Video Games / Platform / XboxOne

The Problems Of Adopting New Systems Too Early

The Problems Of Adopting New Systems Too Early

Buying into new consoles is always a odd experience. There’s a number of elements that come into play, mostly attempts to justify spending vast amounts of money on a system with barely any games. The chief feeling, and most welcomed, is excitement. There’s always a buzz when it comes to walking into the store and picking up the ‘next big thing’. I waited for months, pre-order slip in hand, counting down the days until the PS4 was released. My enjoyment of video games had became a little stale, the PS4 was something to get excited about. New experiences, new features, and as lame as it sounds…them shiny visuals. Killzone: Shadowfall was the main game that had me wishing the PS4 was closer to release, seeing the glory of the game in action was mouth watering. While my PC had given me plenty of visual thrills, the idea that consoles were pumping out these visuals was a wonderful concept to behold.   The PS4 release came around, I booked a day off work and set off to pick up my system. Even on the way there I can recall thinking about all the risks I was taking in terms of investing early. The lack of games at launch, what if it suffered errors like the 360 did at launch? How do I justify spending this much money on such a trivial object. By the time I had picked up the system, paid, and journeyed home, all the doubts faded, only excitement remained. It’s a cycle I’ve went through with every console release since the Game Boy Advanced…and I wouldn’t change it for the world. My traditional cycle, when it came to buying new systems, had been thrown out the window when it came to the Xbox One. After saving up money, I found myself in a GAME store looking at Microsoft’s big fat black box. My feelings towards the Xbox One were a little off, the disastrous E3 (2013), the terrible PR, it had left me a little wary of the system. Even with all that in mind, I found myself walking out with a Xbox One in hand.   I’ve enjoyed my times with both the Xbox One and the PS4, but issues had arisen. By buying both system so early on, I had found myself barely using one of the systems. While the Xbox one had me hooked on Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare, beyond that there was little to keep me around. Titanfall was a brief distraction, as too was Dead Rising 3, but the Xbox One was far my system of choice. Multiformat titles were often purchased for the PS4, resulting my library out numbering my Xbox One games by a large margin. The truth is, neither system has games that are exclusive while being must plays. Both consoles offer enjoyable games, but nothing that will make a true impact on the player. While nice visuals are a treat to behold, and using consoles various nifty features (the PS4 touch pad for example) makes for curious enjoyment, neither system truly feels like it’s the next step in video games…at least not yet. Call it buyers remorse, regret, or even nativity, buying into both systems this early on was a mistake. After nearly a year of decent, but not brilliant, next gen (or new gen, if you will) games , the resulting feeling is a little underwhelming. It’s a similar problem that popped up with the release of the Ps Vita and the Nintendo 3DS, so it’s not like this is a new concept. While others may be more than pleased with their next gen experiences, there’s still niggling sense of regret personally, too much too soon feels like the best way to sum up the situation.   2015 is looking far better with a plethora of big name games coming to both the Xbox One and PS4. While 2014 has been a rather sleepy year, the new systems will hopefully pick up traction in 2015, eliminating my lingering senses of regret. At the end of the day, Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare is still the best next generation experience so far…and that is the biggest surprise when it’s all said and done.    ...

Three Key Ways EA Can Improve Their UFC Games

Three Key Ways EA Can Improve Their UFC Games

With EA Sports UFC turning out to be more than a little lacking, thought turns towards the main ways a probable follow-up could improve. From cosmetic changes, to inclusion of modes, and tweaks to the gameplay, these are the three key ways EA can improve their UFC games.   Re-work The Ground Game: The core criticism of EA Sports UFC is how rigid the ground game is. Almost nearly every MMA bout will hit the ground at some point. Body positioning, guards, transitions all make up the key elements of a strong ground game. EA Sports UFC features a system that rarely feels smooth or natural. Each transition feels rigid, forced and not all that responsive. The control scheme doesn’t allow much freedom, giving one of the most creative elements of MMA an entirely linear mechanic. Re-working the whole ground game, including the odd submission mini-game, would be an instant improvement. A re-worked ground system should ideally give both fighters more freedom of choice in what they wish to do, instead of relying on repetitive flicks of analogue sticks and aiming to use sticks to adjust body posture and reaction. But most of all, movement should be SMOOTH. The current system is far too rigid and clunky, making it far less enjoyable or engaging than it should be. The submission mini-game should take its leave and be replaced with a more realistic, interactive, mechanic. Combining stick moments and press, much like the system seen in past UFC titles under THQ, is a far more enjoyable and satisfying concept than a cat-and-mouse mini game.   Add More Modes; Improve Current Modes: For a full retail title, EA Sports UFC features barely any game modes. The career mode is a loosely connected series of fights with some mini-games complete with light character progression chucked in. The career as a core game mode is simply not good enough. EA should look no further than the vast amount of content on offer in UFC Undisputed 3. Career mode, Pride fights, online fight camps, re-enacting classic fights and of course straight-up fights. EA not making use of Zuffa’s purchases is insanely short-sighted. Including a handful of modes, when past titles have had so much to offer, is simply not acceptable. Whether it’s EA not truly caring about the product, or EA simply testing the waters, their next UFC game needs to ship with far more modes.   Realistic Striking: While everything in the game looks pretty, there are some things that look plain stupid. Seeing someone such as Junior Dos Santos land repeated upper cuts and not knocking a guy out is silly. The striking in EA Sports UFC feels more like something you’d play with Killer Instinct–stacking combos together rather than landing that perfect strike. While not every fighter has one punch power, the ones that do should have it reflected in the game. Head shots hurt–they can really hurt–but EA seems to ignore that fact. Repeat strikes in dangerous places don’t reflect the damage they should. A person’s head does not simply return to its natural position after being hit with hard force; a leg does not pop straight back to the standing position after being kicked. EA is aiming for realism, and this should be reflected in their game’s striking. Another issue, albeit an utterly bizarre one, is the ease of which fighters pulls off moves rarely seen in fights. The showtime kick has been hit ONCE, and yet the majority of fighters can pull it off within the game. Highly specialist moves should either be locked to the fighter (or fighters) who can pull them off, or remove the rarely seen/used moves entirely.      ...

