Posts tagged “Xbox 360

On the Eve of War – Destiny Taken King

Here we sit on the eve of The Taken King finally landing on our consoles and I find myself very excited. I have taken Wednesday and Thursday off work even. I’ve spent the weekend working on the new subclass quests for my Warlock with my clan. We also had a bit of a go on the new Crucible mode called Mayhem. For those who may not know, Mayhem is a new mode where your super and grenades recharge very fast. I only ever play Crucible with my clan, because they make it fun, and Mayhem was fucking awesome. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun in The Crucible. Supers and grenades going off everywhere; bodies flying all over the place. It was great. I must thank my awesome clan, the Guardians of Sarcasm, for making Crucible fun. I never would’ve gone in there without them. Thanks guys.

 

Bungie did a series of live reveal streams on Twitch as well that allowed us to see some of the strikes and public events. They have done some serious tweaking to the Strikes that looks great. Bosses that tag team and then double team you. The new public events look really interesting. They’ve added in a some variables that should keep the events fresh and fun. I can’t wait to play then with the guys. So here you are, below are the videos from the Bungie live streams.

Enjoy and I’ll see you on the other side of the release.


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


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!


A Heavenly Feast for the Eyes

With all the AAA games being released at this time of year it can be easy to miss the smaller titles. It’s a shame because it can mean that more inventive or eclectic titles don’t get the attention they deserve. I think this is probably going to be the fate of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron so I’m glad I got the chance to play it before I become distracted by Batman: Arkham City and Battlefield 3.

El Shaddai is inspired by the apocryphal Book of Enoch. Enoch is the great-grandfather of Noah and the book describes the story of the Watchers. The Watchers are fallen angels who created children with mortals; the Nephilim. The plot of the game is very simple. Enoch must defeat seven fallen angels and the Nephilim in the Tower of Babel in order to prevent God from issuing a great flood to destroy mankind. The Nephilim are odd yet cute looking creatures who have the unfortunate habit of eating one another until they become flaming giants. It’s difficult to follow what is happening at times. It doesn’t matter very much though. The truly stand out feature of this game is how it looks.

You can’t talk about El Shaddai without talking about the visuals. The environments of each level are astoundingly diverse. Each level in the Tower of Babel looks like it was pulled from a different game and all of them are beautiful. You will find yourself in realms that look like they were made from fireworks, levels that bleed cutting-edge future tech, places that feel like you’ve been transported into a candy-striped Super Mario World and worlds that are ethereally breathtaking. Seriously. Take a look.



The fallen angels that inhabit the Tower can create any worlds they want and each level is a reflection of them. Imagination runs rife through this game and the visuals are important. You won’t find a Heads-Up Display on your screen to tell you how much energy you have left or how close you are to gaining an Overboost attack – these things are also represented visually by how much armour you have on or how…on fire you seem to be. Every so often you’ll run into Lucifel (basically Satan before he stopped being on speaking terms with God) who is chatting away about how you are doing on his mobile phone to God. He acts as your save point and narrator. At one point he even cheekily tells you how long it’s going to take you to complete the game…if you’re good enough, that is!

The gameplay is split into two parts. You have your platforming segments and your combat segments. The platforming is a lot of fun. It feels like a throwback to games of 15 years ago and is varied and tricky enough to be enjoyable. Sometimes, however, the heady visuals of the game can impair how well you judge distances and you will find yourself leaping into thin air when you were sure you were going to land on solid ground. This can be annoying but most of the platforming sequences are well designed.

The combat is based on a rock, paper, scissors mechanic. You have three weapons – the arch (offensive melee), the gale (distance projectiles) and the veil (defensive shield) and will need to switch between them in order to defeat the enemies who will be weak to a specific weapon. However, you can only carry one weapon at a time. To switch you must steal your opponents’ weapons! You also need to keep an eye on your weapon’s “purity” because if the weapon becomes corrupted the damage of your attacks will drop to nothing. Despite Enoch’s attacks being basically mapped to only one button do not think that you can get through the combat simply by bashing. You will need to learn to delay, to combo, to counterattack and defend in order to exploit your enemies tactics. I hard won battle can feel extremely satisfying.

