Dawn of War Dark Crusade
A sound multiplayer experience… but that's about it
Dark Crusade is the third instalment in the Dawn Of War 40000 series, following Winter Assault, which was released a year ago. The DOW 40000 series is loved for its fast-paced, violent action, somewhat of a rarity in RTS games. Unlike the original game and its sequel-which had a definite single-player storyline-Dark Crusade doesn't have much of one. It's best described as a "conquer all maps, conquer world" RTS, with the introduction of turn-based elements.
You start out choosing one of seven factions, and will play one round at a time, defeating neighbours as you aim to conquer the planet of Kronus, which is somehow of great import to all the galaxy. Dark Crusade introduces the Necrons and the Tau as playable races, the other five having been brought in from earlier versions of the game. Also, each civilisation gets a unique unit, adding more depth to the gameplay. Each civilisation starts with a home base, and you can choose to attack adjacent territories per turn. Certain territories contain relics, which endow your forces with special abilities when you control them. Eliminating races from the running to control Kronus is what you need to do, albeit a step at a time.
The graphics remain unchanged from the earlier games, and are still pretty good for the genre. So, you might ask, what's different? Well, nothing much, to be honest-besides what we've already mentioned, and making all higher research tree advancement ridiculously cheaper.
You'll find teching up a snap, so you can concentrate on the one thing DOW achieves flawlessly-combat. The number of civilisations available also adds much-needed depth and variety to the game. Thankfully, THQ has added a lot of multiplayer maps to Dark Crusade, something that was sorely missed in Winter Assault.
Multiplayer aficionados will croon at the sheer number of options Dark Crusade offers. The lack of an involving single player campaign complete with twists and plots prevents us from rating this game higher.
2142 Battlefield Frosty Wargrounds
The hailed multiplayer experience that is the Battlefield franchise returns for a fourth burst in Battlefield 2142. No rewards for guessing that 2142 is based in its namesake year. The world has been plunged into an ice age, and wars take place for habitable land, just as in the earlier Battlefield games. There are two teams-a European coalition and the Russians-and they'll fight it out from Europe to Africa; understandable, since Africa's climes will be warmer…
Players of Battlefield 2 will feel at home with 2142. The player classes are down though from seven to just four, but the developers have made these more flexible. Gameplay is very similar, with the vehicles and weaponry functioning similarly-why change a winning formula? It's only the futuristic look that distinguishes 2142 from Battlefield 2.
Speaking of vehicles, you have a few options depending on which side you play, but the differences between the Euro and Russian versions of the same vehicles and weapons (looks aside) is subtle. You can unlock special upgrades like grenades, advanced armour, and weaponry.
Great multiplayers need great maps, and 2142 excels. The maps are sprawling and well-laid-out. Tactics are important while covering, moving or assaulting, and no vantage point is invincible. You'll need to keep moving around, intelligently using cover, and co-ordinating strikes.
The Conquest and Co-op Conquest gameplay modes are still there, accompanied by an all-new Titan mode. The object here is to destroy the enemy Titan (a behemoth flying ship). Instead of capturing and holding control points, you must now capture and hold missile silos.
The missile silos under your control will periodically fire missiles on the enemy Titan, which is protected by an energy shield that slowly whittles away, exposing the ship itself to damage. You must now board the crippled Titan and blow up the four security terminals exposing the core to damage.
Titan battles are typically intense: you may be flying around capturing silos one second, and the next you're boarding the enemy Titan for an all-out close combat experience aboard its narrow corridors!
2142 uses a slightly tweaked Battlefield 2 engine, which is starting to show its age with all the great-looking shooters popping up everywhere.
Aurally, the game is the same as its predecessor. If it works…don't fix it! Pity the start-game-take-coffee-break-like load times also remain unchanged. Running the game for the first time is one of the best ways to waste time! Thankfully, consecutive loads are much faster.
