Gamestyle Wikipedia Page

Thanks to Rogue Soul for the heads up on the Gamestyle Wikipedia page. This was a useful resource to track the history of the website and the team involved – especially the early days. Technically its gone from Wikipedia for whatever reason they want to quote (they’ve lost my pending donation)  and any future support.

However we do have the images of the page and I’ll copy the text beneath as well. That’s what an archive is all about.

gamestyle_wikipedia_1 gamestyle_wikipedia_2 gamestyle_wikipedia_3 gamestyle_wikipedia_4 gamestyle_wikipedia_5

Gamestyle is a UK-based independent computer and video gaming website that was launched in 1999 by Dean Swain, under the name Dreamers128.

Gamestyle covers video game software reviews, previews, news, and other information. After starting out on its own, Gamestyle was linked with a small American media network called FanGen. Later, Gamestyle broke free of FanGen and merged with fellow independent site GameHub.

To date, Gamestyle remains independently operated.

History

Launched in 1999 by Dean Swain, the site focused exclusively on Dreamcast games, under the guise Dreamers128. Approximately a month after launch, the site rebranded to Gamestyle.co.uk, became a multi-format site, and began to cover all console systems – though coverage of other consoles was restricted to previews alone.

With sites of this stature somewhat of a rarity, Gamestyle was quickly tied to a small American media network named FanGen who covered running costs of the website. Under FanGen, Gamestyle turned to become a more humorous, ‘punky’ website which displayed images of semi-nude women on the front page.

The FanGen link remained until Gamestyle merged with another UK independent, GameHub. This merger saw an increase in visitors to the site, due to the popularity of GameHub. With each newer build of the website, Gamestyle progressively lost its attitude and tamed the humour in written articles.

To date, the site runs primarily on gamestyle.com and is now funded by Dean Swain, Dave Carlson, Matthew Cox and Jason Julier.

Main site

Gamestyle’s main page displays the latest news, reviews, previews, and links to areas for the following platforms: Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube and Game Boy Advance. Visiting each console section shows a list of the latest articles, the most popular games on that console, and an index method for users to track down games of interest as quickly as possible.

The new version of Gamestyle launched on 11 April 2010. The main page was launched a few days earlier but the final release updated the review and preview hubs, allowing further searches and the highlighting of top scoring articles and random pieces from the archives.

Reviews and rating system

Gamestyle has a strict review policy and they themselves believe their reviews to be trustworthy and unbiased, granting a fair review score. While none of the writing team are professionals, Gamestyle delivers new content daily on weekdays and also at weekends.

Though in articles, Gamestyle refers itself in third person, staff writers are also credited. Reviews are also listed on GameRankings,[2] Metacritic,[3] Rotten Tomatoes,[4] andMobyGames.

Their reviews were considered highly enough to be included alongside IGN and Electronic Gaming Monthly on Nintendo‘s UK marketing print campaign for Metroid Prime. These adverts were printed in numerous gaming magazines, on advertising hoardings across UK towns and cities and also online.[citation needed]

Developments

Gamestyle is constantly looking to evolve and improve the site. In March 2007 a new feature was launched that connected any posted news story, with a related topic in the forum. This allowed users to discuss events and offer opinions on breaking news in the world of videogames.

2008 version

January 2 saw the launch of the latest version of the Gamestyle site. Then new modern, white look was a dramatic change from its predecessor.

Blog

On June 22, 2008 Gamestyle introduced its own blog. The aim of this extension was to attract new regulars to the site and provide an outlet for the whole team to provide extra comments on their reviews or gaming news. The blog is an open forum for staff members to post about anything from films to their latest review.

2010 Version

Arguably the best version of Gamestyle so far. The 2010 edition incorporated comment functions for the first time in years, allowing users of Facebook & Twitter to give their opinions on articles.

2010 Upgrade

As of 1 November 2010, Gamestyle started coverage of mobile phone releases with Fruit Ninja being the first review. This date also marked its arrival on the Opera portal. The front end and forum were matched under the same banner design, allowing greater ease of navigation.

Retro Gamer Magazine Website Of The Month

In issue 60 of the popular Retro Gamer magazine, Gamestyle received their website of the month award.

“Gamestyle has been around now for a staggering ten years and remains one of the most entertaining non-corporate gaming websites around. Featuring a thriving community, Gamestyle prides itself on its well-written and non-biased reviews and covers everything from the latest 360 and PS3 releases to the classics like Metroid and Football Manager.

Indeed, one of Gamestyle’s greatest strengths is that it’s able to offer something for everyone and as a result is a true gamer’s website, with polite and enthusiastic forum members and a small core team of talented writers. Oh and if you fancy a giggle then look for the Project Zero/Fatal Frame review in their massive archive.”

2012 Hack and Rebuild

In 2012 Gamestyle was the victim of an attack and had to rebuild from the very bottom again. Despite losing everything, the current team has pushed on to keep the Gamestyle name running. The focus has shifted somewhat with more reviews based around ‘Indie’ titles and has seen the site build up a solid relationship with indie developers over the months. The team is much smaller now, but by no means any less dedicated.

The reviews are still coming and the site has undergone another redesign.

2013 Back To Social Media

In 2013 Gamestyle decided to get back into the social media space. The Facebook page has become active again along with our Twitter account. All articles will be found on both and the team encourage users to interact.

Gamestyle Offline

Gamestyle also creates and hosts a downloadable PDF magazine. Now published on an infrequent basis, Gamestyle Offline[5] is intended for the visitor to print their own copy for ‘on-the-go’. Gamestyle maintains that download figures of each issue are promising, and are known to have worked with video game publishers such as Vivendi Universal to create special editions.

At the close of 2006 there are eleven issues of the magazine, three of which are special editions. Each issue contained content that one may not typically find on the main site, such as interviews with developers and features on specific subjects. Gamestyle has been known to publish reviews of various titles in Gamestyle Offline, before publishing them online, as a selling point of the PDF magazine.

As of January 9, 2008, Gamestyle began a five-part series called ‘Gamestyle Offline: The Missing Issue’. This brought together the five remaining unpublished features that were intended for Issue 10 which was put together at the end of 2005 with the intention of releasing a new issue in early 2006. Number 10 was meant to represent a new start for the series, with a new look and a new issue editor but unfortunately the project never saw the light of day.