Unfortunately there is not much change in the enemies. You will meet the same ones through-out the game – in later levels there is normally just more of them. The boss battles are mainly a matter of observing the pattern and figuring out when to hit them and with what. The battles aren’t easy but it feels like there is a lack of imagination in the combat. This is a shame since it feels like the rest of the game is over-abundant in it. It doesn’t stop them from being fun but it does make the game feel somewhat lacking.

I would still highly recommend renting or picking up this game if you have the time (it’s only £17.95 at Zavvi right now). It’s a bit of an odd and disjointed experience (there is one particular boss battle I will never get out of my head!) but it will be an experience unlike anything else you’ve played this year. It’s not perfect but it is unique. And that’s worth a lot.

JenJenRobot


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


Fez – more than just a fancy hat

Xbox Live Arcade often has some fantastic indie games published on it, some of them showing more imagination and innovative gameplay than you can find in mainstream releases. Whilst that isn’t always the case, it’s good to keep an eye on Arcade to see what gaming gems may appear. As it turns out, it looks like we might get one later this year.

If you haven’t already, meet Fez:

Pretty to look at, no? And also pretty clever. 2D platform gaming taking place in a 3D world. By shifting the perspective you can rearrange the world, putting new platforms within reach and opening new paths. An idea that is so simple you wonder why no-one ever thought of it before and will probably put indie platform developer Polyton on the map as the M.C.Escher of video game design.

Fez has been in development for nearly 4 years now but it looks like all the hard work has created something sublime. I can’t wait to play!

JenJenRobot


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


I Don’t Want To Be The Controller

It’s been 6 months. As of last month over 10 million units sold. So there are at least 10 million people out there “being the controller”. That’s 10 million people doing spastic little jigs around their livingrooms. I mean the Microsoft XBox Kinect.

By all accounts the Kinect has been a huge success. The commercials are everywhere and judging by the sales the Kinect is too. And only 6 months after release people seem to still be interested in it. Games are still coming out for it.

What if I don’t want to be the controller though? What if I want to sit down on the couch and run across some roof tops with nothing more than the movement of my thumbs? Do I really need to insert myself into the game with more than my imagination?

Now don’t get me wrong; I think the advance in technology is awesome. When the videos of “Natal” first showed up we were all in awe of it. The idea of interacting directly with the games we’re playing sounded like a great concept. The games that have come out of the Kinect system really just feels like an extension of what Nintendo started with the Wii. Exercise and party games seem to be the primary focus.

Now I do own a Wii. I got it on release day. I love it, but I was rather happy when I realised that I could sit down and play the games with only the minimal amount of exertion on my part. The idea of moving around to interact with a game was a nice novelty but it wore thin fast. When it became clear that more mature games just weren’t on the cards I lost a lot of my interest.

Now I know that Microsoft is expanding outside of the exercise and party game market, but on the majority this seems to be the games they’re pushing. Sure I could always play these games with my husband, but neither of us really has any interest in them. What happened to the demo game we were shown in that Project Natal video? What happened to talking to the character in the game? Now that is something I’d like to do.

Can you imagine what could be done if the conversation ability we were shown was mixed with a standard controller? Some of us have no interest in doing that little spastic jig in our livingroom, but would really like to use this new technology. The thought of playing something like Prince of Persia or Assassin’s Creed without a controller in my hands makes me shudder. What I would like is to talk to other characters in the game. Can you imagine just how much more awesome Dragon Age could be if you could actually speak to the other characters?

Now this dislike of the idea of “being the controller” isn’t derived of anything so mundane as being fat and out of shape, cause I’m not. Really I just don’t want to interact with my games in that way. I have no urge to do a little jig in my livingroom.

And just for the record, I’m not terribly enamoured with the Playstation Move for much of the same reasons.

~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.


Red Ring of Death

So, the Xbox 360 died a death. Red Ring of Death after 5 long years of service. I know, I must have the oldest Xbox 360 ever.  Electronics lasting 5 years isn’t unheard of if it’s quality tech. Xbox 360s though are lucky if they last a year. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. Both my PS1 and PS2 still work and the PS1 flew several thousand miles with me when I moved.

