Scarface: The World is Yours

Gamestyle Archive intro: fond memories of the original OTT PS2 version of Scarface that captured the feel of the original perfectly. Writer JJ, Published July 2007

Developer: Radical Entertainment

Publisher: Sierra

scarface

When Gamestyle reviewed the PlayStation 2 version of Scarface: The World is Yours we were certainly impressed.  Rather than revisit the storyline of the film, it took the grand finale and used it as a blueprint for a new adventure in Tony Montana’s world.   Many wrongly labelled Scarface as a viable pit stop for anyone waiting for Grand Theft Auto V, but in fact it proved to be an excellent addition to the genre.  Now the violent tale arrives on the Nintendo Wii, thankfully displaying no obvious restraint and full of its customary bravado.  So the obvious question we ask of most Wii releases applies; a worthwhile port or just another title that fails to utilise its new host’s capabilities?

If you are familiar with the film, then you will automatically realise just how much fun you can have as Tony Montana.   A ruthless Cuban gangster who previously ruled the Miami underworld, you must rebuild your empire long after the wolves have departed with every last scrap of power, drugs, money and the trappings they bring.  However Montana still has his pride intact, combined with a ruthless streak and desire to gain revenge on those who dared plot against him.   And whereas Tony ruled before with no consciousness, now his enemies have even more reason to fear his wrath.

For anyone old enough to purchase Scarface, being Tony Montana is the real joy.  Its not everyday you experience such a role as this, the reckless freedom, lack of morals, outright self-belief in your own ability and being above the law.   It may not feature the voice of Pacino but the replacement voice actor is more than adequate, perhaps providing more venom and scope than Al would have brought to the project.  Shaking the nunchuk prompts a series of witty comments that seem endless for most given situations.  At times Gamestyle would just try out the range of remarks to see what delights and sound bites of wisdom Montana would utter. Whereas elsewhere such samples soon become repetitive and diminish in value, here it just confirms the work that has gone into developing this release.

Our fears of a scaled down version have been cast aside as Radical Entertainment have done a tremendous job in porting the PlayStation 2 title to the Nintendo Wii.   While Scarface does not offer the variety and wealth of options that an instalment of GTA provides it still represents a sizeable title.  Arguably with the exception of Zelda this is the longest adventure on the system and raises the genre barrier set previously by The Godfather.   You can follow the main goals and set up deals, taking over drug rackets or simply engage in turf warfare or even developing your mansion into the ultimate bachelor pad.  The choice as they is yours and thankfully there are no hidden icons across the map, removing the need to explore every blade of grass.   Instead Radical Entertainment have stayed true to the source and created a rampaging white-knuckle ride without any filler, should you decide to get onboard.

Visually it is miles better than The Godfather and shows up many of the PS2 ports that the system has been receiving for what they are.   Agreed, it does lack the polish of the original, but excluding the resolution they stand side by side extremely well.  The layout for the most part remains untouched and residents either on foot, or on the road happily populate the streets.  Even the rich selection of music from the period has made the journey across onto the Wii.

The biggest improvement comes with the control method, which at first seems blighted by the camera control option.    This is partially due to the shortness of the training introduction that is identical to the one you’ll find on the PS2 version.  This was conceived to show you the basics, but the Wii edition provides a level of control beyond that seen originally.

The nunchuk controls your direction and shaking it unleashes the rage attack, where Montana goes more ballistic than usual.  The twist comes from the Wii remote that acts as the camera by simply pointing it at the screen.   There are several options that control the speed and scope of the camera, and due to the training mode you’ll have to try out each in game to find the one that suits your style.   Once a favourite has been found, the combination works extremely well as the remote also acts as your target sight.  The Z button allows you to lock onto targets and strafe when needed, resulting in a more fluid, practical and hassle free experience.

Few titles nowadays grow in stature yet almost a year on from its original release, Scarface: The World is Yours remains as strong and potent an experience as you’ll find.   With the Wii tending to favour cute juvenile experiences of late, we’re thankfully that Tony has graced us with his presence one more time.

Gamestyle score: 8/10

ECTS 2003

Gamestyle Archive intro: The European Gaming show marked an opportunity for the team to meet up from all corners of the UK and experience the latest games. From 2003, Writer JJ.

At the end of the summer the video game industry descends on London for the annual ECTS gathering.  The prime European event is this year complimented by the burgeoning consumer Playstation 2 Experience and various developer events in the capital beforehand.  This is a time for old friends to catch up, deals to be offered and a chance to check out the competition.

The consensus was that this year’s event was an improvement on the previous year, and certainly a massive improvement over the lacklustre 2001 Docklands event.  Despite the demise of numerous developers during the last twelve months the general mood was one of hope, excitement and fierce rivalry.     These factors combined with several promising games on show filled attendees (including Gamestyle) with hope that the coming months will provide some much needed excitement and originality.

With a congregation built on a pan-European basis and beyond, it is no surprise that Gamestyle ignored many booths.  Package suppliers, media publishers, recruitment companies, development packages and CD producers may well form the foundations of the industry, but it’s all about the games – excluding PC games of course, as despite criticism it is outside our remit.