Another Dead Island Game Announced – Is It One Too Many?

Another Dead Island Game Announced – Is It One Too Many?

Deep Silver’s faith in the Dead Island franchise continues to grow. Escape: Dead Island is a third-person ‘survival mystery’ that explores the origins of the zombie virus. Scheduled for release this autumn, Escape will land on PS3 and 360 for the retail price of £39.99. The PC version version will cost £34.99. ”ESCAPE Dead Island is a survival mystery that follows the story of Cliff Calo, who sets sail to document the unexplained events rumoured to have happened on Banoi. Arriving on the island of Narapela, part of the Banoi archipelago, he finds that not everything is as it seems. Haunted by Déjà vu, Cliff will have to make sense of it all throughout the entire game – again and again. This story-driven adventure lets players delve into the Dead Island universe and unravel the origins of the zombie outbreak. Escape is only the beginning… Delivering the key features of a Dead Island game – visceral melee combat set in a beautiful paradise setting – ESCAPE adds a completely new tone to the zombie universe. The visually unique styles accompanies the player on his struggle against insanity as he experiences the secrets of the Dead Island universe, fights off zombies with a vast and unique array of weapons and opens the path to the events that will happen in Dead Island 2. ”   While Escape does look interesting, there’s a slight sense of ‘not another Dead Island game’. Escape will be the 5th entry into a franchise that has never truly thrilled the masses. The first entry sold, and reviewed, fairly well, Riptide did not meet expectations in both regards. The Dead Island MOBA, Epidemic, is still a curious beast that doesn’t seem to be garnering that much attention. Dead Island 2 was some what of a surprise announcement. Given the short gaps between the first two games releases, it was expected that the franchise would be rested in terms of main entries. While the reaction to the Dead Island 2 trailer was positive, there’s still groans over yet another zombie game. The over saturation of Zombies in the media, especially video games, has left a lot of people jaded. With Dead Island, H1Z1 and Dying Light, the zombie sub genre is set to grow and grow. The over reliance on one franchise is a risky move for any company, only a few can afford to do such strategy (Konami). Deep Silver are putting a lot of faith in a franchise that, at best, is inconsistent. Fingers crossed quantity does prevail over quality....

Metro Redux Release Date Confirmed

Metro Redux Release Date Confirmed

Deep Silver have confirmed that Metro Redux will release in stores on August 29th in Europe and August 26th in the US. Metro Redux will contain both Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light remastered for the PS4 and Xbox One. Redux will ship with all of the previously released DLC, including the fan favorite ‘Ranger Mode’ for both titles. Both games will be sold separately as digital downloads for those only wish to pick up one of the games. For those that missed out on the Metro franchise, this is the perfect opportunity to jump into some truly atmospheric video game experiences. Metro: Last Light remains as one of the most underrated , and under appreciated titles in the last few years. Last Light is nothing short of fantastic with it’s brooding atmosphere, fantastic imagery and a story that makes the player question what side they stand on. For more details on what made Metro: Last Light such a top title, checkout our article ”Why Metro: Last Light is One of the Best Games I’ve Played this Generation”.        ...

EA Sports UFC Review (PS4/Xbox One)

EA Sports UFC Review (PS4/Xbox One)

