I finally got my PSVR headset (about a month ago) and have been loving it. So I thought I might as well review one of the few games I have played thus. Until Dawn: Rush of Blood is a lot of fun for the price. Not brilliant, but certainly enjoyable and a good intro to VR. Costs vary but I paid around £15, which seems about right.
Here is the plot in as much as there is one: You are on a rollercoaster on your own and some crazy guy injects you with a drug, possibly, that makes you see crazy things. And there are psychopaths loose around the ride. And there may be ghosts. You also might be descending into Hell. Alright, fuck it, there isn’t much plot. I haven’t played any other Until Dawn games so frankly, I have no idea what is going on.
Basically, Rush of Blood is a horror shooter on a rollercoaster. I highly recommend using Move controllers because they make the shooting experience more immersive, interactive, and a lot more fun. There are quite a few jump scares and a lot of gore, so if you don’t like either then maybe this isn’t for you. To be honest, I am not that bothered either way when it comes to scares or blood, yet I really enjoyed myself. The controls are responsive, the visuals are clear and sharp, and the shooting itself is immense fun. Even at the start, where you are mostly shooting at balloons and pottery, it is a pretty good laugh. Things just amp up from there.
I have played a couple of other PSVR games and have enjoyed them all to various degrees. It is possible that if I was more experienced in VR then Rush of Blood might be less impressive. As it is, if you are a newb, then give it a go. I wouldn’t pay much more than £15 and if you can get it for less than that, definitely go for it. There are a few moments where the roller coaster speeds up that might give you motion sickness, but I didn’t find any problems. Possibly because I was focussed on keeping an eye out for zombies, bats, or giant pigs.
To conclude: I don’t think Rush of Blood is a classic in any way but if you are looking for a new game to try out VR, then it is worth a go. Here is a trailer:
Welcome to roughly forty hours of my life. Far Cry 4 is a colossal sandbox adventure in the fictional kingdom of Kyrat – which is basically a fictional Nepal or Tibet. There are Himalayan mountains and jungles and generally a ton of gorgeous scenery. And Shangri La.
You play a fellow called Ajay Gale and as the game starts, you learn that you are an American but you have some kind of major connection to the Kyrat. In fact by the end of the opening scene (see below), also seem to have some connection to the nutcase who is in charge of the place. As the game progresses, you slowly learn more about yourself. What is most important to know, however, is that you go from a bumbling tourist to a one man, highly be-weaponed killing machine in about half an hour. Your/Ajay’s parents were highly skilled terrorists, so maybe familiarity with weapons and ridiculous levels of murder are genetic.
Jump on an elephant and kill!
Far Cry 4’s story is actually pretty good but the most important question is – is it fun? Obviously the answer is yes, or I would have to have been a pretty bored individual to play it for forty hours. As well as the main story, which can actually be done in probably 10 hours or less, there are a million other side missions and quests and sub plots and so on. You can go hunting, ride an elephant into an army base goring enemy soldiers as you go along. You can hand glide through stunning scenery then drop down into a lake to find hidden treasure. You can even go into an arena and take part in gladiator-style battles armed with a machine gun and fighting psychopaths and tigers. There are also weird adventures in Shangri-La, sub-plots featuring a serial killer who leaves possessed masks around. Also, and these are a lot of fun, there are missions where you try out various drug cocktails and go on insane drug-induced escapades. Oh, and there are also yetis.
When adventuring in Shangri-La you get a pet tiger. Called Mr Fluffington (joke).
So there is a shitload to do and you can do it all online with a friend to help you out, if you want.
If you have played Far Cry games before, or any sandbox game really, you will know what to expect. What sets titles like Far Cry, Skyrim, Fallout 4 and GTA apart are that they are fun, inventive and damned well made. They are also colossal and look gorgeous, which is a bonus. I have seen a photography exhibition based on photos taken purely within games and I imagine quite a few masterpieces will come out of Far Cry 4.
Apart from all the death, it’s a really nice place.
