Warning: spoilers for Dragon Age: Origins, Red Dead Redemption and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
We all know that video games can be emotional experiences. The exhilaration of taking down a boss by the skin of your teeth, the excitement and wonderment of a new adventure begun and the sheer pride in a perfectly executed headshot that wins the game for your team. But one emotion that video games aren’t very good at producing is sadness. To be fair, most games aren’t even aiming to give a kick to our oxytocin levels and ratchet up our empathy but I wonder why this is. Are video games not expected to be a suitable medium for this kind of emotion in the way that films or novels are? There aren’t many games that have moved me to tears but the ones that did have stuck in my mind as they provided an experience that was somewhat unique within the medium.
Here are a few games that have brought a lump to my throat:
Dragon Age: Origins – asking Alistair to cheat on you
Ah, Alistair, my favourite fictional boyfriend. I originally started to “romance” him on my first play through of Dragon Age because I wanted to be Queen of Ferelden but his superb characterisation won me over. He was funny, honorable and rather charming. Once we had the “lamp post” conversation there was no turning back, I was determined to make sure Alistair and my character got the happiest possible ending. This turned out to be a lot harder than I expected. Near the end of the game, you discover that either you or Alistair must die in order to slay the Archdemon. There is one way out – Alistair can perform a ritual with the character Morrigan (whom he dislikes greatly) in order for you both to live. Unfortunately, this ritual involves him impregnating Morrigan. I have never felt more guilty playing a video game than when I asked Alistair to sleep with Morrigan. After everything we’d been through and all the conversations we’d had it felt genuinely painful to ask him to something I knew he’d hate. At this point in the game it wasn’t an easy decision to make but this is exactly why it has remained such a powerful moment in my mind.
Red Dead Redemption – there are no happy endings
John Marston is a former outlaw that has been recruited by federal agents to round up his old gang members under threat that his family will be hurt if he does not. You spend the whole game playing through various missions to this end but the game never lets you forget that Marston is doing so under duress. After Marston finally catches up with the gang leader Dutch and kills him in a climatic moment, he is finally allowed to return home. At this point the game gives you missions that revolve around every day activities – herding cattle, hunting with your son and generally allowing Marston to settle into family life. The game gives you the opportunity to see Marston happy and to get to know his family. And sure, Marston could be pretty unlikeable some of the time but it’s hard not to get at least a little attached to a character you’re playing so it’s almost heartening to see him finally free. It also helps set the scene for what comes next and give it pathos. The serenity does not last. US soldiers and federal agents surround the farm and Marston sends his son Jack and wife Abigail to safety whilst he prepares for one last shoot out. After all, Marston IS the last member of the gang and must meet the same fate according to the law. At this point the player realises that Marston never stood a chance. He was simply a pawn to be used. There is no happy ending to be found here. Marston cannot escape from his past. The only redemption he can achieve is to save his wife and son by sacrificing himself.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – the horror of war
The CoD games aren’t exactly known for their deep plots or well-rounded characters. This isn’t a criticism because CoD is very, very good at what it does. However, there was one moment in the first Modern Warfare game that gave me pause to feel something amongst all the bullets and explosions. In the first act of the game during a search and rescue mission there is a lot of foreshadowing that the major terrorist threat has a nuclear bomb. Well, so what, that’s just about the type of thing I expect out of terrorists in these games and I am fully looking forward to kicking their asses before said bomb goes off. Just need to save a few more and then hop back onto the chopper and speed away. Except, instead of escaping, you are suddenly faced with a massive detonation, a mushroom cloud in the air and as the blast catches up with your helicopter you know there is no way anyone is surviving this. I wasn’t expecting it. The game hands control back to you once the chopper has crashed and you make your character crawl his way out. The entire scene is red and the mushroom cloud looms large. Your character can barely move and his breathing is becoming more and more laboured. Everything is silent. It’s horrific. It’s a moment in the game when it’s not simply about killing AI characters or enjoying raining down merry hell on pixels below – it’s a moment about death as it often is in war; frightening, painful and horribly pointless. I’ve forgotten many of the moments in CoD games but not this one. It stuck with me.
What games, if any, have made your bottom lip wobble?
With all the AAA games being released at this time of year it can be easy to miss the smaller titles. It’s a shame because it can mean that more inventive or eclectic titles don’t get the attention they deserve. I think this is probably going to be the fate of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron so I’m glad I got the chance to play it before I become distracted by Batman: Arkham City and Battlefield 3.
El Shaddai is inspired by the apocryphal Book of Enoch. Enoch is the great-grandfather of Noah and the book describes the story of the Watchers. The Watchers are fallen angels who created children with mortals; the Nephilim. The plot of the game is very simple. Enoch must defeat seven fallen angels and the Nephilim in the Tower of Babel in order to prevent God from issuing a great flood to destroy mankind. The Nephilim are odd yet cute looking creatures who have the unfortunate habit of eating one another until they become flaming giants. It’s difficult to follow what is happening at times. It doesn’t matter very much though. The truly stand out feature of this game is how it looks.
You can’t talk about El Shaddai without talking about the visuals. The environments of each level are astoundingly diverse. Each level in the Tower of Babel looks like it was pulled from a different game and all of them are beautiful. You will find yourself in realms that look like they were made from fireworks, levels that bleed cutting-edge future tech, places that feel like you’ve been transported into a candy-striped Super Mario World and worlds that are ethereally breathtaking. Seriously. Take a look.
The fallen angels that inhabit the Tower can create any worlds they want and each level is a reflection of them. Imagination runs rife through this game and the visuals are important. You won’t find a Heads-Up Display on your screen to tell you how much energy you have left or how close you are to gaining an Overboost attack – these things are also represented visually by how much armour you have on or how…on fire you seem to be. Every so often you’ll run into Lucifel (basically Satan before he stopped being on speaking terms with God) who is chatting away about how you are doing on his mobile phone to God. He acts as your save point and narrator. At one point he even cheekily tells you how long it’s going to take you to complete the game…if you’re good enough, that is!
