Queensrÿche – Tribe Review

Queensrÿche - Tribe

Queensrÿche – Tribe

Tribe is the eighth full-length studio album by the Seattle based Progressive Metal band Queensrÿche. It was released in 2003 to mixed reviews, and of all of Queensrÿche’s albums to date it is probably the most misunderstood and underrated.

Following on the heels of the unpopular Q2K album, and featuring a credibility-questionable semi-return from former guitarist Chris DeGarmo which some fans accused of being cynical, the album is sometimes unfairly dismissed as being an awful record that fans should avoid.

In my opinion there is still actually quite a lot to like about Tribe and it is by no means the band’s worst outing to date. The band have always been big fans of evolution, and never made two albums in a row that sounded much alike. Tribe has its own sound like all Queensrÿche albums do, even though people sometimes lump it in with the previous two records as being ‘that alternative period.’

Though it uses Alternative Rock influences like Hear In The Now Frontier and Q2K as well as Alternative Metal influences like Operation Mindcrime 2, it uses them in a different way, like all Queensrÿche albums do, only this time it’s a way that almost makes some concessions to their earlier sounds and consequently Tribe feels very much like Queensrÿche even though you wouldn’t really expect it to given the fan reaction it received. I have to admit that after reading about its reputation, and after hearing Q2K, I didn’t really expect the album to be one of the band’s better efforts, but upon hearing it initially, and indeed after listening to it numerous times, I was surprised by just how much I did end up liking it.

The three heavier numbers, ‘Open’ ‘Tribe’ and ‘Desert Dance’ have that mixture of slow Metal, an eastern flavour and an Alternative feel that the heavier moments on Promised Land like ‘Damaged’ and ‘I Am I’ had. ‘Desert Dance’ incorporates a few controversial touches of Nu Metal and ‘Tribe’ has a mixture of Grunge-gone-Psychedelic guitar and tribal percussion that actually brings to mind Undertow-era Tool.

‘The Art Of Life’ has something of the feel of classic closers like ‘The Lady Wore Black’ and ‘Roads To Madness’ about it, (highlighted on ‘The Art Of Live’s acoustic rendition of Roads To Madness’) although obviously through the filter of Alternative Metal rather than classic Heavy Metal. Not to mention that its main riff is vaguely similar to the vocal pattern from ‘The Killing Words’ off of Rage For Order.

Finally, the ballads ‘Rhythm Of Hope’ ‘Doing Fine’ and album highlight ‘Great Divide’ (which I’d recommend that even if you skip the album, you still check out this one song) all have the feel of the band’s great lineage of ballads like ‘Silent Lucidity,’ ‘Della Brown’ ‘Bridge’ and ‘I Will Remember.’ Admittedly, they aren’t just as good, and they are once again played through an Alternative filter, but that doesn’t diminish their quality all to significantly as long as you don’t just outright dislike anything Alternative sounding.

The only real place where the album feels like a bit of a let down for me is in the second and fourth track as well as, more importantly, in the order of the tracks. ‘Loosing Myself’ has that post-Tate’s discovery of U2 feel that ‘Burning Man’ and ‘Wot Kinda Man’ from Q2K had, and ‘Loosing Myself’ has great lyrics and some great acoustic guitar work but the wrong chorus for a song in that point of the album.

I personally rearranged the album in my music library so that ‘Tribe’ and ‘Blood’ are tracks two and four, and this way the album flows a hell of a lot better (I’d recommend this to people who haven’t heard the album yet incidentally, do it before hand and you’ll get a better first impression.)

Overall; I think that if it had of had a more open minded and accepting fan base, if it had followed up Promised Land, which it spiritually does rather than chronologically does (which would also have made the band’s career trajectory feel more natural), if the situation with Chris had not been unclear or misrepresented in the press and if it had have been two tracks shorter with the tracks placed in a slightly different order, then Tribe would actually be a very good album that a lot of people liked.

This isn’t the case however, and as it stands Tribe is a good but mildly flawed album with a disproportionately bad reputation but a lot of potential. OK, if you only like Prog Metal that still sounds like Power Metal or Thrash Metal you probably mightn’t like it, and if you dislike the Alternative sound it may well just be irredeemable, but equally if you are the kind of fan who isn’t as strict with their tastes as the stereotypical quick-to-cry-foul Metalhead, then there is a hell of a lot to enjoy about Tribe and it can offer a few great new Queensrÿche songs for your collection.

Warhammer 40k: Space Marine (2011) Review

Warhammer 40k: Space Marine (2011)

Warhammer 40k: Space Marine (2011)

I actually really enjoyed this game. I belong to the niche market that both enjoys the Warhammer 40k universe to the point of reading dozens of novels and also enjoys many third person action games. If you don’t then Space Marine may not appeal to you as much and you may want to try before you buy and may indeed wish to skip this review, which assumes you are familiar with both.

Initial Marketing suggested that Space Marine would be a game that mixed Gears Of War and the Warhammer 40K license together but surprisingly, Space Marine actually ended up closer to God Of War than Gears Of War is several key areas.

