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Scourge: Outbreak – The Verdict

Scourge: Outbreak – The Verdict

The first I heard of Scourge: Outbreak was upon reading an email sent to me by a friend containing the official trailer for the game. It showed characters leaping around with acrobatic skills and using a number of powers to take down enemies in style. This in turn lead me onto the official website which showed promise of unique co-op action and gave some decent back story to support the pending release. Unfortunately the end product does not deliver on the ambitions of developers Tragnarion Studios.

Instead what we have ended up with is a game that delivers generic gameplay elements borrowed from heavyweight games such as Mass Effect and Gears of War, tagged onto a barely existing and unfinished story with poor voice acting, script writing and a general lack of polish. This is apparent from the first few minutes of gameplay as you are guided through a tutorial attempting to explain the games controls. It all starts getting a little overwhelming around the time you are talked through squad commands like revive, attack and move position, all of which are controlled via exactly the same button.

Static shield is handy when reviving a team mate.
Static shield is handy when reviving a team mate.

The problems escalate from here onwards with the first noticeable gripe being the strength of the enemies and the almost useless AI. Even on normal difficulty the enemies seem to take tens of bullets to the face in order to kill, which is problematic when faced with groups pushing on your position. This is not helped by the fact that your allies AI seems a bit dim often standing out in plain veiw, shooting into space, hiding in cover when no enemies are around, failing to follow you to your position or running into walls. In fact the only thing they seem proficient at is reviving, even shielding themselves in order to do so. I wont lie in saying that this has actually pulled me through a couple of the trickier sections of the game where multiple revives have been needed in order to advance.

This leads me onto use of my own special abilities and weapons. These two special abilities, powered by your Ambrosia suit consist of shield and attack and differ slightly depending on which character you chose at the start of the game. The character I played as, Shade, had a Static Shield and Shockwave as his abilities and rarely did I find myself using these. Shield was useful when reviving, but as the AI seemed to be faster at me than this I found it was better just to hunker down behind cover and use my guns rather than risk getting close to the bullet sponge enemies and risk a Shockwave attack. The guns themselves well, I never used to understand what people meant when they said that guns in a game felt weak, now I do. It feels as if I’m firing inaccurate pea shooters, especially mounted guns which you would expect to sound and feel very powerful. Pickups come in standard forms, shotgun, assault rifle, pistol etc. Each of these have their own modifications to accuracy and damage which can be alternated throughout the levels.

I cringed every time Mass spoke with his Scottish accent.
I cringed every time Mass spoke in that Scottish accent.

In all honesty I could go on at length about the flaws in this game. The poor script and voice acting, unfinished story, the fact that multiplayer matchmaking is broken, overpowered enemies, poor visuals and animations, stereotypical characters (Mass I’m looking at you), lack of innovation and use of generic terms to name just a few, but I will save you the time by instead saying that yes this game has its problems and a bucket full of them for that matter, but there is one saving grace, the challenge it provides. If you are the kind of person that loves third person shooters, even the kind that have been reproduced to death, then this might perhaps possibly just be for you… maybe.

Nightmare mode is the pinnacle of challenge and unfortunately frustration and even completing it on normal is daunting enough. Super tough enemies mean retrying areas multiple times whilst juggling between reviving your team and dealing with enemies rushing your position. Over the four levels of Scourge: Outbreak there are also a few boss battles of note that require you to actually use tactics and think about how you play the game instead of blasting your way through room after room and never looking back. Getting to these battles may well see you kick your TV in anger and for a lot of people that very fact will not be worth picking this game up.

Verdict – Off Target

Platforms Available – PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Platform Reviewed – Xbox 360

Review based on a copy provided by Tragnarion Studios

Please check this post for more on our scoring policy.

Have Video Games Become Too Violent?

Have Video Games Become Too Violent?

Video games have been connected with a string of bad press over the years due to violent content and the supposed effects this could have on the people playing such games. Games have been banned, police statements have been made and bloody torsos have been sold as ‘collector’s edition’. There is no doubt that violence is fairly prevalent in video games and the video game culture. The real question is have these games become too violent?

At the risk of sounding like an old codger (I’m 25) I’m going to recall part of my childhood experience with video games for you now. You see, when I was a youngster video games were primarily a pre-adolescent activity. I grew up with an original Game Boy playing the likes of Donkey Kong and Super Mario Land, a hobby passed onto me by my dad who was of the generation of kids that hung around the arcades every evening playing Pong and Space Invaders. The video game industry has long since passed the days of Space Invaders at the arcades and now caters for the more mature gamer amongst others.

