I know, pretty bold statement right? I almost prefaced it with ‘probably’ but will stick to my guns. There is good reasoning behind it.
When the Playstation 1 came out I played certain games on the console and others on a PC. The console was great for driving games and third person adventure games (such as the pixelated bosom-filled actioner Tomb Raider), while the PC was better for First Person Shooters and Real Time Strategies. It all worked together perfectly. Soon after the PS2 arrived however, I found myself getting increasingly frustrated with PC games that either didn’t work or took hours to install. I have yet to gain the patience that apparently comes with age. I want to play now! This trend just seemed to get worse with the PS3. Consoles were great multimedia gaming devices and my PC was for toil or writing superb website entries.
Recently however, this seems to be changing and it is a change that will be permanent and the end of consoles. In my opinion, these will probably be the last consoles of their type. Something similar may be along to replace them, but as they are now they just can’t keep up with PCs. Why? I hear you ask, you poor ignorant fool. (Unless you’re a tech type and have already stopped reading as you know this already.)
The answer is Moore’s Law. This states that ‘the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles every two years’. Essentially, computers double in speed every two years. This law was written about in 1965 and still holds true, so huge kudos to Mr Moore you clever tyke. Here’s a graph:
As you can see, it’s pretty damn close to the prediction. It should be noted that this rise is exponential. Which means that the speeds will continue to rise at ever quicker rates. This means that when someone makes a console, no matter how quickly they make it, that console’s processor will be a year or two behind what a PC can do. If a console is around for 4 or more years, it will look like an ZX Spectrum compared to a PC by the end. (Possible exaggeration.) This will just get worse.
Unless you can 3D print a new console every 6 months, the gap will become ridiculous. And as a gamer, unacceptable. The new consoles are basically PCs anyway. Couple this with the fact that it is getting so stupidly easy to build your own gaming PC and update it with new cards that even I could do it, and you can see where all this is headed. There are some cool games coming out, which you can see here, but they will look better on a computer. Personally, I see myself writing on an ultrabook and gaming on something like this:
How cool does that look? I’m sure many will disagree with me on this one and feel free to do so. (You are wrong though.) In the future, enjoy your silly moving controllers as you leap around your living room. I will be here:
I just thought I would share this with you. It’s pretty cool. Not brilliant as such but I just like the fact that someone has gone to so much effort to make stuff like this. I should also clarify, before you lose 6 minutes of your life, that this is a fan made film. It isn’t a real movie trailer or anything. Enjoy.
I am currently obsessed with the uber awesome game LA Noir. It really is as groundbreaking as all the reviews have said. I don’t normally write about games until I have finished playing them but I came across a video on twitter that has a real modern day LA cop playing the game and giving his opinion on it. I was worried that I might forget where the video was, so I might as well post about it now.
You play Cole Phelps, a man who has just returned from the war and becomes a policeman in L.A. in 1947. Think L.A. confidential and you pretty much have the look and feel of the game. And that is no bad thing. In fact, the whole game feels like an interactive movie. This is enhanced by the new facial recognition system that really allows actors to act. For the first time, characters in a game don’t look odd. They really look and act like real people. You can actually recognize the actors playing the parts, so it really feels like an interactive detective show. Phelps is played by a guy from Mad Men and at one point you interview a the psychic guy from Heroes. In the clip below with the cop, you interview the secretary from Mad Men. And so on.
This realism makes it possible to interview suspects and from their expressions, you can try and work out if they are lying or not. I’m getting better at it but it’s harder than it sounds. Annoyingly, in the clip with the real LA cop, he gets all the questions right and generally reads the suspects a lot better. I’m either too trusting or too suspicious. I hate moderation!
At first the game feels a bit repetitive but then you start to get promoted, have some shoot outs and a few chases across roof tops and in cars and things just get better and better. It truly is a brilliant game. First up, here’s a trailer:
If you don’t think that looks pretty cool, you have a faulty brain. Next up, if you can spare 10 minutes, you can watch the LA cop play a case. He is better at investigating than I am, but his control of Phelps is a bit wonky. I guess he is busier than I am and hasn’t mastered his PS3 controller. Anyway. Enjoy.
Thanks to www.g4tv.com for the video
This morning I logged into Amazon and checked out my recommendations. At first I was a bit shocked at what kind of twisted artistic deviant they must think I am. Then I realized they had actually got it pretty right. I don’t know what kind of cunning algorithms they have there but it was like looking at a snapshot of my colossal brain. The sort of things that make my mighty brain tick. Here are the top 4:
First up, is an arty French film with a classic arthouse tale. A French chick a hundred years ago has a really shitty life. All she likes to do is make art whenever she has a spare moment. Just to make things shitter, the First World War then breaks out. Eventually an art dealer discovers her and everything comes up trumps. This recommendation is obviously because Amazon recognises a sensitive artistic soul.
Yup. This was number two. Obviously this should be near the top of any red-blooded male zombie fan’s list. Big breasted Oriental chicks with chainsaws in 3D! How could that be bad? Well obviously it could be a pretty crap but with zombies, breasts, and chainsaws, it can’t be awful.
This recommendation was easier to work out as I had read the three books that lead up to this and I love historical fiction. An awesome, epic tale that recounts the lives of Napoleon and Wellington until they finally meet at Waterloo. It’s cool because it is a real story and one of those historical tales that would be a bit far fetched if it was fiction. Huge bloody battles galore!
