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.

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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

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Spyro: A Hero’s Tail

Gamestyle Archive Intro: Anna takes us down a popular PS1 title in new surroundings from this review towards the end of 2004.

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Spyro: A Hero’s Tail (ho) is easily the best post-PS1 Spyro title, and it’s obvious that the developers have really thought about some parts of the game. However, push the PS2 et al to their limits this doesn’t. Graphically, this game is decent. That said, it’s nothing at all impressive: we’ve all seen much better, and the draw distance is at times disconcertingly short.

Baddies also teleport into existence when you approach their patches, which may be intended to surprise but it seems more like laziness with regards to animating distant enemies. There are also a few irritating invisible walls around platforms that one should otherwise be able to reach. Perhaps the developers didn’t expect the player to try and explore off the game’s path so much, but it’s nice to have the option.

This game’s a first for the Spyro series in that the worlds aren’t broken up into discrete levels accessible only via portals: each of the four realms (obligatory ice one and lava one included) and its sublevels are all part of the same landmass, and one can walk from any part of a realm to another with no loading times. But it’s often quicker to just teleport there, which one can do with the aid of a ticket bought from Moneybags (a bear in a fez) for 100 shinies a pop. As well as teleport tickets, from the shop pads one can buy all manner of things including more ammo for super-attacks, keys for opening chests, and magic butterflies to restore Spyro’s health (bizarrely, Sparx the dragonfly eats them but it’s Spyro who benefits). Whilst the pads are very useful, they get irritating very quickly: every time you approach one, a green holographic Moneybags pops up and spouts a one-liner. Every time. Make him stop!

The rest of the game is surprisingly non-irritating for a magic land populated by faerie, magic crystals, and fluffy sheep, and in which even the baddies look harmless and cuddly and as though they would probably prefer discussing your differences over a plate of biscuits (and when you do choose to end their existences, they explode in a cloud of pretty bubbles). The dialogue is often genuinely funny (especially of note is the very camp Elder Magnus, who is also pink) and the voice-acting isn’t chummily goofy as has been the case in past titles. As is the standard for Spyro’s adventures, and indeed for most platformers, the main object of the game is to collect various artefacts; in this case being light gems, dark gems and dragon eggs. Light and dark gems lead the way forward, with light gems powering machines and dark ones opening boss areas. The eggs are optional and collecting them unlocks goodies, such as concept art and the ability to play as Ember or Flame (basically Spyro in drag) instead of El Purple One.

Eggs and light gems can be found hidden in cunning places or in locked chests, but a lot of them you’ll get as rewards for helping the inept natives. Their errands include using cannons to defend baby turtles from vultures, activating water-wheels so that an otter can go surfing, and pushing rock-monsters off cliffs to avenge a disgruntled hyena. In addition to Spyro, there are a few short sections in which Spyro stands aside to allow another character a moment of glory. Sadly, these aren’t much fun compared to the main levels, playing rather like a gaming equivalent of cutting room floor sweepings. Furthermore, their sections are all separate from Spyro’s. This, in Gamestyle’s opinion, makes the idea of multiple characters rather pointless: they can’t help each other bypass obstacles or assist each other in combat. Hunter the cheetah and Blink the mole have free-roaming sections, mostly involving jumping from platform to platform (a lot of which is buttock-clenchingly pixel-perfect in its demands). Both of them also have long-range weapons with zooms, and use explosives to break down doors. They’re only really set apart by the fact that Hunter can climb walls whereas Blink can brachiate (rather nimbly for a talpidine, too).

Sparx the dragonfly and Sgt. Byrd the tanked-up penguin are both flying shooters; Sparx on rails and the Sgt. (whose levels are easily the most enjoyable of all the non-Spyro ones) in an open-air assault course with hoops to fly through and aloft enemies to gun down. Whilst Spyro in the hands of Insomniac showed that cutesy games can still be challenging and testing (a formula taken to excess by the saccharine-flavoured but corundum-hard Croc games), A Hero’s Tail unfortunately doesn’t try as hard to overturn first impressions. Whilst this game is thankfully not patronising and does have a difficulty curve, and is pretty unforgiving checkpoint-wise, it really won’t have one foaming at the mouth (or any other orifices) with frustration. The final boss is laughably easy, even though failure will take you right back to the beginning of the battle and not just the start of the round.

Spyro: A Hero’s Tail is a nice game. It’s brightly-coloured, cheerful and inoffensive, and is a great title with which to unwind when you’re too feeling too frazzled or cack-handed to attempt a manlier game like Devil May Cry or Onimusha (although you may want to play some of those afterwards to get rid of the cute and sparkly aftertaste). If you’re not generally a fan of platformers, you’d be better off with a title that better showcases the genre, like Jak (a few ideas from which have been sneakily ‘borrowed’ for A Hero’s Tail) or Ratchet. Otherwise, this is a pretty little game that platforming fans shall find an enjoying diversion.

Gamestyle Score: 6/10

Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater

Gamestyle Archive Intro: why does Gamestyle matter and continue to do so? Well its honesty and principles. This review from Daniel is a perfect example. Whilst websites and press critics were falling over themselves to hype Snake Eater there was an apparent fear to criticise and highlight flaws. At GS we were an elite team of gamers who valued honesty and our own wallet; if something was disappointing them it was stated and scored as such. Refreshing in 2004 it sadly remains so in 2015.

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Metal Gear Solid was one of the few games to satisfactorily handle stealth, because it eliminated ‘guesswork’. The permanent view of your surroundings and enemy vision indicator made it possible to see and recognise multiple movement patterns simultaneously, plan each move with precision, and always know what needed to be done. But back in the sixties, the advanced radar systems that made this possible weren’t invented. Thus it is that the dreaded ‘curse of the prequels’ lands a wounding blow to Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.