The gameplay is split into two parts. You have your platforming segments and your combat segments. The platforming is a lot of fun. It feels like a throwback to games of 15 years ago and is varied and tricky enough to be enjoyable. Sometimes, however, the heady visuals of the game can impair how well you judge distances and you will find yourself leaping into thin air when you were sure you were going to land on solid ground. This can be annoying but most of the platforming sequences are well designed.
The combat is based on a rock, paper, scissors mechanic. You have three weapons – the arch (offensive melee), the gale (distance projectiles) and the veil (defensive shield) and will need to switch between them in order to defeat the enemies who will be weak to a specific weapon. However, you can only carry one weapon at a time. To switch you must steal your opponents’ weapons! You also need to keep an eye on your weapon’s “purity” because if the weapon becomes corrupted the damage of your attacks will drop to nothing. Despite Enoch’s attacks being basically mapped to only one button do not think that you can get through the combat simply by bashing. You will need to learn to delay, to combo, to counterattack and defend in order to exploit your enemies tactics. I hard won battle can feel extremely satisfying.
Unfortunately there is not much change in the enemies. You will meet the same ones through-out the game – in later levels there is normally just more of them. The boss battles are mainly a matter of observing the pattern and figuring out when to hit them and with what. The battles aren’t easy but it feels like there is a lack of imagination in the combat. This is a shame since it feels like the rest of the game is over-abundant in it. It doesn’t stop them from being fun but it does make the game feel somewhat lacking.
I would still highly recommend renting or picking up this game if you have the time (it’s only £17.95 at Zavvi right now). It’s a bit of an odd and disjointed experience (there is one particular boss battle I will never get out of my head!) but it will be an experience unlike anything else you’ve played this year. It’s not perfect but it is unique. And that’s worth a lot.
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.
Remember when games made the shift from 2D visuals to 3D? Your entire childhood had a birds eye view of all the action surrounding Link but in the next console generation you were thrust into the midst of the action yourself. Of course, some games still benefit from 2D gameplay, such as Street Fighter or certain platformers, but overall it was a big change. Marc ten Bosch is taking things one step further though. Gaming in the fourth dimension.
Miegakure is a platform game where you explore the fourth dimension to solve puzzles. The concept was inspired by Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott. A 3D being would be able to perform acts that seemed like miracles in a 2 dimensional space. Similarly, a being that could access 4 dimensions would be able to do many impossible things in a 3 dimensional space.
The puzzles in Miegakure will require you to think and move in this higher dimension. Using the fourth dimension will mean that the player can see inside closed objects, walk through walls, inter-link objects without breaking them and much more. Limitless clever puzzles can be created from such a set-up and should create some pleasing “eureka” moments for the player.
Miegakure is currently still in development but worth keeping an eye on. It looks like it promises to be an intriguing game and unlike any puzzler you’ve played before.
Never believe everything you read in a review. That’s probably not how you would expect another review to start, now is it? But it’s true. Hunting round for a puzzle game to tide me over until the next drama-fest that is Professor Layton, I looked up a few reviews on Amazon to see what was lurking out there in the shadows. And I do mean shadows; the good Professor casts quite a long one, making it very difficult for a lot of games to gain any purchase in a market that has been well and truly spoilt rotten with lovely animation and devilish conundrums. Most of the reviews I read said that GSP’s “Jewel Quest: Curse of the Emerald Tear” was a goody, so I picked up a pre-owned copy, just in case. Which was just as well, as it turned out.
It doesn’t start off promisingly; a very shady character bwahahas his way through the briefest of introductions and it soon becomes horribly apparent that this game is one of a series. A series that the writers have no intention of bringing you up to speed with, should you not have had the misfortune to play any of the earlier ones. Okay, you could overlook that; I mean, it’s not desperately complicated. Basically, two bright young things travel all over the world looking for prophetic jewel boards and other exotic treasures by way of hidden object puzzles and the most piggingly awful and frustrating Connect-4 type game (helpfully called “Match 3”) I’ve ever played.
I didn’t finish this game. I don’t care if I never see it again; it makes the frustrations of “Flower, Sun and Rain” pale into insignificance. And the reason is this: each chapter has a series of quests leading up to a final puzzle on the jewel board, where you must turn all of the squares gold within a set time limit by matching 3 jewels in either a vertical or horizontal row. Should you fail, not only will you have to do that particular puzzle again, you’ll have to repeat the entire sodding chapter from scratch. Even if you quit out part way through that chapter, saving your progress as you do so (or so you thought, sucker).
The rules for how the end-game works are never really made clear, changing every now and again as they do with the introduction of some new random factor to the equation. After several hours of being bunted right back to the beginning of a chapter, my mind started to blank every time the jewel screen came on and it became, in the end, a truly vicious circle of panic and shouting. Maybe my mind just isn’t programmed that way and maybe this really is a good game for those who’ve followed it from its first incarnation, but nothing will make me go back to find out what happens in the end. “Curse of the Emerald Tear” has just joined “The Hobbit” as one of the most traumatic gaming experiences I’ve ever had.
Xbox Live Arcade often has some fantastic indie games published on it, some of them showing more imagination and innovative gameplay than you can find in mainstream releases. Whilst that isn’t always the case, it’s good to keep an eye on Arcade to see what gaming gems may appear. As it turns out, it looks like we might get one later this year.
If you haven’t already, meet Fez:
Pretty to look at, no? And also pretty clever. 2D platform gaming taking place in a 3D world. By shifting the perspective you can rearrange the world, putting new platforms within reach and opening new paths. An idea that is so simple you wonder why no-one ever thought of it before and will probably put indie platform developer Polyton on the map as the M.C.Escher of video game design.