Gamestyle Live podcast

The spirit of the Offline magazine has been carried onto a new format, the podcast. The show covers all the latest news, site developments, reviews, releases and some opinions. It is available via the website or one can subscribe with iTunes.

Community

The Gamestyle forum now has over 1000 members, many who are regular visitors. While this number is smaller than other communities, it enables a more personal level of interaction between members, many of whom take part in meet ups to share their love of video games.

Staff

Owner: Dean Swain

Development: Matthew Cox (design) and Dave Carlson (implementation)

Editor: Jason Julier

PR Contact: Bradley Marsh

Writers: Bradley Marsh, Ben Gleisner-Cooke, Mark Ford, Gareth Chappell, Stef Snell, Adam Gulliver, Simon Farrow

Previous Staff: Andrew Revell, Andy Lucas, Anna Ghislaine, Colin Whiteside, Dan Gill, Daniel James, Gareth Chappell, Garry Webber, Gopinath Chandran, Hanley, Tom Knowles, Usman Zia, Richard Meerman, Drew Middlemas

Other previous staff writers for Gamestyle have gone onto further their career, include Garnett Lee of 1UP.com,[6] Ollie Barder of The Guardian and Darren Jones, retro editor ofgamesTM and Retro Gamer.

Webarchive: http://web.archive.org/web/20151218121356/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamestyle

Advertisements

Armored Core 2 Another Age

Gamestyle Archive Intro: Ollie was our resident mecha expert initially direct from Japan before returning to the UK. During that time we had comprehensive reviews, interviews and features from Japan including the Tokyo Game Show. This NTSC review dates from sometime in 2001.

acaa

Sequels are all fine and dandy, but cashing in on a sequel just seems a tad cheeky surely. Armored Core 2 Another Age falls into this slightly capitalist category. Set directly after the events of Armored Core 2, the Nerves Concord is undergoing drastic changes and the purpose of the Ravens is becoming less and less clear, now that the warring corporate factions have exhausted their resources. More importantly, we are back on Earth now, or what is left of it.

Armored Core 2 is a bad game. Armored Core 2 Another Age is, therefore, an equally bad game. On the surface, this is true to a certain extent. However, for all the game’s faults, Armored Core 2 Another Age has a few surprising tricks up its mechanical sleeve. Armored Core 2 Another Age is a mission based game through and through. The Arena has gone, but in its place are double the number of missions(about a 100). Mission selection is done by navigating a world map. The further you progress through the game the more parts of the map, and consequently more missions, you unlock. Another big development for the series is that of the game’s difficulty. It is hard, damn hard. Many veterans of the series may recognise the return of old foes, but in the original games they were easily conquered. In Armored Core 2 Another Age they will hand you your battered metal ass on many an occasion. Even the regular missions are tough too. Thankfully the use of parts (and money!) that you acquired in Armored Core 2 are transferable. So unless you want a hard fight ahead of you, purchasing of the previous incarnation will be a must for most players.

It goes without saying that unbalanced parts have been, partially, tweaked. The Karasawa Mk.2 is not quite the cheese fest that it was in Armored Core 2. There are also a swathe of new parts too particularly the “turn booster” extensions, which are a welcome addition to the franchise. It is also worth noting that all the parts from Armored Core 2 are instantly available in the shop (even the secret parts). “Human Plus” is also present, but only if you have transferred it across with your original Armored Core 2 game save. The game also includes, in the Japanese release at least, direct dial Modem VS. In short, you dial into a friend’s PlayStation2, or vice versa, and battle it out. The lag is pretty poor though and you need a USB modem in order for it to work. Another interesting addition is Mission VS. This is, essentially, two player missions where you can either be friend or foe. Unfortunately there are only a few missions available in this category. The fact that you cannot choose from the 100 or so missions available feels, to this reviewer anyway, like a lost opportunity. Naturally iLink VS is still available, for those with the requisite hardware anyway.

Despite the sub-par game engine, Armored Core 2 Another Age still has its own bad points. The loss of in-game e-mail is particularly unfortunate, simply because there is very little left to explain the intricate narrative (of which there is a lot). Another bad point is that of the loss of the Arena. Admittedly the large number of missions available partly counteracts this but most veterans will realise that the Arena is the perfect testbed for new designs (the “AC Test” simply doesn’t cut it), and it’s absence will be sorely missed by those who take their mecha tweaking seriously. In closing, Armored Core 2 Another Age tried to innovate but fell short due to a now defunct game engine. Admittedly the graphics have been, marginally, improved but Armored Core 2 Another Age is merely more of the same which, in this case, is not a very good thing. If you liked Armored Core 2 then pick up Armored Core 2 Another Age, otherwise wait for Armored Core 3.

Gamestyle Score: 7/10

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Gamestyle Archive Intro: earlier this year we brought you the Metal Gear Solid 2 preview and now we’re pleased to complete the journey with the review from Dan Kelly. This dates from November 2001.

Metalgear2boxart

For many, this would’ve been the game that first made them purchase Sony’s little black box, and it was also one of the deciders for me as well. With the first trailers of Hideo Kojima’s masterpiece causing waves of interest and excitement throughout the gaming world, it was hard for anyone not to get engulfed within the hype surrounding what was, and is one of the most eagerly anticipated titles of all time. But there are many amongst us who feel that during the games development it has been somewhat over hyped, and overexposed, with newer, more plot revealing trailers arriving free with other Konami titles and on magazine dvd’s, I myself also found it hard trying not to lose interest over the 1 and a half year gap between the release of the first trailer and the release of the game.

Now the big question…was it all worth it? Read on. At the time I got this game, I also had Final Fantasy X to deal with, so unfortunately MGS2 had to take a back seat. Arriving at a rather difficult point in the new Squaresoft epic, I thought it was about time to take a break and try another game, and decided to delve into MGS2. The first hour or so didn’t seem all that astounding at first, yes it was very pretty, and the rain was nice etc. etc. but we had seen and played most of this early part of the game months before, in the form of trailers and Zone of Enders’ playable demo. But as soon as you start playing parts of the game that weren’t in the demo, it all gets interesting, and from then on never ceases to hold ones attention. It was at this point that FFX had to take the back seat.