2142 is quite simply a great experience for you and your friends, but playing against bots isn't much fun. You'll need at least eight friends to get the fun started-the more the merrier!
Need For Speed Carbon
One Small Step For Games...
The Factory, previously known to the world as Electronic Arts, has struck again. The Need for Speed franchise never seems to get tired, setting a benchmark so high that few arcade racers come close, much less threaten the games' obvious superiority. With Need for Speed: Carbon (NFSC), EA brings to us a stew of the best of its predecessors, and then some.
The game starts off where NFS: Most Wanted ended-your unceremonious return to your old city of Palmont. A flashback also ensues, informing you that you high-tailed it to Rockport in the first place because you ticked a bunch of people off plenty. You must now redeem yourself in the eyes of your former peers, not to mention one highly cheesed-off ex-girlfriend (played by the hot-but-not-Josie-Maran Emanuelle Vaugier). You need to take over the territories of the other gangs in the city, bringing back the old sense of order (?) that you left behind. If you can't figure out how, perhaps you should read a different review.
The story (and I use the term very loosely) progresses in the mixture of full-motion video and CG that Most Wanted brought to us. Unfortunately, while the acting in Most Wanted was hilariously tacky, the acting in this one rivals the movie industry's prize turkeys.
When you start off, you get to choose from three car classes-the Muscles, Exotics, and Tuners-each with its own advantages and quirks. The Muscles are insanely powerful and slide like oil on a banana skin, the Exotics are natural supercars, and the Tuners offer an embarrassing number of customisations. The Muscles are undoubtedly the most entertaining-and if you can handle a Muscle car, you can handle anything. Overall, though, the cars handle pretty much the same way as in Most Wanted-rock solid, but with sufficient variations to keep you entertained.
The first addition to NFSC is the crew-your wingmen, who will help you out in your races. You can choose only one per race-either a blocker, drafter, or scout. Blockers will (duh) block your opponents from threatening you, drafters will let you ride in their slipstream for a boost in speed and scouts ride in front of you, marking off the fastest way through the track. The addition is neat, but your wingman's constant chatter can get on your nerves, and strangely, he always manages to come ride next to you the second you take the lead.
NFSC's Palmont is a grey city, whose well-lit night-time environments really show off the lighting effects the game is capable of. For the looks, NFSC is unnecessarily resource-hungry. Cars look slightly better than those in Most Wanted, the road looks far worse; there was no justification for the fact that the only card that can run it at 1600 x 1200 and everything turned on, without framing, is the 8800GTX. Criminal.
Another new feature is the overhyped Autosculpt, which takes the number of ways you can customise your car to obscene highs. Quite nice if you're into that sort of thing, but ultimately, it's just eyewash.
To win territories in the game, you have to race against the bosses in a three-tiered event. The first is a basic Most Wanted-style race on a city track followed by the Canyon Duel-the most refreshing part of the game. This is a two-stage affair where you first follow your opponent along a winding canyon track, gaining points as you inch ever closer. In the next round, the positions are reversed and you lose more points if your opponent comes close. If your points come down to zero, you lose. And yes, this is the first NFS since NFS 2 where you can fall off a cliff (or canyon track in this case) and lose the game.
Drift races make a comeback again-another lemon of a decision. While handling does change dramatically, these cars are not built for drifting well-realistic games like Project Gotham Racing or the insanely arcade-ish Ridge Racer are much better suited for such activities.
The rest of the game is pretty straightforward, and if you've played Most Wanted recently, irritatingly repetitive-including the cop chases. There are some little things that are quite neat-traffic now responds to oncoming racers with nervousness, and it may even be possible that cabbies are the worst of the lot. Even in the Canyon Duels, your opponent starts making mistakes if you stick to his/her bumper for too long.
If you're just off the Most Wanted high, wait a few months before you go near this one-Most Wanted is a far superior game, and won't tax your graphics card as much. If you've never played an NFS title, Carbon is going to prove quite enjoyable.