Fez has been in development for nearly 4 years now but it looks like all the hard work has created something sublime. I can’t wait to play!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last several months then you should already know about L.A. Noire. I’m really very excited about it and the release is just short of 3 weeks away.
That’s May 17th in NA and May 20th in the EU. Why there is a 3 day delay for the EU I don’t know. Surely 3 days won’t fit their normal excuses, but I think that’s a completely different conversation.
Let’s have a look at one of the gameplay videos before I go on.
Having watched many gameplay videos I can’t help but think of Heavy Rain. Not just the actual gameplay, but the story too. There is action involved, of course, but it seems to be heavily based on investigation and mentally challenging play. Also, from what I can gather, there are no really wrong answers. How you proceed shapes the game. Heavy rain had that same kind of feel and it was a success with gamers. Maybe Heavy Rain has cleared the way for the deeper gameplay many have been asking for, including myself.
Now for the technology behind the gameplay, I am in awe. Have a look.
The one thing that always seemed a bit off in games was the faces. Sure you could make the mouth move, but it never quite felt real. This though, just wow. Just imagine what this will mean for future games. Immersion can only get better from here.
Less than 3 weeks to go. I think I may need to book a few days off around the 20th…
(BTW Thanks IGN for having the best videos on YouTube)
I have a confession. I only bought AC Brotherhood recently. Like in the last month. I have a good reason, really I do. Back in November I had enough games to buy, I didn’t need this one on top of all of those too. Also I was under the impression that AC Brotherhood’s primary focus was on multi-player with very little single-player gameplay.
I was wrong though. So very very wrong.
About a month ago I read somewhere that the game had around 20 hours of single-player gameplay that continued on from AC2; so I thought I’d grab it cheap cause 20 hours wasn’t so bad an amount of time. I’m here to tell you that that estimation is wrong; it’s definitely more. Okay maybe it’s right if you only play through the storyline, but who’s going to do that?
I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m well past 20 hours. There are of course many side quests. As before there are the assassination quests, but now you also get the task of rebuilding Rome as the Borgias have kind of made a mess of things with their power hunger and Machiavellian approach. Of course the more you rebuild the more money you make and then the more you can rebuild, ad infinitum. Also once you get to a certain point in the storyline you have the ability to recruit and train your own mini-me assassin troupe. Actually that’s not fair, the assassin troupe is actually quite useful at times if you’re in a tight spot.
Let’s have a look at this video before I start in on the primary story and quests.
That video gives a nice little synopsis of the story without really spoiling anything. You also get to see Ezio call his minion assassins to aid him. So while it is a side quest to recruit and train these other assassins, they can be very useful if you’re in a bit of a pickle.
To regain control of the districts you have to destroy the Borgia towers in each one. This in itself could be considered side quests really. Yes you need to do it to progress the main story, but it’s not as simple as climbing the tower and burning it down. First you need to kill the district’s general and then you can burn the tower down. This sometimes is easier said than done. As the game goes on this gets more and more difficult so you need to learn to be clever and increase your own skill and maybe even the skill of your mini assassins.
Other bits of gameplay have changed while some has stayed the same though. Fighting is pretty much the same, as is climbing and running around. You do get a couple new weapons and gadgets, like Leonardo’s parachute and heavier weapons like axes. My favourite new weapon though has got to be the crossbow. I tell ya, silent and highly effective ranged weapon equals much awesome stealth killing.
The video covers the story pretty well I think, but when I say that AC Brotherhood picks up right after AC2, I mean that literally. I had heard the Brotherhood picked up at the end before I bought it. When I say literally I mean it. You are in the exact same spot as when you ended AC2. To me this made the 2 games flow together almost flawlessly. It felt like the same game to me.
So overall I’d say AC Brotherhood is well worth its cost and by now should be marked down in most game stores.
Duke Nukem Forever has been in development since 1997. There are a lot of people who a pretty excited about it’s upcoming release. I admit I’m not one of them (I always preferred Doom) but have been interested to see how Gearbox have updated the franchise. It seems they’re going for a hefty dose of controversy (or stupidity?).
Check out the “Capture the Babe” multiplayer mode:
Duke Nukem Forever’s “Capture the Babe” CTF variant requires you to abduct a woman to score. The mode is revealed in the latest issue of Official Xbox Magazine US where they explain that Gearbox will give the option to give her a “slap” if she “freaks out” as you drag her across the map.
I…see. Excuse me for saying so, but doesn’t that sound a bit…sexist? Women becoming literal objects to be won and who just need a reassuring slap as their womanly hormones make them hysterical when captured? Oh I know, I know, it’s meant to be ironic and Duke Nukem is a satire of the whole guns, women and glory genre. But I don’t get the joke. Usually a satire makes a comment or pokes fun at the original. This is just straight up sexism – or a really lousy joke.
But perhaps it makes sense in context of the game?
Speaking to the magazine, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford said: “Our goal isn’t to shock people, but I think there’s some stuff that’s a bit uncomfortable. I mean, the alien’s plan is to capture our women and impregnate them to breed an alien army, so you can imagine some horrible shit happens.”
“Our women?” Hmmm.
Just for the record, if alien’s invade Earth with plans to capture, rape and impregnate women I won’t be standing around, swooning hysterically, waiting to be saved. I’ll be armed to the teeth!
It’s not like I’m particularly offended by this game mode. More disappointed. It feels like the chance for actual irony or parody has been missed and the game has become exactly what it set out to mock. Like Kurt Vonnegut said “Be careful what you pretend to be, because in the end, you are what you pretend to be.”
That is the Portal 2 commercial. I don’t have anything to add other than it made me actually giggle out loud.
I probably should actually play the first one….
Okay before I get started on this, let’s have a look at a handy little video from the conference that shows us how pretty it is and some if its stats.