Without spoiling the plot, Snake Eater is set in 1964, where a special operations unit known as “Fox” has sent its operative “Naked Snake” into the heart of a Russian jungle; his mission is to rescue a scientist named Sokolov from a terrorist group who is holding him captive. Sokolov is a Soviet scientist who defected to the US during the Cold War, and whose skills are now desirable for the construction of an ultimate weapon (you can probably guess what that is). “Snake” comes face to face with his old mentor, The Boss, as well as some other familiar faces, who are a part of this elite terrorist group. The story isn’t as overly-complex as that of MGS2, but it sets up the events of the two previous games nicely.

Snake Eater is a remarkably ‘different’ game in the franchise. Large outdoor environments, swamps, trees, long grass and camouflage… it certainly loses its Pac-man style of gameplay; but at the same time, it refuses to let go of certain traditions which shouldn’t still be there. For example, the top-down camera is largely unchanged – switching back and forth when you press up against surfaces – but the radar screen is no longer there. This means that the normal view is the only way to navigate and orient yourself, and the camera is totally unqualified to take on such a responsibility. You can use a combination of the primitive sonar, the motion detector, the binoculars and the personnel detector to locate enemies or animals, but no one device does all these things together. This means you have to continually switch between devices, which can be very intrusive. The motion detector, for example, shows movement as dots; but it doesn’t tell you what they are or if they can see you. Indeed, since the only way to tell is to look ahead of you, you have to keep switching to a first person view, meaning you have to keep stopping and starting. This clear indication of the camera’s insufficiencies highlights why a free third-person camera would have been preferable.

Deep within the jungle, simply staying hidden is not the only concern; Snake has to stay alive as well. With a multifaceted menu system, Snake Eater’s micro-management is often just as important as its actions sequences. If you get injured, you will be required to clean and repair the wound; if you get tired, you will need to catch food and eat it. Your ‘stamina’ is what keeps you alive. A full stamina bar will allow Snake to gradually heal himself over time, whereas low stamina will affect his actions. Aiming becomes harder, wounds heal more slowly, and you can’t hold your breath for as long. It’s a remarkably authentic system, one which is always on the forefront of your mind. As you lie in ambush in the grass, or hide up in a tree, you’ll be planning where your next meal will come from. You can kill animals for food, but unless it’s caught alive, it begins to go bad over time, even when you aren’t playing.

Camouflage is a key feature of Snake Eater, replacing ‘lines-of-sight’ with a more organic visibility percentage indicator, much like Splinter Cell. Different environments call for different camo to be worn (tiger stripe, leaf, tree bark, etc.). There is a fundamental problem with this system, though: it is largely unnecessary. Going from grass onto leaves changes how visible you are, and requires you to change your outfit, but there’s no strategy to this; the only requirement is that you find the camo that has the highest number. One must ask why the game can’t simply do it automatically, or indeed why it needs you to do it at all. It’s a superfluous exercise in menu-navigation that further breaks the flow of the action. If this is all sounding so negative, it shouldn’t.

The Metal Gear Solid franchise has unusually high standards placed upon it, so when a game fails to live up to those, the shortcomings are simply more obvious. Make no mistake, Snake Eater is a lovingly-crafted and often wonderful adventure. The behaviour of the enemies, of the wildlife, the cunningly placed traps and dangers, the overall level of detail… it’s all staggeringly good. There never seems to be an end to the things you can do; sometimes it’s fun just to see what you can get away with. It’s also immensely satisfying when a well thought-out strategy of careful circumvention succeeds as you planned it. The movie cutscenes simply excel in all areas. The action within them is always well punctuated and choreographed; every frame is well considered and visually splendid; even the dialogue contains subtle blends of humour with traditional one-liners.

The game is replete with secrets, extras and in-jokes (seeing the words “time paradox” when Snake is killed is a funny moment) and you’ll no doubt want to replay the whole experience when you’ve finished it once, just to see what else you missed. The boss characters are extremely imaginative and have a variety of interesting abilities, which make encounters with each one totally unique, exciting and well-paced. There are many ways to defeat each one, some quicker than others, but the choice is yours to make.

All the characters are varied and likeable; there’s a unique charm to each of them. Listening to Major Zero’s (Snake’s commander) witty banter over the radio, or Para Medic’s talk about sixties’ movies is rarely tedious, but thoroughly welcomed. Even their names show the tongue-in-cheek humour that makes MGS so agreeable. The musical score is another triumph; it isn’t as pronounced, obvious or memorable as that of the past games, but the music during both action and movie sequences is always perfectly suited, and doesn’t distract you from what’s happening.

In general, most of Snake Eater’s individual features surpass the quality of most other games, point-per-point. Even the graphics would not only look at home on an Xbox, but wouldn’t look too out of place on a next generation console either. The shadows, textures and detail surpass that of MGS2 by enough to be immediately noticeable, and only the occasional slowdown reminds you how much detail the PS2 is having push around at once. The final sequences of the game are a magnificent journey through multiple styles of action and drama, brutal realism and shocking revelations. It is a game of numerous ingenious ideas, and it is clear that Konami didn’t want to simply retread the same old ground. For this, we are thankful; however much of the time it feels as though the core of the game isn’t updated enough to smooth out the rough edges and ‘guesswork’ required to struggle through its slower sections.

With the impending release of Subsistence (essentially Snake Eater’s version of Substance), online play and improvements to the camera system will be a big advantage over Snake Eater’s obtrusive viewpoints and lightweight Ape Escape sub-game. It’s not that Snake Eater isn’t a good game – it is – but there’s little point in buying this version. Gamestyle recommends either waiting for the upgrade or renting this for a solid weekend of tactical espionage action.

Gamestyle Score: 6/10

Viewtiful Joe 2

Gamestyle Archive Intro: what we think is another writer debut with Arron Hanley who tackles the sequel to a much-loved classic. Can Viewtiful Joe deliver on the PlayStation 2?