Mass Effect 2
This was a superb recommendation as it is actually a game I have already played on PC. Epic, brilliant space adventure at it’s best. I fucking love this game so much. The sequel is coming out soon and I will be getting that. This was a recommendation as I clearly enjoy brilliance.
So there you go. If you are a psychic and were lucky enough to meet me and probed my mind, this is pretty much what’s in there. A dash of moving and miserable art, a dollop of chainsaw wielding Asian porn horror, a splodge of historical swashbuckling and violence, and a healthy splattering of space blasters and epic galactic adventure.
It’s just bit scary that Amazon knows this. Get out of my mind!
I finished the single player section of this just over a week ago and have been glued to the multiplayer ever since. In case you have a short attention span and just want to know if you should buy this, then yes. Buy it. There, review done.
Alright not everyone is so impulsive, so I will continue.
Killzone 3 single player
Like all first person shooters these days, the single player takes about 6 hours. After shooting the main guy, Visari, at the end of Killzone 2, you’d be forgiven for thinking that things should be looking up for the ISA forces.
Unfortunately he is now some kind of martyr, and the Helghast are more powerful than ever. A bit like if Hitler had been killed and the Nazis had had a less mental leader. In fact, the Helghast are very clearly modeled on the Nazis, what with being evil and mental but having cool uniforms.
While the forces are now huge there is a lot of infighting among the various Helghast factions which leads to fun scenes of backstabbing and murder.
Meanwhile the plucky ISA forces have been left on the planet in a fight for survival. Fortunately most of them are hard as fuck.
So there’s the story. It is pretty satisfactory and allows for lots of killing and shooting people in the face with cool futuristic guns. There are even some new gadgets like jetpacks with built in machine guns (although these just make you jump further as opposed to flying) and machine gun buggys.
There are some very cool sequences in the game that also serve as training in how to use certain devices and machines for multiplayer.
The first person section, if you care, is uber fun. I played the entire thing through in one sitting. Even though I’m clearly a busy man.
Killzone 3 multi-player
Ahh the multi-player. The maker or breaker of the 1st person genre. I have spent more time on Killzone 3′s multi-player than any other game. I would find it hard to believe that anyone can’t enjoy this. The only people who may disagree are those who love Modern Warfare 2. If you are one of those who thinks MW2 is better then I will be willing to bet you are a general’s rank and play it fairly obsessively. Put that many hours into a game and I understand your loyalty.
Unlike MW2 (which I like a lot and have spent hours on), you can actually do pretty well in Killzone 3′s multi-player from early on. You don’t just act as cannon fodder for hours and hours until you get really good kit and then in turn shoot newbs. The maps are great – some big and some small, and nearly all are multi-leveled. Sometimes three or four stories high which means you have to look everywhere.
There are also gun turrets and huge machines (like those at the end of Avatar) that you can enter and fire missiles from and generally cause chaos. Like all these games there are quite a few things that get unlocked to help make you more of a killing machine as you gain experience. Nowhere near the amount you get in MW2 but I think this is a bonus as you still feel like it is down to your skill as opposed to the fact that you just called in a load of missiles or have a massively superior gun.
There are numerous modes – the standard team deathmatch, and a couple of more objective based modes. One sees you defending or attacking places and you get impressive cut-scenes featuring the best players. The other is one of the greatest things in multi-player – multiple modes and objectives. Basically there are numerous tasks to do and the game alters while you are still in the match. One minute you are capturing something, the next you are assassinating someone, the next you have to blow something up. And so on. It’s bloody awesome fun.
I love this game. I have a few others to play but can’t seem to tear myself away. Killzone 3 is probably one of the prettiest games to look at on the PS3 apart from Uncharted. Except when people speak, which can look a bit odd. The gameplay is varied enough to always be exciting even though the story feels a bit perfunctory.
There are moments that are so spectacular I nudged my wife so she could see the incredible scenes that were unfolding on the screen. Huge wow factor moments. She seemed curiously busy though, which was a shame because some parts of this game are astounding and should be experienced with someone. I cannot recommend Killzone 3 highly enough. It is great fun and hugely varied. Firing a gun at some hapless bastard has rarely been this satisfying. Plus it’s Sci Fi, which is cool.
Here’s the gameplay. I mean, just look at it, it defies superlative.
Do you like movies? Do you consider yourself to be open minded? If yes, watch these trailers I implore you. A new storytelling medium has arrived and only a complete dullard thicko luddite could not view these and grudgingly admit that a new way for telling a ripping tale has arrived. If you dismiss these out of hand because you they are ‘just games’ then you don’t deserve to be on the internet. Go read a parchment and bore people with how cultured you apparently are. (You aren’t, you are pretentious and probably read magazines more than books but keep that a secret.) These will not replace books or films but are an additional and different way of presenting a story and are just as valid.
I saw a trailer for the new Deus Ex game in December and almost had a ‘crisis’. I have only just calmed down. For those of you that don’t like computer games but think that movies are a good way to tell a story then you are missing out. Games have become an incredible new medium for telling a good tale. They often use famous actors, characterisation can be achieved just as effectively, and the narrative can twist as much as any convoluted twisty thriller. If there’s a good director, then the visuals can be just as pant wettingly compelling as any film. Particularly as we now live in an era of powerful new consoles and life affirmingly large high-def TVs. The only difference is that you aren’t a passive sap - you actively have a stake in what is going on which leads to you feeling more involved. Especially when your controller shakes when you get shot in the face.
