Video Games / Platform

Buy Metal Gear Solid 5 For Kojima – Supporting a Vision

Buy Metal Gear Solid 5 For Kojima – Supporting a Vision

Konami have done the seemingly impossible, they’ve become more disliked than EA games. While hatred towards EA is often misguided, and clumsy, Konami have seemingly went on a campaign to elevate themselves to a higher level. As company, Konami have long been a slobbering mess, stumbling around, popping out games ranging from fair to utterly broken. Their treatment of the ‘core’ franchises has not exactly helped things either. Releasing broken HD remasterings of both Silent Hill and Zone of Enders, and simply refusing to fix either release, left a bitter taste in the mouth of the collective consumer mouth. Of course, it’s hard to talk about Konami without mentioning Hideo Kojima, the former golden boy turned wandering exile. In truth, Kojima has played his part in some of  Konami’s mistakes, a fact often ignored by many because ‘it’s Kojima’, but the breakdown between the two has been spectacular. The Metal Gear series is not just another video game franchise, it’s relevance and importance to the industry is undeniable, it’s fan base fiercely loyal. While most franchises are celebrated as video games, Metal Gear has always been there, side by side, with Kojima as a video game cultural event. The man himself has became just as much of a focal point as his creations. His bizarre, often pretentious, works have carved out a unique space for him in the hearts and minds of many. Much like Shigeru Miyamoto, or god forbid Cliff Bleszinski, Kojima has taken up the mantle of  industry icon. This position comes with a huge amount of power, both business wise and socially. The break down between Konami and Kojima wasn’t simply a business matter, or even a creative matter, it grew into it’s own story. Fans sat back and saw almost daily updates on the decaying relationship of two iconic names. Backlash started to bubble up, blog posts and tweets started to spit venom, the knives we’re out for Konami. The final straw seemingly came in the form of Konami removing Kojima’s name from their records, denying his efforts, including the effort put into Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. Fans of Kojima, and not-so-fans like myself, began to take notice. This was no longer just a disagreement between employee and employer, this was something much more. Konami had been nurturing a bad reputation for sometime now, KojimaGate (least I tried) was merely the flame that set off the explosion. With a huge cloud of animosity engulfing Konami from nearly every corner of the industry, and the sense of injustice towards Kojima, the resulting consequences have produced a few interesting dilemmas. Konami have one of, if not, the biggest release of 2015 on their hands. Metal Gear Solid 5, Kojima’s last effort in the franchise, is hard to ignore, but is buying the game supporting a shitty company like Konami a good thing? It’s easy to rush to the conclusion that we should boycott Metal Gear 5, hit Konami in the pocket. While they may be raking it in through various arcade machines, their biggest game flopping would surely be a dagger to side. The most furious of people may support a boycott, after all, boycotting has been a popular concept in video games for sometime, even if it often fails to materialise, but there’s a problem with this form of protest in a creative industry.   Kojima does not just make video games, he crafts his visions and inspirations, resulting in a video game. . His general attitude towards the art form , and creative media as a whole, is admirable. His tweets, much like his work, often reflect various influences and nods towards what inspires and interests him. Even after all the bullshit between him and Konami, I find it hard to believe that he would support a boycott, even more so if it was at the expense of his work. Much like a artiest wants to express themselves to others, Kojima would surely want as many people as possible to see his masterpiece. Buying Metal Gear Solid 5 isn’t you supporting a shitty company like Konami, it’s witnessing the final strokes on a creation spanning well over a decade....

