Sony

E3 2015 Charting Uncharted

When it was announced the Amy Hennig was leaving Naughty Dog I must admit I did panic a little. She’s been the awesome force of the story behind Uncharted since the beginning. I feared that Nathan Fillion Drake just wasn’t going to be the same without her. As more information came out it became clear that some of the other driving forces of previous Uncharted games would be at the helm of A Thief’s End, I felt a little more comforted. Now of course the E3 trailer is out and it’s 7.5 minutes long. I think this may be the longest gameplay trailer for E3, or at least that I know of.

Watching this I laughed and I did a little squee. There are a couple places where it gets a little tense. It’s over 7 minutes long and in that time they really do show you a variety of gameplay, but they also show us that the wit is still there. After seeing this I’m so excited you’d think I was a 6 year old who got into the bag of jelly babies and ate them all. Totally bouncing off the walls.

~Donna


My E3 Picks

So a few of my own highlight from yesterday’s announcements and I’m going to start with my top of the heap favourite. When I heard this news today I actually whooped a little. They’re remastering Grim Fandango.

Of course we have the beauty of the next Assassin’s Creed game. I’m really excited for this. It looks like the free running and combat has been changed and it looks good. I’m also happy to see more building interiors and a floating waypoint.

Then we have the wonderful news of another Uncharted and another Far Cry on the way for our loving joy.

And lastly we have a little puzzle game with some lovely art and should be with us soon; Valiant Hearts. Visually very stunning and just my sort of game.

 


Peeking In On Watch Dogs

I may or may not give up a full review of Watch Dogs, but I can assure you that I’ll be posting more videos to add to these ones. Last week I took Thursday and Friday off of work so that I could have a 4 day weekend of playing nothing but Watch Dogs. I have been waiting for a very long time for this game and I may be a little more than a little obsessed with it. This is of course more than my normal gaming obsession. I am pretty sure that someone has been peaking inside of my brain when they were coming up with ideas.

There’s something i need to say though before I go any further. Fucking stop comparing Watch Dogs to GTA!! I swear, if one more reviewer compares it to GTA I may kill someone. Yes Watch Dogs is a sandbox game. Yes it has main and side missions. Those are all traits of sandbox games, not just GTA. I love GTA, but it isn’t the be all end all of sandbox games. So stop fucking calling it a wanna-be GTA game. It’s not.

Okay, I suck at driving in any game. I rarely get to where I want to be in a very good condition. I will run into other cars and mow down pedestrians hopefully without blowing up my car. Now, driving in Watch Dogs isn’t the best. Some of the cars can be a little like driving bricks with wheels, but it is possible to get from point A to point B in one piece. Mostly this is aided by their nearly indestructible vehicles. I almost never get anywhere without side swiping a dozen cars and running head long into at least one car as I attempt to turn a corner.

I always try out the motorcycles in any game that has them cause I’m less likely to end up hurtling down the road as a fireball if the controls for it are any good. Usually they aren’t very good. This time though the motorcycles are my preferred mode of transport. Between the robustness of their structure I don’t blow up as often and I can actually go pretty fast.

Of course if I happen to misjudge an intersection I might get an impromptu flying lesson.

That second video is a little bit of showing off of the PS4 as well. Riding a motorcycle at night in the rain with a thunderstorm and it looks awesome. How could I not share that.

It’s not all about the cars though, you can steal the boats too. I have found this especially useful when I’ve managed to trigger the cops and they want my head on a platter. Solution; find a boat. I am generally very impressed by the NPC AI, but the cops are kinda stupid in this respect. Somehow they just become blind when you reach the water even if there are helicopters.

I’ll be back with more I’m sure, but for now here’s some proof that it’s not all about the videos. A lovely moody shot of our hero against the Chicago skyline.


Please Forgive Me, I Have Some PS4 Impressions for You

Yes, I know, I’ve been so majorly slack and crap that I have no excuse at all. I’m here now though and I have a shiny new PS4 to share with you all. Now, since I live in the UK I’ve only had this little beauty for just short of a month. Before you ask, no I did not go to a midnight launch. I pre-ordered it back in June when they announced it at E3. There was never any question about which console I was going to get this time around. I don’t normally buy at launch with consoles, but I’ve made a couple exceptions for Sony in the last year.  I got a Vita at launch and now the PS4. It is not a decision that I regret at all.

In the couple of months that I’ve now had the machine there is one clear winner in all of the new innovations and changes that Sony has made; the controller. When Sony was releasing pictures of the PS3, the controller was redesigned and had a boomerang like shape and the arms were round and tapered. There was huge outrage at the change from the original style of the DualShock controller so they stuck with the staid design and we didn’t get the new one and I was unhappy. See, I used to have one of the old Sidewinder gamepad controllers and they had this boomerang shape with the tapered round arms. This controller was very comfortable to use. So with the PS4 controllers we got a melding of the two. The DualShock shape is there, but the arms are round and tapered giving them this wonderful shape to hold in the hands. I have managed to play 4-5 hours at a time without getting that hook-hand effect that happens with the old DualShock controller shape. This is a change that was a long time coming and I’m so happy that they finally had the guts to make this change.

