Video Games / Platform / XboxOne

2014′s Best Games: Witches, Karts & Nazis

2014′s Best Games: Witches, Karts & Nazis

2014 has been a fair year for video games. It saw Nintendo hit a good vein of form, Sony contuine to progress and the Xbox One boast a great exclusive, only for it to go multiplatform. The year has seen some major games hit the market, with most of them offering something different. This year also saw the release of barely finished games, mostly from Ubisoft. The following is my picks for the best of 2014.     Wolfenstein: The New Order (PS4/Xbox One/ PC) Some shooters want to change the world, rewrite the book, a whole new experience. Wolfenstein just wanted to have fun, and it more than pulled it off. After a run of poor reboots from various game franchises, Wolfenstein came as a surprise. The story was a joyful jaunt though a alternative time line where the Nazis won World War 2 and went onto global domination. Set in the 60′s players blasted through various enrichments and enemies, all with a wonderful B-movie feel to them. From the streets of France to a Nazi Moon-base, Wolfenstein felt like a true journey. The gameplay was extremely tight, with some of the most satisfying gun play around. Nothing fancy, just straight up fun, Wolfenstein was one of the finer video games of 2014.   Telltale Games – The Walking Dead/The Wolf Among Us/ Game of Thrones/ Tales From Borderlands This pick is cheating, but Telltale just can’t seem to put a foot wrong. The Walking Dead continued to be strong, if not a little too depressing for the sake of it. The Wolf Among Us was a enjoyable walk through a fresh world based on a cult comic classic. Tales of Borderlands and Game of Thrones are still relatively new, but both are top notch pieces of work. Everything Telltale touches these days seems to turn to gold, and 2014 was their best year ever. It’s hard to recommend just one series, so I picked them all.     Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare (Xbox One/ PC/ PS4)   Who would of guessed the spin off to Plants Vs. Zombies would be one of the best multiplayer experiences of the year? This class based game had brilliant balance between each class, allowing each to player to feel like they were playing a part in the game. The ability to customize each class with various weapons and skills gave the game a sense of depth. There’s very little that’s new within the game, but everything is so finely tuned it feels as fresh as ever. Garden Warfare is arguably the best multiplayer experience on PS4/Xbox One, there’s little that rivals it in terms of all out fun. The map design and game modes do a brilliant job of complimenting each class and play style. It’s rare a game can remain fun while being on the losing side, but Garden Warfare is exactly that. The dark horse of 2014, and easily one of the best games released this year.   Alien: Isolation (PS4/Xbox One/PC)   The best game to feature a Xenomorph since Alien Vs. Predator 2. The sheer intensity felt in each second of Isolation is enough to put anyone on the edge of their seat. A genuine survival horror that doesn’t resort to giving the player all the power, this game as a utter success. The story may slightly weak, but the gameplay and presentation make it unmissable. As a huge fan of the Alien franchise, Isolation felt like the closest representation to the source material, by the fans for the fans. Each nook and cranny felt like it had been covered with a eye for detail, a labor of love. The ships design, the sound effects, the distinct ’80′s sci-fi’ look and feel, it was all recreated perfectly. The little touches made the game that much better. The ability to use the Kinect/PS4 camera to peek around corners, the PS4 pad pinging out that iconic motion tracker sound, it was all superb. The hide and seek gameplay won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but the sheer attention to detail showcased in Isolation makes it hard not to like. The Best Alien game made, fans MUST experience Isolation.   Shovel Knight (Wii U/3DS/PC)   The trend of trying to recreate old platformers continued in 2014, Shovel Knight stood head and shoulders above the rest. The gameplay is perfect, responsive, tight, just perfect. The whole game shines with confidence, each stage is as thrilling as the last. There’s various tricks shovel Knight has under its sleeve, all of which enhance not just the game, but the genre. Not many games truly raise the bar, Shovel Knight did exactly that. Gameplay aside, the music is a key reason to why Shovel Knight succeeds. A beautiful homage to games of yesteryear, each stage plays hosts to kick ass track. It completes the whole experience, almost tricking the player into thinking they’re playing a classic on the Virtual Console. It may of took nearly a year to hit the Wii U/3DS in Europe, but it was worth the wait. A modern classic in every sense of the word.   