I could go on but I can’t be bothered. I have some writing targets to hit and some wasteland to explore in Fallout 4. Here is the intro to Far Cry 4 and If you look below that there is a spoiler as to how you can finish the game in 15 minutes – and it is absolutely genius and a masterful bit game writing.
Ok, so if you sat through all that you will know that the crazy mad guy, Pagan Min, said to wait. In the game, you don’t. You get up and wander about and then get caught up in a mad adventure. At the end of 40-50 hours of killing, you battle your way back to the fortress and confront Pagan Min. He tells you about your past and his relationship with your mum, and shows you a shrine before handing the kingdom over and flying off in a helicopter. BUT, if you had just waited at the opening section like he told you, the same thing happens. Obviously you don’t then get to play the whole game, so it is probably only of interest to those who have finished already. Anyway, I thought it was a cool Easter egg and thought I’d share.
Holiday snaps of Kyrat. Thanks for the memories Far Cry 4
Well this Far Cry Primal release trailer was something of a shock. I’ve only played Far Cry 1 and 4 but we are still talking around 60 hours of shooting at stuff just with those titles. When you think Far Cry, you tend to think exotic sandbox adventure – with a shiteload of guns. So this was unexpected. I think it looks fun, though once you have hunted a mammoth and giant sloth or two, what will you do? Just fight other tribes? Still, it could be good. Check out the trailer for Far Cry Primal. Ook!
Do you have a phone or tablet and an ounce of adventure in your soul? If so, you should buy the game 80 Days as it is brilliant. It is basically a superbly written text adventure based on Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. The writer, Meg Jayanth, is deservedly up for a Writer’s Guild Award for it and quite rightly so. The game’s tagline: The Year is 1872. Welcome to the future.
As you have probably guessed, the idea is to circumnavigate the globe in 80 Days. You are Passepartout and your job is to pack and find transport for the unflappable Phileas Fogg in an alternate history that is incredibly steampunk. At each stage you find yourself in strange adventures and on bizarre but awesome modes of travel like giant metal mechanical horses or colossal metal flying birds. Every route you take and every decision made can alter everything that follows. The game makers estimate that on each circumnavigation attempt you will probably see about 3% of the total game, so its replayability is superb.
The adventures you have are varied and frequently brilliant fun. They also adapt in line with what you are doing. For example, I bought some Katana swords in Hawaii thinking that I’d get a good price for them in San Francisco. But just after the trip began the chief engineer of our vessel was found murdered with my swords lying next to her as the murder weapon. I then had the remainder of the trip to interview all the suspects and find the murderer before we hit land. If I hadn’t bought the swords, none of that would have happened. Another adventure found me riding through India on a giant metal elephant, prisoner of a Kali death cult led by a beautiful princess. On yet another I had to break out a rebel from prison and spirit him to Shanghai. This all happened on just one trip.
I can’t recommend 80 days enough. It recaptures the wonder and adventure of the original book and is the best text adventure I have ever played. It is available on all mobile devices and I suggest you buy it now. In case you want more information, take a look at the publisher inkle studio’s website. (There are also pretty pictures.)
There are times when I despair of humanity and our pointless scrabbling around, stressing over unimportant crap. But there are other times when I rejoice at how brilliant we are. Like landing a probe on a comet, cracking the genome, and now, setting a new speed record for completing Doom 2.
Doom 2: Hell on Earth is an old game that I personally spent hours upon hours playing back in the 90s. I used to play it for so long it would fill my dreams – the sounds, the monsters, the awesome shotgun. Apparently there is still a dedicated group out there who play it a lot. Amongst this elite group of non time wasters are an even more elite group of guys (probably guys, let’s face it) who compete to complete the game the fastest.
