• Allen/Lande – The Great Divide

    November 25, 2014 in Reviews by Sebastian Kluth

    Allen-Lande - The Great DivideAllen/Lande The Great Divide (2014)

    Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth

    Many fans were worried when they learned that the well-reputed project bearing the names of Russell Allen and Jorn Lande would see an important line-up change four years after the third and last release. Previous songwriter, bassist, guitarist, and keyboard player Magnus Karlsson was, in fact, replaced by none other than Timo Tolkki, one of the most iconic but also most inconsistent musicians of the European power metal scene. Since Timo Tolkki has left Stratovarius, he’s released a whole lot of controversial and (largely) negatively received releases under his own solo banner, during the Revolution Renaissance era, as his short-lived Symfonia project, as mastermind of Timo Tolkki’s Avalon, and recently as bassist in progressive all-star act Ring Of Fire. I have always followed Tolkki’s career with much interest because he wrote not only some of the worst disasterpieces of his genre (Angels Of The Apocalypse and Elements, Part I) but also some of the very best (Dreamspace and Visions). I’m relieved to say that the new Allen/Lande release The Great Divide is what I consider to be one of Timo Tolkki’s very best releases. It beats the solid The Land of New Hope as well as In Paradisum, and may be Tolkki’s best album since Stratovarius’ Infinite. In addition, this release is also a career highlight for both vocalists, especially Jorn Lande, who has largely released exchangeable quantity over convincing quality material over the past few years.

     

    The Great Divide is a surprisingly calm album, and almost all tracks here are mid-tempo at best. Another surprise is that Timo Tolkki didn’t include any of his fast-paced signature guitar solis that remind me of gobbling turkeys. His soloing is slower, more relaxed, and less neoclassical than usual, which also describes the overall atmosphere of the album. The instrumental section plays in a soft but precise way, and is very helpful to the overall atmosphere. The guitar work varies from simple melodic lines to beautiful mid-tempo soli. The keyboard is probably the most outstanding instrument on the album, however. It’s always present and still not overused, and the record always comes around with dreamy orchestrations or melancholic piano melodies at the right moments. Massive background vocals and powerful choruses in almost all songs make both singers stand out. Sometimes it’s still hard to decipher the two singers for me, but their performances are generally more distinctive than in the past, and they perform very well apart from this.

    The catchiest power metal songs here are, first of all, the melodic and powerful opener “Come And Dream With Me” that delivers  some amazing guitar melodies that will be stuck in your mind for a very long time from first contact on. “Dream About Tomorrow” is the only up-tempo track with heavier riffs, and also features an incredible vocal performance by Jorn Lande that sends shivers down my spine. The song is completed with sophisticated organ sounds and a liberating guitar solo. It’s definitely among the very best genre tracks released this year (in my opinion).

    Many songs on the album like “Hymn To The Fallen” and “Reaching For The Stars” have a melodic AOR touch. They really breathe the spirit of laid-back hard rock music of the eighties from bands like Dokken, Journey, or Whitesnake. Even the infamous “Stronger Than Ever” release by Digger (which I happen to like a lot) comes to my mind when I listen to this album. One of the best songs here is the title track “The Great Divide”. Despite being the slowest song on an already rather slow-paced release, this track fascinates with the mixture of soothing vocals from both singers, and inspired guitar melodies. It’s probably the most unique song ever released by the project, but this is still music with force and soul.

    Fans of Russell Allen, Jorn Lande, and Timo Tolkki themselves need this release. Those who love melodic heavy metal should also give this album a few spins and let it grow before judging it too quickly. If you like AOR or eighties rock, you might enjoy this release more. In a weird way, this album features several trademarks from the former bands of the involved musicians and still sounds different from any other genre release this year due to its newly sophisticated and intellectual approach. For me, the combination of Allen, Lande, and Tolkki works extremely well, and I don’t miss Magnus Karlsson’s input at all.

    3.75 // 5

     

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  • Cea Serin – The Vibrant Sound of Bliss and Decay

    November 21, 2014 in Reviews by Sebastian Kluth

    Cea SerinCea Serin The Vibrant Sound of Bliss and Decay (2014)

    Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth

    Cea Serin is a criminally unknown and underrated American progressive metal band that just released its second full length album, The Vibrant Sound Of Bliss And Decay, ten years after its first ouput entitled …Where Memories Combine. Along with underrated American progressive metal veterans Leviathan, Cea Serin has managed to deliver a progressive metal highlight for the year. Ever since I listened to the entire release for the first time, I haven’t been able to stop listening to this album over and over again.

