Batman: Arkham Knight – Review (PS4)

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Rocksteady had a real job on its hands back in the late 2000’s – superhero games were generally very poor and the developer had been tasked with delivering a new Batman game. It was a challenge they relished and they ended up revitalizing the game genre, with seamless combat and tight scripted encounters, in 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum. The second game in the series, Arkham City, opened the game world up to a part of Gotham and laid the groundwork for the latest instalment. 2015’s Batman: Arkham Knight is the culmination of Rocksteady’s trilogy of Batman games and a showcase for the graphical capabilities of the new generation of consoles.

Set a year after the events of the previous game, Arkham Knight sees Scarecrow threatening to release a poisonous toxin throughout Gotham. When another, previously unknown, villain – the titular Arkham Knight – lends his weight to Scarecrow’s campaign of terror, it becomes apparent Batman is going to have his hands full. Luckily you’re not on your own, Alfred, Oracle, Robin and more are on hand to offer assistance.

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In the panic and chaos, all of Batman’s greatest enemies come out of the woodwork to take advantage. These villains could easily have been written in throughout the story but are instead optional side content, called ‘Most Wanted’ missions. I felt that this was one of the strongest aspects of the game, as it allowed you to delve into Batman’s relationship with those villains when you wanted to and gave you a choice as to how far you wanted to pursue them. Each villain has 4 or more missions each before you finally get to bring them to justice.

I really enjoyed the side content in Arkham Knight, even more so for the fact that along with specifically choosing to do a side mission, you might just stumble across them because the game does a great job of delivering on visual/audio cues that you might naturally gravitate towards out of curiosity. It felt really great when, for example, I noticed a building on fire in the distance and went to investigate. When I got there it triggered the option to start a Most Wanted mission. Very cool.

My main complaint of the game was the way the Batmobile was handled. Introduced as a new way of getting around Gotham, it does a serviceable job – although I preferred to just glide over the city which was just as quick, in my opinion. Unfortunately the controls never quite felt right for me, with L2 switching the vehicle to ‘Battle Mode’, as opposed to braking – which is usually L2’s function for car based control in other games. It led to numerous occasions where I ended up failing a mission because, in the heat of the moment, I instinctively hit L2 to brake and instead the Batmobile came to a stop and transformed into a tank.

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There are needlessly large car battles and even stealth Batmobile sections, both of which felt clunky and always seemed to break the pacing of the game. At one stage I almost walked away from the game entirely after an extremely draining chunk of time trying to finish one mission. Frustrating doesn’t cover it, especially as for most of the game you feel powerful and in control of combat – the Batmobile stuff just didn’t really work, sadly.

Thankfully that is the only real complaint I had with Batman: Arkham Knight, for the majority of the game I was having a blast and another of the new mechanics, Fear Takedowns, was a big reason. This ability allows you to cherry pick enemies to take out in order. Time stops and as you select targets Batman will automatically knock them out. As you upgrade the ability you can string more attacks together, mainly to be used for face to face combat. This means you can stalk your enemies first, taking them out with stealth attacks, and then confront the last four or five, taking them out immediately in quick succession.

Rocksteady do a fine job of bringing all of the Batman characters that you know and love into the final chapter of their trilogy. I’m not a big fan of Batman but I knew most of the characters here and even the ones I didn’t had interesting enough missions that I got to learn a little about them. There is a huge amount of content in the game, my playthrough was probably around 16-18 hours but that was doing a fair chunk of side content. I had finished the main storyline and completed almost half of the Most Wanted missions with an overall completion stat of 69%, so that gives you an idea of how much is here.

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As much as I loved Arkham Asylum, for me Arkham Knight is a superior game overall. Not as ground breaking as the first title in the series but more fleshed out in terms of game world and content. To have the freedom of Gotham to explore, stumbling across villain missions or just taking in the (gorgeous) sights of the broken city, is a wonderful thing. This is a game to take your time with, to savour your surroundings and the world Rocksteady have created. Unfortunately a lot of the pacing and general enjoyment is ruined by the Batmobile missions – they are forced on you too much and leave a bad, frustrating, taste. Arkham Knight is the ultimate Batman game but be prepared to suffer through a few sections to be able to appreciate it all.

Rating: 8/10

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Life Is Strange – Review (PS4)

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Life Is Strange is an episodic game that tells the story of Max Caulfield, a student who has returned to her hometown to take an elite photography course at Blackwell Academy. She has been away for five years, since her family moved to Seattle and we meet Max in October 2013, awaking from a nightmare as she slept in class. After class finishes she makes her way to the restroom where a chance encounter leads to a discovery… that Max can rewind time.

