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

Shadow of the Colossus

Gamestyle Archive Intro: a game that has grown over the years in stature. That’s Ico and the follow up which Usman reviews here with much praise. I’ll have to return to Colossus, after Ico I was expecting something else; such was the impact of the original. This review dates from late 2005 being an import version.

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Everyone remembers the pre-release hype surrounding the PS2 all those years ago, with buzzwords like ‘Emotion Engine’ ringing somewhat hollow for the first generation of games – well, all except for one: Ico. Its setting, graphical style and atmosphere made it more akin to a work of art than a game. In fact, it was one of those titles where Gamestyle would just stop playing to zoom out the camera and let out a long sigh (a reaction not dissimilar to gazing upon the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo or Da Vinci’s The Last Supper).

Shadow of the Colossus is no less breathtaking; if anything, it’s more so. Imagine taking your PS2 controller to the National Gallery and plugging it into any painting – because each scene and location is like a masterpiece come to life, thanks in no small part to the wonderful animation of your horse and the living architecture of temples, ruins and fortresses. And we haven’t even touched upon the Colossi – true giants that inhabit this landscape. Indeed, their appearance makes Shadow of the Colossus one of the most technically astounding games of this generation. It’s hard to describe the impact they have when you first lay eyes upon them; because it’s not just their overwhelming size, it’s their presence. So much so that when you carry out the main premise of the game (ie, to seek out and destroy these Colossi), each one feels like an epic conquest.

First you’ll stand in awe, just observing them in bewilderment, before realising that these creatures are coming towards you – sensing you’re a threat and driven to eliminate you before you do the same to them. It’s such an overpowering joy being so small, having to evade something so big and seemingly invincible, needing to hunt for their weaknesses; their Achilles heel. The strange thing is you’ll never feel like killing a Colossus out of desire, only out of compulsion (because you need to in order to progress). They come across as a greatly-endangered species, and each time one is taken down it feels like a sin. (And a little bit of Gamestyle’s heart crumbled with every creature’s defeat.) But therein lies Shadow’s strength. It’s essentially a game about riding though barren lands on horseback while fighting enormous bosses – that’s all, and there’s no denying that.

However, it achieves this in such an entrancing and delightful manner that it feels like more; a feeling that Gamestyle has yet to experience in any other game. In fact, Shadow of the Colossus breaks the mould, and calling it a ‘game’ feels like an insult. In fact, for the very first time, the ‘Emotion Engine’ could be justified – because that’s what makes Shadow special, its transparent yet subtle impact upon your senses. For instance, the soundtrack only plays in stereo, but it is so beautiful and captivating that it doesn’t need a surround mode.

The visual beauty, as has already been suggested, is a sight to behold even when viewed through a composite lens – and is actually quite a feat considering the ageing PS2 hardware. Further, in spite of the fact that it features a complimentary widescreen and progressive scan mode (in the NTSC version), Shadow of the Colossus’ normal display output manages to mock the whole hoo-ha about high definition gaming being essential for taking things to the next level, such is the subtle artistry.

For ten magical hours (which is roughly how long the game – er, ‘transformation’ – will last), it is an eye-opener as to what can be achieved with the interactive medium (well, apart from ultra-sharp resolutions of the same old thing). It manages to enlarge its scope from being something which entertains on a functional level to becoming something that emits enchantment and appreciation on a purely ’emotional’ level. Welcome to the next real dimension of the gaming world; welcome to Shadow of the Colossus.

Gamestyle Score: 9/10

Top Spin

Gamestyle Archive Intro: the joys of tennis were for all, during a brief span of a couple of years on the PS2 and Xbox. Sega of course had their own excellent series as Gopinath explains in this review dating from September 2005.

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Can a game perceived as a Virtua Tennis rip-off on Xbox still do the business on Sony’s machine more than a year after the original was released? Gamestyle takes to the courts. Top Spin plays very similarly to Virtua Tennis, the least you’d expect from a tennis game these days.

The serves are played using the usual power bar – pressing one button to start the bar going and another to play the serve. You also have the choice of different strokes, backhands, forehands and lobs, and both serves and normal shots are complemented by a risk shot. Pressing the R1 button just before you take your shot or serve activates the risk mode, and you have to aim for the centre of a moving meter. Hit the middle and you’re rewarded with a devastating serve or shot – and the further from the middle you hit, the worse the serve/shot gets (with you sometimes hitting it straight out). The better you’re playing in the match, the slower the meter moves, so when you’re playing with confidence you’re more likely to gamble and win. It’s a nice touch to the standard formula but because there’s always the chance of you horribly messing up a shot, it’s unlikely that you’ll risk using the option often.