Our tour and brief overview begins outside the main entrance to ECTS, where Nintendo had set up camp to promote its forthcoming Gamecube and GameBoy Advance releases.  Rather than taking centre stage amidst the chaotic scenes and deafening volume of Earls Court, Nintendo had decided to make advantage of the concrete area outside.  Here a fenced enclosure was decked out in the style of Mario Kart, with various palm trees and banners in abundance.  Taking centre stage was the truck, which offered booths in and around its structure.

A large video screen dominated the area and allowed Nintendo to continuously run footage of its wares – if only another screen was located at the opposite entrance where the masses queued for the Playstation 2 Experience.  Beneath the screen sat four karts, which came with screens that allowed the LAN ability of Mario Kart Double Dash to be fully exploited and allowed Nintendo to run daily competitions.  The Nintendo stand soon became a favourite escape for Gamestyle as it offered a tranquil, relaxed and crowd free environment – especially when it rained.  The Nintendo girls (dressed in mechanic overalls) were surprisingly knowledgeable about the games on show and eager to help, although on one occasion on Friday they outnumbered the guests!  However on Friday several officials from Nintendo of Japan where evident, Gamestyle hopes that this is the start of equal treatment for Europe.  Luckily on Friday, one Gamestyle staff member was not wearing his Lik Sang tee shirt.

The games on show were of varying quality, excluding Viewtiful Joe and Soul Calibur II, which are already very familiar with most visitors.  Those that disappointed included Rogue Squadron III and Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes, which prompted one staff member to exclaim “Bleemcast!”  The former was perhaps a victim of a disappointing level selection, but there was no hiding from the disappointing lack of evolution.  Mario Kart Double Dash received mixed responses and Gamestyle cannot help but feel that is a release on a hiding to nothing; no matter what it will be judged against the sublime SNES version.  The new version is playable and therefore enjoyable, but the visuals fail to harness the power of the Cube or offer a high frame rate.  The same can be said of the sequels to 1080 Snowboarding and Pikmin.

Despite the negativity there were delights to be found in the Nintendo penitentiary, namely Pac Man, Harry Potter, F-Zero and Billy Hatcher.  Perhaps Pac Man was the biggest surprise – only available on one machine, but immensely playable and satisfying.  Unfortunately the need for a GBA with cart plus three friends (with controllers) and the game disc really limits the appeal and potential market of the release.  Pac Man is wonderful and more modes may add further dimensions but you cannot avoid the niche nature of such expenditure.

Depending on which way you entered ECTS; you were confronted with either the colourful Konami/Vivendi stands or the budget Play It offering – located nicely beside the press side entrance.  The Konami stand featured an original design, which really leant itself toward interaction and participation.  The Pro Evolution Soccer 3 stalls were consistently busy, whilst the official Konami dancers kept showing off their undoubted skills.  Every hour on the hour, a Metal Gear 3 video played and came complete with 007 rip-off credits, backed up with footage of forthcoming releases.  Unfortunately two of the most promising games on show were available on single machines; Castlevania and the ultimate music game.  The latter really showed Codemasters how to create a music game and with the headset provided the most laughs to those watching or the brave soul who attempted to sing.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles failed to impress and Zone Of Enders 2 only seems to have received a cosmetic make over.

Across from Konami lay the Vivendi stand, which lacked any modern visual design – instead relying on the games on show to attract attention.  The centrepiece was the Half-Life 2 presentation booth, which always had a queue – bitterly disappointing if you have already seen the footage.  The rest of the stand featured a varied selection of forthcoming releases.  Glitch in the system offered nothing new, while Buffy Chaos Bleeds is a step backwards after the playable Electronic Arts release.  Crash Bandicoot’s latest kart racing release matched Mario Kart Double Dash in playability terms but may lack the finesse of the Nintendo racer; only time will tell.

Normally any video game based on the Simpson’s license is enough to turn off any interest, and so it was initially with the empty Simpson’s Hit & Run booth.  Those brave enough to pick up the controller were rewarded with a rampant take on Grand Theft Auto, doused in Simpson’s humour and presentation.  Star Wars has turned the corner with Knights of the Old Republic and so it seems has another abused license

The Bouncer

Gamestyle Archive intro: a visually stunning game the Bouncer promised so much and well, no one is talking about it these days. Writer JJ, published June 2001.

VERSION: Pal PS2

DEVELOPER: Squaresoft
PUBLISHER:  Sony
GENRE: Fighting Adventure
ACCESSORIES: Dolby Digital.
PLAYERS: 1-4
RELEASE: Out Now

LINK: http://www.scee.com/thebouncer/
PRESENTATION: 7
GRAPHICS: 8
SOUND: 6
GAMEPLAY: 1
LASTABILITY: 1 

 thebouncer

Well it’s taken its time to reach our shores and word of mouth certainly has preceded its release in Europe.   The Bouncer is perhaps the most graphically stunning game available for the PS2 – until Final Fantasy X is released later this month.   Yet while Square have pulled out all the stops with their usual high quality presentation, designs and graphical treats they’ve overlooked the most fundamental aspect of any game.   No matter how great it looks, if it plays like a dog, no amount of eye candy is going to save it and oh boy, does it play like an old worn out mongrel!

