Posts tagged “PS3

E3 2015 – More of my Destiny (The Taken King)

After the last expansion bringing us into the Reef and closer to the Awoken, I was hoping we’d get more in the next expansion. My character is an Awoken so I have a vested interested, but they’re also very mysterious and that makes me want to know more. Instead though we get to see Crota’s daddy come for revenge. Not the most original plot device, but I’m sure it will be fun nonetheless.

~Donna


It’s My Destiny

It will come to no one’s surprise that I’ve been playing Destiny. I did play it for a while when it first came out, (as well as the PS4 Alpha & Beta), but then I put it aside for a couple months while I dove into the holiday games and became an assassin for a couple of months. Before I turn into a sackgirl I’ve been taking a break and playing Destiny. After the full on story of AC:Unity, I just wanted to play something  that was simple for my brain to process; point and shoot.

Simple isn’t really something Destiny does. Gameplay-wise, yes it’s straight forward, but the story keeps confusing me. You would think by now, I’m level 26, I’d be able to remember which are the Cabal and which are the fallen, but I keep getting my bad guys mixed up. I don’t know why I keep doing it, but I do. It could be that all of the aliens aren’t very alien. The only aliens I can consistently remember the name of are the Vex, but they’re all robots. Still, all of our invading alien races are humanoid in shape. I think this is what keeps confusing my brain. I’m sure the confusion is just me, but that aside I do wish the aliens were more alien. There are a couple of exceptions, but on the whole they’re humanoid. For once I’d like to see aliens that really look alien. My own character’s race is an alien, but I’m looking rather human-like.

The human shaped aliens and my goober brain aside, I do really like the story and the world. I like that for once it isn’t just a single bad guy come to take over the Earth. The enemies in Destiny not only don’t like us, but they don’t like each other as well. There are many times in the game when you’ll come across them fighting each other and paying you little mind until you decide to shoot them in the head. This gives a new dynamic to the conflict. The Earth isn’t just being invaded; it’s become a battlefield for these other races as much as it’s an invasion. Obviously when it comes to the gameplay in a situation like this you get the chance to use this to your own advantage and play them off each other to your advantage. With all this conflict going on I’m really excited to see what comes next and how the story evolves.

Speaking of the gameplay, this isn’t rocket science. The controls aren’t hard to memorise and they do have several different button layouts to choose from. I stuck with the default layout though and found it worked fine. A good button layout is one of my top priorities in a game. If I can’t re-map keys then there had better be options. I have giving up on games where the layout just didn’t work for me. Dark Souls was such a game where this happened to me; the buttons just didn’t work for me and made it harder for me to play. No problem here though and the button combinations for specials are easy to handle as well.

 

This is an FPS, so no shock that you’re in first person perspective shooting at things. Now, I am utterly shit at aiming on a console in first person, but once I got used to it I was pretty much okay. I do use a big gun that shoots a lot of bullets, so I do manage to hit things. The closest I get to a sniper rifle is my rocket launcher; point and boom. Destiny is the polar opposite of Borderlands 2 in their approach to the gun types available. There is a small selection of gun types and the power differences are minor. The main differences in power are between the rarity types; basic, uncommon, rare, legendary and exotic. I’m sure you’re all smart enough to understand the rarity scale.  You’re able to equip 3 weapon types for a variety of situations and preferences. You have your primary, special and heavy weapon. Basically it’s like this; kill, fucking kill, blow it the fuck up. One big perk with the weapons is that any weapon can be used by any class. So you truly get to use the type of weapon you like to use best. It’s the best approach a game can have to enable catering to different play styles. I personally favour the Auto Rifle for my primary, the Fusion Rifle for my Special and as mentioned the Rocket Launcher for my Heavy. If you shoot enough bullets fast enough you will eventually kill what you’re aiming at.

Combat can get a little frenzied at times and I must admit that after a couple of long intense missions my hands need to be pried off the PS4 controller. Some of the big strike missions feel like you never stop shooting and you’re always all tensed up shooting and running and shooting and hiding. Sometimes during these big fights I may scream, but they are really so much fun. The story missions are more paced and not the constant killing spree. The Strike missions are bigger and involve other players in co-op with yourself. These missions on average take around 30 minutes to complete and they are usually 2 or 3 stages of intense fighting. It’s in these that I get all amped up and clutch my controller rather tightly as I shoot everything in sight.

 

It could be that some of my tension comes from playing a Warlock. There are 3 classes; Titan, Hunter and Warlock. The Titan is the tank and big hitter, i.e., a fighter. The Hunter is the quick medium powered fighter, i.e., a rogue. The last is the Warlock which is the “magic” user, i.e., the weakling. During the alpha/beta I played a Hunter and I loved it a lot, but when I bought the game I went for the Warlock, because I didn’t want to be the fighter/tank class and I wanted something different. In my experience the Warlock is weaker in armour, but once you know that and adjust your play style you’re good to go. They have good ranged combat, such as awesome grenades, and you can get the ability to revive yourself. The Hunter is a very quick fighter with medium armour. Hunters are a good middle ground class. As mentioned, the Titans are the big bad fighters. They have good armour and can hit really hard. If you like running up and smacking the shit out of your enemies then you might want to play a Titan.