Away from the actual tennis, Top Spin has several modes of play, although most of them are standard Virtua Tennis fare. There are the usual exhibition and tournament modes, which can be customised to a large extent (so you can play however you want – including the splendid four-player option). The game’s depth is provided by career mode – another Virtua Tennis throwback – where you can create a player and compete in different tournaments around the world, improve your player’s abilities and earn some cash. Your player can be customised to a large degree, so you can create a very good representation of yourself if you have a photo or mirror nearby; an excellent addition to the PS2 version is EyeToy compatibility, so you can map your actual face onto the avatar. The customisation even goes as far as allowing you to choose which hand your player hits with, your style of play (power, precision etc.) or whether you prefer a one- or two-handed backhand.

At the start of the career mode, you have several options: you can choose to train with different coaches to improve various stats already bolstered by the mini-games (unfortunately, the developers didn’t study Virtua Tennis enough, as the mini-games aren’t in the same league – although they are entertaining the first few times); you can also play in several tournaments (which are limited at the beginning) and the better you do the more tournaments you can enter. To stand a chance, however, you have to spend quite a bit of time playing the training games to improve your player’s stats. Lastly, you can also try and bag yourself a sponsor (including real companies like Reebok and Adidas) who will provide you with cash (to pay for those expensive coaches) as well as fame and some nifty licensed equipment. Virtua Tennis… erm, Top Spin features a good variety of stadiums to play in – and includes all of the expected playing surfaces (which range from large courts like Wimbledon down to local courts next to your car parks).

Top Spin was the first Xbox tennis game to feature online play, and although it is very similar on the PS2 version, it lacks the great support of an online environment like Live! (however, this isn’t the developers’ fault). Since online PS2 tennis games are few and far between, this feature could well prove to be a great selling point for Top Spin, and fortunately it is implemented well; you can choose to look for a particular game or you can just join wherever someone’s free. Sony’s ageing hardware has taken its toll on Top Spin, leaving this conversion with decent graphics but not much else. A lot of the court textures look flat and the players are slightly angular (although it doesn’t detract from their life-like animation and appearance). Finally, the light sources don’t always correspond to the nice-looking shadows they cast.

The sounds are perfectly acceptable, with all of the usual grunts and groans, and a point of note is that the judge sounds very similar to the one featured in the Megadrive’s Pete Sampras ’96 (or perhaps we’re having flashbacks). The biggest problems with Top Spin are the incredibly bad loading times. It takes far too long to load up a match, considering how average the presentation is, and the transitions between menus are tedious. The developers have done a decent job, but not much more than establishing this as a good Virtua Tennis rip-off (with added online play and longer loading times). The best feature and probably the biggest selling point of Top Spin (at least over Virtua Tennis) is the online mode, so unless you plan on taking this online, grab a copy of the other title – the one which Gamestyle managed to mention eight times in the course of this flattering review.

Gamestyle Score: 7/10

The Warriors

Gamestyle Archive intro: Andy takes us back to the video game of the classic film the Warriors. I know the film, but never played the game so maybe an overdue return myself? I do recall Manhunt though and those folks at Rockstar were never afraid of pushing boundaries.

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It’s true. Gamestyle misses the beat ’em up – the halcyon days of Final Fight, Streets of Rage and Double Dragon. The genre was unable to make the transition to three dimensions without being marred by technical issues, and the few attempts to revive it have been badly received – both critically and commercially.

How odd, then, that one of today’s most influential publishers and developers, Rockstar (normally renowned for having their fingers on the pulse of gaming culture), have attempted to resurrect this near-dead genre. Even more curious is the fact that Rockstar’s latest effort is saddled to a film licence (think Catwoman or Bad Boys II). Oh dear. Can Rockstar breathe new life into two dead horses? Those who have seen the film (the viewing of which is by no means necessary to enjoy this title) will be impressed with the translation provided: given its fairly meagre 90-minute running time, the events of the film have had to be fleshed out to provide enough substance for a game and it’s here that Rockstar have excelled.

The developers have woven a compelling backstory which charts the rise of The Warriors through New York’s gang hierarchy, and which takes place three months prior to the events of the film. In addition, a number of ‘flashback’ missions are unlockable – which allows you to trace the very origins of the gang. This new material makes up for nearly half of the available missions, with the events of the film proper reserved for the last third of the game. Perhaps the best thing about The Warriors though is that Rockstar have succeeded in capturing the spirit of the celluloid original, perhaps more so than any previous film licence. The film’s opening intro is matched almost shot-for-shot in-game: the characters look just like their on-screen counterparts (even if their mouths do look like duck bills) and sound even better, thanks to nearly all of the film’s original cast reprising their roles.