Shiny huh? I’ll give you a moment to drool. Done? Alright.
The 2 things on my wish list for the PSP2 was a touch screen and an analogue stick that didn’t break my thumb. Looks like they’ve doubled my request. There are 2 analogue sticks and they look considerably better than the ones on the PSP currently. SO no more breaking my thumb.
Now the touch screen is of great interest to me. On the DS (I do own one) the addition of the touch screen created another layer for games. It added a new way to interact with the games on a new level that made developers have to think. Zelda or Cooking Mama without a touch screen wouldn’t have been the same. Can you imagine a good RPG with a notes screen so you didn’t have to memorise important facts and clues? To take things to another level the PSP2 will have a touch screen on the front and back. Being able to manipulate the screen without your fingers in the way? Hell yes! I can’t wait to see what developers do with this dual touch screen.
So what else? It’ll have a 5 inch OLED screen. That will be nice of course and it should help cut the weight. For connectivity it’ll be 3G, Wifi and GPS enabled. That should be useful since it’ll have an Android store built into it, or access to it at least. So more than just gaming possibilities. Still I don’t need it to do things my mobile phone already does. To round things off it’ll have 6 Axis Motion Sensing system and a shit hot CPU.
There is no UMD though. I’m not sure how I feel about this. As mentioned previously I have an irrational like of the UMD option. To move forward though I’ll just have to let it go and embrace going digital.
Sounds good. Now we just need a release date, games list and a price.
I bought Vanquish on an impulse. It was on sale in the Game Boxing Day sale for £15. I had seen it at EuroGamer Expo back in October, but I wasn’t really interested as I usually avoid FPS games on the consoles.
Without some sort of lock-on mechanism, I suck at aiming manually with the analogue sticks; I’m a keyboard and mouse kinda girl. Old Quake habits die hard.
So what have we got here then? Well obviously it’s a First Person Shooter. The setting is a far future sci-fi world. The United States is at war with the Russia in space. Yea that’s all I’m giving you of the story setting. The plot is a thinly veiled story. It’s not a bad story, but it’s no Metal Gear Solid.
Story may have been thin on the ground, but the gameplay was good. Weapon changes was simple, meaning having the right weapon to hand wasn’t a hassle. You can only carry 3 guns and 2 types of grenades, but weapons for swapping out appear often. The 2 grenade types was more useful than I think I’ve ever seen in a game. You get normal grenades and also EMP grenades. Don’t forget your grenades. There is a weapon for every situation.
The controls are as uncomplicated as vanilla ice cream. They’re all rather logical and easy to master. This to me is a bonus as some developers over-complicate the controls for games and your fingers end up in a twist. In very short order you’ll be changing weapons and firing without even thinking about how to do it. That is how controls should be. Instinctive.
There’s not a lot more I can say. Point, shoot, kill, run, rinse and repeat. It can be very hectic sometimes, but not in a bad way. This is a game that is about killing things. It’s not rocket science, but it’s been done well. For an uncomplicated good time, I definitely suggest getting this game.
I know I’ve mentioned before that I’m a bit of a PSN addict. Every Thursday, like clockwork, I check the new store items. I realised recently that I can’t actually remember the last time I bought a physical game for my PSP. Why would I when I can get a pretty good selection right off the PSN and I only have to wait as long as it takes to download.
So why don’t I have a PSP Go? Well I can answer that easily, but not rationally. I like my UMD disks. I like to have the option despite the fact that I haven’t used that option in quite some time. It’s a completely irrational reason to keep a piece of hardware that has lower specs and capabilities despite not using the one feature I’m keeping it for. I do have one rational and very good reason for not having one though; the price tag. As much as I love my handhelds, £250 is still a bit steep for me. Considering you can buy a whole console for way less than that.
Of course now I might as well wait for the PSP2. If I’m lucky the rumours will be true and Sony will be making an announcement on the 27th. That’s 3 days before my birthday. Come on Sony, make me a happy birthday girl. Announce something awesome that isn’t anything like the failed PSPGo. Okay truth be told; I’ll settle for a touch screen and a analogue stick that doesn’t break my thumb.
So, the Xbox 360 died a death. Red Ring of Death after 5 long years of service. I know, I must have the oldest Xbox 360 ever. Electronics lasting 5 years isn’t unheard of if it’s quality tech. Xbox 360s though are lucky if they last a year. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. Both my PS1 and PS2 still work and the PS1 flew several thousand miles with me when I moved.
Now I’ve always said that if my 360 got an RRoD I’d just get rid of it and that would be that. I would have done just that too if it hadn’t chosen to do it in the middle of playing Fable 3. Oh yes of course, it chose to die while I was just over half way through the game. Not before I’d gotten the game or after I’d finished it, but smack fucking in the middle. This of course meant I couldn’t just say to hell with MS and the Xbox 360. Nope, needed a replacement. Somehow.
So we have 3 options. Pay the £70 to send it in and have them “repair” it. This option is otherwise known as them sending me a refurb of someone else’s RRoD machine that will RRoD on me again at some point in the future. The second option is for us to find the cash and buy a new one that not only has a bigger hard drive, but it’s also black. This option costs £200.
Of course the third option comes down to how much effort I really want to put into all of this. My final option is that I could call up their Customer Service department, yell at them and get all obnoxious American on their asses and get them to “repair” it for nothing. Yell loud enough and long enough and you’d be amazed what can happen just so that you’ll go away.
You can guess which option we went for; yes, we got a new one.
This actually brings me to the whole reason I’m here writing this. I have done the one thing that I really really hate having to do, I bought another Xbox when mine failed.
Microsoft boast massive numbers of units sold, but just how many of those unit sales are actually from people buying multiple consoles due to getting an RRoD? I know several people who have bought 2-3 Xbox 360s because they’d gotten an RRoD. The numbers are inflated by these multiple sales.