Destiny is a MMO though which means there are other people around, but the game mechanics allow for this and work well. You can choose to play through the main story with friends or on your own. When you’re out in the world you will see other players but you don’t have to talk to them. Same goes for the PUG Strike missions that require 3 players to play; you don’t have to talk to them if you don’t want to. Sometimes you get good random groups and sometimes you don’t, it’s always luck of the draw. The console servers are split, so Playstation and XBox. The Playstation servers aren’t region split, e.g., UK can play with Canada. Most likely the XBox servers aren’t region split either, but as I don’t own the game on the XBox I couldn’t tell you for sure.

As you go through the game you get 2 transport modes. First is your ship that you go between planets in and the other is your Sparrow. The sparrow is kind of like the speeders in Star Wars. You use the Sparrows for zipping around on the planets’ surfaces. They’re great little things for getting places fast and they’re a lot of fun to ride. The big spaceship you have for going between planets is just cosmetic unfortunately. You can find or buy different ones, but currently they don’t do anything. It would be fun if Bungie created space skirmishes to use the spaceships in. I would suck fighting in space, but I think a lot of people would enjoy it and it’d be another game aspect to broaden the appeal. On some planets and in the PvP there are temporary vehicles you can use that also have weapons on them. Always be careful on any vehicle. You never want to be on it when it explodes; it hurts a lot.

To wrap up all this meandering through Destiny I’d like to touch on the PvP. As a general rule I don’t do PvP, but I have dabbled a little. There are 4 types of PvP so you should be able to find your favourite kind here. The one I usually opt for is Control and this is a 6 person per team based capture the flag type of scenario only there are multiple flags to capture and the other team can take them back and vice versa. You also have Clash; 2 teams of 6 competing for the most kills. Similarly you have Rumble which is a 6 player free for all everyone kills everyone scenario. The last is Skirmish and involves 2 teams of 3 players in a variation of team deathmatch. I don’t really enjoy PvP and prefer the co-op Strike missions, but the option is there for those who enjoy it. You can enjoy without ever touching the PvP and not be missing out.

Overall I am very happy with the game. Great action and story thrown into some beautiful environments. The videos and screenshots above are mine and I loved making them. If someone like me who is terrible at FPS games on the console can get to grips with it and enjoy it, then I think others will as well. Sure there is some grinding for gear, but that’s hardly unexpected for an MMO. For me even the grinding is fun though as I get to go through the bounties and revisit areas I barely survived through the first time.  The first DLC, The Dark Below, is already out and the next should be coming soon. I only get time to play on the weekends really, but feel free to add me if you’re playing on the PS3 or 4; just mention the site so I know how you found me.

~Donna


Fuck Yes More Borderlands!!! (Pre-Sequel)

I was watching the Borderlands Pre-Sequel E3 trailer again for like the millionth time and I realised I had said absolutely nothing about it here. So, new Borderlands coming in October. If you think I don’t have it pre-ordered then clearly you don’t know me. Not even caring that it’s on the PS3, it was ordered the second I found out about it. At first I kind of wondered why they had released it on previous gen, but then I got to thinking about it and figured it made sense. Your games linked together so it makes sense that the third likely would as well. I’m not sure it matters really where they release it, but just that they do.  I lost count of the number of times I played through Borderlands 2 with the hubby. I know that game inside out.

So being a highly anticipated game, I’m practically counting the days until it’s released. For Borderlands I would return to my PS1 if it meant I could play it some more.

Watch the videos; the first one has a Moon Dance!

~Donna


Coming Back to Raid Tombs and Kick Ass (Tomb Raider)

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Like so many franchises, Tomb Raider has gotten a reboot. I went into this high hopes for the story since it was written by Rhianna Pratchett. While I will never forgive her for Mirror’s Edge, she did write the Overlord games which were wonderful fun.

I was not disappointed.

Rhianna gave us a believable beginning to an iconic gaming woman. A story that builds on the genius that is a young Lara that isn’t so self assured. From the beginning we are presented with someone who is not only smart but also insecure. She knows she’s right, but she doesn’t have the years of experience behind her to be the confident Lara we’re all used to seeing. I like this a lot. It shows a humble, if smart, beginnings of the confident woman. As we travel through to very well crafted story, she becomes more sure of herself. By the half-way point we’re seeing that familiar Lara and by the end you know she’s gotten a taste for something that she’ll never turn away from again.

I will say one thing about the whole “threat of rape” thing that was spinning a few months back. Yes she is threatened in this way, but she’s threatened with horrible-ness through the whole game, including murder. So yea, she is threatened, but it’s nothing to write home about.

TR Bow

Gameplay is what you would expect. Plenty of running and shooting and climbing ever surface in sight. The controls are all very easy to use straight out of the box. There are some quicktime events, but they’re unobtrusive and not a pain in the ass to do. I’m notoriously terrible at aiming shots in games like this but he aim assist saved me. So even if you’re rubbish at aiming, like me, don’t worry. I used the fucking hell out of the bow & arrow too. That thing was so awesome to use as an alternative to guns. One of my only complaints is that here really just wasn’t the amount of puzzles that I’ve come to expect from a Tomb Raider game. There are puzzles that are integral to the game, but it just felt a little lacking for me. You could tell what your upcoming tools would be simply by having a look around at what you couldn’t climb. Sure it was a little predictable, but I can forgive it this one thing.