In the campaign there are seventeen levels spread across five chapters, which can last about twelve to fifteen hours and which feature a good variety of enemies, including: Gretchin, Choppa Boyz, Shoota Boyz, Rocket equipped Boyz, Two variants of ‘Ard Boyz Squiggs, at least three variants of Nob, occasional Stormboyz and airbourne vehicles, occasional variants of turret towers, occasional weirdboyz, traitor guardsmen, three or four variants of traitor marines, pyskers, Bloodletters (its not much of a spoiler as they’re on the box art) and a few others.

There is also a good variety of weapons to be employed in the campaign; which except for grenades, come in three forms: Combat, Ranged and Exotic. You can carry one Combat weapon and up to four Ranged weapons at a time, wheras Exotic weapons are taken in combat from mounts and replace all other weapons until they run out of ammo or are discarded.

Weapons include: Combat Knife, Chainsword, Power Axe, Thunder Hammer, Bolt Pistol, Plasma Pistol, Bolter (In this game however it works as an SMG, rather than the destructive explosives-weapon from the mythology) Stalker Pattern Bolter (Sniper Rifle) Plasma Gun, Melta Gun (In this game, essentially an overpowered shotgun), Storm Bolter, Las Cannon, Heavy Bolter, Plasma Cannon and a few others including a game-specific triggered explosives launcher.

The pacing is good, slowly introducing new weapons and perks (in the form of purity seals which improve your ‘Fury,’ which is a mechanic like Rage Of The Titans from God Of War) and letting you get used to each one, before moving on and eventually allowing you to chose between them.

There is no cover system to speak of, so the game works more like an old PS2 game in that regard. Health is gained by pressing a specific button in combat in an almost similar way to God Of War/Devil May Cry type game, only without Orbs and only upon a specific button press (but with a regenerating shield bridging the gap between Health Hunting and Regenerating Health)

It probably goes without saying, but being a Warhammer 40K fan helps you to enjoy the game a lot, as there are lots of little references left unexplained just to get your brand recognition flaring and causing a little spark of enjoyment should you be in the know. Some are more obscure than others (Skittarri for example won’t be familiar to you if you only know the brand from videogames) and most of these references are found by collecting Servo-Skulls.

The Warhammer 40k Universe is very well realized and both looks and feels fantastic, however a lot of the plot, dialogue and voice acting is a little too hammy if you prefer the Dan Abnett/Aaron Dembski-Bowden-Bowden dark and semi-realistic version of the universe, as opposed to the all-orks-are-cockneys and space marines are pontificating poets version.

The gameplay itself isn’t absolutely perfect either if I’m being entirely fair; for example there are only two boss fights, only one vehicle section and some of the audio logs are a little too short and uninteresting when compared to some of the games that pioneered the format. Additionally, there isn’t much that hasn’t been seen before in other games and if you play a lot of third person games, it may seem a little stale. Put simply, the gameplay is a blend of tried and tested mechanics from lots of other games that, while very fun, doesn’t particularly innovate.

The multiplayer is fun (as long as you get a code and don’t miss out on half the content) if nothing very new, there are only a few modes and very few maps at present and nothing here hasn’t been done before either, but serves more as a nice little addition to the single player experience, rather than a selling point in itself.

Overall; Space Marine is a strong and more importantly fun game that will keep you entertained for a few days and should definitely be considered if you can find it at a low price, especially if you fall into the aforementioned niche market of 40K fan and 3rd Person Gaming fan.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands PS3 Game Review

Prince of Persia Forgotten SandsI feel that it would be unfair to go off on a rant about how bad this game is, but its hard to describe just how very average it was. This is not the sort of game you want to pay full price for, I played it to 100% completion in three days and it was linear and basic to the point of having no replay value.
Luckily I had rented this game for free due to a loyalty scheme reward at my local rental shop but I still felt a little ripped off by it, especially given how strong some of the previous Prince of Persia games have been, all I can say is that don’t let the strength of the series blind you like it did me, this is very much the weakest entry in the series.
Now, there are positives about the game on the technical level that any piece of work that took great numbers of professionals a long time to make, I mean I’m not saying I could make a better computer game but as a consumer I simply cannot recommend this game to other consumers who expect to enjoy a good product.
The two best things about this game is its platforming mechanics which work fine, but aren’t a selling point in themselves and its basic but not unpleasant combat. That’s it really and although if this was the first third person action platformer you’d ever played, you’d enjoy it, that is the highest praise it deserves. There are a load of great, good or middling titles on the market such as God of War, Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, Dantes Inferno, Heavenly Sword and Ninja Gaiden Sigma which all contain the same spirit and many of the same mechanics, only better.
On the subject of this game’s unique selling points, the freezing water and memory mechanics… all I can say is that they are both very shallow attempts to cover up a lack of ideas. The first mechanic boils down to ‘Press one button to make the wall or floor appear – figuratively (as its made out of temporarily frozen ice)’ and the other is ‘Press one button to make the floor or wall appear – literally… the floor isn’t there, press L2 and it is.’
As for the rest of the game; there is little variety in enemies, there is little variety in locations as it is all set in one castle with a few slightly different rooms and one garden, the voice acting and characterization are not really noteworthy, the graphics don’t set the world on fire except in the games opening FMV, which also happens to be the game’s only FMV sequence, the rest of the paper thin story is shown in game-play quality cut scenes that almost universally last mere seconds each.
So overall this is a game to either avoid, or only worth playing for its very easy Platinum trophy.