Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell

Gamestyle Archive Intro: Alex takes us back to the beginning of a great series which all started on a cold November evening in 2002. At the time it was a hugely impressive from a technical and visual standpoint.

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Third Echelon. Your secret, NSA-sponsored government agency employers – they won’t acknowledge you if you get caught, but when you’re silent and invisible you’re not supposed to even be seen, nevermind captured or injured.

You are Sam Fisher, and you’re crouched, back against the wall looking down a short alleyway, you’ve got 3 rounds left in your silenced pistol, and it’s pitch black. There’s not a light source around because you’ve shot them all out. This wouldn’t necessary be a problem to some, but in this case you’re supposed to be breaking into a police station and you can see a figure just at the end of the alleyway. You can see him because you’ve got your night vision equipped – it reduces everything to blurry monochrome, but without you might already be dead. You don’t know if the figure has already seen you – you don’t even know if he’s hostile, but he’s definately facing you, not moving. You need to get past him, and with only 20 feet between you edging closer still would alert him for sure – every step on the wooden planks makes a noise you’re positive he can hear.

Thankfully, you’re a deadly shot with the pistol, and you’re definately within range – two taps to the chest or one to the head and he’s down – but he might not be hostile. If he’s a civilian the agency will pull the plug and it’s game over, literally. If he’s not, and he fires first, it’s the same story. You edge forward another step, sights aimed right at the centre of his head. The planks beneath you creak, just a little, and he hears you – calls out blindly – and you instinctively pull the trigger. It’s a tense situation, but it’s only one of hundreds you’ll have to face throughout Splinter Cell.

There’s a Chinese proverb that, paraphrased, says that if you see a snake and don’t kill it there and then, you’ll regret it later. Well, Snake’s dead – Sam Fisher is the new king of stealth. Ubi Soft, in a single fell swoop, have single-handedly rewritten the whole third person genre. Splinter Cell not only features the most impressive state of the art graphics yet seen on Xbox (and how they’re going to get it running on a PS2 I’ve no idea) and some stunning, atmospheric sound effects and music, but quite probably the most thrilling gameplay seen for a few years. I’m hyperboling, of course, but it’s all deserved. From the very start to the final scene, Splinter Cell delivers everything it was hyped up to do.

Whether it’s simply running up pipes or infiltrating the CIA headquarters Sam Fisher is a brilliantly controlled hero – the left stick moves Sam and the right stick moves the camera freely, with the triggers used to fire. X brings up your gun (and moves the camera almost to a first person view) and the other buttons are used to activate items, crouch, and so on. It’s a slick interface, and it needs to be because you’ll be asked to perform in and around a large array of buildings and streets.

Each level offers a variety of ways to get through it – it’s up to you most of time whether you opt for the stealth approach or the gung-ho shooting style, and although there’s not the replayability there of the likes of Hitman 2 you’ll not have any issues with starting the game all over again once you’ve finished it. However, Splinter Cell is much better paced than Eidos’s classic – you’ll be forced to run blindly through unfamiliar territory from time to time – something that really gets the pulse racing, but there’ll be times when you’ll need to take your time to survey the surroundings, watch the patrols and make the most of your technology.

With the inspired inclusion of fibre-optic cables, lock pick, sticky cameras and microphones you’ll never be at a dead end – it just might require a little lateral thinking. Of course, this is all in addition to the amazing graphics. Running of the Unreal engine just wasn’t enough for Ubi Soft – it’s a highly customised version that features the very latest visual technology – there’s dynamic lighting and shadowing, fair enough, but Splinter Cell re-writes the textbook for what’s possible on Xbox – vertex shading, volumetric lighting, texture rendering, per-pixel shading and superb shadow mapping on and from every item in the game. In short – it looks stunning. Constantly.

With a well written story full of the Tom Clancy magic, professional voice acting and convincing environments, along with great controls, stunning visuals and fantastic sound, it’s hard to fault Splinter Cell – there’s even additional levels promised – the US version can download levels via Xbox Live next year but we’re also told future missions will appear on disk, hopefully via the Official Xbox Magazine. There are a few niggles, though, sadly. There’s clipping issues here and there, Sam’s arms in particular like to melt through walls, and sometimes Sam tends to float a little above the ground, especially on stairs, but they’re certainly nothing to panic about.