Interface3

On to the interface I think, which is very different. The most obvious change is that we no longer just have the single horizontal bar with all of our function icons.Instead we have two parallel horizontal bars. The top bar of  icon are the functional icons like previously; so trophies, PSN Store, trophies, etc. Thee icons are all self explanatory so I won’t really go into them. what I will mention is the improvements in the Trophy section. Unlike on the PS3, the sync and display here is much faster and won’t lock up the whole damned machine as it slowly contacts tot Sony servers to update. I was very happy to see this had been improved as it always drove me up a wall. Also, if a game has trophies for DLC, these are separated too, which is kinda nice too. The bottom row are your installed games like the old game icon on the PS3. The big change here is that by pressing down on the D-pad you can go into the detail for the game that includes current DLC, fried events and your current trophies and news for the game. I find this info very useful as I’ve missed DLC before and I like knowing what my friends have been getting up to in the games I’ve been playing. This is a good social addition I think.

Interface1

Interface2

Speaking of social additions, we now have the Share button on the controller. This button will let you share video and screenshots to Twitter and Facebook. Now I’ve done a bit of sharing of screenshots and 1 video, neither are the full resolution of what you’re seeing on your screen. For the screenshots you can share them to Facebook or Twitter and the size is actually pretty good even if it has been shrunk, Videos can unfortunately only be uploaded to Facebook. Now the really big problem with this is that Facebook hides the HD better quality video though. Have a look at it here on the femme gamer FB page.

FB femme gamer video post

I ripped the HD video out of Facebook though and you can see it below. Still not as good as what I’m seeing on my TV, but it’s much better than the crap quality Facebook presents as default. I really would like to have more control over the quality and file size of what I share. Also, the ability to upload videos to YouTube or another such site would be most appreciated so e aren’t all hobbled with the crapness of Facebook.

Now that I’ve had the console for a couple months, I’m more than happy with my choice. It’s a great machine that has me moved flawlessly from my PS3 to the PS4. It was easy to get to grips with the interface, the game loads while installing is perfect. Sony has listened to all the gripes we had about the PS3 and they addressed them in the PS4. A couple of the most painful things on the PS3 was the syncing of trophies and exiting a game; they fixed it in the PS4. It is the small things with the new generation of the Playstation that has made me the happiest.

Oh, and it’s all very beautiful to look at.


E3 Sony and Microsoft Conferences

So the 2 big bad boys have gotten their conferences out of the way yesterday. Microsoft and Sony both made their announcements about the next gen consoles that we’re all waiting for.

I’ve pre-ordered a PS4 and that’s all I’m saying on the console wars. Here are both conferences in full.

Microsoft conference


 
 
Sony conference


 
 
And something to make you giggle.


The Sun Rises – Okami HD (PS3)

Okami HD is the remastered version of the PlayStation 2 title made by Clover studios and published by Capcom which was released in the UK back in 2006.

Set in the ancient land of Nippon (Japan); you play as Amaterasu, the reincarnated goddess of the sun who has been sent back to earth. Together with your little sidekick, a woodland sprite named Issun, you travel across the country in order to destroy the malevolent forces that are wreaking havoc on the land and its inhabitants. Over the course of the game you discover  new locations, take on ferocious creatures and collect new powers for Amaterasu’s ‘Celestial Brush’, making  better equipped to fight off the demons.

So what has been added to the PS3 HD version?

Well first up is obviously the graphics; the stunning sumi-e style art is back and now in glorious 1080p. Every detail is  a lot clearer than both the PS2 or Wii versions with cut-scenes and gameplay continuing to be pretty much indistinguishable from each other.

The music is elegant and fits perfectly with any setting, whether it’s a wide open field or the lair of a ferocious beast.

The combat is an excellent combination of melee action and the Celestial Brush, making Amaterasu a force to be reckoned with. The brush can be used outside of battles as well. You can use it to with help solving puzzles or just so you can change it from night to day; the Celestial Brush is a handy tool. There’s also a levelling system for the brush. Doing good deeds or by defeating bad guys will give you ‘Praise’. The ‘Praise’ can then be spend on enhancing your brush or gaining another life orb.

As it’s an HD remake on the PlayStation 3 the game wouldn’t have been complete without a trophy system. While some are challenging to get, most are just arbitrary achievements that you get for just playing the game normally, which to me seems pointless.

Speaking of pointless, Okami HD is compatible with the Playstation Move. Now, I don’t own the Move controllers, but I did try playing the Wii version of Okami when came out in 2008. If the Move controller is anything like the Wii version of Okami then it may be better to steer clear.

One last thing , I’m surprised that Capcom or Clover didn’t look into adding a remote play functionality for the Playstation Vita; considering the dual touch screens it seems like a fairly good idea; but oh well.

Overall Okami HD is brilliant remaster of a severely underrated PS2 game; Everything  fits perfectly together to deliver a wonderful game that leaves me feeling nostalgic. With an interesting plot , breathtaking graphics and a wide array of diverse characters, this game will keep you entertained for a long time to come.