These newer ones are supposed to be less prone to getting the RRoD, but by now shouldn’t Microsoft have this issue fixed? Shouldn’t such a major fault not be allowed out in the public domain? Obviously not, but it has survived and flourished and people keep buying them
Guess I’ve no room to talk now. I still resent having to do it when I shouldn’t have had to. Sure I could’ve just paid the £70 to have it fixed. Yea it was out of warranty, but why should I be paying for something that is a known fault in the hardware and wasn’t caused by any inappropriate use of the machine? Any other company would have been forced to recall, but somehow Microsoft has managed to keep selling and selling and selling.
Late October and early November has seen the release of far too many games I want to play. Alas, with only so much money to spend and time to play I had to be selective. So Fable III and Vanquish will have to wait while I play through Fallout New Vegas and Enslaved.
I finished playing Enslaved last week. It was pretty short. Took me about 6-8 hours to complete. The gameplay was fairly standard and didn’t include any mechanics I haven’t seen before. But still, it enchanted me and I would recommend picking it up.
I’m not someone who is usually captured by graphics – a nice looking game is appreciated but if the gameplay isn’t there then does it matter? But Enslaved’s vivid and verdant post-apocalyptic environment really is beautiful. It also made a welcome change to the grays of Fallout’s wasteland! The world of Enslaved is one that has become over-grown with plant life in the decades following a war with robots. Humans are sparse but these robots are plentiful. And homicidal. You play as Monkey, a gruff and athletic protaganist who is “enslaved” by a woman called Trip. She wants you to help her get home and the story unfolds from there. And the story is where this game really shines!
The story is very loosely based on the Chinese novel Journey to the West and was co-written by Alex Garland. Gameplay is a mix of platforming, combat and a little bit of puzzle-solving – certainly fun but not revolutionary and not the games main selling point. It’s the games atmosphere, environment and slowly developing story that draws you in. The characters are well written and animated. It is difficult to not to start feeling empathy for them. Some scenes are genuinely touching. Soon you find yourself actually looking forward to the next cut scene! Many things are left unsaid by the end of the game which leaves you with a sense of wanting more. It also leaves the player with the ability to draw their own ideas and conclusions about Enslaved’s world instead of being spoon-fed every bit f information possible from an over-zealous writer.
I would welcome a sequel to this game. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been selling very well. Some people have complained that it is too short or too easy. Well, not every gamer has time to sit down for 50-70 hours to complete a game but they still want an experience bit deeper than jumping on Call of Duty on Xbox Live. I think Enslaved could provide that. Perhaps the marketing effort spent too much time focusing on hardcore gamers who had their eye on titles like Fallout and Fable. Maybe with a lower price or digital distribution it could have done better. It’s a shame because I really do think this game can fill a niche and I think people are missing out on one of the best stories in video games this year if they dismiss it out of hand.
It’s been a few months since the last DLC was released for Left 4 Dead but last week Valve gave us a new and kinda maudlin campaign; The Sacrifice.
You can download the expansion for either Left 4 Dead or Left 4 Dead 2. The Sacrifice covers the events of the last DLC The Passing but from the point of the original 4 survivors from the first game. Along-side this mini-campaign the DLC also adds the No Mercy campaign to Left 4 Dead 2. For this reason, The Sacrifice is obviously a better deal for owners of the sequel rather than the original game unless you’re playing on Steam in which case the DLC is free anyway (you lucky buggers!).
The Sacrifice campaign adds some nice new maps that provide multiple paths and some great crescendo moments. The one that really stood out was the point where you have to release a Tank that has been trapped in a train car in order to reach your destination. There is no running away from this one. It will certainly shake up versus mode and expert setting as it will test how well a team cooperates. One wrong move and one or all of you could be dead. There is also the interesting addition of exploding barrels that can be helpful at choke points. But The Sacrifice is really all about the moment right at the end where a member of your team has to die in order for the rest to escape. This is the moment that Valve has been building up to since the release of The Passing and even promoted with a comic. Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to expectations. The moment of sacrifice is under-whelming. It does not ask much of the player and is devoid of emotion. It’s a shame since you leave the game feeling not exhilarated but cheated. In online versus play I have seen teams vote to return to the lobby rather than play the sacrificial map.
The No Mercy campaign, despite already being familiar to most players of Left 4 Dead 2, is a very welcome addition. The new special infected and the addition of melee weapons really shake up the versus gameplay. The point where you have to wait for a lift whilst been attacked by hordes of zombies becomes much more difficult than in the first game as special infected like the Spitter or Jockey can force the survivors to move out from safe spaces. This change in the dynamic of a familiar map makes a nice change of pace.
If you’re a Steam player then it’s a no-brainer; you should download these new maps. If you’re playing on Xbox, well, it depends on if you’re playing Left 4 Dead 1 or 2. Unless you’re playing the sequel I’d keep hold of your cash and put it towards to buying yourself a copy of 2.
Usually I’m not one to advocate movie tie-in games. Generally speaking games made to tie-in movies are a bit shit. Just this once though I will break my rule. Truth be told, I’ve been waiting more for this game than the movie. As you may have guessed, the movie I’m referring to is Scot Pilgrim vs The World. I haven’t actually seen the movie yet. I will eventually, but just not gotten there yet.
No, my main reason for anticipating this game has a name and that name is Paul Robertson. He’s the artist that drew the game. I’ve been following him for quite some time and really love his artwork.
PRobertson is pretty much made of awesome though. The guy is a master of 16bit art. To add to the package he’s a bit on the twisted side of odd, which is nothing but a bonus in my book. I bought the game though on the PSN the day it came out. It’s a side scrolling beat ’em up which I think we can all agree his art is perfect for. The game is 1-4 players which is great cause you can play with friends like we used to do in the arcades. Luckily no massive roll of quarters are needed to play this game for hours.