It’s also worth mentioning that the game is extremely hard – and it’s not for everyone – you’ve got to be meticulous with covering your tracks, for example. If you do choose to knock out or shoot someone you’ll have to hide the body, but hiding it in a dark room won’t help because the guards will switch lights on, so you’ll have to shoot the lights out too. Ammo is rare, though, and you can’t pick up enemy guns – this isn’t a shooter and you need to keep that in mind. But don’t let that put you off – it’s won numerous awards, cleaning up at E3 this year and the final version is universally acclaimed, and we have to agree. Not only is Splinter Cell is unmissable, it’s also the second game worth buying an Xbox for. Halo finally has a rival.

Gamestyle Score: 9/10

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

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

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

Katamari Damacy

Gamestyle Archive Intro: every now and again a game would slip through the grasp of the producers and marketeers that defied logic. In an era of blockbusters and tiresome adventures, rip-offs or repackaged ideas few things stood out, or even today stand the test of time. In Katamari Damacy we have a title that ticks all the boxes and is utterly bonkers yet brilliant, and original.

Remember the website Lik-Sang? A great resource for all things weird and wonderful. This review still contained the original links which used to make Gamestyle a little revenue to cover our costs. Ah, the innocent days of the internet and when the world was that little bit larger. An NTSC review by JJ from September 2004.

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Remember when gaming was meant to be fun? How many releases have you enjoyed recently? So many games and yet so very few that entertain or stimulate. Katamari Damacy is different – in fact it’s unique – and comes courtesy of Namco, a developer that has struggled to find any form of late.

The story of Katamari Damacy is pretty far out. Imagine a Monty Python styled presentation, bathed in ’60s flower power and you’re almost there. It’s certainly bizarre, and with good reason, as you and your culture are not from Earth – your king (a dominating presence) visits from time to time, and manages to ‘litter’ the terrestrial environment. However, the main reason for thrusting the young prince onto foreign soil is far more bizarre; your foolish family has managed to destroy the stars and all the constellations. The only way to repair the sky is to visit Earth and collect objects. These can be anything from creatures to everyday items. The king transports these offerings into the sky where (fingers crossed) a star or constellation is revived – and on any given night you’re released, there’s a whole load of stars up there. Yet the beauty of Katamari Damacy comes not from fighting, exploration or trading, but from rolling a ball (known as a katamari) that captures anything within its path. A brilliantly simple idea, and one that’s perfectly executed. Akin to rolling a snowball, initially larger objects will refuse to join the moving shape. The race is on at the beginning of each level to build up your katamari’s size – and as fast as possible – for only when it has reached a critical mass can you snare the larger items (thus boosting its size yet again). And with each level being timed, set against predetermined sizes to succeed, you need to keep moving and thinking.

The control system relies mainly upon the dual analogue sticks being pushed in unison: what initially seems limited gradually allows for control of the katamari with a fair degree of flair and precision. The introduction allows you to practice and memorise all the options available – as the katamari attracts bigger objects, many of these are not able to be rolled (pencils for instance), so this affects your handling. The wrong object can prove to be a major hindrance as you try to negotiate obstacles across each level, so the game rewards logical thought – as well as practical rolling. Katamari Damacy can be very challenging (and the king proves to be quite demanding). However, there is no actual way of ‘failing’ the game – you may fail to reach a prerequisite size or number of items, but the game will record your efforts nonetheless. And there is nothing stopping you from returning to a previous level to try again, locate secret areas, or just add more stardust to the sky. In a similar vein to Magic Pengel, Katamari Damacy isn’t going to win audiences through ‘minimalist’ presentation, but it does have a unique visual treatment of its own. Gamestyle has already touched upon the outrageous concept – which includes some mind-boggling cutscenes, unusual grasp of English and a truly wonderful soundtrack. Eye-gouging detail isn’t everything as the game instead opts for vibrant objects that all seem to be carved from wood. This allows each level to be coated in a range of colours (amid a ‘magical carpet’ of objects) for your katamari.

Then, as mentioned, you have the glorious soundtrack – it’s been a while since Gamestyle has enjoyed such disturbingly good tunes. So much so that we even contemplated purchasing the soundtrack on its own. In an age of orchestral overkill, it’s good to know that madness (bordering upon genius?) has a place in gaming. If The Boredoms (ie, obscure Japanese band) had to compose a videogame soundtrack, then this might well have been the result. This gem has a few negatives – yes, the camera at times can be annoying, and the collision detection a little dubious – but the main criticism is the playing time, as it concludes all too soon. You want this adventure to continue indefinitely (although, given its addictive qualities, you can always go back). And for a twenty-dollar purchase in the States, it represents outstanding value.

