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.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon review

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon PS2 Screenshot

Ghost Recon may be set in 2008 but the events depicted throughout the game could have taken place anytime over the last decade: such are the turbulent times we live through. The new war of peacekeeping and political manoeuvres involves far more than just standing guard, as any recruit to Ghost Recon will gladly testify.

Devised by Tom Clancy (Splinter Cell) you are the leader of the Ghosts, an elite group of American soldiers who are unofficially involved in the Georgian conflict. Russia has seen fit to return to its old ways and has started a campaign against former members of the Soviet Union. Several former Soviet block countries have fallen and Georgia is next in line, however peacekeeping forces are already in place to ensure that Russia progresses no further. America has also instructed its military to unofficially cause as much disruption to the invading forces as possible, and this is where the Ghosts come into play. War is always unpredictable and soon the Ghosts become a vital faction in the war against the Soviet forces, which spills out into new countries.

The missions themselves are well designed and feature a variety of possible situations and goals, which you must complete with additional target being available. The need for covert war and maximum disruption is highlighted by the fact that rarely will you face the enemy head-on, instead due to your minimal numbers you must use stealth and surprise to your advantage, thereby minimising casualties. One mission may have you purely on recognisance whilst the next may need you to protect peacekeepers or extract downed airmen. Some would argue that each mission plays exactly the same, despite the various goals and although I would agree initially, you need far more than being able to shoot to progress in Ghost Recon. This feeling isn’t helped by the environments, which for the first few levels take place in the lush countryside of Georgia. Eventually you move into more urban locations and arctic environments – each requiring different tactics and such progression improves the game greatly.

Nothing is left to chance with releases such as these, which go back to the successful Rainbow Six – having built a reputation for authenticity and real life situations. If you have played Rainbow Six or even Special Ops then you will be on familiar territory with Ghost Recon. There have not been any dramatic changes to the game play, which is very reminiscent however the package feels more rounded and far more accessible in comparison to Rainbow Six. Whereas that game relied heavily on tactical planning, this element is greatly reduced, as here you will need to react to unforeseen situations. The ease at which you can control both teams is subtle and extremely easy to utilise. Both teams have three soldiers and your group will automatically follow your lead, directing the second team is simply a case of pressing down on the analogue stick and they will immediately move to wherever your sights were pointing. The misconception that games such as Ghost Recon require a complex control system or keyboard is easily shattered by the excellent control system we have on display here. The squad AI underlines the atmosphere and player involvement, as your comrades will deal with enemies within their field of vision efficiently. The only real hindrance comes when you need to go in and out of rooms, as bottlenecks form and you try to brush past the obstacle, otherwise known as your teammate.

Tom Clancy Ghost Recon PS2

Although the events are structured in a similar A to B scenario without any freedom of choice the illusion is much improved: sizeable levels, numerous enemies and a greater sense of involvement. Earlier this year I reviewed the successful Conflict Desert Storm release and whilst thoroughly enjoyable the scripting was far more recognisable. The emphasis with Desert Storm was on team play and being able to switch, Ghost Recon does contain a similar feature but the focus is firmly on leading both Alpha and Bravo units through the missions. On the easiest difficulty setting it is possible, and perhaps too straightforward, to clear the first few levels whilst taking the role of the sniper. The enjoyment of sniping is a strange concoction of guilt and pleasure: even if the sights are sometimes misleading. Each member of the team has unique abilities and you can equip each as you see fit before the mission begins. How you progress is largely down to how much emphasis you put on preparation and tactics during the mission. For instance one mission may require you to deal with armour, therefore your demolitions expert must be equipped with a suitable anti-tank weapon, and as you cannot pick up weapons from fallen comrades – don’t put him at point until it is necessary.

Having experienced the Xbox version of Ghost Recon, when initially faced with the Playstation 2 release I wrongly believed it would be totally inferior. Despite lacking Dolby Digital and Xbox Live support, Ubi Soft has fashioned a version which holds firm under scrutiny. Sound plays an important part in communicating with Bravo & Alpha teams, and stereo does an effective job of conveying the tension and need for stealth at all times. Some of the textures and detail are evidently reduced but there is no loss of speed or visual distance, and experience is almost as good.