Dragon Age: Inquisition (PS4/Xbox One/PC)   After the train wreck that was Dragon Age 2, Inquisition came as a pleasant surprise. While the game starts off at a snails pace, the bulk of the game is hugely enjoyable, even if it’s missing the finer parts of Origins. The gameplay is fair mix of Origins and Dragon Age 2, with a more accommodating use of console controllers.The MMORPG like design of the core game can become a rather annoying, but the main story quests make up for it. The overall experiences feels well rounded and much closer to the ethos of Dragon Age, putting Bioware back on track.   Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)   Nintendo finished off 2014 strongly, and It all seemed to truly get going after the release of Mario Kart 8. While the Battlemode is pretty poor, the rest of the game is sheer bliss. Mario Kart 8 showed that the Wii U could render beautiful visuals, while entertaining the player to no end. There’s nothing that matches the sheer enjoyment of battling for first position across classic Mario Kart tracks. The online mode is spot on, with very little lag to speak of. Kicking back and blasting off turtle shells, drifting passed your rivals, being wiped out by a jumping fish, it’s always a beautiful experience. Pure, innocent, video game enjoyment. Mario Kart 8 stands out in a year that offered very few racers.     Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS4/Xbox One/PC) The surprise hit of 2014, Shadow of Mordor was brilliant. It’s honestly refreshing to see a more mature take on Middle Earth, free from the restraints of the films. Shadow of Mordor took what other games had provided in the genre and perfected them, while adding the nifty Nemesis system. The concept of enemies increasing in power and political status via player/in-game actions, gave Shadow of Mordor a huge sense of depth. The Nemesis system works so well the player can use it to forge their own unique experience. The plot wasn’t much to talk about, the Nemesis system was the key to the games success. Players could share stories of how the system impact their experience, with each player normally having a different experience. The core gameplay as silky smooth, the combat near perfect. Shadow of Mordor was nothing short of fantastic.     Super Smash Bros (Wii U) Smash Bros is simply fun, in every sense of the word. The ultimate fan service, it’s hard not to instantly fall in love with the sheer chaos on screen. Nintendo know how to create fun video games, and Smash Bros is a perfect example of this. Easy to pick up, hard to master, there’s a hidden depth behind the game that keeps players coming back for more. There’s really not a whole lot to say about Smash Bros without repeating the word ‘fun’ about twenty times. There’s cases when you sit down to play a game and you can feel a smirk just engrave on your face, sheer joy, Smash Bros does that every time it boots up. The recent Amiibos give the game a more personal touch, as well as giving the game a unique ever growing scale of challenge.     Bayonetta 2 (Wii U) Oddly, Bayonetta 2 became the target of misplaced claims of sexism, denting some of the games hype. Agenda pushing and ignorance aside, Bayonetta 2 was the game the market needed, as a exclusive on a system no one expected at one point in time. Bayonetta 2 is possibly the best example of video games being sheer madness and fun. It’s hard not to crack a smile when summoning giant creatures to finish off even bigger bosses. There’s little to complain about throughout the experience, bar the slight reduction in challenge on normal mode. The wonderful gameplay that made Bayonetta a star in the first place returns in Bayonetta 2. It’s hard to find another game that matches such a fast pace with such tight controls that give the player a real sense of satisfaction. The set pieces are truly outstanding, often leaving the player in a sense of awe and wonder. In a world of super serious games, Bayonetta 2 was the perfect solution. One of the best games of 2014, even with unjustified accusations thrown at it.    ...