So get over yourself. The next generation of entertainment and storytelling is here. Watch these three great examples of what can be achieved in a narrative sense and if you don’t they look at least slightly intriguing, then you are dead inside. You might as well watch Eastenders, read the Daily Mail and drink high strength lager while waiting for death. The review for the superb Uncharted 2 is here: http://thewordofward.co.uk/?p=634. The game plays like an interactive Indiana Jones film. With chapters and hot women and magic stones and chases and everything. It’s fucking awesome. Here’s the trailer:
The next trailer for a game set in L.A. in the gritty ‘noir’ period full of sexy dames and violent but well dressed men in hats. Rather aptly, it is called L.A. Noir and shows a completely different type of tale to that found in Uncharted. Although you still get to shoot people.
The final trailer in this trio of awesomeness is Deus Ex: Human Evolution. Deus Ex hasn’t come out yet so it may be crap. In its favour is the fact that it is the third game in the franchise and the first two were genuis and no part 3 of anything has ever been bad. (Don’t question that statement too closely, it may be flawed.) Anyway, check out the trailer. It’s like Bladerunner crossed with the news.
Ok I’m done. I will stop repeating myself. I find myself increasingly enjoying games as my disappointment with most new films increases. Next week: a review of Transformers 2. Just kidding.
In case you are lazy and don’t want to read the rest of this review – this game is brilliant! I mentioned previously, elsewhere, that it was better than watching the new Indiana Jones film. I recently watched it again and it was actually pretty good fun. This game is still better though. You feel as if you are playing through a mixture of a book and film. The story begins with you waking up with a bullet wound in your stomach in a train carriage that is hanging over the edge of a cliff. How goddamn exciting is that? Once you manage to escape the tale cuts to chapter one and you see how you ended up in that situation.
The story is exciting and well told. There are more characters this time, as well as the ones from the original. For a game it is surprising how much depth and characterization can be squeezed in as you blow the crap out things. The voice over acting is impeccable and it’s fun just seeing how things pan out. The characters develop and all have their own believable motives. The story is epic and you jet all over the place robbing from Turkish museums, shooting it out in a warzone, fighting on trains going from jungle to mountains, discovering hidden temples, and so on. Ostensibly you are trying to find Marco Polo’s lost treasure but the story develops into so much more.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was the first game I played on PS3 and I was blown away by the graphics and story and gameplay. This sequel has astoundingly been superior in almost every way. The graphics are the best I have ever seen. There are times when you just stop and gaze in awe at the scenery around you. There is a sequence when you are on a train as it goes from lowland jungle into the Himalayas and the surroundings are so incredible I actually got shot by a baddie who had crept up on me. I really cannot say enough about how truly magnificent the graphics are.
The game itself is similar to the first in the you spend a lot of time climbing about, and a lot of time killing literally hundreds of people. There is more this time though. You have to take down helicopters, blow up tanks, escape falling buildings, and generally get out of dozens of scenarios by the skin of your teeth. The shooting and cover controls are perfect and so are all the little extras like sniping and chucking grenades.
I cannot stress enough just how awesome this game is! You will probably complete it in 10 or so hours, but you will probably then go back and do it all again on a harder setting and try to find all the treasures and unlock all the extras.
You won’t be done then though because there is more. Uncharted 2 has the funnest multi-player action since Killzone 2. It is superb. You have all the usual stuff like capturing areas, dragging treasures back to your base, elimination, death match and so forth but as there is so much you can do, it is frighteningly addictive. The element of climbing adds so much more. You can also sneak up behind people and take them out ninja style. You can hang off a ledge and pull people over as they walk by. It is just joyous fun to play and the incentives are there as you level up and unlock boosters and weapons and so on. On top of this you also have co-operative play, which I just started playing today. These are like mini adventures with their own cut-scenes and quests. You play with two others and work as a team as you chase down a treasure in a war-zone or lost temple.
As you can tell, I loved this game. You will be hard pressed finding a review on the internet that doesn’t say it’s brilliant. In fact, you would find it difficult to find anyone that doesn’t think it should be game of the year. I think it should be.
Watch the trailer below. Then buy a PS3. Then get the game. (Even the trailer is awesome.) You can thank me later.
Holy game-playing brilliance Batman!
Sorry but I had to do that.
First, the plot. Batman has captured the Joker and is delivering him to Gotham’s legendary Arkham Asylum. The caped crusader suspects something is amiss as the Joker barely put up a fight and fuck is he right. The whole thing is a trap as the Joker is out to get him and Commissioner Gordon. The Joker releases all the prisoners – including the most mental, scary and famous ones and soon our plucky eponymous hero is battling hordes of henchmen and baddies like Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Harleyquinn, the Scarecrow and more.
The voices and acting are great. Batman and the Joker are voiced by Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill respectively. These two did the same voices for the cartoon, so geeks and fanboys (obviously not myself) will know what to expect and how good it will be. The whole cast is great – which is nice when compared to some games I’ve played. The cut-scenes and action follow each other seamlessly. Which is something you would expect these days and not like 5 or more years ago when the difference between gameplay and pre-rendered scenes could often be glaring.
The graphics are superb. Arkham’s corridors are satisfying dingy, the well-known baddies are well animated and look like they should. Even the henchmen are scarred, tattooed and muscular. The game looks magnificent except for when you are in detective mode when you lose a lot of the detail. More on this later.
