsible for the success of the Microsoft's first console. After all every platform needs that essential game to put it on the map. Halo was undoubtedly that game. 

A decade on and the Halo franchise now rests in the hands of 343 industries who will soon honor us with a re-release of Halo: Combat Evolved simply titled Halo: Anniversary.  

Anniversary will undergo a major face-lift with fresh, 2011 visuals created by Saber interactive. However, the game mechanics that we all know and love will remain untouched as changes to the game are 99% cosmetic. 
The visuals in Anniversary look stunning
Original fans of Halo: CE will be overjoyed to learn that the original graphics can be restored at the touch of a button (the Back button I believe) meaning that the entire game can be played as it would have been back in 2001. The switch can be made at anytime including during cut scenes. 

Do Spartans dream of sheep?
In addition to this, Martin O'Donnell's original musical score has been completely re-recorded with the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra. Some of the synth-heavy parts being replaced and the entire soundtrack now being audible in the glory of Dolby 5.1 surround sound. 

Co-op will also make a comeback, with two friends now being able to team up over Live as well as via the traditional split-screen and system link options.  

As if all that wasn't enough, players will have instant access to the multiplayer mode that was originally designed for four players around a single console (or eight with a system link). Multiplayer for Halo: Anniversary is being revamped to include seven original maps that have been re-imagined and the highly contentious Xbox Live play option. Multiplayer mode will be included on the same disc as the single player campaign, unlike Halo: ODST, and feature the mechanics that we have grown accustomed to in Halo: Reach. 
The Halo ring in all its HD glory

I am ecstatic about Halo: Anniversary and can't wait to get my hands on it. This is just what fans need to keep them busy until the release of Halo 4 in 2012. What with this, Skyrim and Assassins Creed: Revelations all due out at the same time, November is shaping up to be a very anti-social month for me. That's what Xbox Live's for though, right?

Halo: A brief history 

Halo: Combat Evolved - Fantastic graphics, gameplay and a lovingly crafted universe that inspired a cult following. A great boost for Xbox.

Halo 2 - The continuation of the great elements that Combat Evolved built up, as well as that a revolutionary multiplayer experience on Xbox Live.  

Halo 3 - New graphics engine, new enemies, new generation. Halo's first outing on the Xbox 360 was a treat for all the senses.  

Halo Wars - An unusual departure from the usual FPS to real-time strategy. The first game to come from a different developer, Ensemble.

Halo 3: ODST - A large side story that took the focus off of the familiar protagonist, Master Chief, and put the player in the roll of an ODST Trooper.  

Halo Reach - The final Halo game from Bungie studios and a great way for the developer to say thank you and goodbye to the series. Simply brilliant.
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