~HeadphoneGirlZ


Metal Gear Solid 4 Trophies At Last!

Today is a big day for the PS3 gamers and fans of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, as today is the release of the patch many have waited for … the patch that adds a trophy system onto the 4th game of the franchise.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was released a long time ago, 5 years or so I do believe as I was in high school when it was released! It’s amazes me how it’s taken them 5 years to add trophies to the game, as I know a lot of people who’ve wanted trophies from the beginning. I suppose it’s better late than never. Maybe it was the success of the MGS HD Collection and its trophies that inspired Konami to finally add those coveted trophies. Who knows…

Metal Gear Solid 4 now has trophies!

I’m unaware of the what the trophies themselves are but I’ll find a link to them so you can see:

I’m not a huge PS3 player, but I am an achievement/trophy hunter (on the Xbox side) so the addition of trophies may just inspire me to clear some space on my already packed PS3 hard drive to gather as many of these trophies as I can!

Here’s the promised Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots trophy list, as posted on ps3t.org:
http://www.ps3trophies.org/game/metal-gear-solid-4-guns-of-the-patriots/trophies/


Finally, We Have Release Date! (LittleBigPlanet Vita)

For a long time now we knew that LittleBigPlanet was coming to the Vita. There have been many videos and such teasing. Now we finally have a release date and the EU is getting it first! W00T!

It’ll be released next month, September. In the EU we get it on the 19th, Japan the 20th and North America on the 25th.

Yes I have pre-ordered it; like that wasn’t going to happen. On the Playstation blog they also released a new video just to tease us a little bit more.


The Late, Mass Effect Trilogy review

*note that I do not review the multiplayer element of ME3, as I’ve barely played it, hopefully someone else can cover it – I did find it mildly enjoyable, however!
*also note that whilst this review is as spoilerfree as is humanely possible, links to videos and the like will not be!  The key reason of this review is to convince the 6 remaining people in the world who havent played any of the series – especially women – to play it!

Now, let me be clear.. up until recently it was not entirely certain where that comma in the title would be placed… because it was only very recently that Mass Effect 3 (and by association the entire trilogy) was truly finished. Also because prior to the “little” addition of the Extended Ending brought about due to fan outcry it could be classed as “late” as in dead.. dead to me and dead to many of its fans.  The addition of the extended ending (in my opinion) saves the series and makes replaying it viable. It is frankly baffling that they thought the original ending was satisfactory in any way.  However, I get ahead of myself, lets talk about the games first, and then after we’ll talk a little about the debacle that was the conclusion to the series.

The *real* Commander Shepard, looking badass.

Mass Effect was launched in 2007 exclusively on the Xbox, though it was later – thankfully – also released on the PC, and the subsequent sequels on PS3, PC, and Xbox.  It has to be said that PS3 players have got a bit of a raw deal with Mass Effect. No first game, 2nd game delayed by a year, third game’s extended cut released nearly 2 weeks after everyone else got it.   The game was a departure from Bioware’s staple of RPG style gaming, aiming as it were to introduce shooter elements, along with squad management and resource/weapon modifications.  It was also a brave new move for the gamestudio, as here was a completely new setting featuring original characters in a wholly new created sci-fi story world.I picked up the first game cheaply in 2009 on the Xbox (not my preferred gaming platform) and after initially grumpily grumping about the controls quickly warmed to it, though I largely ignored the whole weapon upgrading and squad special power management thing.  I was hooked on the whole RPG element of the game, especially due to the option of playing as a female protagonist in a world where the gender of the lead character was completely irrelevant = equality, feminist fans 😀

There is something just so cool about wandering the corridors of a military starship that you are the Executive Officer of and seeing the crew salute you as they encounter you.

BAD REAPER! BAD!

The story was an interesting one; in some ways it reminded me of Halo, in that it almost felt like you were being plunged into an already started storyline, and you have to pad out your knowledge of the world you’re exploring.. well.. by exploring it.   2183: The Human race struggles to find its place in a vast galaxy governed by a stern and suspicious multi-cultural Alien council at the apparent onset of war with an invading ancient force known as “Reapers”.  Characters are well defined, superbly animated with lots of emotive behavior complimented by superb voice acting.  Later on in the game there are some pivotal choices to be made that cause genuine pause when the player is confronted with them.

So… about those head tentacles…?

The repercussions of those decisions are felt not just within the game itself, but ultimately in the sequels too; hence the importance really of playing all three.  It is because of these decisions shaping branching personalized elements of the plot, that so endears the games and their characters to its fanbase – making some events so desperately affecting later on.  This level or attachment to game characters was something very new to me I have to admit.

Is it still a big fall if it’s in zero-gravity?

Mass Effect 1 ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, but most satisfactorily so, in a way that meant that even if it never got a sequel, it had a definite feeling of self-contained closure.

ME1 Gameplay summary:
RPG, lots of shooty, lots of pickingup/buying resource management, lots of squad power management,  some puzzles (mostly doors)

WooHoo! Mass Effect 2 begins and everything’s hunky dory!

The sequel was released in 2010 (which I bought on day one this time!) and introduced a few changes to the game dynamic.  Many of the micromanagement elements of the squad and special power/weapons were simplified; good for me, but perhaps less so for others.