The Double Edged Sword Of The Fighter Genre

The Double Edged Sword Of The Fighter Genre

With the recent reveal of Street Fighter V, I decided to look back on my experiences with the fighter genre. It’s a harsh genre, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The fighting game genre has always been a harsh mistress to me. For every happy memory I have of the genre there’s about 3 bad memories that shortly follow. From a young age I became interested in the fighter genre. My first experience with the genre was (unsurprisingly) Capcoms Street Fighter 2 on the Super Nintendo. From the first minute of the game I was hooked. The characters looked visually interesting, the environments dazzling and the action thrilling. Playing solo was fun but lets face it, fighters are meant to be played against people and not AI. Playing Street Fighter 2 against friends (and some times family) is still one of my most treasured video game memories. Booting up the game and selecting our favourite characters before arguing over which level to fight in was tradition. Button mashing in a desperate panic was also tradition. In the process of pressing all the buttons in any given order a special move would normally be unleashed, leaving me and buddy in a stunned silence. ”HOW DID YOU DO THAT?!” was often the question on our lips, and the answer to that question was ALWAYS ”no idea’. Even with a limited knowledge of the game and its controls each match was always a great slice of fun. These sweet natured days were numbered however as I began to grow up.     As time went on and I played more and more fighters, my longing for victory became stronger. Button mashing was no longer a style I felt happy to use, it had become ‘messy’. Instead I would try a few characters out and learn the move sets. By time I came into possession of Dreamcast I had a decent amount of knowledge of Soulcalibur. I wasn’t a master by any means but I had learned at least a few moves for each character. Suddenly playing against friends had become more of a practice session than just a few games in the name of fun. Losing felt a lot worse, victory felt less meaningful, it was a strange feeling. For the most part I would be able to take down most of my friends, this resulted in the game becoming a little boring to play for them. Understanding the game had ultimately led to the ‘fun’ of the game being drained away.   The likes of Capcom Vs SNK, Street Fighter 3 alpha and Marvel Vs Capcom had returned all the fun of fighters. I applied a much more laid back approach to these fighters in order to keep the game fun for my friends to play against me. By this time in our lives we preferred to learn the game rather than button mash, this led to competitive, but fun, matches. It seemed the perfect middle ground and a great time to enjoy some top class fighting games. The enjoyment of the genre (and fighting friends) hit its peek with Marvel Vs Capcom 2. Given the popularity of the PS2 all of my friends owned the system and Marvel Vs Capcom 2. This allowed everyone to stand a fair chance of learning the game and forming an effective team. Many a battle was fought, plenty a laugh was had, this was the highlight of my time with the fighter genre. There was always a giddy feeling when it came to each team being down to their last member. A single hit would decide the match, the aftermath involved boasting and looking back at the action.    I had went from casual matches with friends that were all about the fun to competitive games of knowledge and technique. One day (well when I got my own computer) I just stopped playing fighters. From 2004 to 2008 I honestly cant remember playing a fighter for more than a few days. I kept a eye on the genre, watched it develop, but I never got back into the swing of things. 2009 saw the return of the franchise that started it all for me, I am of course referring to street Fighter. The fourth entry into the franchise was a first day purchase for me. After a first few runs on arcade I decided to hit up the online options. This is where things got rough. A large segment of players from overseas had been playing Street Fighter 4 for roughly a week. This week earlier release date had created a huge divide it terms of player skill. Time after time I was matched up with players who had already learned the mechanics and moves of a number of characters. My arse was getting well and truly kicked. I was now feeling the way my friends did when they used to play Soulcalibur against me, it wasn’t fun. I tried to learn the game, learn some strategies but alas my efforts were met with more defeats. Only a few of my friends had bought Street Fighter 4, this limited my chances of just casual fun matches. When they did happen, more often than not, I’d end up winning purely because I had learned some easy moves of a certain character. My friends soon began to grow tired of playing me and I was once again forced into playing online. While I did improve my overall play the huge gulf in skill and experience was too much to overcome. I enjoyed Street Fighter 4 a lot, I kept it in my collection in order to play when friends came over or my father fancied a game. Online I was nothing short of a easy win for any given player. For a large length of time I kept my activity within the fighter genre strictly offline. Marvel Vs Capcom 3 and Mortal Kombat (reboot…or 9 as some wish to label it) became my fighters of choice. While Marvel Vs Cacpom 3 was a little light in terms of content Mortal Kombat was jam packed. With plenty to do in terms of single player I was more than happy to play Mortal Kombat offline. The lure of playing online is hard to resist however, and yet again I found myself being beat down by veterans. All the enjoyment I had experienced with Mortal Kombat offline was now being replaced with defeat and defeat. The sheer amount of spam I became the victim of was heart breaking. Seeing Stryker spam his ranged attacks over and over killed my motivation to play Mortal Kombat online, it was nothing short of brutal. I was awful at the game, but my lack of enjoyment online killed any motivation to improve.     Fast forward to EVO 2012. I’m sitting at my desk browsing Twitch TV, and I’m once again interested in fighters. After watching the majority of the Marvel Vs Capcom 3 tournament my interest in the game re-surged. I knew for a fact I was going to lose, and lose hard, but either way I was going to try my hand at the online portion of the game. My assumptions were proved to be correct, I did in fact get my arse kicked, but I didn’t mind. I oddly didn’t mind losing, my competitive nature had taken a back seat. With my rediscovered relax nature towards the game I began to sit and learn….how to lose. While defeat is never fun it did allow me to experiment and tinker with my team selection. Before I knew it I was presenting a viable challenge to some players, some times even winning. The thrill of the fighter genre rushed back, everything I remembered had returned. In a moment of nostalgia I dragged my father into a game and began to play. It was like being young again playing Street Fighter 2 for the first time.   My love affair with the genre had been long and eventful. It had highs and lows, at times I had fallen out with the genre only to make up with it some time later. Learning to handle defeat is key to enjoying the fighter game genre, expecting victory is a recipe for frustration. Remembering why I loved the genre in the first place was key to recapturing the thrill, enjoyment and fun that I had all but lost.  ...

