Tim Weaver | Managing Editor, Future Games
There were, perhaps surprisingly, quite a few things I didn't like about Dishonored; mostly small things - but, accumulatively, enough to annoy me. Like, the way levels were scored at their denouement, which always made you feel like you'd 'lost' if you went full-on High Chaos.
Like, the tedious trudge through The Drowned World to get your stuff back after the signposted-from-miles-off story twist. Like, the fact that you never really cared about any of the characters, even the Empress-in-waiting. Like the 'rules' of the stealth, which - for me - were never quite clear enough, even at the end, and which could too often see levels descend into an all-out destroyfest if a foe inexplicably eyeballed you from a mile away. (Which, distressingly, they often did.)
Ultimately, though, none of that mattered. Because when a game is ambitious as Dishonored, when it offers as many options, as many wonderful moments of discovery, when a game makes you feel as unrelentingly bad ass as this one, its problems pale in comparison to its achievements.
Best of all, it rewards repeated plays, its countless routes, its hidden corners, its throwaway dialogue, its joyously clever combat system. You can, of course, kill no one, at all, ever - but you can, with practice, kill everything in a beautiful ballet of destruction that sees heads roll and Dunwall repainted crimson. It's an insanely impressive game, whose issues are born out of a relentless, laudable push for complete player choice.
So... should we gather for whisky and cigars tonight?
Iain Wilson | Writer, CVG
Pre-order bonuses normally consist of mundane items like a new costume for your character to wear or a slightly sexier gun for them to shoot. With Hitman: Absolution, however, IO flipped the concept on its head by offering early adopters a fully functioning minigame.
The premise of Hitman: Sniper Challenge is deceptively simple - assassinate high-profile arms manufacturer Richard Strong as he makes a rare public appearance, while also taking out as many of his fourteen bodyguards as possible, just to send a message. You can cap him the moment he steps out of his helicopter, of course, but if you want to make a dent in his entourage you'll need to take a much more stealthy approach.
Ultimately, this is where the challenge lies, as you try to bump off enemies at just the right moment so their bodies fall over ledges or into pools and disappear from sight. Although the guards follow fixed patrol paths you can fire distraction shots nearby to lure them away and investigate, leading to more and more intricate approaches as you aim for the ultimate goal of eliminating everyone while remaining undetected for a Silent Assassin rating.
Then there's the hook - the scoring system. Each downed enemy awards you points, with more for a headshot and even more for hiding the body. Quickly chain kills together and multipliers kick in, boosting your score further, and if you achieve the elusive Silent Assassin rank at the end of the contract your score is doubled. Friends, National and International leaderboards become highly competitive battlegrounds, which at one point lead to me sniping for three days straight in pursuit of the highest score I could muster.
Andy Kelly | Games Editor, CVG
After The Old Republic, which was basically World of Warcraft with lightsabers, I was done with MMOs for a while. But then Guild Wars 2 came along. It has a completely different rhythm to most online role-players, using smart, streamlined quest design to combat the grind. Playing an MMO solo used to be a lonely experience, but here you find yourself regularly questing and fighting alongside other players - even months after launch when the initial buzz has died down. The way objectives are collaborative, even among strangers, is a stroke of genius. It gives you a taste of the social aspect of MMOs without needing people to party up with.
ArenaNet just want you to have fun. If your friends roll a different race, you can teleport to their starting area in minutes, for free. If you want to try PVP, you don't have to wait until you're a high level: the game automatically makes you level 80. If you're questing in an area that's a lower level than you, XP is scaled so that you don't feel like you're wasting your time. It's a level of inclusivity that eludes most MMO devs, and it makes Guild Wars 2, for me, one of the best ever examples of the genre.
Andy Hartup | Editor, Special Projects
The Darkness 2 is a love story. It's a love story where you can rip a man's spine out through his ass using the demonic powers of your 'Romeo' protagonist, Jackie Estacado. It's a love story with quad-wielding, where you can dangle a man from your demonic tentacles and unload shotgun shells into his face, or tear him in half with the other appendage. It's probably the most violent game you'll play this year, but its roses are just as red as its violence.
The relationship between Jackie and his dead girlfriend Jenny provides a touching backdrop to the killing. As Jackie fights the demonic Darkness for control over his own mind, the memory of Jenny is at the epicentre. During the mad-house levels, which take place in Jackie's mind, you know she's an illusion, you know you need to reject her to 'win' the game, but - for me - the touching alternative ending that sees you twirling into madness with Jenny in your arms is one of the most memorable, brilliant climaxes to any game ever. It's the perfect finish to one of the bloodiest, yet most heartwarming, games of this generation.
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