EA’s UFC has been one of the company’s most hyped titles, mainly due to its visuals. After months of press releases, trailers and screenshots, does the game deliver the realistic experience promised? In short, no. Not entirely, at least. At its core, MMA is arguably the purest form of competition. The sheer amounts of disciplines that factor into the sport give it such a sense of depth that not many other sports can match. This alone makes MMA a tricky sport to translate into a video game. Every fight starts on the feet, and this is possibly the strongest elements of EA UFC’s gameplay. The range in strikes gives the players more than enough options to create combos and put a bit a flare into their fight style. Each strike carries a genuine sense of impact; faces wobble, cut and bruise, and it’s noticeably realistic. This allows the striking to become an instantly rewarding mechanic that engages players, as well as spectators, straight away. There’s a sense of ease to stringing together basic combos. Knees and fists can be strung together in effective methods without requiring too much thought. There’s a number of advanced stand up techniques, mostly built upon the blocking and evasion mechanics, which require some time to learn. The basic stand up is well rounded, but that quickly becomes a problem given how simple it is compared to other key elements of the fight, such as clinching, grappling, and wrestling. Stand up only makes up part of the sport; any fighter who doesn’t learn the ground game wont last very long. This is where EA UFC runs into some major issues. The clinch is solid, with controls that are easy to learn and a viable part of the game. The same can also be said of the takedowns, which carry a sense of weight to them. The ground game, however, is an utter mess of confusion, frustration and bemusement. Transitioning from position to position, be it from the top or bottom, feels like a horrid dance of jerking analogue sticks around in hope more than expectation. Even after taking time to learn the controls, the ground game never feels accomplished and becomes something the player fears rather than utilizes.   It’s frustrating that such a key part of the sport is so undercooked and so rough around the edges. What should be a smooth experience, with plenty of depth, is instead a flurry of stick wiggles and button presses while the on-screen fighter wiggles in a strange limp motion. It’s rare the ground game feels smooth or useful. It instead feels like a hindrance that is unfairly thrown upon the player as the AI imposes its willful mount with ease. While it may seem like a small issue to those not familiar with MMA, these ground game issues are in fact a big deal given how large of a part the ground game plays in any given fight. It’s unfortunate that the effort put into the stand up is deflected by shoddy mechanics used for the ground game, mainly the transitions. There’s also an issue that pops up with how submissions are handled. Attempting a submission prompts an odd mini game in which the victim presses in a direction while the submitter tries to match his victim’s stick wiggles. The mini-game feels out of place, even more so given the pace and presentation of each fight. The mechanic simply doesn’t match what is going on, almost cheapening the experience.   The visuals of EA UFC are what have been the main focus, at least in terms of marketing. To EA’s credit, the character models are mostly stunning. The attention to detail is staggering, from the scars on Jon Jon’s face, to the readable text on Rousey’s ankle tattoo.The finer details have all been taken care of. There are one or two character models that feel a little less well crafted, mainly Chael Sonnen and Alexander Gustaffason, both of which carry a distinct video game look. The general set dressing isn’t quite up to the standards on the character models. Arenas feel oddly vacant, lacking the soul and buzz of a real UFC event. It seems odd that EA would go to so much effort to create fantastic character models only to put them into rather vapid arenas. Thankfully the soul of the fights is injected with how much damage is shown on the respective fighters. When a punch is thrown, the impact is visible. Bodies will ripple, cuts and bruises will appear, and it gives each each fight a much needed sense of life, as well as adding weight to each punch, knee, kick and takedown.   One of the main criticisms of EA UFC is the lack of content on offer. While ninety-seven fighters may sound impressive, there aren’t many modes to use them in. While past UFC titles by other developers made full use of the UFC’s purchases of the PRIDE (the premier MMA promotion pre-UFC days) and history, EA has focused mainly on the current times. Aside from the standard fight mode and online modes, there’s a career mode built around The Ultimate Fighter TV show. Players create a fighter and fight their way through the UFC in pursuit of capturing gold. In between fights, players complete various drills in order to obtain evolution points. These points can be spent on new moves or by boosting the player’s attributes. As players enter the bigger fights in their career, more sponsors and gyms will become available. The career mode has a rather curious mechanic which dictates how long the player’s career lasts. After each fight, the player will be presented with an overview of how much damage they took and what impact it has on their career. Much like real life, taking numerous heavy hits in each fight will cut short the fighter’s career. Players wishing to have a long and illustrious careers are forced to take note of how much damage they are taking. This mechanic forces players into changing their approach to fights in order to maintain their fighter’s career. It gives the mode a genuine sense of depth as it pushes the player to learn the game and formulate genuine game plans rather than relying on throwing bombs each fight.   The online multiplayer is adequate enough but lacks anything to truly write home about. There are often times when players will come into contact with players from across the pond, creating a laggy connection. The lag doesn’t make the game unplayable, but it does make it frustrating. It’s hard to string combos together when a 2-3 second delay keeps occurring. As stated, this only seems to happen with overseas connections and is not an issue that runs throughout. If there’s one hugely annoying issue with the multiplayer, it’s the inclusion of Bruce Lee as DLC. Boasting insane speed and power, Bruce Lee is possibly the best fighter in the game, and he’s locked as paid DLC or as a pre-order bonus. Having the option to play as Bruce Lee is a huge advantage over those without him. His sheer speed makes him near impossible to out-strike, creating a feeling of pay-to-win. It feels like a low blow by EA as they try to make a quick buck. EA’s first attempt at a UFC game is admirable, but flawed. While the stand up is satisfying and the visuals impressive, the ground game is a huge detractor. Given how vital the ground game is, the core gameplay is effected by the rough nature of the ground game mechanics. It’s a hugely frustrating part of the game that truly sucks the pace, fluidity and enjoyment out of each bout .A lack of feinting strikes, option to touch gloves, no leg kick KOs and everyone being able to pull of flashy (physical impossible moves for some) moves also makes for some annoyances. The lack of modes and content is also an issue, one that feels like the product of a rushed release more than anything. Given the calibre of past UFC titles, EA’s attempt may look the part, but it doesn’t feel like the complete package. While the game is enjoyable for the most part, the issues truly hinder the overall game from reaching the heights it could have reached.  ...

Wolfenstein: The New Order Review (PS4/ Xbox One/ PC)

Wolfenstein: The New Order Review (PS4/ Xbox One/ PC)