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Gamestyle fancies a challenge, although it’s rare to find a challenging title that is also enjoyable. It’s fair to say that we weren’t disappointed with Viewtiful Joe – originally released on the GameCube and a format exclusive until Capcom decided to bring the cries of ‘Henshin-A-Go-Go Baby!’ to the Playstation 2, via the colourfully-titled sequel, Viewtiful Joe 2. The original game saw you fighting your way through levels attempting to rescue your girlfriend – who wasn’t controllable at the time – however, Capcom have now teamed Joe and Silvia so they can help each other out with the simple tap of a button. After a humorous introductory video that outlines the story, you are transported to a prehistoric setting (don’t ask) dressed as Normal Joe in his T-shirt and cap – and where you’re tasked to recover seven ‘Rainbow Coloured Oscars’.

Both Joe and Silvia return in 3D form (along with the enemies), although the standard backdrops look like pieces of cardboard – hardly a revelation, given that the original game had the critics applauding it. Also returning is Joe’s ‘viewtiful’ style of fighting and his range of special attacks; Silvia however is not a victim this time but Joe’s able companion. Initially, her style of fighting is a simple kick and extendable boxing glove (thus ensuring she won’t break any nails), however as you progress both will receive their hero suits and be ready to take on the new villain. Although Joe doesn’t have any specific moves at first, his Viewtiful style is soon upgraded with even further moves. The game is straightforward: beat up enemies and bosses, jump, dodge and continue forth. However, this simple formula requires that you perfect your timing and moves. The game has some very simple puzzles but they can become frustrating – timing is the key here, as some of the puzzles require you to switch between Joe and Silvia in order to progress. Joe can use his powers to slow down time, and this proves effective in many ways (such as increasing the power of your hits upon enemies, or simply landing more precise hits).

Any help proves to be invaluable as Viewtiful Joe 2 is not an easy game – in fact, the difficulty settings have been changed to Normal and Hard (whereas before ‘Kid’ setting could’ve passed as easy and ‘Adult’ very hard). The game only has seven levels – or reels, as they are officially known – but they are quite large and will take some time to complete. The levels have varying themes, from the prehistoric beginning (which is 10 million years B.C.) to an ice age, and even a ninja-themed level – all of which look superb, but prove superbly difficult. Each level consists of acts, which are then split into several missions. At the end of each ‘reel’ there’s a boss that you must defeat in order to gain an Oscar; on completion of each reel you’ll be ranked on time and defence, and awarded Viewtiful points for using your VFX and destroying multiple enemies.

As with its predecessor, the trend for using cel-shaded graphics continues. The sharp visuals on each of the main characters (including enemies) look as ‘viewtiful’ as ever, although the levels themselves don’t look to be pushing the Playstation 2 hardware. The environments are appealing and well-presented, with distinct features pertaining to the levels (such as dinosaurs and lava erupting from volcanoes); these bring the game to life, almost as if Joe and Silvia have been caught on film. Capcom have also continued their trend for providing superb sound. The voice acting, the explosions and tunes that are played whilst combating the enemy remain outstanding. Joe and Silvia have real personality, as do some of the bosses (who might chit-chat for a while and provide some light relief). However, despite the comic book explosions and madcap music, all of this was replicated in the prequel – so it doesn’t really bring anything new to the player.

While Gamestyle enjoyed the challenge that Capcom threw at us, we couldn’t really spot the differences from Viewtiful Joe (bar the new adventure): it has the looks, style and sound of the original, but doesn’t make it any better nor worse. It’s simply more of the same, and gamers who have played the first one will know what to expect (although newbies may be put off by the revised difficulty). As a bonus, players can unlock the ’36 Chambers of Viewtiful’, a side-quest that will take even longer to complete. Gamestyle thoroughly enjoyed Viewtiful Joe 2, but it was nothing new to us. Slightly easier this time around, with the same energy as before, but not enough to reinvigorate the series.

Gamestyle Score: 7/10

Jak 3

Gamestyle Archive Intro: its about time we had one of the great PS2 series’ in the archive and so Jak arrives thanks to a review by Anna dating from November 2004.

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Reviewers are often criticised for giving sequels lower scores than the originals – ostensibly on the grounds that the sequel lacks the groundbreaking impact that the earlier games had, even though the sequel is in many respects a superior game. As a stand-alone title, Jak 3 is pretty astonishing, not to mention very pretty and all the more remarkable because a vast world has been created with zero loading times; there are in fact two primary landmasses – Spargus City and Haven City – which can be shunted between in the Airbus. However, even as a stand-alone game, there are a few issues which can dampen one’s enjoyment of a ‘stand-out’ title that is to platformers (sorry, character-action platformers) what Pokey is to penguinkind.

As was the case before, Jak 3’s graphics are amazing – especially the stupendous draw distance and the environmental lighting which changes from dawn to dusk to nightfall on a six-minute cycle. While this doesn’t make any difference to the gameplay (a missed opportunity there), it does look bastard-woo – as does the heat-haze above flaming torches, the lovingly-crafted rolling vistas and dilapidated cityscapes, the sparkly fragments that some missions require you to pick up, and the intense blast radii of some of the weapons (especially the cackle-inducing Wave Concussor). The Concussor is one of several new additions to Jak’s arsenal. The Morph gun from Jak II makes a comeback, but now has many more mods available for it. To recap: the Scatter gun fired short-range pulses that threw enemies back several feet, and was powerful but had an ass-hat reload time; the Blaster was your basic equally-good-at-all-ranges pistol; the Vulcan Fury had lousy targeting and chewed up ammo like John Prescott at a pastie buffet (but its awesome rate of fire pinned enemies down and could deal with swathes of them at once); and the fluffy-sounding Peacemaker was Naughty Dog’s rendition of the ‘BFG’ (albeit ammo was rarer than chooks’ teeth, the pay-off was utter plasmic devastation).