Game of Thrones Episode One: Iron From Ice Review (PS4/XB1/PC)

Game of Thrones Episode One: Iron From Ice Review (PS4/XB1/PC)

Telltale have seemingly continued their blitz on 2014 with their fourth licensed game of the year. After their successful runs with The Walking Dead, Borderlands and The Wolf Among Us, Telltale have released their take on Game of Thrones, possibly their biggest challenge to date. Based on the TV show, which in turn is based on a series of fantasy novels called A Song of Ice and Fire, Game of Thrones has been exciting the masses since it’s announcement. The concept of Telltale creating a brand new story in such a beloved universe was mouth watering. The game is set around House Forrester, a house never mentioned in the show (as of yet) and only scarcely in the books, banner men to House Stark. The first episode picks up in line with the infamous red wedding and creates a expanded narrative centering around the impact of the event. The bulk of the plot revolves around establishing Forrester history and traditions, while introducing the key players in and around the house.   Given the scope of Game of Thrones, this title feels less focused than past Telltale games. Players aren’t put into the shoes of one character, instead they are thrown between multiple characters, all with interweaving stories. The lack of focus on one character allows the game the feel fresh when compared to past Telltale titles. Playing numerous characters gives the player more freedom and creativity in how they wish to approach situations. It’s a change that make sense given the size of the Game of Thrones universe, but it’s also a change that makes the whole experience less safe, given any character is at risk of death. Having the ability to play around with different characters, choosing how they react to various conversations and events, opens up a whole new element not seen in past Telltale games. Switching between playing a character with a edge of brashness to a character just trying to get by keeps the games momentum going. At no point is there a wall where things feel slow or dragged out, Telltale have nailed the pace of game, drawing everything together in a neat bundle. The way in which the games events are tied into the show gives the whole experience a sense of legitimacy. Familiar faces make appearances throughout the game and never feel forced in for simple fan service. Each scene, each character, each action all have a point, there’s never a second that feels wasted. The only real issue with Telltale’s Game of Thrones is the presentation. The ‘painting’ art style does not lend it’s self well to the game. Environments tend to look a bit dull and lacking detail, character models range from adequate to slightly ugly. Sub bar visuals are accompanied by some truly horrific animation. Characters have a tendency to move their heads in robotic manners, detracting from the voice acting and taking the player out of the moment. It’s a niggling issue that becomes a frustration towards the end, even more so given most of this episode is long conversations. It’s hard to look past the awful animation when the voice acting of characters from the show (all voiced by the original actors) is so spot on. The dialogue is delivered in the exact way you’d hear it on the show, but the dead pan robotic character models distraught the quality acting. Visual issues aside, Game of Thrones Episode One: Iron From Ice is a fantastic start to the series. The new characters are all compelling, the overall plot remains unique while relevant to the source material, and the twists and turns the show (as well as Telltale) are know for are all present. There’s at least one scene that will genuinely surprise players, forcing them to see this series as a whole new ball game compared to past Telltale games. Fans of the show will undoubtedly appreciate the authenticity found within the game. It’s hard not to recommend the game given it’s quality and it’s low asking price of £5....