If you have ever played Doom 2, then the new record speed of 23 minutes and 25 seconds is probably going to floor you. It was set by someone called Zero Master and he has clearly played it a couple of times before. I spent weeks of my life to achieve what he does in 23:25, but to be fair, I probably enjoyed the experience more. If you want to see how it was done, well, here the the actual attempt in real time achieved by Zero Master. I doubt anyone would watch it in its entirety (apart from the aforementioned elite groups) but for old fans of the game, it brings back a nostalgic tear and a certain amount of awe.
If you have ever played Assassin’s Creed for hours then left the house, you sometimes find yourself looking at real life buildings to assess easy access to rooftops or cool things to run over. This subconscious analysis gets even stronger when you visit cities that feature in the games and you suddenly realise that you know your way around and that the easiest way to get to where you want to be is to climb a certain wall, run across the roofs of several buildings then dive into a river and hey presto, you’re there.
The crushing reality I felt when I visited places like Rome, Venice, and Florence was that even though it was pretty damned cool that I could navigate between some major sites based purely upon a game, I would probably injure myself just trying to jump over a small wall. Happily, while that would be the case for most of us, it is not true for practitioners of Parkour – that amazing sport/hobby/boastful exercise thing where people jump over street objects in an impressive manner.
Finally, someone has linked these two strands together and proved that Assassin’s Creed could definitely happen. (Although maybe not the ‘leap of faith into some straw’ bit if you have played the game.)
So if you like Assassin’s Creed or Parkour then you should enjoy this 3 minute clip set in Paris. It all looks pretty easy actually although the video shows that it is probably still quicker to take the bus.
Everyone loves acapella and playing computer games from the 80s and 90s don’t they? I’m going to assume you answered yes there. I spent most of the 80s and early 90s in game arcades in Hong Kong and certain tunes lodged tenaciously in my brain where they happily beep to this day. Well, finally, a magnificently bearded genius called Smooth McGroove has come along and made acapella versions of these songs – by himself – and posted them on the glorious entertainment hole that is the interweb.
A lot of his songs are pretty obscure but one game theme tune everyone should recognise is Tetris. So let’s start with that:
How brilliant was that? Pretty damned brilliant I assume you are saying. (Ok I’ll stop answering rhetorical questions.)
How about Sonic the Hedgehog? That was pretty classic. Just to remind you listen to a bit of the original (about 20 seconds will do):
And, to show the contrast, the acapella!
There are a ton more on Mr Smooth McGroove Youtube page (https://www.youtube.com/user/SmoothMcGroove) and as I mentioned, unless you are an older gamer or have a passion for emulators, you are unlikely to know too many of them. But for those lucky few who are in that cool clique, I shall end this entry with Guile’s theme from StreetFighter 2. Ahhh the memories.
South Park: The Stick of Truth video game is almost upon us and I am damned excited. It looks, as they intended, exactly like an episode of South Park and seems to be chock full of jokes, puerile humour, poo gags and heavy lashings of political incorrectness. It was written and voiced by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, so it should be pretty amazing. The Stick of Truth has already been released to reviewers and the consensus of every one I read was that it is surprisingly good.
The game was made by Obsidian, who have made a ton of classic RPGs such as Neverwinter Nights and Fallout: New Vegas. So we are in good hands here. You pick your character class – Fighter, Mage, Thief or… Jew – and you are off, wandering around South Park dressed in lame fantasy outfits.
Appetite whetted? Good. Here is a trailer:
Looks fun doesn’t it? If you want a little more South Park: The Stick of Truth trailer action, here is another with a bit of Matt Stone and Trey Parker thrown in at E3.
As far as I can tell, the gameplay is going to be quite standard RPG fare. But done well. So fighting, exploring and looting, with levelling and ability trees and so on. In fact, after watching a few gameplay trailers, it seems to be a turn based fighting system akin to Pokemon or Final Fantasy. Like Final Fantasy battles, you have standard attacks, abilities/magic, items, and the chance to call down powerful beings – except here the beings do funny stuff.