Square has tried to tag this game as an interactive movie, due no doubt to the amount of video footage that is included and the story, which unfolds.   The plot revolves around the tiny and perfectly formed Dominique Cross who is taken by the sinister Mikado Group.   She is the missing key in a major solar power project which if successful will supply the whole world with power.   That of course equals power to the CEO of Mikado, Dauragon C. Mikado.   Three bouncers from the bar Fate where Dominique works decide to rescue her from the Mikado Building.  Normally three unarmed guys against a whole corporation of men, robots and weaponry wouldn’t stand a chance yet these three are a unique bunch.   Kou Leifoh is the joker of the bunch with some interesting connections and a bad choice in tattoos.   Sion Barzahd is the quiet reserved member of the trio but is fortunately Dominique’s boyfriend, lucky sod.   Finally Volt Krueger, the tough one, is very mysterious and has a history with the fantastic Echidna.   Whichever character you select you will find out their background and secrets while trying to rescue Dominique and stop Mikado.   Of course to see all the different side stories you’ll need to play the game three times.

The fighting itself is very much three dimensional with some wonderful backgrounds but no interaction is offered.   No matter which character you select, your two buddies will be onscreen with you throughout trying to help.   During the fighting I felt no sense of urgency, panic or involvement and this is because of a variety of reasons.   The PS2 can only put 4-5 baddies on screen against you at any one time.  The fighting is one paced throughout and you never feel in danger or under pressure.   Your opponents are so predictable and easily beaten that I could perform the same move over and over again while reading a magazine and complete the section!   Bosses are also easily defeated which makes you wonder how Echidna managed to beat Volt in the first place.   Occasionally the odd challenging section may arise forcing you to think very hard and push those gaming skills to new extremes.  For instance a corridor of automatic doors closing and you need to reach the other end of the corridor before they trap you.   The solution is fairly easy, just push forward on the analogue stick but watch out for the odd crate put in your path!   An insult to anyone who stumped up £40 for this expecting something new.   The more successful you are in the fighting sections the more Bouncer Points you will receive.  This is very much based on the experience points that Square uses in Final Fantasy but here you can spend them and improve health, power and defensive levels or purchase more powerful attacks.   Once you have acquired one of the more lethal combinations you won’t need to use another move.

The story is good and the voice acting is passable throughout but the whole structure and style of gameplay is very much of an afterthought.   The pattern will become increasingly familiar to anyone playing The Bouncer.   A nice bit of FMV, select your character, fight (anything from 30 seconds to 3 minutes), brief FMV, collect your Bouncer points, spend them, save, confirm save then onto the next section.   Most of the time you’ll spend watching the FMV or navigating the menus rather than actually fighting.  These delays as also seen in Red Faction reduce the level of interest and snap any concentration you once had.  The game camera can prove difficult at times especially in the sections that involve running around the Mikado building – it is too near your character resulting in a limited field of vision.   Also during these running sections you’ll notice how bad the animation is and how everyone runs exactly the same – as if they were on ice.  Gamestyle hopes that the animation department get their act together for Final Fantasy X fast.

The Bouncer takes advantage of the pressure sensitive buttons on the PS2 Dual Shock Controller.  If you tap a button your character will perform a weak attack, while a firm press will result in a stronger attack.   I’ve always felt that when most people fight they punch to the hardest of their abilities, weak attacks?  Don’t think so.   You can see the point of Sony introducing such a feature for racing or puzzle games but a beat ‘em up?

The Bouncer will only take around 90 minutes to complete and as your characters get stronger, this will continue to come down.   As mentioned previously you can play it again to experience the story from another viewpoint but the differences are minor at best.  You may play it again to open up new moves and characters that you can select in the multiplayer option but really do you want to?   If you want four player beat ‘em up action try Powerstone on the Dreamcast, its far more superior.

One of the reasons why I wanted to play The Bouncer was that it is the first PS2 title to make use of the optical output i.e. Dolby Digital.  So how good was the sound?  Firstly we we’re not using some tiny out of the box solution but a fully-fledged home cinema set up.   The Dolby Digital sound is only offered during certain FMV sequences while others are in standard stereo.  The sound during these moments is excellent if a little bit shallow and lacking the depth and dynamic sounds of the latest blockbuster.   If anything it detracted my enjoyment from the sequences that did not support Dolby Digital and the fighting sections.   As you expect from Square the presentation and soundtrack are excellent but jumping from stereo to Dolby Digital and back again isn’t good.   It’s a nice attempt but really the whole game should have offered the 5.1 mix for those of us who could use it however it does hint at the possibilities offered by this format.   This aspect is very indicative of The Bouncer, a missed opportunity from start to finish.

Gamestyle Score: 4/10

Game Boy Advance Why should I bother?

Gamestyle Archive intro: written on the eve of the GBA release, Gamestyle considered whether it was worth picking up Nintendo’s new handheld. Did we? Yes.  Writer JJ, published June 2001.

It’s under a week to go before the replacement for the longest serving piece of hardware becomes available in Europe.   The Game Boy has been with us now for a decade and yet continues to sell either in colour or monotone.   The handheld console has seen off challenges from Atari, Bandai, Neo Geo, Sega and many more during its long history and only now does the bell toll.      Although some of the recent software for the Game Boy has been exceptional for instance recent examples such as Grand Theft Auto, Alone In The Dark, Perfect Dark and Pokemon, the general feeling is that no more could be done on the system.   We can only take so many platform, puzzle or poor license releases.   The arrival of its 32bit successor should be a day to remember in Europe but this seems not to be the case.  In fact the general public seem more anxious to experience the new look Gamestyle website that launches on the same day.

