Game review: Velvet Assassin

This game should have been the one that made me forget about the likes of the early Splinter Cells and Thief III. This game was born in the era of the expectation of hideously overpowered graphics cards, tons of memory, multiple cores and physics processing units.

Graphically, it is quite good. And what is used to distract you from merely “quite good” graphics is piss-poor linear game play, poor controls, sterile environments and, in fairness, excellent voice acting.

This game has everything wrong with it that you would expect when a moderately successful console games is crammed onto the PC platform by people who’ve never played any of the sneak’em’up greats. Such developers should be forced to complete Metal Gear Solid, all of the Splinter Cells and all of the Thief series before getting their hands on what should have been the best stealth FPS

ever to grace a personal computer. “Execute over 50 different brutal maneuvers to deliver a quick and silent death to enemy soldiers” the marketing says. What that says to me is I have 50 different brutal maneuvers at my fingertips, choice mine to dispatch an enemy. Bollocks. What in practice happens is you sneak up behind your unsuspecting target and click the left mouse button. That’s it.

At this point it can go two ways. 1) You take out the enemy and have time to drag to corpse into the shadows. Jolly good. However what happens depressingly frequently is option 2. Our heroine turns into Miss Stabby and goes to town. Definitely killing the target kraut but taking so long about it that you get caught by the next chap walking along. Repeat.

Then you get moments of sheer comedy:

Kraut #1) Deary me, look at this puddle with the electric cable running through it!
Kraut #2) Mein Fuhrer! Someone could electrocute themselves!
Kraut #1) Ja! Let us hope no-one throws that big switch over there while we are walking through it.
Kraut #2) Nein! That would be awful!

Krauts 1 & 2 proceed to splash about in the water.

Don’t buy this game, I did, and it’s rubbish.

Scan

I’ve historically not been the world’s biggest proponent of Scan International, a PC systems and components company based Oop Norf.

Earlier this month, the 2 yearly tech refresh for my games rig came round and technology has moved on as it is wont to do. I thought I’d revisit the fun of building my own games rig and starting pricing up the components I wanted. The shopping list ended up as:

  • CM Cosmos S case
  • Enermax revolution 1250W PSU
  • Asus rampage extreme II mobo
  • Core i7 940 processor
  • Noctua NH-U12P cpu cooler
  • 6G Corsair dominator memory kit

Including delivery charges, it turned out that Scan were the cheapest supplier, and were the only one that claimed to have everything in stock. With some trepidation, I placed the order, paid extra for saturday delivery, sat back and waited.

All the stuff arrived, exactly when it was supposed to.

Piecing it all together was simple enough, but I hit a pretty fundamental problem in that the machine would not even post if more than one memory stick was installed. With more trepidation, I called Scan support.

They quickly hashed the problem down to either an out of date BIOS, or a faulty mobo. A BIOS update later confirmed the “faulty mobo” theory. I paid for a new mobo and shipping, these arrived next day.

I await the fun of getting the faulty mobo through Scan’s returns department, but, so far, I’d have to give them a 9/10 for performance.

Game review: Assassin’s Creed

I was slightly dubious about buying this game. I was torn between a huge variety of reviews, some loving it, some loathing it. However I’ve been waiting for so long for a good sneak-’em-up to come along (where art thou, Thief IV?) that I decided to give it a go.

I like games with a good story line, Assassin’s Creed definitely has an intriguing plot but it spoils it by requiring the player to sit though cut-scenes for a remarkable (subjectively) percentage of the game, especially during the early stages. The short version of the plot is that you have been kidnapped by a medical research facility who stick you in a machine that accesses the contents of your genetic memory. One of your ancestors was a member of a secretive organisation of assassins, by reliving parts of his life you are able to gain access to more memories which are locked away. Got that? Good.

You unlock memories by performing tasks such as saving a citizen from being beaten up by the guards, acting as a bodyguard, collecting flags and, obviously, assassinating certain people. You have nine people to assassinate but, before doing so, you must carry out investigations by eavesdropping or pick-pocketing or beating the crap out of someone to gain information about your target. Sounds tedious? Well, to a certain extent it is, except….

You will be distracted by the stunning, utterly stunning, in-game graphics. Stand atop a roof, pick a house in the far far distance, make your way towards it. No load times, no cuts, just seamless progress towards your gorgeously rendered target. But even here there’s a problem. My monitor’s native resolution is 1600×1400 which Assassin’s Creed supports but won’t allow me to turn anti-aliasing on. To enable AA I have to drop to 1280×1024 which ruins the game because it’s fixed 16:9 aspect ratio leaves thick black chunks of unused screen estate at the top and bottom of the picture.

There’s no in-game save, your progress is automatically saved at certain points along the story. Realising this, I waited until I was at a point where, to me, it would have logically saved my progress and then quit to do something else. The game hadn’t saved and I had to replay a chunk of the game including a couple of long unskippable cut-scenes. Frustrating.

In game travel is frustrating, too. You’re given a horse which can walk, trot or canter. The default speed is “trot” however if you go past a guard at anything but “walk” and he’ll immediately start hacking at you with a sword. Why? We’re not told.

The AI is pretty good but has some serious holes. If a guard is chasing you and you break his line of sight, climb up onto a rooftop and duck into one of the indicated “hiding places”. The guard will follow you up onto the roof, but won’t think to look in the covered gazebo that’s the only possible place you could have hidden. Instead he’ll wait until the game decides you’ve eluded him and then then just wander off.

This is a great idea for a game with stunning graphics that’s been let down by tedious game play. The engine is clearly capable of much more, let’s hope the next game in the series fixes the oversights.