If you are just a fan of South Park, you probably just got bored a bit there where I went all computer game nerdy. If, like me, you like games AND South Park, you can probably see why I am looking forward to this. Not new-Uncharted-game-imminent excited, but excited nonetheless. If you fall into the former camp of just South Park fan, watch the trailer again. If you are in the latter like me, then here is a glimpse of what the gameplay is like. South Park: The Stick of Trutch is due for release on all platforms that matter on the 7th March. Enjoy!
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:
Gaming PC with glowing things in it!
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:
Max Payne is back and he’s as mental as ever. I loved the first two although they feel like distant memories now. I do still remember certain scenes from them though and that’s impressive given that the second one came out nine years ago and I have already forgotten most of last week. It’s possible that is because I played them both twice as they were so brilliant.
Here’s the plot:
Max Payne is now retired and is drinking all the time in New Jersey. This seems like an admirable way to spend retirement to me but apparently it isn’t good. Max is then persuaded to move to Sao Paolo in Brazil to work as a bodyguard to a rich family. He thinks it will be a breeze – wet nursing some rich types at cocktail parties. Unfortunately for Max (but not for us the player – his godlike controllers), he is massively wrong. Thanks to corruption and dastardly plots and so forth, it turns into a regular killfest. Actually it isn’t that regular, it is a mega ultra uber killefest.
As a huge fan of the franchise, I was worried that they might change things too much. Not that worried though, this is Rockstar we are talking about, those guys and (probably) gals are legends. But gone are the comic book cut-scenes, which is a bit sad as they were quite cool. Also Max is a bit older and chubbier and is now in a sunny, colorful place as opposed to the slightly monochrome world of New York in winter. Consequently it doesn’t feel quite as noir as previous incarnations.
However, James McCaffrey is back as the voice of Payne and he is as cynical and gritty as ever. Although there are no comic book bits, there are some awesome cut scenes. Visually, there are a lot of movie edit effects as used by Tony Scott. Unlike Tony Scott’s more recent output (Domino for example), it isn’t massively overused to the point where you feel dizzy. Just enough to look cool.
Bullet time baby! (Thanks www.gamersbliss.com)
One thing that hasn’t changed thankfully, is bullet-time. This was one of the prime things that set the original apart and remains brilliant. If anything, it is even better. Although it was never always the greatest tactic to simply leap through a door, whack on the bullet-time and blow the shit out of everyone, it still remains one of the most fun things to do in any video game.
The gameplay is awesome. Max is easy to control and the adventure and sets are great. It is a very linear game but as a pay-off, some of the set pieces are awesome with sequences better than a lot of movies.
The multiplayer seems fun and has been hailed by some as ‘a game changer’, although people hail things with that epithet way too often for my liking. You can form gangs and even use bullet-time which is pretty mental. I only played a few games of team deathmatch and unlike a lot of other online shooters, I was matched against beginners. Whom I suspect hadn’t just finished the campaign because they were awful. It’s possible I was brilliant but going by early online forays in other games, that seems unlikely.
There are various other modes for replayability such as harder settings and ‘New York Minute’. This latter option was available on the older games as well and is essentially a race against time with bonus points for headshots and general coolness like: hitting bullet-time, leaping off a balcony and killing everyone before you hit the ground.
To conclude: I was a massive Max Payne fan and I still am. The mood may have shifted slightly to a bastard offspring of gritty noir and Tony Scott, but it still works. Above all, it’s fun. The first time you find yourself leaping into the fray, shifting into bullet-time with rounds tracing through the air, you will find yourself grinning. Especially as the final shot in a battle always follows the bullet to its bloody destination. In slow motion. That’s just class.
Two videos for this one because you’ve all been good. First up here is a gameplay trailer which shows you some bullet-time in case you have wasted your life and haven’t played the first two games.
And to conclude, the trailer:
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.
Detective Cole Phelps
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.
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.
Killzone 3 baddies backstabbing each other.
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.
