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While big budget AAA titles often get the most recognition in the gaming industry, games that offer classic gameplay with modern sensibilities have found a comfortable niche as downloadable titles. Choplifter HD, a spiritual sequel to the original 1981 Choplifter, is the most recent and one of the most satisfying downloads available today.

 

Choplifter HD is based on a simple premise. As a helicopter pilot you are tasked with flying into dangerous environments to rescue civilians and battle any enemies that cross your path. Controls are suitable for this style of gameplay offering a comfortable balance of responsive flight and the floaty feel of a helicopter. The right stick combined with the L2 and R2 buttons fire your weapons and the face buttons activate your boost. The real challenge from Choplifter HD comes from the proper use of the L1 and R1 buttons. The entire game takes place in a 2D environment, but enemies can appear in the foreground as well. The L1 and R1 buttons turn the chopper 90 degrees so a player can battle these foreground enemies and turn their chopper around after rescuing civilians. While early stages may seem relatively easy, battling groups of enemies firing RPG’s and homing rockets from the main stage and the foreground can get ruthlessly challenging. Fleeing is always an option in Choplifter HD, but earning 5 star rankings on each stage will only be achieved by players who can comfortably balance rescue and battle.

 

Rescuing civilians may sound like an easy task, but it is much more difficult than I ever expected. Most civilians are located in hot zones surrounded by dozens of enemies trying to destroy the players chopper. A few seconds of careful flying coupled with some well placed missiles are more than enough to clear out most hot zones, but one must be careful to not kill any civilians in the process. Once the battlefield is finally clear, a player has to carefully lad his chopper and wait for the civilians to board. Some civilians who require medical attention appear with a timer above them and must be brought back to base before the timer expires. Running into obstacles, getting hit with rockets, or even landing too hard will kill civilians who are seated in your chopper, so a bit of finesse is required to bring everyone home safely.

 

 

Some may be put off by the difficulty of balancing rescue and combat, but I felt the difficulty was fair. Most choppers can take a decent bit of damage but the fragility of the civilians I was trying to rescue always kept me on my toes. In combat I also had a bit of trouble aiming and firing my weapons while dodging missiles and bullets, but that was due to my rough flying skills as opposed to the difficulty of the game itself. One early level I kept coming back to had me battling hordes of zombies who thankfully had not learned to fire those pesky RPG’s. Let me say this again…..I was battling zombies from a helicopter. AWESOME!

 

For $15 there is plenty of fun to be had with Choplifter HD. Earning 5 stars on a level is challenging and satisfying. Choplifter HD will also support DLC with a pack of choppers being offered for free shortly after release. Choplifter HD is available for 1200 Microsoft points on Xbox Live or for $14.99 on PSN.

 

4 out of 5 stars

 

 

4 out of 5 Stars

 

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War of the Worlds (XBLA, PSN)

War of the Worlds (XBLA)War of the Worlds
Available for Xbox 360 (XBLA) and PS3 (PSN)
Game Developer: Other Ocean
Game Publisher: Paramount Digital Entertainment
Release Date: October 21, 2011
Official website: waroftheworldsgame.com

Review summary:
A unique story and voice over acting from the great Sir Patrick Stewart can’t save War of the Worlds from being a frustratingly average downloadable game. The sluggish animation and unresponsive controls hold this title back from being on that must have list. The 2D art style and engaging music are intriguing. Only if you can stomach one of the most difficult downloadable games, then your ten dollars will be well spent.  For anyone else, you may want to pass on this one, and it pains me to say it.

Game rating:


2.75 out of 5 stars

Read the full review here.

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Choplifter HD

InXile Entertainment let us get our hands on some preview code for their upcoming XBLA, PSN and PC remake of Choplifter, Choplifter HD.  I was able to play through 20 of the game’s 30 missions.  Here is what I found, enjoyed and hoped can be improved for the November release.

Starting out, Choplifter HD‘s controls feel very familiar.  This keeps the learning curve low which is nice for a downloadable game, especially one that requires some quick reflexes to survive the later levels. Playing through the first time on normal, on PC, using a gamepad was fun.  It also allowed me to get through the tutorial quite easily.

