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Forza Motorsport

Score of the Game
by Kurt Johnstone

From the creators of Project Gotham Racing comes a realistic racing simulator to the Xbox, with over 200 cars to choose from that can be upgraded and tuned to your racing needs. All the tracks experienced throughout the game are based on real ones. Choose a Honda Civic or a Ferrari F355 Challenge and go to Xbox Live to compete against other people.

The graphics are impressive—very realistic and with a solid framrate. Not as spectacular as Gran Turismo 4 but, unlike Gran Turismo on the Playstation 2, the framrate does not suffer in this game. The car models are accurate and offer reflection lighting.

The first thing you need to know before jumping into this game is that this is no Project Gotham Racing or Need For Speed Underground where you can take tight turns at over 100 MPH. This is the closest I have ever seen to the real thing. You will need to slow down before a turn and smoothly corner and then accelerate when out of the turn.

Choose over 200 cars from 50 different car manufacturers such as Honda, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Porshe, Dodge, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Lexus and many more. In order to progress in this game you will need to start the career mode where you race for money. You can do two things with your money. You can either upgrade one of your cars to allow it to compete in a higher class or you can buy a new car. The choice is yours and you’ll probably want to do a bit of both if you want to get anywhere in this game. The classes are ranked in this order from slowest to fastest.

Different cars start in different classes and can be upgraded to a higher class by adding engine enhancements such as turbo chargers, weight reductions, performance exhausts, and so on. On Xbox Live you can play the career mode also, where you choose a class and race against real people. The higher you place in a live match the more money you make. Other modes available are Buy and Sell (online), Team Racing(online), Arcade Race,Time Trials and Free Run.

The sound in the game is realistic. Car models sound similar to what they would in real life, and cars can sound different depending on what you do to them such as a turbo charger upgrade, you will hear the car spool and a super charger upgrade that just makes a car sound mean. You can even listen to your own custom soundtracks during gameplay.

This is, in my opinion, the best racing game I have ever played. There is a huge variety of modes and a lot of freedom to mess around with your cars, you can even apply body kits, but the selection is limited with most cars. Racing online and testing out your car—that you just spent two hours tuning and upgrading—against the competition is very satisfying and fun. Playing offline against computer controlled opponents is frustrating because they are aggressively cheap racers. They will knock you off the road and slam into you from behind more than enough times. The graphics are great but not perfect. The sense of speed is good but not entirely accurate making 200 mph feeling slower than it really is. Just a few unwanted problems shouldn’t hurt the overall appeal that this game will have. An amazing title.

Overall… 97%

TimeSplitters: Future Perfect

Score of the Game
by Kurt Johnstone

TimeSplitters: Future Perfect is the third game in the TimeSplitters series, and takes the formula from the past games and improves on it. Fans may be disappointed that little has changed, but it was already very good.

The new storyline is different, however, and follows one character named Cortez who must travel through time to stop the TimeSplitter creatures from eliminating all mankind. The goofy and silly-styled game features more weapons, more mayhem and ,yes, even more monkeys.

The graphics have been improved, but still are the game’s weakest point. Everything is very simple, cartoony and wacky as expected. The framerate is very high, usually around 60 fps, but does sometimes tend to bog down noticeably in co-op mode—sometimes to the point where the game is almost unplayable. Animation is silky smooth and cutscenes throughout the story mode are great.

The story lacks originality but it is entertaining and interesting from beginning to end. The missions are based on completion of objectives, not quite as linear as Halo 2 or Doom 3. You may actually have to use your brain a little from time to time. Every level is different from one another creating a fresh experience. The best part is the humour the game achieves during several cutscenes as you progress in the Story mode. Some of this stuff is hilarious. The option to play cooperative through the story mode is a big plus.

The best part is The Multiplayer which is what made me love this game. It plays out like a silly, faster version of Goldeneye for the N64 (classic). The variety of weapons is impressive; there are 40 in all. The weapons range from assault rifles to homing rocket launchers, with over a dozen different modes to choose from and tons of different options to play around with. There are 150 characters to play as, most of which must be unlocked by progressing through the single player modes. This includes the challenge mode which consists of mini-games. In this mode you obtain scores and they can be uploaded to Xbox Live for others to view. Also available is a map editor to create your own deathmatch and single player levels. The levels you create can even be uploaded to Xbox Live for others to download.