I don’t know what to say, just go buy it; it’s on the PSN and XBox Markeplace. My hope is that this will help Paul and maybe we’ll be lucky enough to see him doing more “retro” games in the future.
I do not recommend clicking that link to his page at work by the way. It’s not porn, but there are naked pope dressed women involved.
So, I finally got around to playing Final Fantasy XIII. When it came out I was distracted by other games and the generally negative reviews dampened my interest; but it’s Final Fantasy so clearly I was going to play eventually. Yes, I love Final Fantasy games. I love the cheesy dialogue with the tacked-on saccharine philosophy. I love the completely impractical clothing choices and the gravity-defying hair. I love the fantasy landscapes and the sheer variety of creatures. But mostly, I love the fighting.
The fighting is the real reason I play FF games. The rest is just icing. For me, the strategy is what keeps me coming back for more. I have never really understood why FF games are labeled as RPGs. They share more in common with the Total War series than they do with Fallout or Mass Effect. You are only “role-playing” in so far that you are in control of a number of characters but you don’t get to decide how they should react to the plot. The only control you have is over upgrading their weapons and their skill-sets. These are two things that I love doing but would you really call it role-playing when you have no access to their emotional reactions? But as a strategy game I have often found FF to be a complex and in-depth affair that has often given me the chance to seek out some of the hardest gaming battles around. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I find it pretty satisfying. I imagine that this is what attracts a lot of other people to the franchise. This is also why I find some of the game design in FFXIII to be very odd indeed.
FFXIII is very insistent about holding your hand every step of the way. For the first 2/3’s of the game you will be restricted to moving along one path. There is no open world and no choice about where to go. You just keep ploughing ahead down corridors that don’t give you any opportunity to divert from the path. You can’t choose your own battle team (often the characters are in completely different areas of the world to one another and the narrative keeps switching back and forth between them). You are limited to upgrading your characters in only the areas the game has chosen for you. In battle, you can only control the actions of your main character and are limited to assigning roles to the rest of the party. You don’t have access to upgrading your weapons. The game does eventually make all these things possible and if you put the time in you will end up in an open world, free to do what you want. But it takes at least 15 hours to reach this point. 20 if you’re like me and stop to fight everything. Most players of FF games will already be familiar with most of FFXIII’s mechanics. 20 hours is an awful long time to wait for the game to take the training wheels off. Perhaps they implemented this narrow, restrictive gameplay in order to encourage new players? If so, I wonder what new gamers would put up with 20 hours of being pushed down corridor after corridor.
Upgrading weapons is another area which makes little sense. Battles, treasure chests and shops (all shops are accessed through save points – you don’t get to talk to NPC’s!) all yield a massive array of items. There must be hundreds of different items you can pick up, all which can be used to upgrade your weapons and accessories. The items are all named, categorised and have different experience point values BUT they essentially boil down to 2 things. Organic and inorganic. Organic materials have low exp but add multiplier points to your weapons for all items added after. Inorganic materials have high exp but no multiplier points. Therefore your strategy for upgrading is simple – add organic until you get max multiplier, then start adding inorganic. What was the point in naming and explaining hundreds of items when they no effect on your upgrades beyond these 2 categories? It’s almost like they had plans to do something more interesting and then decided against it. There is no strategy to upgrading your weapons or accessories and therefore it becomes a chore and not part of an essential game mechanic.
On part of the game I will defend is the battle system. I have seen many complaints regarding the fact that there is an “auto-battle” system. Yes, there is, but if you expect the characters to win a battle without your input then you won’t make it very far in this game at all. In FFXIII the fighting is less about specific commands and more about what roles you assign to your characters. There are 6 different roles (although you characters will start out with access to only 2 or 3 of them) and you will have to carefully select which ones you want your character to take in battle. You can change these roles in battle using a system called “paradigm shift”. If you want to make it through a boss battle then you better pick these roles carefully and keep a close on eye on what’s going on in order to “shift” effectively! It’s hard to explain unless you’re playing it but the system really does allow a depth of strategy, especially when it comes to working out how best to take on a particular enemy or in deciding how to level your party effectively. Despite this, I do understand the complaints. It is somewhat simpler than previous FF games…yet it is still very complicated for the uninitiated player. I once again wonder who the target audience for FFXIII is!
Ultimately, if you like FF games and you are willing to push for 20 hours in order to reach the open world of hunting massive fantasy creatures then FFXIII can become quite a rewarding game. I can tell that I am going to be sinking in quite a lot more hours and enjoying myself immensely. However, this amount of time is not a reasonable expectation of most players. Games should draw you in straight off the bat or at least within the first hour. In comparison to other games, FFXIII seems reluctant to let you just play.
I’ve been really busy lately. First off, I still haven’t even finished Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. I really want to finish so I can move onto Batman, but I keep getting stuck. That game really messes with my head sometimes. I’m still about 50% through and I wanted to steamroll through the game while my boyfriend was out of town. Of course, when I have more free time due to less love life, I get a part-time job, and get busier with photo projects. Eventually, I’ll finish it. It’s just slightly over-whelming to go from job-less bum to 1 job + assistant to 2 photographers + writing for this blog and newly writing on Destructoid blogs, etc. Oh, and I’m exercising now too. Oh, boy.
I’ve been playing a bit more Left4Dead2 lately as well. I recently got back into it because more of my friends are playing, so it’s fun to play against people you know. I stopped before due to the huge amount of younger kids that play that game and aren’t very good at it (haha).
I’ve been wanting to play Zakk & Wiki again lately. Have any of you ever played that game? It’s a puzzle game, except really really hard. It’s a game that most people probably can’t beat it without help. And by help, I mean I played through most of it whenever friends came over and could help point things out in the puzzles. They are THAT elaborate. I never did finish that game, though. A friend of mine lent me Super Mario Galaxies II, so I figure when I hook up the Wii again, I may as well play some of that, too!