The film’s unnerving score is also used to great effect, and the radio stations that provide commentary throughout can be listened to in The Warriors’ hideout (for example, to hear which ‘boppers’ – or gangs – are causing havoc). New York itself is almost as important stylistically as The Warriors. The city is portrayed as being dark and brooding: litter fills the streets, trains and buildings are daubed with graffiti, undesirable characters loiter throughout the levels; shops, car stereos and people’s wallets are all there for the taking, and passers-by will run for the police (or the local gang) when they see you misbehaving – but fear not as the streets offer plenty of secluded areas to hide until the heat dies down. However, regardless of how good the story and settings are, all good beat ’em ups need a decent control scheme. The Warriors doesn’t disappoint: the controls are deceptively simple, with only light and strong attacks and a grapple (although you can string together combos for added devastation and there’s a tutorial provided). Even better is that attacks are context-sensitive, so instead of executing a throw for example, you can smash your opponent’s face into a wall if you are close enough. It’s also possible to perform tag-team attacks with your fellow Warriors, as well as wield a variety of weapons – no guns though, although you might come across a knife (not to mention the assorted bricks, bottles and pieces of wood that are strewn about levels).

Sadly, there aren’t any whole roast chickens or hamburgers hidden in oil drums, but buying ‘flash’ can restore your health. Other Warriors will accompany you throughout your journey and they can be issued with commands – such as attack everyone nearby, or watch your back. Fortunately, their AI is pretty good and they can look after themselves in a fight (or handily destroy everything, should the mood arise). Of course, this being a Rockstar title, certain compulsory traits have exchanged hands: courtesy of Manhunt is the ability to hide in the shadows and use lures such as bottles and bricks to distract sentries (executing a particularly brutal attack induces a slow-motion close-up).

Courtesy of San Andreas, there’s a gym in The Warriors’ hideout – the use of which brings small stat bonuses – and completing the bonus missions scattered throughout the game earns you extra power-ups and items. It’s not all good news though. Inevitably, even with all of the attacks available, the action can become repetitive by the latter stages of the game, and the camera often struggles to keep up with the action (although it’s fully-adjustable by the player). And the two-player mode isn’t all that it could’ve been: the screen splits if you move away from each other and whilst this is a good idea, the execution is flawed (with the split being too small and the screens failing to merge quickly enough when players team up again). Still, at least the option is provided.

Despite these flaws, The Warriors is a joy to play. Yes, it’s incredibly brutal and vicious, but then what did you expect from a beat ’em up – especially one from Rockstar, who have never shied away from copious amounts of violence in their games? It might not be the deepest experience, but for a shot of pure action, you can’t go wrong. And yes, apparently Rockstar can revive two fallen genres with an almighty kiss of life and in doing so prove once again that they have the Midas touch. (Oh, and be sure to finish the game for an extra-special scrolling treat!)

Gamestyle Score: 8/10

Resident Evil Outbreak File #2

Gamestyle Archive Intro: once the online gates were opened titles appeared eager to take advantage of this new avenue. Ultimately these rookies were trial and error with some interesting results including this Resident Evil adventure. The review dates from August 2005 and from Jason.

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While Resident Evil Outbreak: File #2 represents the second instalment in the series, for PAL gamers it is the first opportunity to go online. The first European release was stripped of its online functions, and this unquestionably detracted from its appeal – thankfully, Capcom have put things right with the sequel and included online compatibility that’s not dissimilar to its Monster Hunter experience; of course this means navigating menus and options before going online, but given the alternative, this is something that Gamestyle can live with.

Once again you find yourself in Raccoon City, desperately trying to escape the havok caused by the T-virus outbreak. The attraction of this breakaway series is that the story is demoted in favour of various scenarios that you must overcome to escape the city limits. For instance, you may choose to venture into the Raccoon City Zoo (in the hope of being rescued by helicopter or using the underground transport network). Certainly, the city environs have been used to good effect, and Capcom have pieced together an imaginative choice of locations to terrorise fans of the series. The online experience doesn’t deviate too much from the successful recipe created by SEGA’s Phantasy Star Online: teamwork, communication and item management are the key to good gameplay. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line the formula has been diluted and served up with remarkable ineffectiveness. Whilst zombies are typically slow-moving and predictable, the pace has been livened up with some more unusual creatures. However, there is little character exposition or biographical information provided for the eight characters on offer: each has their own unique talent (strong melee, lock-picking etc.) and each carries their own signature item (which may or may not prove useful).

It is disappointing that Capcom have failed to introduce any new characters to Resident Evil Outbreak: File #2, as those featured were all in the first game. They have also tried to invigorate the narrative by placing files and documents around each area – but these lack the intimacy of the transcripts found in Doom 3, for example, and can easily be ignored. The lack of voice communication is a shame, given that the online portion relies heavily on teamwork and communication. At times the action can erupt quickly, and the last thing that any player wants to do is type messages (using a USB keyboard or the cumbersome virtual keyboard). Capcom have utilised the right analogue stick to allow helpful commands – such as ‘follow me’ or ‘help’ – to be uttered instantly; it’s a patchwork solution to a problem easily remedied by the SOCOM headset (as supported by other games). Resident Evil just wouldn’t be the same without the infuriating control system, and File #2 is just as inflexible as those that have come before: imagine the aforementioned difficulties of communication, but merged with one of the most despised control systems of modern times – it’s far from an ideal combination, and with noticeable load times and lag during expeditions, Resident Evil Outbreak: File #2 is not the slick and intuitive experience Gamestyle had hoped for.