Jump, Run, Kill, Die, Repeat – Black Ops 3 Beta Impressions

Jump, Run, Kill, Die, Repeat – Black Ops 3 Beta Impressions

The more things change, the more they stay the same, these are the words that echoed within each hour spent playing the Black Ops 3 Multiplayer Beta. The Call of Duty franchise has became something entirely different from what it started out as. The scrappy underdog, willing to go toe-to-toe with the established Medal of Honor franchise in a attempt to rejuvenate the World War 2 shooter. The little game that could, is now the big game that does what it wants. Call of Duty is now placed in a position in which it can create two franchises within it’s own brand. The Black Ops side of the brand has been celebrated for deviating from the ways of it’s sister, with creativity and adventure being favored over gritty modern warfare. The Black Ops games have progressed their story in a natural manner, to the point where Black Ops 3 is a futuristic pseudoscience romp, complete with exo-skeletons and robots. This new setting has of course allowed Tryarch more creative freedom in the multiplayer.   The Black Ops 3 Multiplayer Beta was open to all PSN Plus members this weekend, a brief glimpse into the next step in the progression of Call of Duty  Black Ops. From the moment the Beta loads up, it’s clear to see that there’s already been a big change to the core game. The addition of Specializations gives a structure to the game, a much welcomed addition as opposed to mix-and-match system that has featured in padded forms for the last few years. Each specialization has it’s own special (as you’d guess) weapon and equipment, both of which can turn the tide of any given the game. The holy trinity of play styles is catered for with weapons ranging from a bow and arrow, to a multi-grenade launcher. The motivation that comes with handling these special weapons is what gives Black ops 3 a genuinely satisfying edge. There’s a certain tinge of glee when using the immensely powerful power and arrow to pull off multiple direct arrow kills. Specializations open up a layer of depth, even within the Beta. Experimenting with each spec, and building a class around it, presents so many play styles and unique builds that give each match has it’s own unique flair.It’s expect that, like most games of it’s nature, a few builds will become the norm, but kudos should be paid towards the systems attempts to freshen things up. The weapons, attachments and perk system mostly remains the same. The unlocking system does a decent job of supplying the player with various new items at a fair pace, even if some of them feel rather trivial compared to others. This issue of a lot of ‘fluff’ (items, or score streaks that don’t feel very useful) has always been present in Call of Duty titles, and Black Ops 3 seems to be no different. At times, some weapons feel like they’re there just to make up the numbers, this thought is reinforced by the sheer lack of people using them. It is of course a Beta, and this is the exact issue that can be solved by Beta, but only if the player base bothers to make their thoughts heard. Movement is by far the best thing Black Ops 3 has going for it. Wall running and parkour movement systems are becoming more and more common place, even more so in first person shooters. With the likes of Mirrors Edge, Brink, Titanfall and Advanced Warfare all having a crack, Black Ops3 has it’s own accumulation of all past efforts. Movement if fast, tight and fluid. It all flows and syncs with the general action, feeling like a natural system rather than a gimmick. Regardless of the game, stringing together a number of slick movements and jumps always produces a giddy sense of ‘yeah, that was bad ass’. Black Ops 3 finds a middle ground between fast and fluid movement, while maintaining a sense of control. It’s rare you’ll find yourself scaling a wall by mistake, or grabbing onto a ledge, resulting in a cheap death. The only element holding back Black Ops 3′s free-flowing movement is it’s map design. The basic rules of Call of Duty map design are still very much present. Cover is always 5 seconds within reach, multiple exits and entries fill each section of the map and multiple levels can be reached to gain a height advantage. Surprisingly, there’s a number of ‘hidden’ paths neatly sowed into each map, catering for the more crafty players. The real issue with maps is they can feel too contained, stifling  the  free-flowing movement. Some maps feature areas that look like they can, and should, be accessible but are anything put. These areas put a slight downer on the experience, as well as coming off as refusing player’s creativity in their navigation of the map. On the whole, Black Ops 3 multiplayer Beta was a enjoyable romp that suggest the mulitplayer is making steady progress, even if it’s restrained by it’s established ways. There’s so much going on at any given time, so many grenades, bullets and scorestreaks just popping off all over. It’s hard to look passed how hyper active the multiplayer is. The way in which players can spawn, kill and die within the space of 30 seconds can become a little overwhelming, much like a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Call of Duty is known for this pace, it’s known for it’s general accessibility and instant gratification through quick kills and almost instant respawns (in the relevant game modes), but this is starting to hold the experience back.  It’s hard to soak things in when everything is exploding around you, or killing you every four seconds on loop. The Beta does enough to maintain interest in the final product, mostly thanks to curiosity rather than being straight up impressive . The market is undoubtedly there, and the new additions could  go far in changing Call of Duty’s image of ‘same shit, different year’ but at it’s core, it’s still the twitchy, hyper active multiplayer shooter it has been since Modern Warfare 2. The future’s bright but it’s also high on sugar and booming sound affects....

