OlliOlli Review (PS Vita): “A New Standard for Skateboarding”

OlliOlli Logo Landscape

Decades ago, the sport of Skateboarding took storm across the United States. Over time, we’ve seen the sport make it’s way around the world. It’s popularity didn’t soar until roughly the time when legendary Tony Hawk wowed people from all over pulling off the first ever “900 Spin”. In the 80s, there was a retro skateboarding game called “720” that was quite the hit back in the arcades. During the 90s, the NES had a specific series called “Skate or Die”, which had two installments: the first being strictly about skateboarding events, while the sequel was an outlandish adventure. In 1999, we saw one of the most rewarding and groundbreaking skateboarding titles release, Tony Hawk Pro Skater. The game was a critical and public success that skateboarding itself really gaining a significant amount of attention. Since then, we’ve seen other game developers bring about their renditions of skateboarding titles, with the next biggest success residing with EA’s SKATE series. Now, UK-indie developer Roll7 has decided to rekindle the skateboarding genre with their title, OlliOlli on the PlayStation Vita. Does the developer pull off the “impossible”, or do they completely bail?

Junkyard Kickflip

OlliOlli is a 2D skateboarding platformer that meshed together the arcade style feel of Tony Hawk Pro Skater, while providing a complex and rewarding trick system that the SKATE series achieved. Remarkably, the game takes those two styles and perfects the mechanics in a way where it sets its own bar. OlliOlli brings you immediately into the gameplay, offering a tutorial that brings you up to speed in minutes. You’ll learn that OlliOlli is one of those games that’s simple to pickup-and-play, yet incredibly complex to master. Controls and tricks are mostly handled with the left analog stick (or D-Pad if you prefer), while kicking off for speed handled with the X button. Pulling off an ollie is simply done by pushing the analog stick down and letting go, while tricks are done by pushing the analog stick in a direction or rotation. Pressing the L/R buttons will result in you pulling off spins to your tricks, as well as nollies. To grind, you’ll simply press down on the analog stick, without any worries of balancing. Although you will have to be concerned on the amount of speed you can lose while grinding, which if you come to a halt, you’ll fall off your board and bail. Pretty straightforward so far, right? Well, now comes the intricate mechanics.

Base Helicopter Grind

Pulling off tricks and linking them together, between grinding and proper flip tricks, is quite intuitive and engaging to grasp. However, if you want all those hard-earned points to count, you’re going to have to land perfectly. That’s right, landing is actually a whole additional mechanic that can make or break your run…literally. To land a trick, you’ll have to press the X button, but at the proper timing. The time you press the X button will determine the rating you’ll receive, which also factors the amount of points you’ll earn. The rankings are as follows: Sloppy, Sketchy, Ok, Sick, and Perfect. Sloppy will net you only a few points, while Perfect will earn you thousands of points. Pulling off a Perfect landing is immensely rewarding and once you nail the timing, it’ll become second nature to achieve. Even when grinding, you’ll have to press down on the analog stick at the right time to earn a “perfect” grind. Doing so will actually affect the speed you maintain to grind. Maintaining a solid line and earning a perfect combo is what it’s all about if you want to rack up a ton of points.

The Career Mode will have you tackling 10 levels within five environments: Urban, Junkyard, Base, Port and Neon City. Five of the levels are handled on Amateur difficulty, while the other five are for Pro. Each level contains five objectives to complete, whether it be earning a high score, earning a high combo, completing a specific gap or line, collecting items, etc. To advance to the next level, you need to only reach the end of the run, even if you don’t complete any objectives. However, achieving all the objectives in a level will unlock the Pro level of that run. The levels will ramp up in difficulty and intensity nicely, without making the player feel degraded from what they’ve learned. Should you bail, it’s back to the beginning of a run. Luckily each run lasts for about 30-90 seconds. You’ll have to watch out for various obstacles, including grass, snow, stairs, spikes, barricades, etc. Now should you completely every objective in every level (both Amateur and Pro), you’ll unlock RAD Mode. RAD Mode will test out the most skilled players by success only being achieved solely through Perfect Grinds and Perfect Lands. Anything else will result in a seriously painful, run-ending bail.

Neon Five-O

Aside from the Career Mode, there are also 50 spots to take on. Every level you complete in the Career can be tackled in Spot Mode afterwards. Spot Mode has you doing a specific run in the level where it’s all about pulling off the highest score you can, all within a single combo. Your score will then be posted on the leaderboards, so you’ll be able to see where you rank amongst your friends and other players around the world. Additionally, Roll7 incorporated a Daily Grind Spot, where everyday you can partake in a single event against all players. You’ll be able to practice the run before posting for a score, and the reason you’ll want to do this is because you only get one shot at the run. Whatever score you get, even if you bail, is all that counts…no do-overs. Upon completing the run, you’ll see what rank you achieved worldwide throughout the 24 hour time period of the Daily Spot. It’s a terrific mode that has you coming back constantly. No matter which mode you’re playing in OlliOlli, you will certainly find yourself coming back for more, time and time again. Even after taking breaks from the game, I was always eager to jump immediately back in and try to perfect more runs.