Consumer apathy is pretty widespread when it comes to the GBA and it’s all down to the price.  The price point of £89.99 has been widely adopted by retailers which seems fine until you compare that the same machine in Japan costs 9800 yen (£58) or in America $99 (£73).   No discounts either for buying several titles or link cables.  That makes us easily the most expensive place on earth to buy the next generation handheld.   Yet the reason for this isn’t solely down to Nintendo, Gamestyle point the finger of blame at the retailers.   The reason is quite simply Nintendo have recommended a retail price of £73 to £79 for launch day but no one is listening, why?   The fact of the matter is all the main high street retailers are experiencing lower revenues from videogames in general.   The N64 is frankly dead, the Dreamcast has almost joined it and the PS2 continues to disappoint with its lack of quality software.  The GBA is seen very much as a cash cow and therefore we’re going to have to pay a bit more for it.   Of course Nintendo aren’t entirely free from blame, almost all of the titles will retail for £29.99 with the exceptions being Nintendo titles that will come in at £34.99.   If anything the Nintendo games should be cheaper as all the royalties go to the Japanese firm unlike 3rd party titles where they take a percentage.

Even with the price issues high in our mind Gamestyle would still buy the GBA on day one, not because we’re millionaires or Nintendo are giving us freebies, no we’ll be down in that queue with you come Friday 22nd June.  One of our team already has the machine on import and hasn’t been seen since its purchase.   Not only do we have to buy the latest bit of kit with the excitement and thrill of it all in our minds – it’s an essential purchase.   What many have overlooked is that the GBA represents the first piece of Gamecube hardware to become available.   Not only are you buying a handheld but also a controller with extra qualities for the home console.  The inbuilt ability to link up to three other GBA’s and play certain games from only one cart should lighten the blow to your pocket.   The thoughts of hammering the rest of the Gamestyle staff at F Zero will soon become reality, then Mario Kart, then the world!

We all moan about the various formats and exclusive games across many systems.  In order to play the best you need to buy several systems and the argument for a single format has been with us for sometime.   The Game Boy and of course the GBA are the only format to own when it comes the handheld market.  If your favourite game developer is going to release a spin off handheld version chances are it’ll be on Nintendo’s machine.   Unless you’re Squaresoft that is, who are still paying for their allegiance to Sony after the SNES, you’ll have to import a Wonderswan for their games.  By buying a GBA you’re almost guaranteed hundreds of forthcoming handheld games from all the developers across the globe.   Added to this is the backwards compatibility with the Game Boy and Game Boy Colour games so no need to lose that Tetris cart.

Sega are now on board and from day one you’ll be able to buy Chu Chu Rocket, a fantastic game that any Dreamcast owner should be familiar with and a Sonic game to follow.   Only Microsoft and Sony are missing out on the party, rumours do persist that both are working on handhelds of their own.   Most think that Sony are untouchable when it comes to the number one position in the console market, compared to Nintendo and the handheld market they’re in weak position.   Such is the domination of Nintendo and its number one brand.   Mobile phones and Palm handhelds are often projected as being the future of the handheld market but are so far behind its not worth even mentioning them.   Another game of Snake or Tony Hawks 2, that is all we need to say.

At the end of the day we all make our own decisions but after you’ve seen the GBA in action it will prove hard to resist.   Gamestyle will be covering the system in our usual way with news, previous and reviews shortly.

WDL Thundertanks

Gamestyle Archive intro: one of the better 3do titles receiving 4/10. The publisher was all over the PS2 launch. Writer JJ, published March 2001.

VERSION: PS2
DEVELOPER: 3DO
PUBLISHER:  3DO
GENRE:
ACCESSORIES:
PLAYERS: 1-4
RELEASE: Out Now
LINK: www.3do.com

PRESENTATION: 3
GRAPHICS: 4
SOUND: 2
GAMEPLAY: 5
LASTABILITY: 5 

3do

Society doesn’t look kindly upon destruction, violence and carnage, which is what makes videogames such great escapism.   World Destruction League Thundertanks doesn’t hide what its about – instead it embraces and glorifies it.   You and you vehicle of choice must destroy ever opponent on your way to winning the league, which of course is live on television.

If you have ever played any of the Twisted Metal, Vigilante 8 or previous 3DO instalments on the N64 you’ll know what Thundertanks is all about.   Arenas are scattered across the world and you must blast your way through any opponent or drone that gets in your way.   Although spread across the world apart from the odd local building i.e. Japan, you will be hard pushed to spot the differences between the continents.   The layouts lack variety, for instance the arenas are always set on a square layout with bases in each corner.   Add an open area in the middle and maze like corridors in between and you have your arenas for this game.   Poor design is an understatement but at least you have several modes to select from: tournament, death match, capture the flag, family, domination and frenzy.

You have a wide selection of tanks and clichéd drivers to choose from, a shame that you couldn’t customise the vehicles in some way.   Each one carries a unique type of weapon and will offer different levels of speed, armour etc.   It’s a bit hit and miss in the beginning but eventually you will find a tank suitable to your own style.   It would have been a simple idea to include the ratings of each vehicle on the selection screen but this is indicative of the poor presentation throughout.   The power ups that you can collect on the arena floor range from the mundane (grenades, health, mines) to the more exciting (air strikes, homing missiles, nuke) weapons of destruction.   Sometimes the gung ho approach doesn’t work and you are best saving the best weaponry for moments when needed.