Choice is a big theme in a lot of games, Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, The Walking Dead and, more recently, Until Dawn gave the player a selection of choices throughout the game that helped to shape the player’s experience and story. Life Is Strange does the same but with a slightly different twist.

Max can rewind time at will, you’re free to rewind by pressing L2 most of the time, and this also extends to conversations. So as well as manipulating certain events to happen at a set time, she can also get more information from people than you would just by speaking to them. You can have a full conversation, get some information and then rewind and have the conversation again. Only this time you will have extra dialogue choices based on what you found out and what the character you’re talking to doesn’t know they already told you. Still with me? :)

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The other twist on the choice mechanic is that Max’s power doesn’t have an ‘energy bar’ or limited use. She can only rewind time so far but she, and by extension you the player, can do so over and over. This gives you the freedom to choose different options, see what happens and then rewind and try something else. If you prefer the original choice just rewind again and reselect it. If not go with something else. I feel this is a great innovation in the genre and while it wouldn’t suit all choice-based games, it really makes Life Is Strange stand out from other similar titles.

Graphically the game has a really nice art style, which looks gorgeous at times. It uses lighting well and the characters are modelled with believable facial animations, the only downside is the movement of mouths which, for the most part, don’t really match up to the dialogue being spoken. It’s a small gripe in the grand scheme of things and not a huge problem given that the game was made with a smaller budget than a lot of other titles.

The story itself was gripping and it was a painful wait between episodes, with about a two month period between each installment. There were a few odd inconsistencies in the story but nothing that did too much damage, especially as a lot of the time you’d be altering the timeline anyway and changing things. The characterisation was superb, with most of the people you meet feeling like well fleshed out characters, each with a story to tell if you wanted to listen. There was the rare occasion where characters veered away from the personality they’d shown previously, particularly in the final episode, but I never found it too much of an issue.

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Before we discuss another big part of the game, music, I wanted to flag up, in the interests of full disclosure, that I did actually work on Life Is Strange, helping to make sure they could use the Sparklehorse track that features in the game. With that out of the way, it would be remiss not to discuss the music in this game. A selection of great tracks, for a start, that are used so well and do much to add to the game. The music is as much a character in Life Is Strange as some of the other supporting roles. The opening of Life Is Strange features, in my opinion, possibly the greatest use of music within a title. It’s seamless, suits the scene perfectly and puts you straight into the head of Max. Wonderful stuff.

The game comprises of five episodes, each ranging between two and half to three and half hours. There is plenty of content to get through, although the ability to rewind time to check out different dialogue/choice options within the first playthrough might limit the replayability of the game for some. Having said that there are also chances for Max to practice her photography, with picture opportunities scattered around levels and not clearly marked for the player. Each of these will net you a trophy so perhaps people might find some extra playtime going back to find these.

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I fell in love with Life Is Strange right from the opening credits of the first episode. As long time readers of my blog might know, I am a sucker for anything time bending or time travel related and the developers have provided a rich, varied cast of characters to join you for the ride. There were moments I didn’t see coming that made me smile and a fair few that had me welling up. One cliffhanger ending to an episode left my jaw on the floor. Life Is Strange is everything a piece of entertainment should be – enjoyable, well made and memorable.

Rating 10/10

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Until Dawn – Review (PS4)

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Until Dawn has been floating around for a long time. First revealed back in 2012 as a Move focused game on PS3, it has been in the works for what seems like an age. Supermassive Games eventually scrapped plans for a last gen release and concentrated on getting the game onto PS4.

If you’re a fan of horror films then the setting of Until Dawn will feel warmly familiar. A group of teenagers head to an isolated lodge in the woods and find themselves stalked, having to survive through the night until help can get to them in the morning. But to dismiss Until Dawn as just another horror game is to do it a disservice.

While there is nothing here that revolutionizes the horror genre like Cabin In The Woods, Until Dawn does a good job of subverting some of the tropes that are even recognizable to non-horror fans (like me). There is some neat character based stuff in the game that, depending on the choices you make throughout, you get to see through interactions with the other teenagers.

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The game also does a nice job of playing with the mechanics of gaming, mixing them nicely with horror film expectations. At times my knowledge of horror films was telling me to do one thing but my gaming experience was screaming another. It made for an enjoyable game and that’s before we factor in the main reason to play Until Dawn – The Butterfly Effect.

Widely understood, and seen in the film of the same name, The Butterfly Effect is the theory that one small choice can lead to a huge change in fortune further down the road. In Until Dawn these choices stack up and can led to character deaths. This lends every choice and event a weight. Some of them might not even be direct choices, as failing quick time events could slow your character, meaning they simply aren’t there to save someone else.