The game-play is fun. Really fun. You are Batman. Which is unbelievably cool. The controls are simple – a button for counter-attack, a button for attack, one for evade, and another to confuse with your cape. Your ability to use a grappling hook and fly up a line to perch above henchmen is easy and obvious, as is gliding down again.
For me this was one of the funnest parts of the game.
By this, I mean the actual taking down of room-fulls of lackeys. There are generally two ways to go about this. The first is to leap among them and just beat the living crap out of the poor bastards. The combos and counters are easy to do but look brutal and cool and cinematic. When you deliver a final kick to the head it feels solid and satisfying. The other way, especially if they are armed, is to sneak around Dark Knight style and pick them off one by one. You have a ton of fun options to help you in this. You can crawl through the vents and spray your explosive bat-gelignite on a weak section of floor then blow it up as enemies walk over or under it; you can glide down and kick someone unconscious; you can sneak up behind a poor unsuspecting sod and take them out silently; or my favorite – drop down bungee style and pull some poor bastard up as he passes below you and hang him. As you take each guy out the others grow increasingly nervous (as shown by their heartbeats) and they run around in a panic occasionally firing at shadows. You really feel like Batman and it is bloody great fun.
There are a few flaws, but they are minor. The game can feel slightly repetitive. Mostly when you have to take out a room filled with bad guys. As mentioned above, this is so much fun it could hardly be seen as a flaw. The main gripe I had, and again it isn’t much, is with the detective mode. This mode allows you to alter your view so that you can scan for clues, follow trails, find flimsy walls, and see enemies from a distance through walls. It is unbelievably helpful. Too much so in fact. You can play almost the whole game in this mode and then you miss all the lovely graphics. If you are sneaking around taking out hoods one at a time it is easier if you can see them all, so you tend you stay in this mode. It is so cool taking someone down though, that you really want to see it properly and you might find yourself flicking back to normal mode just to watch the action.
Once you have completed the main game, which will take a respectable amount of time, you have a load more options. You can go back through the game and try and find all the little extras like the Riddler’s hidden trophies or sound recordings of inmate interviews and so on. Or you can go for the challenge mode. This is where you take out room-fulls of baddies in either a stealthy way or a kick-ass way. You compete against an online leader board where people much better than you. I almost got in the top 75,000 the other day. It adds a lot more to the always important replayability factor. I think I have already mentioned that it is damn good fun so no need to say it again I guess.
So should you buy it? If you like Batman then GOD YES. If you like action and pretty graphics and a good old fashioned beat ‘em up then again with the same answer. This is a fun game.
I have been meaning to write about this topic before, as it is clearly a topic close to my heart. Not really because I give a flying fuck about about health issues (I have a legendary constitution and a long list of ancestors living past 80) but because any justification for playing games is good.
As Hollywood’s output and quality continues to dwindle, I find myself turning more and more to books and games for a decent tale and cheap thrills. I don’t care what pretentious types say – there is still a ton of watchable movies coming out each year but the good ones don’t number high enough to satisfy my copius spare time. Perhaps it is because I watch the bulk of movies and tv shows at work. Whatever. Books have always been my medium of choice but games are now beating movies hands down in their demand on my attention. I’m currently loving Elder Scrolls Oblivion and Batman: Arkham Asylum but find it hard to remember more than three films I’ve seen in the last year that rated better than: “That was ok.”
Lots and lots of games now feature well-known actors – look at the cast of the last few GTA games for example, or even the games I’m playing now have Patrick Stewart as the king (Oblivion) and Mark Hamill as the joker (Batman). Graphics have progressed to a level that are almost equal to your average CGI-laden blockbuster. I have played numerous games that feature more realistic baddies than the scorpion king at the end of The Mummy Returns for example. As adventure goes, Uncharted Drake’s Fortune was better than the new Indiana Jones film. (Which actually makes me weep a bit but that’s another issue.)
As stories go there has already been a rich history of writers penning game plots. Douglas Adams wrote the game Starship Titanic and got his friend Terry Jones to write the book of the game. Granted neither were brilliant but if you’re a fan of both personages it still beats watching Eastenders as a way of passing your time. Clive Barker wrote Undying, a first person shooter that had some genuinely scary moments. Dead Space was a great game, with a truly ominous atmosphere and good story. And so on.
Games have numerous advantages over movies and that will increase as time goes on. There is more scope for plot development and characterisation. Some of the stories in Fallout 3 and Oblivion are superb and you get to know some of the individuals as if they are real and are almost saddened when the game finishes (like with a good book). They deal with you differently too, depending on how you react to them and your reputation. More and more games feature differing plots depending on the choices you make. Some of the radio stations and characters in Grand Theft Auto 4 had me pissing myself with laughter (and that doesn’t include the fact that you can go to a comedy club and see Ricky Gervais doing stand up). Some set pieces in games literally have you saying “Fuck, did you see that?” to a disintereted wife or partner. The scene when a nuclear bomb goes off in Call of Duty 4 or the landing in Killzone 2 leap to mind if you happen to be cool or sexy enough to have played them.
Whenever I get blocked on a platform by baffled tourists anywhere in the world – you can tell they don’t play enough games. Solving the riddle of a tube map is a piece of piss compared to lots of puzzles you are forced to solve in games like Resident Evil or Myst. When travelling, I’m nearly always the one who works this sort of thing out, and I’m convinced it’s down to a mixture of innate genius and gameplaying.
I won’t even begin to talk about Massively Multiplayer Online Games like World of Warcraft but the fact that people have died playing must mean they are pretty good. People have been divorced and married through these games and some employers are now asking if the prospective employees play them as they are worried about them turning up.