There aren’t many first-person shooters that can raise a smile via gunning down waves of enemies, only to stop you in your tracks and make you question some pretty heavy topics. Dual wielding machine guns while unleashing hell one bullet at a time in one moment, mulling over racism and oppression the next. Wolfenstein: The New Order is far from what was expected. Franchise protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz is back, complete with a voice and high-definition chin, and once again he’s battling the Third Reich. The New Order opens with a brief mission set during, what should be, the end of World War 2, as B.J. and his team assault a Nazi compound. Right from the start, the tones and themes of New Order are laid out: robotic Nazi Dogs; Frankenstein-like super-soldiers; and giant mechanical units dominating the field. The opening mission acts as a tutorial as well as an introduction to the game’s antagonist, General Deathead, climaxing in a choice that impacts the rest of the game. The story then picks up some years later, in a world where the Nazis have gone on to global domination. The alternative timeline is the perfect place for traditional Wolfenstein enemy designs to make an appearance. There’s a number of times in which the enemy design is genuinely impressive due to their sheer twisted creativity. Their over-the-top nature feeds into the desired tone of the game. At least for the most part. The New Order doesn’t seem to want to take itself too seriously, but at times its nature comes into conflict with the more somber moments of the game. For example, a number of times a cutscene will focus on the horrors of war, while there’s also a short scene in which the topic of racism is touched upon. While these sections are well done and give the game a sense of soul , they come off a little out of place given how over-the-top the game is.     The action is relentless and outlandish, removing any sense of realism in favor for sheer balls-to-the-wall fun. There’s a sense of unbridled power when B.J. dual-wields assault rifles and creates a tidal wave of bullets and Nazi corpses. The core enjoyment of New Order is down to how well Machine Games has nailed the gameplay. There’s a strong sense of understanding and appreciation for classic first-person shooters. Running and gunning has never felt so good, each movement furled with a tight control scheme that lends well to the fast-paced action at hand. Wolfenstein: The New Order freshens up the gameplay by including a perk system that feeds into how the player plays the game. Perks will unlock once the player has met the criteria. For example, the stealth tree requires stealth kills and keeping a low profile to progress. The other trees mostly cover making things die at the hands of various weapons. It’s a simple system that gives the player short-term goals to improve their efficiency in the way they play, and it’s welcome and well rounded addition to the franchise.   Shockingly, there’s quite a lot of freedom when it comes to how a player can approach most situations. Each level often plays host to a number of paths for the player to take. Want to go in all guns blazing? There’s a path for that. Want to take it slow, steady, and adopt a stealthy approach? Heck, there’s often two paths for that. The choices aren’t simply there for show–the stealth is genuinely well done for a game that’s mostly about shooting literally everything in front of the player. In terms of production value, The New Order ranges from fantastic to questionable. Cutscenes are beautiful, with some characters coming to life thanks to fantastic detail and smooth animation. The visuals during gameplay tend to dip in and out of being decent to rough, however. Some textures can look slightly last-gen, especially on the weapons. It’s not that the game looks bad, it’s just that it struggles to truly make the impression that the game fully belongs on the new hardware from Sony and Microsoft. The game’s audio is adequate but has little to get excited or complain about.     The New Order does a lot well, but there are a number of issues littered around throughout that stop it from truly excelling. The 18 certificate given to the game seems like the result of some awkwardly forced-in scenes. Sex scenes and some random gore moments feel out of place and forced, even more so when they are sandwiched in between some heavy ethical topics. Also, the weapons on offer feel a little tame, which is disappointing given how creative the game is elsewhere. The main issues are mostly buried in the technical side of things. Enemy AI can go a bit off the wall and unresponsive to the actions around them. Enemies can find themselves trapped on scenery, as well the player. Boss battles are also thrown into The New Order, none of which feel engaging or even challenging, allowing some sections to feel a little underwhelming. Wolfenstein: The New Order is a solid experience. The action is solid, the experience is enjoyable, and by the end of the decent-length campaign, the player feels truly well traveled thanks to a fantastic range of environments. It’s a shame, then, that The New Order struggles to keep a balance between being over-the-top and serious. Fun, conflicted, sometimes even sad, The New Order is enjoyable but not essential, but is nevertheless a return to form for a somewhat forgotten franchise.      ...

Titanfall Review (Xbox One)

Titanfall Review (Xbox One)