The whole presentation of WDL is similar of that to the popular American Wrestling Federations that dominate Sky Sports on most evenings.   The commentaries are very loud and grass; full of those one-liners, which really make you wince in pain.  Thankfully we have the option such over the top commentary off.   The whole style will either delight, more likely younger gamers or wrestling fans, or make you want to reach for the eject button.   The menus are very static and boring, without music and took me back to the days of the Megadrive, sorry poor Megadrive games.   The sound is similarly weak when it does appear; it is often in varies in quality and volume level.   While the commentary is very poor it is relevant to what is happening and is well recorded.   The crowd noises and tank introductions are very poor, badly recorded and sounding like a badly sampled mono recording from your dads eight track machine.

The graphics are at a high resolution and the frame rate is constant and very quick with only a marginal slow down on the multiplayer modes.   The lighting effects are also very good but this seems to be an area where PS2 excels in.   What Thundertanks doesn’t do so well is offer a variety of textures, everything is similar, bland and very boring.   Your tank suffers from the same problem that blighted Sega Rally 2, your tanks tend to hover above the surface.   The default camera can be a problem as it is too near your vehicle, often limiting your field of vision.   Instead the aerial camera is far more effective, showing the more of the arena floor but it does reduce the game to a 2D battle tank game – a bit pointless if you’ve got a 128-bit machine.   The control system is difficult to begin with as it utilises both analogue sticks and initially you will struggle to drive over the power ups.   After some practice you will be able to drive in while direction while pointing the turret in another.

The single player mode is instantly forgettable but where Thundertanks comes alive is when your mates come round.   While offering nothing new the multiplayer mode is fast, frenzied and great fun.  Without this, WDL Thundertanks would be a very poor game indeed.   Still as there are few decent four player games currently on the PS2 you may want to consider picking this up solely for that reason.   Several of the 3DO games are on special at many retailers so shop around and pick up a bargain!

Gamestyle Score: 4/10

Luigi’s Mansion Preview

Gamestyle Archive intro: seems like only yesterday we were waiting for the Gamecube and one of the lead titles was Luigi’s Mansion. This preview is from June 2001, writer JJ.

VERSION: Gamecube

DEVELOPER: Nintendo

PUBLISHER:  Nintendo

GENRE: Adventure

ACCESSORIES: unknown

PLAYERS: 1

RELEASE: Europe Easter 2002

 luigimansion

Nintendo are well known for only releasing games when they are finished and not beforehand.   Details of all the forthcoming Nintendo Gamecube titles have been kept firmly under control by the company, no doubt to keep secret many innovative features.   When it comes to Gamecube previews this is all the more harder, because we don’t really have much to go on or comment about.  Based on the movies and information available, Gamestyle presents its first albeit short Gamecube preview.

We all know Mario but what about his younger brother Luigi?   This is his first solo game and like incorrect initial reports wasn’t put together between projects but was conceived as a fully-fledged title.  All we need to say is two words, Shigeru Miyamoto.

There has been talk recently of the need to make Mario and his clan more appealing to gamers of all ages and not just kids.  Luigi’s Mansion is the first title to be developed under this new initiative.   Everyone first thought that the Gamecube would be the first Nintendo console to launch without a Mario title in its ranks and that Luigi’s Mansion would be the main focus.  However with the recent Spaceworld announcement that a Mario title does exist, although in what state isn’t known, it could be that Luigi is pushed aside by his older brother.   Whatever the case, Mario will feature in Luigi’s Mansion but on a minor scale.   One genre featured highly in our recent Console Rage feature was platformers that are synonymous with Mario and Nintendo in general.   It therefore comes as a pleasant surprise that what has been seen so far of Luigi’s Mansion does not include any platforms!

The storyline is that Luigi has inherited a mansion and decides to visit his windfall along with his brother (Mario) who will meet him when he arrives.   It becomes obvious to Luigi that not only is the mansion haunted but that his brother has vanished, no doubt taken by some unseen force.   It’s therefore up to Luigi to rescue his brother and rid the house of all supernatural activity.   That’s all 90 plus rooms one by one needing to be cleared.   The only help that you will receive is from a friendly ghost expert who offers advise, apart from that you only have a torch and vacuum cleaner to do the job.   Brings back memories of Ghostbusters on the Spectrum.   More items that you can equip have been promised and added to your vacuum cleaner, with only a water-spraying item having been confirmed so far.   These will no doubt prove useful in solving the many puzzles that will stand in your way.

Although Luigi and the Casper inspired ghosts are quite comical, Nintendo have tried to convey a sense of being alone, claustrophobia and apprehension.   Make no doubt; this game isn’t a Resident Evil or Alone In The Dark more a humorous Nintendo take on such intense games.   The use of the torch in the game is very important and similar to that used in the recent version of Alone In The Dark.   Ghosts easily scare Luigi and therefore unexpected surprises will result in loss of health and much screaming!  From what we’ve seen the graphical power of the Gamecube as been put to good effect.  Real time lighting, shadows and reflections are all in evidence as you scour room after room with your only source of light.   Everything you see within the mansion is interactive, the typical Nintendo stance – no pre-rendered backgrounds here!

