Warner Bros video games in November 2011

Warner Bros video games in November 2011

Grrl gamers: get a sneak peek at upcoming and latest video games from the big W. We roadtest the gameplay for BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY, LORD OF THE RINGS: WAR IN THE NORTH and LEGO HARRY POTTER.

On October 26th I was invited to an event presented by Warner Bros at their “secret” headquarters in London (okay, maybe I exaggerated a bit, there’s nothing much secret about a considerably tall glass building with a bus stop just outside it) to check out the latest Warner Bros backed multimedia offerings, from films and video games to televisions and other technology. It was enough to get any tech enthusiast rubbing their hands (with glee, of course – not from being caught out in the cold). What the Warner Bros event lacked in quantity it made up for in quality (from a technology-loving, future-embracing, cyber tree-hugging standpoint) with a host of 3DTVs, video games, virtual marketplaces, films (although mainly for demonstration purposes) and even a 3D laptop! Despite all this, my main reason for being there was for the computer games. Which is what you really want to know about too. Strap in… let’s go for a ride.

LEGO HARRY POTTER: YEARS 5-7 – Mini review and gameplay

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While not being much of Harry Potter fan, I felt it my solemn duty to have a bit of a go on the demo Xbox 360 version. I have to say it wasn’t at all that bad. A continuation of the Harry Potter LEGO series, ‘Years 5-7’ is decent fun and plays more or less like ‘Years 1-4’. Within the one level available for demo I got to cast spells, solve a puzzle and get embroiled in a battle with a giant snake! Of course, in the full game you’ll also get to make potions, solve more puzzles and possibly get a chuckle or two at how the darker elements of the later Harry Potter years are handled with humour, keeping much to the kid-friendly theme of the LEGO world.

The demo only offered the two player local co-op multiplayer option, but the multiplayer experience is pretty stable and handles very well (as expected of the Warner Bros LEGO games). You ghost in and out of different characters to complete character-specific tasks, like when Harry casts a spell to conjure up a full watering can. He shakes the water on a snow-covered gravestone to find a missing spell on said gravestone… but only Hermoine will be able to place herself on the correct spot and press the action button to check her spell-book to see if Harry has used the right spell. Multiplayer gaming is aided by a handy automatic split-screen display if two characters end up too far apart.

‘Years 5-7’ has a pretty standard and simple control system, with a bit of a twist as the controls are mainly used for spells. This becomes a bit more interesting when during battles when you levitate objects and launch them at the enemy. Exactly what I found myself doing as I and Harry battled a giant (LEGO, of course) snake. It does get a bit repetitive after a while but it’s amusing enough to get you through the battle.

The last aspect I will mention is the graphics. I have to say, they’re very impressive and very in tune with the LEGO theme. I’ve had a brief look at the ‘Years: 1-4’ series and can say that ‘Years: 5-7’ is definitely a step up, especially where lighting is concerned. The graveyard level I got to play was particularly well depicted in all its LEGO-y glory.

So on the first look, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 will definitely keep the younger fans entertained but should also interest the slightly older Harry Potter fans, even on humour alone. Both the gameplay and multiplayer option are handled deftly and simply in the standard LEGO video game style (and I’ve always at least been a fan of the way it’s done – they pay attention to the little things).

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 is due for release on November 18th on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, PSP, DS, 3DS and PC.

LORD OF THE RINGS: WAR IN THE NORTH – Mini review and gameplay

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The next game I got to have a look at was the upcoming and latest game in the LOTR series – LORD OF THE RINGS: WAR IN THE NORTH. It’s a third-person action RPG for up to three players where you get to play as either Farin the dwarf, Andriel the elf or Eradin the human ranger. Set in Northern Middle Earth (obviously), the game is based on a quest that “Gandalf himself deemed imperative to the success of the One Ring’s journey toward Mordor”. So… pretty important, then.