Early Access On Consoles: Understand The Risks, Enjoy The Rewards

Early Access On Consoles: Understand The Risks, Enjoy The Rewards

PC gaming is often celebrated for numerous reasons. Often at the forefront of video game advancement, PC gaming has often shaped the path most console trends take. For the most part, the trends from the PC side has helped improved the industry as a whole, but the most recent trend is steep in controversy. Early Access is seemingly becoming common place for both indie games and big budget releases. A curious mix of Beta testing and demo, Early Access has many sides to it, not all of them positive. For the money the customer invests into the game, what they receive in return isn’t exactly known. The level of risk involved with purchasing a Early Access title is great, you’re essentially buying a work in progress, that could drastically change at any point. The positive side to Early Access comes in two forms. Purchasing a Early Access title is directly supporting the game, allowing for it to improve and grow. Responsible developers will engage with their Early Access customers and use feedback and input to enhance the game in question. The customer is, of course, getting their hands on the game sooner rather than later. The PC platform allows Early Access games to receive updates generally quickly, without much hassle in terms of red tape. Consoles are now following in the path of the PC by introducing Early Access, which feels like a bad idea. The market, culture and general attitude of PC circles is radically different to that of the console. There’s more of a acceptance for change, more ability to be more open minded in terms of new services and concepts. Console markets are known for being set in their ways, especially when it comes to how they purchase their games. It feels like a problem waiting to happen when Early Access hits consoles. The staggered manner in which consoles titles are updated presents the biggest potential issue. Early Access games live or die on how often they are updated, if the updates come slow and staggered, it’s hard to see the service ever becoming viable, at least on consoles. Questions over how much said games would cost is another curious issue. There’s also the practical problems to do with the limited hardrive sizes more consoles shipped with. Looking for positives is not hard, as Early Access still supplies plenty of benefits. As previously mentioned, having the ability to back a game and play it straight away, even if it’s in a early state, is still a appealing concept. Microsoft are planning to put their own games on Early Access, hopefully resulting in less technical train wrecks (Master Chief Collection style) from appearing in final version releases. The key to making Early Access on consoles relies on various things, the first being penitence. The console market needs to understand what Early Access is, they need to understand the games will be buggy and incomplete. The platform is there, the market is there, for Early Access to be successful on consoles, as long as the risks are understood.  ...

Zombi U: Can The Cult Classic Truly Be Reborn?

Zombi U: Can The Cult Classic Truly Be Reborn?

For all the stick the Nintendo Wii U has suffered, at least when it comes to a lack of adult games, Zombi U always remained a firm favourite. The misunderstood Ubisoft effort was a genuine step forward for survival horror. Touch screen gimmicks were transformed into viable gameplay elements that provided some truly intense moments. The slow and sluggish nature of the gameplay, the way in which a single zombie posed a genuine threat, Zombi U was fantastic. Unfortunately, Zombi U was met with a number of struggles. The Wii U’s initial launch was a troubled on. Slow sales aside, the Wii U inherited the Wii’s image of being a ‘family console’, resulting in a number of people simply not caring about the console. Nintendo’s name choice, and the Wii’s legacy, meant Zombi U found itself in a awkward position. Unsurprisingly the game’s sales figures failed to meet expectations. Zombi U was met with mixed critical reviews, but garnered a cult following. Genuine fans of survival horror, and not the modern ‘BOO, BANG BANG – repeat’ horror of modern games, appreciated Zombi U. Miiverse hosted a interactive player base, with players trading tips and secrets, resulting the game feeling more alive than ever. The way in which Zombi U works, most notably it’s rogue like elements, allowed for players to craft their own stories, their own experiences. Player X often had a much different experience than Player Y when they both respectfully entered the streets of London. The social elements of Zombi U have remained one of it’s most underrated features. Finding notes left by other players, Demon/Dark Souls style, lent the game a sense of life. Uncovering a secret stash of goodies, thanks to a note, always presented a bizarre sense of satisfaction and gratitude. Zombi U utilized friend lists in glorious double edged manner. Finding a note left by your friend, informing you of a crossbow stored in the next room enforced the bonds between the two players. Creeping into said room, looking for said crossbow, took a whole new twist when presented with the Zombified remains of your former friend. It’s a novel concept, but it enhanced the game tenfold. Following a paper trail of notes left by a friend, aiding you in your quest for survival, only to be met by their shambling corpse, it had impact. Ubisoft are many things, but in the case of Zombi U, they’re overlooked. With the news of Zombi U, now renamed Zombi (odd choice given the film franchise sharing the name), coming to PS4 and Xbox One, Ubisoft may get the credit they are owed. This jump from Wii U to Xbox One and PS4 does bring up a few worries however. The most obvious worry is how the game will look. Zombi U was fantastic, but a looker it was not. Muddy visuals, some basic textures, repeating assets, it’s visuals were adequate at best. People expect their Xbox One & PS4 games to look top notch, something Zombi could struggle to achieve. The main worry with the transition is that the game’s character could be lost in the process. The Wii U pad enchained Zombi U greatly, a vital part of the experience. While the PS4 does offer a touch pad that could partly recreate some of Zombi U’s joy, the Xbox one has nothing. Kinect and tablets are the only methods the Xbox One has to offer, and neither of those feel all that appealing. Zombi U is still, and always was, relevant purely down to it’s character and soul. It’s hard to shake off the concerns over it’s jump to the current generation. The cynical side suggests that Zombi will be a cheap cash in on a hot sub-genre in which anything with zombies turns a profit. It all remains to be seen, but at the end of the day, Zombi U will always be remembered as the game that deserved so much more.    ...

