The End Of An Era… But The Beginning Of Another.

As with so many things, gaming has changed a hell of a lot since the start of the decade.

It’s been a progressive ten years, seeing the arrival of the Playstation 2, Playstation 3 and PSP – as well as rival consoles from Nintendo and Microsoft that helped push Sony to improve.

Games are a much bigger part of life now – more mainstream than ever before. Most houses will have one of the consoles, if not more, as parents and children play (sometimes together 🙂 ).

METAL GEAR SOLID: One of the original Playstation’s finest moments

There can be no doubt that Sony was the manufacturer of the decade – the continuing success of the PS2 secures them that accolade.

But in the current generation of consoles they sit in last place. XBox 360 started so well and then Nintendo arrived with the Wii to rape and pillage the ‘casual market.’

However as time has gone on the PS3 has made great strides to catch up with the XBox (I just can’t take the Wii seriously as a platform) and seems to finally be getting the games to back up it’s hardware.

GOD OF WAR: The series that showcased just how much was left in the PS2

As this decade comes to a close we’ve seen various companies go bust. From well established ones, like Acclaim or Midway, through to lesser known but good studios such as Pandemic no-one seemed safe from the threat of extinction.

I’ve had some big changes in gaming since 2000 – swinging from FIFA to PES back in 2001 and then back to FIFA again in 2009. Going from casual gamer to setting up my own blog and reviewing games.

The main difference for me now is in online gaming. With XBox Live on the 360 and then the PSN for PS3 gaming became even more social than before – with friends lists and even the inclusion of Twitter updates of your in game progress (Uncharted 2).

KILLZONE 2: The game that has defined online gaming for me this decade

I never thought I would ever play with a headset – but as online games have developed it’s often essential to be able to communicate to the people you’re playing with, not least to be able to dish out some friendly ribbing now and then 😆

Games are so well developed now that people who were just casual gamers are finding themselves completing games and playing online.

It’s a great time to be a gamer and with a slew of great titles confirmed for 2010/2011 it looks like it’ll just keep getting better and better.

UNCHARTED 2: The complete gaming package

For the record here are my Top 10 favourites games of the decade:

1. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3)

2. Killzone 2 (PS3)

3. GTA: Vice City (PS2)

4. Pro Evolution Soccer 5 (PS2)

5. Metal Gear Solid (PSX)

6. God Of War II (PS2)

7. Dead Space (PS3)

8. Fallout 3 (PS3)

9. Resident Evil 4 (PS2)

10. GTA IV (PS3)

And because of “it’s great balance of Final Fantasy and Disney” my wife has submitted her game of the decade: Kingdom Hearts.

So that rounds out the decade!

See you all in 2010! 😎

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Bayonetta – Demo Impressions (PS3)

Bayonetta is a bit of a weird one. I was never a fan of the Devil May Cry games, although the first was a good game, and this looked like more of the same.

I played a bit of it at the Eurogamer Expo and it was certainly one I thought I’d try out when it’s released in January 2010.

Then the reviews starting coming in – lots of high scores and in particular two extremely high scores: 40/40 in Japanese mag Famitsu and 10/10 in Edge magazine. Two magazines that are famous for not dishing out high scores unless games really deserve them.

Well having had a chance to sit down and explore the demo I’m very impressed.

There seems to be a huge amount of combos with various weapons involved – not sure if these will be available from the start but they are in the demo – which for the most part appeared by luck until I learnt the combos 🙂

I haven’t played a button masher of this type for quite a while so it was nice to get involved in a game with so much going on at once.

You can build up powerful ‘super’ attacks which are brilliant and come with a touch of humour as well – unsurprising in a game that has the main character’s hair double up as her outfit! 😆

First impressions are good – still not 100% sold on this being one to pick up immediately upon release though.

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GregHorrorShow Game Awards 2009

2009 has, in my opinion, been one of the best years ever to be a gamer.

With so many great games arriving and with plenty of 2008’s hits (Bioshock/Fallout 3/GTA IV/Metal Gear Solid 4 etc) falling in price it’s a great time to own a PS3.

Throw the PSP resurgence into the mix and it adds up to one brilliant era for games.

Anyway, now onto the main event! The awards you’ve been waiting for…

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BEST DLC (Downloadable Content)

WINNER: Fallout 3 – Expansion Packs

 

Offering hours and hours more gameplay and an extended level cap to boot, the various DLC packs for Fallout 3 were well above anything else that arrived this year. Getting back into the Capital Wasteland never felt so good. 🙂

RUNNERS UP:

Killzone 2 – Maps

LittleBigPlanet – Various Costumes

Batman – Play as Joker Challenge Maps

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BEST GAME INNOVATION

WINNER: Killzone 2 (Changing Game Modes Within A Consistent Online Match)

Killzone brought the noise in more ways than one but the changing game types within one online game was pretty sweet. Meaning that just as you’d be capturing the flag (speaker) the game could switch to deathmatch (Body Count) or whatever which in turn means that no two rounds are ever the same – genius.