Now I’ve always said that if my 360 got an RRoD I’d just get rid of it and that would be that. I would have done just that too if it hadn’t chosen to do it in the middle of playing Fable 3. Oh yes of course, it chose to die while I was just over half way through the game. Not before I’d gotten the game or after I’d finished it, but smack fucking in the middle. This of course meant I couldn’t just say to hell with MS and the Xbox 360. Nope, needed a replacement. Somehow.

So we have 3 options. Pay the £70 to send it in and have them “repair” it. This option is otherwise known as them sending me a refurb of someone else’s RRoD machine that will RRoD on me again at some point in the future. The second option is for us to find the cash and buy a new one that not only has a bigger hard drive, but it’s also black. This option costs £200.

Of course the third option comes down to how much effort I really want to put into all of this. My final option is that I could call up their Customer Service department, yell at them and get all obnoxious American on their asses and get them to “repair” it for nothing. Yell loud enough and long enough and you’d be amazed what can happen just so that you’ll go away.

You can guess which option we went for; yes, we got a new one.

This actually brings me to the whole reason I’m here writing this. I have done the one thing that I really really hate having to do, I bought another Xbox when mine failed.

Microsoft boast massive numbers of units sold, but just how many of those unit sales are actually from people buying multiple consoles due to getting an RRoD? I know several people who have bought 2-3 Xbox 360s because they’d gotten an RRoD. The numbers are inflated by these multiple sales.

These newer ones are supposed to be less prone to getting the RRoD, but by now shouldn’t Microsoft have this issue fixed? Shouldn’t such a major fault not be allowed out in the public domain? Obviously not, but it has survived and flourished and people keep buying them

Guess I’ve no room to talk now. I still resent having to do it when I shouldn’t have had to. Sure I could’ve just paid the £70 to have it fixed. Yea it was out of warranty, but why should I be paying for something that is a known fault in the hardware and wasn’t caused by any inappropriate use of the machine? Any other company would have been forced to recall, but somehow Microsoft has managed to keep selling and selling and selling.


Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Late October and early November has seen the release of far too many games I want to play. Alas, with only so much money to spend and time to play I had to be selective. So Fable III and Vanquish will have to wait while I play through Fallout New Vegas and Enslaved.

I finished playing Enslaved last week. It was pretty short. Took me about 6-8 hours to complete. The gameplay was fairly standard and didn’t include any mechanics I haven’t seen before. But still, it enchanted me and I would recommend picking it up.

I’m not someone who is usually captured by graphics – a nice looking game is appreciated but if the gameplay isn’t there then does it matter? But Enslaved’s vivid and verdant post-apocalyptic environment really is beautiful. It also made a welcome change to the grays of Fallout’s wasteland! The world of Enslaved is one that has become over-grown with plant life in the decades following a war with robots. Humans are sparse but these robots are plentiful. And homicidal. You play as Monkey, a gruff and athletic protaganist who is “enslaved” by a woman called Trip. She wants you to help her get home and the story unfolds from there. And the story is where this game really shines!

The story is very loosely based on the Chinese novel Journey to the West and was co-written by Alex Garland. Gameplay is a mix of platforming, combat and a little bit of puzzle-solving – certainly fun but not revolutionary and not the games main selling point. It’s the games atmosphere, environment and slowly developing story that draws you in. The characters are well written and animated. It is difficult to not to start feeling empathy for them. Some scenes are genuinely touching. Soon you find yourself actually looking forward to the next cut scene! Many things are left unsaid by the end of the game which leaves you with a sense of wanting more. It also leaves the player with the ability to draw their own ideas and conclusions about Enslaved’s world instead of being spoon-fed every bit f information possible from an over-zealous writer.