That’s not to say that the Pac-Man games of our parents generation don’t exist today, they have just become a lot more intelligent. Kids are now entertained by augmented reality and motion control and gadgets like the iPad and smart phones have largely replicated the style of gameplay the arcades used to provide. This in turn means that in most cases, adults who still wish to play video games need a ramped up experience in order to keep them entertained. If you were to take a look at the data for all time video game sales for the PS3 (provided here) you can see that games with high levels of violence feature heavily. God of War III, GTA IV, Killzone 2, Red Dead Redemption, Resident Evil 5 and numerous Call of Duty games all feature and are all 18 rated games.

So it’s clear that the video game industry caters largely for the older gamer, but in my opinion adding an age restriction to a game does very little in terms of discouraging younger gamers from playing. I don’t want to turn this into a debate about age restrictions and if parents should or shouldn’t be buying games for their children, so instead look at it this way. Games are often compared to films in terms of cinematic experience and story telling ability. Great games are noted as being enjoyed for generations, just as great films are. So would films on general release to the public, be allowed to show the same level of violence that we find in games today? I’m talking about the detailed knife takedowns in Battlefield 3, the torture scenes featured in more than one Call of Duty game and the brutal decapitations in Dead Space 3.

Tomb Raider has never been violence free, but the latest release has shown a serious increase in graphic death scenes.
Tomb Raider has never been violence free, but the latest release has shown an increase in graphic death scenes.

A good example of a game that has matured with the times is Tomb Raider. Now Tomb Raider has always featured a certain level of violence, but it’s thanks to the recent reboot, rated 18 that the level of graphic violence has been pushed to the next stage. I’ve read a few arguments from loyal fans questioning why that level of violence was ever deemed necessary in the first place. Other younger gamers are disappointed that they are no longer able to buy a game that, at least in my eyes, was seen as a fairly family friendly game. Other titles such as Skyrim, a game that has won numerous awards, offer perks that will increase the level of violence as you improve your character.

Not every game is heading in the direction of increased violence however. Games like Borderlands 2 and Gears of War: Judgement have menu options that cut the level of violence and profanity making them more available to younger players. An idea for developers to consider would be that more games could have options like this, but making them permanent implications. This way two versions of the same game could be released with different ratings allowing access for gamers of varying ages. I’m not saying content should be cut, just simple menu options like those mentioned above.

Skyrim's skill tree offers a perk that will increase the chance of decapitating your enemy upon their death.
Skyrim’s skill tree offers a perk that will increase the chance of decapitating your enemy upon death.

There are various reasons as to why popular games are becoming more violent. Part of the rise could be down to the popularity of first person shooters such as the Call of Duty series. These shooters (of which more than just CoD are included) generally don’t hold back on the violent scenes and are aimed at all out action and adrenaline. An example of this in Call of Duty would be a torture scene during the first Black Ops game now famously known as the glass punch. Other games may in turn try to emulate the popular gameplay structure of these games, eventually turning such scenes into the norm.

Another reason could be that the video game industry simple wasn’t able to fully realise its artistic visions in the past. The whole industry has advanced so incredibly in the past 10-15 years that super detailed games with huge environments are expected for most AAA releases now. Violence has always been commonplace in video games, but if games like Carmageddon (which was widely criticised upon release) were being made with today’s graphics would there be as much of an uproar?

While I myself am not adverse to a little bit of video game violence as long as it’s in context, It’s clear to see that as a whole the levels of blood and gore contained in popular games and the culture surrounding them has increased and some people might not like it. With next-gen consoles just around the corner the potential for this to increase even further is definitely there, but as it stands I don’t personally see it being too bad, aside from a rare few occasions (such as Hitman Absolution’s Facebook app).

Do you think video game violence has become too extreme, or is it all just fun and games? If you have any views on video game violence feel free to leave a comment below and I will do my best to reply to you.

More DLC Skins Revealed for Minecraft 360 – Gears and Fable Make Appearance

More DLC Skins Revealed for Minecraft 360 – Gears and Fable Make Appearance

While it seems that the Xbox edition of Minecraft is always playing catch up, I can’t help but get just as exited over every update and every little bit of new content added as I did when playing on the PC. Owners of Minecraft 360 (as I like to refer to it as) are awaiting the release of the 1.7.3 update which will bring about shears, pistons and many bug fixes among other things.