Another major fault with the series is fixed camera angles: these online environments are expansive and contain dangers that often linger off screen until you stumble straight into their welcoming arms. Many camera angles are employed simply to show off the environment and hardly of benefit to players. Games such as PSO were spread across sizeable levels, but used natural or artificial barriers to allow you to follow, assist and defend teammates with ease; this benefit is lost as teams of four can run off in all directions – only coming together when the game calls for teamwork. And it’s these moments when you have to push an obstacle or open a door (in unison) that the only glimmer of satisfaction appears. There are some good ideas within the game, such as being able to swim during certain stages, but these asides are never exploited – they simply exist to get the player to the next point, and for no other reason.

The ‘virus infection’ meter shows how badly you are infected, and if the virus begins to spread the inevitable occurs. It’s a nice touch that is complimented by the on-screen quirks of your character (who slowly begins to lose pace before sinking to the ground). Resident Evil Outbreak: File #2 often plays and feels like a solo adventure, albeit with a few mates tacked on for laughs. This is its biggest drawback as the game has been touted as an online ‘multiplayer’ experience – but it just doesn’t deliver. In truth, Resident Evil was always single-player-focused, and somehow the atmosphere was more intriguing and unsettling because of it. Online you’re either left to guide rookies or follow experienced pros going through the level for the twenty-fifth time. Capcom have tried to inject some community feeling by organising special events where unique items can be collected – but all too often this just encourages greed and self-interest, particularly as the game is loaded with unique items for each scenario (and some specific to each character, although many verge on the ridiculous).

In summation, the game can only be seen as a disappointment for those expecting an online extravaganza (or for series veterans looking for something new). Gamestyle could argue that an online multiplayer Resident Evil game should never work – but File #2 suggests that with a solid design and grasp of what makes online games so enjoyable, the series could well thrive in the next online generation. However, if Capcom persists with the same cumbersome control system and predictable dynamics, then Resident Evil will remain true to form – best enjoyed on your own, and offline.

Gamestyle Score: 5/10

Ace Combat: Squadron Leader

Gamestyle Archive Intro:  here’s a rarity where Richard tackles a PlayStation 2 title. Richard or Mr Ten as I like to think of him now was most at home on a Nintendo console or later on the Xbox. He loved to give out a ten score particularly for the Gamecube and rattled up quite a few perfect reviews! 

This review dates from February 2005 and the game was released as Ace Combat: Squadron Leader in Europe but was known as Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War in other territories.

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Ace Combat: Squadron Leader (or Ace Combat 5 as we’ll refer to it) is the latest instalment in the long-standing Ace Combat series which began life as a launch title for the original Playstation – then entitled Air Combat – and has since become the most popular flight simulator series on console.

Although Ace Combat 5 doesn’t take huge strides to advance the series, it most certainly will not disappoint fans. Like Ace Combat 4, there is a story-driven narrative that follows the single-player campaign. At the beginning it is a time of peace, however, after a short skirmish between fighters, two neighbouring countries are thrown into war. Throughout the campaign you will move up in rank and take control of more pilots and their fighters (you will even gain insight into the politics behind the war). Unlike Ace Combat 4, the storyline here is intertwined with the missions, and these vary greatly throughout the game. Some will be simple air-to-air missions, while others will involve jamming the aircraft that hide your targets.

Some airborne missions even require you to weave between radar coverage areas and lead a friendly plane to safety. Air-to-surface missions may include land and sea battles against a variety of targets (such as ships, tanks, and personnel carriers). However, most of the missions include a mix of air and land targets: an example of this would be a C130 deploying tanks by parachute, requiring you to fend off their escorts while providing close air support to friendly ground troops. The variety of missions keeps things fresh from beginning to end. Upon beginning the game, you will be assigned a certain fighter plane. Throughout the missions you will acquire credits which will unlock planes – over fifty licensed planes are available, including many different loadouts of special weapons. Special weapons, such as advanced air-to-air missiles for taking down long-range fighters or cluster bombs for multiple ground targets, are used periodically to add a layer of strategy to the game.