So having established that there is more scope and depth to a lot of games, there is the added fact that you are in control. It is this interaction that adds to the suspense and enjoyment of the experience. When you are creeping down a dark corridor and hear a scream ending suddenly from a door near you, the fact that you are the one who moves and opens that door can scare the crap out of you. It is also this interaction that is the beneficial part and why it has been scietifically proven that games are better for you than movies.
THEY ARE GOOD FOR YOUR EYES
From the BBC website:
“US scientists have found that regular players of shoot-em-ups, such as Half-Life and Medal of Honour, have much better visual skills than most of the population.
The researchers have shown that gamers were particularly good at spotting details in busy, confusing scenes and could cope with more distractions than average.
The two scientists also found that with a little game playing the visual skills of anyone can be improved.” An apple and an hour of killing stuff a day is beneficial.
“By forcing players to simultaneously juggle a number of varied tasks, action video game playing pushes the limits of three rather different aspects of visual attention,” wrote the researchers.
A similar story from an article on yahoo:
“The University of Rochester put a group of college-aged non-gamers through the paces of such high-caliber action fare as Gears of War, Lost Planet andHalo. After 30 hours of gameplay, the subjects outperformed the control group in their ability to accurately pick out objects in a cluttered space.
Research author Daphne Bevelier explained, “First-person action games helped study subjects improve their spatial resolution, meaning their ability to clearly see small, closely packed together objects, such as letters… the present study highlights the potential of action-video game training for rehabilitation of visual deficits.”
In laymen terms, that means years of fragging might actually sharpen your vision by training your brain to quickly process information. This also has therapeutic ramifications, potentially aiding in the treatment of a variety of ocular disorders including vision loss from aging and lazy eye.”
The following few are from an article by Ben Silverman.
THEY ARE GOOD FOR FOCUS AND CONCENTRATION
“Though in its infancy, the burgeoning field of gaming as a means to contend with the negative effects of ADHD was bolstered by a Cornell study demonstrating the positive effects of video game training in ADHD-afflicted youth. Even at an early age, kids seemed to respond well to games as a treatment method, showing significant improvement over their non-gaming peers.”
THEY CAN HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT
Ok, I’m talking the Wii fit and those dancing games here. Although getting fit by playing these things is a good reason for playing games – these are crap games. The Wii is a gimmick and fun for 30 minutes tops. It relies too heavily on having a controller that can move stuff on the screen. Big bloody deal. Focus on gameplay and story. Have you seen those ads where the girls meet up online and go shopping or fishing or something? I mean, jesus. The Wii is for… Alright I’ll shut up. I don’t like it.
THEY CAN HELP YOU UNDERSTAND CLASSICS
“It’s no secret that games draw inspiration from books, but one enterprising teacher has turned the tables by using Halo to help his students understand the complexities of Homeric epics.
Roger Travis, associate professor of modern and classical languages at the University of Connecticut, claims that the trials and tribulations of Trojan hero Aeneas chronicled in Virgil’s Aeneid mirror those of Halo‘s Master Chief.
He likens the interactivity found in contemporary gaming to the oral tradition that prompted ancient audiences to connect with their plays.”
THEY HELP KIDS LEARN
This is from the Times:
“[K]ids have changed. They’re not little versions of us any more. Because of the technology they’re growing up with, they’ re able to learn in different ways, able to teach themselves in different ways and one of the greatest places they’ve got this from is by playing the complex games of today.
The notion of what a game is has changed too … over the past 20 years a more intricate sort of game, such as Civilisation IV, which teaches the span of Western history, or The Sims 2, which teaches strategies for winning and losing, has emerged. You have to reach multiple goals, it takes multiple skills and it takes 30 or 40 or 50 hours to play and master a game. From those games the kids learn a lot.”
THE BEST STRESS RELIEF
“Some people read a book or watch a movie as a way to get their mind off of their problems. Basically, they allow people to be transported to a fictional world for awhile. In that area, video games are actually the most effective form of release, because they provide a deeper and more encompassing transportation.”
From ABC science:
“Physio and occupational therapists started using simple video games in the late 1980s to treat people with a whole range of conditions from physical, learning or emotional disorders to cognitive problems following stroke and brain injury.
Today, a growing area of brain research suggests modern fast-paced action video games — in particular first-person shooter games — may sharpen your vision, improve your attention and working memory, and develop your fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
What’s more, these skills aren’t just virtual: they can help you do better in real-life situations, like driving your car or juggling more than one task at a time.”
OK ENOUGH PROOF. BACK TO THE RANT
Ok, that’s enough. This is all from just a tiny bit of the studies going on all over the world. There are hundreds of articles in a similar vein. I think I have proved my point. What I don’t get is why it is still an issue. The facts are there. Stop being so damn passive! Stop watching shows with ‘Celebrity [fill in the blank]‘ as the title.
I’d suggest moderation in this, obviously. Don’t play so much that your social life suffers or you read less. I’m just suggesting you play instead of watching shit like Big Brother (scientifically proved to increase your moron levels) or indeed any reality show. They do nothing for you. All the time spent reading about celebrities or more than 10 minutes on Facebook is a waste of life too. As is watching sport (I could write for hours on this). Playing sport is great but why watch others doing it? What’s the point? I could mention all time spent worshipping deities here but I won’t. They are a humourless and unforgiving bunch that I wouldn’t want to meet online, let alone in reality.