Ever since Mario 64 most 3D games have struggled to put together a controllable and effective game camera.   Luigi’s Mansion features a unique camera in the fact that walls dissolve thereby offering you a better viewpoint and not spoiling the experience.   Once you’ve seen Luigi’s Mansion in motion you have no doubt what a fun, exciting and fast game this will be to play.   What we know so far has given rise to more questions such as will the GBA plug into the game and allow you to use it as a map/ghost sensor?   We already know that Luigi has a Gameboy in the game that does the same job.   How much of a role will Mario play in the game?

Whatever questions we have this is a must have purchase on launch day, roll on 2002.

Halo Preview

Gamestyle Archive Intro: a classic enough said. While Garnett review the game Stateside for us, we had to make do with a preview whilst waiting. From June 2001, writer JJ.

VERSION: Xbox

DEVELOPER: Bungie

PUBLISHER:  Microsoft

GENRE: FPS/Adventure

ACCESSORIES: TBA

PLAYERS: 1-4

RELEASE: November 2001 (US)

LINK: www.xbox.com/games/action/halo.htm

 halo

Every machine needs a killer game to attract attention of the more casual gamers.  I’m sure everyone at Gamestyle can be labelled under early adopter’s because we always want the latest thing regardless of the launch software.  That’s why we’ve had our doubts and regrets since shelling out for a PS2 back last November.   The N64 had Mario, the Playstation got going when Wipeout was released in Europe, GBA has F-Zero, the Dreamcast had to wait till Crazy Taxi and the PS2 in many eyes is still waiting.  For our first Xbox preview we are looking at the most promising game for the system to date and Halo has got us very excited.

There is no doubt Bungie are a very talented development company, now owned by Microsoft as of last year, of course this means that you will need a PC or Xbox to enjoy Halo.   Whether being owned by Mr Gates will affect the production of the game or future work in general is open for debate, Bungie do have their work cut out bringing Halo in on time for the Xbox.

Think future; think colonies everywhere, think its going fine?  Well until an alien alliance called the Covenant starts taking out humans on a grand scale (think Starship Troopers) it was.  Soon only a few colonies remain and these are being mopped up but the immediate threat is to Earth.   While the Covenant sends it forces towards our planet, we devise a cunning plan.   The approaching invasion force will be delayed by one en-route colony that becomes a decoy and takes its pursuers on a wild goose chase to a random location in the galaxy.  Why are all aliens so dumb?  Falling for such an old trick like that, at least they could have split their force in two.

It soon turns out that upon arriving at the random location a stroke of luck from god has been granted by Dan.   What they find upon arriving is a planet with a small moon in orbit around it but between them is an equally large ring that is some sort of ancient artefact.   Within the ring (now called Halo) is a breathable atmosphere complete with land, rivers, oceans, mountains etc.   At this point the Covenant force attacks and inflicts critical damage on the colony ship leaving no option but to crash on Halo.   Both parties now become very interested in Halo and its significance.

Enough of the minimal plot, the PC version of Halo has been coming for sometime and apart from looking fantastic, plays a blinder.   The console variation was only recently shown yet it only took Bungie a matter of days to convert the code to the Xbox.  While this version is still being optimised it promises to overshadow its PC cousin but at present this isn’t the case.   Take into account that the PC version is probably the best looking yet for that format.   The Xbox version currently is a little plain and empty in comparison and the frame rate while solid, could be improved.   Microsoft recently confirmed that there would be no online capability from the Xbox version, which suggests that the team are focusing all their energy on getting the game finished.  Bungie have shown DVD demos of the game that support Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and now the Xbox will have the latest Dolby sound chip we hope that this is included in the final version.   Imagine fighting countless foes, explosions and screams ringing around your room!

The game offers a combination of genres and views, just as our recent Red Faction preview, not only will you be in a first person view but you will be expected to control various craft while exploring the planet.   This continues the trend of recent FPS offering more than just pure blasting action; still the first level of Halo will get anyone’s adrenalin pumping.  From the first moment when you are briefed on route to the surface, then drop down amongst the carnage and engage the enemy, you know it’s going to be good, very good.

Unlike other games you have the choice whether to drive or to be the gunner and your computer-controlled colleague won’t let you down.   In the multiplayer mode you and a friend can perform either task! Craft will play an important part in the game as you navigate the various continents in search of the necessary supplies that were jettisoned by the Colony Ship.   You will have to use a variety of alien and human vehicles in your quest ranging from hovercraft to tanks: if you find it, you can use it.  Expect your range of weaponry to be just as impressive, forget pistols and rocket launchers when you can have a laser energy propellant or plasma sword?

As with most games Halo is mission based but the variety of locations and objectives on offer really put this one above most previous FPS.   Just like Deus Ex and Perfect Dark, expect to be treated to some wonderful locations, inside and outside, just don’t stand still to admire them!   Your missions will range from rescuing captured colleagues, raiding outposts, stealing technology to all out warfare.  We hate the term “movie-like” but this is looking like a bug-blasting Starship Troopers sequel.

