Review: Deep Black

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(First published in Official Playstation Magazine UK 28/09/12)

There’s more gusto in the screams of Deep Black’s harpooned enemies than there is in the shrieks of a skydiving banshee, but fervent voice acting cannot save this flailing third-person shooter. You play as Pierce, a soldier in the midst of infiltrating an underwater facility seemingly designed by Generic Evil Lairs Inc when his run-of-the-mill hostage rescue operation derails into something far more sinister.

Realistic underwater physics are a nifty touch, but fail to mitigate Pierce’s apparent inability to hide behind anything smaller than a scuba-diving mammoth without leaving his derriere floating in the slipstream, ripe for a machine gunning. A game as dead in the water as its protagonist’s bullet-ridden backside.

Rating: 3

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Preview : Injustice Gods Among Us

(First published in Official Playstation Magazine UK 28/09/12)

It’s a contentious issue. For years, living rooms the world over have resonated with the shrill cries of the incensed, obstinately defending their heroes as they try to answer the ultimate question.

Who would win in a fight? Batman or Superman?

Finally Netherealm Studios, creator of Mortal Kombat, has devised a solution. Injustice will once and for all settle the dispute, as you’re charged with pitting hero against hero in a brutal battle to claim the title of “most super”. it’s the videogame version of a TV talent show, where everyone’s talent is smashing faces into pulp.

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The mechanics are Kombat-esque: a brutal 2D fighter, peppered with meters and subsequent “smash” moves that provide elaborate displays of unrestrained brutality. Each character fires off signature slams in different ways – Bats, for example, parries attacks and counters by smiting rivals under the fiery engine of the Batmobile. Not to be outdone, Flash barrels into his adversary and knocks them flying before embarking on a casual sprint around the Earth’s orbit, then launching into the mother of all uppercuts. If MK celebrates bloody brutality, then Injustice is an ode to visual extravagance.

What truly has us biting our fists in glee, though, are the arenas. A battle between two goliaths of the superhero world was always going to struggle to be contained in a small rectangle of screen. So, if you’re getting bored of one scene, pick your opponent by the scruff of the neck and launch them through the back wall. A few smashed windows and a severe concussion later, you’re in a brand-new area with your rival faceplanted at your feet. It’s a cinematic freedom no other fighting game allows.

Grand Slam

As the battle rages, collateral damage is inevitable. Slam Wonder Woman into the far wall of the Batcave and a weapons cabinet beside her shatters. But this isn’t just a pretty graphical effect of an annoyance for Alfred on cleanup duty. Suddenly grenades spill out, fresh for throwing at your rival’s skull. Every battle stage provides opportunity to rack up killer combos using the world around you as you release all those furious urges you’ve been bottling up.

Unfortunately, self-preservation may wreak havoc with this bombast. Let’s face it, if you know heading over to the right of the screen will lead to a rocket launcher to the face from the big red button Catwoman’s lounging against, you’re going to stay the hell over the left hand side.

Enviromental weaponry devolves into a gimmick when each player dances out of reach, blowing raspberries at the other as electric cables spark forlornly a safe distance away.

Still, with promises of a proper story mode and a choice between power characters (hulking powerhouses such as Solomon Grundy) and gadget characters (weapon-wielding wonders like Nightwing), our fingers are crossed for this game to be the ultimate superhero experience of next year.

And for the record, the answer would totally be Superman. Sadly.