Jak 3 sees the four amigos return, with a further two upgrades for each. One upgrade releases a little flying saucer that shoots enemies with Blaster ammo – leaving you free to use your other guns or else kicks and punches. Another mod uses the Scatter gun to create a ‘wave’ of energy that ‘concusses’ enemies (clever, see?). As for what happens to the Peacemaker… well, it’d be churlish to spoil it. The guns can be upgraded in other ways: when you find Precursor Orbs (little eggy things that are awarded for exploration, cool-handedness, or beating mini-games assigned to you by the Freedom League or the wise Precursor statues), you can choose to spend them on increasing your ammo capacity or reload times.

Also available are extra vehicles (which are disappointingly nothing special compared to the standard ones, which include the very cool Dune Hopper that can make such stupidly-huge leaps across canyons that you’ll never tire of riding it), cool stuff like character viewers and scene and level select; and silly stuff like characters in nappies (and the obligatory, unfunny-as-always, ‘big head’ mode). Chances are you won’t find all 600 Orbs on your first playthrough (at least not without a player’s guide), so choose carefully. Saving up for extras is a great deal of fun; exploring every nook and cranny for errant baubles might sound tedious, but it helps you settle into Jak’s mindset (and really lets you appreciate the magnitude of the gameworld). Finding an Orb after following a hunch, or carefully planning to reach a high or distant place, almost always leads to shrill satisfaction. They’re hiding in places you really wouldn’t expect the average gamer to find. Nevertheless, note to Naughty Dog: it’s not the size of your game – it’s what you do with it. Even without the slick continuity of Renegade and The Precursor Legacy to act as a benchmark, Jak 3 would still feel like a bunch of levels stapled together instead of one big adventure.

In their quest to be innovative, the developers have flung in so many different tasks that there’s no cohesion between them – no real ‘reason’ for anything to happen. You’ll feel like an harassed office boy: go and destroy that machine, go and race in that dune buggy, go and race on lizard-back (yes, two race missions in a row), go and round up those lizards, go and fight those men in the arena, go and drive to that oasis… sometimes, less can indeed be more. The desert surrounding Spargus City is intimidatingly vast; as was Haven City in Jak II (impressively, nearly all of Haven is in this game too, but it and the surrounding countryside are charred and war-torn), but this desert is very boring and featureless – so much so that you’ll more often be navigating by map than familiar landmark. It needed only be two-thirds the size, and would’ve helped to lessen the boring drive to the Hora-Quan’s (ie, vicious creatures nicknamed Metalheads by the natives) lair or the Monk’s temple.

Though the transitions are jerky and unpolished, many of the missions are lovely. There’s one in which little fuzzy Daxter (Jak’s mouthy companion – who used to be a human but in the first game turned into a mustelid after falling in a vat of malignant purple goo called dark Eco) rides a missile around a harbour, using it to pick up blobs of powerful red Eco in order to make the missile battle-worthy. This is certifiably insane genius, and definitely one of the most fun missions in any of the Jak games. If you’ve unlocked the level select for that portion of the game, it’ll probably be your most replayed too. Other highlights are shooting down reptilian Hora-Quan and using your new Dark and Light powers in the Monk’s temple. In every other respect, however, this game is bloated.

Jak 3 is an overwhelming experience, but in a wearisome way. It needed to prune around a quarter of its missions in order to become the taut and terrific experience we would’ve expected of a sequel-to-a-sequel. A couple of the missions are just plain stupid: one of them sees Daxter getting beamed into a computer (yes, really) and then having to complete a round of what would’ve been ‘Pacman’ (had Pacman been designed whilst drunk). Another is an unremarkable on-foot shooting mission made irritating by its clumsy top-down perspective.

There are also a few missions that are minor variations of a past one, but simply in a different location. It’s clear that Naughty Dog wanted Jak 3 – the final game in the series (unless blondie gets pimped out like his predecessor Crash) – to be the most amazing and the most spectacular, but they’ve simply made it the ‘most’. It’s almost as if they didn’t want to shelve any of the (unused) ideas they’d had for Renegade and Legacy, so instead have unceremoniously dumped them here (and this certainly fits with the plot, being such a contrived bag of blah). On balance, however, this is a great game that outperforms most others in the field, but it’s also obvious – painfully so – that it could have been so much more.

Gamestyle Score 7/10

Onimusha 3: Demon Siege

Gamestyle Archive Intro:  it has been a while since we had a writer debut in the archive so I’m pleased to welcome Anna Williams into the fold. Hopefully this is the first of several great reviews from her in an era when gaming was perceived wrongly to be a male activity. If my hazy memory is correct she loved the Capcom games and characters. This review dates from July 2004.

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This game gets off to a good start before one’s even opened the box – Capcom are well-known for producing stellar titles (barring a few exceptions like Glass Rose and Devil May Cry 2), and Onimusha 3 is sourced from vintage stock: a duo of games which possessed gorgeous graphics, frankly astonishing FMV sequences, joypad-throwingly hard puzzles and slick combat. Onimusha 3 could have been just more of the same – and Capcom would have been safe in the knowledge that it would sell well – but this game goes the whole ten yards (oh yes!) and elevates itself well above its predecessors.