The sound is fairly bland but does its purpose. The techno soundtrack is undesirable but the voice acting is well done.

I believe this is one of the best Xbox Live titles because of the variety and fun factor involved. The Map editor is a great edition. The Story is great but short-lived, and the gameplay is fun—though not as refined as Halo 2. There’s just such a huge amount of variety it should keep the replay value high.

There are some weaknesses. Players expecting a totally new game will be disappointed because it feels and looks very much the same as the prequel; there are even all the same modes. The A.I. is pretty bad, enemies are not too bright or responsive. Vehicle controls are awkward and framerate drops during co-op. However, the end result is an impressive game (even with those annoying monkeys).

Overall… 92%

NBA Street Vol. 3

Score of the Game
by Kurt Johnstone

EA Canada creates possibly the greatest B-ball game in many years that focuses more on arcade play than a realistic basketball sim. The game that combines basketball with hip-hop should find a large audience as the previous NBA Street games have. All the courts are based on real ones and look great. Everything looks very impressive as expected from an EA game. All of the NBA players look similar to their live counterparts.

Framerate is locked at 60 fps keeping the game smooth. This game is very fast paced and entertaining with a large variety of moves to pull off. You can use the right analog stick to do more than 30 flashy dribbling moves. There is a turbo button to run faster for a temporary period of time which can be combined with fancier trick moves, dunks and better blocking techniques.

You are required to create your own team in the Street Challenge and online game modes. You can name your team and what city it is from. Aside from this you can even create your own baller. You can edit his appearance, clothes, and attributes. Your characters attributes are improved by your success throughout Street challenge. You get points which can upgrade different stats on your character. You can improve dunks, shot accuracy, blocking, rebounds, etc. The customization of your player proves to be fun and addicting. You can add teammates to the team other than yourself also. There are dozens and dozens of NBA players you can choose from each with their own unique strengths. Some players have good dunking while others are better at shooting and stealing. Its up to you to find what players you want on your team.

There is also a exhibition mode to head straight to a match and a practice mode. The sound is decent but not completely realistic. You cannot use custom sound tracks during gameplay, you can only use the 13 songs that EA supplies with the game which are just acceptable. The announcer is pretty good but becomes monotonous eventually.

This is a good game and is a lot of fun. The variety in gameplay is amusing and keeps the replay value high. Online play is put together well which is rare for EA. Creating players and teams is addictive and satisfying. However the gameplay needs to be balanced better. Defense is way harder than it should and offense has dunking being highly encouraged and hard to defend against. The one-on-one gameplay is tiresome. It would be great to see the two computer controlled characters replaced with human ones on each team. Three-on-three would create some strategy especially online. I find the game is great in small bursts but becomes repetitive for long-term play. But, this is probably the best arcade basketball game since NBA Jam, and I recommend it.

Overall… 87%

Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath

Score of the Game
by Kurt Johnstone

OddworldThe newest installment in the Oddworld series is now available for the Xbox game console. The game changes styles from a platform puzzle game to a die hard action/adventure first-person shooter. Collecting creatures to be used as ammo, all which have different effects on enemies. The newest game brings even more innovative ideas to the table this time around.

The graphics are generally very good. The environments are lush and crisp with a exaggerated charm. Character models look good away or close. The framerate is consistent with no slow down, and only slight popup problems seen throughout.

The game erases the platforming puzzle elements and characters from the previous Oddworld games. The new character you play as is a bounty hunter. He takes out outlaws for cash. You can snag enemies and bosses dead or alive, alive being the better alternative because you get more moolah. You suck your enemies up into a bag using some sort of vacuum to take to the bounty store later after you complete each area to receive moolah. With your moolah you can buy upgrades and new items for your character. The game is played primarily in a first-person view using your crossbow. You have several types of ammo which all have different uses. For example, Bolamite ammo look like spiders and wrap your enemies up in web making them easy to bag. Another ammo is the stingbees which act like machine gun ammo to finish off your foes and is useful against most bosses. There is also a third-person perspective for platform portions of the game. In this view you can run a lot faster and even use some useful techniques to knock out enemies and make an easy capture.