I would welcome a sequel to this game. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been selling very well. Some people have complained that it is too short or too easy. Well, not every gamer has time to sit down for 50-70 hours to complete a game but they still want an experience bit deeper than jumping on Call of Duty on Xbox Live. I think Enslaved could provide that. Perhaps the marketing effort spent too much time focusing on hardcore gamers who had their eye on titles like Fallout and Fable. Maybe with a lower price or digital distribution it could have done better. It’s a shame because I really do think this game can fill a niche and I think people are missing out on one of the best stories in video games this year if they dismiss it out of hand.


It’s Your Funeral

It’s been a few months since the last DLC was released for Left 4 Dead but last week Valve gave us a new and kinda maudlin campaign; The Sacrifice.

You can download the expansion for either Left 4 Dead or Left 4 Dead 2. The Sacrifice covers the events of the last DLC The Passing but from the point of the original 4 survivors from the first game. Along-side this mini-campaign the DLC also adds the No Mercy campaign to Left 4 Dead 2. For this reason, The Sacrifice is obviously a better deal for owners of the sequel rather than the original game unless you’re playing on Steam in which case the DLC is free anyway (you lucky buggers!).

The Sacrifice campaign adds some nice new maps that provide multiple paths and some great crescendo moments. The one that really stood out was the point where you have to release a Tank that has been trapped in a train car in order to reach your destination. There is no running away from this one. It will certainly shake up versus mode and expert setting as it will test how well a team cooperates. One wrong move and one or all of you could be dead. There is also the interesting addition of exploding barrels that can be helpful at choke points. But The Sacrifice is really all about the moment right at the end where a member of your team has to die in order for the rest to escape. This is the moment that Valve has been building up to since the release of The Passing and even promoted with a comic. Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to expectations. The moment of sacrifice is under-whelming. It does not ask much of the player and is devoid of emotion. It’s a shame since you leave the game feeling not exhilarated but cheated. In online versus play I have seen teams vote to return to the lobby rather than play the sacrificial map.

The No Mercy campaign, despite already being familiar to most players of Left 4 Dead 2, is a very welcome addition. The new special infected and the addition of melee weapons really shake up the versus gameplay. The point where you have to wait for a lift whilst been attacked by hordes of zombies becomes much more difficult than in the first game as special infected like the Spitter or Jockey can force the survivors to move out from safe spaces. This change in the dynamic of a familiar map makes a nice change of pace.

If you’re a Steam player then it’s a no-brainer; you should download these new maps. If you’re playing on Xbox, well, it depends on if you’re playing Left 4 Dead 1 or 2. Unless you’re playing the sequel I’d keep hold of your cash and put it towards to buying yourself a copy of 2.


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.


Limbo – an evil little world

This week Microsoft kicked off its Summer of Arcade promotion with the release of of Limbo, a game created by indie developer Playdead. It’s been getting a lot of attention due its art style and focus on puzzle solving.

You start the game as a boy and wake up in a grey, shadowy world. The game gives you no clue as to what the controls are or what you are supposed to do. Like the young boy on screen you are left on your own to figure out what to do in a particularly hostile and foreboding environment. Moving about and interacting with objects is easy figure out. It’s the puzzles and the hidden dangers that get you.

When playing this game be prepared to die a lot. Sometimes dying is completely unavoidable and gives you clues on how to avoid it next time. It doesn’t stop it being any less nasty though. Whether you are being chased by monsterous spiders, trying to avoid bear traps or running from silent children who really seem to want you dead the game keeps you on edge and uses its nasty atmosphere to give you a little push to solve the puzzle faster. There is an achievement for completing the game with less than 5 deaths – I imagine that only the most dedicated gamers will manage it!

The game is fair and autosaves often so you never lose too much progress but some of the puzzles can be very tricky to figure out. Solving them can rely on many different factors; speed, interaction of objects, your own momentum, lateral thinking…and you won’t run across the same puzzle twice. The game constantly throws new and ever-more-challening puzzles in your path. Eventually the puzzles start becoming much more complex and difficult. Despite the difficulty they are also well-designed and once you understand the solution you’ll wonder why you didn’t see it in the first place. It also feels quite rewarding when you figure out something that has had you stumped for a few minutes.