I really liked the music and sounds of the game. They conveyed mood and drama very well. I didn’t find annoying, repetitive or boring. There’s not a lot I can say about the music than that.

TR Behind Scene

Visually the game is stunning. You have this deserted island full of mystery and wonder surrounded by this impossible storm. The world around you is rendered in a very believable way and really has been thought out and deigned nicely. It felt like a lost island filled with a mythical ancient story just waiting to be discovered. Also, video games have had hair issues for a long long time, but this has made some great improvements. On the PC version you get to use the TressFX engine which is a special engine for just rendering the hair. Just wish it had been in the console versions too.

Ya know  really did like he prequel a lot. My only gripes are the lack of more complex puzzles and it really felt kinda short. Even with doing a lot of exploring and completing about 90% of the game extras outside the main storyline; I only got about 16 hour of play from it. I know that’s pretty much normal these days, it still feels like it’s too short. This isn’t uncommon for me though, I don’t want the goodness to end.

Go get the game. It’s definitely worth it


On The Border of Borderlands 2

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I originally bought Borderlands 2 for The Hubby as he was a great fan of the first game. This time though he managed to rope me into playing it through with him using the co-op.  So we played through it together even though he’d already finished it and maxed his character and all that jazz. I very fast found myself becoming addicted to this game. We easily clocked up a good 20 hours of play that first weekend.

Many games have multiplayer, but usually it’s over the internet only. Not a lot of games have same machine on screen co-op and I’m always so happy to find ones that do so that me and The Hubby can play together. Although I have no idea how people with normal sized TVs do this. Ours is 50 inch and it’s barely big enough. TV size may be a post for another time. So, the fact that there was a co-op on same screen/system in the game made me happy. It was there in the first game too, but for some reason the first game just didn’t grab me like this one did.

Borderlands-2-screen1RS

So we’ve finished it now and we’re currently on our second run through on the harder setting and it’s proving to be quite the challenge. On normal mode with 2 players, the game already scales things to be harder since there is more than one player. This is actually rather impressive. I watched The Hubby play it on solo and compared it with what we’d seen in normal and harder modes; there’s definitely a difference. The first thing is the amount of bad guys for you to kill, but also their toughness is subtly more hard to kill if you’ve got 2 players compared to one. In the Vault Hunter hard mode there are very obvious differences. The Badasses really are badasses and make you earn the XP you’re getting from them. The un-armoured Maniacs who run at you are suddenly Armoured Maniacs and a bit more of a challenge.

It’s brilliant. Seriously, Gearbox are fucking brilliant. The co-op is absolutely masterful.

I don’t know if I can explain the intelligence that the developers have coded into the co-op and the difficulty differences. They didn’t just decide to throw more bad guys at you just because there is 2+ people playing or to just crank up the hardness of those you gotta kill. No, they gave it some thought and it really makes the game that much more fun to play.

Intelligent difficulty instead of fucking hard for the sake of being fucking hard.

This intelligent design carries through all that they’ve done with the game. The button mapping (at least on the PS3) is smart and easy to use and remember. The inventory/mission/maps/etc screens are simple and easy to use. Something that made me extra happy is that they made it easy to compare weapons.  Nothing annoys me more than not being able to easily see if the big gun I jsut picked up is better than what I’m using.  With an easy interface, everything falls into place wonderfully for Borderlands 2.

The above would be nothing though without all the other bits and bobs that make a game great, like the sound and video.

Gearbox have taken that extra step with the graphics that leads you so much further from the photo realistic-ness of so many games out there. Yes it’s cell shaded and beautiful, but it’s also very stylised. This stylised approach really helps with world immersion and looks rather fabulous to boot. I really cannot fault the visual style and approach.

Now I really can’t say how much I like the music choice for the game. The title song is by The Heavy and is a song titled Short Change Hero. This song sets the scene well as the unlikely hero for the game and has this funk blues thing going on. The composers did a good job of integrating little riffs from the title song throughout the gameplay. You’ll end up humming this song hours after you’ve stopped playing. Of course the downside of this is that while you’re in the middle of your work day humming the song, you’ll end up really craving the game. I speak of this from experience as I’ve bought the album with the title song on it and now it keeps getting stuck in my brain.

So for the story we’re looking at the repercussions of the vault being opened in the first game. Your primary nemesis is Handsome Jack, but like any bad guy he’s a bit of a nasty character. Generally I’d say the story is a “World Domination” scheme, but getting there is so much fun and very not run of the mill. You can expect Killing, great characters and plenty of car driving action. I don’t want to give any of the story away. Even though I didn’t play the first Borderlands game I had no problem getting stuck into the story of this instalment.