Rocket League Is Not The Game We Asked For, But It Is What We Needed

Rocket League Is Not The Game We Asked For, But It Is What We Needed

Rocket League is nothing short than utter brilliance. It’s simply, it’s efficient and god damn is it fun. For the most part, we tend to look at Nintendo for ‘pure’ video game experiences, but Rocket League has propelled itself into that very same space. The Auto-football video game is a gentle reminder that simplicity will always have a place in the industry, even when every other games are overproduced and bloated. Breaking Rocket League down in order to see why it works is a curiously enjoyable process. Marveling at how basic the game is, yet how deep the game can be, it’s all part of the enjoyment. While a average person can sit down and understand the core game within a few moments, there’s a extra level of ‘flair’ underneath the basic concept of ramming a ball into a huge goal. Mastering the art of perfectly timed jumps, the craft of a well timed defensive power slide, the thrill of scoring a fancy goal. Rocket League is exactly the game the 2015 market has needed. The cult following around the game has already taken hold of social media and Twitch. The core concepts lend themselves perfectly to reliving the old days of ‘fun’ multiplayer, rather than competitive. The cynical side of me can’t help but think that Rocket League would receive more acclaim if was developed by Nintendo. Rocket League deserves to be a huge success, both commercially and critically. It strikes me as a game that has the potential to become ‘that’ game a group of friends/players return to for a quick blast of pure video game thrills, much in the way people return to Timespillters 2, Mario Kart or NBA Jam. Rocket League is simply a joy worth experiencing, giving even the most jaded of video game players something to smirk about. Psyonix, who are also credited for the fantastic Nosgoth, have struck gold with their mash up of driving and football, and here’s to hoping they supported it with a decent stream of DLC and events.   P.S, welcome back Split-Screen local multiplayer our old friend.   *Rocket League Ranked stream each night at 7:pm GMT over on our Twitch    ...

Bethesda Goes Big At E3, Doom Emerges As Potential Game Changer

Bethesda Goes Big At E3, Doom Emerges As Potential Game Changer

It’s beautiful, it’s gorey, it’s Doom. The gameplay shown was pretty much exactly what most die hard Doom fans wanted. It’s literally a jaunt through various corridors making a utter mess of the various hell spawn the Marine encounters. Gun porn was also included, as too was some cheerful chainsaw footage. It started violently, and ended violently. Doom, much like the original, is a complete package. Single player, old school multiplayer (power ups, rocket jumps, no dial up internet), editing tools. This is a modern Doom in every sense. Snapmap could the difference between the game being a flash in the pan, or online power house. Doom showing closed with a showing of Hell, it’s as grim as you’d expect. The smoke effects seemingly went unappreciated, but they do set off the environment perfectly. Overall, Doom maintains it’s classic DNA, while splicing it with modern day features and more open levels. Personally, I find Doom to be a much more interesting prospect than most other games we’re aware of. One slight concern, Doom’s old school approach may be jarring for the modern day console player. They’ve come to expect cinematic story driven games, blitzed with QTAs and cut scenes. Doom says ‘fuck that’ and throws you a shotgun. Battlecry is one of those games that has never truly felt like it’s doing anything ‘big’. There’s still questions over exactly what it is, even with a decent amount footage being out in the wild. It’s going into world wide Beta, it still looks like it could be fun, but nothing that’ll set the world alight…even more so given competition in the same space. Dishonest 2′s big reveal was ruined after they ‘accidentally’ mentioned it during a stream that was ‘accidentally’ broadcast. In truth, Dishonored feels like it came out years ago. With the Thief franchise all but dead, Dishonored fills the gap nicely. One of the new leads is a female, so Polygon will surely be creaming themselves before ranting about the character not being conflicted enough about her gender/sexuality. The penis bearing character option still exists, so don’t worry. Elder Scrolls Online takes front and center. It’s boring, as in truly boring. Think of all those MMORPGs that came out in 2001-2002 that had no quality of life features, awful questing mechanics and no real reason to party up for the most part, that’s Elder Scrolls Online. The flower picking system is good however. But brutal honesty aside, it’s a decent enough experience now it’s gone free to play, but there’s much better on offer in terms of MMOS both on PC and console. Elder Scrolls Card game (Legends), because you know, Hearthstone and Magic The Gathering are making card combat ‘cool’ again. Hard to see them knocking off Hearthstone from the Card Combat throne, but what ever, the more the merrier. Fallout 4, the game we all knew was coming (at some point), then all acted surprised when it was announced. Even after the years of wanting Fallout 4 to be real, people still moaned when it became reality. Concept art was shown, there was a ghoul pirate which looked pretty radical (get it? RADical?). Fallout 4 goes into the unexplored Pre-war, which feels a little off , mainly due to the showed content feeling like fan service. The complaints about the visuals some people had come off even more silly, Fallout 4 looks beautiful, the art style fits the tone perfectly. All the characters are fully voiced, with dynamic dialogue. Pip Boy is all fancy, mini games, holotapes, 3rd renders of items, it’s like the Iwatch with a actual point. There’s a collectors which will no doubt sell-out, and be sold on e-bay for five times the RRP. Fallout Shelter, a mobile game for people who love the Sims, love Fallout, and cramp riddled necks. Micromanagement with a Fallout twist. It’s free, no pay wall, no internet connections, it’s almost like free-to-play actually exists. The most interesting feature of Fallout 4 is the ‘re-building’ feature. The player can build settlements, which attract other NPCs to live in, which in turn increases the size of the settlement. Build defences, market stalls, caravans. This is how you add infinite replay value. The crafting systems scope carries over to weapon customization, the sheer amount of options at hand is staggering. Power armor is fully customizable, it’s almost like Bethesda want you to give up your social life…and job. Fallout 4 looks like the next step in the franchise, genuine progression for the series, and the industry. If the Devil is in the detail, Bethesda are covered in virgin blood and blasting out Swedish death metal. The release date is this November, but there’s always a hint of cynicism when it comes to release dates and E3.     So Bethesda started off the E3 showings with a bang. Doom is setting up to be the dark horse of their line up. The gameplay won’t be to everyone’s taste (history shows this on consoles) but the Snapmap feature could place Doom as a long term success, and not just a flavor of the month. Fallout 4 is Fallout 4, it’s going to sell well, the hype is already there, people want it. The scope of the game is insane, the release date is still a little suspect but either way, it’s Fallout 4. Dishonored 2 was only shown in trailer form, and it’s oddly went under the radar across social media. The market needs Dishonored 2, the lack of stealth games is hugely apparent, and the recent demise of the Thief franchise has left the door open for Dishonored 2 to take it’s seat of power. Bethseda paced their showing perfectly, moving from game to game. They gave facts, and not promises, smaller reveals were covered quickly and precisely, never out staying their welcome. Fallout 4 will obviously be the game on everyone’s lips, but Doom is the game to watch, purely down to Snapmap, that feature could change the console scene for the better.                ...

