Older posts here... !

Monday, 10 March 2014

Rik's Reaction to SHADOWRUN RETURNS (PC)

I thought Shadowrun Returns was great, from start to finish. Excellent. It is difficult to know what else to say... I just thought this was great. Perhaps the right game at the right time for me? Or perhaps it is something you'll enjoy? I'll just ramble as follows.

The game is based on the world of Shadowrun which is best summarised via its Wikipedia entry..

"a science fantasy tabletop role-playing game set in a near-future fictional universe in which cybernetics, magic and fantasy creatures co-exist"

I couldn't have said it better myself, although I would add that we are talking modern cities, corporations, neon signs and an obvious lack of equality here. This is were slimy corporate types, automatic weapons, street thugs and computer hackers mix with ghosts, wizards, demons and fireballs.

Imagine Blade Runner meets Harry Potter. Suffice to say this isn't Middle Earth, Dragons and mead.

The artwork is lovely, just love those hand drawn back drops

So.. Shadowrun Returns is the latest PC and Tablet (Android & iOS) game based on this world, and I thoroughly enjoyed it earlier in the year.

A lot of Role Playing Games (RPGs) can be intimating to the casual player, creating your character, choosing his or her skills, dialogue choices, quests, experience points, party management...  and even for me as a seasoned gamer some of these kinds of games can be just too complex to really enjoy. Some people love this of course and fair enough, it certainly isn't a bad thing, but that level of involvement isn't what I play games for.

So that said, Shadowrun Returns, is an absolute perfect amount of complexity for me, deep enough so the choices you make affect the way you play, but easy to understand without worrying you're missing something. It is this excellent balance which I believe lets everything else shine, specifically the games narrative. I wasn't agonising over upgrading one skill over another for fear of hamstringing my character and I was thankful for that as it kept things flowing.

Picking your skills is important, but not complicated or hard to pick up

The story centres around you, a mercenary known as a Shadow Runner. You specialise in completing paid missions which can be easily denied with no trace to your employer however at the start of the game you're somewhat down on your luck with barely a credit to your name. One night, you receive a recorded message from a friend, who surprisingly is calling to let you know he has been killed... and he wants you to look into his murder and find out why he is dead. Is this standard for someone in your line of work?! Nevertheless.. this is where your story begins.

The entire game is very well written in my opinion, the characters come to life through the text and written dialogue. Everything leaps from the screen and I honestly felt like I was enjoying an interactive book, which is a great feeling and one I only tend to get when I am fully engaged and engrossed.

The locations, the people, the narrative.. all of it is vivid and believable, not so much due to the on screen action, as animations are limited but more through the filter of my imagination as scenes described in words played out in my minds eye.  Everything I read, such as the interchange between characters, or just digesting the description of the place I'd just arrived at... the smells, the sounds it all seemed alive to me which is a testament to way it is told.

That said, it is worth mentioning that there is no voice acting here, it is all written text, but as you've probably already gathered, for me this only enriched the experience.

The narrative is solid, and makes sense (within the world) and pans out well. I thought the pacing was excellent.

Some might dislike the linear nature of the game, I personally love it. Side missions that don't drive the plot are available, but they are in direct relevance to the main storyline at all times and therefore aren't always available for you to come back to tidy up, so bear that in mind. I am a fan of a well told story, and a free form roaming game is never as good of an narrative experience for me. I always prefer just being told a well crafted tale so I'm probably biased, however I think Shadowrun Returns nails this.

Between dialogue choices and drinking up the atmosphere, you'll also find yourself in quite a bit of combat. Fights play out in a turn based way, like playing a board game you take your turn with each of your characters getting two moves each, a move and an attack for example, and then the turn passes over to the bad guys to do the same.

Battles feel tight and tactical, you can use cover, flank enemies and activate abilities or cast spells to buff your allies or hinder your opponents. The artificial intelligence controlling your foes is capable and for the most part entertaining to overcome. I wouldn't say this aspect of the game is a highlight but it is enjoyable.

How you talk to people and the actions you take can have repercussions on how you can approach a problem

I really enjoyed this game, it took me 17 hours to complete but it felt like a lot less purely because I was enjoying every minute of it. I was just waiting to turn the next page of this curious tale and learn what was going to happen next. Like a good book, it was tough to put down.

