Thursday, November 05, 2009

Fifa 10 DS

My interest in football (soccer for my friends across the pond) games has been sporadic at best. The first football game I played with any regularity was Sega World Wide Soccer '97 on the Saturn. Fast forward to 2004 and I had a big stint playing Sega World Wide Soccer 2000 (Euro Edition) on the Dreamcast. But the playing of the two most popular franchises, Pro-Evolution Soccer or Fifa, (usually against my sons) would result in huge 'hissy fits', controller-throwing and general all round bad sportsmanship on my part.
In 2007, however, I found my footballing nirvana in the unlikely form of Fifa 07 for the DS. No longer did I have to play my sons, no longer did I have to face the humiliation of being out-skilled, out-played and generally shown up as inferior. Now my only opposition was the CPU players, and they soon turned out to be little opposition at all.

I played that particular title to death. I played it as my beloved Manchester City, (a club who in 'real life' have not won a domestic or European title for over thirty years) and took them to unprecedented heights of glory. For five seasons I won everything, the premiership, the FA Cup, the European cup and the Community Shield. The game could also be played in it's entirety without using the stylus or touch screen, which was great because my first generation DS was very poorly at the time!

However, time moves on, and a new DS demanded a new Fifa. Besides, Manchester City have gone through such a major squad shake up since their financial revolution, that there was only Stephen Ireland and Micah Richards from the '07 line up still in the squad in 2009. The kits had changed and... well... damn it! I just wanted an update! Now I did have Fifa 09 for the PSP (it came bundled with my PSP which also had a stick-on Fifa 09 'skin') but I never got into it, preferring instead to stick with my beloved DS '07 game. So buying the new Fifa 10 at full price was a big deal for me.

I was full of anticipation when I put the cartridge into my DS. Sure enough, apart from the inclusion of Richard Dunne, the squad was all present and correct. The new stylish black away kit was there and all looked good! I eagerly looked for the 'career mode' with which I had had such success on Fifa 07, but alas it wasn't there! Instead it had been replaced by a mode called "Be A Pro". Rather than guiding your team to glory, the emphasis was now on the career of one player, who has to succeed at a series of challenges in order to progress through the ranks of the home team and be selected by coaches for international duty.

Unfortunately, this was SO different from the game play of the '07 edition, that I found it almost impossible to play, let alone find any success. I was massively disappointed and about to vent my spleen over here at Gnome's Gaming On The Go. That was before I switched game modes. 'Kick Off' Mode' allows you to play a one off match against any rival of your choice. It also gives you the choice of playing in the "Be A Pro" mode, or "Classic" mode. And it was in "Classic" mode, that I found my salvation.

Although not exactly the same as Fifa '07, it was similar enough for me to play with some degree of success. The 'game settings' allows you to set the game's difficulty level, according to your own skill level. I set the CPU skill at 'amateur' and got rid of the 'offside' rule to allow the game greater flow. The ability to play a variety of tournaments in "Classic" mode means I've already taken Manchester City to the final of the English FA Cup (which I won on penalties). However, this incarnation of the game does not give one the option of taking a mid-table club into Europe... You can only play as one one of the the English Premiership's top four teams - Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal or Chelsea, which is a bit of a bummer!

One of the biggest changes so far is the use of the stylus. During penalty shoot outs, the stylus is employed as a means of shooting (by swiping the stylus towards the goal) and saving (a large pair of gloves appear in the goal which you move with the stylus to save the opposition's shot.) I love this feature! It helped me win the FA cup ha ha!

Now I realise that this is a very subjective review (mine always are...) so I'll provide links to more informative sites... Would I recommend it as a full price purchase? Well, no. You can pick up Fifa 07, 08 and 09 for buttons in second hand gaming emporiums. If it's 'game play' you're after then these titles will more than adequately suffice. If you are anal about having current players and kits then go ahead and splurge your hard earned pennies on Fifa 10. But it's because of people like me that EA are able to squeeze cash from a gullible audience every time they bring out a new football or golf game.

However, if you see Fifa 10 cheap or even with a few quid/euros/dollars knocked off, it's a great game for the handheld gamer, which can be played in short little bursts, as a handheld titles should be.

Father K Rating: 7.5/10!

Monday, November 02, 2009

GTA China Town Wars DS

First of all, I'll confess that this is not an entirely new article, but instead something I first posted on the frankly under-read Father Krishna's Wiikly Sermons . Oh and I've not been that well either, so I can be excused a bit of lazy recycling, LOL! However, with the Ballad Of Gay Tony on general release, it's time to think once again about the wonderful GTA! This franchise kept me very me busy throughout some turbulent times thanks to the wonderful Grand Theft Auto universe, Rockstar’s fabulous gift to the gaming world. And the game that kick-started my current obsession? Why perhaps the least obviously appealing outing of the franchise so far, GTA China Town Wars for the DS.

Rockstar have already had a good degree of success in it’s transference of the GTA world onto handheld consoles (ignoring the GTA GBA fiasco) with Vice City and Liberty City stories for PSP (and indeed I will come to these games later…)

With the money I accrued for my 42nd birthday, I decided to invest in a DS Lite and GTA CTW. The whole package cost me £80-ish and at last I had a fully functional DS with a responsive touch screen again! (My old ‘original’ DS had been sketchy for ages…)

And so I dipped into the world of Huang Lee, ‘Uncle Kenny’, triads, mafia and ancient stolen katanas. But can the tiny cartridge of the DS really encompass the vast world of Liberty City and do it justice? The short and emphatic answer to that question is “YES!” All but one of the boroughs of Liberty City found in GTA IV are recreated in the world of GTA CTW. You can actually recognise areas and neighbourhoods, despite the top-down “birds eye” view, and when you do, it’s quite a thrill! It’s also a testament to what Rockstar Leeds have managed to cram into a cartridge no bigger than a postage stamp!

Yes, there have been compromises in order to get a fully fledged GTA experience onto the DS. The ‘radio stations’ have been replaced by a variety of set soundtracks of different musical genres (although even these have been lovingly created by current artists such as Deadmaus, mentioned on these hallowed pages just a few weeks ago!)

Cut-scenes are limited to still pictures and captions (think Phoenix Wright) and of course we have the 2.5 D top down view, but once you begin to play the game sucks you straight in and you very quickly forget the differences between this incarnation and those brought out on full-size consoles. It’s pure, unbridled GTA fun. All the elements are there, driving, drive-by shootings, securing safe-houses and encountering a wealth of colourful and intriguing characters (like the cross-dressing Mafioso), all served up with a tinge of irony and a good dash of humour.

Did I mention the drugs? Drug dealing is the backbone of Huang’s existence in Liberty City. It’s how he earns money to buy weapons and builds his empire. You’ve got to know your smack from your crack and your weed from your speed if you’re gonna progress in the game!

The game is just SO much better than either of the PSP titles, which have me struggling and a tad bored. GTA CTW was a joy to play and complete, encouraging me to pick up GTA IV again and finish it, quickly downloading ‘Lost and Damned’ as soon as Niko’s adventures had come to an end. I’ve also downloaded GTA San Andreas, and the Ballad Of Gay Tony so I've got a glut of GTA goodness for the big console under the telly, that I'm still yet to play...
Since writing this post, the cogs of time have turned, and now GTA CTW is not only a 2.5D DS game, but a fully fledged, fleshed out PSP game, with the promise of delivering more than it's DS counterpart, (or indeed the two sub-standard PSP titles previously mentioned... I'm hoping to pick this up soon, but in the meantime I'll give you all a little video-taster!