This type of thing has been done in the past, most notably by Quantic Dream in titles like Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, but I think this is the best implementation of it I have experienced. Having said that, while the paths diverge depending on your choices in Until Dawn, the ending remains largely the same. This differs from something like Heavy Rain where there was a huge amount of different endings. While the ending of Until Dawn doesn’t vary wildly, the way you get there can be very different indeed. In fact you can end the game with none of the characters left alive, or they can all be still alive – it depends on what you do.

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There is also a cool mechanic in the game that asks you not to move in a tense situation. The game is literally checking your controller for movement in sections that can last for up to 10 seconds. It’s a really nice touch that helps tie you to the characters, as they hold their breath and hide from an assailant so do you!

The characters are great, a real mix of personalities that you will love and hate, and then maybe love again. Some of the arcs the characters have are interesting, if you can keep them alive long enough to see them! Graphically the game is a powerhouse with some astounding lighting and facial capture. Of course Until Dawn is not an open world game and you are very limited in where you can go. That obviously helps with concentrating the graphical power into one space.

Until Dawn is a game that begs to be played more than once, with so many variables there will always be something you’ve missed or another character to save. There are also lots of clues to find that unlock information on the backstory, as well as shedding light on the characters current predicament. As you play you will also discover various ‘Totems’, each showing you a glimpse of a future event or offering some form of guidance. These add another layer to the game because they can influence your choices, which might be a good or a bad thing.

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I didn’t have many problems with Until Dawn, there were a few small things – occasionally controlling the character was a bit of a pain, usually when the camera angle shifts and you need to switch the direction of the analogue stick, ala the old Resident Evil games. A couple of times the tone of the conversation was out of whack with what had just happened. Really small stuff in terms of the scale of the game though.

My one major gripe (and I’m not alone judging by the online reaction) is with one specific late game choice. No spoilers here so I’ll try to explain as best I can – almost all the choices in the game give you an A or B scenario. The choices are clear, it’s this or that. One particular choice far into the game appears to give you a simple choice but doesn’t give you all the info you need to make the decision. Making the wrong choice has catastrophic consequences and I just felt I would never have made that choice if I’d had all the information to hand.

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Having said that I still thoroughly enjoyed Until Dawn and it was one of those rare titles that stays with you. After I’d finished it I couldn’t stop thinking about it. About my choices, about the backstory and about what others thought of the characters and story. Having looked through some of the story branches I feel like my version of the story was pretty good, barring that unfortunate late game choice – I still might go back and replay that section! I would recommend Until Dawn to anyone, even if you don’t much care for horror this is a really cool title that sets a new bar for this type of branching story/exploration game.

Rating: 8/10

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Rocket League – Review (PS4)

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I think Rocket League might be the dumbest game I have ever played, the insanity of using cars to play football in a giant arena with a huge ball is like nothing else out there. It’s also the best multiplayer experience I’ve had in the last few years and a great game to boot.

So as I said above, Rocket League is essentially football (soccer) with cars. The beauty of the game is how well balanced the play mechanics are and how well the physics of the ball work. The ball has a great heft to it that makes clean contact (if you can get it!) a wonderfully visceral experience. The cars handle well and while there are a variety of vehicle styles, none of these change the handling, they are purely cosmetic.

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As well as vehicle styles there are flags, paint patterns, wheel types, hats and different boost effects so you can really go to town on making your vehicle feel like your own. These items are unlocked randomly at the end of each match, regardless of performance (and result) which is a great way to keep people playing. Another reason to keep playing is that the developers have completely nailed the ‘just one more game’ feeling and with matches only taking five minutes, it’s very easy to still be sitting there forty minutes after you were going to stop!

Matches take the form of 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 or 4v4. I found 1v1 and 2v2 to be fun but a bit too challenging and the 4v4 mode is actually called ‘Chaos’, which gives you an idea of how that plays. For me 3v3 is the perfect amount of players, taking into account the size of the pitch and the movement of the cars/ball.

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These games can be played online or offline with computer controlled bots and there is also a cool little Season mode, which puts you in a league and ends with a post season playoff for the championship. It’s a cool addition and adds another layer of depth of proceedings. The same goes for the tutorials which, although short, do give you a great sense of how to play the game with a bit more finesse.

And that’s the real genius of Rocket League, anyone can pick this up and play. The basic driving isn’t difficult and the idea of the game is simple. Hit the ball into the goal. No offsides. No fouls. No stoppages. The developers have stripped out everything football related that might be a barrier to entry. However there is still an elation when you score a goal or win a match that replicates the buzz of football.