Normally I wouldn’t spend much time reviewing the special features included in a release, however after Panzer Dragoon Orta, these sections can be extremely worthwhile. UbiSoft has crafted a collection of special features, which enhance the Ghost Recon experience. Here you can view detailed information on the Ghost division, soldiers, weaponry and other utilities, medal information and history, design sketches and interviews. This pursuit of authenticity sets it apart from other shooters including Conflict: Desert Storm.

Ghost Recon is ideally pitched towards the fans of the genre, but is far more user friendly and forgiving to new recruits. To date this is the best example of what the genre can offer and is an ideal starting point for those interested in the science of modern warfare.

Rez review

A screenshot of the original Rez for Playstation 2.

This is something that perhaps we can identify with more than most given that we’d rather enjoy a highly anticipated release on a Friday than go out on the town. The things we’ve seen and done, places we’ve been, without stepping outside of our homes. Since details on Rez were first announced I have followed its development eagerly and now the finished version is here.

Rez is already the source of controversy in America as when the game was deleted by Sony after its initial launch pressing. Was Sony unhappy about Sega’s lack of support for its machine or were they worried that Rez would affect the sales of their own game Frequency. Perhaps we will never know but the trouble is many punters won’t understand Rez and will take it at face value. This is shown by the varied reviews that it has already received, loathe Rez or love Rez, you must experience it to know for sure.

The story like the control method is simplistic. You are a cybernetic character labelled by the developer as an endorphin machine. I’m not sure about the tag as it sounds like a medical appliance. Rez is set in the future where networks represent life and network crime is on the increase. A better system was created, within it Project-K (couldn’t they think of a better name?) is the central axis of the system. This works in tandem with Eden; which represents the power and intelligence of the system. Before perfection is realised Eden becomes self-aware and questions its own function and existence. The answer is simple; Eden shuts itself down barring anything from the outside gaining access. You are sent into cyberspace to locate and reactivate Eden from within. Standing between you and Eden are viruses and firewalls contained within different areas, which are broken down into levels.

As you hack into each new area viruses will appear intent on destroying your form; these come in many different shapes and sizes. At the end of each area you will meet a firewall (boss) and here you will try to shut it down, constantly fighting against the every changing pattern as it rebuilds itself and swarms in an attempt to be victorious. In cyberspace it seems that viruses and firewalls have unique identities and characteristics rather than just data or patterns that we perceive. To succeed you only have a lock on laser capable of firing only single shots and your senses.

A screenshot of Area 2 in Rez for PS2

There are no health bars in Rez rather your status is shown by your appearance. A disco ball is your lowest form, rising to a wire frame then a dural type figure and so on. Instantly recognisable and freeing up the screen from more icons than necessary. Your health increases by shooting and collecting blue orbs that are scattered around the levels, often in limited quantities. Your health is not measured by levels and is quite severe, one hit will send you scuttling down to the form below your original status but this is no hardcore shooter. If you judge this as an R-Type game then you are taking it on visual appearance alone. Rez is very much an assault on the senses like no other game before.

The visuals are stunning incorporating familiar shapes and figures from history in a variety of styles ranging from simple wire frame drawings to modern art. The game when running is a moving art form in itself, always changing, surprising, and never ending. The world that United Games Artists have created is like no other before it, forget realism; this is what games should aim for. It could be described as encompassing the whole period of videogames from the beginning with such titles as Pong or Battlezone to modern day graphics with lavish colours and shapes.

Not content with capturing your vision UGA have assaulted your senses of touch and hearing in an attempt to capture your heart. The game uses the vibration feature of the controller more than any other game, the bass will thump and you will feel it. In Japan they were lucky enough to have the option to buy a peripheral, which plugged into the USB port. This vibration pack could then be placed under a cushion or in a pocket resulting in a higher level of immersion. For now I’ll have to make do with my B&W 603’s Series 2 however if anyone should come across this item, please let me know.

Music in videogames is often cheated; name the genre and you could predict the style of music contained within. To label Rez as dance, trance, Electro-beat, Jas-dub is meaningless as the most important aspect is the player because you control where the music goes and this is central to the whole concept of Rez. Each time you fire a shot, hit, destroy or lock onto multiple viruses a musical note applies. The note varies according to what type or how many viruses in question. You can shoot everything in sight but then you realise the control that you have over the music. I find myself waiting until the suitable moment in my tune to destroy a virus. The viruses in your mind become musical notes to be plucked from and put into the order that you feel is appropriate not enemies which can harm you. Build, create, this is the way games are heading.