One aspect of Ace Combat 5 that surpasses its predecessor is the graphics. The fighter planes are all photorealistically-modelled, and details such as missile contrails, jet exhaust, and auto cannon-tracers add much to the visual experience. The skies and clouds have received a small makeover from the previous game and sun flares are as beautiful and blinding as ever; you will notice this the first time an enemy fighter uses the sun to evade you. Your plane’s lighting effects are all done in realtime, based on the positioning of the sun. Since many of the missions take place over the ocean, much attention has been paid to how the water looks – light reflects off the ocean and other bodies of water as well.

Another characteristic of the Ace Combat series that sets it apart from other flight games is the controls. Although you can choose a more simplistic control scheme, the default settings are the closest yet to how a plane is really piloted – pushing to the left or right will only make your plane roll, to turn you will need to use this in combination with your pitch controls. Lateral motion is possible with the yaw controls, but with the left and right shoulder buttons it is severely limited, and used mostly for small corrections, mid-air refuelling, and zeroing in for auto-cannon kills. The map button doubles as your radar button, and uses analogue sensitivity to show more of the area the harder you press (you can also issue commands to your wingmen using the directional pad).

The controls, while numerous, are very well laid-out and afford complete control over your aircraft. The only issue that keeps this game from greatness is the lack of multiplayer gameplay.  Ace Combat 4 continued the series’ staple of split-screen versus play; at the very least, Ace Combat 5 should have taken advantage of current technology to provide online play – but instead there is neither. Namco has included an arcade mode (featuring wave upon wave of planes) that should placate those who have finished the single-player campaign. Ace Combat: Squadron Leader is a worthy successor to the Ace Combat series in almost every respect. Fans will love this game and many more may succumb to its charm. The one major flaw is its lack of multiplayer options, however, if you are a flight game fan, there can be no doubting the veracity of the Ace Combat motto: “Nothing else comes close.”

Gamestyle Score:  8/10

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Gamestyle Archive Intro: Gopinath takes on the thankless gig of reviewing Charlie and the Chocolate factory in 2005.

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A game based on the enigmatic, zany and (when played by Mr Depp) dark Willy Wonka could have been great, but developers High Voltage have chosen to focus instead on Charlie for this videogame cash-in, unlike the film. Have they created a delicious gaming morsel, possibly worthy of the great Willy’s factory, or have we instead ended up with another film cash-in more at home on Electronic Arts’ factory line?

The first thing that should be made clear is that this game, plot wise, has nothing to do with Tim Burton’s film. There’s no eccentric Johnny Depp Willy Wonka and no Oompa Loompa songs about mischievous children – instead, the plot revolves around Charlie. The game begins with you chasing a ten dollar note (yes, dollar; unfortunately the game fails to keep to the book’s original British setting). This then eventually leads to Charlie winning one of the famed Golden Tickets – an invitation to tour Willy Wonka’s famous Chocolate Factory. The game changes Charlie’s role in the plot completely: unlike in the book, once one of the greedy children have performed their naughty deeds and are reaping their just desserts (intended pun), the player, as Charlie, is then expected to try and rescue them or clean up the mess they leave behind, aided by a band of Oompa Loompas. Therefore, the game’s levels consist of having to clean up the machinery that sucks Augustus Gloop up the chocolate river, or stopping Veruca Salt from being incinerated. There are different types of Oompa Loompas, each conveniently fitting the role required for each of the tasks set before you.

The player has to choose when they should use a ‘gatherer’ Oompa Loompa or a ‘welder’ Oompa Loompa, etc. The correct selection of Oompa Loompa determines the success or failure of the task. Far from being a complaint about the game not following the original plot, the above comments should instead be taken as praise for the developers’ initiative to explore a different side of the license; however, what High Voltage have failed to do is to take an interesting concept then apply it in an interesting way. Each level requires the player to follow a sequence of tasks to achieve an end goal, and then repeat those tasks several times to finish the level. Having to do the sequence twice is boring and repetitive: the player often has to do them four times.

The controls also don’t help: you’ll often find yourself pressing buttons several times in frustration, trying to get an Oompa Loompa to do your bidding, while he just stands there shrugging his shoulders. Once you’ve finally got your Oompa Loompa to carry out your orders, your patience is then tested again as you have to watch them trying to navigate their way around (but most often into) the scenery. Unfortunately you can’t tell them exactly how to get to their destination, you just have to sit back and hope they work it out for themselves. The poor controls, including the feeling of unresponsiveness, flow over into the platform sections too: you may end up button bashing in the hope that, for instance, Charlie will eventually understand that he’s supposed to be jumping now.

The camera is also poorly implemented and moves around a lot, then gets stuck behind scenery. The plot is presented by stylish cartoon movies that narrate the story very well and in an interesting way; these are definitely one of the few plus points of the game. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the in-game graphics, as they don’t seem inspired at all by either the distinctive visuals of the film, or the imaginative descriptions of the book. Instead of a busy and vibrant factory, you are often presented with levels that are devoid of detail, and one of the game’s main stars, the sweets themselves, only come in two generic types – bars of chocolate or power dots. Another of the game’s few highlights are the music and sound.

