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Darksiders II is primarily a slash-and-hack affair.
Darksiders II is primarily a slash-and-hack affair.

Engaging battle with Death and War and a sneak peek at Hitman Absolution

Death is on a quest to prove the innocence of his brother War in this game, which incorporates several differing genres.

Darksiders II
(THQ)
PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC
***

Regional action-adventure fans may remember 2010's Darksiders, the otherworldly game in which players took control of one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse (War, in this case) on a merry, violent romp across a battle-scarred Earth as war raged between Heaven and Hell. They may also remember that it was banned in the UAE, with the religious overtones not believed to have gone down too well - which was a shame because it was rather good, sort of like what might have happened if Zelda had gone goth for a while.

Thankfully, its new sequel has made it on to shelves. So while we may have missed out on War's horsey high jinks, we have his brother Death to have a play with. The story is far too complicated to fit on this page, but basically your less-than-jovial character is on a quest to prove the innocence of War for destroying mankind (which I guess means he'd have to tick "yes" on the US immigration form when it asks if you've ever been involved in acts of genocide).

In its simplest form, it's a hack-and-slash affair, with repeated button action required to battle your foes (perhaps predictably, Death is rather handy with a scythe). But there are puzzle stages, too, and the running across walls and beam jumping aspect doffs more than a tip of the turban to Prince of Persia. These were all in the first, but Darksiders II adds the ability to collect coins, weapons and armour, throwing a Diablo-style role-playing element into the mix.

Despite incorporating so many differing genres and risking over-egging the pudding, it comes out pretty well, with the running and jumping and climbing and hacking and slashing and looting all mostly slotting into the "fun" box. It's also significantly bigger than its predecessor, boasting a map more than twice the size and a campaign about three times as long. But after a while you'll see that this isn't necessarily a good thing, and without much variation in the gameplay it becomes somewhat repetitive.

This lack of variety is the game's biggest downfall. Once completed the first couple of times, the puzzles rarely prove challenging. And the fighting, after you've got to grips with the buttons, is largely the same irrespective of who you are up against. Even the bosses are a bit disappointing, and most are killable through repeated hacking and slashing rather than anything more thought-out.

There are glitches along the way, too, with a targeting system that frequently fails to home in on whomever you're trying to fight (leading to you just spinning your scythe about and hoping it hits them), and it's not unusual to spot Death hovering a few inches above the ground.

Despite these issues, your holiday with the Grim Reaper still manages to be an enjoyable sojourn, boosted by outstanding graphics and sound ("This is no place for a horse" is one of the lines you're likely to hear a few times). And should you manage to battle through to the end (which, given its scope, could require some dedication), you'll no doubt be itching for the follow up. Famine, anyone?

Darksiders II (THQ) PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC

 

Hitman Absolution
Square Enix
PS3, Xbox 360, PC

Out mid-November

All publicity is good publicity, isn’t it? Well, if Square Enix was looking to build interest in its forthcoming addition to the ever-expanding Hitman franchise, releasing a trailer featuring PVC-clad nuns clutching automatic weapons was one way to do that. Bad habits aside, the bar coded Agent 47 returns in ­Absolution to find himself “at the centre of a dark conspiracy”. And while the game is aimed at a wider audience than the last stealth/shooter versions, hard-core fans should be pleased to hear that a Purist Mode, which removes advantages such as 47’s Instinct feature, will be available from the start.

 

Dubai game exhibit next week

Dubai game exhibit next week
Non-gaming visitors to Dubai’s Festival City next weekend: don’t be alarmed if you hear rather a lot of explosions, bangs, cheers and other loud and unusual noises. Games12, the UAE’s largest video games exhibition, is moving to a big tent beside the Festival City creek after last year’s hectic ­affair in The Dubai Mall. Expect the biggest names in gaming to showcase their forthcoming wares – which will probably mean Halo 4 (pictured), Assassin’s Creed III, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Fifa 13 and Tomb Raider will all battle for your attention (and, ultimately, your future disposable income). The show runs September 20-22. Visit www.mygames12.com for more information.

 

aritman@thenational.ae

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