Once again, stuck. Too many games, too little time! And not enough motivation to spend my actual free time playing through new content opposed to going on Steam for a few rounds of zombie killing. Maybe when my boyfriend gets home (it’s been a week) I’ll be a little less of a boring drone.
This week Microsoft kicked off its Summer of Arcade promotion with the release of of Limbo, a game created by indie developer Playdead. It’s been getting a lot of attention due its art style and focus on puzzle solving.
You start the game as a boy and wake up in a grey, shadowy world. The game gives you no clue as to what the controls are or what you are supposed to do. Like the young boy on screen you are left on your own to figure out what to do in a particularly hostile and foreboding environment. Moving about and interacting with objects is easy figure out. It’s the puzzles and the hidden dangers that get you.
When playing this game be prepared to die a lot. Sometimes dying is completely unavoidable and gives you clues on how to avoid it next time. It doesn’t stop it being any less nasty though. Whether you are being chased by monsterous spiders, trying to avoid bear traps or running from silent children who really seem to want you dead the game keeps you on edge and uses its nasty atmosphere to give you a little push to solve the puzzle faster. There is an achievement for completing the game with less than 5 deaths – I imagine that only the most dedicated gamers will manage it!
The game is fair and autosaves often so you never lose too much progress but some of the puzzles can be very tricky to figure out. Solving them can rely on many different factors; speed, interaction of objects, your own momentum, lateral thinking…and you won’t run across the same puzzle twice. The game constantly throws new and ever-more-challening puzzles in your path. Eventually the puzzles start becoming much more complex and difficult. Despite the difficulty they are also well-designed and once you understand the solution you’ll wonder why you didn’t see it in the first place. It also feels quite rewarding when you figure out something that has had you stumped for a few minutes.
Along with the gloomy, eerie visuals is a quiet and creepy soundtrack. The music in Limbo is very limited. Mostly you can hear the breeze and far off noises but when danger approaches the soundtrack gets more aggressive along with it. It’s enough to make you jump at times. Especially when it comes along with the visuals of a gigantic spider creeping it’s way towards you.
Limbo is full of character, atmosphere and provides an intense gameplay experience. I can’t think of any other game to compare it too.
Limbo costs 1200 Microsoft Points.
The gaming at my house hasn’t been all that great at my house in the last month or so — we’ve been a little pressed with home repair, dealing with insurance, firing our insurance agent and starting the hunt for another insurance agent, and oh, researching a good breeder to buy a dog.
But the last week, we decided we’d get a new game. Or rather, I decided that the husband and I were getting a new game, because it was on sale on Steam; $40 bucks got us both the game, and all the DLC available for Borderlands. It was a clumsy game, but honestly, the weekend of the fourth of July was the happiest we’d been in weeks.
It’d been hard to face facts, but now we broke down and handled things. I ordered a new — bigger and better! — laptop from Dell. We are making a game plan on how to replace the electronics and in what order of priority. (Camera, PS3, Wii, games, etc.) As well as what we’re not replacing, and instead putting the money ito a Puppy Fund. Tabletop gaming is getting back to normal as well — we’d not exactly been shining there, either as hosts or as players — and so life seems to be returning to it’s pre-burglary state slowly.
But then Blizzard came and crapped on my pancakes.
RealID. It’s a bad idea. 4chan, bless it’s soul, easily illustrated why it’s a bad idea– especially for women who game. The general idea is to strip away the veil of anonymity, face John Gabriel’s Internet Fuckwad Theory head on and strip away the anonymity that trolls use to protect themselves.
Only we know that’s not the case. Trolls are going to be trolls no matter what light you shine under their bridge. What they are opening us up to is new levels of harassment, especially for women, transsexual and other ‘unprotected’ classes of people… and even the average dominant white male who didn’t’ know the douche bag who he denied entrance to his guild was mentally unstable enough to hit Spokeo and see what info they could dig up to hurt someone with later. People do crazy things. Gamers, sadly, attract more then their fair share of people who cannot cope with reality and use games to escape it. It’s simply a fact of the fandom, as it were.
It’s pretty scary what you can dig up with a name and an email. I’m not saying how much of my information is in that thing, but it was enough to make me squirm a bit. One of the Blizzard blues found out the hard way when he put out his name to prove it was ‘safe’ and then had his phone number, home address, parent’s home address, Facebook, and other pertinent information all linked within seconds.
So, ladies: What are we going to do about it? Take it passively as our rights to privacy are stripped? Walk with our money to a new game? Scream into the void until something is done? I’m honestly not sure yet — I really like my game, and the people I play with. I don’t want to try and build the relationships I’ve made OR endure the learning curve. I’ve played WoW for 5 years and never, ever missed a payment or taken a break.
But there might be a time for it. This might be that time.
I’ve been sinking quite a few of my gaming hours into Red Dead Redemption on the 360 the past few weeks. On the whole I have been enjoying myself immensely whether it be shooting bandits, hunting rattlesnakes or breaking horses. I even began to enjoy the gambling once I figured out that the AI had a “tell” in Liar’s Dice that allows me to win 99% of the time. In fact, if you asked me if you should buy the game I would say yes because it is damn good fun if you enjoy open-world, sandbox type games. However, this review isn’t gonna be about how great the game is. You can read one of those reviews quite easily. They’re everywhere. This review is about the things that are bad about RDR because very few people are talking about them.
There are few differences between RDR and GTA – the mission structures, character types and game mechanics are extremely similar. It doesn’t introduce anything new or original to video games and sometimes heavily relies on stereotypes and predictable plot to drive the narrative forward. The environment is the major distinction. To be fair, the praise heaped upon Rockstar for the landscape is well deserved. It is diverse, packed with wildlife and has some extremely beautiful moments around sunrise and sunset. It is not a chore to ride your horse through it on the way to missions but actually rather pleasant. The music also resonates beautifully with the landscape creating an emotional resonance. Unfortunately, RDR fails to create the same level of emotional resonance in any of it’s characters.