Visually, OlliOlli is a nicely hand-drawn, retro-style game that harkens back to the classic days of gaming. Animations are fluid and detailed, while retaining the old-school vibe. The skater himself moves quite smoothly, even when bailing. The more he bails, the more of a beating you’ll notice on him where clothes will rip and blood will run down him. It’s nothing “too” bloody, but it’s a noticeable detail for added effect. Environments are nicely detailed as well, with numerous objects pertaining to specific areas. The Base area will have tanks and airplanes to grind on, while Neon City will have a bullet train speeding by in the background with neon signs and purple Godzillas to grind on. OlliOlli’s soundtrack is very suitable, accompanying the gameplay and setting very well. The sound effects are top-notch, with every audio clip perfectly matching the skateboarding and boarder perfectly. Whether you ollie, grind, land, trick, bail, or collect an item, it all sounds precisely like it should.

Port Crooked Grind

OlliOlli may be the PlayStation Vita’s first skateboarding game, but it’s one of the best games to grace the console since launch. Roll7 has delivered an amazingly rewarding and addictive skateboarding title that truly should not be missed. In the way Tony Hawk Pro Skater kept me coming back for more back in the day, OlliOlli achieves the same feel and experience that’s very much needed. Here’s hoping we see an OlliOlli sequel in the near future. Until then, back to perfecting lines I go.

Overall Score: 9.5 out of 10 = MUST BUY!

A special thank you to Roll7 for providing us the review copy for “OlliOlli”! Copy tested on the PS Vita.

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Killzone: Mercenary Releases September 17th; Trailer Revealed

Killzone Mercenary

PS Vita owners have been aware of Killzone: Mercenary coming to the platform for quite some time now. However, as of today, the game has an official release date of September 17th, 2013, as well as a trailer. Based on the footage shown in the trailer, there’s no question that the game is shaping up to be the biggest graphical powerhouse for the Vita yet, actually rivaling the visuals of the console editions. Check it out!

[Source – PlayStation Blog]

“Killzone Mercenary” Detailed for the PS Vita

Today, Sony finally shed some light on “Killzone Mercenary” for the PlayStation Vita. Sony put a large focus on the Vita and explained the premise of this new installment of Killzone. Developed by Guerrilla Games, “Killzone Mercenary” is stated to deliver a first class, first-person shooting adventure that is only possible on the Vita. Details on “Killzone Mercenary” are brief; however, the title’s sypnopsis offers some tantilizing details.

Game description courtesy of Sony:

“With Killzone: Mercenary, we want to offer PlayStation Vita owners a fresh perspective on the brutal conflict between ISA and Helghast – literally. For the first time in a Killzone campaign, you’ll be fighting alongside Helghast forces as well as ISA specialists, carrying out missions that the regular soldiers just won’t — or can’t.

As a mercenary, you’re free to decide which tactics and loadouts you’ll use to fulfill your contract; your employers will reward you with state-of-the-art weaponry and cold, hard cash as long as you get the job done. But what is the price of that freedom – and will you discover it before it’s too late.”

Well, there you have it. Killzone will no doubt be a welcome addition to the Vita’s much needed library. The FPS market may be saturated but there is a need for solid titles on the Vita and Killzone Mercenary will hopefully deliver a fun and intuative experince for Vita gamers. For more information on this or any other topic, make sure to keep it locked onto Gamers Xtreme and as always “Game On!”

Beyond: Two Souls E3 2012 Announcement Trailer; From the Heavy Rain Creators

Sony started off their conference with a solid intro, displaying their software and hardware lineup for the coming months. Immediately after that, they kicked it off by having David Cage, the brilliant mind behind Quantic Dream’s stellar PS3 title, Heavy Rain, take the stage and announce his latest game, Beyond: Two Souls. Beyond will have players controlling Jodi Holmes (brought to life by actress Ellen Paige) as you explore the mystery of “death” and venture through her life in a 15 year span. Visually, if you thought Heavy Rain looked surreal, wait until you see Beyond: Two Souls in action. Don’t miss out on what could potentially be one the most intriguing titles this generation. Check out the announcement footage below!

Killzone 3 Review (PS3)

Killzone 3 is a first person shooter developed by Sony’s own Guerrilla Games and published by Sony.  This game is an exclusive to the PlayStation 3 system and is a direct sequel to Killzone 2 which was released in 2009.