A major shame then, that Namco has yet to confirm a European release date. Outside of the main story mode, there are options to view all that you’ve collated, as well as competitive play against a friend. Not that Gamestyle doesn’t have friends, but we were so taken with the main mode that a versus match didn’t even get a look-in. Apologies then, but even without it, Katamari Damacy is one of those games that will hold a special place in your heart for years to come.

Gamestyle Score: 9/10

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence

Gamestyle Archive intro: Gareth always covered the Castlevania release for us at Gamestyle and this is one that dates from February 2004.

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The Castlevania series has stretched back through the many years of gaming and for the most part has stuck to a two-dimensional formula. After some badly-received N64 iterations, Konami has once again seen fit to revisit the third dimension; and this has caused some grief amongst hardcore Castlevania fans – although in reality the series needed to try and capture a new audience while not alienating its core fanbase.

Gamestyle first laid eyes upon the new Castlevania at ECTS in 2003, and to say the experience was disappointing is a major understatement. So when the finished version arrived at Gamestyle Towers there was a lingering fear of calamity in the air. What did Gamestyle find? Well, let’s just say that our fear has transmogrified into something else. What at first appeared a complete mess of a title has been polished and refined to the point of near-perfection; quality assurance has taken priority and most of the bugs in early code have all been vanquished. At first glance it appears that Castlevania is nothing more than Devil May Cry with bells on – erm, make that whips. Once experienced however, it soon transpires that the two titles are essentially different: the key ingredient to any Castlevania game is atmosphere – and this iteration delivers unmistakably as soon as the title screen appears.

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence looks absolutely stunning, with subtle shades used to build layer upon layer of detail into different areas of the castle. And these areas are made unrecognisable from each other – adding far more variety in location than Gamestyle could have hoped for. Coupled with these are dozens of unique enemy types that all behave in different ways; creating an incredibly vibrant, detailed and variegated canvas with which to emblazon the blood of fallen foes. Did someone say blood? Indeed we did: it’s remarkable how much blood a whip can coerce from the nearest eight-foot-tall demon – with every strike looking like it hurts and all the better for it. Accompanying the subtle dignity of the graphics is a pounding musical arrangement, which is of typically unsurpassed quality – and consists of what can only be described as a sort of classical-gothic-trance hybrid; very strange, highly atmospheric and totally unique.

Apart from the music, the sound in general is of a very high calibre as it works out vigorously to the strains of full Dolby Pro Logic II support. It is fair to say that Gamestyle has never winced as much when dealing out the punishment in this title. These weapons truly ‘sound’ hurtful. One of the main issues highlighted by ECTS was the lack of flexibility with Leon Belmont. Luckily, all this has changed: Leon can now double-jump in the air – which really does make a difference to boss battles – and new moves can be acquired as you play through the game. These take the form of new attack combinations and side-stepping blocks and rolls (thus making fleet-footed evasion of whichever object is currently targeting your person all the more easier). Add to this a nigh-on perfect combat system, and you have a repertoire that would make Dante cry on any given day.

The structure of the game is similar to recent Game Boy Advance outings, with our hero venturing through a huge castle in pursuit of the many fiends and creatures that make eternal work for our master of the night. The five main dungeons are accessed from a central area, and all lead to a unique monster-iffic experience topped with hidden treasures and climactic boss battles that make you wonder if defeating evil is really worth it in the end. The bosses you fight are predictably huge and very nasty – ranging from Medusa to fearless mace-toting golems – and you know you’re in for a tussle right from the start. While not the toughest of adversaries to defeat, you need to be on the top of your game to avoid incremental damage – as one mistake can see you lose control of the fight and be pummelled into oblivion.

Big monster with big, chunkier weapon versus small man with magical whip… theorise for yourselves the likelihood of attrition. Performing the basic functions will see you through the game in around six hours – but unlike most games, you really feel compelled to unlock a lot of the hidden bits in the dungeons (just to see what you’ll uncover). So, basically by ‘finishing’ the game you will miss all of the magic whips and just about all of the magic relics as well. There’s also an entire two levels of the castle that you will not be able to access; not to mention a host of things unspoken – trust Gamestyle: you most definitely need to know what’s behind that sealed door in the first-level basement. An ‘especially enormous evil’? Now that would be telling…although we can tell you there’s a host of unlockable characters that are actually worth playing for a change.