Along with the gloomy, eerie visuals is a quiet and creepy soundtrack. The music in Limbo is very limited. Mostly you can hear the breeze and far off noises but when danger approaches the soundtrack gets more aggressive along with it. It’s enough to make you jump at times. Especially when it comes along with the visuals of a gigantic spider creeping it’s way towards you.

Limbo is full of character, atmosphere and provides an intense gameplay experience. I can’t think of any other game to compare it too.

Limbo costs 1200 Microsoft Points.


Let’s talk about Red Dead Redemption

I’ve been sinking quite a few of my gaming hours into Red Dead Redemption on the 360 the past few weeks. On the whole I have been enjoying myself immensely whether it be shooting bandits, hunting rattlesnakes or breaking horses. I even began to enjoy the gambling once I figured out that the AI had a “tell” in Liar’s Dice that allows me to win 99% of the time. In fact, if you asked me if you should buy the game I would say yes because it is damn good fun if you enjoy open-world, sandbox type games. However, this review isn’t gonna be about how great the game is. You can read one of those reviews quite easily. They’re everywhere. This review is about the things that are bad about RDR because very few people are talking about them.

There are few differences between RDR and GTA – the mission structures, character types and game mechanics are extremely similar. It doesn’t introduce anything new or original to video games and sometimes heavily relies on stereotypes and predictable plot to drive the narrative forward. The environment is the major distinction. To be fair, the praise heaped upon Rockstar for the landscape is well deserved. It is diverse, packed with wildlife and has some extremely beautiful moments around sunrise and sunset. It is not a chore to ride your horse through it on the way to missions but actually rather pleasant. The music also resonates beautifully with the landscape creating an emotional resonance. Unfortunately, RDR fails to create the same level of emotional resonance in any of it’s characters.

The main character, John Marston, is presented to the player as a gruff and tough man who is attempting to leave his former life as a criminal behind him and be a good father and husband. He is surly, quick to anger and has little qualm in gunning down those who stand in his way. He is also presented as a stand-up, honest sort of guy who won’t cheat on his wife or kill without reason. Regardless, the game will let you gun down whomever you please for whatever reason. You will inevitably end up with a bounty on your head and NPC’s will stay clear of you but it doesn’t change John Marston’s plot. In the cut scenes he still talks like an honorable sort of dude. This can be quite jarring if you’ve just robbed a bank and shot a man off a horse just because you could.

Another problem with John’s character is the fact it grates against a lot of the missions. Most of the core game missions are started by talking to particular NPC’s. Some of these characters are largely comic relief stereotypes which are fun and show off Rockstar’s sharp wit but absolutely clash with Marston. They are constantly making life difficult for Marston and sending him off on wild goose chases whilst promising to help. And Marston just takes it. He may threaten them and do a lot of talking about how annoyed he is but he never actually follows through with any intimidation and he always, always does what they say even if they have betrayed him previously. Of course, Marston HAS to do these things because this is how the plot and the game advances but it doesn’t make any sense in context of his character. Personally, I feel this is a large oversight by Rockstar. I don’t mind not having choice about taking on a mission or not because Marston is not my avatar like in a game such as Fallout 3 – he is a well-rounded character with a specific story that is meant to unfold as I play the game. Fair enough. But the fact is that the story does not always gel with Marston’s character. This inconsistency can throw you out of the story and doesn’t help you to form an emotional attachment with Marston. He’s a character that is always ready to help the law take out some bandits but the next minute will take on a mission to burn down a village or two. He acts like he has no time for drunks or swindlers but will pretty much do anything they ask. If Marston himself doesn’t seem to know what he cares about, why should I care about him?

I know this all sounds like a lot of complaining. Despite the fact that RDR has little in the way of originality and a flawed story it really is fantastically atmospheric and plays very, very well. I cannot say that I am not having fun. Also, bear in mind that I have not finished the game yet so do not know where the story will end up. However, the narrative is flawed in many ways and claims that this will be the game that will change popular opinion of games as an art form are definitely hyperbole. But that’s okay. After all, it’s still entertaining pretending to be a cowboy.


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!