It has it's flaws here and there, like checkpoint saves, some sections keeping you in turn based combat mode when there aren't any enemies about and on some of the longer battles the combat music can get a little tiring, but those are small complaints.

I certainly recommend Shadowrun Returns and now with the release of the add on Dragonfall, with a whole new story to explore and I understand some changes such as the ability to save your game at any time, you have even more reason to get stuck in.

Good game, good times.

See the trailers to both titles below, thanks for reading. Rik. :)

Shadowrun Returns Launch Trailer

Shadowrun Returns - Dragonfall

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Rik's Reaction to MAX PAYNE 3 (PC)

I recently finished the final chapter of the Max Payne story and I think I liked it! However... I have come away with some mixed feelings...

So firstly what is Max Payne 3? Well you play as the Max in the title, an ex NYPD cop who after the events of the first two games finds himself with his wife and baby murdered, his best friend dead and another woman he grew to care about shot in the back. Sooo understandably, this leaves Max carrying some hefty emotional baggage around with him, a suitcase made of scar tissue, full of regrets.

He's life weary cynicism personified, he's been through too much.. seen too much and no matter how hard he tries to find redemption or a way out of his own internal pain... things just seem to get from bad to worse.

Max Payne is probably the most apt name for a character ever conceived.

However he is also hard as nails and a master of film noir metaphor, believe me you'll come away from this game with a gritty one liner for nearly any situation. For example...

Max - “I didn’t know what to think any more. This town had more smoke and mirrors than a strip club locker room."

Use that one next time your confused about something, it will be fine trust me.

We start the 3rd game with Max now out of the NYPD as I say, pretty much propping up a local bar in New Jersey and trying to find some answers at the bottom of a Whisky glass.

Max Payne - "I've been sitting at the bar for three hours, or five years, depending on how you look at things"

During a drunken fight with some apparent hoodlums, Max tries to do the right thing... and ends up killing the only son of local mob boss Anthony DeMarco, who puts a price on his head.

So! It's off to Brazil for Max to a new life of private security away from it all and more importantly a particular mob boss. Enjoy the sunshine!

Now about those mixed feelings I have.

On one hand this game oozes style. The gun play and fire fights just "look" cool and at times almost appear choreographed in the way they play out, it's quite a spectacle to behold. When you combine that with Max's gravel voiced narration and an attention to detail which only Rockstar can provide, the game can feel like you're in the middle of greatest action movie ever made, which is brilliant!

On the other hand, I really felt like it dragged on way too long and as a game it could have been over in half the time really. It introduces utterly nothing new after the first 5 minutes. Beyond different locations, different weapons and harder enemies you'll pretty much be standing in cover shooting bad guys, or doing the same but in slow motion, for roughly 10 hours.

The slow motion is excellent by the way. I did a short video of one sequence which might demonstrate...

I'm not saying I didn't enjoy it, but paradoxically I'm not saying I did. The highs were few and far between for me, as were the lows, and for the most part I just went through the game shooting people in cool looking ways. Wading through bullet casings and stepping over dead bodies.

The story feels like it should take centre stage, but it doesn't, the gun battles is where the spotlight is firmly shone. The narrative technique is the same all the way through and the pacing is rigid in that in never changes. At no point did I feel like I was on the edge of my seat racing to climatic plot point.. or kicking back soaking up words to flesh out the world or characters... 

The graphics, animation, musical score and attention to detail all combine to create some real Hollywood action sequences 

That isn't to say it isn't well acted, well animated or well written, it is. High production values are apparent throughout, and Rockstar have done a stellar job of making places seem real. Some of the locales are amazing in their detail, the airport level for example feels like an airport should.

Its layout, the fake adverts on the walls, the sounds of the jets, the PA systems the baggage conveyor... just marvellous.

And yet, with all this high praise, Max Payne 3 will remain an average game in my eyes, just because it was an average experience for me, which ultimately boiled down to the game lacking variety.

Whether you love this game or not, as always, it's personal taste and in this case how much you love a cool gunfight.

It's good! But, is it for you?

Monday, 20 January 2014

Rik's Reaction to TOMB RAIDER (2013) (PC)

An entertaining but flawed game in my opinion, but enjoyable for what it was and so far the only Tomb Raider game I have ever completed. (SHOCK REVELATION!?)