The lack of an online option is a shame but Bungie have ensured that your mates just don’t need to sit back and watch your gaming skills.   Halo will include a wide range or 2-4 player options to keep you amused for months to come.   Your choice of death will be sweet for sure.   Apart from the standard death match you will be able to create you own team games or a two-player co-op mode will be included.  Bungie also promise to include some wonderful graphical effects and a seriously challenging AI program. “Most advanced graphic system on the most advanced gaming platform in the world” is some boast, hype or reality?

Halo is shaping up to be one of the games of 2001 its just a shame that European gamers won’t get their hands on it till Easter 2002.   Sometimes life just isn’t fair.

Crazy Taxi 2

Gamestyle Archive intro: Fond memories of the Crazy Taxi 2 sequel with more cabbie madness and stunts to enjoy for years to come. Published July 2001, Writer JJ.

VERSION: DC
DEVELOPER: Hitmaker
PUBLISHER:  Sega
GENRE: Arcade Driving
ACCESSORIES: VMU.
PLAYERS: 1

RELEASE: Out July 2001
PRESENTATION: 8
GRAPHICS: 9
SOUND: 8
GAMEPLAY: 10
LASTABILITY: 8

 crazytaxi2

 Crazy Taxi was a game only Sega could create or have the nerve to develop.   Such a strange yet simplistic idea caught the imagination of many and influenced countless other games.   Still not everything was perfect with the original, for it was an arcade conversion yet the sequel is designed purely for home consumption – more of the same or something else?

This time the game is set in the Big Apple which for a change is as sun-drenched as the West Coast setting of the original.   Landmarks and famous buildings are included such as FAO Schwartz, Statue of Liberty, City Hall, Central Park etc but the highlight is the excellent level design.   The two levels on offer are massive, full of variety and the inclusion of the crazy hop forces you to think on several levels.   Once opened you can use skyscrapers to perform some mind-blowing feats and if the traffic is grid locked you can easily take to the underground.  The first game was an almost go anywhere experience but here that motorway below or above you can be easily reached with a press of a button.   Taking to the skies or the underground is often advised because as expected in New York and in Crazy Taxi 2 the traffic is intense.   The Around Apple level Manhattan plus the option to drive across one of two bridges to the surrounding suburbs – it is really that big.   The Small Apple is based around central park and is obviously smaller but with an emphasis on blocks, short straights and plenty of traffic!

The music is similar to the previous game and will no doubt irritate and pleasure an equal number – that’s what the music volume is for.   Overall I do think that this does offer a much better pop-punk mixture but if you’re looking for hip hop or country, it isn’t for you.   Hitmaker have included a replay mode that you can save and then replay through several angles and while its fun it only lasts for 2 minutes.   It’s a shame that a full replay of your cabbie efforts could not be viewed at the end of a hard days work.   One of the most enjoyable yet often-frustrating sections of the original were the mini games that developed the necessary skills needed to achieve those big scores.   Here they have returned in the form of the Crazy Pyramid, which as you complete each level builds up to form a pyramid.   The higher the level the more difficult the games but this time Hitmaker have included bonuses for good performance.   Each level that you complete will open up an additional area on the game map for instance the section involving the subway.  Of course it’s easier said than done because anyone who lost their composure on the bowling challenge in the original will be driven round the bend by some of the challenges on offer here.

Even though the original characters are hidden in the game waiting to be unlocked I cannot help but feel disappointed with the four newly created characters: Slash, Iceman, Cinnamon and Hot-D might sound like members of a nu-metal band but New York cabbies?  I know we’re talking fiction here but each one of them looks like they’ve been plucked from the West Coast and dropped off in New York!  However the fares that you collect on your travels (especially multiple) are excellent and they move around and say more in the cab than in previous version.

Crazy Taxi 2 looks better but only marginally so than the original Dreamcast version but the most obvious thing after a few seconds is the speed.  Hitmaker have done wonders here and the slow-down that marred the original in places is a thing of the past.   I’d made the mistake of playing the painfully slow PS2 conversion before playing the sequel and people if you don’t have a Dreamcast by now then do so!   It’s all the more impressive when you consider the range of vehicles and pedestrians that you zoom past.   With the levels such as they are it would probably have been too much to ask for a pop-up free game.   New York with its large buildings no doubt caused Hitmaker new problems in comparison to the earlier California setting.   While it does not prove to be drawback or spoil the enjoyment of the game, at certain stages it can be very obvious.   Perhaps the machine has been pushed to its limits here.

Crazy Taxi 2 is very much a mixed bag of improvements that are hit and miss.   Certainly the multiple passengers are an excellent addition but you do need to be wary of the arrow.   It always points to the nearest destination for anyone of the 2-4 fares on board and because it does not fix on one it will often jump around causing you to lose valuable time.   More so than ever you need to know the layout of each map and perhaps as an admission of the problem, Hitmaker have kindly included maps of each level complete with landmarks.

For some the options will prove disappointing for here you do not have the option to change the time setting, traffic or time difficulty as you did in the original.   This version is without a doubt more challenging but then you realise the answer.   Hitmaker have shifted towards tricks and combos, fares may be harder to come by but using your skills you should more than make up for any shortfall.   If you can overcome the problems associated with the arrow then multiple fares are the way to achieve big scores, the more passengers increases the times factor.   The only problem I have with this is mainly down to the Crazy Hop, not because it’s a bad idea, far from it, but this move is achieved by pressing one button – not much skill involved in that is there?