Overall, Castlevania: Lament of Innocence has turned out to be a change for the better – and much better than anyone could have imagined. It has the right feel, the right look, and the combat system has yet to be bettered in this genre. Granted, there’s a fixed camera but rarely does it exclude the player (bar one or two occasions). But really, hard as we tried, Gamestyle could find very little to complain about and the ‘finished’ game rather makes a mockery of our fears. When previewed at ECTS, there were utterances that we were entertaining merely above-average fodder (with the expectant grades to match) – however, time has gladly turned things around; and Castlevania: Lament of Innocence has arrived in far better shape than both Devil May Cry titles combined! In fact, it is hard to recall the last truly epic, monumental experience where Good versed Evil to such magnanimous applause (at least on Playstation 2). In closing, it’s simply magnificent.

Gamestyle Score: 9/10

Ratchet & Clank 2 Unedited

Gamestyle Archive Intro: yesterday we welcomed back the published review of Ratchet & Clank 2, however during the restoration from 2 sources, the differences between the submission and the final edit were noticeable. So perhaps as first and potentially with more reviews to follow, here is my original 2003 draft.

ratchet

Ratchet & Clank 2 is a release that Gamestyle finds hard not to love.  This is the quintessential modern day platformer, which covers all bases and ultimately leaves its potentially taxing platform foundations behind.  This is bubblegum, mirthful gaming and ultimately the game that delivers the fun, which Mario Sunshine could not.  Seriously, Ratchet & Clank 2 is that good.

Whereas Jak II went all “bad”, Ratchet & Clank continue their merry exploits, forging ahead with little regard to market trends. Is there a story?  Well, yes there is of sorts, but it only serves as an opening for a space carnival.  The characters are firmly tongue in cheek with well-pitched speech.  Receiving a distant call for help, the heroic duo set out to aid Abercrombie Fizzwidget – the chairman of Megacorp.  A devilish thief has snatched a secret experiment from the giant company, and obviously Megacorp wants it returned.  On route Ratchet & Clank are given new training (hence the “Commando” subtitle) in preparation for their new galactic adventure.

A bog standard storyline is given a new freshness by the cartoon influenced character designs and cut sequences; some of which just exist to put a smile on your face.  Insomniac has buffed this game to perfection, and the evident humour and nods to influences are splendid, as are storylines to the original release.  If Pixar created videogames, then Ratchet & Clank 2 would be exactly what Gamestyle would expect from the talented studio.

Initially Ratchet & Clank 2 only fleetingly rises above average, offering the standard shooting, jumping and exploring scenario, which Gamestyle has seen on countless occasions.  Then things begin to develop.  You see, the main game isn’t about skill or challenge (there are extra modes that cater for such niceties) instead its about grasping the largest, funniest and most extreme weapon in your arsenal and going out into the galaxy and having fun; blasting everything.

Thoughtful level design adds to the enjoyment; as if you cannot progress further on one planet, why not take a hike to another?  Whereas in the original weapons could be bought and no more, in the sequel Insomniac has given more thought to proceedings.  Again, most can be bought, but special platinum bolts (hidden cunningly throughout the levels) can be spent on incredible enhancements.  Not only this, but by using a weapon consistently, its experience grows until it evolves into another devastating weapon.  With a multitude of weapons available, killing and demolition has never been so much fun.  Sometimes though, Insomniac is a victim of its own brilliance, as weapons (such as the therminator and tractor beam) can only be used when conditions allow.  Why not break the shackles completely?

Weapon strength and deployment at times is vital to conquering some more populated planets, but with infinite continues available experimentation is encouraged.  Beyond weaponry other tools are available, such as backpacks, gadgets and armour.  Discovery of a new weapon or tool often facilitates the need to return to an impediment, and opens up new avenues on completed levels.  Disappointingly the levels are again (like so many releases) based on natural states such as ice, desert, swamp and forest.  This is however a minor quibble, as the general design and construction is extremely strong, vibrant and engaging.  The levels are linear but qualities such as these disguise any shortcomings in freedom.

Linking several of the planets are space dogfights, which again suffer from that age-old problem of positioning and sense of direction.  This is the weakest aspect of Ratchet & Clank 2, as if it wasn’t key to progressing and the collection of vital minerals (for ship modifications), Gamestyle would not have bothered.    The racing sections fare better, but with such a game of such a high standard as this, a microscope is required to find any mentionable issues.

If one becomes shell shocked by the constant destruction in the main game, then there are various challenges (racing, dog fighting and combat) that not only provide vital currency but also serve a little more variety, as well as secrets.  Clank has his own levels but again the “buddy” dynamic isn’t high on the agenda, but when it is expect some fantastic moments such as the transformer mini-planet battle.