     

    The band from Baton Rouge, Louisiana opens its new release with the straight and technical “Holy Mother”, which surprises with heavy riffs instead of a lengthy introduction. The vocals are a little bit hard to digest in the beginning, as they have an angry tone before the second vocalist adds a smoother touch. While the rougher vocals remind me of Iced Earth, the more cleaner parts remind me of a band like Edguy. Both singers contribute to a gripping chorus, as the band always manages to come around with a few catchy refrains within the complex song structures. The middle part of the song takes its time to allow the different instruments to shine. I especially like the rhythmic bass guitar play and the well-used keyboard sounds. The instrumental portions make me think of the best moments from bands like Dream Theater and Symphony X in the nineties. Yes, it’s that great.

    Up next is “The Illumination Mask”, which starts with the closing melodies of the opener and enters some futuristic keyboard sounds, as well as vocal samples that seem to be taken from an old movie. The song immediately builds up a bleak and mysterious atmosphere and is completely different from the up-tempo opener. After the gripping introduction, it evolves into a technically stunning power metal song. There are a few heavier riffs, but also a number of melodic passages on a constantly challenging technical level. The glorious chorus is everything that a power metal fan could dream of. After the chorus comes a calmer and atmospheric passage that sends shivers down my spine, and is just short enough to perfectly fit in and keep the listener’s attention high. If the opening track was very good, then this song is truly excellent. If the album has a “hit”, then it’s this incredibly ferocious outburst. The track is only eight minutes long, but I wish it would never end.

    The middle of the album is dedicated to the calm and elegant ballad “Ice”. The vocals are performed with passion while the instrumental part convinces with soft jazz influences, acoustic guitars, a highly diversified stripped-down percussion section, and dreamy keyboard sounds that invite the listener to relax. This is easily the best progressive rock ballad I have heard in years. This track is pure genius, but for completely different reasons than the second.

    “The Victim Cult” is a varied progressive metal song that delivers with a mixture of heavier riffs and harsher vocals on one side, and soothing vocals and passionate melodies on the other. Vocal samples and Middle Eastern folk music add more depth to an already brilliant track that truly shines in its instrumental parts, where playful percussion, vivid bass guitar, and melodic guitar solos meet.

    The band ends the album with a twenty-minute long progressive rock epic entitled “What Falls Away”, which opens with meaningful and melancholic piano that is soon joined by soothing string samples. The song really takes its time to calmly evolve step by step over the first five minutes. Yet more vocal samples add another atmospheric dimension to the song before the track gets a little heavier and even more emotional after the five-minute mark. Heavier riffs, guitar solos, and tight bass play and drumming meet beautifully laid-back piano and calm vocals in an outburst of emotions and images. The song continues to get a little bit heavier, darker, and more technical from an instrumental point of view after the seven-minute mark. Still, the band surprises with lounge and jazz sounds as well as with grounded female vocals here and there that lend an appeasing tone to this more vivid section. After a while the track goes back to Spanish acoustic guitar sounds and calm percussion before the futuristic keyboard solo joins in to lead the listener back to the heavier and more hectic part of the song. “What Falls Away” ends with a grand finish before looping back to its calmer opening minutes. Despite its long running time, this song never feels redundant, and should be considered a modern progressive metal milestone, just as should the entire album. The description progressive should be written in bold and capital letters to describe this closing track in particular. Let’s say it this way: If Mike Oldfield was a metal musician, this would be one of the very best songs of his career. It’s some kind of “Tubular Bells” or “Music from the Balkony” (from the highly underrated progressive rock masterpiece “Heaven’s Open” by the way) for contemporary metal fans.

    It’s a pleasure to hear several outstanding bands from the American underground stealing the crown from established acts like Dream Theater these days. It’s also a pleasure to support these bands and to encourage them to carry on and surpass themselves repeatedly. In my humble opinion, progressive metal fans just can’t get away with not hearing Cea Serin this year. Before you forget about this record, do yourself a favour and listen to the entire album on Bandcamp.