Seriously, if at this point you think I have anything but a massive addiction and obsession with Borderlands 2, then you’ve not been paying attention. The game is fun, has a great sense of humour. It looks fabulous with a very well done cell-shaded art style. The gameplay is easy even if, like me, you’re a bit shit at FPS games on consoles. The game is very well put together and Gearbox should be very proud of what they’ve done here.

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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


E3 The Tomb Raider Trailer

Okay so I missed posting this earlier in the week. This is a gameplay trailer of the new Tomb Raider game that is actually more of a prequel and an origin story. Looks fucking awesome. My only annoyance is the the first DLC will be first available to the Xbox. Making DLC first available on the Xbox isn’t going to really influence those who own both consoles or make PS3 owners buy an Xbox.

I won’t be buying it for my Xbox.

[youtube http://youtu.be/2pLzSSv1Qfg?hd=1]

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]

Saints Row the Third + DLC

“How long until the helicopter gets here?”

“Oh… about two waves of SWAT guys, I guess?”

That little exchange right at the beginning of Saints Row: The Third gives you an example of the tone, self-deprecating humor, and.. so very anti-Grand Theft Auto this game is. Not anti as in antagonistic, merely that it goes out of its way to show how different it is from what would be a possible natural first impression of the game. I know it was mine!

I played a lot of – but never finished – GTA:Vice City, wooed by its apparent comedy, completely awesome (to this child of the 80’s!) soundtrack and open sandbox gameplay. I skipped an installment and picked up GTA:IV upon release, and whilst I was agog at its visuals and scale; I was left cold by its story and niggling friend/cousin micro-management.  So I barely played it at all.

So… in 2011 Saints Row the Third arrives on the scene with some completely “whacky” adverts on the TV and, most crucially of all (to my personal tastes), a full campaign co-op multiplayer mode! I love co-op in games, especially those with big story arcs to follow, it just makes such a difference to be able to play through a game with a friend in this way. This is exactly what SR3 allows you to do, but that alone doth not a great game make, fortunately it manages to be that too.

As I alluded to earlier, the game takes the basic gameplay style of GTA, (driving, shooting, gangsters city exploration), and does away with any attempt to paint it in any kind of gritty realism in favour of bright day-glo colouring, larger than life characters, story, and events.

I am…. a toilet.. ?

The game allows you to play as male or female, (and um, change that if you so desire later in the game!), with full performances from the player-character for each. In fact, somewhat bizarrely you have a choice of voice-performance style to choose from at the start. (for female: default, Easter-European accented, or NEW YAWK accented !) These options are all defined about half-way through the (playable) intro with the usual character appearance customization, which is quite detailed in this particular game, I spent the usual half-hour or so tweaking it – I would later discover you can change your appearance in-game!

Now, I approached this game not having played any of the previous SR games, so I was initially a bit baffled by the characters and setting, but quickly warmed to it – especially when early on your co-gang member Johnny shouts “PROTECT THE BOSS!” – and I was all looking for the boss, until I realized it was me! This seemed all the cooler due to the simple fact that here was “Me”, the apparent female leader of this gang.

What follows is a rollercoaster action ride of the first 20 minutes of the game which forms the basis of an introduction, after which you’re in sandbox territory and, unlike GTA, the entirety of the city is at your disposal from the very beginning.

Head out on the highway…

As you explore, your map populates with shops, services and notable locations. Want to fly a plane? Head to the airport. Want a change of clothes? Find a clothing store. Fancy a bit of plastic surgery, a tattoo or pimped vehicle? – Just find one of the many places on the map that offer the service you want, right off the bat.

You pick up the primary story arc through interactions with your homies via your phone (which doubles as your GPS/map) as well as sideline quests of the usual escort, assassination, and fetch ilk.. and some slightly more unusual events.

The basic premise of the story is that by this installment of the game The Saints Row gang are celebrities, not really doing much gang-work, more into public appearances and product endorsement. During a bank-robbery “stunt” featuring the star of a Vampire-related TV show, it all goes wrong. The Saints are locked up and then taken to the leader of a crime Syndicate who expresses their intention to take over the Saint’s assets. This sets the basis of the story, The Saints reclaiming their mojo, taking on the Syndicate, and taking over the City of Steelport.

“This is some rescue!!”

This is an adult game, make no mistake, both in terms of language, content, and most certainly violence. If anything its more violent than GTA, with yours and other gangs at war with each other, the police, military and government. The violence is offset by the day-glo colour scheme, comedy, and sheer absurdity of it – but from a purely superficial standpoint it can look very violent, especially early on. Perseverance pays though, as you soon not so much get used to it, but are laughing at the ridiculousness of it. Weapons including a baseball bat with a huge purple dildo attached, the hilarious sound-effects of the Genki mind-controlling reluctant octopus launcher, (no, really), and the Land Shark launcher soon had me guffawing at it, not to mention the “car” chase played out with gimpsuited sex-slaves pulling carriages which, yes, as is customary, explode upon crashing! Did I mention this was an “adult” game?

Just another day in Steelport…?