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That buzz is only half of Rocket League, the rest of it is made up of joy and laughter. While I’ve scored some memorable goals, the moments I often describe to others are the times I backflipped into one of my own team and caused them to miss a shot or when I had a shot and it ricocheted off the post and crossbar and trickled along the goal line until a desperate opponent put it in his own goal.

This is a game that should be in everyone’s library. Play it with strangers, play it with friends but definitely play it, Rocket League is one of the best online experiences available.

Rating: 10/10

GregHorrorShow’s Guide To Gaming – Part 4: The Parent Edition

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So your kids are getting bigger, becoming small people with personalities and tastes of their own :) All of a sudden they are asking about games… all their friends are playing games… can we get a console… can I play on the iPad… and so on and so forth. There is a hell of a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding out there with regards to games so we are going to discuss some of the stigmas around games and bust a few myths while we are at it.



Guide Vol 4 Parents Ratings

So first things first, the most basic of all the information I have to share but also the most commonly misinterpreted. Most games aren’t made for children. That’s the best thing to get your head around. The average age of gamers is now 31. Unless it’s a game aimed at children, presume this was intended for adults to play. PEGI (Pan European Game Information) are the game equivalent of the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) for films. The age rating on the box of a game is the same as it would be for Film or TV. It is NOT a guide to the ability of your child like a puzzle or board game. These ratings are content based, not skill based. I once overheard a lady in a shop who had made this mistake and was considering buying her 10 year old son a copy of an 18+ rated game because ‘he is really good at games.’ Thankfully the shop assistant explained. So always check these ratings before allowing your child to play a game. Of course there is nothing to stop you allowing your child to play a higher rated game if you feel they are mature enough to handle it, that’s your call – my 4 year old daughter often played Skylanders with her bigger sister which was rated as 7+ and we had no issues. However, it should be a decision you make rather than just getting whatever game they ask for.



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Gaming is no different to any other medium; a child should not be sitting down and playing their console all day. To be honest, adults shouldn’t be doing that but they are old enough to look after themselves! I wouldn’t recommend a child sits and watches TV all day, or just sits in a room reading a book all day. I’d also strongly advise against having a console in their bedroom so you can keep an eye on what they are playing but again that’s a personal parental decision. Most things in moderation are ok and gaming is no different. Make sure you explain to them what time you’re allowing (45 mins or an hour etc.) and then stick to it. You should allow a little leeway; say 5 minutes to get to a suitable stopping point. Most games now auto-save very regularly so don’t let them fob you off with tales of having to get to a save point. If they insist try googling the game to see if doesn’t have auto-save, just in case.



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My area of expertise is console gaming and I don’t have a lot of experience with iPad/Tablet games so my main advice is to be super vigilant. On consoles you would need to have a credit card linked to your PlayStation or XBox to buy anything. On phones it’s a lot easier for kids to accidentally rack up costs (often without realising it). Sadly the mobile gaming space is full of titles made with the aim of getting you to pay money. Beware of Free To Play titles, they are specifically designed to prey on people susceptible to gambling/addiction by making the game ramp up in difficulty or locking things behind a timer – “Wait two days to play again or just pay 79p to jump straight back in.” These games can be very dangerous to the wrong personalities (adults included) and can often be as bad as fruit machines. Best thing to do would be to check around online and see which games are rated highly for kids. Having said that even that can’t protect you from the stream of ads running alongside the game… a well-known kids app called Talking Tom (with a cute speaking cat you interact with) hit the headlines for running hard-core porn video ads in the game while children were playing. This thing is mainly avoidable on consoles as most products don’t have random ads running in the background.



So you’ve been beaten into submission and now you’re looking to get a console! But which one? Well fortunately you only really have three choices and two of them are very similar.

Nintendo Wii-U

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Nintendo are often kid’s first game experiences as they are very family friendly. Games like Mario Kart, Donkey Kong and Legend Of Zelda have great heritage and with new titles like Splatoon, they are still delivering solid kids content. The only issue you may have here is that a lot of other companies have stopped making games for it so it is mainly just those Nintendo games you’ll be playing.

XBox / Playstation

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For younger kids you might be able to get away with giving them the older consoles (XBox 360 and PlayStation 3) which both have a wealth of back catalogue games and, while not quite up to the standard of the latest titles, will be great for playing lots of awesome games. However as they get older and need to keep up with the Jones’s, you’ll be looking more at the XBox One or PlayStation 4. These two are fairly similar and it will probably come down to what your kids friends are playing on. I’ve always preferred PlayStation, which also has the benefit of being market leader and getting the best versions of most games. Also there’s LittleBigPlanet, but more on that later!