The main character, John Marston, is presented to the player as a gruff and tough man who is attempting to leave his former life as a criminal behind him and be a good father and husband. He is surly, quick to anger and has little qualm in gunning down those who stand in his way. He is also presented as a stand-up, honest sort of guy who won’t cheat on his wife or kill without reason. Regardless, the game will let you gun down whomever you please for whatever reason. You will inevitably end up with a bounty on your head and NPC’s will stay clear of you but it doesn’t change John Marston’s plot. In the cut scenes he still talks like an honorable sort of dude. This can be quite jarring if you’ve just robbed a bank and shot a man off a horse just because you could.
Another problem with John’s character is the fact it grates against a lot of the missions. Most of the core game missions are started by talking to particular NPC’s. Some of these characters are largely comic relief stereotypes which are fun and show off Rockstar’s sharp wit but absolutely clash with Marston. They are constantly making life difficult for Marston and sending him off on wild goose chases whilst promising to help. And Marston just takes it. He may threaten them and do a lot of talking about how annoyed he is but he never actually follows through with any intimidation and he always, always does what they say even if they have betrayed him previously. Of course, Marston HAS to do these things because this is how the plot and the game advances but it doesn’t make any sense in context of his character. Personally, I feel this is a large oversight by Rockstar. I don’t mind not having choice about taking on a mission or not because Marston is not my avatar like in a game such as Fallout 3 – he is a well-rounded character with a specific story that is meant to unfold as I play the game. Fair enough. But the fact is that the story does not always gel with Marston’s character. This inconsistency can throw you out of the story and doesn’t help you to form an emotional attachment with Marston. He’s a character that is always ready to help the law take out some bandits but the next minute will take on a mission to burn down a village or two. He acts like he has no time for drunks or swindlers but will pretty much do anything they ask. If Marston himself doesn’t seem to know what he cares about, why should I care about him?
I know this all sounds like a lot of complaining. Despite the fact that RDR has little in the way of originality and a flawed story it really is fantastically atmospheric and plays very, very well. I cannot say that I am not having fun. Also, bear in mind that I have not finished the game yet so do not know where the story will end up. However, the narrative is flawed in many ways and claims that this will be the game that will change popular opinion of games as an art form are definitely hyperbole. But that’s okay. After all, it’s still entertaining pretending to be a cowboy.
So, I acquired a beta key for StarCraft II a couple of weeks ago from a friend to got 2 two many. Naturally, I’ve been spending as much time as I can playing, since it closes on the 30th of this month (for a little while). From what I’m seeing the past couple weeks, the game will be phenomenal. I’m going to start with the graphics: GORGEOUS. Most of the maps have beautiful galactic landscapes and I’ve already lost a couple matches because of wasting precious seconds to stare at the backgrounds. Actually, now that I mention it, I’ve lost a LOT of matches.
When I started playing, I just kindof went by what I used to do in StarCraft 1, forever ago. I got used to long games and complicated strategies, not much rushing. The players I’ve encountered on this game are mostly interested in wiping out opponents as quickly and efficiently as possible. At first, this upset me greatly, because it wasn’t fun at all to be at the starting stages of developing my base just to have 4 punk goons from the other base come and wipe my defenseless drones. The more I play, however I’m learning how to make production much quicker, and counter-attack more effectively (and win matches!). I originally was placed in the gold league (highest of 3 tiers) – because during the placement matches (5 preliminary matches to determine starting rank) a few people lost connection and I auto-won the games. After a few losses in the Gold league (I was flattened, totally), I got re-ranked into Silver league. Guess who’s kicking butt now? This girl. Right here.
My only real complaints about the game are that the hotkeys don’t really stick well for me. I’m not sure if others are having this problem, or if it’s just me due to wireless keyboard (except I’ve actually never had this problem..), but yeah. I waste time jamming the hot keys when I could just do it all with the mouse. I just don’t like having to click through every single command, but I suppose I’ll have to get used to it for now. Seconds are precious in this game…
I’m trying to play it as much as possible before it closes up a bit. Until last weekend, there was just 1v1 and 2v2, now there’s 3v3 and 4v4, and eventually there should be a Free-For-All mode. There are a few basic achievements (such as: winning a first game, winning 5 games as each of the 3 races, winning a match 2v2, etc) with rewards, like profile images. The best part is, the is windowed, full screen and full screen (windowed) modes, with many choices for resolution and highly adjustable (and volumous) video and sound options. Great news for players with PCs of all shapes and sizes. Speaking of players of all shapes and sizes, as soon as I acquired a beta key, I realized I actually know a good amount of people that are also participating in the beta. We already have the option to add each other to a friend list in the client and play against each other (or team up and play 2v2+)! It is all very exciting. I haven’t played with any of my friends yet, but this weekend was a good one for networking, so I’ll finally be able to play against (or with) people I know. Hurray for Skype and play!
Last note: The pictures in this post are screen shots I’ve taken while playing. They look terrible after I edited them (for size), so if you kind-of squint and turn your head sideways, it might look a lot cooler… (just kidding, but you get the idea, right?)
It’s that time again! It’s the time of year when the Golden Joystick Awards starts their voting. You can vote here on their website. You have until May 27th. It’s the long list voting at the moment, but best to get in there early so you can help your favourite game get into the short lists. I always find it hard to vote in the long lists because there’s always just so many games listed. It’s the only awards I ever pay attention to though because they are 100% voted for by gamers. None of this committee who doesn’t remember the games or doesn’t know anything about games. To me that’s a big deal and a good thing.
So get to voting. Cause we need awesome games like Batman: Arkham Asylum to win awards cause they’re awesome, not because someone paid the judge.