What really sells this is the tongue-in-cheek performances of the actors, as well as some really good animation, and I absolutely *love* the fact that the characters interact with you “the Boss” the same regardless of your gender, this makes for a really satisfying experience playing this as a female, much the same as Mass Effect, there’s really Zero instances of “hey, sweet cheeks” – and when there is it is there regardless of the character’s gender – as my male co-op mate found out to his dismay in one scene where you’re drugged and staggering about the place naked (humorously “pixelated” bits, of course!)

There has been some comment however on the other females as depicted in the game, and I will put my Feminist hat on and say that yes, there is a huge element of scantily clad “bitches and ho’s” who seem to be mere objects and scenery in the game, but I’ll say that this is offset by the strength of the primary lead characters as written in the game – the player, and Shaundi, your right-hand-woman. Its likely something that everyone thinks, but I can’t imagine the game playing out with anything other than a female lead as the boss, and this is a good thing. One thing that did bother me was in the character creation – for some reason the developers think that anyone over the age of 10 has some serious wrinkleage, when I put in my actual age I was horrified at the apparent wrinkley face I supposedly must have if my character was anything to go by. Perhaps its all that sunny weather. On the other hand I was all ready to be incensed about the “Sex appeal” slider being the Boob-size adjustment, but upon checking I found that the same slider affected the size of the male sausage compartment, ha!

Also, there’s a good share of male objectification in the game too. Another nice touch is that you can choose the “uniform” of your entire gang so if you want your girls and boys running around scantily, or sensibly, you choose so yourself.

I’d be lying if I didn’t mention the fact that I absolutely loved the whole “dress-up” nature to this game which is one of its selling points. You can inexplicably walk around the city green-skinned, with a mustache, wearing a space helmet, Lady GaGa-esque couture dress, and combat boots. The clothes shops are simply and comically themed (“Let’s Pretend!” – cosplay fun, “Nobody Loves Me” – Goth/emo fashion, “Leather & Lace” – well.. you can imagine)

Today I will mostly be… Steampunk

As I’ve mentioned the game is very bright, colourful, and graphically very nice, though the characters suffer a lot from the “Uncanny Valley” – I guess we’ve been spoiled by other games recently with character emotion depiction as SR3 is definitely not the best at this, but it hides this with unsubtle exaggerated design.

The game itself was just a pleasure to play, and replay in single player as well as co-op. The winning factor is its sense of fun. I frequently found myself laughing or staring agog at the screen with incredulity.

I picked up the game not that long after release cheaply including a “season pass” to DLC, and the DLC has been a mixed bag of “costumes”, vehicles, weapons, and missions. The missions vary from being small little diversions, to fairly large chunks of standalone fun. I’ve seen the game only (no DLC) this week for sale online for £7 for the PC version (reviewed) which I bought as well so that my niece(teen) and I could replay it for this review.

Posing, casually, but awesomely.

If you can laugh at toilet humour, comedy sex, innuendo and tolerate people being shot (a lot) then I think you’ll enjoy this game very much.  The game has lots of little nods to films, other games, and even ye olde retro text adventures at one point.

Special mention for the soundtrack, that whilst featuring the usual assortment of in-car radio stations (though not as full of character as GTA’s) also has some real standout work, including a song sung by the lead characters, a Michael Bay-esque orchestral score for a scene involving… Well, the shooting of a movie… and a totally left field (but oh so wonderfully appropriate) turn of music for the very unusual finale!

Finally, merely listing the keywords associated with the game should provide you some idea of its bizarre nature:

Guns, shooting, gimps, pimps, zombies, Burt Reynolds, sky-diving, toilet,  gangstas and spaceships.

~K8bit

Gangstas…. in SPAAAAACE!


Closure

There’s a neurological phenomenon that we’re all familiar with, in one way or another. Artists use it to double the effectiveness of their pieces through ‘negative space’; puzzle books use it to make our eyes water; neurologists use it to study the brain. It’s called “closure”, and it lends its name to this surprisingly difficult indie game from Eyebrow Interactive.

“Closure” is what happens when your visual cortex sees an arrangement of shapes, shadows, or lines that should (when complete) delineate a single object — and fills in the gaps. Here’s a familiar example for you:

Try to not see the white equilateral triangle in the middle. Hard, right? Well, it’s almost impossible unless you have an atypical brain, so don’t worry. What’s happening is that evolutionarily speaking, your brain is adapted to interpret patterns of light and shadow in a way best suited to spotting predators, prey, obstacles, etc.

The creators of Closure have designed a game specifically to mess with your visual cortex: in this game universe, any object that is not lit doesn’t exist (apart from the character you play, light sources, and some crates). You’d think it wouldn’t be much different from games that force you to stay in the light. Nah. Think about it: you can make holes in the floor by redirecting lamps. You can ride a lift up the centre of a stone column if you have a moving spotlight.

In sum: so cool. And you have to retrain your brain, otherwise you’ll spend hours falling through the floor and getting stuck in isolated bubbles of water.

You can buy Closure on the Playstation Network. Find gameplay trailer and images from the game on the official website, here.

~ Alice M.


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


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


FFXIII-2 at E3

Final Fantasy continues it’s assault on the world “final” with more information emerging about FFXIII-2. E3 has given us an extra taste of the new game.