Considering the general disappointed tone of the review so far, it may be a surprise to find that the entire cast (minus Johnny Depp) is included in the game’s voiceovers, and they do a very good job of bringing their characters to life. The addition of some Oompa Loompa music would have done wonders for the game, so it’s a shame that they’re completely missing. Unfortunately, despite the great effort that seems to have been put in the sound department, the rest of the game is very poor. The game play is too repetitive and a combination of poor controls and poor visuals make it frustrating to complete the levels.

It’s hard to imagine many people, whatever their ages, having the supreme patience to actually sit through more than a few hours of this game. If you really do have to buy this game, the Xbox version would be the console version to go for (the PC version was made by a different developer and is quite different to the console versions), as it features Dolby Digital sound and support for high resolution video. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is potentially a great licence for a game, but unfortunately High Voltage have failed to live up to that potential.

Gamestyle Score: 3/10

God of War

Gamestyle Archive Intro: Usman takes us through the first release in what would become a classic franchise for the PlayStation 2. Hugely popular at the time, God of War went down exceptionally well at Gamestyle Towers receiving a 9, which is about as good as it gets. This review dates from the summer of 2005.

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Breasts. Yes, breasts. That dubious BMX release, The Getaway, The Guy Game; they’ve all used bare boobies to catch the attention of the male-dominated gaming market. They were also all crap. They used female chests in the same way a game can use a movie license, and we all know where that can lead.

God of War has bare breasts on a small number of occasions; hell, one time you even get a mini game where you get rewarded if you pleasure two women at once! Yet God of War has broken away from the nudity curse; it is an epic from start to finish and, aside from a few frustrating moments, it’s a ‘pleasure’ all the way through. The game takes its foundation on Greek mythology, and it carries this off surprisingly well to provide an atmosphere and world that’s both faithful to its setting and yet not lacking in flair or imagination.

You play a warrior of the Gods, Kratos, whose story in the game is revealed piece by piece in an enticing manner which doesn’t get in the way of the action, yet holds the interest of the player. His journey takes you across a seamless set of locations which mesh together beautifully. There is no noticeable loading which is a ‘godsend’ in this day and age and, bar the boat at the start, the game feels like one huge level. It can be compared to Devil May Cry in gameplay terms due to the vantage point of the combat and the combos that can be racked up; but God of War is a lot more close-up and ultimately brutal; you can approach your enemies, grab them and rip them in half by tearing their torsos apart. In fact when you see fear-stricken humans running about, cold old Kratos can stab them several times while holding them up to gain extra life.

The game reeks “oomph” when you pull off these execution moves and, with the more difficult enemies and bosses, QTE button prompts will mean very visually entertaining ends to the foes you fight. While you begin the game with few moves, more become available, as well as a limited range of magic by collecting red orbs (sound familiar, Dante?). While there is no huge range of weapons (just the two), you always get your upgrades just when you need them. Regardless, by no means will you spend time in the menu upgrading or learning the moves; the game, aside from a few puzzle sections, is non stop nosebleed action. You’ll be using the same moves a lot and fighting the same enemies, but it does not become repetitive. So let’s see: not many weapons, not much variety, and it’s not very long either (the longest it will take you is 10 hours). Oh, and there are one or two moments which will have you tearing your hair out with frustration. And yet, it is probably the most memorable game that Gamestyle played this year. Why? It’s how God of War is presented and the atmosphere it poses that makes this game so much fun… and a jaw dropper to boot.

The score could easily be mistaken for one of a Hollywood epic and the game itself looks amazing on the ageing PS2; if you get hold of the import version, and you have the appropriate display means, you can even play the game in progressive scan. Yet, aside from that, you have widescreen and surround sound options to pay homage to the grandeur of God of War. The scale of the locations is breathtaking. At one time you’ll be walking down the path of a burning Athens, and you’ll see such a huge battle taking place in the background that you’ll probably stop to gawp at it. And the first time you find out where “Panadora’s temple” is will actually have you smiling. The cut scenes follow the same polished standard and are a joy to watch, but all in all God of War is like a tourist attraction simulator with a great action game thrown in. It’s definitely the former that makes the latter so great. Despite that, there will be times when you’re fighting a score of enemies at once and you’ll rack up a 200-hit combo without taking a hit; you’ll have a huge grin across your face, and if you’re enjoying the game too much you may even throw the controller down and scream in a brutish manly way (not that Gamestyle did of course).