Another feature that was dropped: the “Mako” sections from the first game, essentially an awkwardly controlled vehicle used to explore and travel between areas.  I for one missed this, as I thought it added a larger open exploratory element to the game. Though ME2 had a much more linear plot direction.  The game has an incredibly dramatic start that re-introduces you comfortably to your familiar setting and characters from the first game before violently taking them away from you (and vice versa).

THIS kick-ass girl band’s gigs are worth seeing..

What follows is essentially a “magnificent seven” style building of a new squad/crew that may or may not feature characters from the first game.  One interesting plot device element is the removal of your love interest (if you developed one) from the first game, leaving you to either develop something new with someone new or remain faithful to your original love interest, in the hope of reuniting later.

This second iteration of the series introduces many new characters and elements, now all very well established in the narrative’s universe, with even better performances from the leads. Martin Sheen puts in a fantastic performance as the shadowy puppet master “The Illusive Man”.

The second game also introduces much heavier repercussions to decisions and/or lack of development of resource finding. The latter being quite an unnecessary nuisance I thought, but again, I was never one for the whole resource management/finding/buying stuff… I would go on to quite painfully regret this at the conclusion of my first run of the game!

Some of the characters introduced new in the 2nd game are somewhat two dimensional, others prove to be very interesting. Jack, the fierce biotic jailbird being one and Miranda the seemingly cold, perfected human being another.  Characters met in the first game returning get much better fleshed out, BessyMate Garrus, I’m looking at you 😀

Miranda’s bum was unavailable for comment at the time of this review.

Some new elements introduced this time around prove to be a little annoying, I was often very concerned that Miranda seemed to be talking out of her improbable arse a lot of the time, as in literally,  simply due to the amount of camera-time aforementioned derriere got.

ME2 proves to be quite the successful sequel, with a gripping conclusion that has multiple branches (including one where you – the lead character – die!) albeit giving a portent of what was to come with a sort of colour coded finale.  Another welcome new introduction are the “loyalty” missions that you do or don’t, these determine how close a relationship you develop with your crew members, which may or may not affect the conclusion of the game, and its final chapter.

I’m sorry, did I break your concentration?

One thing I will confess is that I found the shooty element of the 2nd game quite fatiguing… so much so that 2/3rds into the game I took a several month break from playing it, as I was genuinely tired of some of the relentless sections in the lead up to the final “suicide run”.

ME2 Gameplay summary:
Lots of RPG, too much shooty, less weapon/resource pickup, but mining/planet searching element added and tied heavily to ship upgrades, more puzzley bits.

You lookin’ at me, Punk?

…which brings me to 2012 and this finale of the series which introduced a “Story Mode” to a joyous me.  Story mode removes the reliance on shooty bit proficiency in order to progress the story, and features much more story development *during* those sections, as opposed to the previous game’s “talkalot,shootstuff, talkmore,findstuff,shootstuff,talkalot” apparent structure.  What Story mode effectively offers the player is a heavily dialog involved version of events that means you don’t have to be so good at shooter style games in order to get through the game, a real welcome option for players like myself.  The other two options available hopefully fulfil other player’s desire for full-on action with little dialog, or a “normal” mix of the two.

I’m going to need a bigger gun…

Mass Effect 3 starts ominously, darkly, pulling no punches, and featuring a sequence of events before even the title appears that had me having to be consoled by one’s otherhalf, as I was a blubbing mess!  Once the preamble of the story is set in motion, the game falls back into fairly comfortable shoes treading the path defined in the previous game – exploring, team building, plot development.  The linearity of the plot is tightened further than the previous game, but still allows for going off the beaten path.. though this is problematic due to the overall plot-spine being so strong – you feel that sidemission “fetch” quests and the like are stupidly unimportant in the grand scheme of the things, so I felt that there should be a talk option along the lines of “What?! Are you mad? There’s a war on! Find your own damn <object> !” – however, at least this time around they have the conceit that doing these wee tasks contributes a small part towards the greater war effort by adding to your “Effective Military Strength” or “War Assets”

This… cant be good…

It is ME3’s action setpieces where some truly awesome plot development occurs and how these events play out is often highly influenced by decisions in the previous games.  There are some parts of this final chapter that present some squeamishly difficult choices to make, and it is a testament to the quality of the writing and story that they are so difficult to make at times.  At one point such a dramatic moment occurred that I could not bear the thought of continuing with that decision/event made canon, that I went back a whole series of saves to try and “correct” it – only to learn that the game was effectively giving me – to throw a Star Trek reference in – a “Kobyashi Maru” – a no-win scenario… how ever I played it, there was going to be some form of terrible repercussion.

You’d be upset too if you couldn’t get your hair colour to stay the same between games!

For me, this is why Mass Effect 3 is the strongest of the trilogy, as by now you are familiar with the characters, the environment and the illusion of your choices creating a unique and personal story to you creates a player/game involvement that I have never before encountered.  I found it very difficult to objectively review this game, as to me it seemed to transcend the definition of “game” into something beyond the kind of emotional investment that a really good movie might engender in its audience.  You might say that the Mass Effect Trilogy as a whole was a synthesis of the medium of cinema and videogames. Ha!