Anyone who has played the previous incarnation in a series that will last for a long time no doubt, will most likely agree with me, that although not the longest title ever produced, showed the signs of a true espionage masterpiece. Stealth, precision aim, button mashing, and puzzle solving played large roles in the game. But it wasn’t a straight through all out killing affair, there were more than enough opportunities to enjoy oneself, like sneaking up on the urinating guard in the toilet and strapping C4 to his back, standing in front of a guard in the stealth suit, and suddenly revealing yourself before once again disappearing into thin air. These opportunities to mock the highly trained enemy still lurk around, shooting him in the head with a tranquilliser gun many times, then taking a photo for your own personal album, touching the posters of ladies in perverse ways, alerting any nearby enemies, as well as many others which I have undoubtedly been unable to find thus far. But amongst all this tomfoolery lurked a deep engrossing storyline, with more twists than lasts years Levi’s dealers. Friends turn out to be enemies, and enemies turn out to be friends.

Metal Gear Solid, set in Alaska, has you out in the freezing weather as Solid Snake. On a mission to rescue important people, and to stop whoever gets in your goddam way. As it turned out, you had to stop a large mechanic monster, save potential love interests, all the stuff you’d expect in everyday life for a man with immense rubber pectorals. Back once again is the renegade master… Yup, MGS2 heralds the return of Mr. Rubber pecs ’98, after another metallic monstrosity. You start off on what appears to be an ordinary oil tanker cruising along one of America’s seaboards, but hidden deep within its steel shell is a newly developed nuclear weapon. Along the way you’ll meet some new characters as well as loved, and not so loved old ones such as Ocelot and Otacon. But as incredibly hard and styly Snake is, you spend most of the entirety of the game as Raiden, the nu kid on da block. But Snake is never far from the action. Alas I could sit here and tell you about the storyline until you knew all the monologues and mushy love chat as well as I, but I’d hate to spoil such a game as this for anyone, go out and check it out yourself.

Graphically, well what else can you say other than breathtaking? No detail has been spared, everything is how you would want it to be, bottles smash as bullets fly, fire hydrants spew out there contents when ruptured, wet footprints, everything is there. But by far one of the greatest inclusions, and a fairly surprising one when discovered, is plummeting to your death, after accidentally slipping on bird faeces. Rain drops glisten on the floor, swimming fast under water causes air bubbles to get trapped against the screen, cold causes Raiden/Snake to sneeze. I could go on about the graphical detail, and amount of scenery interaction all day, but ill summarise by saying that it is simply superb, (simply superb: somewhat of an oxymoron wouldn’t you say?)

The music has been composed by Mr. Gregson Williams, of Enemy of the State fame, it adds atmosphere with a military touch. Suitably heroic at such times, and tear jerkingly saddening at others. The voiceovers, as you’d expect have returned, and like FFX’s, add another dimension to the characters, a true sense of realness, to what usually in other games, just seem like characters within a game. I know there aren’t many voiceover fans out there, who can blame them with examples such as Grandia. But without this, games like FFX and MGS2 wouldn’t seem as engrossing or realistic, and have been well done in both titles. All sound affects and music are truly treats to the ears. Gameplay is much the same as the first, in fact its pretty much identical, shooting, running and the like, are performed in the same way as the last, but the developers have made good use of the pressure sensitive PS2 pads, instead of having to shoot whenever you aim, slowly and gently releasing your “trigger” finger causes Snake/Raiden to lower his gun, and not waste a single round. There’s a new first person mode, for pulling off those one-kill headshots with your socom, running jumps and much more. Scaring guards into giving up items, or their dog tags, snapping necks, and beefing up with some pull ups, all done with the greatest of ease and enjoyment.

Longevity is normally where a game of 12 hours or so storyline wise would lose marks. But there is a lot more to do than just following the linear path. You can get on the codec and have long interesting, although occasionally irrelevant conversations with some of the characters, try and find all 360 odd dog tags, throughout the various difficulties, and much, much more. And not forgetting the replay value of the game, you’ll wanna play it again and again. Well I would like to anyway.

Overall, well, what else is there to say, truly astounding. Not tarnished at all by all the hype, and truly worth the wait. It does get a tad weird towards the end, but that’s intentional, and all is explained. Some of the explanations and cut scenes tend to waffle, using long technical terms and military mumbo jumbo. Relating with the characters is unavoidable, and having fun with the hapless guards is as well. Get out there, buy this game, and have some fun, but wipe the dust away first. Now i’m going to go hang from the landing ledge wait for my sister to walk under, then drop down and snap her scrawny little neck, before following my brother to the toilet in order to strap a plastic explosive to his back. Wish me luck!

Gamestyle Score: 9/10

Alone in the Dark 4: The New Nightmare

Gamestyle Archive intro: this review dates from late 2001, which is kinda ironic as the game itself is set around this period; a nice touch from the developer. Back in 2001 the survival horror genre was full of inventive titles and players armed themselves with anything including a camera! Great moments and scares were aplenty. This review is from JJ.

aloneinthedark4

I would expect that the majority of gamers are not aware of the Alone in the Dark series and the impact it made when the first game was released. Infogrames aim to put that right with the multi-platform assault of Alone in the Dark 4: The New Nightmare, which has been released for the Dreamcast and Playstation 2 with a fantastic version on the Game Boy Colour.

For this review we’re concerned only with the Playstation 2 incarnation and how it measures up to its rivals in the survival horror genre, the genre it created. For some reason I feel I’m going to be mentioning Resident Evil in this review, several times! You could be forgiven for believing that Resident Evil created the concept of Survival Horror, such is its domination and notoriety. This is not the case; the spark came from the very first Alone in the Dark, which terrorised gamers when it was released. Capcom just added a large dose of Hollywood and the rest is history. This is in essence the difference between the two series; Alone in the Dark is a gritty, dark, atmospheric European film while Resident Evil is a Hollywood blockbuster full of lavish visuals, simple plot and disposable characters. It was a matter of choice between the two games, if you wanted gore and dead easy puzzles, Resident Evil was the place to go. Alone in the Dark was a purer form of horror with challenging puzzles and the feeling that there was no place to run or hide.