The Evil Within – Modern Horror Fails To Scare

The Evil Within – Modern Horror Fails To Scare

The Evil Within has described by a number of sites as ‘terrifying’. A game that shakes the player to the core with fear, a true horror title…yet from what I’ve played it’s not even slightly unnerving. If there’s one thing The Evil Within does well, it’s represent the state of modern horror. ‘LOOK AT THIS, IT’S VILE!!’ seems be the games theme. Gore, gore and more gore. Gore is not scary, sure it’s a little jarring at first, but it’s never scary. The Evil Within leans onto gore far too much, and the horror is lost in a shade of pink mist. Disgusting imagery, blood covered visuals, this is not fear inducing. The best horror video games (and films) work for their scares. Tension, atmosphere, a sense of dread, all of this is crafted and earned. The Evil Within reeks of a game trying too hard to scare. While the scenery and Imagery does unnerve, the rushed attempts to scare cheapen the overall product. There’s a difference between fear and panic, the latter is mostly the emotion felt throughout the game. Does this make the Evil Within a bad game? No, of course not. While the desired scares are not present, the game still provides a pretty loose horror feel. The problem is, The Evil Within has been marketed as a scary experience. The target audience has already seen everything The Evil Within has to offer, right down to the last drop of blood. Heck anyone who played Dead Space 1 & 2 has seen everything The Evil Within has to offer, repetitive events are not scary, just predicable. The lack of consequences attached to the main character is also a major con. Not being truly attached to a sense of reality within the game results in death feeling rather trivial. The fact the protagonist rarely questions anything, or even reacts for the most part, result in the game feeling rather hollow. The failure to scare may not be entirely down to the developers. Modern horror is far more of a spectacle, a much more rushed affair. Slow build ups are replaced with sharp musical score, people see everything, nothing is left to the imagination. While there is shock value, at least briefly, to modern horror, it’s hardly anything that truly scares. The best scares aren’t done visually, they’re done by going passed visuals and into the subconscious. A great example of modern scares is P.T. It may be brief, but it builds up tension, creates a atmosphere, suckers the player in and then starts to play with them. The Evil Within is still enjoyable, it’s just a shame it’s not the horrific experience it could have been. A example of modern horror and all that is wrong with it, nothing but spectacle. Times may change back to where horror becomes more of a result of craftsmanship rather than gore. For now, all we can do is wait, wait and support titles like Alien: Isolation that earns it’s scares.    ...