Guide Vol 4 Parents Toys

There is a new kid on the block in terms of games for youngsters – Toys To Life. This genre encompasses heavyweights like Skylanders, Disney Infinity and the newly announced Lego Dimensions. These games are played like others with a gamepad but the difference is that they come with a little portal. You pop the toys on top of the portal and then they appear in game for you to control. It’s pretty awesome actually, I would’ve loved this for my He-Man or Ghostbusters back in the day! My (gentle) warning on these games is not the content – they are definitely kid friendly – but more the fact of knowing what you are investing in. These games are full price (usually with a toy or two) and then further toy figures are around £10 each. Some (optional) areas of the game can only be accessed by specific characters and as you can imagine the cost can escalate quickly, especially if your kids have more than one of these titles!



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There are hundreds, if not thousands, of games out there that your kids could play. Make sure you research titles before allowing them to play. Here are a few titles that I’d recommend.


Under 5’s



  • Joe Danger
  • Super Rub A Dub
  • Katamari
  • Skylanders
  • Disney Infinity
  • Octodad (this is actually really difficult but the kids love the comedy element)


These games should always be simple and not too complicated so the child doesn’t get too frustrated – I’d strongly recommend Joe Danger (video above) and Katamari from this list as they can be played on a basic level with just one or two buttons. And both are great fun!


5-12 Years



  • Skylanders
  • Disney Infinity
  • Minecraft (more on that below)
  • FIFA Soccer
  • LittleBigPlanet
  • Various Lego Titles (Batman/Avengers etc.)
  • DriveClub
  • Child Of Light
  • Tearaway


There are some wonderful games in this list – LittleBigPlanet is shown above but Tearaway is also amazing and for something a little deeper Child Of Light is unbelievably good. These are games that both children and adults can enjoy (together if you’d like!)


The ‘Teens’ .


  • Destiny
  • Uncharted
  • Need For Speed
  • Mass Effect
  • Journey


So included here are a bunch of game series that are higher rated age-wise and deal with violence but with a more sci-fi slant that isn’t going for realism. Another series in this vein is Uncharted, which is more like Indiana Jones than anything else. Also worth noting that Mass Effect contains (non-explicit) sexual content as you can romance a member of your crew, just in case that influences your decision.



Guide Vol 4 Parents Minecraft

And now we come to the big names, the ones the kids will be begging to play.




Minecraft is great for most children, it encourages building and exploration. Some of the enemies might be too much for very young children but I’d say this one is generally ok for most age groups.


Call Of Duty

Call Of Duty is a huge franchise in which you play as a soldier killing other people. There are two elements to the game, single player and online. The online multiplayer is where they will likely be playing, in modes where killing the other players is the name of the game (literally, it’s called Deathmatch!). This tends to not be too graphic, although bear in mind you will be shooting and stabbing people. The other issue is online chat, although I’ll go more into that below. The other side of the game is the campaign in which you would play through the story. Known for its shocking violence these can sometimes be tough to watch as an adult – for example an interrogation scene in which you put glass into a man’s mouth and then crush it by punching him in the face. It’s probably most infamous for its ‘No Russian’ that sees you take part in a terrorist attack at an airport, shooting civilians. Footage below so you can see for yourself…



Assassin’s Creed

The Assassin’s Creed games all take place in different eras of history (1400’s Italy, 1700’s Paris and 1800’s London for example). This means they can give a feel for those places at that time and you can visit recreated landmarks and go inside (Notre Dame was particularly impressive!). However, as the name suggests you will be tasked with killing targets as part of an overall Templar/Assassin storyline. Usually using blades, although guns do feature, this is probably the least graphic of the biggest games but still I wouldn’t really recommend for kids younger than 15, depending on the child of course.



Mortal Kombat

And now I’m afraid I’m going to be really hypocritical. Let me explain. The original Mortal Kombat came out in 1993, when I was just 13. And we played it for hours at friend’s houses. While not quite as graphically impressive as games nowadays it still allowed you to perform brutal finishing moves on opponents and was, no doubt, not suitable for a 13 year old. Having said that it didn’t seem to do me any harm but I digress… The latest installment of Mortal Kombat is the tenth in the series and the games have leaned even more into the gross-out over the top finishing moves than ever before. As an adult I can differentiate between this type of ‘video-nasty’ horror/violence and real life, knowing that these moves are displayed tongue in cheek. However parents should be aware that although this verges on satire, they are still extremely, graphically, violent. Again, here’s a video showing a few of the moves in the latest game.