I’ve got a bad feeling about this…

ME3 gameplay summary:
Player tailored, but as it pertained to me: Lots RPG, perfect level of shooty, zero *required* resource /squad management, minimal puzzles. 90% plot/character interaction driven.

One of the game series’s other controversial (at least if you happen to be FOX news) features was the Love Interest.  In the first game it was possible to romance one of 3 characters, this was expanded in the 2nd and 3rd game, allowing for faithfulness to the first game’s LI or not.  The first two games featured the option of lesbian relationships which were nice enough, though likely mainly for male titillation, as it would not be until ME3 that gay male relationships would be an option.  I’ve watched how these unfold via youtube (does this count as watching porn?!) and think they are lovely, though the option of recently bereaved shuttle pilot Steve as a potential Male-Shepard conquest annoys me!  I’m amused at some player’s love triangles they have created themselves throughout the course of the games.  The actual lovemaking scenes themselves are (I think) very tastefully done and, certainly in the case of the third game (I can’t speak for ME2 – Monogamous Kate Shepard, see), add to the emotional gravitas of the story.

Star Wars eat your heart out…

It was therefore a tragedy to me (and a large number of ME fans) that the last 10 minutes of the trilogy finale seemed to throw a leftfield turn of direction with a seemingly abrupt nonsensical ending filled with more questions than answers, which was very much the opposite of what was promised by Bioware in the very high profile marketing campaign leading up to the release of the game.

I think even Bioware underestimated how invested in the story their fanbase was and how actually emotionally hurt they were by the game abrupt ending.  This feeling of loss spawned some great things though, with enterprising players dealing with the very real feeling of grief they were experiencing by advancing the story through art and storytelling; there are some absolutely stunning fanmade works out there, I’ll put some links at the end of this article.

Hmmm. Must be injured more than I thought, my arm seems to have shrunk.

Now, there’s no doubt that either through a bizarre overinflated sense of “artistic integrity” Bioware decided to create a very ambiguous set of endings that leave story threads blowing in the wind,or they rushed the game out in the end to meet deadlines.

I for one believe it to be the latter, as there were many other little inconsistent failures in quality assurance in this final chapter at launch.  Throughout the trilogy one of the most important and awesome features is the ability to import your save from the previous game, continuing your “universe” based on your choices previously in the series, as well as your own custom appearance.  The import worked in ME3, but not the appearance part; forcing you to redefine your appearance as best as you could.  This was not fixed until well after a month following the game’s release,  by which time the majority of players had finished the game and were probably suffering PME3TSD.  There were also other glitches that affected gameplay and player story immersion.  Getting stuck on bits of scenery, terrible terrible character animation clipping and an increase of “uncanny valley” factor in NPC performances with some very notable exceptions (love interest characters in particular are so emotive in their face animations it hurts! – though aforementioned bugs caused my love interest to disappear mid-snog at one point!)  If there was one thing that was definitely a mistake on Bioware’s part it was that the last words you essentially see at the end of the game are “PURCHASE DLC”  – it was like after wooing you with 100’s of hours time invested in an involving story… ABRUPT ENDING! Hahahah! Buy more DLC!

On the subject of DLC; ME1 had a few bits and bobs of DLC, nothing particularly earth shattering (so to speak).  ME2 had some very notable packs; most especially “Lair of the Shadowbroker” and “Arrival”, but ME3 caused controversy by having day one, on the disk DLC that arguably should have been core content in the first place.

Who’s the bloke in the middle?

So it seemed that Bioware were so taken off guard by the subsequent huge outcry (most of which was valid, though there were a few that really were hurt and wanted a genuine 100% happy ending) that they relented and announced a forthcoming “Extended Cut” version of the ending would be released for free.  This unprecedented announcement was treated with hope by many of us and disdain by others. I would hazard a guess that the disdain mostly came from those who played the game as shooters first and foremost with little emotional investment in the story.  Around this time talk of the fan-based “Indoctrination Theory” was at its most intense and whilst I admit to being disappointed that in the final analysis it was rendered nullified by the EC, I think that what we got restored my love of the series and made the thought of replaying it genuinely viable. Whereas without the EC it felt as no choice in the entire series ultimately mattered, so why bother to replay?

*no caption due to author bawling*

With the EC DLC in place the 3 original endings that were 95% similar in content have been replaced with a possible 5 key iterations with subtle further variations within each based on player’s choices throughout the entire series, as well as some small other additions to the story in the run up to the finale, including a beautiful if improbably set farewell to your love interest.  Also, very importantly each of the choices becomes an actually viable choice with “lots of speculation” as to its repercussions beyond what is now fully expanded in the new endings – a previous choice that was largely written-off as “BAD” seems to now have captured fan’s attention for its possibilities beyond what the game actually shows.