Oh, and it turns out there is a fourth character who joins you in your quest, as I found out rather early in the game – Beleram, the giant eagle. However, you have to fight off a bunch of orcs before you get to free him and as a bonus reward for doing so, you can summon Beleram whenever you’re out in the open ground to act as the great big “death from above” assist (depending on how many eagle feathers you find in the chests scattered in various places in the game). During my gameplay session I didn’t get to find out the full extent of how Beleram can be used but I do know he is more than useful when it comes to battling hordes of orcs… When summoned he’ll grab a number of the blighters and throw them to their deserved demise.

In addition, the gameplay is pretty straightforward. You have a control for a light attack and another for a heavy attack (which is probably more effective and worthwhile when you’re not taking on too many enemies at once) and you also have a bow and arrow at your disposal. You can use turrets to your advantage when you get to one – just be careful of any orcs that spot you in close quarters (which they did on one occasion during my play of the game). The aiming system for turrets, bow and arrows was glitch-free but slightly rigid – however that doesn’t bother the gameplay much at all.

I also got to face (along with my AI-controlled remaining party of 2) a humungous troll, which is where the bow-and-arrow proved most useful. It was a troubling task battling that massive piece of ugliness (whose attack pattern seemed to consist mainly of bellowing, charging at random members of the party and smashing them against the wall or ground with a cathedral-sized fist) but it was nothing a few aptly-timed rolls and well-placed arrows couldn’t fix, followed by a mini cutscene of Farin (although this possibly depends on who your chosen character is) finishing of the fallen big brute with his war-hammer.

All-in-all, the gameplay will be nice and simple enough for players to get straight into without being too baffled over what button does what. As a plus, the pace gets frantic quickly and action-monkeys will be more than satisfied.

Graphically, LORD OF THE RINGS: WAR IN THE NORTH is a very lush game, with the environment always appropriately depicted and breathtaking without overdoing it. This is even more apparent in the outside environments where the details provide astonishing results in the foliage, characters and the drab, stony appearances of the buildings.

Overall, War in the North is looking to be a treat. I’ll go ahead and admit that it won’t be top of the my list of must-get games (considering the rich choice of video games scheduled for a November release) but it is definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of the modern-day Baldur’s Gate games and/or the LOTR series.

LORD OF THE RINGS: WAR IN THE NORTH is due to be released on November 25th for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and the PC.

BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY – Mini review and gameplay

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Ah. The best game fo the bunch, BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY was hyped for what seemed like centuries and now it is finally here for us to sink our teeth into. This game has already been released at time of writing, possibly meaning that a sizable amount of you lot have already got the game (and besides, there is a review on this game coming up soon from yours truly), so I’ll keep this subsection short and sweet.

First of all, Arkham City is a great big woolly mammoth of a game. So much to do and so much to explore that it’s almost frightening. Not to be compared with GTA4 or anything like that by any means, as it isn’t as free-roaming (in terms of buildings), but that doesn’t matter when you get to jump into a pool of clown-faced goons and take them out in a way that only Batman can.

I admit that I didn’t get as much of a play as I should have, but that was only because I decided to play nice and relinquish the control pad to clamouring fellow journos. And who could blame them? The game is visually absolutely gorgeous, from the characters (as ugly as a lot of them are) to Batman himself to the landscape of the whole city, which is always captivating to look at while Batman flies through the air on occasion. The camera is always on point no matter what angle or viewpoint and never seems to miss a trick. The lighting and use of lens-flare in appropriate places is absolutely impressive and the shading techniques are more than adequate enough to depict the grot, grime and darkness that surrounds the majority of Arkham City.

The gameplay is additionally satisfyingly intuitive. In terms of the combat system, there is a basic attack button and another for countering (which will rely on very fine timing). There is also another button to launch Batman into “Detective Mode”, which helps the caped crusader locate certain objects and clues that only be found when this mode is used.

Speaking of detectives, I also hear word of a ‘Forensics’ mode available to play in the game, which allows you to fully unleash your inner detective to solve the reasons and motive behind the killings of certain folk at the hand of well-known Batman villain (in geeky comic circles anyway) – Deadshot.

With such amazing depth at first look, it is no wonder Arkham City is being described as the ultimate “Batman simulator”. Until getting a proper hands-on look myself, I was almost inclined to agree as I stood there flinging Batman from left to right on one of Toshiba’s latest 3DTV models, the 55WL863B, and only then became fully inclined to believe that the praise-singers were onto something.