Grand Theft Auto

Ah Grand Theft Auto – the bane of game headlines around the world! First let’s bust a few myths.

‘This game makes you sleep with a prostitute and then kill her to get your money back’

While this is possible in the game it is never requested as part of a mission nor are you asked to do so. The logistics of that statement are correct but this is player agency, you aren’t asked to do this.

‘Playing this game turned this kid into a killer.’

From all of the research I’ve read there has never been a proven link between games and real life killing. I strongly suspect playing GTA all day every day is going to do the player no favours, in the same way sitting and watching video nasties would potentially warp someone’s perception of the real world.


The Grand Theft Auto games are violent, involve crime and come with a lot of baggage in terms of cultural experience. This means a whole lot of swearing (including the c-word) and possibly the most racial slurs/slang I’ve ever heard in a game. The most recent game also includes a torture scene in which you select which ‘instrument’ (pliers, wrench etc.) to use for most damage. Here’s the scene below, again it’s a tough watch but you should know what you’re letting your children get involved in.



The irony of all this is that Grand Theft Auto is a superb game. It has furthered the media in so many ways. For all of the above negative points it is unrivaled in creating a lifelike vibrant city with an endless stream of things to do for the player. You can go to the cinema, play golf… even get a haircut or tattoo. The radio stations in the game allow players to discover new types of music and bands they may never have heard before. This game, all of the games in this section are great games. I’ve enjoyed playing them but as an adult. Not a child.



Guide Vol 4 Parents Headset

Another thing parents should be aware of is online gaming in general. Gamers are able to communicate with game headsets so that they can talk to other players while in game. This can be a good thing, socially especially, and is a helpful feature when playing with friends. However you need to bear in mind that if your child is using a headset to talk to other gamers they could, literally, be talking to anyone. They could (and sadly probably will) hear abusive phrases thrown around casually. Racist slurs, homophobic slurs. It’s the same as being on the internet – if you let your child visit whatever sites are available and talk to people they don’t know there is a chance they could end up talking with some quite unsavoury characters. This isn’t a reason to panic but try to ensure they understand the dangers and, if possible, only use a headset to talk to people they know.




So that’s pretty much it, I know it’s a *long* piece but I’ve been asked by enough people that it felt something like this could be helpful to fellow parents who aren’t as aware of games.

If you do have any other questions feel free to drop them in the comments or, of course, e-mail or tweet me. In the meantime feel free to share among fellow parents and anyone who might appreciate a heads up.

The main takeaway should be that games are not made exclusively for children but that they aren’t inherently bad for kids either. Be aware of what they are playing and monitor their progress.


E3 2015 – The GregHorrorShow Round Up

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E3 used to be the pinnacle of the gaming calendar but it’s star has faded somewhat in recent years with events like Gamescom and The Games Awards stealing some of its thunder. 2015 is the year E3 made a comeback – lots of great announcements and two really strong conferences from Microsoft and Sony! And people have the cheek to say there are no games coming!! So let’s start with Microsoft. As you probably know if you’re reading this, I’m not an MS console owner so most of the exclusives weren’t of that much interest to me. A couple of the multiplatform games really stood out though. .



I really enjoyed the reboot of Tomb Raider a few years ago and this looks like more of the same. My only concern is that a lot of my enjoyment last time out came from Lara being inexperienced and seeing her develop through the story. Hopefully they can make the follow up as interesting.



I’ve been banging on about Cuphead for ages and it still looks amazing! Although currently only listed for Xbox One and PC the game studio’s twitter account recently confirmed these were the initial platforms and they’d be exploring others at a later date. I’d love this on my Vita!



And so it lives! The most hyped, requested game of the last few years – seen at E3 2009 and then quiet until now, The Last Guardian looks gorgeous and sees you take on the role of a kid who teams up with a giant beast. Together you’ll solve puzzles and work your way through the story. .



I love Killzone and so when I heard Guerrilla Games were working on something fresh I was excited to see what they’d come up with. Then a few bits leaked about robot dinosaurs. Excitement levels were building but nothing could’ve prepared me for the trailer they showed. Wow. What a great style and look. A strong female protagonist who is hunting robot dinosaurs among the remnants of mankind. I’m in.



The absolute highlight of the show for me. My expectations were so high and yet Naughty Dog exceeded everything I’d hoped for. The graphics, the banter between characters, the set pieces… I could go on and on but set aside 7 minutes and watch the full clip above. Outstanding. .