The game makes an overdue return but it seems that it has been influenced by the game it helped to form, as you will soon discover. The game starts with an impressive opening sequence not only because of the visuals but the direction and angles employed by the developer. A refreshing change to the plodding nature recently seen in Capcom’s Devil May Cry/Resident Evil. The action is swift, decisive and sets the story well. In this sequence you are introduced to two characters, the feisty Aline Cedrac and the ever cool Edward Carnby. As with Resident Evil 2 you have the option to play as either enjoying a different perspective on proceedings but crossing each other’s paths throughout. Edward is following in the footsteps of his friend (Charles Fiske) who was found dead just off the island whilst in the middle of an investigation. Edward offers to take over the investigation but the client (Frederick Johnston) under orders from his boss (Lamb) insists on one condition, that Professor Aline Cedrac goes with him.

The aim is to recover ancient tablets from a long extinct Indian tribe (Abkanis) that are on Shadow Island under the control of Obed Morton. These tablets put together as legend has it, can open up the gates of hell allow the Shadows out into the world. You soon realise that Professor Morton has been conducting experiments and venturing into the underworld. Aline has issues of her own and has been haunted by nightmares of a disfigured man since she was a child. On route to the island their plane crashes due to forces unknown and they become separated. To add anymore detail would spoil the game but it is well worth sticking with, as the story doesn’t kick in until an hour of play. After then you will need to know how it all ends.

Shadow Island is a very apt setting for the horrific nature of the game just like those classic old black n’ white horror films. Credit to the developer as this version does offer a 60hz mode. When playing on my portable it could only display this mode in black n’ white (did not accept the 60hz signal) but I found it even better. As expected Alone in the Dark relies on pre-rendered backgrounds to convey the setting and does so with some style. It is hard to describe but the backgrounds have a more chunky and realistic feel than other games. One problem with the Alone in the Dark is just that, it is incredibly dark throughout, I don’t think the brightness setting on my widescreen television has ever been so high.

Your character carries a torch that proves invaluable for many reasons one of which is being able to search the darkest corners of the screen. Without the torch you may on occasions struggle to find your way around leaving you to bump around the screen to find the exit. A brilliant element of the game design is that most of the Shadow creatures are afraid of light. Therefore shinning the torch directly at them will be enough to keep them on a leash however shine the torch away or turn it off, then they will pounce. You can through forward planning almost shepherd the creatures around the rooms in some bizarre sub game or just blow em to where they came from. This helps save ammunition throughout the game and by holding down a shoulder button and using an analogue stick; you can control where the torch is pointing.

Unfortunately the D-pad controls your movement and this method suffers from the same problems experienced by Resident Evil. Even with practice the art of movement combined with pointing the torch in another direction is complicated and needs constant correcting. This said however I do think the game would be poorer without the torch. I found playing Alone in the Dark a welcome change to Resident Evil as the atmosphere and setting is far more appropriate. You are not a victim of a sinister corporation an its experiments gone badly wrong. Instead you are trying to save the world against the evil Shadows who are posed to return.

Adding to the atmosphere is the fact that Shadow creatures can just suddenly appear like the effect used in Timesplitters. Shuffling zombies are slow and easy targets, the foes you’ll face in the game have a similar IQ but move much faster. These factors mean that you have to be on your guard at all times. There are zombie-esque creatures at certain points in the game but a shotgun soon sees them off. Given the pre-rendered nature of the game, this was never going to win any awards for graphical greatness. The backgrounds are as mentioned previously are impressive and well put together by the artists and overall tower above those used by Resident Evil.

The presentation throughout is of a high standard and this even applies to the official web site, which is well worth a visit. The characters themselves are not as detailed and put against each background stand out for the wrong reasons. A friend who has the Dreamcast version of the game commented that the Playstation 2 version here was far more gritty and rougher than the Sega effort. Whatever the reason there are some nice touches such as reflections, lighting and the sound (very important) are all excellent.

Overall this is a very positive review however I cannot help but feel that some of the unique identity of Alone in the Dark has been lost. The puzzles are now quite straightforward and in previous games I cannot recall this being the case. If it wasn’t for the story, torch and backgrounds this would be a bog standard Resident Evil clone but it’s a dramatic improvement over number 3 in the series. I hope that the next instalment keeps the upward trend going and carves out its own identity. Alone in the Dark 4 is well worth your time if you are, or once was a fan of the series or Resident Evil.

Gamestyle Score: 7/10

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2

Gamestyle Archive intro: some of my favourite gaming explorations were across the Kain landscape. This review from JJ dates from November 2001.

kain

As expected the story of the Soul Reaver and Legacy of Kain continues onto the Playstation 2 in the form of Soul Reaver 2. The first title provided to be very popular when released for the Psone and subsequent rival formats. Driven by a strong story, character design and implementation the game sold very well and provided a reasonable if monotonous challenge to the player. Now that Raziel finds himself on a more powerful platform, has the game evolved as well?

The first Soul Reaver game was one of the first to use constant streaming from the game disk, leading to a fluid and uninterrupted experience. Everyone will remember moving from the Spectral and Material realms and on the Playstation 2 this is just as impressive second time around. There is no doubt that the team at Crystal Dynamics are a talented bunch and once again loading times are kept to a minimum. Other Playstation 2 developers please take note as it can be done. Again setting a first is the inclusion of several bonus features, which take advantage of the DVD format. In fact the game has a whole section devoted to this and for any fan of the series it increases the value of the package.

Nice, but Gamestyle is more concerned with the game proper and how it plays and as you soon discover it is a mixed bag all round. To explain the background of the Soul Reaver/Kain story would take a series of features within itself even though it only recently started life on the Psone with the release of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. Since then the stories of Kain & Raziel have become intertwined even with separate releases to their name and the trend will continue with Bloom Omen 2 released later this year. If you have not played the first game you will perhaps struggle with the story at first because of its richness but as a tale Soul Reaver 2 could exist on its own.

The beauty of this sequel for those who enjoyed the first game is that it allows you to go back to locations you have visited before. This time however you are visiting them at their prime, The Pillars of Nosgoth stand before you unbroken by Kain. You also discover the physical form of the Soul Reaver and explore the land, which you knew before you were cursed. The story centres on the Pillars because these are the source of power to Nosgoth and give life to all and starts where the previous game ended. Due to a chain of events that you will discover whilst playing the game Kain has become tied to the pillars, forced to become Ariel’s successor. Kain needs Raziel to free him yet you are driven by revenge, a very powerful emotion. Should you help Kain and impale the plans of Moebius (Guardian of Time with his own agenda) or succumb to your emotion? As its stands you must explore Nosgoth in both the Spectral and Material realms to answer this paradox.