So, I can now say unreservedly say that the Mass Effect trilogy is to me,  the finest, most involving, emotional gaming experience I have ever had, and that description is a disservice to it.  As I’ve already mentioned I feel it transcends interactive media as we know it, it is more than game, more than a film.  The combination of solid writing, a good sci-fi story, stellar performances, cinematic sound and music design elevates it to a level beyond anything I’ve seen before, as long as you get “into” the story and those characters, which both my partner and I did through the associated audiobooks, and comics.

Oh, the music… ME1 and 2 had some fantastic music, memorable themes, but by the third game the ante had been upped to such an epic level, the involvement of cinematic composer Clint Mansell working with the existing composers raised the bar highest of all.  Even now, listening to the soundtrack as I write this, I feel myself welling up when certain tracks play.  When it comes time to vote for Game of the Year, I might find myself umming and aaahing about ME3 the game, but the music+sound  will wholeheartedly get my vote.  This is the year that a Reaper’s “HwAAAAAAAAAAAM!” may match R2-D2’s warbles for zeitgeist familiarity!  That was something I wrote about in my own blog, in that Mass Effect may have become a new generation’s Star Wars, but I feared it might have been similarly struck down by its original ending as Star Wars was by a director with CGI OCD!

Before the EC DLC, the idea of playing pay DLC set during the story arc leading up to the end was unthinkable “Whats the point?” being a common reaction amongst players, but now it seems like a much more viable option. Rumour of elements from a forthcoming DLC being stealthily delivered as part of the EC DLC only fuels interest.

Across the stars

And thats the important difference, we are now left wanting more, as opposed to sitting in baffled, hurt silence needing more, in terms of an explanation.  Mass Effect was never meant to be a bleak 70’s style sci-fi with an atonal soundtrack and a huge “?” final frame.  Bittersweet, emotional – yes.  Twin Peaks or LOST – no.  Its also worth noting that even with the EC, several of fans’ complaints still won’t have been addressed; and by that I mean collected War Assets – only the key biggest ones feature in the end game, when likely some will want to see them all, but these are minor complaints given what they have fixed.

I now outwardly firmly place myself in the “battleworn, sad, but content” camp now its over.. but secretly I’m a very upset geeky fangirl that I wont be witness to any new adventures of Commander Shepard (I will miss Jennifer Hale’s voice performance in particular), and not be around to raise any little blue children with Dr. Liara T’Soni :*(

Fan-made content of note:

Koobismo – maker of the fantastic alternative timeline ending comic: Marauder Shields – his Audiobook version is a thing of awesomeness.

Neehs – maker of animations and stills that fulfilled many a player’s emotional needs post-game! Linked picture is still my wallpaper across all my devices! His Alternative-ending video was a truer bittersweet end before the EC was released!

#femshep on Deviant art and femshep.com – for all your fabulous Ms. Shepard artistic and narrative needs!

My own mass effect music playlist on youtube


Little Big Planet – PS Vita

I bought a Vita at launch, something I don’t normally do. The Vita though I have absolute faith in and I love it. Also, the news that there was going to be a Little Big Planet for the Vita, made me do a little happy dance.

We’re getting closer and closer to its release and I’m so excited. For anyone unaware or anyone who’s anxiously waiting like me, here’s a making of video for you. It makes me really excited to watch this. I cannot wait to have this game in my hands.

[youtube http://youtu.be/ZVwql4a3UuA?hd=1]

E3 Sony Announcement PSN Plus for Europe

Okay so at E3 last night it was announced that the benefits of the PSN+ were going to greatly improve. As anyone in the UK/EU knows, this can often be very different for us here compared to those in the US. So thankfully the EU Playstation blog has pre-emptively explained how it will be for us here and the shinies for us.

Have a look here at the blog and it’s nothing but good news.


E3 Sony Conference

Last night I stayed up late and watched the Sony conference. Normally I don’t get to do this, but thanks to the bank holiday this year I could.  The conference was so chock full, it was a a mile a minute with the announcements and news. The time flew by.

There were a lot of great things, but a couple things especially stood out for me. The announcement of Assassin’s Creed 3 Liberation for the Vita, Last of Us,  God of War: Ascension and Beyond.

First I’d really like the share with you Beyond. This is the game trailer for that now infamous concept trailer from Quantic Dream. That concept trailer has nothing to do with Beyond, but the game is using that technology. No gameplay in this trailer, but you certainly can get a good feeling of the atmosphere. It reminds me a lot of Alan Wake in feeling, and I mean that as a compliment.

[youtube http://youtu.be/dOZmToV8PJ0?hd=1]

Next let’s have a look at Assassin’s Creed 3 Liberation. This is an exclusive PS Vita and it will hook into the Assassin’s 3 game on the PS3 and will unlock things in the console game. This is exclusive content and will introduce us to our first female assassin. I’m so very excited for this.

[youtube http://youtu.be/0RfsXnd6pC4?hd=1]

My last gushing point is Last of Us. It looks amazing and the combat is very intense. You have a companion in the game, but she is anything but helpless and this makes me happy. So glad to see games moving away from the helpless companion in games of yore.

[youtube http://youtu.be/dwWCrB13750?hd=1]

Everyone should have a look at the whole conference. There is some awesome things in there about Gods of War, PSN+, the Happy Potter Book of Spells, Assassin’s Creed 3 ship battles and so much more. Go look and get excited, I sure am.