As Insomniac have a sharing agreement with Naughty Dog, you’d expect Ratchet & Clank 2 to be visually striking, and it certainly delivers.  From the moment you pick up the controller you are guaranteed an interruption free experience.  Animation, size, clarity, textures and frame rate, form an enchanting package.  After Ghosthunter, Gamestyle continues to be impressed by what the Playstation 2 is capable of delivering.

Without question Ratchet & Clank 2 surpasses Mario Sunshine as the best genre offering of the current generation.  And with strong sequels to Jak and Ape Escape already available on the Playstation 2, it’s with strong company.  Insomniac has given us easily the most enjoyable release of the year, and a title that puts the fun back into gaming.

Gamestyle Score: 9/10

Ratchet & Clank 2

Gamestyle Archive Intro: here’s another example of a restored review using 2 sources. On the original backup spreadsheet the text suddenly ends with about 3 paragraphs to go. Fear not, as I had my original draft as part of the archive.

It’s interesting comparing both as the word document is the original submission. Reviews on Gamestyle were put through the editing system to clean up any text issues. Sometimes the editing when too far. Certainly when reading both sources here the differences are surprising. The issue with the excel file is that paragraph spacing are lost – using another source gives the original breaks – but in this case I’ve noticed the 2 versions are different. Maybe tomorrow I’ll put up the rough and ready form?

The Ratchet & Clank series was one of those unique examples of a franchise that united all ages and appealed to all levels of skill. Looking back now, it’s one of my PlayStation 2 highlights and the series itself was of a consistently high standard. This review dates from November 2003.

ratchet 

Ratchet & Clank 2: Locked and Loaded is a release that Gamestyle finds hard not to love. This is the quintessential modern-day platformer, which covers all bases and ultimately leaves its potentially-taxing platform foundations behind. This is bubblegum, mirthful gaming that basks in the primary delivery of fun – something which Mario Sunshine, for example, could not.

Seriously, Ratchet & Clank 2 is that good. Whereas Jak II went all “bad”, Ratchet & Clank continue upon their merry exploits, forging ahead with little regard to market trends. Is there a story? Well, yes there is of sorts, but it only serves as an opening for a space carnival. The characters are firmly tongue-in-cheek (and with well-pitched speech). Receiving a distant call for help, the heroic duo set out to aid Abercrombie Fizzwidget, the chairman of Megacorp. A devilish thief has snatched a secret experiment from the humongous company, and obviously Megacorp wants it returned. On route, Ratchet & Clank are given some ‘commando-like’ training in preparation for their galactic adventure.

A bog-standard storyline is given a new freshness by the cartoon-influenced character designs and cut sequences; some of which simply exist to put a smile on your face. Insomniac has buffed this game to perfection, and the evident humour, subtle nods and external influences are splendid (as are storyline references to the original release). If Pixar created videogames, then Ratchet & Clank 2 would be exactly what Gamestyle would expect from the talented studio.

Initially, Ratchet & Clank 2 only fleetingly rises above average; offering the standard shooting, jumping and exploring scenario that Gamestyle has seen on countless occasions. Then things begin to snowball. You see, the main game isn’t about skill or challenge (there are extra modes that cater for such niceties), instead it’s about grasping the largest, funniest and most extreme weapon in your arsenal and going ‘locked and loaded’ throughout the galaxy; having fun and literally blasting everything.

Thoughtful level design adds to the enjoyment – if you cannot progress any further on one planet, why not take a hike to another? In the original game, weapons could be bought and simply stockpiled, whereas in the sequel Insomniac has lateralised the proceedings. Again, guns can be bought, but special platinum bolts (hidden cunningly throughout the levels) can be found and sold for incredible enhancements. Not only this, but by using a weapon consistently, its experience grows until it evolves into something more devastating. With a multitude of weapons available, killing and demolition has never been so much fun. Sometimes though, Insomniac is a victim of its own ambition; weapons (such as the therminator and tractor beam) can only be used when conditions allow. Why not break the shackles completely?

At times, weapon strength and deployment is vital to conquering some of the more populated planets; but with infinite continues available, experimentation is positively encouraged. Beyond weaponry, other tools are available – such as backpacks, gadgets and armour. Discovery of a new weapon or tool often facilitates the need to return to an impediment, and opens up new avenues on already completed levels. Disappointingly, the levels are routinely (like so many releases) based on natural states, such as ice, desert, swamp and forest. Albeit this is a minor quibble, as the overall design and construction is extremely robust, vibrant and engaging. The levels are linear, but qualities such as these disguise any shortfalls in freedom.