Most notably though will be the option to customise the skin of your character thanks to a handy skin DLC pack planned for release along side the update. The price of the pack has not yet been stated but we do know that it will contain 40 skins including a King, a Creeper, Splosion Man, Covenant Grunt and Trials Man.

Five more skins have also recently been unveiled. The newcomers include: Ms Splosion Man, Clayton Carmine (Gears of War), Banjo (Banjo and Kazooie), Jack of Blades (Fable) and a prisoner.

The new cast of The Village People assemble for a photo.
Epic Fail! Gears of War Expires

Epic Fail! Gears of War Expires

Keep it up and you're going to need that gun Cliffy.

Phill: Own Gears of War? Not any more: The exe files for Gears of War have expired today. That means that without hacking the date and time of your computer, you cannot play Gears of War on your PC from today, until Epic release the (inevitable) patch. Similarly, the setup.exe goes dead on the 22nd of February. So, as Stalin says below, when you bought the PC version of Gears of War, you were essentially buying a demo, only it’s much, much worse than something like an issue with reinstalls and the like, just because it utterly destroys any futureproofing you thought your game had. Hell, I still play games from 10 years ago; surely something that’s only a year or two old should last a little longer?

While Cliffy ‘PC is full of pirates, Dude Huge, I invented chainsaws on guns, Clifford’ B has made faux pas in the past in relation to Epic’s relationship with the PC audience, this really is a big kick in the teeth. Even when it gets fixed, the intention will still be there that they didn’t think people would want to play their game pretty soon after it was released. That shows a disregard for both their product and their audience. Astonishing, really.

Forceful retirement is never pretty.

Greg: Epic just cannot get it right can they? Or do they even want to? They create a multi-million dollar franchise, and seem to be determined to keep it from the grubby mits of PC Gamers. Even when they actually give us the game, we’re only allowed to play it for a little while according to beleagured gamers on the Epic forums. We can play it – but only when Cliffy B gives us his good graces to do so. Maybe they even consider the PC version a demo – you can play it for so long. Then you have to buy a 360.

The long catalogue of PC Gamer baiting measures by Epic just don’t seem to end do they? We made Epic. Unreal. Unreal Tournament. Unreal Tournament 2003/4. We bought them by the bucketload, and now what? Tossed aside while Billy G flashes with nipple tassles with Dollar Bills attached to the ends.

I’m sure they’ll release a patch re-enabling it. But how many people in the time it takes for it to release are going to download hacked ones? And what’s the point? Those who already pirated it won’t have this issue? They’ve already got the game. It’s only those who bought it who are going to wake up to find their game not running. This is by far, the stupidist move in Epic’s increasingly long history of screwing the PC Gamer over, whether intentional or not.

Congratulations Cliffy. You’ve given us and a thousand other sites another reason to display that oh-so-flattering pic with the Gear Gun again. Bask in it mate. Bask in it.

Chris: I have tried this out myself, and through the following images you can see that what is happening over on the Epic Games forums can be reproduced. This was a totally new install of Gears of War, and issues such as this are totally unacceptable. Epic have made a big blunder here, if they don’t take action soon then this will escalate further and further.

Check out the message I got when i tried to load the game, and the message you get when looking at the certificate for WarGame-G4WLive:

Message when trying to launch game
Out of date certificate

(Click on the images to get a bigger picture.)

Update: Epic have stated on their forums that “We have been notified of the issue and are working with Microsoft to get it resolved. Sorry for any problems related to this.” Guess it’s all being sorted then.

The Helpful Dead: Why Left 4 Dead’s Co-op Works

The Helpful Dead: Why Left 4 Dead’s Co-op Works

Did someone fart?

As any good gamer PC Enthusiast should, I’ve been playing Left 4 Dead in every spare moment I’ve had since Tuesday morning. Of course much of this time has been entirely occupied with removing decaying limbs from decaying torsos, all the while giggling with glee when I catch a hospital gown wearing zombie mid-run and it goes flying through the air. However, it’d be a betrayal to the side of me that is pure fledgling journalist if I wasn’t, the whole time, playing while observing.

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