Demon Siege is the first in the Onimusha series to make use of the thumbsticks (finally!), but in an admirable nod to user-friendliness, one can still ape the style of the first two titles (ie, playing with D-pad) should one wish to. Indeed, one can even use them in conjunction: the stick for movement and evasion, and the pad for combos such as the ten-point slash. The game once again features good old Samanosuke, the hero of the first ‘musha (although he’s aged a bit since then). Joining him are Jacques Blanc (a French policeman who has been rendered in the likeness of actor Jean Reno – presumably to capitalise upon the European market), his girlfriend Michelle Aubert, and Ako – a faerie-like creature related to the ‘Tengu’ species. Sadly, Jubei Yagyu is conspicuous by his absence. As well as feudal Japan, this game also takes place in modern-day France, as one switches between the two main characters. Jacques and Samanosuke are teleported into each others’ times courtesy of a machine called the Time-Folder, created by mad scientist Guildenstern – one of the most high-ranking of the evil ‘Genma’ demons (as opposed to the ‘Oni’, who are the nice ones).

Gameplay alternates between Jacques, who is trapped in medieval Japan, and Sam in France, both of whom are accompanied by the cheerful tengu Ako (who can conveniently hop between time periods). At certain checkpoints, she can even ferry items from one man to the other; this is necessary in order to solve puzzles (as actions taken by Jacques in the past can affect Sam in the future) or to resolve the disparity of healing-items (herbs in Japan, med kits in France). Additionally, one can also play as Michelle Aubert, an elite grenade-toting policewoman with big ‘woo’ guns, who needs to rescue Jacques’ annoying sprog Henri (when he goes walkabout in search of his father).

Onimusha 3 offers a great deal of variety in locations (especially when compared to the first two games, which pretty much took place in the same village and its surrounding countryside): Japan showcases the forests of Mt. Hiei and the seaport town of Sakai, as well as castles, a frozen lake and an underwater temple visited by both characters in both times. France will see you climbing the Arc de Triomphe and then descending into the sewers of snot-demons below; and later to Notre Dame, Boulogne Zoo (where Guildenstern has unleashed some gorilla/tiger demons he’s created), the Eiffel Tower (which is covered in electrical ooze), and Mt St Michel. Mt St Michel is also visited by Jacques in the past, and he and Sam must pass keys and cogs back and forth (as an aside, surely that phrase should be the other way around?) in order to gain access to the Time Folder and destroy it. Confusingly, the Mt explodes in both the past AND the present. And there’s another Sam in the past along with Jacques; he doesn’t get transported to our time until a few days after Jacques’ medieval adventure (erm, just don’t ask, alright?).

Sam and Jacques have very different fighting styles, and you’ll likely end up having a favourite. Jacques fights with whip-like weapons: namely a sword, spear and mace that unfurl in lengths of chain to greatly increase their range (and handy for swinging from the Oni fireflies to reach higher or distant platforms). His weapons conjure up the standard videogame elements of fire, ice and electricity, while Sam’s swords invoke light, wind, and earth (and he also has the advantage of long-ranged arrows which can be fired at either airborne or ground-based enemies). Fighting earns you Genma souls: white ones top up your magic power and yellow ones your health – and big purple ones let the character turn into his Oni form (when he’s got five of them), which makes him temporarily invincible and capable of some serious arse-kickery. Handily, once you’ve acquired five purple souls you don’t transform into an Oni immediately (as was the case in Onimusha 1 and 2): you can keep them for as long as you like until you decide a transformation would be appropriate. Souls are absorbed by the chaps’ Oni gauntlets, and by Michelle’s soul bracelet (she doesn’t get an Oni form), but this isn’t done automatically.

Combat is a balancing act of deciding whether to attack or defend, or whether to absorb souls – which leaves you vulnerable. Perhaps the most important are the pink souls (the game says they’re red, but they’re definitely pink) which can be spent at save-points on increasing your weapons’ power, your armour’s strength or the speed with which your gauntlet absorbs souls. As you need a lot of souls to obtain these upgrades, you should choose wisely. Tactical thinking must also be employed when deciding what Ako should wear. During your travels, you’ll find waistcoats (aka ‘vests’ – obviously translated for the American market) for Ako, and each imposes a different effect. The most useful of which is the white one, which heals you when you stand still (thus meaning you can save your herbs and med kits for the heat of battle). Other waistcoats enhance absorption speed or the number of pink souls released. Deciding what to use – and when – is important, however it is unfortunate that one cannot change them (or your weapons) on the fly.

Having to access menu screens can disrupt the flow of the game. As well as fighting, puzzles can also provide some entertaining avenues for thought: while some are obvious – in the form of locked boxes which can only be opened by sliding some tiles around – they are far less vexatious than the ones found in the previous two titles. Most of these boxes yield jewels which can increase your health or magic gauges, but they don’t do this automatically – innovatively, you must choose when and whether you want to use them, so you can decide how hard or easy you want to make it on yourself. You can also give jewels to the other character via Ako. However, much of the puzzling is hidden within levels themselves (ie, paths and structures) and is usually nothing more than glorified quests to ‘find this key to open that door’ – or ‘find this crest to open that gate to go back in time to find this gem for that statue forwards in time which opens a logic puzzle to that door which yields this key which is needed in the past’ – but is no less enjoyable for it.

As enjoyable as Onimusha 3: Demon Siege undoubtedly is, it can get very frustrating when it all goes wrong. Some enemy AI just plain cheats: one type of enemy (once he’s knocked you down) continues hitting you – not giving you the chance to block or even to get back up. Many of the boss battles are also very hard compared to ordinary enemies, and will eat away at your herbs and medicines (and most require that you call upon the Oni form). As a result, instead of feeling triumphant upon their defeat, one tends to feel moreover exhausted and “thank smeg that’s over with”. A battle should be fun to endure, not a chore.

Thankfully, most non-boss fights are a great deal of fun – especially the Genma hordes at the epic battle for Honnoji Temple, where you can fight for as long as you like because the enemies keep respawning, enabling you to gleefully string together chain combo-after-chain combo (and the enemies piss you off just enough to make destroying them very satisfying). This game has obviously been a labour of love for Capcom; replete with so many finishing touches that add up to a stunning experience (you can even turn the blood off or make it green). Replay value is also high: fighting well in the Dark Realm earns you the weapons from the first game, which Sam can then use when starting a repeat file. There are also extra costumes to unlock (including Sam’s cowboy outfit with a toy panda strapped to his wrist in place of the Oni gauntlet) and bonus levels showing what happened to the other characters.