Linking several of these planets are dogfights in space, which again suffer from the age-old problem of positioning and sense of direction. This is the weakest aspect of Ratchet & Clank 2, and if it weren’t key to progressing (i.e. the collection of vital minerals for ship modifications), Gamestyle would probably not have bothered. The racing sections fare much better, but with a game of this distinction, even ‘microscopic’ problems become hard to detect.

If one becomes shell-shocked by the constant chaos of the main game, there are various challenges (racing, dog fighting and combat) that not only provide vital currency, but also serve up a little variety – as well as secrets. Clank has his own levels but again the “buddy” dynamic isn’t high on the agenda, but when it is expect some fantastic moments such as the transformer mini-planet battle.

As Insomniac have a sharing agreement with Naughty Dog, you’d expect Ratchet & Clank 2 to be visually striking, and it certainly delivers.  From the moment you pick up the controller you are guaranteed an interruption free experience.  Animation, size, clarity, textures and frame rate, form an enchanting package.  After Ghosthunter, Gamestyle continues to be impressed by what the Playstation 2 is capable of delivering.

Without question Ratchet & Clank 2 surpasses Mario Sunshine as the best genre offering of the current generation.  And with strong sequels to Jak and Ape Escape already available on the Playstation 2, it’s with strong company.  Insomniac has given us easily the most enjoyable release of the year, and a title that puts the fun back into gaming.

Gamestyle Score: 9/10

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Gamestyle Archive Intro: a fine reboot of a classic gaming series and an excellent review from Daniel James. Very few games received a 9, never mind a 10, at Gamestyle. So when the site gave out such a score, you knew that it was going to be a high quality gaming experience.

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It’s been eight years since Lara Croft set foot into her first temple, in what was to become one of the finest examples of precise traversal through 3D space. The marriage of preset movements, cleverly-structured environments and wide range of manoeuvres gave Tomb Raider (and its audience) a unique sense of spatial awareness that no amount of ‘Lara-pimping’ from Eidos has ever managed to recapture. Basically put; 3D games got lazy.

Gamestyle only brings up the legendary Tomb Raider as an example, because it’s clear to see how Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia update continues with the ideals and themes of Core Design’s original vision. Indeed, if Tomb Raider was the natural progression of the original Prince of Persia motif, then The Sands of Time is the genre evolved. The Prince, son of King Shahraman, has acquired a magic Dagger; a mystical artefact that uses sand to control the fabric of Time. An unfortunate accident occurs when he is tricked by The Vizier (a traitor to the Maharajah’s service) into unlocking the Sands of Time from the Forbidden Hourglass, which proceed to devour the souls of the inhabitants of this medieval Persian kingdom. Thanks to the magical Dagger of Time, the Prince is able to avert death (by rewinding time to undo any further unfortunate accidents) or to wreak it (by thrusting it into the now-soulless evil inhabitants of the palace). But use of the dagger is secondary to the core dynamic of the game, which thankfully, is one of the most solid Gamestyle has ever come across.

There have been very few games that offer a sense of place like The Sands of Time does. Structured into individual rooms/sections, the Prince must navigate a series of environmental hazards laid out in precise arrangements that match his abilities perfectly. Much like the original Tomb Raider did, you can walk into a room and immediately recognise the route you will need to take based on what you know you can achieve. However, where Prince of Persia ‘evolves’ the idea is in the fluidity of how it all occurs: Lara was rigid – both her physicality and her personality. Precise as she may have moved, there was no panache, no style, no fluidity. You knew where you stood because she wouldn’t go anywhere else. Walk, run, stop, roll; all computationally preset. The nimble Prince doesn’t suffer from any such ‘robotics’. Instead, Ubisoft Montreal have done an exceptional job in taking Tomb Raider’s basic mechanics and articulating movement that fluently disguises the computational gymnastics. Ledges, precipices, swing bars, pillar columns, pits – all are positioned at precise distances from each other, as if to assure the player that their jumps, runs, climbs and swings will solidly connect. And they do; consistently.

Prince of Persia allows you to look effortlessly cool, running up walls, back-flipping, rolling, swinging and grabbing, all performed with style and precision. Indeed, it often feels as though the Prince knows exactly what you want to do even before you do. A tiny misalignment here and there will be ignored in favour of properly executing the desired move. Wall runs can be linked into jumps, jumps into grabs, grabs into swings, swings into jumps and jumps back into the perfect landing. Of course you’ll always run into the occasional problem, be that due to the (very rarely) obscured camera or simply a misjudged distance; but this is where the aforementioned Dagger comes into play and offsets any minor frustrations. When filled with sand, a tap of the L1 button triggers a ‘time rewind’ function (complete with impressive visual warping effect). Holding the button for a maximum of ten seconds can rewind your fate until you’ve sufficiently reached a safe section of your timeline. In this respect, any slight (and Gamestyle means slight) risk to the tentative nature of acrobatics can be overcome – or rather, your fear of them can be – by ‘undoing’ them. This encourages the player to take more risks than perhaps they normally would.