[youtube http://youtu.be/vzYIFEjuEc4]

At Journeys End – Journey (PS3)

ThatGameCompany  has released its final game out of its 3 games that were contracted by Sony. Starting with Flow; where you navigate a series of 2 dimensional planes as a microorganism. Then there was Flower; a game where you play as a gust of wind collection flower petals in a variety of environments. Now there’s Journey, in which you play as a robed figure and travel through different environments in order to reach the mountain in the distance. Journey was released on the PSN earlier this month and has received nothing but praise from everyone I’ve spoken to, and after playing it I can understand why.

It’s clear that a lot of thought was put into the design. The environments are beautifully rendered and react to not only to what you do in it, but also its climate. The desert sands will shimmer and glisten when the sun shines on it and leaves a trail behind you when you move. Powerful gusts of wind will send you flying unless you find shelter in time; in colder climates your robe will slowly freeze and your energy will gradually decrease.

The use of music is quite clever aswell. The more exhilarating and action packed parts come alive with the use of upbeat musical scores, whilst calmer moments will have little or even no music, relying on the sounds of your footsteps moving through the sand or the howling of the wind to set the tone.

The cooperative play is where Journey truly shines. Throughout the game you may encounter another player navigating the ruins and you can choose to either leave them alone, or team up with them and face the challenges ahead together. There’s only a little change in the game play if you have a partner. If you run out of energy, they can restore it by either standing next to you, or by holding the “O” button. Pressing the “O” button will also make your character to emit a sound that resembles a bell, and a glowing symbol will hover over your head for a few seconds. These 2 tools are the only way to communicate with your traveling companion, which can make trying to convey anything rather difficult at times, but it also means there’s no way of using crude language or being offensive; which in my books is a huge plus for a co-op game. Your partner will change from time to time, if they quit, their character will vanish, leaving you to fend for yourself until you come across another player.

Overall I loved Journey. Simple gameplay, interesting use of co-op, delightful aesthetics and a charming way to waste a few hours. If you have a Playstation 3 there’s no reason why you shouldn’t add this to your collection as it’s only £10 and is worth every penny.

~ HeadphoneGirlZ


Katamari Dammit!

If you walk around my flat bare-footed, crap will get stuck to your feet.

I don’t mean literal crap – I’m not that slovenly – but it will start with maybe a little dust mote. Then maybe a feather from the pillows. Then a bit of stray leaf that blows in from outside. With me, I’ve become so used to it that it doesn’t at all surprise me when I look down and find next door’s cat halfway up my shin.

Imagine my surprise when I came across Beautiful Katamari, a game that has successfully encapsulated my domestic inanities.

OK, when I say ‘surprise’, I’m lying a bit. Katamari is almost as old as that thing where you go to step out of someone’s way but then you both move to the right and end up doing this stupid little dance thing until one of you finally crouches into the foetal position and cries “OH GOD STOP”. Much like people do when I start talking. But I spotted Beautiful Katamari in the local game store and was urged to buy it by the nearest member of staff after I confessed to once playing early installment Katamari Damacy.

For those of you that don’t know, the idea behind any Katamari game is that you roll a sticky ball around brightly-coloured dynamic environments in order to pick up items that are smaller than you, thus creating a ball with an infinitely larger diameter. It’s a harder task than you imagine, especially when you roll yourself  merrily towards a Dayglo anime Thermos and then bounce viciously off of it because you didn’t realise you were smaller than it.

Just like having to pick bulb filaments out of my heel every so often, Beautiful Katamari is a little bit frustrating. The gameplay is actually fun – they could have just stuck the same formula (small member of Royalty rolls ball around) into different locations (supermarket, cafe, City centre, S&M dungeon) but they’ve added innovative twists to the later stages. For instance, you have to recreate the planet Mars, and in order to do so you need to roll up enough hot items to reach a certain temperature in a world peppered with spicy sauce and jalapeno pizzas as well as snowmen and fire extinguishers.

The most unforgivable thing in the world – sadly – is one of the main characters. The story is that the King of All Cosmos, an overzealous megalomaniac with a penchant for phallic headwear was playing tennis with his wife one day, until he managed to crack a hole in the bloody sky and lose most of the heavenly bodies in it. As the mute Prince, you have to do Daddy’s bidding and gather a bundle of objects together to recreate the planets.

This would be fine if King Purpletights would just leave you alone. The screens are already packed full: what with 3D yogurt pots and crayons flying about and the Prince and his ball smack in the middle, the last thing you’d want is some giant speech bubble obstructing your view. But oh, Big Daddy King is all too happy to oblige when it comes to giving you what you don’t want. And Heaven forfend you start rolling without him: he launches into a tirade of anger, finishing with “We are NOT speaking to you!”. Which would make you cheer, only as soon as you turn a corner, he feeds you an obscure Star Trek quote and insults your abilities.

Despite my whingeing, I’m really enjoying the game and am actually going back to re-play levels – something I haven’t done since Arkham Asylum. It’s part puzzle, part roaming platformer, and a hell of a lot more fun that picking Christmas tree needles out of your toes.