Story: 3/5

Killzone 3 picks up immediately following the events of the second game, with the ruthless Helghan ruler, Emperor Visari, slain by the ISA.  ISA soldier, Rico Velasquez, murdered the Evil tyrant in his own palace.  This however, creates the set up for K3, establishing a direct reason for further fueling the Helghan War with the ISA. The Helghans are bent on revenge at the ISA for killing their leader, and now they refuse to stop fighting until the ISA is wiped out completely.  Emperor Visari’s demise has also created a power vacuum, and two commanding adversaries are competing to become the new Emperor. Admiral Orlock was Visari’s right hand of the Helghan army and sits on the ruling commission.   Orlock is intent to follow the traditional chain of command and lead the military to an ultimate, pivotal victory over the ISA.  The man vying for power and seeks to overtake Orlock is Chairman Stahl, the planet’s leading weapons manufacturer with a private army that rivals the size and power of the Helghast armed forces. Stahl and his clan are solely responsible for the most cutting-edge artillery and has some Machiavellian plans of his own for civilization if he manages to seize the reins of supremacy.  The story carries enough devices to make you finish the game, but does not leave you begging for more, nor asking many questions about the characters or their actions.  However to be fair, as many great things about the game as there are, it is not a perfect game. Everything that occurs in the gameplay is pretty much straightforward and linear.   Mostly all the main characters return sporting the same attitudes and personas as in K2.  Thomas “Sev” Sevchenko, Captain Jason Narville, Rico Velasquez, along with some new and may I say greatly needed addition to the voice acting and story.  The evil Jorhan Stahl, weapons manufacturer, steals the show here voiced terrifically by movie and TV actor, Malcolm McDowell, and sports a creepily sly smile to match.  In my opinion, without McDowell’s character and voice acting, the entire game would have not been as interesting to me, specifically the story.  I, having been one of the few who personally enjoyed the story of K2, was eager to see its conclusion.  In K3, the formula remains almost the same despite Stahl’s performance. The writing did improve for the characterization of Sev and Rico, but not by leaps and bounds.  Rico is stereotyped as the typical loud mouthed, cursing bad ass army guy that can be found in almost any FPS game on the market.  Sev (your character) while quitter than Rico, offers more of a presence in this game in terms of emotion and actions. And Captain Narville is the typical arguing commander, again offering nothing different from Rico’s character in respect to type casted army figures in FPS action games nowadays. And lastly, while the story is better than K2 ‘s becoming more in depth and fleshed out, it still is linear in many aspects, mainly the plot and its characters.  You never feel too emotionally attached to the characters or the story for that matter but rather just enjoy the set pieces and gameplay.

 

Gameplay: 5/5

Let me dive into the actual gameplay first and say this, personally I love first person shooters but also agree that the gaming market is flooded with them.  Aside from that, having thoroughly enjoyed Killzone 2’s campaign and multiplayer, I was very excited for Killzone 3.  I believe this installment improved on its predecessor.  The gunplay is just as great as the 2nd except now with an additional weapon allowance in your inventory and also a few new weapons added to it makes the game more enjoyable.  The mechanics for run and gun are tight and definitely more fluid than Killzone 2.  I, myself, having put in thousands of hours in FPS games can safely say that K3 can now definitely come close to the ranks of COD: Modern Warfares and Black Ops in terms of fluidity in gunplay and action.  The set pieces are great and the AI is also improved from previous installments.  Enemies do work to surround you and make sure your always running for cover.  The action going on in the background of the game is always intense and engaging to stop and watch occasionally.  A lot of the complaints from Killzone 2 came from the lackluster environments and bland colors despite being a visual delight at the time.  Listening to the complaints, Guerrilla Games sought to change that by adding a variety of different environments and levels, featuring its own unique set pieces and designs.  Trekking through the vast wastelands of the Heleghan deserts and factories similar to K2 was nostalgic for me.  However, now we get to see and play in parts of the planet never before seen such as jungles bursting with bright colors and sci-fi plant life.  Also, the incredible arctic blast of snow and ice levels rounds out the environments as immense and wide-ranging in my opinion.  Another great thing about the game is the nice range of different enemy types (over 14 to be exact) each with different skills and outfits creating a war that doesn’t seemed filled with repetitive looking soldiers.  The online aspect of the game offers some much needed improvements over K2’s 20th century style of party invites and lobby systems.  In K3 you can now invite your buddies to a lobby then search for a game and also create clans easier than in K2.  Overall, the multiplayer maps and matches all are a great addition to the game and definitely increase the replay value of Killzone 3 to countless hours.

 

Graphics: 5/5

Guerrilla Games knows the PS3 and to that respect, it absolutely shows here with some fantastic visuals and an art style that has become stunning to watch.  Killzone undeniably is in its own category for FPS graphics setting the bar for environment visuals, as well as character animations.  The snow levels in particular really shine for those who are fortunate enough to own a HD set.

Sound 5/5

Disagreeing with many, the music in Killzone 3 is epic and orchestra-like, more appropriate for a big budget war film but fits nicely in here. Between the amazing sound effects for the guns and set pieces to every little sound of metal cracking and explosions, the grittiness and clarity in sound is a treat. Again, the voice acting here for most is just average to slightly good.  Thank God for Malcolm McDowell for his dialogue and character make the game!

 

Overall: 18/20 = 9/10

Killzone 3 is an intense and fun first person shooter that has some really fantastic set pieces.  Combined with a vastly improved multiplayer from K2, the overall package is terrific and gives a great replay value for the game.

Pros:

+Fun and immersive Gameplay

+ Audio Delight

+ Visually Striking

Cons:

– Characterization and voice acting are average for the most part

– Story fails to branch out from the typical FPS/action formula that is shown in the linear Campaign