I think I went on a bit long about this topic. I’m wasting my life at work at the moment and have little else to do. I will end this with a brilliant piece I found on http://madisonian.net/ It is from Steven Johnson’s new book “Everything Bad is Good For You”. It is a joke and not anti books but it raises some good hypothetical points. My next blog entry will be shorter I promise! Here is the extract and good night:
“Imagine an alternate world identical to ours save one techno-historical change: videogames were invented and popularized before books. In this parallel universe, kids have been playing games for centuries—and then these page-bound texts come along and suddenly they’re all the rage. What would the teachers, and the parents, and the cultural authorities have to say about this frenzy of reading? I suspect it would sound something like this:
Reading books chronically under-stimulates the senses. Unlike the longstanding tradition of gameplaying—which engages the child in a vivid, three-dimensional world filled with moving images and musical soundscapes, navigated and controlled with complex muscular movements—books are simply a barren string of words on the page. Only a small portion of the brain devoted to processing written language is activated during reading, while games engage the full range of the sensory and motor cortices.
Books are also tragically isolating. While games have for many years engaged the young in complex social relationships with their peers, building and exploring worlds together, books force the child to sequester him or herself in a quiet space, shut off from interaction with other children. These new ‘libraries’ that have arisen in recent years to facilitate reading activities are a frightening sight: dozens of young children, normally so vivacious and socially interactive, sitting alone in cubicles, reading silently, oblivious to their peers.
Many children enjoy reading books, of course, and no doubt some of the flights of fancy conveyed by reading have their escapist merits. But for a sizable percentage of the population, books are downright discriminatory. The reading craze of recent years cruelly taunts the 10 million Americans who suffer from dyslexia—a condition didn’t even exist as a condition until printed text came along to stigmatize its sufferers.
But perhaps the most dangerous property of these books is the fact that they follow a fixed linear path. You can’t control their narratives in any fashion—you simply sit back and have the story dictated to you. For those of us raised on interactive narratives, this property may seem astonishing. Why would anyone want to embark on an adventure utterly choreographed by another person? But today’s generation embarks on such adventures millions of times a day. This risks instilling a general passivity in our children, making them feel as though they’re powerless to change their circumstances. Reading is not an active, participatory process; it’s a submissive one. The book readers of the younger generation are learning to ‘follow the plot’ instead of learning to lead.”
You play a delivery man called Cole, who lives on a roof with an annoying friend and is dating a woman called Trish who whinges a lot. (Although this is kind of justified). One day there is a massive explosion in the city and you wake up in the middle of a huge blast crater with special powers. You can control electricity. Which would be pretty exciting. Although as far as I can see, he can never wash or drink liquid again.
There seems to be a disease that is turning people either ill, or mental, so the government blockades the city, declares quarantine, and shoots anyone trying to escape. A bit like Escape from New York but with less cool characters. (And there it was a prison.) Cue the rise of fairly unique gangs on each of the islands that comprise the city. As the story unfolds you learn more about yourself and the shadowy figures and groups behind everything. The story is actually pretty good with stylish comic-book cut scenes that really add to the superhero theme.
Another thing that develops are your abilities and your karma. You learn more skills as the game progresses and the learning curve as you master these new zappy powers is actually pretty easy. There are various city zones without electricity and each time you start up the generator you get a blast of electricity and a new skill. Some of them are very cool but it feels a bit artificial. I know it is a game but I find it mildly annoying when you gain a power in a game like this and suddenly it turns out to be the very thing that’s need right afterwards. It’s like a mini tutorial, which is handy, but it subtracts from the, er, reality. I won’t gripe about it here but this sort of thing seems to be a tedious unrealistic necessity in games (like in 1st person shooters when you find ammo and a drink that heals physical wounds in a clay pot or something).
At first you are limited to just one island and travelling around is slow – although you are pretty damn nimble. You unlock other islands as the game progresses (like GTA) at the same time as finding other ways to move about. Like zipping along train tracks and power cables or even flying. These are fun and easy and look fantastic.
In fact all the controls are easy and intuitive and by the end you truly feel mega-powerful. I just thought it was a shame there wasn’t more to destroy. Don’t get me wrong – there are cars and people you can chuck about and blast but if you’re nice, you have to be a bit careful.
I should talk here about being good. Like other games (eg Fallout 3 or Knights of the Old Republic) there is karma. You can be good or bad. This is a great idea and adds to replayability. When you are good there are posters of you everywhere looking heroic and noble. Everyone loves you and gathers around cheering and taking photos whenever you pause for a second. When you are evil a much cooler poster appears with half your face and half demon skull. Whenever you stop for a second people hurl abuse or stones. Which is a pretty dumb thing to do to someone who is evil and has mega powers – especially given how fun it is to throw a car at them. The more good deeds and missions you do the better karma you get. And vice-versa. There are three grades of good/evil until you are either famous or infamous and each grade unlocks even more abilities. Which is all well and good except that there is no point in being neutral. In Fallout 3, for example, there are advantages for whatever state you choose. People fear you or like you and do better deals. Too good or bad and some won’t deal with you, and so on. In inFamous you will miss out on a ton of abilities if neutral – it is only worth your while to be a goody two shoes or out and out bastard.
The game is sandbox with sidemissions and game missions and lots of other little tasks. There are also missions that are exclusively good or evil. They’re all fairly fun but unsurprisingly the evil ones are better. In fact, the whole game is more enjoyable when you’re a bad guy. You don’t have to care about innocent people, you can just blow the crap out of everything that moves. It also makes it easier.