    4.75 // 5

     

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  • Voici un questionnaire sur la culture générale pour toutes les Québécoises et tous les Québécois: http://www.lapresse.ca/multimedias/201411/03/01-4815426-questionnaire-culture-generale.php

    La moyenne actuelle serait de 42%. Du premier coup, j'ai obtenu 79% et je suis donc dans le premier quartile. Pas pire pour un immigrant yes

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  • 1.      Tomb Raider II (1997)

    The Tomb Raider franchise has marked my childhood. I’ve been a fan since I’ve played the first part of the series in the late nineties when I wasn’t even ten years old. One and a half decades later, I’m still a huge fan and I recently enjoyed playing the revamp of the series in form of the challenging, dynamical and entertaining 2013 version of “Tomb Raider”. I’ve collected statues, soundtracks, shirts, posters and board games of the franchise and I also watched the two movies featuring Angelina Jolie. My favourite part of the franchise is though the second part which is one of the very few games I have played several times in my life. First of all, it’s one of the most challenging games. I remember how I was walking through the sunken shipwreck Andrea Doria for hours looking for an essential item I hadn’t found before. I recall how I was struggling for days to survive in the Buddhist monastery in Tibet with almost no energy left and a dozen armed enemies hunting me down. I have memories of fighting a giant dragon over and over again and not being able to kill it for good until I coincidentally discovered how to do it. I really adored the game’s mixture of action-filled sequences with easy controls, appealing settings with stunning graphics and mysterious enigmas that added an intellectual touch to this adventure game. Many decades later, I still enjoy driving a motorboat in Venice, Italy, swimming through a dark ocean in the middle of nowhere and riding a snowmobile in the Tibetan mountains from time to time.

    Atmosphere: 9.5/10

    Challenge level: 9.5/10

    Controls: 8/10

    Game flow: 8/10

    Graphics: 7/10

    Length: 9.5/10

    Long-term fun factor: 10/10

    Sound: 8.5/10

    Soundtrack: 7/10

    Story: 8/10

    Total score: 84/100

     

    2.      Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2003)

    The Prince of Persia franchise is my second favourite video game series of all times. I even played the first two games of the franchise at my father’s working place when we hadn’t a computer at our home before discovering the Tomb Raider series. I adored every single game of the franchise but if I had to pick one out of these games, I would go for this one. This game convinces with stunning graphics, a mysterious and twisted story line and an incredibly authentic and magical atmosphere. The costumes, the settings and one of the best game soundtracks ever made are essential elements that make this game so special to me. It made me fall in love with Persian culture and history. This game also includes some of the smartest enigmas, traps and physical challenges I have ever experienced. The enemies in the game are quite cunning as well. It’s so intense that the player almost becomes one with this fascinating universe.

    Atmosphere: 10/10

    Challenge level: 7/10

    Controls: 7/10

    Game flow: 7.5/10

    Graphics: 9/10

    Length: 8/10

    Long-term fun factor: 10/10

    Sound: 8.5/10

    Soundtrack: 10/10

    Story: 7/10

    Total score: 84/100 

     

    3.      Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (2009)

    The Silent Hill franchise had its hits and misses but this game stands above all the others because it’s as gripping as a vintage horror movie and as twisted as the greatest psycho thrillers. Apart of its intense atmosphere that kicks off right in the beginning and never lets go until the end of the game, its decent subtle shocking moments and its surprising story line, the game convinces with its creeping settings which include forgotten adventure parks, ghost towns, old high schools, strange isolated islands and abandoned shopping malls. Another interesting aspect is that the game has a high number of alternative endings depending on the choices you have made throughout the game. That’s why it makes perfectly sense to play this intense game several times at night with your headphones on if you feel like going on a dark ride.

    Atmosphere: 10/10

    Challenge level: 7/10

    Controls: 7/10

    Game flow: 7/10

    Graphics: 8/10

    Length: 7/10

    Long-term fun factor: 9/10

    Sound: 9/10

    Soundtrack: 8/10

    Story: 10/10

    Total score: 82/100

      

    4.      Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb (2003)

    The Indiana Jones franchise had its great but also some rather disappointing parts but this is easily the series’ greatest moment. This is not only one of the longest games I have ever played that really offers value for money, it also includes a multitude of fascinating setting all around the world and a story that is more gripping and original than many movies of the franchise. Once again, the mixture of physically challenging parts, smart enigmas and diversified enemies makes this game extremely addicting. On the negative side, the controls of the game are quite tough to handle and the final surreal parts of the game didn’t please me and didn’t really fit to the rest of this otherwise pretty much flawless video game either.