Destiny – A Few Minor Changes, For The Greater Good

Destiny – A Few Minor Changes, For The Greater Good

With sometime passing after Destiny’s launch, after many hours put into the game across various planets, strikes and loot caves, it seems like it’s a good time to reflect. Destiny may have a number of issues, chief of which being a lack of matchmaking and varied content, it’s time to focus on the smaller issues. These issues aren’t exactly major, but would improve the game enough to be worthy of mentioning. Destiny plays, sounds, and looks fantastic, but these are few changes I’d like to see just give the game that little extra quality.   And no, matchmaking will not be mentioned, it’s already been discussed here.     More varied Weapon Skins/Sounds -   While Exotics all look unique, and rightly so, the lesser quality items all look far too similar. It’s a truly minor gripe but it has a profound effect on the game visually. Getting your grubby hands on a Legendary just to see how similar it looks to a rare weapon is a little soul destroying, even more so when it’s a weapon earned via reputation and marks. The lack of variety in weapon sounds is also a nagging complaint. It would be nice to hear how heavy certain guns sound, listen to them bellow out proudly. These issues could easily be fixed as time goes on and more content/items are added, here’s to hoping that proves to be the case.   Clans -   Clans/guilds have long been a staple of multiplayer games, and Destiny includes them..kinda. Players can join clans by visiting Bungie’s site and signing up to clans via their pages. There is little to no clan business in the actual game bar the name appearing on the players banner. It’s a little confusing that a game with a focus on joining other players to tackles tasks has basically no clan options. Simply adding a list of clan members in the in-game menu would at least allow players to see whose online and what they are up to. The addition of in-game clan list would also help form fire teams, feeding into the social experience Destiny flirts with. A simple issue to fix, but it does beg the question why didn’t it ship with more in depth clan features.   Communication -   At the present moment, players are restricted to either dancing, pointing, saluting or sitting as a means to communicate in game. With no voice chat, or quick text, there’s no way to talk to other players within the game. Players often bump into each other in wild, they exchanges glances, awkwardly selecting a emote, and then they move on. A local proximity voice chat would be a welcome addition to the game. ‘Hey are you doing this mission/bounty? Want to party up?’ the game suddenly becomes a much more social experience instead of a lonely existence that happens to feature some voiceless faces. Not all players will want to voice chat, making the voice chat a opt in/out option would be a safe bet to keep everyone happy.   No More Defending Ghosts -   Destiny plays extremely well, it’s gameplay is on point. The problem is, the mission structure does very little to make the most of the silky smooth gameplay. From the first hour till the 200th hour, players are sent to go to a object and deploy their Ghost, every time. It would be nice to have some variation put into the missions, be it story or patrol. While shooting waves upon waves of enemies is fun to start off with, after all new guns freshen it up, it becomes a little dragged out after a while. This is another issues that will probably be fixed with the expansions. It’s hard to see Bungie coming out with two new batches of content all featuring the same mission structure, or at least one would hope so.   Let Me Know More About Me -   The character page is a little lacking. While it looks nice and neat, the lack displayed stats and faction reputation is a little bit irritating. Destiny features a strong focus on grinding in it’s end game, be it reputation or marks. It boggles the mind why a player’s current reputation with a faction is not displayed in the menus. The act of flying back to the tower just to see your reputation becomes extremely drawn out. Instead of players finding out their reputation at vendors, put it on their character sheets, add it as a experience bar. It’s a quality of life addition that makes it a lot more easier to plot faction progression.   Customization -   Amour, sparrows, space ships, weapons, the players closest friends in Destiny. While this is mostly a wish rather than a realistic change, more customization options would be brilliant. From my experience, a lot of players are starting to look the same. There’s only so many times you can see the same helmet and armor combinations before thinking it’s a uniform. The ability to customize amour (beyond shaders) would be a nifty little touch. Adding marks to armor, showcasing that players experiences and achievements, seems like a no brainier. Changing up the visual looks of ship and sparrows would also be a welcomed addition. Beat Vault of Glass? Why not show off the fact by adding a design or trophy onto the ship/sparrow?      ...