Splatoon’s Main Problem Is Amiibo

Splatoon’s Main Problem Is Amiibo

Splatoon is great, it’s a triumph in almost every sense…but there’s one nagging issue. Every time I boot up the game I’m treated to a instant reminder of this issue, it’s always there, it can’t be avoided. Who would of guessed a piece of plastic would be the only fault Splatoon truly suffers from, them god damn Amiibo. While Amiibo’s are merely a novelty in other games, Splatoon treats them with more respect, perhaps too much respect. The three Splatoon Amiibo’s unlock challenges, which in turn unlock items. These items just so happen to be some of the best items in the game, and not just cosmetically. The way in which clothing works in Splatoon affects the gameplay resulting in the Amiibo awards feeling a little irritating.   Each item of clothing carries a perk, enhancing a certain aspect of a characters abilities. The higher tier items offer four perks, the Amiibo gear falls into this tier. Looking past the fact the items look far better than anything else In the game, the advantage they give players early on is annoying, and unfair. Having content that is only unlocked by purchasing ‘other’ items outside of the core game, be it DLC or related promotions (Mass Effect/ Dr.pepper promo for example) is nothing new, but the Amiibos are a different beast. What started out as a nice collectible, with some extra uses within certain games, has now become a bit of a farce. Amiibo are the modern day version of Cabbage Patch Kids/Thunderbirds, stock is low yet demand is high, really high. Each wave of Amiibo always has at least two Amiibo everyone wants, yet no one can find. People invest into the supply and demand culture, selling the rarer Amiibos for double/triple the price they paid for them. To make matters worse, even the stores are starting to scalp. GAME increased their prices from £10.99 to £15.99, Shopto went one step further by going from £10.99 all the way to £19.99. The Splatoon Amiibos were initially tricky to get a hold of, but recently the boy and girl inkling have became quite common…but the Squid is a whole different story. Sold as part of a bundle with the core game, the Squid Amiibo is a tricky thing to track down outside out e-bay. Content is essentially out of reach, all down to a piece of plastic. As a collector of Amiibo, even if I refuse to take them out the box, I can still see the issues. I may own all of the Amiibo released in Europe at the moment, but I can sympathise with people who just can’t get their hands on certain Amiibo, the Squid included. Having content tucked behind a pay wall is awful sin of modern gaming, but trapping it behind a pay wall that’s also a effort to obtain, that’s inexcusable. As much as I love Nintendo, their implementation of Amiibo in Splatoon is worrying. For years now Nintendo has generally stayed away from the dirty business practices other big names indulge in. Buying a Nintendo game has always meant getting a full, complete, video game in your hand. Splatoon, and it’s Amiibo support, bucks the trend and creates a small shroud of doubt. Hopefully Nintendo does not continue to go down this path, or at least doesn’t hide too much content behind their Amiibo line. It’s a shame the main fault of Splatoon is partly due to Nintendo’s newest success story.      ...