    Atmosphere: 8/10

    Challenge level: 9/10

    Controls: 5/10

    Game flow: 7/10

    Graphics: 7/10

    Length: 10/10

    Long-term fun factor: 9/10

    Sound: 8/10

    Soundtrack: 8/10

    Story: 8/10

    Total score: 79/100

     

     5.    Penumbra Trilogy: Overture, Black Plague & Requiem (2007-2008)

    The Penumbra franchise is basically one story separated in three parts and that’s why one can’t pick just one of these even though the more experimental last part is just about enigmas and puzzles and a little letdown. The first two parts are though some of the best atmospheric horror video games ever made. This game kicks off slowly and gives the player a lot of occasions to uncover the background of the mysterious story. As the game goes on, it gets a lot more addicting and mysterious as the horror slowly unfolds when the player is hunted down by invisible monsters. Later on, the player even has to face scary creatures before getting to the core and conclusion of the story which turns out to be quite surprising and more twisted than expected as it has even a philosophical touch to it.

    Atmosphere: 10/10

    Challenge level: 7/10

    Controls: 6/10

    Game flow: 7/10

    Graphics: 7/10

    Length: 9/10

    Long-term fun factor: 7/10

    Sound: 9/10

    Soundtrack: 8/10

    Story: 8/10

    Total score: 78/100

     

    6.      Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven (2002)

    The best game about the organized crime is the first game of the Mafia franchise. The game set new landmarks concerning its detailed and wide-spread universe that the player can discover as much as he or she wants, the use of different tools with an easy control throughout the game and its challenging and detailed story line that even beats the best genre movies. The game follows the story of an innocent cab driver who gets into the organized crime by an unlucky coincident and soon gets more powerful as he gets himself a solid reputation within the organization. In the different missions of the game, the main character must for example assassinate enemies, face greedy concurrence within his own organization, menace ambitious business partners and innocent store owners and rob out banks. The high diversity of the different chapters keep the tension high as this video game never ever gets boring.

    Atmosphere: 8/10

    Challenge level: 7/10

    Controls: 7/10

    Game flow: 7/10

    Graphics: 7/10

    Length: 8/10

    Long-term fun factor: 9/10

    Sound: 8/10

    Soundtrack: 9/10

    Story: 7/10

    Total score: 77/100

      

    7.      Assassin’s Creed (2007)

    Assassin’s Creed has become one of the most popular franchises over the past few years for a good reason and everything players from all around the world like about these video games is already present in the first part. It’s extremely fun to discover and crawl, jump, walk, ride and run through a wide-spread universe. The different missions of the game are challenging and diversified. The settings are colourful and drag you into a fascinating universe. The game includes a high number of interesting tools and weapons you have to deal with. The controls are rather easy to handle on consoles and guarantee a long-time playing pleasure.

    Atmosphere: 8/10

    Challenge level: 6/10

    Controls: 7/10

    Game flow: 8/10

    Graphics: 8/10

    Length: 8/10

    Long-term fun factor: 8/10

    Sound: 8/10

    Soundtrack: 8/10

    Story: 7/10

    Total score: 76/100

      

    8.      No One Lives Forever II: A Spy in H.A.R.M.’s Way (2002)

    This spy game brings the early years of the Cold War back to life in a charming, colourful and decently humorist manner. This game is less about running around and battling enemies but about using your brain when you infiltrate highly secured areas and spy out your enemies to get some important information. This second part of the short-lived franchise requests a lot of patience to face the challenging missions but if you adore spy games and movies, this will easily become one of your very favourite games. The graphics are stunning, the soundtrack adds a lot of atmosphere and the diversified settings from all around the world are really beautiful. The controls are sometimes a little bit challenging to handle but this may only be a minor inconvenience.

    Atmosphere: 9/10

    Challenge level: 8/10

    Controls: 5/10

    Game flow: 6/10

    Graphics: 7/10

    Length: 9/10

    Long-term fun factor: 8/10

    Sound: 7/10

    Soundtrack: 8/10

    Story: 7/10

    Total score: 72/100

     

    9.      Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell (2002)

    The most popular spy game franchise is based on some truly interesting novels. While the last few games seemed to have interesting story lines but were ultimately rather disappointing, the first few games had less interesting plots but were really fun to play. The mixture of subtle spying in different settings and adrenaline-driven action sequences with a high number of intriguing weapons made the first part of the franchise something new and unique. This tension-filled game revolutionized a whole genre and changed the world of many gamers from all around the world.