RUNNERS UP:

InFamous (Karma System Working Within Empire City)

Prototype (Running Up Buildings)

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Deathstreaks)

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BEST TRAILER

WINNER: Assassin’s Creed II

There were lots of amazing trailers in 2009 but for me the most impressive both visually and with respect to what the gameplay promised, was Assassin’s Creed II. A fantastic game that saw you playing through the 1400’s in Italy, the trailer showed off exactly what the game had to offer.

RUNNERS UP:

Uncharted 2

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

God Of War 3

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MOST ANTICIPATED GAME OF 2010:

WINNER: Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Heavy Rain was nailed on for this and while it’s still one of my most anticipated games of next year, playing through the beta of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has swayed me in favour of DICE’s first person shooter. With vehicles as well as guns this one looks set to rock it come March 2010.

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BEST SOUNDTRACK (SCORE)

WINNER: Killzone 2 (Joris De Man)

There have been plenty of great scores in the games of 2009 but Killzone 2’s is awesome. ‘Helgan Forever’, the main theme, will live long in the memory – mainly due to the fact that it is a fantastic, stirring, piece of music. Brilliant throughout the game, Joris De Man’s score is a great companion to a stunning game. 

RUNNERS UP:

Uncharted 2

Infamous

Prototype

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BEST SOUNDTRACK (LICENSED)

WINNER: Dirt 2

With a soundtrack featuring the might of Elbow, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Subways, Black Tide, Ladyhawke and Queens Of The Stone Age, Dirt 2 takes pole position in the soundtrack stakes. With a nice variety of styles it says a lot when you don’t get bored of the tracks after hearing them a few times and the inventive use of music through the menus and loading screens was a great touch.

RUNNERS UP:

Motorstorm: Arctic Edge (PSP)

Wet

Brutal Legend

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BEST VOICE ACTING

WINNER: Uncharted 2

Well, what can you say about the voice acting of Uncharted 2. It has to be one of the very best performances ever given in a game. I listened to an interview in which the cast compared the experience to theatre as they were all in the same room together for all of the voicing/motion capture and boy does it show. The chemistry between all the actors involved is apparent throughout and some of the ad libbed stuff is stunning.

RUNNERS UP:

Ghostbusters: The Video Game

Wet

Batman: Arkham Ayslum

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BEST GRAPHICS

WINNER: Uncharted 2

Killzone 2 ran Uncharted 2 very, very close for this award but in the end Naughty Dog takes it on the variety of stunning locations they manage to fit into the game – especially the areas with some of the most realistic snow I’ve ever seen. The character models are superb and the animation is extremely well done. 

RUNNERS UP:

Killzone 2

Dirt 2

Batman: Arkham Asylum

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BEST SPORTS GAME

WINNER: FIFA 10

If you’d told me 18 months ago FIFA would be winning an award on my blog I would’ve thought you were insane. In tandom with the decline of PES, FIFA has risen to former glories and is now the definitive football (soccer) game. This game actually makes you think about the build up play well in advance and, even more importantly, lets you have full control over the action on the pitch.

RUNNERS UP:

Fight Night Round 4

Dirt 2

Madden 10

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BEST PSP GAME

WINNER: GTA Chinatown Wars

There have been some great titles for the PSP this year but GTA Chinatown Wars pips them all at the post for sheer volume. There is so much to do in Liberty City and while the missions are bite sized there are plenty of them to get stuck into. A cast of colourful characters (as usual) helps matters and this is a fitting entry into the GTA universe. 

RUNNERS UP:

Assassin’s Creed Bloodlines

Resistance: Retribution

LittleBigPlanet

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BEST STORYLINE

WINNER: InFamous

 

Infamous was a surprise hit for me as I was looking forward to Prototype a lot more. However Cole McGrath’s story of dealing with superpowers and finding out how the explosion happened was so great I played the game twice. With a few twists I didn’t see coming this game boasts a really great story. Uncharted 2 ran this close as it had a brilliant story but Infamous just pips it at the post.

RUNNERS UP:

Wet

Assassin’s Creed II

Uncharted 2

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SINGLE PLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

WINNER: Uncharted 2

Undoubtedly the best single player game for some time, Uncharted 2 makes you feel like the star of the best action movie ever. This is one of those games where all the pieces come together so well it’s a completely seamless experience. Brilliant.

RUNNERS UP:

Infamous

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Assassin’s Creed II

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MULTIPLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

WINNER: Killzone 2

Is there a more satisfying sound that the ping of a kill on Killzone 2? 🙂 Giving the players more weight made the game feel heavier but seemingly fairer than a ‘twitch’ shooter like Modern Warfare 2. Killzone 2 is certainly the game I spent most time online with this year – clocking up in excess of 100 hours, which is a first for me. Great online fun.

RUNNERS UP:

Dirt 2

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Uncharted 2

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GAME OF THE YEAR

WINNER: Uncharted 2

Naughty Dog’s excellent Uncharted 2 is no surprise as game of the year. Having already seen it take the gong at Spike’s VGA Awards I am following suit and giving Uncharted 2 the Game Of The Year Award for 2009. A fantastic, deep gaming experience with a great multiplayer added to boot. Seriously I’d like to speak to someone who played this and didn’t like it. As a whole Uncharted 2 is the best game in years and a very worthy winner.