Visiting lands that you knew when you were human and exploring places only accessible to the one who has the Soul Reaver – wary that there is another force at work with their own agenda. The design and presentation of the series has always been first class and once again this does not disappoint. Forget Jak & Dexter as this game has some of the most stunning environments and designs on the system. If you want gothic architecture in all its medieval glory pick this instead of Devil May Cry. Whilst playing the game I often found myself standing at a vantage point and looking back upon the land that I had just explored. The added bonuses are the graphical effects employed and constant frame rate (60fps), which are pleasing to the eye.

Character dialogue and recorded speech is often the subject of much ridicule from various sources and rightly so but Soul Reaver 2 is the game that brakes the norm. All the main characters are voiced with a style rarely seen in videogames and show what we should expect from everyone in the future. The game includes a Dolby Pro Logic soundtrack, which won’t win any awards but does reinforce the atmosphere. Character designs, animation and FMV sequences are of a high standard throughout the game although if I was being critical perhaps the former lacking any progression from the original. As mentioned earlier Soul Reaver 2 is a mixed bag, but why? For all the visual splendour and high standard of presentation the hard work is ruined by a few niggling problems and one serious drawback.

The main drawback to Soul Reaver 2 is the gameplay, which frankly is seriously limited and at times would test the patience of any player. Gameplay is simple – explore a level fighting enemies using a hack n slash approach, find the entrance/lever, progress. The story amidst some stunning environments is the only thing to keep you entertained and engaged in the game. There have been countless games which used a similar approach but did not have the story to put the game above anything else but poor i.e. Nightmare Creatures. The game is very much a one trick pony even though Raziel has many skills and abilities at his disposal.

At times the game is very much FMV driven, sequences while essential can go on for a long period of time but this is a common trend amongst games today i.e. Metal Gear Solid 2. It is a matter of personal preference and if you want a deep game with an engaging storyline then it is the only approach. The enemies in the game suffer from a distinct lack of AI, reducing the game to nothing more than a button bashing frenzy. Adding to the repetition is that they regenerate meaning that if you have to retrace your steps they will be waiting once again. Whilst playing the game on several occasions the monsters would become trapped in the walls and would remain there. Almost all of the levels and scenery is wonderful to look at but the level design itself in game terms is fairly straightforward and unimaginative.

Perhaps if the these points had received the same amount of attention as the story and presentation Soul Reaver 2 would be an essential purchase but it is only half the game it should have been. Soul Reaver 2 does not represent the leap that many would have expected and follows a trend of improved graphics and audio on the Playstation 2 with no comparable improvement in gameplay and AI. Blood Omen 2 is already a dramatic leap forward in the visual stakes and we wait to see if the game itself can match the progression.

Gamestyle Score: 5/10

Evil Twin: Cyprien’s Chronicles

Gamestyle Archive intro: Like buses we have another review from Richard Stephenson. Another entry in the bargain bins I seem to recall from a decade ago. This review dates from November 2001 and the following year arrived on Sega’s glorious console aka Dreamcast.

eviltwin

Two years, yes count them that’s 24 months off development time – that’s how long Evil Twin has been in development. It all started when Ubi-Soft and In Utero decided to produce a platformer adventure title for the PC, PS2 and Dreamcast, but no normal platformer, no – it’s a twisted and dark universe, full of swearing, gloomy worlds and twisted monsters that go “bump” in the night. So if they have been spending all that time working on Evil Twin we have high expectations for this promising title.

Let’s see if it lives up to all the hype Cyprien is our hero in this adventure. living in an orphanage as he parents past away on his birthday many years ago. His friends, having no idea of this, organise a surprise party for Cyprien, yet somewhat predictably, Cyprien isn’t in the best of moods when surprised with balloons and cake. He storms off, only for Cyprien to get seriously frustrated, causing terrible things happen, ending up in what seems to be a dream. Soon after he has calmed down from his birthday blues, Cyprien realises his friends have disappeared and he is swept off to a nightmare world, as his very world and himself have become prisoners to a dark and very sinister influence.

The first time we saw Evil Twin we were very excited about a game that promised to be a cross between Silent Hill and Mario 64, further cemented by the first time in-game videos, displaying the amazing quality of the artist work of this new world. Given the potential the developers have had to make this world as enchanting as possiblem, and while it does look above average, the lands can look sparse and empty in places.

The graphic engine hasn’t aged too well over the two-years of delays. The character design is very polished and it’s a joy to meet new characters as they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The animation and motion capture all also very well presented – Cyprien runs, swims, jumps, climbs realistically, however there are a few graphical glitches on top of the sparse landscapes. As with most PS2 games these days, there are a few glitches and pop up (during FMV). Originality, a key feature that is lacking in many of new releases. Devil May Cry, Gran Turismo 3, Tony Hawks Pro Skater 3 and WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It! – All three title that, despite being excellent, don’t offer much more than there previous titles in the genre.

Sadly, Evil Twin suffers from this too, being reminiscant of previous platform games that have been doing the rounds for years and other that the adult nature of Evil Twin is combined with the platformer, there isn’t anything new or “revolutionary”. Evil Twin has nothing not previously seen in Mario, Sonic, Spyro, etc before.. Of course, it brings its own odd new feature to the genre, such as Resident Evil-style puzzles and the fact you can convert yourself into your darker side, your “Evil Twin”, essential for some challenges where you need to use your darker form’s aditional strength and abilities (such as being able to walk through fire), although to obtain this, you need to collect gems and even then, as expected this effect only lasts a certain time limit.

To be frank, we expected a lot more from a title that has been in development for two years, especially considering the game still isn’t perfect – There are still a few bugs that really should have been ironed out. Don’t get us wrong, this is a good, solid adventure title, enhanced all the more by the twisted worlds and story. Sadly, though, it isn’t enough to beat the like of Mario and Sonic, however, the concept is good, as is the cast, so with any luck, Ubisoft will take the game back to the drawing board and come up with a much improved sequel.