    Atmosphere: 8/10

    Challenge level: 8/10

    Controls: 6/10

    Game flow: 8/10

    Graphics: 7/10

    Length: 7/10

    Long-term fun factor: 7/10

    Sound: 7/10

    Soundtrack: 6/10

    Story: 7/10

    Total score: 71/100

      

    10.  Muramasa: The Demon Blade (2009)

    This mythological action game for Wii consoles brings the player back to traditional Japan. Even though the story line of the game is rather simplistic and the fighting sequences rather repetitive after a certain time, the game has really stunning graphics, an absolutely amazing soundtrack and many atmospheric and authentic settings. If you care for Japanese culture, you simply can’t get around this game.

    Atmosphere: 8/10

    Challenge level: 6/10

    Controls: 6/10

    Game flow: 8/10

    Graphics: 9/10

    Length: 7/10

    Long-term fun factor: 7/10

    Sound: 5/10

    Soundtrack: 9/10

    Story: 5/10

    Total score: 70/100

      

    Other great video games you should try out are:

    11.  Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge (1991)

    12.  Mario Strikers Charged (2007)

    13.  L.A. Noire (2011)

    14.  Wario Land: Super Mario Land III (1994)

    15.  Hitman: Contracts (2004)

    16.  Contra III: The Alien Wars (1992)

    17.  The Smurfs Travel the World (1994)

    18.  Epic Mickey (2010)

    19.  Redline Racer (1998)

    20.  Counter-Strike: Source (2004)

     

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  • Dear readers of my blog,

    Over the past few years, I have talked about many different forms of arts on this blog such as cinema, literature and music but I have rarely mentioned one of the most recent and still most underrated forms that in fact unites several different art forms: video games. They include more and more gripping plots that easily beat many contemporary story lines for movies. Many video games develop more and more diversified universes to discover and include stunning effects and especially graphics that could have been painted or sculptured by some of the very best contemporary artists. Several video games even include ambitious and moving symphonic soundtracks that are as iconic as some of the most memorable movie scores. The boundaries of different genres are slowly disappearing and merging into more and more innovative games. While other forms of art struggle to innovate and cover new grounds, video consoles and games are still developing new and stunning concepts each year. I’ve got to admit that I’m not the biggest gamer in the world but I have played to a lot of enjoyable games that have marked my childhood or young adulthood and I think it’s now time to introduce you to a list of my twenty personal all-time favourites so far.

    1.      Tomb Raider II (1997)

    The Tomb Raider franchise has marked my childhood. I’ve been a fan since I’ve played the first part of the series in the late nineties when I wasn’t even ten years old. One and a half decades later, I’m still a huge fan and I recently enjoyed playing the revamp of the series in form of the challenging, dynamical and entertaining 2013 version of “Tomb Raider”. I’ve collected statues, soundtracks, shirts, posters and board games of the franchise and I also watched the two movies featuring Angelina Jolie. My favourite part of the franchise is though the second part which is one of the very few games I have played several times in my life. First of all, it’s one of the most challenging games. I remember how I was walking through the sunken shipwreck Andrea Doria for hours looking for an essential item I hadn’t found before. I recall how I was struggling for days to survive in the Buddhist monastery in Tibet with almost no energy left and a dozen armed enemies hunting me down. I have memories of fighting a giant dragon over and over again and not being able to kill it for good until I coincidentally discovered how to do it. I really adored the game’s mixture of action-filled sequences with easy controls, appealing settings with stunning graphics and mysterious enigmas that added an intellectual touch to this adventure game. Many decades later, I still enjoy driving a motorboat in Venice, Italy, swimming through a dark ocean in the middle of nowhere and riding a snowmobile in the Tibetan mountains from time to time.