It’s been E3 recently. If you are unaware of what E3 is, you should have less of a life and embrace the beauty of gadgetry and gaming. It’s a huge Electronic Entertainment Expo (three Es get it?) in LA that attracts the likes of Paris Hilton, Redman, the god-like Stan Lee, and the still Vulcan-like Leonard Nimoy. If you think you are cooler than them, you are wrong. I’m not actually going to write about E3 (unless I get an invite to next year’s event) but will look at what new gizmos they revealed. This is the Expo where they do that kind of thing. You know, the geek on stage and the screaming nerds bellowing applause at every utterance. Like when Apple bring something out and people in the audience seem to have a mass sycophantic orgasm. Watch a video of one and see the over-reaction. It’s a bit spooky.
I work in TV and right now it is all about 3D. The new transmission suites I have seen have surround sound – something like 15.1 (15 speakers) it’s like being in an amphitheatre – and they have 3D. With the specs. When people in suits come to have a look it’s like a Roy Orbison convention.
At E3 the future all seems to be about leaping around your living room like an eager pillock having a happy spasm. This is all thanks to motion sensor stuff. Like with the Wii. Which is crap in my opinion. Sure it can be fun, for a bit, if you aren’t really appreciative of what modern games can be like. Games are evolving to the point where it is like an interactive movie with genuine characterization and plot twists. They are really coming to the fore as an alternative entertainment to sitting on your arse watching TV shows. The problem with all this motion stuff is that the games are rarely any good for more than 15 minutes and are purely on the market to meet the desires of families. Virtual tennis, virtual bowling, virtual baseball. These are all things you can quite easily do for real and are more fun in real life. I saw a game where you are throwing a virtual frisbee for fuck’s sake. If these aren’t banal enough, you get get some utterly lame attachments. Like a virtual knife that doesn’t actually cut food while you virtually cook.
This is fun apparently. Why not actually cook?
You rarely get to shoot a zombie in the head in real life, or drive a Ferrari through a crowded city at 150mph, or land on an alien planet, or whatever. This is what games should be! Escapist fun.
On the plus side, malcoordinated fools are having funny injuries thanks to the Wii:
This is a trend that is set to continue. Playstation are bringing out the Playstation move, which looks a bit like a dildo blowing a bubble.
The big buzz at the moment is the new Xbox Kinect. The name is presumably a mix of connect and kinetic. Wow… clever. It looks pretty cool and maps your entire body in the way you see in movie effects when they make an actor dress in a bodysuit covered in ping-pong balls in front of a blue/green screen. This could make for some pretty great fighting games but I still suspect they’ll be pretty shit. Most games will be running or pointing or something.
A few years ago I had the Playstation Eye. It was similar to the kinetic in that it mapped your body. You could pop virtual balloons and crap like that. Fun for a short while but then you want to sit back on the couch and kill hordes of enemies or creep terrified through a haunted space station, the way God intended.
This new technology, coupled with 3D, might be a bit more fun. I still remain doubtful however. It will obviously get better and better as the technology progresses but right now its in it’s gawky nerd teenage phase. Literally, when you see people in the unfashionable glasses flailing around with no semblance of coordination. When it becomes more advanced with groin attachments or improved 3D with no glasses, we’ll be rapidly approaching adulthood.
Then my friends, it will be holo-suites or a brain attachment that makes the experience indistinguishable from real life. That will be the future of games. This might turn gamers who don’t have much of a life into gamers with no real life at all. I suspect they won’t care.
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.
It's all so pretty!
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.
Blow shit up!
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.
Even the multiplayer is perfect
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.
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.
Beating up lackeys is awesome!
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.
Detective mode - too helpful for its own good
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.
In inFamous 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 inFamous 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).
Sliding along power cable never gets dull
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 in inFamous 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.
If you’re evil your electricity goes red. Because that’s what happens…
InFamous is a sandbox game 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.
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.
Killzone 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:
Drugged-up Mega-Machine-Gun Man
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.
You are in serious trouble
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 Killzone 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.
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.
The Capitol wasteland
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.
Where are you Dogmeat?
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.