There’s a tremendous amount of hype and pressure resting upon the shoulders of Respawn’s multiplayer-only first-person shooter. Not only is this their début game, but it’s also Microsoft’s killer app for the Xbox One. The fact Titanfall is seen as the savior of online first-person shooters by most is a testament to the level of excitement surrounding the game. The titan has finally landed, but have the expectations been met? Titanfall isn’t exactly anything truly new; instead it’s the combination of various elements–and not just from video games either. Mechs, jet packs, parkour, twitch shooting, leveling systems–none of it hasn’t already been seen before in countless other video games. The success and selling point of Titanfall is how it’s all tied together in one neat package. There’s a sense of finesse and fine craftsmanship with how each element of Titanfall neatly entwines with the other. The parkour and wall-running supplies a silky smooth backbone to player movement that oozes confidence and rewards the player with sheer satisfaction with every movement. The run-and-gun gameplay feeds perfectly into the player movement, allowing Titanfall to play host to some of the most intense and interesting firefights between players. This is all attached to a devilishly simple control setup that supports player movement perfectly.   The tired mechanics of running around shooting everything in sight have been truly refreshed in every way. The slick movement and control scheme have a profound impact on every fiber of Titanfall‘s being. While it may not add anything entirely new, the marriage between the gun play and the movement is truly a work of art. Titanfall hosts its own leveling-up system that restrains itself to barriers of already-existing systems seen in other games. Players earn experience for carrying out various acts, none of which feel forced into the game and come naturally as the matches are played out. The levelling system lends itself well to the core values of most of Titanfall’s multiplayer action. The biggest selling point of Titanfall is, undoubtedly, the Titans themselves. The first time anyone witnesses one of the hulking beasts drop into the battlefield is simply an awesome video game moment. It’s curiously wonderful when viewing the hulking creations stomp around the battlefield laying waste to those around them. Titanfall makes sure that every player, regardless of skill level, gets to jump into the heart of a Titan.   Titans are called onto the battlefield by taking objectives, killing the AI-controlled troops littered across the map, and of course by killing the enemy. With each point comes a reduced ‘build’ time, allowing the Titan to be called sooner rather than later. The method in which Titans are earned rewards good play while catering for those of a lower skill level so that nobody is alienated from the thrills of controlling a Titan. Some may take issue that bad players are given the same rewards as those carrying the team, but this is not a real issue at all, thankfully. Those who enjoy a good performance will be rewarded with multiple Titan drops, for example. Titanfall simply does not discriminate towards skill level, nor does it hinder its better players. Instead there’s a sense of balance and an equal playing field. The Titan may be powerful, but the level playing field extends beyond player skill and into the realms of combat between Titan and pilot. The Titan is not merely a means to earn some kills; it’s a huge strategic asset that can turn the tides of a game. Titan vs. Titan battles make for some truly intense experiences, but the humble pilot poses just as much of threat on foot as they do in control of a Titan. Each player has anti-Titan weaponry, as well as the ability to mount enemy Titans and engage in a rodeo in which the player shoots the Titan’s power core, destroying it. The Titan may be large, but it’s just as vulnerable as anything else, and that’s the beauty of Titanfall‘s action, the balance in the chaos.   The true joy of Titanfall is the feeling that everything the player does is effecting the outcome of the game. There’s never a moment in which a player is left wandering around in a desperate attempt to find where the action is. Given each map is packed with AI-controlled troops as well as players, there is always something to get involved with, whether it’s taking down AI troops, hacking turrets, support allies, or taking on enemy Titans. There’s so much to do in every single battle. Each battle contains so many individual battles, as well as team engagements, that it often feels like a game within a game. Titanfall‘s core multiplayer experience has so many layers to it that combine perfectly to create a brew of sheer enjoyment. With all these positives, the negatives may become lost on some. The customization options of both pilots and Titans feel rather thin on the ground. The lack of abilities, weapons, and gadgets feels slightly restrictive compared to other multiplayer experiences on the market. This issue, thankfully, does not impact on the game too heavily but becomes noticeable during prolonged sessions. There are also a few niggling issues that become apparent after repeat plays. The previously mentioned AI troops, for example, are utterly useless. They may offer a means to keep players engaged in the action and service lower-skilled players but their AI is so laughably bad it becomes more jarring to witness them in action than anything else. A few of the weapons feel rather pointless and out of place, slowing down the player’s movement in order to use. On top of that, the most annoying issues revolve around Titanfall‘s ‘Burn Card’ system, which acts as temporary boosts earned via in-game actions. A number of the cards are utterly useless compared to others, and given how often the average player earns cards, the useless ones feel like spam requiring the player to clear out their collection frequently.   One of Titanfall‘s greatest accomplishments is its map design. Given the multi-layered nature of the game, the ability to create maps that cater for every element of Titanfall is a significant achievement. Each map contains a number of paths, giving them all a heavy sense of depth. Each nook and cranny allows players to make the most of the smooth movement and climbing mechanics. There’s a strange sense of arrogance in how each map is designed; they almost taunt the player in trying new and inventive ways of traversing to certain points, though pulling these methods off is immensely satisfying. There’s some nice set dressing to be witnessed, also, such as alien creatures doing their business in the background, but disappointingly that’s all it ever is. Titanfall‘s focus on multiplayer is all fair and good, but its attempt to shoehorn a campaign into the mix comes off as simply odd. The storyline–or what passes for one, anyway–is given during the pre-game lobby. Once the game has begun,  there’s a short briefing with a quick cutscene which flows into the start of the match. While it’s always a slick introduction to the missions, the fact that they are simply just a normal game but with an intro is disappointing. The unnecessary inclusion of a story feels unnecessary and out of place, even if the plot does suggest that there is potential in there somewhere. The campaign consists of two of the five modes on offer. Attrition is a simple Team Deathmatch-type, while Hardpoint is Domination with a fancy name. Last Titan Standing is the most interesting and intense mode as players are each given one Titan, with victory going to the team with the last Titan standing (hence the name). It’s an utterly intense, and curiously tactical, game mode that delivers some of the best experiences in Titanfall. Pilot Hunt, however, is a strange and unsatisfying mixture of Attrition with a blend of confusion, as points are only gained by killing players. It’s a mode that feels weak and out-of-place compared to its much more well-rounded counterparts. The presentation of Respawn’s baby had a number of people a little worried due to the lack of 1080p. The fact is Titanfall doesn’t look all that impressive, nor is it ugly. Instead it’s simply adequate. The general look of the game is interesting, with clear influences being taken from modern sci-fi classic District 9 and the visually intriguing but flawed Elysium. The lack of next-gen power in the visuals may bother some, but the truth is the game’s pace and sheer fun keep the player from noticing the lack of sharpness in the graphics. It comes as a surprise that Titanfall can often suffer from framerate issues, mostly when a number of Titans are battling it out on-screen at the same time. The framerate will drop to rather low levels, leaving the player in a state of confusion and disarray. Screen-tearing is also prominent, though hard to spot given how fast the game plays out. Titanfall is not revolutionary. Rather, it’s more of an evolution. The slick combination of various elements results in an engaging and rewarding experience. The smooth manner in which players move, the sense of power behind a Titan–it’s all truly satisfying. The sense of balance remains strong throughout the game, even with a few iffy weapons and abilities present. Maps are designed with a sense of genius, as is most of the game. But it’s not perfect. The superfluos plot, a pointless campaign mode, a generic levelling system, along with the framerate and screen-tearing issues leave the game falling under the expectations set. Titanfall is a tight, intense, thrilling video game that is only a few steps from achieving true greatness. Respawn’s début feels like the building block for something truly spectacular. But for now, Titanfall is a good game waiting to be a great one.  ...

