The Gamestyle Archive

Long time readers may already know the story, but Gamestyle has been the victim of two hacking incidents. Both times causing a lot of content to go up in smoke. The fact that we were originally a Dreamcast only site should tell you how long we’ve been going, and how much content would’ve been lost. The hacking took a lot out of us, and in some ways, Gamestyle was never the same again. But this week something miraculous happened.

Like the E.T cartridges in the desert, former editor Mr Jason Julier unearthed something. Discs containing around 200 old reviews, previews and features. All of which are being uploaded and be viewed by CLICKING HERE. It’s amazing the amount of content that was lost, but even more amazing that a good chunk of them have been found.

Over the coming months these may start to appear on the main site, maybe in retro themed weekends, but for now why not head over and check out some of our older work.

Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge review

Exotic aeroplanes and giant zeppelins which sport the skull and crossbones leave little doubt that the history revisionist’s pen has been at work here. Fanciful machinery, styled much like that of television’s classic Wild Wild West series, cultivates a vision of the 1930’s that is ripe for adventure. Grab the bomber jacket, and get ready to relive the heyday of ‘big air’ piracy – as a swashbuckling barnstormer in Crimson Skies!

Ladies’ man, gambler, heroic adventurer… lead character, Nathan Zachary, sounds for all the world like a classic Errol Flynn type (well, except maybe for that forgettable name). In fact, Crimson Skies’ storyline reads almost like a textbook lesson in the classic melodramatic action/adventure film style, and works as well today as it did then. A few dramatic scenes keep the audience immersed; forming the perfect glue that binds together copious dollops of action.

Some alterations were made to the formulaic path of film, which helps the game establish its own identity. Nathan and his band of pirates, known as the Fortune Hunters, sail the high skies to adventure aboard an enormous zeppelin (which also serves as their mobile base of operations). In a nod to the increasingly open-ended convention popularised by titles like Grand Theft Auto, each area allows the simple freedom to just fly around if desired. Icons identify key areas of activity – offering repairs, opportunities to race or steal another plane, and missions that advance the storyline. A classic touch to the videogame pastiche comes in the form of collectibles scattered throughout each area (and needed to earn aircraft upgrades).This complex framework adds depth to a game that unashamedly makes action its main focus. In this case, the action consists of flying and shooting – indeed, lots of shooting. Twisting through the skies, struggling to get a bead on the enemy, is a thrill that everyone should get the chance to enjoy. That chance has arrived. Unlike the intimidating flight controls and physics of many airborne games, Crimson Skies allows anyone to pick up the controller and play like a seasoned pro.

Flight control requires little more than moving the left stick. Planes respond intuitively, instilling a sense of confidence even in novice fliers. Clever controls allow the layering-on of more sophisticated techniques without ever being mandatory to enjoying the game. Barrel rolls can be performed with the right stick, and buttons allow momentary increases or decreases in speed for manoeuvring. Spectacular aerial stunts bring dogfights to life; like the Immelmann or Split-S, but many would fail to recognise the terms, much less the technical how-to of implementing them. Assigning such moves to button combinations – much like in a fighting game – makes them accessible to everyone.Choosing which plane to pilot and exercise these controls may prove more difficult. Nathan’s “Devastator” model, available from the start, serves well enough throughout the game, and is interchangeable with a good selection of unlockable models. Well, not so much unlockable as attainable. How else would a “pirate” acquire more planes?

Excellent balance between planes attests to the benefit of an extended development cycle (Crimson Skies for Xbox is actually a user-friendly remake of a PC game from a couple of years ago). Varying combinations of speed, attack power and defense offer the right fit for a number of playing styles. As a result, anyone can find a favourite but not everyone finds the same one. Regardless of choice, these beautifully-realised flying machines deliver an impressive visual package. Screenshots can tell only half the story; special effects and lighting tricks play across the planes to vividly bring their flight to life. Neither was any expense spared with the environmental details, all lovingly work to sustain the illusion of being in the game. Spectacular skyscapes bring an unparalleled sense of depth too, and placed within a picture-perfect framework. Speaking of frames: as with many of the current generation of Xbox titles, graphical splendour does not impinge on the “smooth” operation – meaning framerates are silky-smooth throughout.