The story is going to be following a new character known as Noel (who looks very similar to FFXIII’s Fang – coincidence?). He’s dressed quite unpractically so should fit in well with the FF oeuvre. Noel and Serah (who spent most of the previous game as a crystal) are tasked with taking down a colossal titan called Atlas. The story seems the typical mixture of earnestness and fighting large monsters. I admit that it’s the fighting part that I’m most interested in!

I’m happy to see the paradigm shift combat system is still in place. It was one of the best new features of FFXIII; a battle system based on roles rather than actions that allowed a surprising amount of strategy formation. Now we have the addition of Cinematic Actions. This basically seems like the “press X now!” instructions seen in games like Kingdom Hearts 2. I hope the game will make you work in order to activate this mechanic rather than just gifting it to you after a certain amount of damage or time.

In addition to Cinematic Actions there is another new mechanic called Feral Link. When you beat monsters they may sometimes drop all crystal which will allow you to add that monster to your party. Which monster fights with you depends on which paradigm you shift into during fights. This should create tons of new strategy options during battle and I can’t think of another Final Fantasy game that allowed you to fight alongside monsters. It seems like a really fun addition.

In other good news, it appears that the game will not be as linear in nature as it’s predecessor. I don’t expect it to be fully removed from FFXIII’s horrible corridor system but it will be nice to have more than once choice on which corridor to take!

All in all, FFXIII-2 seems to be offering tons of monsters, lots of grinding and battles with enemies larger than air ships. If this is your sort of thing or you enjoyed the previous game then FFXIII-2 is shaping up to provide a first class gaming experience. I just wouldn’t expect anything ground breaking to be found here.

JenJenRobot


PSN-Gate

By now everyone who games is aware of the problem with the Playstation Network over the last week. There have been countless stories on all over the major and minor gaming news websites. With all of this attention there has been mass speculation on what has happened that caused Sony to take the PSN and Qriocity networks down.

The most popular reasons that have been batted around are a DDOS attack and an attack on the developer network. Both involving actual hacking attacks that garnered the attackers details of the members.

So whatever the reason behind the attack, it was still an attack. Even if there was negligence on the part of Sony with regards to their network, it was an attack. Okay sure, Sony should have had things locked down harder maybe.

We can be happy knowing that the credit card data was encrypted and they’ve always said that the security codes had not been taken. So even if they were negligent; they had been vigilant in keeping that secure. Although Sony have never said that credit card details were taken, but warned members just in case.

Through all of this over the last week, I have read many many articles on the outage and attack. The article contents were essentially repeating the same information over and over. It was the comments that actually angered me.

One theme that seemed the keep repeating what not only the blame being out on Sony, but that they brought it on themselves by going after GeoHot for the PS3 hack.

Now, I personally believe they did exactly the right thing be pursuing GeoHot for the hack, but I do know people disagree with it. To say that Sony should have seen this coming for pissing of “the hackers” is a load of bullshit. Seriously, they should have not done what they believed for fear of attack from what is essentially a ghost? No, that’s not right.

This is speculation at its worst. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Anonymous denied having made the attack. This type of speculation is just arrogant and probably from wannabes and script kiddies.

Something I think is easily being forgotten is that this was an attack. Even if Sony was negligent with their developer network security, they didn’t ask for this. No company wants to be attacked and they don’t ask for it. Sony did the right thing as far as I’m concerned. As soon as they knew they were being attacked they took it all down immediately. They have kept it down until they could securely bring it back up. Sure their communication probably could’ve been better, but I think they did the right thing with the networks themselves.

Out of all of this, we can at least hope that the networks are more secure and more resilient than they were previously.

~Donna


Playstation Network News Update

Got some news from from Sony regarding the PSN network and the compensation. I have more to say, but that’ll be another post. Click the link to read the news.

From the PSN Blog.


SOME PLAYSTATION NETWORK AND QRIOCITY SERVICES TO BE AVAILABLE THIS WEEK

Phased Global Rollout of Services to Begin Regionally; System Security Enhanced to Provide Greater Protection of Personal Information.

Tokyo, May 1, 2011 – Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) and Sony Network Entertainment International (SNEI, the company) announced they will shortly begin a phased restoration by region of PlayStation®Network and Qriocity™ services, beginning with gaming, music and video services to be turned on. The company also announced both a series of immediate steps to enhance security across the network and a new customer appreciation program to thank its customers for their patience and loyalty.