So this time we are taken all the way back to the start of Lara's story and the narrative of the game is essentially an origin tale. We learn the background on how a young innocent woman, becomes the Lara Croft we all know and love, i.e. World class archaeologist with a penchant for revealing ancient supernatural myths to be actually true whilst acrobatically murdering endangered wildlife on the way to recovering a lost and priceless artefact.

In this game, Lara isn't that, not yet at least.

The story begins with Lara as part of an archaeological team who along with 3 or 4 of her friends make up the support crew for TV celebrity archaeologist Dr.James Whitman. They are at sea, looking for the ancient island of Yamatai in the Dragons Triangle, just off the coast of Japan. On a hunch / educated guess from Lara, they decide to change course and sure enough.. find the island!!

By crashing into it.

Shipwrecked the survivors encounter a gang of bloodthirsty mercenaries who capture Lara's friends... successfully setting the scene for Lara to save them.. come of age.. and ultimately turn into.. LARA CROFT. I won't tell you any more about the story as I don't wish to spoil it for you.

Someone should really have put a warning sign up about this place...

So.. I already said it's an entertaining game... but why is it flawed? Well... A few reasons. 

The main one is that the game constantly takes control away from you to the extent that sometimes I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be actually controlling Lara Croft or not. There were more times than I can count that the game just asks you to press the "forward" button.. and Lara does the rest herself, ducking under things... moving around things... etc etc..

Now this in itself... isn't horrible to be honest... it allows certain narrative driven events to take place, like conversations between characters over handheld radios or whatever... but it really messes up the rhythm of the game and often to the point there just isn't one at all. As a result. the story's pacing felt disjointed and all over the show... and for such a narrative led game, it really stood out for me and detracted from the experience.

The performance of the game also raised some concerns as certain chambers or vistas would cause the game to stutter and "chug" seemingly at random, when seconds earlier it had been silky smooth. Lara herself demonstrates jerky animations at times, the way she really obviously changes direction in mid air and homes into scalable ledges like a heat seeking park-our expert and the inescapable feeling that despite huge rolling landscapes above , below and around you, you're just advancing down a big pretty corridor.

But most of all, the biggest issue for me was how the "gritty" storyline of one person surviving against the elements, her hunger and the dangers around her were successfully undermined by the events Lara goes through from start to finish. Lara should be dead... so so very dead. Many times over..

I know I know, it's a game, you cry!! ... but it was just SO MUCH PERIL and TOO MANY dangerous situations she faced and survived against ALL the odds that it actually ruined the semi grounded story it was trying to tell. She fell down cliffs, several times. Washed over waterfalls, several times. She is swept down rapids smashing off rocks, several times. Ledges crumbled, buildings burnt down, ropes snapped, caves collapsed, Wolves ate her, PLANES CRASHED, HELICOPTERS CRASHED, EXPLOSIONS WENT OFF IN HER FACE...You get the idea.


Oh crap.. oh crap... OH CRAP... OOOOOHHH CRRRAAAPPP... !!!

There is suspending disbelief for the sake of entertainment, I can do this.. I can! But then there is just coming to the conclusion that Lara Croft is a super hero and will never ever die, no matter what situation she is in. That's how I dealt with it. ... what?!

On another note I felt it was too violent .. considering Lara's apparent inexperience in combat situations at the start of the game and the emotional impact her first kill has on her... she took very quickly to hacking men's heads off with a climbing pick. It went from doing what she had to do to survive... to almost relishing a fight.. and that felt kinda wrong..

Moving away from the thematic and narrative issues however... actually playing the game was alright. The combat was excellent and a real shining point, I enjoyed nearly every encounter.

The times when Tomb Raider did open up and allow you to step outside the linear corridor... which were rare... the puzzles were the solvable, but not immediately solvable kind... which is the exact right balance in my opinion.

The voice acting and the overall storyline is also engaging, the graphics excellent and for the most part very well put together.

Tomb Raider is enjoyable, finishing the game at all says a lot of course (I wouldn't finish something I hated), but quite a few bits to change and fix for the next game in my opinion although, I am glad I played it through.