    Atmosphere: 9.5/10

    Challenge level: 9.5/10

    Controls: 8/10

    Game flow: 8/10

    Graphics: 7/10

    Length: 9.5/10

    Long-term fun factor: 10/10

    Sound: 8.5/10

    Soundtrack: 7/10

    Story: 8/10 

    Total score: 85/100

     

    2.      Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2003)

    The Prince of Persia franchise is my second favourite video game series of all times. I even played the first two games of the franchise at my father’s working place when we hadn’t a computer at our home before discovering the Tomb Raider series. I adored every single game of the franchise but if I had to pick one out of these games, I would go for this one. This game convinces with stunning graphics, a mysterious and twisted story line and an incredibly authentic and magical atmosphere. The costumes, the settings and one of the best game soundtracks ever made are essential elements that make this game so special to me. It made me fall in love with Persian culture and history. This game also includes some of the smartest enigmas, traps and physical challenges I have ever experienced. The enemies in the game are quite cunning as well. It’s so intense that the player almost becomes one with this fascinating universe.

    Atmosphere: 10/10

    Challenge level: 7/10

    Controls: 7/10

    Game flow: 7.5/10

    Graphics: 9/10

    Length: 8/10

    Long-term fun factor: 10/10

    Sound: 8.5/10

    Soundtrack: 10/10

    Story: 7/10 

    Total score: 84/100

     

    3.      Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (2009)

    The Silent Hill franchise had its hits and misses but this game stands above all the others because it’s as gripping as a vintage horror movie and as twisted as the greatest psycho thrillers. Apart of its intense atmosphere that kicks off right in the beginning and never lets go until the end of the game, its decent subtle shocking moments and its surprising story line, the game convinces with its creeping settings which include forgotten adventure parks, ghost towns, old high schools, strange isolated islands and abandoned shopping malls. Another interesting aspect is that the game has a high number of alternative endings depending on the choices you have made throughout the game. That’s why it makes perfectly sense to play this intense game several times at night with your headphones on if you feel like going on a dark ride.

    Atmosphere: 10/10

    Challenge level: 7/10

    Controls: 7/10

    Game flow: 7/10

    Graphics: 8/10

    Length: 7/10

    Long-term fun factor: 9/10

    Sound: 9/10

    Soundtrack: 8/10

    Story: 10/10 

    Total score: 82/100

     

    4.      Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb (2003)

    The Indiana Jones franchise had its great but also some rather disappointing parts but this is easily the series’ greatest moment. This is not only one of the longest games I have ever played that really offers value for money, it also includes a multitude of fascinating setting all around the world and a story that is more gripping and original than many movies of the franchise. Once again, the mixture of physically challenging parts, smart enigmas and diversified enemies makes this game extremely addicting. On the negative side, the controls of the game are quite tough to handle and the final surreal parts of the game didn’t please me and didn’t really fit to the rest of this otherwise pretty much flawless video game either.

    Atmosphere: 8/10

    Challenge level: 9/10

    Controls: 5/10

    Game flow: 7/10

    Graphics: 7/10

    Length: 10/10

    Long-term fun factor: 9/10

    Sound: 8/10

    Soundtrack: 8/10

    Story: 8/10 

    Total score: 79/100

     

    5.      Penumbra Trilogy: Overture, Black Plague & Requiem (2007-2008)

    The Penumbra franchise is basically one story separated in three parts and that’s why one can’t pick just one of these even though the more experimental last part is just about enigmas and puzzles and a little letdown. The first two parts are though some of the best atmospheric horror video games ever made. This game kicks off slowly and gives the player a lot of occasions to uncover the background of the mysterious story. As the game goes on, it gets a lot more addicting and mysterious as the horror slowly unfolds when the player is hunted down by invisible monsters. Later on, the player even has to face scary creatures before getting to the core and conclusion of the story which turns out to be quite surprising and more twisted than expected as it has even a philosophical touch to it.

    Atmosphere: 10/10

    Challenge level: 7/10

    Controls: 6/10

    Game flow: 7/10

    Graphics: 7/10

    Length: 9/10

    Long-term fun factor: 7/10

    Sound: 9/10

    Soundtrack: 8/10

    Story: 8/10 

    Total score: 78/100

     

    6.      Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven (2002)

    The best game about the organized crime is the first game of the Mafia franchise. The game set new landmarks concerning its detailed and wide-spread universe that the player can discover as much as he or she wants, the use of different tools with an easy control throughout the game and its challenging and detailed story line that even beats the best genre movies. The game follows the story of an innocent cab driver who gets into the organized crime by an unlucky coincident and soon gets more powerful as he gets himself a solid reputation within the organization. In the different missions of the game, the main character must for example assassinate enemies, face greedy concurrence within his own organization, menace ambitious business partners and innocent store owners and rob out banks. The high diversity of the different chapters keep the tension high as this video game never ever gets boring.