Minor gripes aside this is a worthy sequel and a must have addition to any Dreamcast owners collection.   It may not be the longest game you’ll ever play but the increased difficulty factor and collection of mini games adds depth that most fail to offer.   Hopefully Hitmaker can include a multiplayer element in Crazy Taxi Next bound for the Xbox.   Excellent.

Gamestyle Score: 8/10

Red Faction Preview

 Gamestyle Archive intro: here’s a blast from the past with a preview of the first Red Faction title a month before it was released in June 2001. There was some expectation and generally the game met  the hopes of gamers providing a fun romp. Writer JJ.

Developer: Volition

Publisher: THQ

Genre: First Person

Accessories: Memory

Release: June 22nd

Link: www.redfaction.com

 _-Red-Faction-PS2-_

This year could be seen as the PS2’s last chance to attract gamers with quality software before the Xbox & Gamecube arrive.   The summer is shaping up nicely and with titles such as GT3, Ring Of Red and Onimusha Warlords being released over the next few months’ things are looking up for disgruntled PS2 owners.   Red Faction has certainly been receiving plenty of hype from the press here and in America – where the game has just been released.   Gamestyle thought it was about time to take a closer look at Red Faction to see if the Perfect Dark/Half Life/Deus Ex comparisons are justified or whether its another PS2 let down.   Can it take the best from those games and forge its own identity?

You are Parker (no not the chauffeur) and you are a very influential union leader on Mars.   Due to the high number of fatalities resulting from poor practice in the Ultor Corporation’s mines action needs to be taken.   Jobs are few are far between in the world of Red Faction, if not a military career then you often have the choice of jobs where humans just shouldn’t be.   Working conditions in the mines are terrible, suits and workers share bunks and drug abuse is rife.   When miners on a daily basis collapse and die from an unknown virus this proves to be the final straw.   This future society hasn’t become all peace and love, instead of negotiation the workers decide to rise up and revolt with you as the figurehead.   As Black Flag said “rise above we’re gonna rise above!”  The usual influences on the design and concept are pretty obvious and I won’t need to mention them, just think Blade Runner, Total Recall or Twelve Monkeys.   Just give me one game set in the future that doesn’t involve an evil corporation for a nice refreshing change!  Yet Red Faction isn’t setting out to be a mindless blaster like Timesplitters or Doom, instead Volition have created what they hope will be an engrossing storyline full of interesting characters.  Over the 20 levels we are promised the usual twists and shocks in the plot, we’ll see.

It could be said that Red Faction represents the first in the second generation of PS2 titles, ones that hopefully will show what the machine is capable of.   Volition is very proud of the game engine, which has been dubbed Geo-Mod (Geometric Modification).   This innovative engine is capable of remembering damage to the surroundings in real-time.  For instance on the opening section that I played I managed deliberately damage every pillar and wall, leave the room and return to see the damage still in place.   It certainly does add to the realism and concentrates your aim more effectively especially on the spaceship levels.   Yet it doesn’t represent the breakthrough the PR would have you believe, most damage is very similar and only in certain sweet spots does it prove of any use.  We’re still waiting for the Blast Corps of first person shooters and you still can’t shoot out the lights!

There is plenty of scope for the control system as its fully customisable and even with the set up similar to Timesplitters this game would really excel with a mouse and keyboard set up.   Even with the sensitivity adjusted I still found the control method to be sluggish but perhaps that’s due to the frame rate.   Every button on the Dual Shock Pad is used in Red Faction but I think the inclusion of USB support should have been considered as the controls are firmly entrenched in PC land.  Too many options isn’t a good thing sometimes.

Remember the promises that games not running under 60fps were gone for good?  Not here, Red Faction struggles in places to maintain a steady 30fps and the games suffers.  The action at times feels as if it’s from the slow motion Matrix scenes, just not fast or fluid enough and that’s something the games in the introduction could do.   The animation of the characters is good enough but the AI is very predictable, go through a door into a room and the guards won’t follow and will kindly wait till you go back outside.  Other little flaws noticed were after killing a colleague early in the demo (place a mine on them and see what happens!) he turns up 5 minutes later to offer advice!

The graphics in Red Faction are impressive yet not up to the standard offered by the latest PC titles.   Textures and lighting effects are employed exceptionally well and all edges are smooth for a change!   Everyone runs around in protective suits so the character designs are very basic and indistinctive.   Red Faction also allows you the opportunity to drive 5 land, sea and air vehicles through the game.   You will need to master each one in order to progress to the next area.   The game only offers 15 weapons, which is small compared to other similar games but as in Perfect Dark several offer a secondary mode.  While the loading times aren’t bad the fact is that during a level at certain points the game will have to load the next stage.  Not good.

Red Faction while conceived very much as a single player game offers a two-player death match mode.   While the number of human players is a disappointment (surely 4 is standard now?) you can include up to 5 bots in the matches.   Specialist levels have been included for this mode and the developers have spent sometime trying to create an enjoyable alternative.   Yet the fact is, Red Faction is a single player experience and should be bought as such.  Shame the PC level editor couldn’t have been included in the PS2 version.

Gamestyle will have a review at the end of June when the game is released in full and then we’ll be able to judge whether it successfully creates is own identity or relies to much on previous games.