The game remains smooth throughout. There was one time where Gamestyle hit some slowdown, but that was because there was an unprecedented amount of enemies on screen and it didn’t happen again. There were also a few bugs when Gamestyle could hit enemies through walls, but this proved to be an advantage and not something irritating as such. Gamestyle suggests playing the game on Spartan (hard) mode, as normal seems a tad too easy and the game is a lot more fun when it’s challenging – besides, you’ll want to savour every moment and every battle. There’ll be extras when the game is over, which provide another hour or two of entertainment. It’s unlikely that Gamestyle will be returning to play God of War anytime soon, but the memory of it will always stay in our hearts. It is by no means a perfect game, but it is one that simply must be played by every PS2 owner. It’s like that blockbuster movie that you know won’t be too deep or make you think, but nevertheless will be an essential experience to go and see it. Don’t miss out on this at any cost. If you need a bit more convincing, just remember: you get to have a threesome.

Gamestyle Score: 9/10

killer7

Gamestyle Archive Intro: Gareth takes us back over this Gamecube classic from Capcom, which is already in the archive with the GC version. This review dates from July 2005, over 10 years ago – how times flies!

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Not so long ago, Capcom announced five games that they said would bring back gaming innovation to the industry. First up was the rhythm-action styled shooter PN.03, and then came the sublime slice of description-defying slow-motion brilliance that was Viewtiful Joe. These two gems were followed by, what many people feel to be, the best game of the generation – Resident Evil 4. Somewhere along the way ‘Phoenix’ sadly bit the dust, and now after months of rumours and smoke and mirror shows we have the last instalment… killer7.

killer7 is set in the year 2003. A terrorist group know as the Heaven Smiles are causing death and destruction across the globe using strange demonic laughing bombs. The only solution to combat them is Harman Smith and his seven highly skilled assassin personalities. It is fair to say that the plot starts out obscure and confusing, gradually feeding you information about both the killer7 group and the treachery that is going on in the governments of the world. It is only during later sections of the game that things begin to tie up a little more coherently.

The first thing that strikes you about killer7 is the game’s neo-noir tinged anime style; truly there has never been a title presented with such gloriously detached visuals. To begin with it can be hard to feel part of the playing experience as the game keeps you at arm’s length with the obscure visuals, meaning many gamers will see nothing to relate the on screen experience to. After a while the killer7 ethos begins to wind its way into the subconscious, and once you have become accustomed to it, you realise there is actually an interesting game underneath it all. Separating the visual aspect of the game from the gameplay is impossible. Capcom’s title turns what we perceive a game to be on its head.

killer7 is as much about what you are taking in visually and sonically as it is about what you are doing. Controls are simple: press one button to move forward along a pre-determined path and another to turn 180 degrees. That’s essentially it. At junctions you can choose which route to take by moving the analogue stick (something that can be awkward). Combat involves holding R1 to move into a first person perspective then pressing L1 to scan for enemies; once discovered, they can be shot at. It works like an on-rails light gun game, but with a controller, and after a while will become second nature to you.

More so than most titles, killer7 is a game you have to become accustomed to – mainly due to it being rather obscure. It requires players to re-evaluate how they use their gaming skills and many may become frustrated early on. Really you need to make it through the first mission before you will know if you like the game or not, and for a lot of people that may require too much effort. Once the first mission is out the way you should find that thinking in the ‘killer7 way’ is as instinctive as double jumping or duel wielding. Helping players along is a very useful (if spoiling) map that shows the location of objects, save rooms and where each member of the killer7 will be needed to use their unique abilities in order to proceed. It does take some of the adventure aspect away from the title, having everything pretty much laid out for you, but there is so much for your overwhelmed senses to take in that most will be glad of it.

Each level varies nicely in terms of location and enemy type so there is always something new to see and explore. Your personalities can also be levelled up with the blood taken from fallen Heaven Smiles, giving them new skills along with the usual health and power upgrades. Couple this with the excellent cut scenes that appear during and between levels and you may find you just have to know what happens next. The further you go into the stylish-yet-twisted world, the more interesting it gets and the more accustomed to it you become. It is fair to say that killer7 has probably turned out pretty much exactly how the developers wanted it to. There are definitely no broken controls or gaping flaws outside of the player’s inability to gel with the subject matter or not being able to adapt their skills to it. It is hard to imagine any way the game could be changed to make it better; there simply has never been anything like this before. It is testament to the development team that it actually works when, for long periods of time, no one could quite work out how on earth there was going to be any actual ‘game’ in there.

With the PS2 version come a few technical problems however. The console shows its age at an ever increasing rate these days, so it was always going to struggle with a title initially designed for the Gamecube. The visuals have not really suffered at all but, no doubt as a result of this, there are long loading times. This would not be so bad but every new room or section you enter triggers a four second (at least) loading screen. As you will need to move back and forth a lot to change personalities and use objects this can become annoying. The PS2 version also suffers from bouts of slowdown during combat; this is both very noticeable and highly off-putting. Luckily it only seems to occur after a shot has been fired so at least it will not trouble your aiming when you are under pressure. The best thing we can say about it is that you get used to it and it does not detract from the experience too much.