I didn’t know much about Firewatch before E3 but having watched the trailer I like the art style and adding a bit of story to an exploration game is pretty cool. I’d probably need to play it before committing fully but I’m keen to see more.



I’m a little burnt out on Call Of Duty, despite the fact Advanced Warfare was one of the better entries in recent years. Having said that I’ve always favoured Treyarch’s Black Ops series and the fact that this instalment has a four player co-op campaign has piqued my interest. Should be fun!



Dreams was very weird – I’m still not sure how much of it is a game but when a studio with the pedigree of Media Molecule (LittleBigPlanet / Tearaway) is behind something, I’m always willing to give it a shot. Have a look at the above to see what I mean, it’s difficult to describe but looks beautiful.



No Man’s Sky continues to impress and this was a nice glimpse at what you’ll be able to do in the game. Looking forward to discovering some planets and alien species! Still no release date but I’d expect it to be coming in early 2016 – surely we can’t have another E3 with No Man’s Sky there!



I really enjoyed Heavenly Sword and Enslaved so Ninja Theory’s new game was already on my radar. Based around mental illness, it’s being made in conjunction with the Wellcome Trust – I really hope they manage to handle the subject sensitively while delivering a great gaming experience.



We’ve been waiting a while for this one! Mirror’s Edge came in at number 39 on my Top 100 PS3 games and the follow up looks to be a refinement of the formula that worked so well previously. The game is actually set before the original game so we’ll get to see more of Faith’s origin story.



Wow. Just wow. This one pushed Uncharted 4 all the way as my biggest/best showing at this year’s E3. I cannot wait to lose myself in this world. The graphics are a step up and hopefully there will be less technical issues than the last few titles. And they even threw in a free mobile game to tide us over! (IOS only for now, coming to Android in the next few months)



Dishonored 2 was another title that looked great and continued this E3’s theme of empowered female characters with the news that Emily Kaldwin from the original will now be playable with her own set of powers/abilities. Great news and a really cool series, I’m glad this is getting another game.



The Metal Gear games have always been special to me. A mix of completely insane story and superb gameplay, the latest instalment looks to be more of the same as creator Hideo Kojima signs off on his last ever Metal Gear Solid title. It’s sure to be some ride, with a huge game world and plenty of memorable characters and I’m looking forward to getting my tactical espionage on later this year.



Unravel looks like a super cute, cool title that sees you take on the role of a yarn feline. You’ll be going on adventures throughout the game world, which seems to be based around puzzle platforming. This is another one I’m hoping might come to Vita further down the line.



I am a big fan of the Mass Effect series, which signed off Commander Shepherd’s trilogy a few years ago. Back with a new protagonist and a new set of worlds to explore, I can’t wait to jump back into the Mass Effect universe. Although it’s all new characters I do hope a few old faces show up :)



I’m really excited about Rainbow Six Siege. This is tactical first person shooter at its purest. 4v4, small environments and tense objectives. Each team is based around the best special forces teams from across the globe. This could be awesome – my only concern is how many levels the game ships with. If it’s only 4 or 5 this might not be worth the full price investment.



What can you say about Star Wars? The idea of a Star Wars game made by the people behind Battlefield pushes the right buttons for me. It looks and sounds amazing. While there isn’t a single player component, I imagine most gamers will be picking this one up!



Another game I enjoyed the previous instalment of and word on the (E3) street is that this is one of the best games being shown at the event, which is a little surprising but satisfying nonetheless. Rico Rodriguez is back, this time going home to the motherland to liberate the masses from another dictator.



I really enjoyed the last Ghost Recon game. It wasn’t spectacular but what it did right felt good and so this surprise announcement was positive news for me. Hopefully it’ll have lots of variety in mission structure so the game has some longevity.



A full on reboot of the Hitman games was unexpected but a good move in my opinion. After the previous title, Absolution, was the most accessible yet it makes sense to revisit the earlier adventures of Agent 47. The idea of targets appearing for a short time and then disappearing altogether is fascinating, if a little daunting!



The Division has been floating around for a good few years now and while the main topic of conversation in the last few days has been the visual ‘downgrade’ (has there been one?) it still looks good to me and I’m excited to check it out when it finally gets released.



Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a pleasant surprise a few years ago so a new title following on the story of Adam Jenson is very welcome. And boy, does it look good! Hopefully the game will retain the freedom of the previous title and we’ll be able to approach missions however we like.