Following a criminal cyber-attack on the company’s data-center located in San Diego, California, U.S.A., SNEI quickly turned off the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services, engaged multiple expert information security firms over the course of several days and conducted an extensive audit of the system. Since then, the company has implemented a variety of new security measures to provide greater protection of personal information. SNEI and its third-party experts have conducted extensive tests to verify the security strength of the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services. With these measures in place, SCE and SNEI plan to start a phased rollout by region of the services shortly. The initial phase of the rollout will include, but is not limited to, the following:

• Restoration of Online game-play across the PlayStation®3 (PS3) and PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) systems
• This includes titles requiring online verification and downloaded games
• Access to Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity for PS3/PSP for existing subscribers
• Access to account management and password reset
• Access to download un-expired Movie Rentals on PS3, PSP and MediaGo
• PlayStation®Home
• Friends List
• Chat Functionality

Working closely with several outside security firms, the company has implemented significant security measures to further detect unauthorized activity and provide consumers with greater protection of their personal information. The company is also creating the position of Chief Information Security Officer, directly reporting to Shinji Hasejima, Chief Information Officer of Sony Corporation, to add a new position of expertise in and accountability for customer data protection and supplement existing information security personnel. The new security measures implemented include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Added automated software monitoring and configuration management to help defend against new attacks
• Enhanced levels of data protection and encryption
• Enhanced ability to detect software intrusions within the network, unauthorized access and unusual activity patterns
• Implementation of additional firewalls

The company also expedited an already planned move of the system to a new data center in a different location that has been under construction and development for several months. In addition, PS3 will have a forced system software update that will require all registered PlayStation Network users to change their account passwords before being able to sign into the service. As an added layer of security, that password can only be changed on the same PS3 in which that account was activated, or through validated email confirmation, a critical step to help further protect customer data.

The company is conducting a thorough and on-going investigation and working with law enforcement to track down and prosecute those responsible for the illegal intrusion.

“This criminal act against our network had a significant impact not only on our consumers, but our entire industry. These illegal attacks obviously highlight the widespread problem with cyber-security. We take the security of our consumers’ information very seriously and are committed to helping our consumers protect their personal data. In addition, the organization has worked around the clock to bring these services back online, and are doing so only after we had verified increased levels of security across our networks,” said Kazuo Hirai, Executive Deputy President, Sony Corporation. “Our global audience of PlayStation Network and Qriocity consumers was disrupted. We have learned lessons along the way about the valued relationship with our consumers, and to that end, we will be launching a customer appreciation program for registered consumers as a way of expressing our gratitude for their loyalty during this network downtime, as we work even harder to restore and regain their trust in us and our services.”

Complimentary Offering and “Welcome Back” Appreciation Program

While there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, the company is committed to helping its customers protect their personal data and will provide a complimentary offering to assist users in enrolling in identity theft protection services and/or similar programs. The implementation will be at a local level and further details will be made available shortly in each region.

The company will also rollout the PlayStation Network and Qriocity “Welcome Back” program, to be offered worldwide, which will be tailored to specific markets to provide our consumers with a selection of service options and premium content as an expression of the company’s appreciation for their patience, support and continued loyalty.

• Each territory will be offering selected PlayStation entertainment content for free download. Specific details of this content will be announced in each region soon.
• All existing PlayStation Network customers will be provided with 30 days free membership in the PlayStation Plus premium service. Current members of PlayStation Plus will receive 30 days free service.
• Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity subscribers (in countries where the service is available) will receive 30 days free service.

Additional “Welcome Back” entertainment and service offerings will be rolled out over the coming weeks as the company returns the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services to the quality standard users have grown to enjoy and strive to exceed those exceptions.

SNEI will continue to reinforce and verify security for transactions before resuming the PlayStation®Store and other Qriocity operations, scheduled for this month.

For more information about the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services intrusion and restoration, please visit http://blog.us.playstation.com or http://blog.eu.playstation.com/


Waiting for L.A. Noire

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…

~Donna

(BTW Thanks IGN for having the best videos on YouTube)


Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood

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.

~Donna


Vanquish

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.


It’ll Wait Until November

I just might have missed something important in that last post. Okay I missed something VERY important in that last post.

Out this month is a very important game. One that many of us old gamers will be unsure of but have been waiting a very long time for. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.  This is a franchise that has been going successfully since 1986, but has never been full on 3D environment. Not the set piece 3D of the PS1 & 2 days, but a full on 3 dimensional world that has depth that isn’t just a backdrop. (Think  DMC as an example of set piece 3D)

That’s 24 years of side scrolling platform goodness. I feel the need to point out that the franchise has always been rather successful. Maybe not always here and in the US, but certainly in Japan.  So now we finally see the world for what it is with all the amazing graphics that the current consoles can give. I’ve played the demo and my oh my am I in love. I have played a large portion of the games and I am a long time fan of the franchise. It’s an action game, but it’s definitely a platform game. After all, you don’t spend 24 years as a platform and forget to be a platform. I’m really excited about the release.This is a momentous occasion.

Alas…

It’s out on the 8th of October. The same day Enslaved is out. As much as I really don’t want to wait, it’ll have to wait until November and the next paycheck.


Final Fantasy XIII

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.


My (not so)Gaming Update

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.


Back from Vacation (and getting busy!)

This past week I was out, so my regular updates naturally ceased for a short while, as did my gaming. Now that I’m back, I have a lot to look forward to! Right before I left, my boyfriend lent me Prince of Persia: Sands of Time for the PS2.

I’ve actually never played any of the Prince games, but I’ve always heard very good things about them. Someone gifted me Prince of Persia: Warrior Within a few years ago as well, but I realized it wasn’t the first game and have thus never played it. Another thing is I watched a friend of mine play through maybe 20% of the most recent Prince game (somewhere in the middle chunk of the game overall) on his laptop, so I had some familiarity with Prince by the time the movie, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time came out a few weeks ago. I recognized the references the movie made to the games, but realized it came a little short. My boyfriend also filled me in on a few storyline points that the movie changed, all the usual stuff.