Ditto for the seamless translation to the Xbox Live multiplayer arena. As is becoming the norm for Live-enabled games, play is effectively complimented by smooth updates and imperceptible lag. After enjoying several rounds of straightforward dogfighting, Gamestyle uncovered some more in-depth offerings – along with the expected Capture The Flag variety, this included the hilarious Wild Chicken game. In this contest, each team tries to grab the wild chicken and bring it back to their base to score. Only five multiplayer levels ship with the game, and this somewhat detracts from the long-term playability. However, the prospect of downloadable levels could soon compensate for that.

Numerous airborne games have sought to bring the much-ballyhooed PC flight experience to consoles – with mixed results. Crimson Skies is not a flight simulator, but ultimately that is why it works so well as a game. Matching the console’s strengths with pick-up-and-play action, gorgeous graphics and appealing story, makes for an unqualified winner, and a title worthy of every Xbox owner’s library.

Panzer Dragoon Orta review

Panzer Dragoon Orta (Xbox) screenshot

Sega, eh? Despite producing some incredible hardware they’ve never really been commercially successful with their own consoles since the Megadrive era. They’ve had their hardcore fans (this reviewer included) but for the most part gamers have ignored the Saturn and the Dreamcast in favour of the relevant PlayStation iteration. Reasons why folk chose to do this is sadly beyond the scope of this review, I’d be here for hours lamenting over the whys and wherefores, and it’s all sadly academic anyway, as Sega’s own-branded machines are confined to history, their software reduced to the bargain bin and the oft-seedy realms of the bearded collector.

Regardless, they’re still pumping out some amazing software, and whilst the Xbox hasn’t received the very best of Sega’s current generation games, titles like Jet Set Radio Future and House of the Dead 3 at least look the part, even if the gameplay isn’t quite up to scratch. Gamers old enough to remember Rainbow, though, will no doubt fondly remember the Panzer Dragoon series back in the day, when Tomb Raider was a Saturn exclusive and Wipeout looked gorgeous on the black box – and there isn’t a set of games in history that has a stronger following of dedicated fans, gamers willing to fight to the death over the sadly mistaken beauty of the titles.

It’s hard to describe the Panzer Dragoon series (Saga aside) without upsetting someone. At it’s heart they are a cross between Space Harrier and Rez, viewed third person and directly into the screen. Orta is a direct follow up – although not necessarily in terms of storyline – and doesn’t move too far from the tradition. You’re still on the back of a dragon and you’re still up against thousands of enemies.

Your dragon has 3 freely interchangeable types. Firstly, you start out in Base mode, which has a large number of lock-on targets, a decent rate of fire for your normal gun, and average defense. You can also store up to two glide moves which work a little like the brake and boost in Starfox for the N64. A tap of the Y button switches to Heavy mode which is a bulkier version of the dragon, with fewer lock-on targets and a slower firing rate, although both missiles and the gun dish out higher damage; your defensive capabilities are lower, though, and you can’t glide. Finally, you have the Glide Mode, which is a small, nippy model, with a automatically targeting machine gun, up to 3 glides, heavy armour (oddly enough) but no lock-on missiles. As you can tell, selecting which mode to use at any given time is a requisite, and it’s a skill you’ll need to have mastered by the end of the first of ten levels.

The game’s split into ten levels, although Sega like to call them ‘episodes’, and within each of these is the level boss. Brilliantly, the bosses don’t always appear at the end of the level leaving you to delicately nurse your post-boss battle wounds through other scraps before you get to the end of the section. Whilst early on in Orta the tale follows something of a rudimentary storyline, later on in the game the various cutscenes dissolve into a sub-Rez level of storytelling: ultimately, of course, the whole thing revolves around 360 degrees and the final boss shouldn’t really come as any surprise, but to get there you’ll be led through some fairly preposterous levels. This shouldn’t cause too much concern, though, as graphically, well, Orta is a thing of beauty.