But to conclude, I recommend Lara Croft, maybe for a tenner if you see it about.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Rik's Reaction to DRAGON AGE 2 (PC)

Right so firstly.. Dragon Age 1 .. Dragon Age Origins was and remains a good game, no question. Bioware, heroes of the western RPG returned to their fantasy roots in 2009 after running around space with Commander Shepherd in Mass Effect (cool trailer on that link) and they created an entertaining and suitably epic story where a great evil is taken on and destroyed by you the hero and his or her companions.

At the time, DA1 was a 50 hour breath of fresh air in a world dominated by man shooting simulators which took a meagre afternoon to see the start and end credits. That trend continued into 2011 with yet more fish based games (That's what COD is right?).. so imagine my excitement when this was released to the masses:

Awesome right!? RIGHT!? Sorry.

However as it turns out.. I was so so so so so SO very wrong to be excited. I have only just got through this game, finishing the main story and 99% of the side quests yesterday evening... and my advice? Don't bother wasting your time.

This game is boring. Fact.

The whole story is set over 10 years (it feels like that too) and follows a simple refugee and the remains of his family who flee to the city of Kirkwall. Here you stay and over the next ten years get caught up in the city's political machinations, engage with its citizens, learn about the city's problems and eventually rise to the status of the "Champion of Kirkwall!" *applause*

Oh .. erm..mate..  there's something on your face..  

So what exactly is it that has made DA2 so despised by me..  well to be honest.. everything.

I'll start with the city of Kirkwall itself. It's brown, or grey..  or brown. 





Ok that last one is from Counter Strike and not Dragon Age 2 but could you tell the difference!? It is boring. Just imagine spending 30 hours there, in all the same places, over and over and over, the city doesn't even slightly change.

Is this a living breathing city? No. It feels like a big brown corridor linked by loading screens... every citizen you meet is a whining moron who needs your help and the idle chatter between people around town is exactly the same over TEN YEARS. Isn't there something new to talk about!?!?

On the rare occasion you do get to leave the city it doesn't get much better. You have something like 4 places you can visit.. which you will... time and time again.. and every time it's the same layout.. the same enemies.. the same the same the same.

Lets check the map and see... oh.. no need.. siiiiiiigh 

What's worse is that when you complete a chapter of the game and the story moves on a few years these areas are populated with a new scattering of crappy stuff to collect (Which we'll get onto) which means you need to explore the entire area again, which still hasn't changed or been populated with new challenges, just to make sure you aren't missing out on something crucial. You trudge over your own footsteps time and time again and it is NOT INTERESTING. 

Sigh..   you could argue I am being picky, but imagine you were given a task, say..  go buy a Mars bar, what exciting adventures will you face!?  You set off down your road, past that post box on the corner and get mugged by MARCUS the MUGGER, you know he has a dodgy leg so you give him a kick on the knee and run off..  victory.. exciting! You see your neighbour, make small talk about Marcus, get to the shop, buy your Mars bar and head home over the same route. 

The next day you are given a task, go buy a Bounty Bar...  what exciting adventures will you face!?..  and EXACTLY THE SAME THING HAPPENS IN EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. You see the post box, Marcus attacks you, you deal with him the same way, you chat to someone, you complete the task, you go home and look up the meaning of "deja vu".

Now I know that example is just a mundane task spiced up by a spurt of GBH, not the stuff of legend Dragon Age 2 would be aiming for I'll admit..  but my point is that sadly quests in this game end up becoming mundane and the journey through them predictable and dull. Honestly I could tell you exactly when I was going to get ambushed.. and by what .. and how I would deal with it... and most of the time I was right because it happened to me a few hours previous. 15 TIMES!

Every quest in DA2 boils down to killing everyone or talking to someone. That. Is. It. It is the same every time, in the same place, for reasons you don't care about because you are bored and dead inside. 

I am so bored

Now to that crappy stuff I mentioned, aka loot. To the uninitiated loot is the stuff you find in chests, boxes, barrels, dead bodies, ethereal dust, ectoplasm... take your pick and for me, loot is the LIFE BLOOD of these kind of games. If the story isn't up to much.. and in DA2 it isn't up to much... then other than levelling up your character and learning new skills it's the promise of bigger, better and shinier things. 