InFamous is a great fun game but it lacks any real depth. You can’t alter the main character in any way, some missions are a bit repetitive, and you don’t feel as fully immersed in the world as other games manage to achieve. You can cause a lot of chaos in the city but there doesn’t seem much point. You don’t feel like you’re going to get anything out of it. There are no repercussions. In Grand Theft Auto you can go mental and crash cars into traffic, jump out and blow the resulting pile of automobiles up with a grenade. There would be a satisfying explosion, cars flying everywhere, and dead passers by. You take take all their money and occasionally weapons but at the same time become wanted and the police get called in. If you start shooting them the FBI and army and helicopters and so on turn up. There are advantages and consequences and escalation and thrills. Do this in inFamous and nothing happens except some burnt cars.
Don’t get me wrong. The game is great fun, looks fantastic and plays brilliantly. There’s no need to become the insane overly violent psychopath I tend to become in games like this. You will very probably love it. Just not for long. You will play the game as good, then as bad, then you’re done. The story doesn’t vary that much for each karmic state – just enough to warrant two play throughs. You will finish after your two 10 hour sessions and think “That was fun, what next?”
InFamous is recommended, great fun, good-looking, has an intriguing story, is stylish and definitely worth a go. It’s just a bit shallow.
Let me begin…
Killzone 2 is fucking brilliant. Sorry if this sounds like a summary and you need not read further, but it really is. It is like lots of First Person Shooters but it just does everything so well, it sets itself apart. Read on to see specifically why this is the case. Or just trust me and go and buy it now. Actually, read this first – it may not be for you if this isn’t your cup or tea. Because you’re mental or hate fun or something.
It’s starts off in the mother ship and you are introduced to yourself as Sevchenko or ‘Sev’, a double hard Sergeant in the ISA Special Forces Alpha. You are then transported to the planet Helghast where the shit is really hitting the proverbial fan. You and your squad then proceed to blow the living crap out of everyone you come across. There is a bit more story than this, with some great baddies but the plot isn’t really up to much. Good guys vs psycho bad guys. It doesn’t really matter all that much as the game is so damned exciting you don’t really notice.
You are definitely the good guys. There is little doubt in that. You play on the side that are clearly the American forces of the future. So cue bad tactical planning, friendly fire, and cries of “Kick Ass!” as you charge forward with guns a-blazing and then the bafflement that it’s all gone tits up. The Helghast are a cross between Nazi’s, communists, and nutter fanatics. Their leader Scolar Visari is the first person you see as he gives a Hitleresque rant about how his forces will slaughter the ISA and blood will run in the streets and so on. Also like the Nazis, the Helghast have the better outfits. Just to give you an idea of how cool the enemy is, here’s an example: there is one particular type of enemy trooper you come across who is huge and carries a colossal machine gun. You are informed when you first come across one of these behemoths that it just took out an entire squad. You are also told in a loading screen that these are guys who are sealed in a massive powered suit of bulletproof armor, given a huge gun, are then fed aggressive psychotropic mind-altering drugs, and are then sent out against the enemies while constant propaganda is piped into their ears. Which is pretty cool.
Here’s the fellow:
Graphically, the game is gorgeous. Full of detail. Helghast is a shithole – like a giant run-down oil refinery in an especially shitty reddish desert. Think Planet Harkonnen from Dune but without the colourful characters. It is wind-swept and industrial and bleak. The lighting and sounds and music complement the whole effect and this in turn heightens and differentiates the various settings (spaceship, palace, etc). Most of the action takes place on the planet however and it almost feels like a real place. The details are superb and lifelike. Occasionally you are at some gun turrets or in a walking upright tank thing (like in Aliens but with guns) and as the machine gets hit, more and more cracks appear in the wind-shield. The graphics are extraordinary and one of the best on the PS3.
Now for main bit. What’s it like to play? I played this straight after playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Which is also a corker of game, by the way. In that game your character is quick (especially when you are SAS), and as you storm a enemy strongpoint your gun snaps from one bad guy to the next. In Killzone 2, it felt a bit sluggish at first. The guns were heavy and it takes longer to turn and when you jump you just feel a bit slower, as if you have more mass. I then started to get into it and realised that this was a joy. It was just different. You are carrying a heavy load and the guns are bigger and heavier. It then became insane fun.
There are several huge set pieces where you are fighting not just with your squad but with whole divisions. The big guns are rarely sci-fi, just heavy bastard firing machines that are brilliant to shoot with. Chucking grenades can be annoying in some games, but again they got it right. There are just enough guns to keep you interested and the tasks are just varied enough to alleviate any chance of boredom. The AI on both sides is incredibly high and they are rarely passive. Enemy soldiers will hide behind cover until they think you have stopped shooting before popping their heads out somewhere new. They will scatter when you chuck a grenade, which can be frustrating but at least it’s realistic. You have to use grenades intelligently instead – throwing them where several Helghast are hidden behind cover and then you and your squad can shoot them as they run out. Unfortunately they do the same to you. If you hide in one spot for too long you will get flanked, so you have to be alert.