Shadow Of Mordor’s Nemesis System Is A Game Changer

Shadow Of Mordor’s Nemesis System Is A Game Changer

Death has become a little bit of a joke in most modern video games. Quick saves, lacking of challenge, the threat and consequences of death are simply not taken into account any more. Sure there’s rare cases of death being seen as a threat in the likes of Dark Souls, Zombie U and Alien: Isolation, but they don’t effect the game world. The concept of the players death effecting the game world is intriguing, this is where Shadow of Mordor comes in. Death is simply a event, it’s a game changer. The Nemesis system gives the act of dying a sense of real impact, the game is getting harder, the enemies are becoming tougher, death has genuine consequences. Being slain by a enemy, seeing that enemy earn a promotion for the kill, becoming more powerful, it’s a oddly giddy experience. There’s a morbid curiosity to witnessing how the players death affects the game world.   The Nemesis system install a organic sense to Shadow of Mordor, almost to the point where it feels like a reactive world. The player simply isn’t there to interact with their surroundings, they’re there as part of a progressing universe, a cog in the system. The fact enemies can grow and improve by killing the player, gives each battle a sense of risk, making it a much more intense experience. In the grand scheme of the Nemesis system doesn’t just focus on the player. There’s a deep rooted civil war that sees the game in a constant state of change. Taking out a captain open ups a gap for a new captain. When the player is killed, a new captain is created who in turn brings his friends into the other vacant roles. This kicks off a chain reaction or power struggles and recruitment attempts, a truly organic system changing the games world. The players death is always a huge event in the game, and the knock on effect can be felt for hours of in-game time.   Shadow of Mordor should be praised to the high heavens having such a brilliantly devilish system at it’s core. It’s rare that modern video games tries something truly new, something truly game changing. Similar systems could easily be put to use in other genres, such as sports and racing games. The concept of a rival remembering the player, improving from their last encounter, is mouth watering. The Nemesis system could usher in a new bloodline of video games where the worlds feel more organic and reactionary. Here’s to hoping that this is the first step into a whole new video game world....

Destiny – The Lack of Matchmaking Is Inexcusable

Destiny – The Lack of Matchmaking Is Inexcusable

There’s nothing worse than seeing a well respected developer lower their standards and begin to produce poor, half finished, products. It’s always easy to pick up on a half arsed effort in any form of media be it music, film or video games. Bungie were once known for producing quality video games, technically accomplished, well rounded, pure quality. Bungie’s fantastic run has been whole heartily brought to end with the release of Destiny, a true example of what happens when you pump big bucks into a game and rush it out to meet a pre-holiday release window. Destiny has been a huge commercial success, this does not reflect the games quality however. Bungie spent a long time promising the world to it’s fans. Explore a rich world, play how you want when you want, a brand new experience that combines the staples of Bungie with MMO themes. What we got was half a game missing a number of key features…and not many people seemed fussed…and that’s worrying. Destiny, in it’s current state, is a free-to-play experience covered in big budget productions. The lack of story, the lack of content, the lack of balance, the lack of basic quality of life features, it’s genuinely disgusting to see mostly online game released like this. The fact that a good chunk of the end game is locked due to the lack of online match making is pretty dire. Would we forgive this in other games from lesser known developers? Hell no. The main problem with Destiny is it feels utterly unfinished and untested. The lack of content is a huge elephant in the room. ‘You can do heroic strikes and raids!’ while this is the true, the fact heroic strikes and raids are only accessible with a group of friends, this content instantly becomes unplayable by large a number of players. The end game is essentially locked away without putting a decent amount of effort into crawling around message boards looking for players (given there’s no voice/text chat in the game player hub ‘The Tower’, a little like a MMO released decades ago. The lack of content is indeed a issue, but the fact some of this content is not realistically playable due to lack of matchmaking feels whole heartily sloppy, perhaps even lazy, on Bungie’s behalf. It’s depressingly hilarious that a game with a budget of over $300 million, and a focus on online/social interaction, ships with zero matchmaking for it’s endgame. It makes the game feel rushed, unfinished. Get the game out, make the money, sort the issues out later…this is does not feel like the Bungie people became fans of. Destiny, as a whole, is full of issues and problems that suggested the Alpha/Betas were purely for PR/Marketing reasons. The lack of balance between classes in PvP, the loot table, bugged bounties, the excessive grinding. These issues can all be overlooked for now, but a lack of matchmaking is truly inexcusable.  ...

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....

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