Gamestyle Score: 7/10

Half-Life

Gamestyle Archive intro: time for a classic and the word maybe abused nowadays but surely there are few gaming series that can match Half-Life. A great game and this review from JJ dates from November 2001. We did actually review the aborted Dreamcast version of Half-Life that never saw the light of day.

halflife

When Half-Life was released on the PC it had an immediate impact on games in general. Its influence was comparable the biggest games in the genre such as Quake, Doom and Goldeneye. From the famous introduction right through to the ending moments, Half-Life was atmospheric, cinematic and above all, a masterpiece. Forget Red Faction, this is the daddy. We have waited longer than usual for a console version, thanks in part to the cancellation of the Dreamcast version at the last minute. The wait is over; Half-Life is here, has it been worth the wait?

The game begins with the long introduction that many will find boring and overly long. Already you are judging Half-Life like many other first person shooters and are therefore making a big mistake. Listen to the tanoy, look around the base as the transporter slowly makes it way to its destination, this is your first and last moment of relaxation before Half-Life kicks in. You are Gordon Freeman, employee at the Black Mesa research institute, a top-secret weapon research facility, and situated underground amidst tight security. You and your scientist colleagues are engaged in a highly secretive and dangerous experiment. Today is the big day, the purest sample yet and you are running late. As the transporters takes you down to the laboratory you gaze at the levels – colleagues working on other projects and sections where you are not allowed. Little do you know the fate that awaits you once you clamber into the bio-suit and rush into laboratory. The sample is ready, once you insert it into the field your life will never be the same. Today is one hell of a bad day.

The strength of the game is its plot and to go further would spoil an enjoyable yet memorable and challenging experience. The game does not rely on missions or levels with objectives to complete. There is only one aim in the game – to escape from the base or at least you would think so, things are never that straightforward! As someone who has played Half-Life before on the PC and loved every moment of it, I’ve tried to judge the console version on its own merits. Certainly the game is now four years old but amongst the glut of average shooters on the market, Half-Life still has a certain quality that puts it ahead of most. Rather than just do a straightforward PC conversion such as Quake III or Unreal Tournament, the developers Gearbox have included some tasty extras for us console folk.

The graphical look of the game has undergone a careful conversion and upgrade and looks very much at home on the Playstation 2. There are also two new modes apart from the main game itself; these are Decay and Death match adding great value to an outstanding game. It goes without saying that most games must have some form of multiplayer mode to succeed these days and this has been taken care of. The main game as mentioned is pretty much a flawless adventure and set the tone for first person shooters. Even playing it again is still a refreshing experience; it combines moments of Quake action with Alien Vs Predator tension and mixes in some of its own magic. Everything is scripted and the set pieces that you take part in are flawlessly executed. The detail on the characters and base are very impressive however the sampled speech does sound grainy at times. Still if you take the chance to look around you will realise how much work and dedication has gone into the game.

Importantly the control system here is solid not doubt influenced by Timesplitters but with more buttons assigned actions however you can change things around if you prefer something else. If you have a USB mouse and keyboard then you can enjoy the true way to play a first person game, PC style. The death match mode is fairly standard with some well-designed levels and decent frame rate however it does lack options. In total there are twelve levels available and these are of a high standard, ranging from inside the base to the lovely outdoor environments. There is little customisation here and I’m not comparing it the PC version in that respect, just in general. Basically its just pick your character then level and that’s it, nice and simple but for those of us wanting more it’s a poor relation to other shooters on the console. With the length of time that this has taken to reach any console a fairly decent death match mode wouldn’t have been out of the question, could it?

The Decay mode is mission based and fits in with the main story but the change being is that you can play this along with a friend. This co-operative mode is great fun but I could only play it with a vertical split screen which is not my preferred viewpoint however with a friend it was an enjoyable romp but if one of you dies – game over.

So should you buy Half-Life? The simple answer is yes! It is worth forking out for the main game alone, the extras while limited are just that, bonuses. After you complete the main game (approx 18 hours) you’ll want to go back again and experience it just one more time. Forget its age, great games don’t die, they just become retro but play fantastic.

Gamestyle Score: 8/10

Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex

Gamestyle Archive intro: we’re back in November 2001 with a hugely popular character from the original PlayStation platform. Maybe I’m just out of touch with gaming nowadays but whatever happened to Crash? Writer JJ.

crash_bandicoot_the_wrath_of_cortex_2

Being with Gamestyle does have its advantages, not only do you meet some great people, go places and play games, it also provides an opportunity to experience new things. When Dean first asked me to review Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex, I thought I was in his bad books and that this was some sort of divine punishment for my previous sins. I was not looking forward to experiencing the latest Crash Bandicoot adventure and visions of console rage were foremost in my mind.

Never judge a game by its history or characters or you will be making the same mistake and miss out on something different, then again… Crash Bandicoot was one of the biggest worldwide successes on the Playstation by taking the elements that made Mario and Sonic so popular, then adding its own identity. Sequels and spin-offs soon followed while his popularity remained high. While the original creators of Crash (Naughty Dog) have moved onto something new with Jak & Daxter leaving Travellers Tales to do the honours, Crash remains and in a bizarre twist of fate his new adventure arrives just before his replacement is exposed to the world. Both look suitably impressive and come complete with slick presentation but given even the marketing muscle behind Jax & Daxter, Crash may prove to be more popular.

The story begins sees the return of Dr Neo Cortex and his ultimate weapon, this time determined to defeat Crash and spread his evil everywhere. Of course, Crash as usual is the thorn in his side, the nemesis that must be destroyed. In order to achieve this Dr Cortex awakens the Elementals, the natural power sources for earth, air, water and fire – sounds like some dodgy 70s prog-rock band. Crash must battle against each of these elements in a series of levels (over 25 in total with 5 boss levels) and at the end of each one; collect a certain item i.e. crystal before facing Dr Cortex and his ultimate weapon in the final battle. If all that sounds familiar then you’ll be glad to know that the same applies to the game itself. Given the task of continuing the success of Crash, the new developer has quite rightly followed the same formula as before.