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare Review

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare Review

The online shooter market is packed full of gritty, realistic, mature shooters. Every month seemingly sees a new release trying to be the next big thing in online shooters. Understandably it comes with a raised eyebrow and a slight look of bemusement when I say that EA’s latest release is one of the most refreshing shooters in years–and it’s not even trying to be. Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare is simply one of the biggest surprises in modern videogames to emerge in quite some time. There’s a natural sense of cautious curiosity when it comes to approaching this spin-off of the immensely popular tower defence game. A third-person class-based shooter based on Plants vs. Zombies? The concept sounds like a recipe for a cheap cash-in, but what’s actually on show within the game is far from a lazy attempt to gain a quick buck. In short, it’s pure class. Garden Warfare is firmly focused on multiplayer, hence its lack of any kind of singleplayer campaign. The bulk of the game is split into a horde-like co-op mode called Garden Ops and competitive multiplayer. Irrespective of which mode you opt for, Garden Warfare is a tightly crafted experience that bares some similarities to the roots of the series (no pun intended) whilst feeling completely fresh at the same time. Garden Ops, as one of the game’s main modes, starts with the players selecting one of a number of gardens to protect in the current map. Players choose classes and build a defence via plants positioned around the garden in empty pots. Each match is broken up by boss waves and random mini-boss spawns, giving it a steady flow of variation. Each bout of Garden Ops also has a satisfying conclusion, with players holding off an extraction zone as franchise-favorite Crazy Dave flies down in his RV to pick up the surviving players. The mode is nothing new, admittedly, and is arguably outdated when compared to other titles offering the same experience, but what carries it further is the sheer sense of fun, even in defeat. Garden Ops holds its own as a game type, with replay value being offered by achievements and difficulty settings. The higher difficulty settings are brutal, requiring players to be on top of their game to even have a sniff at victory. However, there is always the feeling that Garden Ops plays second fiddle to the other multiplayer offerings. It’s enjoyable but often feels more like a preparatory tool to familiarize the player with which classes serve which purpose and how they play.   There is an upside to this, however, as the lessons and appreciation for team work earned in Garden Ops allows players to seamlessly move into the competitive multiplayer environment. This area of the multiplayer is split between two modes: Team Vanquish (Team Deathmatch) and the brilliant Gardens and Graveyards. This well-crafted mode tasks zombies with taking a point on the map defended by the Plants in 15 v 15 combat. With every point the Zombies take, new areas of the map are unlocked, giving each match a real sense of life. Each map comes with its own climax, also, all of which have a Takeshi’s Castle groove to them. The closing acts of each map are some of the most enjoyable and utterly insane moments on offer in videogames at the moment. The qualities of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare particularly shine through when playing Gardens and Graveyards. Classes intertwine together to create a sense of balance as well as a requirement for team play. The abilities of each class lend themselves perfectly to the gameplay, as well as the maps on offer. Foot soldiers and grunts make up the frontline force of both teams, while scientists & sunflowers act as support. The Plant’s Chomper is the only melee class available with its burrowing and eating abilities. The Zombie engineer builds turrets and teleporters, as well as having the ability to uproot burrowed Chompers. Cacti act as the Plant’s long-range specialist, while the Zombies are flanked by their tank-like All-Star.   Each class also has a special ability that counters one of the other classes, giving the game a very old-school approach to class-based combat. The abilities give each class a unique feel and purpose to the team effort. The system, at its core, strips away most of the convoluted padding that modern games have sneaked into class-based games. The ranking and leveling systems are also far from obtrusive, allowing players to experience the game how they wish while leveling in a natural manner. In keeping with this theme, Garden Warfare replaces perks and a catalog of useless unlocks with a sticker system. Players can buy packs of stickers, bought with money earned in-game, which in turn unlock various cosmetic items, weapon upgrades, and character parts which unlock classes with a twist. This system may feel a little thin to some but it’s nevertheless a well-rounded and simple feature that works extremely well with the rest of the game. The lack of microtransactions is also huge plus, proving that EA still has a heart regardless of their money-grabbing in other franchises. The sticker packs play a part in both game modes, Zombies can unlock AI-controlled allies to spawn in the competitive multiplayer, while plants can unlock a familiar plant from the original Plants vs. Zombies to use in both Garden Ops as well as Team Vanquish/Gardens & Graveyards. While it does seem a little odd that Plants’ unlocks have more effect on Garden Warfare as a whole, it never affects the overall balance, nor does it give the player any buyer’s remorse.   The joys of Garden Warfare extend far beyond its gameplay. The presentation is utterly stunning, with special attetion being paid to the animation of each character model. The bright colour pallet gives the game an undeniable sense of wonder and joy, not to mention it’s a fantastic change of scenery from most multiplayer shooters. There isn’t a single nook or cranny of Garden Warfare that looks iffy or lacking in detail. The animation, especially on the Plants, is brilliant, with leaves moving with a distinct sense of grace. The visuals lend themselves well to the tone and theme of Garden Warfare, allowing the whole experience to feel truly vibrant.   Garden Warfare also has an overwhelming sense of charm instilled into its heart. There’s never a time in which the player is caught in a negative mind state. Each match is laced with so many laugh-out-loud moments that it’s hard not to find yourself with a huge grin whilst battling away. It’s equally difficult to remember an online shooter on the consoles that provides such a feeling of sheer delight, and most importantly, such an encapsulating aura of fun. The only complaint that could be leveled at Garden Warfare is the lack of maps on offer. While each map is well designed, the lack of them results in the same map being played too often, allowing repetition to crawl in. The complaint is minor, yes, but relevant nevertheless. Fortunately this issue is easily fixed via support from Popcap, who have already announced that downloadable content is in the works. Garden Warfare is one of the most well-crafted multiplayer experiences to release in a long time, both in terms of gameplay and in technical achievement. The gameplay is tight and flows perfectly with each and every element of the game. Controls are tight and accessible, allowing anyone to dive straight in regardless of experience. The whole game is a well-rounded product that stakes a claim as the best multiplayer experience on the new generation of systems, even more so given the complete lack of server issues or game-breaking bugs that other, bigger games suffered from at their respective releases. To summarize, Garden Warfare is brilliant. It’s fun beyond comprehension, there are no gimmicks, no balance-breaking microtransactions or perk systems, no killstreaks or cheap play styles, just sheer videogame fun. Given the game’s tone, it’s suitable for all ages, and with split-screen supported, this is a huge positive. Some videogames are supposed to challenge the player, tell brooding stories, and make an impact; others just want to entertain you. That’s where Garden Warfare jumps in. It oozes quality in almost every aspect. Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare is the best multiplayer experience on offer on both consoles, and absolutely should not be missed....