The progression of taking your character from a lowly scrapper with a blunt sword, a barrel lid shield and crappy clothes to a legendary warrior in powerful gleaming armour, wielding a 6 foot sword that crackles with lighting and holding a shield the size of a stable door which is just as thick is really appealing to me, and a lot of RPG gamers. However in DA2 the utter crap you have to sift through to get to that point is almost a job in itself.

Seriously, trekking through the same brown place you've trekked a thousand times before, to visit the same warehouse you've visited a thousand times before, to kill the SAME SET OF BANDITS you've killed a thousand TIMES BEFORE, the only thing to look forward to is the gleaming golden chest hidden in the back room filled with promise.

But once again, no.

The amount of "tiger eye fragments" and "moth eaten scarves" I discovered in a box or chest after committing mass murder to reach it was becoming way less heroic and a lot more psychotic. I am not kidding..  have a quick look at the complete list here and just revel in the amount of crap you can collect for no bloody reason.

So wasn't worth it.

The only benefit of this tidal wave of tosh is the sense of relief you get when you actually find something useful, but even then it isn't that often you'll swap out your weapons or armour for your new find, because normally that's also junk....

.... but what about your companions that accompany you on your quests? Surely some of the stuff can be offloaded on them? Not when it comes to clothes it's not! In a bizarre game design choice you have to find full armour and clothes sets which are specifically for your friends.. and I mean find them, like collecting Pokemon or something, and when you have a spare pair of boots, helmet, gloves etc just lying around it makes no sense at all that they can't just take this superfluous rubbish and WEAR IT. 

I am not wearing that you utter tramp! It doesn't match my eyes....  

The companions you quest with are unremarkable and fit certain sterotypes. There's the sexy pirate whore, straight laced warrior woman, moody outcast etc etc...  you can annoy them.. or make friends with them but honestly this has no effect on anything.  It really is a transparent attempt to make the game more emotive or something, to make you care about the story and the people it effects but essentially when all is said and done your companions become the help when the fighting starts and not much more. 

Sure I had my favourites, but then I have my favourite flavours of crisps....  but I don't fall to my knees weeping if a bag is accidentally sat on. The characters are like crisps to me, yes.. I went there.

Talking about the fighting...  it's all spectacle and no real substance. The first time the swords start flying you'll be genuinely blown away by the speed of the action and how dangerous it all feels, however by the end of the first act, when you've been in combat for nearly 10 hours, it just becomes a grind.. and my friend, you've got another 20 hours to go. 

I found myself muttering under my breath as I walked 4 yards from the pile of dead in my wake only to be assaulted again, by the 20 cookie cutter bad guys I JUST KILLED.

You deal with nearly every enemy in the same way, using the same tactics and skills. As with the location, the quests, the dialogue.. it is all the same and it just wears you down.


I am not one to usually rant, or moan about bad games too much (I haven't even talked about the music, it's a new kind of pain) and I know there are loads of people out there that see Dragon Age 2 as the pinnacle of RPG greatness, maybe like this guy:

Just... wow

...but I honestly don't see how.

The game is a time sink, nothing more, I will never get those hours back and I only got through it so I could write about it after seeing the whole thing.

Please, even if someone is giving the game away, don't waste your time. Avoid. 

There are much better stories and RPG's out there for you..  go have a look at the Witcher 2  or Skyrim. Please... promise me.


Sunday, 8 January 2012

Rik's Reaction to RAGE (PC)

So id software..  pronounced ID..  not I.D..   clear?  No.  Well anyway masters of the FPS way back in the early 90's they've taken their first stab at a new game in 7 years and it feels like they have kinda jumped on several band wagons for this one..  

We all remember being terrified by unconvincing pink pixel monsters in DOOM.. 


And then being ASSAULTED by a "varied" palette of browns in Quake..

It is just so BROWN

And most recently encountering slightly more convincing pink monsters in 2004's DOOM 3... in the dark...


For me those are mostly fond memories and RAGE kinda threatens that deep-rooted nostalgia initially, and fails to make a good first impression...  mainly through a lack of originality...

The game has been in production since 2007 and over that time the men at id appear to have been enjoying 3 specific games..  and their influences are clear to see...
  • Open world?   CHECK   (See Fallout 3)
  • Mad Max style end of the world apocalypse badlands?  CHECK  (See Borderlands)
  • Moody guitars mourning better times?  CHECK  (See STALKER)
  • Mutants, zombies and mutants? CHECK ( See ALL THREE 1, 2, 3)
And RAGE has these in abundance.. 