Coupled – quadrupled? – with the fact that the game also rewards you for being mad-skilled (eg, beating it in a short time, or without saving, without dying, etc), Onimusha 3: Demon Siege is double bastard-woo with hot custard on top (and those who allege otherwise are suffering from cranio-rectal inversions).

Gamestyle score: 9/10

Alien Hominid

Gamestyle Archive Intro: apart from the visuals I cannot recall much of this game today. What I did find amusing is the ‘kudos’ insert towards the end which is a word I’d never use in a review and must have been a post-edit insert. The game did finally arrive in the UK though but this NTSC release dates from December 2004.

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It’s all too easy nowadays to dismiss simplistic games in favour of those lavish blockbusters. Yet sometimes the simplest of ideas can translate into something beautiful and evergreen that flourishes long after the thrill of the ‘new’ has subsided. Alien Hominid is such a release, and consists of nothing more than shooting multiple opponents as you criss-cross the screen – Metal Slug style. Yet the energetic remit and vivid colour palette sears itself into your memory and burns ever longer because it’s been delivered at a budget price (well, at least in the US, where it’s also available on Gamecube).

Unfortunately, Alien Hominid has yet to appear on European shelves – and perhaps never will. This is indeed a bitter pill to swallow, as the game has clearly been cultivated by a loving and dedicated team. The storyline is different from the original Flash download (seven million freebies and counting): taking on the role of a yellow alien, you find yourself stranded on earth after the FBI brings down your spacecraft (and who thoughtfully remove any trace of debris and witnesses to the actual event). Without a direct route back home, you must now cross a series of challenging levels whilst being pursued by FBI agents who wouldn’t look out of place in The Matrix. Your goal is to reach the end – no mean feat, given the masses of opponents and huge bosses – and reclaim your ship before blasting off into outer space.

The hand-drawn graphical motif of Alien Hominid has been overshadowed these days; the novelty of the side-scroller perhaps being mistaken for the popularity of Viewtiful Joe, but the developers haven’t forgotten to include plenty of quirkiness (check out the screenshots for confirmation of this). Another blow is landed with the subtle humour on display, giving Alien Hominid a double dose of attitude; unmistakeable character that is rarely seen and certainly harking back to older platforms. Perhaps a reason for this is that Flash games tend to exist in a realm where normal releases do not. What Gamestyle is trying to say is that Flash animation relies on inventiveness, eye candy and lots of over-the-top violence. Translating this experience to a home console makes for something, well, a little explosive. And Gamestyle can’t help but attach itself to ’emotional’ experiences.

Alien Hominid might lack a scripted storyline, but trying to reach the end is a wellspring of emotion – for example: the joy of completing a level, the frustration accompanying failure, the self-deprecation or performance anxiety, the attendant fear of another boss encounter. By our reckoning, all of these emotions are fantastic – because far too many releases slip by without making any impression whatsoever. Without question, the game poses a real challenge for SNK devotees; at times the odds are impossibly stacked against you, and maintaining control in the midst of a bloodbath is nigh on impossible. In spite of this, Alien Hominid constantly stirs new challenges and options into the mix, thereby keeping itself fresh and interesting (where many other games would languish in difficulty).

If frustration boils over, then Behemoth have seen fit to include additional PDA games and a level editor. The PDA options are played out through a mock-screen interface with basic graphics, and offer more levels than Gamestyle might dare to count. But Behemoth didn’t stop there; adding several mini-games that adopt the visual style of the main story – including Pinata Boss and Neutron Ball – with more becoming unlocked as you progress through the game. It is also possible to play through the entire story with a friend, which does help to overcome those frequently-taxing moments.

At a time when the industry is becoming increasingly dominated by EA and other leviathan publishers whose portfolios are indistinguishable from licensed and generic brands, it’s refreshing to realise that games such as Alien Hominid are still being created. Kudos to the underlings.

Gamestyle Score: 8/10

Syberia II

Gamestyle Archive Intro: the joys of the point and click genre may be lost on the current generation. However it was a thrilling and challenging experience. Even after all these years I remember playing Syberia II just like it was November 2004 all over again.

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Point ‘n’ click adventures have never really found a home amid the confines of current consoles; their pace, difficulty, static screens and quirks are everything that our newfangled entertainment centres would rail against. The Broken Sword series may have found a receptive audience, but far fewer releases have dared to stray from their PC stable (with the obvious exception being the behemoth Myst series). So, with this in mind, Gamestyle opens its mind to Syberia II.

The original Syberia managed to fill a niche on the Playstation 2, and although the sequel has hereto arrived on Xbox, it’s hardly likely to be usurping the top shelf. With virtually no marketing or any form of public awareness, Syberia faded away – and while the sequel is perfectly enjoyable in its right, the first half of the story owes a debt of continuity to the original. It goes without saying that point ‘n’ click adventures are nothing without internal dialogue, and Syberia II’s opening moments lack any reprise for those who are new to the series.

Thus, you again adopt the role of Kate Walker, a New York lawyer taking sabbatical in a remote permafrost region of Europe. She has left everything behind to join Hans Voralberg on his lifelong quest to find the legendary Syberia (note: this partnership is already formed and outlined in the first game). What does become clear is that Kate’s former employers are desperate to have her back in New York – and many co-opted locals will stop at nothing to prevent this enterprising duo en route.