Those who criticise Rez for its limited nature or playtime have taken the option to shoot till reaching Eden not realising every time you play you create a unique accompanying soundtrack. Yes there are only five areas each with ten levels and a lost area making up the main game. There are score attack and travelling (where you cannot die) modes to offer life beyond the main mode if you so desire. Judged purely on a basis of shooting games Rez will offer little challenge but this was never the intention. It is the first 3D shooter that works even though you are very much on the rails and only able to control the aiming sight and firing of the laser. I never felt limited as the field of vision throughout is 180 degrees but during boss battles it doubles. On the first few boss attempts I ultimately failed because I could not conceive that I had total vision.

Boss fights are fantastic to participate in or view as the boss dissolves and circles all around you. In fact Rez is a hypnotic experience like no other as my skill of being able to have a conversation with the girlfriend whilst playing a game is useless on Rez. I doubt I even blink at the screen anymore, yes I know the patterns and levels yet I must have my fix whenever I return from a stressful day. Perfect to chill or lose yourself in, UGA have succeeded in what they wanted to achieve.

As I own both the Dreamcast and Playstation 2 versions there is no difference between either. You could state that as the project was conceived for the Dreamcast hardware it is perhaps the more graphically smoother of the two versions. Even with the Playstation 2 optical output being used there is little sound difference between either game, the Yamaha soundchip in the Dreamcast is a wonderful thing. If only the Playstation 2 version included a Dolby Digital signal, perhaps next time? Be thankful for the Playstation 2, otherwise you may never have had the opportunity to play the game. The Dreamcast version has been released in such small quantities in Europe. A city such as Edinburgh that boasts large EB and Games branches has had only three copies to date. One belongs to me and two reside with lucky staff at Game, not much joy for the public. This scenario is common when a machine is on its last few releases but as stated elsewhere it pays to stick with a console to the bitter end.

When it comes to scoring games overall or in any single category I perhaps am the most critical and cynical at Gamestyle. I am never happy, there is always something wrong, and five represents average to me not seven! Given this and the fact that I have never scored a game as being perfect overall or in any single category I feel I am about ready to do so. Scoring Rez is the hardest task that I have faced on Gamestyle to date. I cannot find fault with the game, although it is a single player experience, watching can be fun and the developer deserves praise for pushing the boundaries further. If I were to put the game away it would be placed alongside Radiant Silvergun, Gunstar Heroes, Zelda, Elite, Goldeneye and Tetris in my collection.

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”

All-Star Baseball 2002 review

It’s quite easy to sum up what we at Gamestyle know about rounders, it can be done in one word: nothing. However as I went to the Boardwalk & Baseball theme park in Florida a good few years back I was the most qualified to give judgement on the latest release from Acclaim. 

Its good to see minority interest titles getting a release in other parts of the world as no doubt there are a few hardcore baseball fans in Britain if not Europe. Still why on earth do we get baseball titles while gems such as Final Fantasy Tactics (and perhaps PSO ver.2) remain firmly out of our reach? Gamestyle will never know. As you would expect from a major American publisher, it must have it’s own sports brand. EA have the most infamous brand and Acclaim have their lesser known All-Star range – perhaps due to the fact its been exclusively on the N64. Will this offer something new or more of the same statistics and faithful representation of a traditional sport?

Although this game does offer arcade settings don’t be fooled, it is a pure simulation and one for the fans of the sport. For your money you get the chance to select from all the 30 Major League teams – unfortunately being a Texas Ranger doesn’t involve beating up innocent civilians or acting like Judge Dredd, shame. In total there are over 700 hundred players here from the Major League, I won’t provide an example as they are all household names. There are statistics coming out of every section and you can choose to digest or ignore them, thankfully. You choose how in-depth you wish your game to become. Added to the package are the realistic and authentic stances, stadiums, uniforms, awards, drafts, free agents and team mascots. On the subject of mascots surely after sitting through another “funny” routine from the team mascot you could have the option to beat the crap out of them? This would increase your batting skills and you could be rewarded on the basis of damage inflicted?