Open World & Badlands, Guitars, MUTANTS!

"I'VE PLAYED THIS ALL BEFORE" you might scream as you begin your first mission to murder a den of mutants for paper thin reasons, however in truth...  I don't think you'll actually care.

id have a long and proud history of making guns sticking out of screens feel chunky, heavy and dangerous and RAGE is no exception. Every pull of the trigger with every weapon feels like a ballistic face punch and it's satisfying when you nail a shot with such kinetic force that your target cartwheels through the air to land behind the wall he just vaulted to get at you. 

It makes you feel like a bad-ass, like the cowboy in the white hat who has arrived in town and things are gonna change. That is exactly what RAGE is all about and really what your ticket price is paying for.

Although the game may have taken some pointers around what theme and features make a game sell these days, it is still firmly an old school shooter which see's you essentially moving from one shooting gallery to the next. 

The combat is a relatively straight forward affair, with simple retro mechanics. You won't find a "take cover" button ala Deus Ex, with the camera zooming out to a third person perspective and your character expertly hugging your choice of refuge. There isn't even a lean button to allow a little peek around corners, it's all about crouching with your face seemingly pressed against a wall, popping up and blasting away.

The AI are about what you'd expect from a modern game, most of the time they do a good job of staying in cover, moving up and around to flank you. The don't always hit and they don't have eyes in the back of their head. You never feel like the game is cheating or they have an unfair advantage.

They also have a few surprises up their sleeves from time to time..  believe me the first time a screaming maniac charges at you, serrated axe held high, you'll line up the head shot, confident in your prowess (maybe you'll invite your girlfriend over to watch?  [don't by the way]) and as you pull the trigger said maniac DUCKS and your shot explodes in the wall behind... you'll raise an eyebrow I'm sure. 

If you duck I'll KILL YOU

They are fun targets which provide an entertaining fire fight across the board.

One thing that certainly isn't old skool about RAGE is the graphics...  and my word are they pretty. If you have a good enough PC this game really looks wonderful, the weapons in particular are actually jaw dropping in places. Look at this screenshot from the PC version of the game... then imagine it moving towards you at speed. Eep.

"WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIT! Sir! .... you dropped your wallet!" 
The PC version did suffer universal reports of terrible texture pop in at release, however I can report I haven't had any of those issues and as always recommend the game is patched and up to date before playing. Both the Xbox and PS3 versions have also received many plaudits for its graphical muscle and to be honest, do we expect anything less from id and John Carmack

The citizens of city hubs like this one will provide you with jobs and missions to complete

There isn't much else to say about RAGE, sure you get a vehicle which you can upgrade with weapons, turbos and armour however it just serves as a mode of transport to get from point A to B and your next corridor full of evil doers.. oh and something to race in from time to time.

You can visit merchants to upgrade your weapons and you can buy materials to build things to help you, such as cute little spider robots that follow you around and help out when the shooting starts.

There is a story of sorts...  however much like you as the protagonist, it's best not to ask questions.

Go play, shoot some bad guys and have fun.. and in the end, what else do you want from a id FPS? 

For me...  not much.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Humble Indie Bundle 4 available now!

We all like giving to charity right? Well here is your FOURTH chance to PAY WHAT YOU WANT for 5 decent indie games..  plus 2 more if you pay more than the average going rate (£3.28 at time of writing).. that is insane value for money and some of your donation goes to helping the American Red Cross and the charity Child's Play

You can head over the page now by clicking HERE or watch the below video which explains all!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Rik's Reaction to Extraction: Project Outbreak (iOS)

We all know that this time of year means multiple new releases across the gaming world, but the Apple app store is a different beast, seeing new games released nearly everyday and all for less than a can of coke.

On perusing the app store the other day I recently picked up the the strategy action game Extraction: Project Outbreak and have been giving it a go over the last few days..  and I must admit I am pleasantly surprised.

If you've played ANY game this year there is a good chance at some point you've killed, talked to, looked at, read about, overheard someone talking about or ran into some kind of Zombie. They have overrun our games in 2011 and Extraction has no quibbles about throwing yet more undead at you... WHY WON'T THEY JUST DIE!