Considering the control and environments are so finely-tuned in the first place, the added bonus of less risky manoeuvrability places Prince of Persia into the upper reaches of classic game design. Where Prince of Persia chiefly differs from Tomb Raider is in its modular level structure. Though linked together throughout, the environment puzzles are very much self-contained in relatively small areas. Furthermore, a tap of the L2 button zooms the camera out to show a ‘landscape’ view of the current area – extremely useful for getting one’s head around the spatial puzzles. Another (far more noticeable) area where it differs is in the way combat works. ‘Works’ may not be a generous enough synonym for the combat system.

Unlike the Croftian method of draw-and-shoot, the Prince uses the more traditional sword (and dagger) weapon for close-range brawling, but borrows stylistically from contemporary sources such as The Matrix. The Prince can jab, slice and block (as you’d expect), but also launches and flips himself over enemies’ heads by running up and over them – flipping in mid-air and landing behind them, bringing his weapon down on their unsuspecting rears. He can also use the environment to his advantage, performing various wall-launched attacks (as well as rolling sideways or flipping backwards to safety). All this is performed with the same ease and agility of normal movement, and is very satisfying to watch. The Dagger is the only means of permanently dispatching undead foes, as thrusting it into their downed bodies absorbs the sand within them – and fuels the very dagger used to defeat them. And then there is the two-character dynamic, as mirrored by Sony’s own ‘Ico’. But rather than being a helpless and fragile angel, Farah (daughter of a conquered Indian Maharajah) is quite skilful at running and jumping herself (though not to the same degree as the Prince), and adept at using her bow for self-defense. Her presence is frequently required at signposted areas, and thankfully, the AI routines that govern her actions are solid (along with some tightly-scripted dialogue).

Prince of Persia doesn’t skimp on the graphics-side, either. In addition to the very solid character models are the natural-looking environments which feature swaying palm trees, crumbling stone balconies, and reflective rippling water. A luminescent glow constantly emanates from everything, and a rustic haze overlays every scene. The effect is quite beautiful, even before the supplementary zoom and special effects. The sound, whilst atmospheric, can sometimes be a little too quiet. Voice-overs aren’t as clear and crisp as you might expect, and music is either totally absent or quietly ambient rather than pronounced – but all sound is more or less above-board and quite in keeping with the atmosphere.

Ubisoft have presented this game extremely well; the tale – as narrated by our hero (in well-spoken Princely tones) – is paused, interrupted and continued, as if the story was being told in retrospect. When death occurs, the Prince will stop and correct himself on the misrepresentation of events, and when you save your progress, he informs you that the story will continue from there next time. Those save points (displayed as pillars of sand from the ground) trigger a future vision, showing the area ahead in vague glimpses, giving you some idea of what to expect between there and the next save point. This method of storytelling (and being led by the hand) gives Prince of Persia an almost linear structure, however in this instance, such a form is wholly welcomed. There is no getting lost at any time, no wandering without aim; just sequences of superbly-crafted 3D environmental puzzles and combat situations – and although a little on the short side, it is long enough to keep you enthralled but ends before boredom has any chance to set in. Forget the (forgettable) Angel of Darkness. Lara needs to be laid to rest in her last tomb; The Prince of Persia is everything that Eidos’ once illustrious heroine had sought to become (and more besides). It is one of the finest 3D games ever produced; nay crafted. At last, this is the ‘third place’… this truly is the third dimension. History has just been rewritten.

Gamestyle Score: 9/10

Pro Evolution 3

Gamestyle Archive Intro: now here is a really rare type of review arriving in the archives – so unusual I cannot recall us doing anything similar. It’s a joint review from two writers namely Gareth and Chris as they tackle Pro Evo 3 in October 2003.

Pro_Evolution_Soccer_3

The series that started way back on the Super Nintendo – under the guise of International Superstar Soccer  – has come a long way since the days of sixteen-bit gaming and has evolved into what is now commonly accepted as the most ‘complete’ game of football available on any console. Now into its third revision on Sony’s market-leading console, it appears kicking the air with promises of untold refinements and improvements that will bridge the ever-decreasing gap between reality and the world of gaming. So, it was clear that such a monumental release would split opinion; and with this in mind, Gamestyle needed to come up with something different in order to truly explore every inch of the title.