Panzer Dragoon Orta (Xbox) screenshot

People often like to link games with art, but this truly is the next generation. Without a solitary doubt, Panzer Dragoon Orta is the single-most visually impressive videogame in existence – it really is that good looking. Everything from the liquid smooth 60 frames a second to the gorgeous models, the amazing graphical effects like smoke and fire, the way the game effortlessly throws hundreds of things at you at once without a single stutter – it’s breathtaking, and the only downside is that nothing is going to come anywhere near for a long time yet. If you’ve seen the screenshots (especially those from level 2 that are full of trees, water and plants) and you impressed then wait until you see it in motion. Wonderful.

Sadly, not every level is quite as beautiful as some of the others (the penultimate level is somewhat of a disappointment visually), but there’s more than enough here to justify maximum marks for aesthetics; it really is that far ahead of the pack, and hats off to Smilebit who must be feeling very proud with what they’ve managed to pull off. Aurally it’s almost as impressive – the music is certainly epic and orchestral (and most definitely lives up to the high standards set by the previous Dragoon games), and the sound effects match up just as well, but there’s something oddly dumbing about 3 hours of gameplay with only 3 different samples for your guns. It grates, not massively, because you do need to fire almost constantly, but it’s a shame Smilebit couldn’t have varied the sounds a little more. It’s all in Dolby Digital, though, and for fans of the series it’s quite delightful.

Those worried about the lack of first-run gametime need not be too troubled, though – whilst you can reach the end in under 3 hours, it’s a different story entirely on the higher difficulty levels – Sega really do cater for the hardcore and this reviewer was forced to re-asses his gaming skills after facing the final enemy on any level above easy. Of course, this being a Panzer Dragoon game there’s plenty of things to see and do once the main game is over – the Pandora’s Box in Orta features not only a complete sub-game (with multiple levels, cutscenes and it’s own storyline) there’s also a number of side-quests featuring episodes that run concurrently alongside those in the main game, but with different characters and so on. Glossaries and encyclopaedia’s make for essential reading for PD fans, too.

Orta stumbles slightly in the presentation stakes though. Whilst the English subtitles, menus and appendices are greatly appreciated (despite this being a Japanese release) the menus themselves aren’t as attractive as the rest of the game, and the Pandora’s Box feature becomes far too messy to really appreciate fully without wading through realms of text and menu options. There’s also loading delays that tend to get in the way slightly.

However, it’s not my intention to let these niggles get in the way of what can only be described as the finest on-rails shooter in existence. Panzer Dragoon Orta is most definitely the best of it’s genre and for shooter fans it’s absolutely unmissable. Those with even a passing interest in Sega’s most commercially underrated series, though, will already have it pre-ordered, and if you haven’t, you’re going to be missing the ride of your life. Orta oozes playability and style, and is a real graphical tour-de-force for the Xbox. Enjoy.

Burnout review

Burnout Gamecube Screenshot

Cruising down the A56, with the only thrill being slightly breaking the speed limit, keeping a close eye out for Vauxhall Vectra’s with no hub caps, in case that the extra few miles an hour are worthy to warrant a small fine and a few penalty points, I often wonder what it would be like to put my foot down, cross the grass verge and play chicken with the unexpecting on-comers. Of course in reality this kind of thought would lead to a psychological examination. But finally I get to see what this would be like with the imminent release of Burnout. Will it finally satisfy my curiosity, or will I actually write off my Mondeo? Continue reading “Burnout review”

Halo: Combat Evolved review

Halo Combat Evolved Screenshot Xbox Original

Stunning images of an alien world seemingly built on a metallic ring deep in space with human marines, military vehicles and menacing aliens helped Halo grab the attention of everyone who saw it during it’s development. These fantastic shots left many questions about the world and the story, but most of all they left us anxious to get our chance to jump into Halo. The wait ended on Xbox launch day. When you finally set down the controller the first time, and eventually hunger or exhaustion do force all of us to take a break, Halo has pulled you completely into its world and started one of the best sci-fi gaming adventures of all time. Continue reading “Halo: Combat Evolved review”

Project Gotham Racing review

Project Gotham Racing Xbox Microsoft Screenshot Original

Just for a moment envision yourself at the wheel of your dream car. As the light turns green your machine leaps forward responding to your foot on the gas. Turning up the radio to better hear your favorite song over the engine you blast through the streets, smiling ear to ear. Not just a daydream anymore, this also perfectly describes the XBox’s latest racing game, Project Gotham. Continue reading “Project Gotham Racing review”