The solo play took me about ten hours to complete, which is pretty respectable and as my heart was pounding for most of it, quite a relief. I then thought I’d give online a go. As I stated before, I had been playing COD 4 before this and there the online game felt difficult. I was always at the bottom of the kill list. Somehow, in Killzone2 I fared a lot better. Maybe it is because the game is newer and you don’t get 90% of players being hardened professionals who have spend 1000s of hours on it. Both games keep the multiplayer interesting by allowing you to level up and proceed through the ranks to general. On the way you win medals for achievements like killing the most people or taking out three guys with one grenade. These medals in Killzone are separate from the ranking system and immensely pleasurable to receive. Also, as you rise you get new weapons, abilities, even new classes. As you get promoted you are only placed in battles with other players of the same rank, so you never feel it is a bit unfair when, (as has happened in other games) you get shat on by players who are generals with better armour and more powerful guns.
The maps are also well designed and balanced. With up to thirty two players in each one, they always feel right and as they are multi-layered you have to think in several dimensions or an enemy will just drop a grenade on your head. In addition to all this you get the usual multiplayer options of capture the flag and body count and so on. But here they can be played one after the other in the same game. It adds a lot more fun than I thought it would have at first as each team competes to win each section and are awarded points accordingly. You also feel like you are working together a lot more in multiplayer than other games I have played. In one section a single player is picked as an assassination target and their position is broadcast to all the 31 other players. I was picked once and I found a relatively secure room and felt genuinely nervous as my teammates all ran to my location and stood guard as the enemy converged on us. As they neared I saw my team get slowly picked off, and as the gunfire got nearer I genuinely got alarmed. Eventually both squads guarding each door exploded in blood and the enemy appeared and I was shot. A lot. Plus blown up with grenades. It was fun though. I am completely addicted to multiplayer now and that is a first for me.
I love First Person Shooters and play a lot of them. It sometimes worries my wife. Killzone 2 doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the genre but it does everything right. It is unbelievably good fun and if the plot is a bit second rate – who cares? You will barely remember it. The game rarely lets up and you will move from one massive set piece to the next in a frenzy of killing joy. The multiplayer is superb and you will spend a lot longer on it than the solo game, so it’s well worth your money. There are so many more elements to it than can be listed in a review, so my advise is to just buy it. If you like epic battles and big guns you will love it. I will see you online.
(Thanks to gamespot for the photos.)
This game starts with your birth. Literally. You are pulled out of your mother and see the doctor and your dad – who happens to be Liam Neason (the voice anyway). The first section then follows you as you grow up, make friends and choose a career and so on. It sounds drawn out but in fact it doesn’t take too long and really adds to the rest of the game. There has been a nuclear war and by the time you hit adulthood neither you or anyone else has left your underground bunker – Vault 101 – for decades. Then your dad buggers off without even saying goodbye. Things go a bit tits up in the vault and you decide to leave.
By this point you have probably been playing for at least an hour and it genuinely feels strange and exciting the first time you walk out of the Vault and see the open landscape and ruins of Washington DC before you. The area is vast and you can explore it all. You can do this exploration at your leisure and this freedom is one of the principal joys of the game.
As with such freewheeling games as Grand Theft Auto or Elder Scrolls Oblivion (the latter also by Bethesda), you will most likely spend half your time following the story and the other half exploring. A great deal of thought has gone into how all the various groups of people have survived and you will find communities dotted all over the place. I loved stumbling across some of these. There are normal-seeming villages where you start to suspect that something is wrong the more you chat (cannibals?), an underground group of vampire types, ghoul cities (like zombies but friendly and chatty), virtual reality towns, a mad Russian with hookers, a ‘Mad Max’ type survivalist type town, and shitloads more. Also roaming the landscape are huge green mutants, rapid dogs, humanoid crab-like creatures, punk bandits, and so on.
On top of having your choice on where to go, you can also dramatically change your character development, the way you deal with people (and vice versa), and even the outcome of the game. You can choose attributes – strength, intelligence, etc; perks – speciality skills; even your morality. Your actions also have consequences to yourself, those you meet, communities, the world, and companions you make. The variety and difference between how the game plays out for each player is genuinely vast and satifying.
Graphically the game looks great. By that, I mean the art and design of the landscape and the characters. In particular the armoured characters that feature so heavily in the advertising and pictures like the one at the top of this piece. It is pretty to look at and convincing in a ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ kind of way. Nothing special though. There are games with more detail and realistic characters both on PC and other PS3 games. This is forgivable to some extent given the epic size of where you can go. A more linear FPS for example, can afford to pay full attention to the graphical experience.
I should mention the VATS combat system. This allows you to pause the game, select a body part of the chosen victim, and then fire. You then get a brilliant sequence where you follow the bullet as it zooms toward the target before, if you’re lucky, blowing said limb off in a spray of blood. As with all games that have ever featured guns, it is at its best when you get in close and blow the head off. The VATS system is optional by why wouldn’t you use it? It’s fun and slow-mo and gory. It is slightly clunky but the first time you blow a rabid dog to pieces, you realise you don’t care.
Fallout 3 is fun but not flawless. There are some great set pieces where you join together with others to blow the crap out of some mutated behemoth or other. There should have been more of this. The combat is cool but can sometimes lead to weird camera angles. The story is actually quite satisfying but I accidently finished it before exploring several large chunks of the map. This latter fault can be rectified by either replaying it or downloading one of the newer add-on adventures that are available. Mostly though I was saddened by the fact that I got a dog called Dogmeat that I really grew quite attatched to. I then got kidnapped and lost him. He is now wandering around a fictional game on his own. Poor Dogmeat. Maybe I got too involved.
I enjoyed Fallout 3 and if I didn’t have other games to play would be still exploring now. If you like First Person Shooters or RPGs you will probably like it too.