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]
“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.
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.
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 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?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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.