The storyline was penned by Benoit Sokal, a notable European comic strip creator, and Syberia’s world is very much his oyster; the characteristic designs, technology, and architectural style are all very distinctive. If Gamestyle were to draw parallels, then Sokal’s nearest contemporary would be Jean-Pierre Jeunet – the director of City of Lost Children, Delicatessen, and (unfortunately) Alien Resurrection. Thankfully, the genre allows you to fully appreciate his clockwork apparatuses spread amongst four principal areas; these devices evidently inform the practices and history of the region and are truly mesmerising – and the snow (which is everywhere) adds an ethereal touch.

Syberia II offers no surprises in gameplay terms, and remains fundamentally true to its ‘point ‘n’ click’ roots: there are no quick-timed events or periodic bursts of activity required here. What awaits the player are a series of logistical tests (aka: puzzles) that must be overcome in order to progress. Initially the goal may seem simple – such as fixing a train – but the tasks sporadically branch out to incorporate a host of characters and town locations. Unfortunately, this does require a great deal of trial-and-error (and even more backtracking); the genre infamously takes no prisoners – so, if you are already cringing at the thought of it, then Syberia II is certainly not for you.

The difficulty curve is steep, and will prove extremely frustrating for the unwary (as there is no in-game help or hint system to speak of). The key is dragging your cursor across every inch of the screen – waiting for it to change appearance – then engaging in conversations and breaking down tasks by a simplistic ‘division of labour’ approach. Connoisseurs of such adventures will no doubt find Syberia II fairly straightforward to play – if it weren’t for several intrusive (or hereditary, given its PC lineage) factors.

Where should Gamestyle start – as a fair degree of testing should have highlighted the following problems: firstly, pathways are never clearly defined and are often hidden behind objects (or compounded by the white blanket of snow in certain areas). To discover that hidden route – typically off-screen – it is best to let Kate run in a circle; eventually she’ll spin off in another direction. Adding to this frustration are invisible walls that are in plentiful supply at nearly every location; a need for pinpoint accuracy (when opening objects or activating items) which is not served by console controllers; and each screen takes far too long to load – which, married to the quality of backtracking involved, only serves to infuriate players.

Notwithstanding, Syberia II is worth playing for its wonderful story and desire to overcome these obstacles. There’s a real sense of satisfaction when a cut-scene ensues, but even these moments can be short-changed by some dreadful editing (and sequences sometimes finish abruptly; the direction here is certainly amiss and the scripting could’ve been more polished). On a more positive note, there are some picturesque locations (and hand-drawn visuals) accompanying Syberia II, and the soundtrack is suitably evocative. Gamestyle certainly enjoyed its time in the snow, and would advise point ‘n’ click travellers to wait until the retail price falls a notch before taking a chance on this distinguished adventure.

Gamestyle Score: 6/10

La Pucelle: Tactics

Gamestyle Archive Intro:  a glut of tactical games arrived on the PS2 around 10 years ago and offered a new challenge for gamers. La Pucelle: Tactics isn’t the cream of the crop by far, yet acted as an introduction and tuning mechanism for future delights. This was an NTSC review from 2004 by JJ.

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The tactical element in games has come ahead in leaps and bounds. Kick-started by Final Fantasy Tactics, and helped along by Advance Wars, the true masters of the genre are a hitherto little-known Japanese developer called Nippon Ichi Software.

Following in the tradition of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (and Phantom Brave), La Pucelle: Tactics pitches the player within a world of grid-based battles – those expecting a challenge will not be disappointed, as the precursor to Disgaea is a worthy combatant indeed. Assuming the role of Prier, a young trainee, La Pucelle’s story captivates immediately (despite the somewhat dour presentation). Prier’s aim is to become a Maiden of the Light (the controlling church), and this will be achieved by overcoming demons and gaining new skills – notwithstanding the battle against her own personal demons.

There are some links with Disgaea (Prier was a secret character, in fact) but both releases can be thoroughly enjoyed as separate ventures; the danger currently facing the kingdom is a series of dark portals through which evil creatures have been unleashed. So, your ‘apprenticeship’ will be fairly hectic as new skills and tactics are introduced via steady ritual. The strength of the story is key to your motivation in La Pucelle: Tactics – as battles do become lengthy and formidable. Character interludes and revelations sit well within the scope of action, however the presentation isn’t all that it could’ve been (and perhaps would’ve looked more at home on the GBA or a 16-bit format). Nevertheless, it is an enchanting tale, and confirms that lengthy cut sequences are not always required when the story is so convincing. And perhaps the primitive, hand-drawn graphics – together with some accomplished voice acting – prove slightly refreshing in this all-too-predictable era of videogaming.

If the idea of constant levelling up and gaining experience points is not what you want from a game then La Pucelle is certainly not for you: this is heavy-duty statistical analysis and item-juggling, and probably explains its popularity with disenfranchised RPG players who are suffering hunger pains of late. The game is split into chapters, and only when you have completed one ‘epic’ stage, can you move onto the next morsel of exposition. There is the option to return to previous battles (if you fancy levelling up some more), but with newfound skills to exploit, it can become a little tiresome. The battles themselves are based on a grid structure, where everyone takes their turn – killing all your adversaries or throwing a necessary switch will typically expedite progress. However, demons will sometimes reappear and force a sudden re-evaluation of tactics; nothing ground-breaking to be sure, but the real paradigm is being able to purify enemies and harness their dark energies via a map – once this is achieved, a ‘miracle’ can occur.

Ultimately, the combat system provides greater strategic riches but it isn’t foolproof: you are able to move indefinitely (provided no action is taken) or otherwise control the flow of a dark portal (aka: movement of an opponent) if you’re conversant with the system. For all of its niceties, La Pucelle: Tactics is far from perfect. The interface is decidedly cumbersome and a nightmare to utilise, and there’s a great deal of additional information lurking beneath (details on enemies for instance). But it’s not freely available – you’ll have to go looking for these pearls.

