Overlord II: The lesser of two Evils By Robert Haughton Not many of us actually like the hero. They have too much burden to bear. Add the fact that it is often their choice to play the part and ultimately you get a set of pearly whites smiling smugly, illuminated by the glow of their self worth. It’s no wonder another Overlord is needed. After the much-mourned Dungeon Keeper series we long to step into some evil boots and keep the world under them. So what is it like stomping in the shoes of this second Overlord? Well, unfortunately they pinch a little too much. In this instalment for Xbox 360 and PS3, the Sauron Overlord from the original is no more; the lovely minions, however, haven’t all given up and fortunately a new master is found in the form of the little Witch Boy from the tundra town of Nordberg. The Overlord vision of the game world is still about taking slaves, razing hell and generally twisting the status quo to your whims. Raising the stakes in the sequel is a more powerful foil to your plans. While Overlord had a motley crew of Tolkien like heroes falling from grace (Frodo got fat, Legolas lazy and Gimli greedy), the sequel boast a highly organised and larger foe in the form of the empire. The writer, Rhianna Pratchett, has taken Overlord out of her version of Middle Earth and planted it nicely in a pastiche of the Roman Empire expansion. The writing is excellent, inciting malicious chuckles as it irreverently takes us through the game. Hippy elves protecting all things fluffy and the Empire’s citizens as the fat of the land brings a satirical note to the proceedings. You could feel like you were walking the line between the climate camp and the Bank of England, with big steel boots and a mace. The graphics are nice and varied, from the snowy Nordberg to the Mediterranean Empire. You even get some tips of the hat to Tolkien and the previous game in the form of the huge gates to Everlight and the cataclysmic wasteland, the previous Overlord’s stomping ground turned into a post-apocalyptic hell due to a magic meltdown. A nice attention to detail on the style is apparent and the areas are full of breakables, which made my minions happy. Unfortunately it seems the development and interactive game elements have not been brought up to standards of the writing behind it, which is pretty poor considering the sequel is the perfect time to address this. Seasoned Overlords will remember the frustration of using two sticks to control three things: minions, the overlord and the camera. Well, get ready to resume the frowning expression. The targeting system is still clumsy (‘No I didn’t want to target him!’) so strategic malevolence is still difficult to pull off. This isn’t a fatal blow to the game, as the Overlord series draws a problem-solving mind to it like minions to a lonely seal. The original Overlord was about tactics and after a few runs a gamer would feel like they really could take over the world with fifty minions and their intellect. Overlord II has moved a step away from that it seems; yes there are puzzles and tactics, but not nearly enough in the early stages. Also, when a problem arises Gnarl or someone will give chime in with a ‘hint’ so telling that it may as well be a solution. More than a few times I threw the gauntlet down and (with many expletives) challenged Gnarl to come and do it himself if he’s so smart. Although this may open the game out to a wider audience it detracts from the fun of solving the puzzle yourself. Coupled with the lack of freedom to puzzle solve is a more hack ’n slash attitude to enemies. Where a few beetles would make you think about minion placement and flanking movements in Overlord, you can wade through legions of soldiers by simply sweeping brown minions into them in Overlord II. There is no longer the fear that a slight mistake could wipe out your horde. The spell system from the previous game is replaced with a generic spell for yourself, your minions and the enemies. You have two tiers of each of these depending how long you charge it for. This works well when trying to take over a town and for turning you minions into kamikaze goblins, but it seems quite limited. I miss having the choice to commit some agricultural vandalism and toss a fireball into a cornfield full of peasants or making dwarves dance like no ones watching with the lightning spell. One of the nice innovations is the possession spell, whereby at certain points you can become one of you minions and complete tasks that your big bad overlord cannot. Mounts are another addition to the game, turning your infantry into cavalry. While fun for a while, the benefits of these mounts are not truly explored. Overall with great writing and a bigger foe, Overlord II should be a charming romp into the realm of evil. But the fundamental issues from the first game are still there and the strategy is not, so no matter how much stuff they add it will always be the diet coke of evil. Rating: 6.5/10 Photobucket The Beatles: Rock Band By Lindsay Robertson Oh Harmonix, you've done it again. We were psyched as hell when Guitar Hero first hit the stores, then when Rock Band was announced we went crazy all over again at the prospect of adding vocals and drumming to the mix. Now we await the arrival of what could potentially be the ultimate combination - Rock Band and the biggest recording artists of all time. Yes, The Beatles: Rock Band is set to become a collossal smash on all platforms. Aside from the obvious (repeating to ourselves "It's Rock Band. And The Beatles!" ad nauseum), here are the top five features we've been speculating on. 5. New peripherals The controllers have been redesigned as mini replicas of the band's signature instruments and it has to be said that they look absolutely stunning. Seriously, squint your eyes at the pictures and you'll swear you're looking at the real deal. Featured are Ringo's Ludwig drums, Lennon's Rickenbacker 325, Harrison's Gretsch Duo Jet and McCartney's Hofner 500/1 bass. Use the Lefty Flip option on bass for added authenticity. 4. The tracklist No less than 48 Beatles songs are to be included in gameplay spanning the group's career. Of these, 33 have been officially confirmed with the rest remaining the subject of speculation. All are taken from the original master tracks. A heady mix of well known pop classics and slightly more obscure album tracks are listed at the game's official site. Enjoy! 3. Downloadable content Don't see your all-time favourite Beatles number on the list? Fear not - a wide range of downloadable numbers are already in the works for this game. Abbey Road will be available in its entirety shortly after the release date and the classic All You Need is Love is set to be among the first batch of tracks for download. Proceeds will be donated to Doctors Without Borders. 2. Level design Now this should be interesting - the levels in Career and Story mode have been designed to replicate some of the key stages in Beatle history. Besides the now sacred venues such as the Cavern Club and Abbey Road studio there are a number of songs set to be made complete with their own 'psychedelic dreamscapes'. After all, where could be more appropriate to strum along to Octopus' Garden than in your own coral reef? 1. Gameplay Or more specifically, the prospect of three part harmonies. Not only does this add a whole new challenge to the Rock Band series but this can be performed in a number of ways. As a party game, it offers simultaneous play for up to six players, each with their own distinctive role. Not too confident on centre stage? Why not try taking the mic for backing vocals. Fancy a real challenge? Set up the microphone stand in front of yourself while playing and see if you can manage to sing at the same time. C'mon, the fab four make it look so easy! As always extra points are gained by co-operation and by activating Overdrive mode. Or, as it's known in this installment, 'Beatlemania'. The Guitar Hero/Rock Band series has always been about giving the player the most authentic experience of performing and playing music - Rock Band: The Beatles looks set to take this one step further. Rock Band: The Beatles is due for release on 9th September 2009 on PS3, Wii and Xbox 360