Will Halo Dominate E3 2014?

Will Halo Dominate E3 2014?

Call me what you may, but I’m a huge fan of the Halo series and love the world that Bungie had crafted, and was equally impressed at the package we had delivered from 343 in 2012 with Halo 4. Sure, some people weren’t too impressed with the overall experience in Halo 4, but I still thought it was a solid game, and still had a great time with the game. Hell, it tied with Far Cry 3 for my GOTY back when it released. I also find Nerdist to be very reliable about these kind of things, and after doing some internet hunting it looks it is indeed true, and that 343 Industries has some big stuff planned regarding Halo at E3 this year. Does this excite me? Quite a lot actually as Halo is the main series that sold me on the FPS genre in the first place as I was always drawn to RPG games. When I got my hands on Halo: Combat Evolved on the original Xbox I knew I was sold on the series, and genre as a whole. But, what can we expect from E3 this year regarding Halo and will it be the biggest thing that comes out of the conference? The Halo “fan-boy” inside of me would like to think so, and pray that Halo steals the show but right now I’ll remain skeptical on that front. We are just starting into this new generation of game consoles, and there’s going to be a ton to get excited about in the coming months, and years with these systems, regardless of your loyalty. Both the PS4, and Xbox One are doing cool things and people seem pleased with their products. I can’t wait to see what both will offer at this coming E3. Back to Halo though. There’s been some speculation as to what we’ll see regarding the series this year. It’s probably obvious that we’re going to get some details, insights, and probably some gameplay regarding Halo 5 (which I’m extremely excited about) and possibly some details regarding a Halo 2 re-release, and that Halo TV series that’s been in the works with Steven Spielberg (also very intrigued). However, the question remains. Are people still interested in Halo, or has the love for the franchise dipped over the past few years? We can all agree that Call Of Duty has pretty much dominated the FPS market now for a while, even though Ghosts was a pretty shite experience in general. That being said, I still like to think there’s a huge fanbase out there for Halo, and we’ll see some awesome launch parties once again when the next iteration is ready to hit shelves. For me, Halo is my choice when I want some FPS action (I expect some hate from that statement). CoD isn’t something I’m keen on, and feels more like a clusterfuck of unbalanced systems, and just frustrating gameplay however, you can forget the atrocities with the franchise as of late when you’re mucking about with some friends. Counter-Strike is a fantastic series, but it’s not something anyone can pick up and play. There’s a learning curve to it, and I find it extremely difficult as to hell to be good at when most of the community has had years, upon years of experience with the games. Plus, I think we can agree that Battlefield isn’t feeling as memorable, and great as it was in the old days, but that’s a personal opinion. In the end, Halo just feels like the best game to pick up and play with some buddies, and I can still have a great time running solo in the multiplayer component. It’s also safe to say that the Halo series actually has an interesting plot, and characters which can’t be said for many games in the shooter genre. Plus, most of my memorable online gaming memories come from the Halo series more so than any other game I’ve played. Let’s get down to business though, and what I expect we’ll get at E3 this year and mostly what I’d like to see. Then, I’ll probably polish off this piece with some things I’d like to see/hope to see in the next Halo game. That being said, I have a feeling that the next batch of Halo games will help boost the sales of the Xbox One. If I recall correctly, Halo, Halo 2, and Halo 3 did some wonderful things for their respective consoles (Xbox, and Xbox 360). Hell, Halo 3 was the reason I bought an Xbox 360 over the Nintendo Wii. I’m glad I dodged that bullet.   #1 – Halo 5 I think it’s safe to say that we’ll something regarding the next iteration in the Halo series, and chances are that’s going to be Halo 5. However, who knows? We may get another “spin-off” game like Halo 3: ODST, or Halo Reach. Both of which were fantastic games, and Halo Reach was actually my favorite of the series. Either way, I expect to see this new iteration and can’t wait to see where it takes us in terms of the story, and locale.   #2– Halo 2: Anniversary It’s also probably very safe to say we’ll hear some details regarding the release of Halo 2: Anniversary. If this is really a thing I’d expect we’ll see it on Xbox One, or on both the One and 360. It would be a great thing to revisit Halo 2 again and experience that wonderful story remastered in HD. Who knows, maybe we can expect a pre-order bonus inviting us into the Halo 5 multiplayer beta? Time will tell.   #3– Halo TV Series Yeah, we’ll probably hear more about this. I don’t expect a trailer, or clips but just some small amount of time dedicated to talking about the project. I enjoy Spielberg’s work, and can’t wait to see how he’ll tackle Halo. But what will we see in Halo 5, and where can the direction of the series really go with the ending of Halo 4? SPOILERS AHEAD: Cortana essentially “died” at the end of the last game (Halo 4) and from what we saw in the reveal for the next title, Chief is wearing some poncho/robes in a large desert environment and carrying the empty AI chip that had Cortana stored in. I’m just curious as to where the plot is going to go, and I expect it to have something to do with either Chief trying to get Cortana back, or something along those lines. But what do I want to see in the next Halo game? Quite a bit actually, but nothing too ridiculous. I don’t want a segment with Master Chief riding around on a unicorn blasting Covenant Forces with a gun that shoots out cookies. I want something that feels reasonable in the Halo universe. #1 – Bring Back Arby’ I’d love to see The Arbiter make a comeback to the series. He seemed to developed a very close bond with the Chief over the course of Halo 2/3 and it would pretty neat to see how he’d react to find find out that the Chief is actually alive, and how he’d be handling the whole new threat, and enemies. Not to mention I found him to be a really interesting character, and I’d like to see him get some more development, and story thrown his way. Who wouldn’t love to see this cuddly Elite make a comeback?   #2 – Chief On The Run Some of the rumors floating around as to why the Chief is now adorned in a robe/poncho really interest me as well, and I’d like to see that play a part in the next game as well. The whole rumor/theory is that Master Chief is wearing this poncho to conceal his identity from the UNSC forces and has went into “hiding” and could play into the story. Or, it’s just to stop his armor from being eroded by the sand on this desert-like planet. However, it would be neat to see something along the lines of some type of “rogue sector” of the UNSC trying to eliminate Chief. I just think it would be neat to thrust the Chief into an environment where’s alone without any allies, and I think it could work considering the ending of Halo 4.   #3 – Covenant/UNSC Team-Up The image above has given light to some rumors of a Covenant/UNSC colony considering that one of the ships appears to be a Covenant Phantom re purposed for Human use. So, either the UNSC has been learning to design Covenant vehicles, or we’re going to see another ‘team-up’ like we had in Halo 3 to unite against a single threat. Instead of it being the Flood, it seems to be the Protheans/Forerunners this time around. Not to mention this looks like a colony, and I can’t contain my excitement as to how awesome it would be to explore a colony for both Covenant forces, and UNSC forces. Plus, it just opens up the possibility at a return for The Arbiter.   #4 – Revamped Forge Mode I’d also like to think with a release on the Xbox One we could see a more advanced iteration of Forge Mode. Imagine the possibilities if this next Forge release had a more Far Cry-esque feel to it, and we could generate the levels completely from scratch. If we can finally have this sort of Map Editor in a Halo game I could truly die a happy gamer. I can only imagine what kinds of levels we would see coming from the community. I think it would truly redefine the multiplayer aspect of the Halo series, and not to mention what it could do for Machinima series like Red Vs Blue.   #4 – Next-Gen Multiplayer Multiplayer is the main selling point for the series now, and with a release on even more powerful consoles than before I can imagine the multiplayer going to some wonderful places in terms of over-all experience, and gameplay. I’d like to see a better system than Halo 4′s multiplayer, and wouldn’t complain if a little back-tracking happened and we had a more classic approach, or something more along the lines as to what we had in Halo Reach. For me, that multiplayer has been the best yet. Not to mention we could probably see more in terms of customization for the player characters, but maybe we can have a return to playable Elites? I miss those guys. That being said, the formula for Halo’s multiplayer is pretty much golden already so there wouldn’t be much needed in terms of updates, and additional content. Larger maps, and more of them in the initial release wouldn’t hurt. We’d also most likely get an ever better Theater Mode, and some more gametypes to mess about with. As long as Grifball, Team Snipers, and Team SWAT come back to the playlists in the next game I’m pretty much happy. Spartan Ops would also be a welcomed comeback for me, as that was a blast with friends, but I wouldn’t complain if Firefight came back either with some minor tweaking. Hell, there’s just so much I’d want to see in some Halo multiplayer. That being said, new weapons & vehicles is pretty much a giving. Maybe even give us Chief’s Poncho as an armor customization option too. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. — In the end, I’m pretty excited for E3 this year and cannot wait to see what we’ll get in terms of Halo goodies. That being said, do you think Halo is still a great series, and what would you like to see in the next iteration for the Halo franchise?                  ...