Overall, Capcom has delivered another unique title that makes us think about gaming in a different way. No doubt hardly anyone will buy it (much like the other members of the ‘big five’) but that is their loss. killer7 represents an original and highly risky concept that could have gone horribly wrong; but due to the skill of the development team we have a highly innovative and visually visceral title that pushes both our senses and the boundaries of what we consider a game to be. We can only hope Capcom keep making such wonderfully unique titles long into the future. There is no denying that it takes some getting used to, but give killer7 a chance and you just may grow to love it. Chances are though, with reduced loadings times and no slow down you may love the Gamecube version more.

Gamestyle Score: 7/10

Altered Beast

Gamestyle Archive Intro:  the pain of Altered Beast still exists within. It marked a frustrating period as a Dreamcast and Sega supporter with periods of no releases or titles put together in quick fashion (often arcade ports) to fill such holes. Altered Beast was a painful infliction on PlayStation 2 owners who may have wondered what all the Sega fuss was? This release dates from February 2005.

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If Altered Beast is a blueprint of Sega’s newfound direction, then the next few years are going to be an uphill struggle. This release is indicative of so many Dreamcast titles – not the magical releases – but the games that lacked any conviction or spark and merely added a few more nails to the console’s coffin.  How could Gamestyle ever forget such efforts as Fighting Vipers 2, Charge ‘N’ Blast and OutTrigger (to name but a few)?

Thankfully we did, but Altered Beast has let loose those demons once again. The original Altered Beast is perhaps one of the most overrated releases in retrospect, as its legacy has built up over the years. Yet when you actually discuss the memorable and influential games of the Mega Drive era, it is rarely – if ever – mentioned. The gameplay in the original was extremely limited, and more often than not you just bypassed the incidental enemies to dash towards the next boss encounter (and many simply recall the game because it was given away free when you bought the machine). The Mega Drive version was simplistic, repetitive and shortlived – which begs the question: why the remake?

The modern take on proceedings is that you are a member of a special government unit, sent into a nameless town to investigate an outbreak. Yes, it’s more akin to a Resident Evil ‘remake’, but this version fails to share any of the mythology from Altered Beast. Instead of relying on shotguns or a traditional arsenal, these operatives control their own DNA sequence (courtesy of a specialist microchip). Yet their gory transformations are not limited to one type of monster; you can select from several which have unique abilities and killing moves. The first problem is there is no viable alternative to fighting except transforming (as in human form you are extremely vulnerable and unarmed). Whilst in monster mode it is important to kill, as you can receive health and sanity points that fill your health meters (the latter controls how long you can remain as a monster before changing back). So, predictably, levels are populated with various monsters that surround any survivors (cue lots of painful dicing and impaling of enemies).

Moving into a three-dimensional arena just highlights how bland this once-popular type of release has become – a decent fighting system can only compensate for so much, but there’s simply nothing new or entertaining about the battles offered in Altered Beast. And this is only the beginning of the game’s problems (incidentally, Sega of America decided not to release this title in its own territory). Gamestyle really is struggling to find any positive regard for Altered Beast – although it does have a 60Hz option, which in itself is confusing (given its profile). The camera needs constant adjusting, as it fails to keep up with characters or provide a satisfactory viewpoint when engaged in mass brawls. Further, the cut sequences have a grainy quality which is normally associated with Sega Saturn or early Playstation releases (and the transformation footage becomes irritating, kicking in every time you make the DNA change). These segments do try to inject variety by focusing on different parts of the body, but after a while even gore-hungry teenagers will tire of the interruptions.

Each level consists of a few rooms where progress is defined by a linear path. Conveniently-placed invisible walls will prevent anyone from dashing ahead (and thus hoping to avoid the minions beyond the next doorway). So progress is dictated by killing everything – which again just highlights the bland nature of combat. And things fails to improve as you delve deeper into the town (which consists of yet more rooms and more generic monsters). Despite the linearity, there are moments of confusion for the player as the next step (or action needed to move on) is seldom defined. For example, after killing the first boss – a giant rat – another action will be required, or else you must continue to fight the underlings as they appear from the catacombs. These lapses in design continually pop up, and with no help or training modes provided, it’s a dismal process of trial and error.

Visually, matters are hardly improved by muddy textures and sloppy graphics which fail to satisfy the player. Environmental detail is poor, and bereft of any incidental objects that might’ve at least provided variety. The voice-acting is dire – truly matching Resident Evil in at least one department – and the musical accompaniment barely enough. There are options to view details on monsters and their appearance, but the only option Gamestyle suggests is that you select ‘Quit’.

Gamestyle Score: 3/10