    Atmosphere: 8/10

    Challenge level: 7/10

    Controls: 7/10

    Game flow: 7/10

    Graphics: 7/10

    Length: 8/10

    Long-term fun factor: 9/10

    Sound: 8/10

    Soundtrack: 9/10

    Story: 7/10 

    Total score: 77/100

     

    7.      Assassin’s Creed (2007)

    Assassin’s Creed has become one of the most popular franchises over the past few years for a good reason and everything players from all around the world like about these video games is already present in the first part. It’s extremely fun to discover and crawl, jump, walk, ride and run through a wide-spread universe. The different missions of the game are challenging and diversified. The settings are colourful and drag you into a fascinating universe. The game includes a high number of interesting tools and weapons you have to deal with. The controls are rather easy to handle on consoles and guarantee a long-time playing pleasure.

    Atmosphere: 8/10

    Challenge level: 6/10

    Controls: 7/10

    Game flow: 8/10

    Graphics: 8/10

    Length: 8/10

    Long-term fun factor: 8/10

    Sound: 8/10

    Soundtrack: 8/10

    Story: 7/10 

    Total score: 76/100

     

    8.      No One Lives Forever II: A Spy in H.A.R.M.’s Way (2002)

    This spy game brings the early years of the Cold War back to life in a charming, colourful and decently humorist manner. This game is less about running around and battling enemies but about using your brain when you infiltrate highly secured areas and spy out your enemies to get some important information. This second part of the short-lived franchise requests a lot of patience to face the challenging missions but if you adore spy games and movies, this will easily become one of your very favourite games. The graphics are stunning, the soundtrack adds a lot of atmosphere and the diversified settings from all around the world are really beautiful. The controls are sometimes a little bit challenging to handle but this may only be a minor inconvenience.

    Atmosphere: 9/10

    Challenge level: 8/10

    Controls: 5/10

    Game flow: 6/10

    Graphics: 7/10

    Length: 9/10

    Long-term fun factor: 8/10

    Sound: 7/10

    Soundtrack: 8/10

    Story: 7/10 

    Total score: 72/100

     

    9.      Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell (2002)

    The most popular spy game franchise is based on some truly interesting novels. While the last few games seemed to have interesting story lines but were ultimately rather disappointing, the first few games had less interesting plots but were really fun to play. The mixture of subtle spying in different settings and adrenaline-driven action sequences with a high number of intriguing weapons made the first part of the franchise something new and unique. This tension-filled game revolutionized a whole genre and changed the world of many gamers from all around the world.

    Atmosphere: 8/10

    Challenge level: 8/10

    Controls: 6/10

    Game flow: 8/10

    Graphics: 7/10

    Length: 7/10

    Long-term fun factor: 7/10

    Sound: 7/10

    Soundtrack: 6/10

    Story: 7/10 

    Total score: 71/100

     

    10.  Muramasa: The Demon Blade (2009)

    This mythological action game for Wii consoles brings the player back to traditional Japan. Even though the story line of the game is rather simplistic and the fighting sequences rather repetitive after a certain time, the game has really stunning graphics, an absolutely amazing soundtrack and many atmospheric and authentic settings. If you care for Japanese culture, you simply can’t get around this game.

    Atmosphere: 8/10

    Challenge level: 6/10

    Controls: 6/10

    Game flow: 8/10

    Graphics: 9/10

    Length: 7/10

    Long-term fun factor: 7/10

    Sound: 5/10

    Soundtrack: 9/10

    Story: 5/10 

    Total score: 70/100

     

    Other great video games you should try out are:

    11.  Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge (1991)

    12.  Mario Strikers Charged (2007)

    13.  L.A. Noire (2011)

    14.  Wario Land: Super Mario Land III (1994)

    15.  Hitman: Contracts (2004)

    16.  Contra III: The Alien Wars (1992)

    17.  The Smurfs Travel the World (1994)

    18.  Epic Mickey (2010)

    19.  Redline Racer (1998)

    20.  Counter-Strike: Source (2004)

     

    To be continued…

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