Left 4 Dead 2 – The Passing Review

The first DLC for Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2 was released last week. Being a big fan of the game I downloaded it on the day. So what do you get for 560 microsoft points? As it turns out, quite a lot! The Passing includes a brand new three-level campaign, a new melee weapon and gun, a new enemy and a new multiplayer mode. Not bad! But the best thing is that these new additions are all hella good.

The Passing campaign brings the original 4 survivors from Left 4 Dead into contact with the Left 4 Dead 2 survivors. One of the original survivors kicks the bucket at some point. It is unclear how this occurs but it is my guess that Valve is being deliberately opaque on this plot point due to the upcoming release of new DLC for Left 4 Dead. The level design is pretty good. It borrows from some of the other campaigns (thunderstorms from Hard Rain, collecting gas cans at the finale from Dead Centre) but also has some nice original moments like making your way through dark sewers and coming across a wedding. It also introduces crates which can contain a multitude of pills or handguns and a new enemy called The Fallen Survivor who can drop first aid packs, molotovs and pipe bombs when killed! My favourite new addition though had to be the M60. It might not have much ammo but it really packs a punch and makes taking down those zombie hoards feel all the more satisfying! Expect to fight with other players for this weapon when playing online.

Alongside the new campaign is the new multiplayer mode called Mutations. Mutations gives different gameplay modes on a weekly basis; the first being “Realism Versus” – this new mode gives a massive advantage to the zombie team and a tense, difficult fight for the survivor team! The zombies can see the survivors but the survivors are in “realism” mode which means no player or pick-up highlights and you have to be much more accurate to do damage to the zombies. I’ve played quite a few games of Realism Versus now and I die an awful lot. But that’s okay because so does everyone else! This might not be fun for everyone but I think for players who enjoy a challenge the extra tension and risk when playing the survivors is very entertaining. Same goes for when playing the zombies – it’s kinda satisfying to take down a survivor and watch the others run around desperately trying to locate their teammate in the darkness!

Realism Versus is not the only gameplay mode that Mutations will offer. It will change on a weekly basis! Valve have already released the names of some of the other Mutations modes: Chainsaws, Four Swords Men, M60s, Ultra Realism and more. I think that this alone makes it worth downloading The Passing – a new way to play every week. Some for fun and some for extra difficulty. Personally, I can’t wait to be running around with all 4 of us chainsawing zombies. I’m also looking forward to seeing what Ultra Realism is all about.

The Passing is very reasonably priced for all that it contains. It also sets the stage quite nicely for the Left 4 Dead DLC that should be coming in the next few months. If you’re a fan of this game I think you would be missing out not to download it.


The Most Fun I’ve Had In A While…

So, a lot of things have been keeping me from games lately; “A lot of things” being dating an absolutely wonderful someone for the past month and a half. Recently, a friend of mine found a nice little deal on Steam for Borderlands. It was marked off 50% to begin with, but there was also a 4-pack priced so each copy of the game came out to about $18.50. I must say, it’s the best $18.50 (or more…) I’ve spent on a game in a long, long time. I’ll give three reasons why I play this game (and you should if you aren’t already):

1. I can play it at my pace (single player) whether I have 20 minutes or 3 hours at a time to entertain myself. I’ve found lately that I can’t play games that take up too much of my time any more. Between working, dating and pursuing a real career on the side I almost always choose to spend my free time out of the house instead of indoors. That being said, I need to play games that I can dedicate very little time to (on a daily basis). No more 5-hour EXP grinds for me.

2. I can play it with my friends online whenever we’re all online (huge bonus…it’s the same reason that sold me on Titan Quest, actually). It’s the same deal with a lot of games I’ve come to enjoy.

3. It’s got one of the most simple UI I’ve seen lately. There is absolutely nothing unnecessary cluttering my screen. I’ll even add a fourth reason hanging off of this one: the little robot is the most hilariously adorable character for a shooting/looting game EVER. Yeah, cute robot. Come on, how could I say no? Oh, and have I mentioned the artwork is totally awesome (hand-drawn technique)? Now that’s 5 reasons.

Total win? Yep…