Any fan of the series will not be disappointed as the basic objectives remain the same, reach the end, obtaining as many icons as possible and avoiding dangers such as TNT or ferocious creatures. The game features a large number of levels for you to explore, each adopting a variety of styles which was initially impressive but then given their short nature and ease of completion, fade away into obscurity. Once complete you rarely go back as there are no alternate routes or secret areas to be revealed. Levels can vary from traditional platformers where you are jumping over obstacles and destroying enemies by landing on their heads to Super Monkey Ball styled escapades to flying through the air, gunning down targets.

The adventure takes you across the world varying from the Wild West to the jungles of Africa, facing tsunami waves, tornados and stampeding herds of animals to mention but a few. Crash is now very much multi-skilled as in this latest adventure he takes control of aeroplanes, vehicles and a variety of weaponry in pursuit of his objective. The graphics shown in the game are some of the sweetest seen yet, full of detail and displayed at such a high resolution. The whole feel of the game is of a cartoon and the visuals enforce this without having to resort to cell shading. Effects such as lighting and water have been implemented and show off what the Playstation 2 can produce.

Playing the game for the first time reminded me of when I first experienced Sonic Adventure, very impressive and slick. On screen there is plenty of activity to keep you amused but a distinct lack of creativity and originality. These are things that even the greatest graphics in the world cannot disguise because after the initial levels, the graphical impact wanes, exposing the shallow game that is Crash Bandicoot: Wrath of Cortex. For the first time you also have the opportunity to play as Crash’s sister Coco that provides a welcome change of pace from the usually frantic, full-on approach of her brother. Yet given this and new touches such as Super Monkey Ball rip-offs the game lacks any new dimensions to attract new fans to the series.

This is, at heart, a straightforward 128bit version of the Psone titles that will annoy those as before and entertain the younger generation. Apart from the lack of creativity the game contains many frustrating elements that brought this reviewer to his knees. I will admit I loathe platform games but some the precision jumps necessary here shed Turok in a whole new light. The game is overall easy given the market that it is aimed at but on certain levels this is forgotten as you have to repeat the same jump, over and over again until you land it. Camera angles in the game are prefixed and this would be bearable if the camera was well implemented. On many levels you form the belief that the camera is just a touch slow and soon even paths become precarious. Annoyingly the game also includes levels where you have to run towards the camera, not knowing what lies ahead, fun in brief spurts but not for whole levels.

Crash Bandicoot The Wrath of Cortex is a game for the younger generation and an ideal Christmas present for someone who falls into that category. For the rest of us, there is nothing new or original here other than the graphical enhancements that are just eye candy.

Gamestyle Score: 4/10

World Rally Championship

Gamestyle Archive Intro: For a while Gran Turismo became very boring although some would argue it remains so. The WRC offered a refreshing alternative to tarmac action by the need for speed in new directions. Writer JJ, published November 2001.

WRC-World_Rally_Championship

God I hate Gran Turismo. There I’ve finally said it. While its influence on the driving genre has been immense, I long for the days of Rage Racer, the best racer on the Psone. Then you were up against the track and clock, no need to worry about realistic handling and realism in general. Racing was not a chore or task, the thrill was pure as was the speed and sensational power slides. Since those days and the advent of the GT phenomenon I’ve lost interest in racing games, why was Ridge Racer 4 so poor?

The influence of GT is why but something recently has renewed my interest in driving and that game is World Rally Championship (WRC). WRC has come as major surprise as although rally games like V-Rally and Colin MacRae were hugely popular on the Psone, I never found them captivating to warrant any long-term play. The game has reintroduced the sensation of man and machine against the track, clock and most importantly nature. Developed by Evolution Studios who are more known for their flight simulations for the PC market (as DiD) and helped by the muscle of Sony, WRC is the saviour of the driving genre – or it should have been. Games with official licenses litter the shelves of retailers all over the country and today it seems a pre-requisite for any sports based game.

WRC is no different in this respect as it offers the official license, the FIA World Rally Championship and therefore includes seven of the worlds leading car manufacturers. As this is a worldwide event, the game will take you all over the globe, experiencing every extreme condition known to man. Whether you fancy the twisting tracks of Monte Carlo, open plains of Kenya or a mud bath home coming, this has it all. The further you progress through the stages and countries the more options will become available in other modes such as time trail and single rally. In total there are 81 courses set across the world offering a variety of challenges and pitfalls for you to cross. The first thing that strikes you about WRC is the impressive front end, or to put it simply, the presentation and layout. A globe faces you on the screen and bit-by-bit you are zoomed into your next track, simple yet effective.

Due to the advantages of DVD you can even watch real footage of how the professionals do it and then try to be better. Clear and precise commentary provides useful information on the challenges that lie ahead and you can if you wish, test your settings and track surfaces using the pre-rally shakedown option. If you want depth and realism then WRC does offer this but the lower skill settings take away such reliance’s and free the player to enjoy essence of rallying. The novice skill settings is without a doubt, too easy for the serious driver and as such should be avoided if you want to experience everything that the game has to offer. Normal offers a good balance and upon completion will open up the professional settings – for those who enjoy a true challenge and only second to Sega Rally. The excellent presentation continues into the game itself, with the in-game screen containing a variety of view, helpful icons and tools if you so desire. Your co-driver is the most important of these tools and without him the game would be even harder.

The handling of the cars has come in for many criticisms from other publications and I have to disagree with their sentiments. This is a rally game for goodness sake; your car is going to require constant attention and minor taps on the stick or d-pad, even on the straights. Unlike Gran Turismo you cannot afford to relax on certain sections of a track because nature lies in wait for you. Your car will not stick to the track, you must work to keep it there and this is the essence of rallying. Its not easy or relaxing, it is an intense sport that punishes those who turn off for a split second. After the first few stages you will soon appreciate the time and effort that has gone into the handling, braking and physics. WRC is a game that is easy to dismiss at first and like any good album takes a few plays before it finally falls into place. Rallying is not a major sport and is still regarded as a niche interest but it is growing and games such as WRC are a factor in this.

The developers have captured the spirit of rallying more so than any other previous attempt but they have also sought to include some of the most satisfying graphics yet seen on any home console. The replays are some of the best delivered yet but I am also referring to the actual game. WRC is a graphic junkies ultimate dream and features photo realistic environments, first class lighting and the most dynamic sound effects that I have heard on any driving game. You can quite literally tell the condition your car is in by listening without referring to the icons on the screen or feel it through the handling. The game features realistic damage and this is not some graphical novelty as displayed by other games. If you slam into a hillside or road sign, a variety of things can suddenly happen; the steering, suspension, acceleration or temperature will be affected. It’s this that helps bring the environments alive as they may look real but with this feature they feel it as well.

