Game Reviews

Verdicts on Bioshock, Wii Sports, Halo 3 and Vice City Stories

Bioshock for Xbox 360/PC

Plunged into the middle of the Atlantic ocean after a dramatic plane crash, Bioshock sees you take the role of Jack, the sole survivor who, seemingly by chance, happens across the entrance to a colossal underground city named Rapture. Designed and built by wealthy industrialist Andrew Ryan, Rapture was intended to be a haven for society's elite, but genetic experimentation and civil unrest have turned it into a graveyard of ideals - one that Jack must fight his way through to survive.

Boasting one of the best storylines in gaming's history, along with breathtaking graphics and a fantastic soundtrack, Bioshock is, perhaps, the pinnacle of the single-player videogame canon. Mixing exploration and adventure alongside intense and innovative action, the game flies by at a frightening pace, still finding time to ask moral decisions of the gamer which affect the outcome of the story. Undoubtedly an adult experience, the game has a foul-mouthed script Tarantino would be proud of and more violence than one of Martin Scorcese's nightmares, but the violence never feels superfluous and it helps round out a game world that is utterly fabulous and entirely its own. Set in a 1930s art-deco-style dystopia, the coherence of the production design is faultless and all encompassing. With golden oldies playing ominously over the soundtrack and deranged, mutated enemies lurking around every corner, it is as creepy as it is compelling and is a must-have for anyone who doubts a videogame can tell a story.

Wii Sports

Of all the things Wii Sports may be, an accurate sports simulator it certainly is not. Including Nintendo's own interpretations of tennis, bowling, golf, baseball and boxing, Wii Sports is an exemplar of the unique features of the Wii console that have made it such a phenomenon.

Most notable of all, and crucial to the game, is the use of the Wii remote to play. Rather than having to worry about using a combination of several buttons to interact with the game, the Wii remote removes confusion by simply allowing you to swing it - like a tennis racket, your arm, a golf club, a baseball bat or even your fist. Due to the severe limitations of all the games featured though, with the possible exception of bowling, it does have the tendency to feel more like an elaborate technical demo than a game in its own right.

However, the intuitive controls and simple addictive nature of the multiplayer component still make it a blast to play, and where Nintendo has succeeded - and where Microsoft and Sony fall short - is that it is accessible to all types of age groups. Grandma and Grandpa can play this game and enjoy it because it requires nothing other than a little bit of co-ordination and careful timing.

Watching people try to play is half the fun, as it creates an arcade-style gaming experience in your own home which brings people together through playing and has a feel-good factor that is second to none.

Halo 3 for Xbox 360

Hype can be a terrible thing. The sheer weight of expectation resting on Halo 3's sizeable shoulders was monumental.

"The most anticipated game of all time" it bravely touted on its pre-release advertisements, so it really had to be good. Thankfully, it is, meeting - and in some respects surpassing - its promise. Once again, following the progress of the Master Chief in his interplanetary battle with the Covenant, the fight has finally come to Earth, and its future lies in his armour-clad and genetically-enhanced mitts.

The single player campaign is solid, if somewhat unspectacular, and far too short, but this game was fundamentally built from the ground up to be a multiplayer experience and is simply glorious on Microsoft's Xbox Live service. Building on the excellent multiplayer component from the second title in the series, Halo 3 is an absolute riot when played online, whether it is against friends or complete strangers.

It pushes the boundaries of what can be expected of a next-generation title in the sheer wealth of options it offers. Not only has a level editor been provided, it has become part of the gameplay; with the ability to edit levels on the fly during online games to aid team mates or create havoc for the opposition. For a more complete single-player experience, Bioshock wins out, but for its ambition and creativity, Halo 3 is an unmissable gaming event that is currently unmatched on any console.

Vice City Stories for PSP

Acting as a predecessor to the Playstation 2's highest-selling title, Grand Theft Auto - Vice City Stories gives you more missions, more vehicles and more breakneck violence in possibly the best city from any of the Grand Theft Auto games.

The only difference is that it lets you do this all in the palm of your hand and has next to no visual difference from its Playstation 2 counterpart.

The core gameplay and story elements from its console counterpart stay intact. You take the role of a small time gangster trying to elevate himself to infamy in a 1980s city which bears a striking resemblance to Miami - with Scarface and Miami Vice being clear reference points.

In order to raise your reputation, you complete a series of missions which involve stealing cars, killing mob bosses, out-running the police and generally being a menace to society.

This all works fantastically on the PSP, showcasing its graphical excellence like no other title, with responsive and effective controls for both the driving and on-foot sequences and with the same great soundtrack of eighties classics underpinning the stark brutality with a wry sense of humour.

The storyline is rather a non-starter in what is effectively a mission pack, but the ability to play Grand Theft Auto on the move is more than worth the asking price and will keep you coming back for more. Just don't sit next to young children when you are playing it on the train.

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