(PC) Kholat | Review

(PC) Kholat | Review

Kholat is a horror game developed by IMGN.PRO. The game is based on the true-event known as the Dyatlov Pass Incident (click the link if you want to know more about said incident). In Kholat players take on the role of some person walking through the mountains and collecting notes and avoiding some teleporting/slow-moving entity (very similar to Slender) all while being narrated by the ever-famous, man who always dies, Sean Bean. The notes you are collecting are supposed to reveal the story and events around the Dyatlov Pass Incident but there really doesn’t seem to be much of a story present in Kholat and it feels more like the developers didn’t exactly know what they were doing and decided to just adopt the tired, and stale Slender formula we’ve been seeing in indie-horror titles as of late, which is a huge bummer coming from Kholat. Basing a game around the events of the Dyatlov Pass Incident should be a solid premise, and make an amazing horror game but that doesn’t exactly happen when you dip into Kholat. Instead you get a pretty boring, and frustrating game that feels like a chore to progress through, and doesn’t offer much in terms of excitement or enjoyment. You’re thrown into an ‘open-world’ environment that looks gorgeous, I won’t deny that. Kholat is one damn good looking game, thanks to Unreal Engine 4 and the amazing environmental work that was done on the game. The mountains look foreboding, and unnerving especially when I came across two giant skulls carved into the face of a cliff. Sadly, that’s about all that Kholat really offers in term of a horror experience. Through-out my time spent with the game I really only found myself feeling creeped out by certain parts of the environment. The enemies weren’t exactly terrifying, and were more so frustrating, or downright annoying to deal with. They work pretty similar to how Slenderman works. A slow-moving, possible teleporting (it seems like they can teleport in front of you which is downright annoying) entity that stalks you the entire time while you collect notes. Seem familiar? That’s the core concept of Kholat in a nut-shell. Explore a creepy environment, collect notes, and avoid the entity that is stalking you. Even the entity seems to be confused during the game as well. I often found myself watching the entity stop chasing me and just stand still, or change direction and start walking away from me. Where’s the fear in that? And you’re most likely to be killed by the environment, which offers no sort of warning when you could die. It’s more like a random, gotcha sort of incident which is horrible. Kholat doesn’t exactly bring anything fresh, or new to the table in terms of an experience, which again is a bummer considering how good Kholat could of been. The game also allows you to fast-travel at campsites that you discover which is a glorious feature that I’m glad was implemented due to how agonizing, and boring it is to traverse the environment after a while. This mainly stems from doing a ton of backtracking, and walking in circles. Then again, this could be intentional due to the disorienting environment and this could possible be what the victims of the real-life incident felt before their untimely demise. Sadly, it doesn’t work and just makes the game boring and again, feel like more of a chore to play. That and the entire movement system in the game is pretty godawful. You can sprint for what is maybe a few seconds before tiring out and moving at an extremely sluggish pace and it takes a fair bit of time to be able to sprint again. It makes the moments where you need to run-away from the entities, and the “orange fog” that tends to chase you to be frustrating. It feels like this was intended to make players feel tense and scared but all I felt was severe annoyance, which isn’t a good thing. You want players to have fun, and feel terrified. Not annoyed, and angry at poorly designed mechanics. I’ve only put around 3 hours into Kholat and I can tell I’m nearing the end-game area. The story seems to be expanding, but is still extremely convoluted with no real direction. What am I doing in the mountain? Why did I decide to come here? Who the hell are these entities walking around? The game offers really no explanation for anything, and even Sean Bean seems like he didn’t want to be there, and maybe even he too was confused by the entire ordeal. In the end, would I recommend Kholat? That depends. At $21.99 (currently on sale for $19.79) I wouldn’t. Maybe if the game were to drop to around $10 I’d be happy telling people to pick it up, but I don’t feel comfortable recommending a bare and a non-enjoyable experience like this for that kind of a price-point. Kholat had a solid premise, and some unique concepts but it sort of failed to deliver. It has amazing visuals, and the setting is great but it really just falls flat on delivery. Pros Awesome setting, and based off of a spooky real-life event with the Dyatlov Pass Incident. Gorgeous visuals, and at times can feel really uneasy while traversing through the snow-ridden, blizzard like environments. Sandbox-ish? Cons Not much meat to the game. More of a Slender clone by walking around, gathering notes, and avoiding some slow-walking/teleporting entity. Sean Bean’s narration feels a tad phoned in. The story is extremely convoluted, and the game doesn’t really have any sense of direction. The game is more frustrating then it is fun. The deaths you experience are more so random, and put on a more luck-based feel. Maybe you’ll randomly get killed by the environment with no warning. Doesn’t exactly feel like a horror game, and more so feels like an adventure narrative sort of experience in the veins of Dear Esther. Sadly, Kholat just isn’t all that great of a game and for that price-point I’d recommend you check it out if it gets a price drop. I was really excited for Kholat as I’m super into the Dyatlov Pass Incident, but the game didn’t fully utilize what it could of with these events and sort of just falls flat.      ...