The game design is impressive and for the most part, well put together. The game never feels repetitive or boring. The boss battles keep the game fresh, interesting and exciting. Though the difficulty curve of bosses in particular are unbalanced. Some of the earlier bosses are much are harder than the later ones. The western theme is a welcome addition. The creative characters and imaginative world is what made me enjoy this game in the end.

Sound is pretty good and the music fits the game appropriately. The voice acting is good but lacks a variety of voices through the game. Every boss sounds almost identical and the chicken people all have similar voices as well. Sometimes it is very hard to understand what characters are saying.

This game is much better than any of its predecessors. The gameplay is innovative, creative and amusing. The game is entertaining from beginning to end; just when things start to feel repetitive the story takes a twist, keeping you motivated to finish the game. The humour was definitely amusing, although I never really liked the main character a lot. He seemed boring and dull, unlike all the other characters, but this is just a minor annoyance. Oddworld is one of the top Xbox games.

Overall… 94%

Need for Speed Underground 2

Score of the Game

by Kurt Johnstone

The sequel to last year’s highly successful racing game is available now for all major consoles. The game is now equipped with more cars, more tracks, more customization and more fun.

There has been a wave of several titles trying to mimic Underground 1 since its release, like Street Racing Syndicate and Juiced. Now the sequel to the game that started it all, is about to blow the competition out of the water.

There are definitely better looking games out there, but Underground 2 is still full of eye-candy. Car models are extremely accurate compared to the real thing, and the lighting effects look quite realistic.

The main problem is that the game is so dark at times that it is hard to judge some turns making the game strain your eyes and frustrate your game experience. Also, the framerate drops well under 30 fps, making the game harder to play than it should be.

The biggest change to Underground 2 is the way the single-player game is played. In order to unlock all the cars, tracks and modifications you must play the Career mode in which you drive around a free roaming city called Bayview. You can drive to certain racing events placed throughout the environment called Drag, Circuit, Drift, URL, Sprint and Street X. You must also find shops in the city to unlock new parts, graphics, and designs for your cars. Basically you can do things at your own pace and do whatever. It makes the game a much slower paced one compared to the original. It may take up to five minutes to reach a racing event. Finding new shops are not shown on your map, making it difficult and frustrating searching for some.

Aside from the Career mode, there is Quick Race mode where you choose a car and race in any of the events or you can choose multiplayer over Xbox Live or split-screen. The track designs are all very similar to one another making the game feel repetitive, and killing the replay value.

What this game does well is the customization part, giving the player a massive variety of things to change to a stock car. You can paint the car, add decals, sponsor stickers, choose rims, add

neon lights, add hydraulics, upgrade your engine, and so on. It is addictive and fun customizing your ride and then showing it off to your friends or showing it off online.

The sound is the most impressive aspect of the game. In the sequel the cars actually sound good. Not stock anymore. All the cars have their own and realistic sound. The sound of tires squealing sound great. Voice acting is mediocre. The sound track is decent, but why can’t you use custom sound tracks?

Need For Speed Underground 2 is good, but unfortunately it feels like it’s more about the cars than the actual racing. As far as modification racing games go, this is the best, but it has its flaws.

Overall… 85%

Halo 2

Score of the Game
by Kurt Johnstone

Halo 2 must be the most hyped and anticipated video game of all time. It sold more than 2 million copies on the first day it was released, making more money than what most movies in the theatres ever make. The question is, does Halo 2 live up to the anticipation and hype?

The graphics have been improved over the original, but not as vastly as one would think. Bungie basically took the same graphics engine from the original game and created a technique called Normal Mapping which increases the polygons, framerate and gives the developers room to add amazing effects to the game. The framerate stays at a consistent 30-35 fps throughout the game which is amazing considering the graphics and amount of enemies on screenat one time.

Gameplay is once again spectacular as one would expect. Halo 2 plays essentially the same as Halo 1. There are some someminor and major adjustments made to the game. Some of the major ones is the ability to wield two guns at the same time. You can mix and match with several guns to find your favourite combo. There is no fall damage now. There are some new weapons such as the Brute shot, Battle rifle, Beam rifle, Convenant sword, and the Carbine to name a few. There is more and now a noticeable amount of auto-aim which I wish they never changed from the original. That’s pretty much it. Seeing as the game doesn’t play much different from the original, I can see many people being disappointed—but not me.

