Assassins Creed Brotherhood And Donkey Kong Country Returns: Impressions

Posted: January 4, 2011 by CptToffer in Previews
Tags: , , , , ,

Good afternoon antiherogamers and welcome to 2011.

With the hangovers fading and the chocolate supply dwindling, I’ve finally had time to sit down and sink a good few hours into my two video game gifts this year: Assassins Creed: Brotherhood on the Xbox360 and Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Wii. I’m a big fan of both series was had concerns about the quality of both games. I’m going to give an overall preview of the game’s so far, but will make them as spoiler free as possible. I’ve only sunk about two hours into each, and anything major I won’t include anyway.
With Assassins Creed: Brotherhood I was worried (as were a number of people it seems) that this would essentially be Assassins 2.5 rather then another full chapter in what is quickly becoming an excellent series. With a very similar backdrop, and similar lead character people’s grew increasingly concerned, while news of a few changes to the core gameplay and multiplayer to a previously single player only game served to increase gamers intrigue but not settle their nerves.

With Donkey Kong Country Returns, in the hands of the talented Retro Studios. The first entry to the Donkey Kong Country series in over 14 years and the first game not in the hands of Rare, I had my personal concerns that it just wouldn’t cut the mustard on the Wii. I also have concerns about old series being revived on the Wii where motion controls may not agree with gameplay from that era. Although DK did have outings on the Gamecube and Nintendo DS I don’t count them as part of the Country series as they are vastly different in terms of gameplay and overall aim.

Firstly looking at assassins Creed Brotherhood, I can safely say that anyone who played the last installment in the series will feel right at home here. If people wanted a major change from Assassins Creed 2, then they won’t be getting it here. That said I thought that the previous game was excellent and the minor changes made do enough to provide a slightly altered experience. The start to the game is excellent and I really can’t question the story at all. When I played the original, I really had a few “What the hell is going on?” moments. Clearly Ubisoft Montreal had a plan long-term because the story is clear and there is a helpful recap of what is going on at the start if you’re new to the series, although to be honest I’m telling everyone to go back and play the first two games, even if the original does get bland and repetitive at points, it’s a must.

Once the action really gets going, you find yourself back in Rome, with a lot of your hard work from the previous game undone, you face an uphill struggle to wrestle control away from the Borgia. I’m not sure how the developers have done it but the movements of getting around Rome feels even tighter and responsive than before. I was impressed with the subtle tweaks made from the first game to the second, but the third installment really feels as fluent and as realistic as I can see it becoming currently. Fighting as also become more enjoyable, not now a wait for a counter attack from the enemy but quick button presses allow for kills to be played out almost in a combo fashion as you target others while in one fight. I would love for the hand to hand fighting to be expanded upon as I think it’s really overlooked. Taking a leaf from Uncharted’s melee fighting would help with this. The game generally has grown in size. It can be over-whelming for some players to have this many options so early on in the game, and I happen to be one of them. I like to be let off the leash to do what I want, but I like to have some direction aswell. The game is really what you want it to be, as you can dip in and do some story missions, carry out a couple of contracts or just do a few side missions. Getting around Rome can be done on foot, by horseback or through various linked tunnels. The tunnels are a nice feature, but the horses seems to be too slow for me, and never seem to gather any real pace.

Never gets old

The multiplayer is something that I’ve also briefly dipped into and I can say it is as addictive as it is fun. Myself and Fitz have logged a couple of hours both separate and together, and they have been very enjoyable. I’ve had time with the first two game types, ‘Wanted’ and ‘Alliance’. These are basically solo and team versions of a very basic concept, which is you have a target, that you have to hunt, while someone is hunting you. Kill your target to get points, and another target. Kill the wrong person and you’ll just show up on your murders radar and also feel quite daft. There’s a lot more to it then I can really talk about here, but suffice to say it’s a very different multiplayer experience and it’s not something that feels tacked on or overlooked at all.

Finally two excellent features I have to comment on are the training mode and the inclusion of secondary objectives in the single player. Anyone who’s played Metal Gear Solid and done the VR training missions will see the influences it’s had on the Assassins training mode. There are targets to beat, medals to be won and a few different modes to try. Not needed for this type of game but very welcome indeed. Secondary objectives are also present in the majority of main story missions, providing you with goals such as “remain undetected”, “only use your sword” or even “complete the memory in under 400 seconds”. Again while these are not required they add a little extra layer to this game that really is going from strength to strength.

The excellent training mode

The second game I was lucky enough to get was Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii. Nintendo is the bread and butter of my gaming life. It’s the company who’s consoles I grew up playing and I have a lot of time and love for many of the old characters. One such character is Donkey Kong and the ‘Country’ series which for me was great platforming that had a sharp learning curve. When I heard the announcement they were going to be handing the series over to Retro Studios to do a fresh entry I was very excited. There was a worrying feeling that my nostalgia would not allow the new game to be any good but judging from the reviews it was worth the gamble. Im happy to report that this is a fantastic new entry to the series.

I’ve said it already in this article but anyone who’s played the original Donkey Kong Country games feel right at home and I challenge anyone not to fall in love with the general excellence of the platforming on offer here. Each level I’ve played so far while following a theme, is different from the last, presenting a different challenge and asking something else of the player. While the Wii is never going to compete with the graphics produced by the other two consoles, this is a great looking game. Some levels are stunning especially those set in the Jungle at sunset. They don’t just look good, they look really bloody cool aswell.

Awesome

There has been a lot of talk about the difficulty curve in this game. I’m currently on World 3 and I can slowly see it picking up now, having to retry a level several times last night. Despite having to retry, I carried on enjoying the game knowing that It was my inability to succeed as opposed to a part of the game that was just unfair or poorly designed. The controls are tight and responsive, the motion control aspect being kept to a minimum. That said one of Donkey Kong’s new moves is to kneel down and blow onto objects on the terrain to reveal hidden collectables (which are key to that 100% completion. This feels very unlike DK as I’d rather see him clap a gust of wind towards the objects. The mechanic is also used to disable some enemy’s but It still seems a little strange and breaks up the pace that is built up. My only other complaint is the enemies themselves. I miss the Kremlings terribly and I really cannot take the new guys seriously. That said I fully respect that Retro Studios probably wanted to separate it away from the Rare days and put their mark on the series, which they have done here very successfully.

Hopefully this articles convinced you to at least take a look at these two games. They are both excellent entry’s to their respective series and I’ve barely scratched the surface on either. Thanks for reading and look forward to any thoughts you have.

See you again at the end of the week.

CptToffer

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Comments
  1. James says:

    Just wanted to point out that you only need to collect the K, O, N and G icons on each level to achieve 100% completion of the game.

    The puzzle pieces are just to unlock artwork which doesn’t count towards your final score, this also applies to the time trial mode, which is the third icon on the map screen when looking at a level overview.

    • CptToffer says:

      Hay James,

      Thanks for that, I didn’t realise. I knew the time trial mode wasn’t part of it, but assumed the puzzle pieces were. I have got all the KONG pieces minus a couple of levels so far, and I’ve just entered the forest world, so all good!

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