More than any other game that I have played WRC forces the driver to use their senses (touch, sight, hearing) as you can immediately gauge your health by using these. As mentioned previously the game should have been the ultimate driving experience but there are problems or areas that let down the overall package. Firstly even though the game supports two players it should be regarded as a sole experience. The multiplayer element is several limited and hampered by graphical problems such as frame rate and fog that do not exist in the main mode. Loading has been a problem on the Playstation 2 and this game is the worst so far, an eternity is spent waiting for the tracks to load. Given the fact that you can only race 10 stages and your opponent appears as a ghost car it seems as this was tagged on as an afterthought.

The graphical splendour of the game is dampened by some pop-up in later stages and poor weather effects such as rain and snow – easily witnessed in the first person viewpoint. While there are bonus stages to open and as you progress more countries become available for other modes, there isn’t much here to keep the casual driver entertained. The developers have included a challenge mode in conjunction with the official website where you can obtain a rally license but once achieved its never revisited. Music included with a driving game is rarely appropriate and with WRC this is very much the case. Perhaps given the importance of sound effects, little attention was paid to the background music as it can only serve to distract the player. Whatever the reason, it is poor and easily switched off and never to return.

Given the carrot and stick approach that Gran Turismo has made the norm (win track, get car) most will race through the game once and miss the whole point of rallying. There comes a time when being first will be a foregone conclusion, you will be only against the clock and there lies the challenge. In the current climate this won’t be enough for many only concerned with winning and that is such a shame. WRC has come as a big surprise to me and brought much enjoyment in a genre that I had previously lost interest in with the exception of MSR. The best driving game on the Playstation 2 without a doubt and as a first console release from Evolution Studios an achievement they can be rightly proud of.

Gamestyle Score: 8/10

The Mummy Returns

Gamestyle Archive Intro: I cannot remember anything about this game whatsoever but it is one you’ll often see in bargain bins or charity shops. Another to file in the disappointing film license category. Dating from November 2001 and reviewed by JJ.

 The_Mummy_Returns_ntsc-front

One of the biggest films of the year arrives on the Playstation 2 in the form of a two-part adventure following the storyline closely. Developed by Blitz Games the game has been created with support from Universal Interactive and the cast of the film, ensuring that this really is the official Mummy game.

A disappointing sequel to the fun, if predictable original, the Mummy license is highly regarded even after the bland Psone game. Not only does the film contain memorable characters and visuals, it appeals to all ages without entering kiddie’s territory or horror. Now for anyone who actually missed the summer and therefore the movie, I will provide a brief introduction to the plot and the game. The hero from the first film (Rick O’Donnell) has settled down to raise and still try his hand in exploration of ancient Egypt and discovers artefacts relating the legend of the Scorpion King.

The story revolves around this Scorpion King, formally a good guy gone bad and the quest to unleash his unstoppable armies on the world. Amongst all of this, Imhotep is resurrected to race Rick in a roller coaster ride to find and command the Scorpion King. The unique feature of the game is that you can choose to play the part of the hero or villain on two separate adventures. Rick as the hero must rescue his family from Imhotep before then facing the Scorpion King. As Imhotep you must regain your powers by collecting various items before trying to resurrect the Scorpion King and his armies, then ensuring world domination. Both adventures feature different locations and follow the script of the film, proving to be rewarding for any fan of the epic. Disappointingly any fans of the film expecting to fight the Anubis armies or flee from the ever-hungry scarabs will be left wondering why such fantastic opportunities were not included in the game. When such enemies do arise, they are in single numbers, losing the epic nature of the film and robbing the game of some key sequences.

While many videogames are graphically solid but lacking a plot, The Mummy Returns is an exact opposite. True, the film may have been a series of fantastic special effect sequences linked together by a threadbare plot but in the videogames unfortunately, the plot and characters are good enough. The execution is frankly, very poor and not worthy of such an official license but how often have we experienced similar scenarios?

Graphically the game is standard fare, never really doing anything to harness the power of the hardware or capture the imagination of the player. Sucking the life from hapless victims as Imhotep is the highlight but the effect never changes throughout. All the characters in the game are faithful reproductions of those from the film however in cut scenes the effect is ruined by the lack of facial expressions or moving lips. The game uses Tomb Raider as a reference as you have to explore locations while figuring straightforward puzzles and fighting regenerating enemies. If there is one thing that can really annoy it’s the inclusion of regenerating enemies never mind with non-existent intelligence. Quite simply they are lining up to be hacked, punched, drained or vanquished to another dimension. Your companions as well as enemies will wander around aimlessly, often becoming stuck in walls or continue to run around in circles, somehow lost in a world of their own. As they regenerate as soon as you leave the room (and often chase after you) the game soon becomes a tedious button bashing of epic proportions. Help is on hand throughout from your supporting cast but more often than not, these prove to be a liability but at least you can take frustrations out on their lifeless bodies. Puzzles form the basis of most levels, reach a certain location, collect the item and return to where you came from. Repeat till end.

I would have hoped to experience at least a snippet of variety between the two different adventures, but sadly this is not the case. This is standard fare that we have all seen a million times before. Levels are nicely recreated from the film and the size is quadrupled thanks to the worst map feature ever. The on-screen icons will feature a traditional compass, totally useless for buildings that are on several levels. The compass also occurs on a map, which you can only view from one angle (zoomed in or out) making navigation far time consuming and annoying that it should have ever been. The bad design does not stop there as it continues to the control method, which is far from friendly. The triangle button will activate your weapon, which you can collect on every level and with several available it is an important feature. Yet, this button will also bring up your inventory therefore at times when you require a weapon, something else will happen causing loss of life. Controlling your character feels sluggish and not as responsive as you would have hoped for. Bad enough? I haven’t even mentioned the camera that at times needs constant correcting or becomes stuck in ceilings almost every time that you enter a new room.

In conclusion The Mummy Returns is a disappointment to anyone who plays the game whether it be a fan of the film or gamer. Only children may forgive its faults and enjoy the limited nature of it all.

Gamestyle Score: 3/10