Even though the game is from Acclaim it does remind me of EA’s Madden 2001 which I reviewed earlier this year. The style of presentation and the range of options is very similar, perhaps EA have set the benchmark in this field but these American sports games (and FIFA) are becoming very generic. If I had the misfortune to play EA’s Baseball title or one of the various basketball titles which clutter up EB shelves no doubt I could say the same again. A new approach is quite frankly needed as even with all the options and graphical touches you cannot change one thing about baseball, its boring! Simple additions as used by Virtua Tennis (lets face it, a tennis game without the women involved should be boring) to increase the enjoyment such as mini games, rewarding controls and gameplay could have been included. This sense of boredom applies to multiple players; such is the stop start nature of the game that it isn’t perhaps to our taste. The whole experience feels under control and is quite relaxing but everyone soon began to loose interest. It must be hard to follow a baseball team; at least with Raith I don’t know what’s going to happen next and often laugh so much that it hurts. None of that here.

There are plenty of modes to keep the baseball fan in heaven till the next instalment is released. I found the range of options and customisation quite daunting, for instance you may choose from Series, Home Run Derby, Practice, Exhibition, Quick Play, All Star, character creation and Season. Within each mode you can customise to your hearts content, fancy 162 game season? Not me! The practice modes are invaluable, as most would believe that baseball involves just hitting a ball with a diet cricket bat. By using the control method that Acclaim has obviously spent a great deal of time on, it soon becomes possible to place your shots. Getting to 1st base is pretty easy but it takes time, patience and a bit of skill to get to 3rd base as we all have experienced. Never mind a home run. The skill settings and options offer a variety of means to allow the more inexperienced person a chance of success.

All-Star Baseball 2002 looks great on the PS2 and every stadium, player, official and sound effect is beautifully reproduced for your pleasure. There are the odd glitches such as the occasional animation problem or the sleep-inducing commentary but overall you can tell that this product is made by fans, for fans.

Madden NFL 2001 review

Remember when it was cool to follow American football? Back when it was on Channel 4 interest in the sport was at it peak, since the jump to satellite it has dwindled even though we have a European version but I’ve recently regained an interest. Perfect timing to pick up Madden and see how it plays but why should we care – its another annual EA update? 

The attraction of this version is that you can play it on several levels from the practice or exhibition modes to the in-depth franchise option. If you tire of playing a game you can even let the console play it for you and amazingly its just like watching television coverage with no loading times or annoying advert breaks. The franchise option allows you to control a team for up to 50 seasons. In this period you can control the roster, make trades, create players and plays, do the college draft and all while ensuring your team is successful and you keep within the salary cap. All the statistics you will ever need are here but they don’t infringe on the game play.

As this is from EA the presentation is of the highest quality with user friendly menus and a simple control system. All the teams, stadiums, players and coaches tactics are here with another 200 hidden for you to discover as you progress. Graphically this game is very impressive from the resolution and lighting of the players to the animation. This is probably the closest yet we’ve come to a realistic simulation due to the game tackles being calculated on a real physics engine i.e. size, speed and power of players. Unlike previous games, players cannot suddenly change direction at full speed adding to the realism. Injuries can occur and you can take pleasure in seeing your target rolling around in agony, nice. The surround sound is very impressive with the crowd; announcer and player noises creating a realistic match day feel. The commentary is good compared to other sports games that I have played but during the season and franchise modes it can begin to grate if you hear the same Madden quote about you star player for the 152nd time!

To add more depth with a touch of Pokemon, EA have added the clever Madden card bonuses. These cards can be collected and will open up cheats, special options, stadiums etc. They are judged on a rarity value and are bought with points earned during the game, for instance the gain 100 yards running you’ll 10 points but 150 equals 15 and so on. Often during a game you may find you decisions influenced by what points you can earn and certain cards can be played during a game to boost performance. Just like Pokemon the Madden cards can be traded in order to acquire a full set and then used as you see fit.

As with most American Football games the most enjoyable way is to play with friends and here you can play with up to seven others. Although who actually has two multi-taps and a stack of controllers? Don’t expect to win very often if you play against the console but the chaotic mess that we endured was great fun. Once you become more accomplished you can turn off the various Easy play options for passing, running, clock penalties etc.

For all of its gloss there are some annoying faults with Madden that EA should have sorted before it’s release. During games players will often walk through one another and when the action is at its peak the speed will drop. The kick meter is red on a brown background; surely the game testers must have noticed that this is very hard to follow? The 40-second play clock is an important feature if you wish to run down the game clock and avoid penalties but in certain stadiums it isn’t clearly visible or even shown! No doubt Madden 2002 will correct these but the main flaw is that an American Football game can be perceived by the public to be long, boring and complex. Give it a go and you may be surprised.