I played through just the first stage or two (I call them stages, between the save points. You can call it whatever you like.) before going away on my trip. The visuals still hold up very well, I really like all the controls, and the sound track is amazing. Granted, the music in the actual game itself does not sound that good; it’s actually quite choppy and just too compressed. Listening to it from the soundtrack, though, is very pleasant. I really enjoy puzzle games, so I’ve been having a blast with this one!

And when I got home, it was my birthday.

1/2 bday gift

Isn't this cuuuute ❤

Guess what my wonderful boyfriend gave me? Batman! Game of the Year version Batman AA. I’m thrilled, because I’ve been wanting to play that game for a long time and never really found a good copy at a good used price in the local shops, so I just never bought it. Elsewise, I decided to wait on that game since I’ve been playing other things. Once I’m done with the first Prince of Persia game, I’ll tackle Batman before I move on, I think. He’s my favorite superhero. I actually got 2 awesome gifts from him. Besides Batman, he found this great Green Lantern tumbler and decorated it for me.I know it’s naught to do with gaming, but I still would like to share!

Note that it’s all studded up around the logo and whatnot. The stars that are viewable are actually in the back around the word “WILL”. The bottom has my name sticker’d on. In my next post, I will show everyone what I do to super hero t-shirts and why my friends call me Fabulous Batman.  =)


Sackboy!!!

There really was no way I was going to resist this when our own PuffyTail posted a link to it on Twitter. Yes I paid way too much for shipping from the US to the UK, but it did get here in 4 days and that includes the weekend. I’ve been waiting for this little guy forever and finally he’s here and all mine.

I really don’t have much to share. I just wanted to share my joy at getting him today. You can buy one of your own here.


Super Street Fighter IV Review: Let me see those combo’s!

When Street Fighter IV was released last year it brought a breath of fresh air to the Beat ‘Em Up genre. Suddenly, more people around me seemed to be playing Street Fighter than any other game! I admit that I had not touched the franchise since around 1993 when I was playing Street Fighter II with my brothers but I had a lot of very fond memories. The great thing about SFIV was that it didn’t tarnish any of those memories but built upon them. SFIV was nostalgic yet modern and most of all it was a hell of a lot of fun. So, it came as a bit of a surprise when Capcom announced a sequel within less than a year of it being released. There has been some not entirely unjustified moaning and complaining about the short shelf-life of SFIV but the majority of us have gone out and bought SSFIV anyway. So, is it worth it’s £30 ($40) price tag?

Everyone knows that the bonus stages are back and you can now smash barrels and cars to your hearts content. But the first thing that makes SSFIV worth buying is evidently the 10 new characters. Best of all there is no waiting to play them. Unlocking characters has always been a tedious task that any player is likely to do by setting the game on “easiest” and button-mashing your way through. I am thankful that Capcom have seen sense and done away with this. And the new characters are excellent. If you prefer playing quarter-circle characters to charge characters you will be spoiled for choice here! Juri, Ibuki and Guy were particularly easy characters to get to grips with for me. However, I felt it was Hakan that really stole the show. The oily grabber is a little bit like Zangief doing the most damage when he is close up but he also has some ranged attacks that can be timed to perfection. All the characters have been give a new ultra move so you now have 2 to chose from before you go into battle. This really mixes up the game providing new opportunities and strategies of play. Of course all characters have been balanced a little bit. Sagat isn’t quite as ferocious as he was previously and the timing on some of Honda’s moves is a little bit easier to grasp. A lot of this won’t be noticeable to the more casual player but I am sure the more deadly serious players will be either arguing about or praising the changes.

The second thing that makes SSFIV worth buying is the new online modes. There are still the Ranked matches in which you gain points and compete directly with just about everyone else who owns the game but a more relaxed time can be had in the new Team Battles. The team battles can have between 4 to 8 players split into 2 groups. The fights result in direct elimination with the winner going on to the next round until one team has been defeated. The best thing about this is that you can watch the matches even when you are not playing yourself! You can also talk with the rest of your team whilst you watch the matches. It is literally the closest thing you will have to playing in an arcade. It also means that you can get all your friends together online and play if you can’t gather in person. This social aspect to fighting games has often been neglected on consoles and Capcom deserves a pat on the back for implementing a system that manages to somewhat replicate it. It will never take over the actual excitement and fun of playing with people in the same room as you but it comes pretty close. As long as the dreaded lag doesn’t get you.

SSFIV feels a bit like the game SFIV was meant to be. It is a shame that we couldn’t have had this the first time around but perhaps Capcom needed the fan feedback in order to create a better game. Also, there are so many new aspects to SSFIV it certainly couldn’t have been released as DLC. SSFIV is a game that evidently has a long shelf life and I hope Capcom will be supporting it for a few years to come.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Honda and I will be taking sumo on a world wide tour and you’ve got front row seats!