Fresh, Fun, Pure Nintendo – Splatoon Review

Fresh, Fun, Pure Nintendo – Splatoon Review

Nintendo isn’t exactly known for creating all new properties. Often relying on their classic cast of characters, Nintendo like to experiment with new games and genres, but always front their games with the likes of Mario and Link. Splatoon marks a break through moment for Nintendo, and indeed the Wii U, as their first completely original release in some time. Splatoon is typically Nintendo in tone, yet a whole new adventure for the industry veterans. At it’s core, Splatoon is third-person shooter that tips the industry standard on it’s head. Only Nintendo could take a concept known for it’s focus on kills and turn it into a exercise of innocent fun. The real success of Splatoon is not what is, but what it does.   The 4 v 4 team based action on offer is far from the expected standard fair. Teams battle it out to cover the map in their respective teams ink colours with various weapons and gadgets. While other games focus on racking up kills, Splatoon frolics around encouraging players indulge in the simple act of mass vandalism. Complete with a interactive player city hub, Splatoon feels extremely old school, but with all of the modern flare. If there’s one thing that could have killed off Spaltoon early on it would be the controls. Motion controls still carry a stigma to theme, even more so when it’s a vital element to the gameplay. The way in which the Wii U’s motion controls are utilized is such a smart, subtle, and none-intrusive manner that it easy to forget they’re even there. Player directional movement is dictated with the Wii U pad’s analogue sticks, while the aiming is exclusively controlled via motion controls. Initially, aiming is fiddly, but quickly becomes second nature. The camera can be re-centered with a simple push of a button, a hugely important feature that oils the motion controls resulting in the whole scheme feeling like a genuine victory for the Wii U’s pad.   Splatoon’s lack of class roles is a true deviation from the modern standard, but it’s a deviation that suits the game perfectly. Players, after creating their ‘kid’, can purchase clothing and weapons that affect how they play. The play style of each weapon is where Splatoon’s true depth can be found. The distinct difference between the tools on offer is what keeps each session feeling fresh, even more so with certain maps encouraging the use of mixture of weapons. They all have their trades off, they all have their advantages and counters, for a ‘kids’ game Splatoon has a true hidden depth. Players can further customization their play style by purchasing items of clothing, all of which come with various perks. Each item is rated in terms of it’s quality on a four star scale. For every star the items posses, there’s a perk to unlock. The perks range from the likes of damage increases, speed boosts and reduced spawn times. Saving up the coin in order to buy both weapons and clothing forms the spine of the replay value. Battling through a number of games, earning the coins, buying the items, leveling the items, it’s a constant cycle that rewards.   With a number of big budget ‘Triple A’ games trying to redefine online shooters, it’s bizarre that Nintendo’s first attempt is so simple, yet so successful. The primary goal of Splatoon is to cover each map in your teams coloured ink. This is achieved by spraying said ink all over the environment, or by ‘splatting’ opposition team members (it feels wrong to call them enemies). The ink it’s self is not merely a means to victory, it’s also a unique method of transport and strategic resource. Splatoon’s main selling point is the way in which players can switch between a humanoid kid into a squid, allowing them to dive into the ink splattered around the environment. While it may sound like a cheesy gimmick, it’s actually a slick mechanic that opens up a tactical edge to player movement. It’s a genuinely smart feature that Splatoon makes perfect use of, enhancing the core gameplay tenfold. Firing ink up the wall, turning into a squid, and swimming up the wall to reach a advantage point produces undeniable giddy moments. Nintendo’s lack of experience with team based competitive shooters does show in places. The recently added ‘Ranked Mode’ features a game mode similar to King of the Hill in which player battle to control a point on the map. Some of the weapons and gadgets become far more useful than others, resulting in the game being all about who has the most rollers or sprinklers. Given players can’t change their loadout mid game, there’s a certain element of luck attached to Ranked mode that detracts from the sense of ‘free flowing’ fun. The mode it’s self is fair, but is inconsistent depending on the map it’s hosted on. Splatoon’s most surprising feature is it’s short, but sweet, single player experience. Beneath the player city hub, the five single player zones can be found. Each zone offers a number of challenges along with a final boss battle. The challenges mostly consist of using the Squid/Ink mechanic in various clever fashions. It may only be a brief distraction, but the single player portion is genuinely enjoyable, even if it does result in a longing for more. By the time the single player comes to a close, new items are unlocked and fun time is had, it begs the question of what else could be achieved if Nintendo spent more time on the singe player aspect.   All the hallmarks of Nintendo can be seen and heard in Splatoon’s visuals and soundtrack. The bright environments, the beautifully adorable character models, the oddly engaging music, it’s all typically Nintendo. The Wii U isn’t known for it’s power, but it’s more than capable of looking beautiful, and when the ink is flying, and the squids are leaping, it’s hard not to enjoy the visual splendor on display. Nintendo’s bold has paid off, they’ve created a wonderfully solid game with plenty of room to grow. The staggered release of DLC is good idea, allowing players to come to terms with how Splatoon works and plays. The simple nature of Splatoon is what separates it from other games in the same space. The core gameplay elements, the impressive player ink/squid mechanic, the sheer joy on offer, it all result in Splatoon being such an appealing experience. The only true sour note is the fact the Amiibos unlock high end gear and more single player challenges, which is annoying given the current state of Amiibo availability. It’s not a huge problem, but it’s still a niggling annoyance.   Bold, bright, fresh, enjoyable, Splatoon proves you can teach a old dog new tricks.   8/10      ...