~Neetyneet


Game Review – inFAMOUS 2

Infamous 2 is the follow-up to 2009’s Infamous, a PlayStation 3 action game. The story of Infamous 2 picks up with the same main protagonist, Cole MacGrath, about a month or so after the end of the first game. At the start of the sequel, series adversary and threat-to-humanity The Beast appears in Empire City and Cole takes him on in an epic battle. After Cole is defeated and the city is destroyed, he is forced to flee south to New Marais for help with his best friend Zeke and NSA Agent Lucy Kuo in tow. Meanwhile, The Beast follows their escape route along the Eastern seaboard in pursuit, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake…

In the Infamous series, gameplay revolves around Cole using his acquired lightning abilities to defeat enemies; draining power from various electricity sources in his surroundings to replenish his energy as it runs low. Cole starts out Infamous 2 already in possession of most of his abilities from the first game and new abilities are unlocked as the story progresses. Usually this is done by spending accumulated experience points or by using items called blast cores that he obtains at fixed points in the story. Another way to unlock abilities is based on Infamous 2’s karma system, specifically whether the player chooses to play their Cole as Good or Evil. Karma is affected by the player’s choices in completing either good or evil story missions, side missions, or random events that frequently pop up around New Marais. Different from one another in both physical appearance and lightning color, Good Cole will also acquire abilities that are meant to be precise and cause damage to enemies without harming innocents, while Evil Cole will acquire abilities that cause heavy, widespread damage. Cole will also team up with companions later in the game that, depending on choices the player makes, share either ice-based (for Good Cole) or fire-based (for Evil Cole) abilities with him.

Players who are familiar with the first Infamous game will likely notice a big improvement in Cole’s controls and how well he handles in the sequel. The abilities that he retains from the first game have undergone upgrades at the start and can be further upgraded with points later in the game. He handles much more precisely when climbing walls or fighting enemies, yet at the same time he moves faster and more fluidly than he did before. The addition of the Amp, an electric baton weapon that Cole carries around in his backpack, makes a big improvement over the old hand-to-hand melee combat from the previous game. Unlocked abilities are sorted into groups, with each group attached to a button command and a relatively simple menu that lets the player choose which ability from each group they want button mapped for a particular command. The game designers have both increased the fun and decreased the aggravation of controlling Cole, while at the same time they’ve maintained the same basic control scheme and overall feel of the first game.

As a game environment, New Marais feels much more alive than Empire City did in the original Infamous. There are marked differences in appearance for each of the different sections of the city and also the surrounding swamplands. The buildings in each section often have unique lighting or architecture and climbing to the top of the tallest building for a look around is often an awe-inspiring sight. The ruined Flood Town section particularly stands out in our post-Katrina collective consciousness and makes a strong impression when you encounter it. Unfortunately one thing that doesn’t make as much of an impression is the soundtrack led by Jim Dooley, especially when compared to Amon Tobin’s exceptional and unique soundtrack from the first game. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad soundtrack by any means, mostly because I love strings and it has a heavy emphasis on them, but more often than not it’s simply an adequate score. There are, however, a few standout tracks worth a listen, such as “Abducted”, “The Flood” and “Get Bertrand”.

Even with the improvements made to the gameplay and controls of InFamous 2, I can’t help but feel that it falls short of the original in some ways. The story, while it ties into the first game effectively, lacks its cohesion and doesn’t adequately explain every plot element or engage the player. Cole has been given a new character design and a different voice actor (the latter was apparently changed to resolve production issues), but in both cases I preferred the original. He’s also more of an annoyingly cardboard-cutout hero this time around, particularly when the two female characters (who are at least somewhat interesting on their own) inevitably catfight when paired together in the same scene and he has to step in and calm them down. As a positive, I found myself liking Cole’s friend Zeke much more in this game and the relationship between Cole and Zeke was the most emotionally touching part of the story. Despite having a few flaws, Infamous 2 is a terrific game and a worthy follow-up to the original. I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone (those who disliked the first Infamous game should probably skip it, as it’s very similar in style), but fans of the first game who pick it up will not be disappointed.

-Jenn E


PSVita – It’s Coming!

I’ve been waiting for E3 with much eagerness. I just knew that we’d see more info coming for the next PSP and well we have.

First we got to find out that instead of being called the NGP the official name is the PSVita. And with that we got an official show off from Sony just how shiny it’s going to be. Have a look.

I think I’ve watched that video about 5 times now. It affirms all the features we were promised previously, including the dual touch screen on the front and back. Between that and the giro built into the Vita I think we could see some seriously awesome gaming in the future.

Look just what is being done with Little Big Planet on the Vita. If this is just the beginning of games utilising the new features of the Vita, think what the future may hold.

Pricing hasn’t been set in stone yet, but it looks like the US will pay around $250 and £250 for the UK for the WiFi model and a bit more for the 3G model. I’m sure we’ll hear more as we get closer to the holiday release schedule which is when they said they’d be letting the Vita loose on the world.

I tell you this, I will be pre-ordering.

~Donna