In Choplifter HD, players fly a helicopter which is sometimes equipped with a machine gun and rockets.  The main weapon, the machine gun, has unlimited ammo but does have a heat mechanic.  Shoot too much aimlessly and the weapon will overheat causing some hairy moments.  The rockets however are much more powerful.  Albeit they do have a finite number during each mission, but can be refilled along with fuel at the headquarters or filling station during the course of a level.

Choplifter HD

Missions consist of a few archetypal events: go here, rescue civilians, and defend a hospital from a hoard of zombies.  Nothing too innovative to speak of in these events, but still fun in its own right.  But, as the levels progress, the enemies become more deadly, as they should.  In one level I played, the force you are trying to fight/survive gets anti-aircraft emplacements along with rocket propelled grenades, or RPGs.  This in combination with the normal machine gun fire can become quite hectic and all that more difficult.

One of the new mechanics shown in this build was the third plane of fire.  In this HD version of Choplifter, the enemies can attack from the foreground, which allows inXile that much more room to place enemies and keep that player guessing from where the bullets will be flying in from.  To keep your chopper agile, you can use two buttons to switch the direction you are flying and to face the foreground.  This can be a bit jarring at first, but becomes very fluid after a couple of times use.

Choplifter HD

The environments are 3D in design, but only allow you for 2D flying.  This keeps you on the same left to right movement for each level, which is reminiscent of the older games.  Flying through a desert, city or jungle doesn’t always feel unique, but the design of the levels are different enough to keep you guessing as to avoid a bridge or crane in your way.

In my opinion, the lowest point of the game is the voice acting. The pilot spews some ridiculous one-liners that I enjoy to an extent, but they seemed to repeat quite often.  I did hear one that some Star Wars fans will enjoy, because I know there must be a few working on this game.  It has to do with a certain smell.  I laughed out loud when I heard it, and I got a funny look from the person watching me play.  Other than that, the sound design is good, but nothing we haven’t heard before.  The music is not all that unique, but does pick up during the climax of each mission.

Choplifter HD

All this design leads me to another point, the limited fuel.  This is a mechanic that was ever present in the older games, and does not disappoint here.  It is something that you always have to think about, and deciding whether or not to save someone based on this limitation is something not enough other titles use.  I found myself, on multiple occasions, turning back from a rescue point to grab more fuel and boosting back to the location, just to find that the enemy had wiped out the folks I was supposed to rescue.  This was not usually the main task, but still shows that the variablilty of the levels is built in and could be one reason to replay them.

The vehicles themselves all have standard attributes: armor, capacity (of rescues), fuel, weaponry and speed, which are slowly unlocked as you complete missions.  Starting out with police choppers and moving into military ones, Choplifter HD does use standard designs, but my guess it is toward the end of the game you will get some totally awesome ones, with even more fire power.  Maybe even some silly ones?  Downloadable packs will be available, because in the main menu there is a link to DLC.

Choplifter HD

With each level having a countdown timer, I wish inXile would include a way to turn that off when the game is completed.  Or some other “survival mode,” but the levels that I played lasted between about 5-10 minutes each.  I am not sure if there are any longer ones, but if priced right, Choplifter HD could be a fun, side-scrolling flight game.  I played a good chunk of the game and got into some hectic, in a good way, firefights.

After playing Choplifter HD for a couple hours, it shows that InXile Entertainment has a solid downloadable game in development. Hopefully they can iron out a few more bugs before the planned November release.  Choplifter HD does seem to be a great fit for a controller or keyboard, just up to you what your preference would be.  I enjoyed the gamepad more, but that is just what I am more comfortable with while playing a twin stick shooter.  Part flight game, part side scrolling shooter, Choplifter HD has a old school arcade feel with modern 3D design that will aim to please.

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Thanks to inXile Entertainment for making this preview possible! For more details, visit the official website of Choplifter HD at choplifterhd.com. Folllow ChoplifterHD on Twitter for more updates!

 

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Real Steel game (XBLA, PSN)

Real Steel movieReal Steel just hit the movie theatres this weekend, debuting at number one in North America. Game developer Yuke’s will be offering fans a way to experience the excitement of the film’s robot boxing combat from a new perspective – their own. This is not an extension of the story from the Real Steel film. In the Real Steel game, game developer Yuke’s invites players to enter the arena with their very own robot. Real Steel offers offline combat and online worldwide multiplayer combat.