The Best So Far, But Not Yet Great – Game of Thrones Ep4: Sons of Winter Review

The Best So Far, But Not Yet Great – Game of Thrones Ep4: Sons of Winter Review

TellTale’s Game of Thrones series has been their weakest work since Jurassic Park, but there’s always been a since of hidden potential just waiting to burst through. The firs three episodes have plodded around, often looking for a real direction, with the intention of setting the pieces into places. Episode four, Sons of Winter, marks a turning point for the series, welcoming back TellTale’s ability to tell a story while engrossing the player, but it’s not without it’s faults. By the time Sons of Winter rolls around, the core cast of characters all have their defined goals, traits and ideals. Each story arc has a distinct tone in keeping with themes often covered in both the books and the TV show. Family values, honour, responsibility, tradition all continue to play key parts in each respective character’s story. The theme of revenge remains prevalent throughout Sons of Winter, only this time it comes into conflict with the concept of a ‘the greater good’. Sons of Winter is much more direct episode in the series, with the action coming at a steady pace. The constant small talk of the previous episodes is replaced with action scenes and plot progressing interactions. This new found flow allows the episode to feel much more compact, never allowing the player to settle into a lulled sense disenchantment. The storyline around the Forrester/Whitehall stand off benefits most of the change of pace, becoming a much more engrossing tale. The conversations between key characters carries much more weight than initial episodes. The lack of small talk frees characters, allowing them to command a presence in their respective scenes. Both Mira and Rodrik Forrester’s once staggered stories are now a interesting mix of political intrigue and intense tension. Rodrik in particular shines thanks to a number of intense stand offs and decisions. Mira’s section is a much more subtle affair, akin to her character. Her weapons are not physical, but verbal, as she adopts to the game of lies played across Kings Landing.   Asher plays a pivotal part in Sons of Winter, presenting some genuinely interesting back-story and filler during events shown in the TV series. His continued tale of avenging his family leads him to running into Daenerys Targaryen on the even of her conquest of Meereen. While the TV series featured the outcome of her conquest, Sons of Winter shows the beginning with Asher and Beskha on the front line. The simmering tension between the two friends continues to boil, with Beskha growing increasingly frustrated with Asher’s willingness to obey others. The relationship between the two characters becomes to focal point for the episode, with one of them revealing some genuinely interesting back story. As ever, one story is sacrificed in terms of how much spot light they receive. Gared’s exploits at The Wall are significantly cut down, leaving his story to be left in the dust. His section mostly consists of quick time combat events, with one or two minor interactions in between. In truth, the Gared storyline was starting to lose it’s momentum during episode three, that momentum is essential dead by the close of Sons of Winter. Telltale have almost written themselves into failure with Gared’s quest to reach the grove. His story feels slightly hoakey when compared to the deadly game of wits and brawn present in the other Forester family tales. The main issues Sons of Winter suffers can be found in the shape of the inclusion of the Queen of Dragons. Her demeanor is jarringly hostile, nothing like her appearances in the TV series. Her inclusion in the episode feels slightly like fan service more than a means to drive the plot. Emilia Clarke’s wooden acting does not help things, but does suit the robotic nature of the character models. TellTale’s engine is seriously showing it’s age now, muddy textures, robotic animation and some utterly bizarre facial movements are the main issues to be found. Sons of Winter is easily the best of the bunch so far, suggesting the series is finally ready to hit it’s hot streak. Compact story telling, interesting revelations and some top notch pacing results in a hugely enjoyable experience. While the games are starting to look aged, the core elements all work together neatly. All of the pieces are in place, with three of the four stories at boiling point, episode five is already looking promising. Engaging, intense and utterly enjoyable, Sons of Winter is everything the last three episodes failed to be....

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