Why change something that worked so well in the first place?! However the level design is much improved, making the levels much less confusing as before. The A.I. for the most part is better especially your teammates. One problem I noticed is that the A.I. gets stuck in the environments on several occasions during the campaign mode. The storyline and cinematics are greatly improved and make the game more of a cinematic experience this time around. As far as huge twists and turns that bungie once claimed would be in the story never really happened or least not in my opinion.

The biggest surprise is that you can play as a convenant character which doesn’t change gameplay much except the fact that you can cloak with him for a short time. Though Halo 2 in the campaign mode has a few flaws I can’t say the same for the multiplayer. It is brilliant. The Maps are designed extremely well. The weapons are strategically placed and so are the explosive objects. There is a huge amount of strategy and teamplay involved making you constantly think and outwit your opponents. Once you get use to it, the match-Making system works perfect. It eliminates cheaters and creates awesome competition.

The sound is Surprisingly the best I’ve ever heard on any game. The guns sound realistic and the music is perfect. The theme music is a classic and I will never forget it. The voice acting is top notch from some well known actors. So does the game live up to the hype? No way. Nothing could live up to this amount of anticipation and hype. What this game does it does near perfect. This is Halo 1 only with more and better. That is the best way I can describe it.

The game design is amazing. The gameplay is even better. The multiplayer is the best on the console. The graphics are impressive but not the best on Xbox. The framrate is consistent. The story is good and best of all it is fun. MY only complaints is there is too much auto-aim taking away some skill. The A.I. gets stuck and the campaign is too short.

Other than that all I can say is that I love you Halo 2.

On a side note here is my list of the top games for this Christmas (not in any particular order).

1. Metroid Prime 2
2. Halo 2
3. Prince Of Persia: Warrior Within
4. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
5. Burnout 3
6. Dead Or Alive: Ultimate
7. Jak 2
8. Ghost Recon 2

Fable

Score of the Game
by Kurt Johnstone

FableOne of the most anticipated games for the Xbox since the console’s release is finally available. A story of revenge will have you exploring an amazingly detailed world filled with deadly creatures and powerful weapons and magic. You will enroll in dozens of quests and become your own hero or villain depending how you progress through the game.

The graphics are truly phenomenal. It has some of the best graphics seen on the Xbox to date. The character models have extremely high-resolution graphics, Objects and terrain look very impressive and lighting effects like shadows look great. The style and environments suit Fable perfectly and connects the player to the game.

The game plays like your typical hack and slasher. You have your simple attacks, a power attack and magic you can unleash during combat. The combat becomes repetitive and boring because the A.I. is just average and quests don’t differ much gameplay wise. The majority of main and side quests require your character to hack and slash your way through hoards of enemies. Luckily there are some unique quests like some stealth-based quests and one cool main quest where you escape a jail. If the game was actually challenging that may have made quests more enjoyable.

The biggest problem is that you can carry well over 100 healing items at a time and occupy healing magic.

Outside of the simple combat are the amazingly well designed towns and environments that you will explore. Buying new, powerful weapons is always satisfying. Another fun and addicting part of the game, is the ability to gain levels and new magic abilities.

What sets this game a part from other RPG’s is the freedom. You are never forced to continue the main story. You can take on side quests, buy a house, get married or go on some killer rampage if you must. You are faced with choices of good or bad deeds throughout the game that can change your characters appearance and how people react to you. It’s a nice bonus but never seemed to appeal to me personally.

The sound is beautiful, some of the best music and sound effects on the system. The musical score is comparable to the Lord Of The Rings film. Voice acting is top notch as well.

This game was said to be the most anticipated and revolutionary game to come out in a very long time. In my opinion it is just an above average RPG that is just a little shy of being great. The graphics and sound are some of the most impressive on the system but the gameplay is not so great. The cinematic scenes seem dull and cheesy. They don’t seem to draw the player into the story line. The story has a few twists here and there but nothing to make it good. The gameplay is too easy which makes it boring and repetitive. The game is also very short for a RPG but maybe that is good thing since it never gets too interesting or exciting.

Genre: RPG/Adventure
Difficulty: Easy
Publish: Microsoft
Developer: Big Blue Box Studios/ Lionhead Studios

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Down With Demon Rum

September 16, 23 & 30
The Haviland Club Down With Demon Rum: Stories and Songs of Rum Running on [ ... ]

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