For the first (and possibly last) time, two vocal elements of Gamestyle (viz, Chris and Gareth) will tackle the game – while no doubt leaving everyone as confused as they’ve ever been. Let’s start with Chris: So, is it better than the first Pro Evolution?

Yes. It’s more of a complete package – there are more teams, more competitions and more to play for. A concept has been ‘borrowed’ from its brother franchise, ISS3, which means the more you play, the more points (known as PES) you accumulate. The gameplay seems more fluid, and players control the ball better. The replays are excellent; anything can be replayed and recorded. Even the commentary is better, though it still grates (they are now capable of making intelligent points especially at half-time). Master League has been restructured with an improved, customisable transfer system.

What about the second one, Gareth? Undoubtedly. Whilst the first title contained a lot of great ingredients that took the football genre by storm, when it first launched, the second title (while seemingly more refined) contained a number of bugs – such as being able to run right through the middle of the opposition from kick-off, and it being nigh-on impossible to score headers, free kicks or from outside the box. Pro Evolution 3 fixes all of these bugs, so is already far more enjoyable and less predictable than the second title. Football titles tend to sink or swim through how strong they are in two categories: presentation, and gameplay.

How does the title present itself this time around? Are there still unlicensed players, stadiums and club crests? Chris Yes, which is a shame. But as FIFA shows, having the licence doesn’t guarantee accuracy in the content. Players from the major nations are accurately represented, as are club players, though there are a couple of discrepancies. A deal has been struck with a half-dozen European clubs, including Lazio and Parma. The rest of the clubs have fake names; for instance, Man United are called ‘Trade Bricks’. You can edit the names yourself (there are lists available online) or shell out a tenner for a disc that’ll do it all for you, and unlock all teams and cups.

A slight improvement in that department then, but if the game offers a completely immersive experience these things will hardly matter, so is this the case? Gareth? Certainly. Everything about this third instalment of the series is an improvement; players pass the ball beautifully, allowing players to build up attacking moves with genuine flair and style. However, this type of thing does not come easy, and even Pro Evolution hardcore players will need to sit down and spend some time working out how the game works. Once you have got it cracked though it is simply a matter of how good you are – do you want to chip the goalie, or score from forty yards? You can, but you need to be very good to do it. You can play the game any way you want; long ball, passing game or relying on wingers, but you have to have the right team to do it. Don’t try and play down the wing with someone like Argentina, as they do not have the strength to do it – a nice touch, and something that means you really have to think about how you are going to play.

Chris: However, for those of you who don’t want to invest that much time in the game (preferring pick up and play), this can be frustrating. What is brilliant about PES3 is the sheer amount of different things a player can do. The range of goals that you can score is incredibly diverse, and the same applies for passing. Standing in the middle of the field, there is so much you can do. All the ingredients are there. It’s down to your skill in the cooking that will create something edible.

Yes, yes enough praise, what about the problems? There must be some? Gareth: Well, not really. The only slight problem is when performing sliding tackles; far too often players are pulled up for what seem like perfectly-executed tackles. On closer inspection, you can see that often during the tackle the ball will bob up and hit the player’s hand, causing the ref to blow up for a free kick. Accurate yes, but how many times do you see that in a real game? And you definitely do not see it four or five times a match – that slight issue aside, this is about as perfect a game of football as you can get.

Chris: One of the new features is an ‘advantage’ system. It’s a good sign of improvement over previous versions, but occasionally you’d prefer a free kick instead. Which is realistic at least, no matter how bittersweet. The game engine is very intelligent, but the screen size is too restrictive. If players were able to see more of the pitch, we could use what the game allows us to do easier. Playing against a human opponent is much more preferable and enjoyable, as when they attack the defence will be more vulnerable; whereas the computer keeps the defensive unit much tighter. Indeed, the disparity between the computer’s shape and a human’s is the biggest difference – which is why multiplayer is so thrilling. So, we’re nearing the end of the review. And as the chapped lips of authority touch the whistle of eternity, we need to award a score. There’s nothing inherently wrong with PES3; in fact there are very few problems at all. But the intense feeling of elation that we got from playing this at ECTS has yet to be rediscovered. There is still time – as Pro Evolution 3 is a brilliant football game, and it gets better the more it’s played.

Gamestyle Score: 9/10