In the Real Steel game, players begin by selecting their very first robot model. Base models include “Standard” type, “Power” type and “Speed” type. Players will have to progress through the ranks of robot boxing to the ultimate battle with Zeus, the reigning champion. League competitions take place in the gritty arenas of the Under World matches and the glitzier World Robot Boxing (WRB) arenas. Each league has five main stages of ranking tiers, putting players to combat with four challengers in each tier. The “boss” of each tier includes a robot that makes an appearance from the Real Steel film. Yuke’s has designed fifteen cool and quirky looking robot boxers of their own, including one named Scrapbot. Keeping true to the design of the robots from the film, Yukes’ robot designs were approved and supervised by Dreamworks.

Real Steel (XBLA, PSN) from Yuke's

Real Steel is aiming to attract game players of all experience, much like some other fighting games have done in the past. Casual players will be able to select from simple controls and the more seasoned gamer can select the more complex “multilayered gameplay” controls. Players can send punches using the four face buttons on the controller. Defensive commands can be issued using the top shoulder buttons on the controller. A combo of button presses will allow for dodging techniques, as consecutive poundings while defending will cause damage. A robot’s “power charge” meter (stamina) is consumed when dodging, so don’t think that dancing around the arena will save you. Other techniques include swaying and repelling moves. Players will need to use caution and try to avoid a pummeling, as damage carries over into the next match. Battles can result in brutal outcomes and damage, with arms getting knocked off and heads flying with a punch. Real Steel offers a deep damage and customization system.

Real Steel (XBLA, PSN) from Yuke's

Being a robot boxing game, players can customize their fighting machine with over 500 parts within ten distinct categories. Upgrading robots will give players new advantages in the ring. By winning matches, players will earn the currency for upgrading their robot’s power. Robots can be repaired using currency won from a battle, or be beefed up with a completely new part. Ultimately, however, it will be the skill and technique over power that determines the champion. Yuke’s will be releasing additional downloadable content, allowing for even more custom parts and creative robot assembly. New robot characters from the Real Steel movie will also be released. Expect to encounter a unique variety of players online and see how your own robot design fares in battle.

Real Steel (XBLA, PSN) from Yuke'sThe Real Steel game looks like a nice and fun compliment to the movie. Don’t be surprised if you get attached to your customized robot fighter. Real Steel is scheduled to arrive as a downloadable game from the Xbox LIVE Arcade (Xbox 360) on October 12th for 800 Microsoft Points ($10) and the PlayStation Network (PS3) on October 18th for $9.99. Keep a lookout for its release, as well as more hands-on (or robot fists-on) details in our upcoming review of Real Steel.

Watch a trailer from the Real Steel game below (or here on YouTube). For more details on the Real Steel game, visit the official website at www.realsteelgame.com.

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SNK Arcade Classics PSP Minis
Available for: PSP, PS3
Official website: neogeostation.snkplaymoreusa.com

Developer G1M2 has released a series of eight SNK Playmore arcade games from the ’80s on the PlayStation Network. The PSP Minis games (which can also be played on the PS3) mostly fall under the shooter category, from top-down to side-scrolling, with a few other genres mixed into the foray. The mix of games shows a good view of SNK’s initial history of arcade gaming culture. Read on below for review recommendations of eight PSP Minis SNK games, which are now available for $2.99 each from the PlayStation Store.

Ikari Warriors

Ikari Warriors (PSP Minis)
Ikari Warriors is one of SNK’s original hits in the USA and garnered a cult following throughout the ’80s. This version on the PSP keeps most of the game’s fundamentals intact. While the lack of dual rotary joysticks from the original arcade cabinet can become a nuisance, the auto-aim feature helps retain the 360 feel while shooting. The gameplay can be unforgiving with hordes of enemy soldiers bombarding Ralf and Clark with a hail of gunfire, so prepare for the frustration of most ’80s & early ’90s shooter games. While the difficulty seems like a detractor, it is actually quite fun. Ikari Warriors is best enjoyed with a second player and played on the PS3.

Ikari Warriors recommendation:

Recommended download!