So there you go – what a year. It’s been a while since I had such a great bunch of games to choose from. It was really hard to narrow it down at all – titles like Batman: Arkham Knight, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Persona 5 and Need For Speed all looked great and of course the returning FIFA will be excellent I’m sure. So what did you guys rate? What was your favourite trailer and what are you most excited for?


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Alien Isolation – Review (PS4)

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So here we are again, another console generation and another Alien game. Isolation promised an experience much closer to the original film and pre-release material looked great. However as someone who got burnt by Alien vs Predator and Colonial Marines, I was reluctant to let the hype carry me away. Could Creative Assembly be the first developer in decades to nail an Alien game?

Picking up in 2137, between the events of Alien and Aliens, Isolation sees you take on the role of Amanda Ripley – the daughter of general badass Ellen Ripley. With Ellen still missing, a flight recorder from her ship Nostromo is discovered and Amanda heads to Sevastopol, the space station that has the recorder, to get some answers. And that’s where we pick up the story, playing as Amanda from a first person perspective.

The first thing you’ll notice is the presentation. From the opening boot up sequence, featuring some wonderful retro logos, to the in game world, everything has been crafted with a level of dedication that shows a real love for the universe. As you make your way through the levels you’ll find yourself taken in by how good your surroundings look. Of course, you’d expect a high level of fidelity and detail when dealing with enclosed spaces and corridors like this but that doesn’t mean its any less impressive. The fire in the game looks especially good and while character models can sometimes look a little off facially, Isolation is a pretty good looking game.

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Another thing to note is that while Isolation is a first person game that features guns, flamethrowers and other weapons, it is not a shooter. This is a horror game, pure and simple. You will spend a lot of time hiding and almost all of the game crouch-walking slowly around areas. While Amanda can handle herself against human and android enemies (although even those can kill you quickly) the Alien itself is not killable, or at least certainly not with the tools you have at your disposal. It will also kill you in one hit, often from behind. These mini cut scenes are great, for example the first you might know about it is suddenly losing control of Amanda and she looks down to see the tail of the Alien break through her chest! That means if you hear it nearby you’ll need to find somewhere to hide or set up a distraction.

The Alien is well designed and uses the games artificial intelligence to learn your patterns, which is really cool (but terrifying). If you keep hiding in lockers the Alien will check them first when looking for you. Same goes for hiding under desks or in cabinets. It’s a clever mechanic and doesn’t feel unfair, it’s something that adds a bit more tension to proceedings. The amount of times I was hiding somewhere only to see the Alien slowly stalk passed outside, I was literally holding my breath.

As someone who doesn’t really like horror games with jump scares (I survived about 20 minutes of Outlast before turning it off and let’s not mention P.T…) I found this to be a great experience. The issue I had was that it was so intense I could only play an hour or so at a time. Which is why it’s taken me months to finish it (apologies @lefty_flip!). And that brings me to my main complaint about the game, it’s length. It is quite rare these days for a game to be too long but unfortunately Alien Isolation out stays its welcome by a good few hours. Clocking in at around 20 hours, it was just too draining. Also a few of those missions before the game ramps up at the end really felt like filler and there was a lot of ‘go to this door, try the handle, power’s out, track back across the map to turn it back on, and return to the door’ type stuff. And all the while you’re being hunted by an AI clever Alien. It just felt too long.

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The other issue was that the game lost any suspense when failing areas. If you could get through them on your first or second attempt it was an exhilarating ride. However repeated deaths led to instances where you ended up just running here and there with pinpoint accuracy. I’m not really sure what the solution would be for that but it definitely shattered the carefully crafted illusion of the game on several occasions for me.

I quite liked the story but there were a few issues and the ending seemed to have a few gaping plot holes, which had me reaching for the internet. The characters felt quite well formed and Ripley herself was a decent protagonist. Even though I knew from the films what had happened to Ellen Ripley it still felt interesting and important when Amanda discovered new pieces of information.

In addition to the main campaign there is also Survivor mode, whereby you attempt to escape through levels as quickly as possible while doing optional side objectives to increase your score. You are given a time limit (30 minutes for example) in which to escape and the whole thing feels even more claustrophobic than the campaign. Having a timer running in the top corner adds even more pressure. I couldn’t even beat the first of these challenges so I suspect they are for more hardened/skilled players or people looking to play more of the game without replaying the story.

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It has been years since the last decent Alien game – Alien Trilogy on the PlayStation (1996) and Alien 3 on Sega MegaDrive (1993) come to mind as stand out titles – but Alien Isolation is the best we’ve had for a long time. It captures the feel of that first film perfectly and while it has some issues with plot and overall length, this is recommended – especially if you’re a fan of the Alien universe.

Rating: 8/10

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