Again, in keeping with other RTS titles like Front Mission 4, if you haven’t levelled up enough then eventually you’ll hit a wall: a battle from which you’ll have no hope of emerging victorious. And you’re certainly not helped by controls which are muddled and fiddly – in fact, it’s far from a conventional layout, and on several occasions you’ll find yourself cancelling moves rather than instigating them. This can make the pacing of battles seem extremely slow (and it does seem like an eternity has passed before your characters have levelled up). And, while the graphical style works, there is no denying that backdrops become repetitive and lack variety.

Gamestyle appreciates the grid-based limitations, but Future Tactics: The Uprising and Front Mission 4 managed so much more whilst shackled to the same formulae. Finally, even the story itself can be criticised for introducing too many side-quests (which might artificially elongate the playing time). La Pucelle: Tactics feels like an add-on pack which has been stretched too thin between the cracks of a cracking good yarn (see: Disgaea). While it’s a pleasant enough journey to take – before reaching the neighbourhood of Phantom Brave – unless you really love the work of Nippon Ichi (or indeed the genre), don’t expect to be revisiting this locale after you’re done.

Gamestyle Score: 6/10

Killzone

Gamestyle Archive Intro: if you ever wanted proof that GS stood by its approach and ethics then here’s the perfect example. Whilst the mainstream media were falling over themselves to praise Killzone the reality of the gaming experience was somewhat different. You can never win reviewing these games – you’ll have PR companies moaning you only scored it a 9 when it deserved a 10. We never bowed to such pressure and on the flipside these more realistic scores pushed down the game on ranking websites, much to the fanboys annoyance. Oh yes, a review such as this I’m sure in November 2004 did receive criticism from the Killzone-fans and it wasn’t the first, nor is it the last. I can recall another PlayStation exclusive in the shape of Gran Turismo prompting a similar backlash.

This review comes from Chris Pickering and overall proves that taking your time with the gaming experience and summing up the package stands the test of time. Too many sites tried to be first out of the blocks with a hashed review, not Gamestyle.

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So, it’s here – the Halo beater is finally here. The game that’s set to propel Sony’s PS2 to the next level (and urinate from a great height upon Bungie’s Halo series). The game that truly defines the FPS genre and takes games, and gamers, to that dizzying new level we’d never thought possible. Why, even Edge harped on about Killzone’s immense potential – so how could it be any different?

Well, it is. It’s quite difficult to calculate just how many superlatives had been whipped up prior to the game’s release; proclaiming Killzone to be ‘heir apparent’ to the FPS throne (well, at least on consoles). And, let’s be honest, many of those utterances would’ve been made after witnessing early clips of the in-game action. However, drawing a line in the sand, we here at Gamestyle expect a little more substance to accompany our gaming hype. It all starts reasonably enough: an attractive introductory sequence clearly shows you how the game will play out.

Killzone is yet another homage to the ‘bloody war’ scenario (somewhat akin to the Medal Of Honor series, but set in the ‘near-future’ rather than the past). The Helghast – the masked enemies you’ll have seen all too often in the previews – are the baddies of the piece. They wish to take over, and obliterate anyone who isn’t part of their super-race. As is usual for this type of action-FPS, the storyline isn’t particularly interesting – but it does at least get you mildly intrigued for what is to come. Things take a slight turn for the worse when the game ‘proper’ actually begins. Unfortunately, playing on the normal difficulty or below, the enemy displays some mightily-unimpressive AI. On these lower settings, it’s something of a throwback to simpler times – when bitmapped sprites proceeded to run full-pelt towards you without a second thought to their existence on the spectral plane. However, to Guerrilla’s credit, if you wish to take on the game at its most difficult, enemy intelligence does ramp up; foes often come at you in a semi-realistic manner (even to the point of overwhelming you with some impressive routines). Of course, at the end of the day, it’s ‘artificially’ hard for the simple fact that it wants you to lose.

Killzone’s enemies (or should that be clones?) become something of a detriment to the title overall. After the first hour or so of play, you’ll be screaming out for a little variety as far your opponents are concerned. Your screams go mercilessly unanswered, of course, as wave upon wave of identikit soldiers come tearing towards you. Don’t get us wrong, Gamestyle is partial to the Guerrilla style – but the FPS fashion stakes could’ve been upped considerably with a dash of spice on the playing-field. Even worse ‘fashions’ are yet to come, however, with the design of the levels. After witnessing and playing through some of the most exhilarating and incredibly-vast levels in Halo 2, there’s nothing but disappointment laying in Killzone’s wake.

Half-Life 2 showed us that levels need not be overly-simplified and obvious to stave off frustration; but here, there’s very little sense of actually being able to shape your own destiny – and more of a feeling that you’re being forced against your will through channels of hardness. Matters aren’t helped one tiny bit by the aesthetic design; these are some of the most drab and lifeless stages that Gamestyle has ever visited. The endless collage of browns and murky greys are quite depressing in fact, almost to the point of despair. Okay, so it does support the ‘warzone’ motif quite well – but there’s no excuse for inactivity outside of immediate battles. Guerrilla needs to remind players that the rest of their world is actually alive.

Despite the overly critical tone we’ve taken with Killzone, it’s not a game that can’t yield the occasional highpoint. When we say highpoint, we don’t mean to imply that it reaches the heights of multiplayer Halo 2 (although Killzone is fully playable online) – perhaps ‘highpoint of relief’ is the better expression. Relief that arrives in the aftermath of a bad purchase; knowledge and the implicit hope that someday Guerrilla will rise above the ruins of a dismal and overhyped package.

In the meantime, media interest which at first raised the game up to unreachable levels looks almost certain to implode – killing off Killzone in the process. The potential for Guerrilla to develop a truly impressive FPS title on the PS2 is obviously there, but it’s a learning curve that players won’t be scaling anytime soon. The PS2’s answer to Halo? Don’t make us laugh.

Gamestyle Score: 5/10