Marvin’s Maze

Marvin's Maze (PSP Minis)

The game Marvin’s Maze seems on the surface like the offspring of PAC-MAN and two-story building with a series of elevators. It also seems like a simple game, but can be highly addicting in its challenging nature, and is a great action-puzzle game. Marvin has two ways to win in this G1M2 port of the game by SNK: either complete the decimation of the required amount of “Robonoids” (located at the screen bottom) or by collecting the dots on the screen. There are special “power-up” dots which, like PAC-MAN, allow you to destroy an enemy. In this case, Marvin is given one-shot rather than a specific time of invincibility. I found Marvin’s Maze to be a fun game to play and enjoy in retro fun with the family.

Marvin’s Maze recommendation:

Recommended download!

Ozma Wars

Ozma Wars (PSP Minis)

Ozma Wars is among the first original scrolling shooters, which was released in 1978. The premise is quite simple: shoot enemy ships on their way down towards your spacecraft. While the gameplay won’t garner any accolades, it should be noted the history this game set. It is one of the first games to use levels and also the inclusion of the life/energy counter or bar. The monochromatic color palette may bore some but it should be noted that this game is straightforward and nostalgic fun.

Ozma Wars recommendation:

Maybe.

HAL21

HAL21 (PSP Minis)

HAL21 was released in 1985 and is another shooter game that stands out in its own right. The vertical top-down shooter is action-packed and while it may have too many sprites on-screen for some to bear, this game will test one’s hand/eye coordination to the max. HAL21 is highly reminiscent of Galaga, for those who are wondering what game it is comparable to. I found the challenge enough to warrant the purchase of this downloadable game from SNK and worth trying out for an exciting two-player shooter.

HAL21 recommendation:

Recommended download!

Athena

Athena (PSP Minis)
Athena is a side-scrolling platform action game. Players assume the role of a warrior princess roaming throughout various levels, taking on the denizens of enemies scattered throughout. The game features various upgrades such as armor and weaponry, which seems appealing at first but is rather grueling due to the fact that you end up downgrading equipment if you run into some by mistake – highly annoying. While Athena includes some delightful characters and environments, this is a game which some may or may not enjoy due to better arcade platformers of the time.

Athena recommendation:

Maybe.

Sasuke vs. Commander

Sasuke vs. Commander (PSP Minis)

Sasuke vs. Commander places you in the role of Sasuke, a warrior tasked with protecting the local Shogun from the Ninja. While the game’s name comes off as slightly appealing, little interest will come from playing this G1M2 port of the SNK Playmore original. Sasuke vs. Commander comes off as a horrid Space Invaders clone set in feudal Japan, but due to the original year of release can be slightly forgiven. While a complex attention to detail shouldn’t be expected, the game’s bland settings and shooting falling pixels (not sure what the enemies are) make this game a chore. Unfortunately this is a game I would not recommend to anyone.

Sasuke vs. Commander recommendation:

Skip it.

Guerilla War

Guerilla War (PSP Minis)

Guerilla War, another overhead shooter, is in the vain of Ikari Warriors. The gameplay in this game of two unnamed soldiers (in Japan, it’s supposed to be Che and Fidel) invading a Caribbean island. It is super noisy, highly frenetic and has a demanding level of skill. All the things a ’80s arcade cabinet shooter should be. G1M2 did well on this port of SNK’s classic arcade game. It has retained most of the Japanese originals graphics, characters and locales. While the inclusion of political figures may not sit well with some (many games in the ’80s and even today dabble in those subject areas) the game is still an enjoyable pixelated romper stomper.

Guerilla War
recommendation:

Recommended download!

Vanguard

Vanguard (PSP Minis)

Vanguard is a multi-directional shooter. While the Star Trek-like theme music and game concept made me want to like it, it left me seeking more. Vanguard on the PSP and in the original featured a spaceship attacking oncoming waves of assailants while utilizing firepower in four directions; in this case triggered with the four face buttons on the PSP. The game becomes extremely simple with energy fields, which appear nearly every time your first one runs out. The energy fields allow you to fly into enemies and destroy them. I believe this one feature made for a game that was far too redundant in the idea of being a challenge and made for a lackluster playthrough. Vanguard will be hit or miss with some gamers, being a predecessor to the style of shooters like R-Type. That, however, may be enough to draw in gamers who enjoy the genre who would like a taste of shooter history.

Vanguard recommendation:

Maybe.

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Thanks to SNK Playmore and Michael Meyers Public Relations for making this review possible!

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