I am also told that the game’s storyline doesn’t disappoint, delivering a thrilling ending and devoting 10% of the game to Catwoman (which will hopefully make a refreshing change once you are done with Batman himself). So, is Arkham City worth getting excited about? You bet your sweet bat it is.

It’s also worth noting that GOTHAM CITY IMPOSTERS will be available beginning January 10, 2012, on Xbox LIVE™ Arcade and PlayStation®Network, as well as for Windows PC. An open beta for the game is expected to go live in December. Fans can go to www.GothamCityImpostors.com to register for their chance to take part in the beta.

BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY was released on October 21st and is available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC (November 18th).

GREEN LANTERN – Mini review and gameplay

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While this game wasn’t a prominent feature of the Warner Bros event (or even taken much notice of) I took a few notes nonetheless, seeing as I’m a bit of a Green Lantern Hal Jordan fan. The game is probably not the best example of the 3DS’ full graphical capability but it doesn’t render the game entirely unplayable. The 3D effect is well handled and doesn’t make you feel like you’re suffering from vertigo or tunnel vision while playing it, even on full setting. Having said that however, the graphics do seem a bit hazy.

The gameplay consists mainly of 3 attack buttons (using Green Lantern’s ring of course) and a jump button that enables you to engage in combat mid-air. While the gameplay is both straightforward and (kind of) interesting, reactions are a tad laggy with a slight delay of about half a second between pressing the control and the action actually being delivered.

Also, the game plays in a very linear and predictable fashion, with your path in the game being predetermined. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the whole thing didn’t seem so by-the-numbers and limited in every other sense.

The game also plays somewhat in 2D (despite 3D visuals – a bit like Street Fighter 4 but nowhere near as good, not even for 3DS). This isn’t always a bad thing but in this case only seems to further draw on the limited capacity of this game. All-in-all this seems like a game that’ll appeal mainly to the younger audience, which might explain the limited gameplay and almost cartoony visuals I guess, and maybe a few hardcore Lantern fans who don’t care how he is depicted. Otherwise it might either be worth a 5-minute go or total despondency.

Even if you’re not much of a fan of LEGO or Harry Potter, are rather ‘bored’ of the rings or don’t care for Batman, there’s some fun to be had with all the games that were on offer. It goes without saying that the ones who stand to get the most out of these games will be the specific hardcore fans of each franchise. However, the humour in LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 will raise quite a bit of interest (as is usually done in pretty much all of the games in the LEGO series thus far). While I myself am not the biggest Harry Potter or even LEGO fan (despite owning a copy of LEGO Star Wars on PSP…hey, it came with the unit and was a good deal, OK?) I found enough little touches here and there to keep me entertained for at least a while, with the multiplayer option being the most enjoyable feature. LOTR: War in the North will no doubt be another one to watch and get easily lapped up by LOTR fans. Eye-catching visuals, hilly landscapes and stony environments as well as accessible gameplay, a levelling system and some engaging quests to get the teeth into? It’ll easily carry you through crimbo. That is… unless Batman: Arkham City makes it to your console first. Taking out thugs and villains while having to contend against the likes of the Riddler, Twoface, the Penguin, Deadshot, Harley Quinn and not forgetting the ever meddlesome but always evil Joker. Getting to solve mysteries in the aforementioned ‘Forensics mode’ and the numerous Riddler challenges will also prolong your stay with this game. Batman: Arkham City looks to be a strong contender for game of the year and occupying PS3, 360 and even PC disc trays for quite a while. There is also the small matter of the Green Lantern game for the 3DS but – to be honest – unless you know an eager child or are curious/a fan yourself, it doesn’t seem like anything to write home about. Despite this, it seems like Warner Bros will be behind some scene-stealing games coming our way and we can only be thankful to them for it.

LOTR War in the North

Buy LORD OF THE RINGS: WAR IN THE NORTH on Amazon

Batman Arkham City

Buy BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY on Amazon

LEGO Harry Potter years 5-7

Buy LEGO HARRY POTTER: YEARS 5-7 on Amazon

 


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