 This time we are fighting the "infected by a disease" type Zombies..  and we have the righteous goal of wiping every last one of these sick people off the face of the planet for the good of mankind. It's like a NHS management simulator.

So how do we go about such noble acts? Rendered in pleasing 3D, the games perspective is from a birds eye view with clear sharp graphics and nice bold colours. You take command of your generic soldier as he is dropped into the thick of things, ordering him around the levels completing set mission goals.

Erm.. little help?
The best thing about Extraction is its awesome control system and it makes the game a breeze to play and Shortround games should be congratulated.

To move you touch where you want to go... simple enough and the path finding is flawless.

To shoot you actually swipe your finger over who you want to attack, which then targets them and your soldier will fire automatically letting you manoeuvre around independently. You can keep your distance from the bads should you need, or respond to new threats from new directions while keeping up the fire.  The real innovation here is that you can swipe over multiple enemies targeting them all in a chain, giving you damage bonuses for each extra zombie you link in your chain.

This encourages you to try and get as many enemies on the screen as you can and take them all out in one clean swipe of your finger, its a nice risk and reward feature which can keep the combat fresh.. and its a tool in your armoury when you find yourself surrounded and on the back foot.

If that wasn't enough, the speed at which you swipe over your target dictates whether you score a "Skill shot" which does tons more damage. A bar in the top right of the screen fills in red as you swipe and should you release your finger at the right time, stopping the red in the sweet spot of green, you'll score a skill shot and earn yourself a quick victory.

Enemies stay varied, with classic shambling zombies making way for the quick 28 days later style sprint at your face type Zombie all the way through to armed zombie soldiers and robot helicopters which..  I don't really understand why these are here. They are often all thrown in the hat together offering different challenges.

It's the ease of the control scheme which keeps you thinking about the strategy and rarely does the game get in the way of itself which is a real find for this type of game. How many times do developers shoehorn old controls onto the touch screen with virtual buttons and d-pads?, ... this feels natural and its great.

Throw in  grenades that you just drag and drop onto the screen and melee combat by "scrubbing" over enemies, you find it becomes a pretty deep combat experience with plenty of options.

I wouldn't be surprised to see other games taking this control template on in the future.

How heavy is this one soldier!?.

As a soldier drafted into the ranks of Project Outbreak the brass back at HQ have broke out the big book of generic missions for you to complete. I quote from chapter 3:

  • Classic extermination - Wipe out all the bad guys, heal them with your bullets.
  • Search and rescue -  Cowardly scientists need finding and escorting back to base. Bloody wimps.
  • Escort - Yes... there are escort missions, take some soldiers (who defend themselves) to a point on the map.
  • Repair - Escort an engineer to a damaged weapon emplacement, defend him while he gets the job done... and escort him back

They all work really well, the NPC's (Non player characters) don't get in the way, or run headlong into danger and any timed missions give just the right window to get them done without it being easy.. or stupidly hard, and if you find yourself stuck you can always just choose another mission open to you, you're never really rail roaded down one path.

With the completion of each mission you earn yourself money, which you can then spend on upgrading your weapons, unlocking new ones and equipping yourself with specials such as deployable sentry guns which can defend areas for you, or robot spider drones that help you out. Its a big tree of 14 weapons all with individual upgrades and their own strengths, weaknesses and ease to earn skill shots with.

You can pay real sterling cash for in game money.. but this is NEVER shoved down your throat and its perfectly acceptable to play without doing this. Its more of short cut for lazy gamers than anything else.

On top of all this you also gain experience allowing you to level up in true RPG style, however this really boils down to improving one of 4 characteristics. Armour, Speed, Melee and Gun Skill. It's super light and nothing to get excited about.

Steve the Sentry Gun in action. GO STEVE.

The games plot is throw away best, told in a PowerPoint style cut scenes between levels. It's pointless and shouldn't be something you need to worry about and by far the weakest part of the game.

The games sound effects are good, however the in level music is repetitive and I ended up turning off the music altogether.

Extraction has a nice user interface, with clear easy to use menus and a nice big in game map should you need to know where your objectives are and the frame rates are smooth as butter on my 4th generation iPod touch running the latest iOS software.

At 69p it's a bargain and well worth a look. It's one of the best iOS games of recent times and comes recommended by me.