Is the Lack of Hype for Thief 4 Good or Bad?

Is the Lack of Hype for Thief 4 Good or Bad?

There’s been a distinct lack of hype for the upcoming release of Thief 4 thus far, even more so given its release on both Xbox One and PS4. Sure, there are launch trailers popping up all over the internet, interviews with big sites and walkthroughs and so forth, yet there still seems to be a distinct lack of excitement or anticipation building up around the game. But is this advantageous or something to be concerned about? Perhaps the strong roots the franchise has with the PC audience, and the gap between releases, has allowed Thief 4 to go under the radar, almost. Given the franchise’s consistent quality, it feels like Thief 4 deserves more of the spotlight, especially since it’s one of the most anticipated, ostensibly ‘big’ games to hit both new consoles in early 2014. But the game simply does not seem to have much of a presence in print media or online–at least in terms of adverts and other forms of marketing.   Worryingly, the lack of presence could hurt the game’s commercial success, and given how one poorly selling game can end a studio, this is a pretty big risk to run. It’s worrying that a new entry in an established franchise is (no pun intended) sneaking out onto store shelves as opposed to making its presence well known. It’s not even that the genre is niche–the success of Dishonoured disproves that theory–or that the market is over-saturated. Early adopters of the PS4 & Xbox One are crying out for games to play on their new machines, yet a decent number of people seem unaware of Thief 4‘s impending release. Alternatively, one could argue that the lack of hype surrounding the game could be an overwhelming positive; after all, if a game has no hype it’s hard to be disappointed. Going into a game with little-to-no knowledge of its content often results in unearthing a new favorite. With little expectation there is rarely room to be disappointed, and this could allow Thief 4 to achieve the status of cult hit–and even earn success via word of mouth. Also, Thief 4‘s mission structure is very open-ended, meaning the world of let’s play videos, video streamers, and just general chatter about experiences within the game could be enough to cover the lack of marketing. It seems highly possible, much in the same way Skyrim was/is, that each person will have their own approach and experiences to discuss.   Thief 4 marks the start of a year packed full of big games, as well as the return of a much-loved franchise. While the walkthroughs, gameplay videos, and trailers hint towards at least a solid game, the proof will be in the finished product, as always. The lack of marketing and buzz could be a blessing in disguise, but nevertheless, it still carries a significant element of risk. Hopefully Thief 4 proves to be a fantastic experience and is met with the appropriate success, proving that consumers are interested in more than just run-of-the-mill corridor shooters....

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