RUNNERS UP:

InFamous

Assassin’s Creed II

Killzone 2

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Wow, still struggling to believe we’re nearly done with 2009!

It says a lot about this year that a title as great as Batman: Arkham Asylum can be nominated for 4 awards and not win one. Quality titles abound.

It’s been an amazing year for gaming and the quality looks set to continue into 2010 with a host of great releases.

Let me know what your highlights were for 2009!

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Assassin’s Creed II – Review (PS3)

A lot of people complained (me included) when they saw that Assassin’s Creed II was nominated for a Game Of The Year Award (among others) at the VGA’s as it has only been out a few weeks.

But anyone who has played Assassin’s Creed II will be able to tell you why it was nominated – it is indeed that good.

The first Assassin’s Creed was a good game with some nice ideas and lovely graphics but it suffered from repetitive missions and the fact you had to synchronise viewpoints to access the next section.

No such problems with the sequel as Ubisoft have taken on the feedback from the critics and fans. For example you’re a lot more free to approach missions as you want to and the viewpoints are now optional – they reveal more helpful locations on the map but they aren’t obligatory.

The story picks up with Desmond Miles after the conclusion of the first game as he escapes with Lucy Stillman from the Abstergo Industries building and finds himself in a safe house with a new Animus, delving into another set of ancestral memories.

This time you’ll be playing as Ezio Auditore da Firenze in Italy in the 1400’s. This is a glorious setting as you move between Tuscany, Florence, Venice and more. The difference in areas is apparent and they have gone to a lot of trouble to make each feel individual.

As well as the main plot missions there are a wealth of side missions and collectibles – the ones that hooked me were the Assassin’s Seals. These are objects hidden in tombs and churches that are basically climbing and exploring sections – once you get all six you can unlock Altair’s armour that is locked away in your Villa.

You can do races, collect feathers, find glynphs, beat people up and take on side assassinations among other things.

This freedom of choice means you never feel railroaded into anything and delivers a wonderful gaming experience.

It’s not without it’s problems though.

On occasions the combat and climbing mechanics are clunky and don’t respond in the way you need it to – annoying if you’ve almost climbed a huge building only to inadvertently dive down into the water instead of jumping up further.

My main complaint was the codex pages – collectables you could find and convert into extra health, weapon upgrades etc. But they are also integral to the game and you’ll need all 30 to do the final mission.

If I’d known they were that important I’d have picked them up as I went along – instead it meant before the last mission I had to go and find the last 14! Totally broke the pacing of the game/story.

But they are small problems within a hugely enjoyable gaming experience. Assassin’s Creed II is the game the first wanted to be – finally the ideas have been realised and I can’t wait for the next instalment.

Rating: 9/10

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GregHorrorShow Film Awards 2009

It’s been a good year for film, with lots of great releases. I don’t get to the flicks as much as I used to so these awards might have a touch of the DVD’s about them 😆

Here we go…

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BEST TRAILER

WINNER: Zombieland

This trailer perfectly captures the feel of this film and I ended up watching it several times as it was just funny as hell. A good advert for a brilliant film.

RUNNERS UP:

Sherlock Holmes

The Hangover

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BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS

WINNER: Watchmen

You can say what you like about the film itself but I don’t think anyone could argue with the fact that the special effects in Watchmen were absolutely superb. From Dr Manhattan to the other heroes and even the city itself, this was a truly stunning experience.

RUNNERS UP:

Zombieland

The Damned Utd

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BEST SOUNDTRACK

WINNER: The Boat That Rocked

I’m sure people will question the quality of this film for a long while to come but one thing that can’t be questioned is the quality of the soundtrack: The Who, Dusty Springfield, The Beach Boys, Smokey Robinson, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie and The Kinks are just a few of the bands to feature in what was the highlight of the film… it’s soundtrack. 

RUNNERS UP:

Watchmen

Zombieland

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BEST COMEDY

WINNER: The Hangover

A close call this one as all three of these films were absolutely superb but I’m still chuckling over Zach Galifianakis’ performance. The story of the Stag Night from hell, with no-one remembering a thing, the groom missing and the time until the wedding ticking away – The Hangover is essential viewing.

RUNNERS UP:

I Love You, Man

Role Models

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MOST ANTICIPATED FILM OF 2010

WINNER: Kick Ass

I’ve already seen a rough cut of this and can confirm it was fantastic, even in it’s unfinished state. Stand out performances throughout and big props to Nic Cage for his role as well. Check it out when it hits next year.

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BEST ACTOR

WINNER: Mickey Rourke (Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson – The Wrestler)

The Wrestler was such an emotional film it had to have some strong performances and Mickey Rourke really nailed it in his role as aging wrestling star Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson. The scenes with his daughter were among the most touching I’ve seen in a long time and it looks like he invested a lot in the performance.

RUNNERS UP:

Jackie Earle Haley (Walter Kovacs / Rorschach – Watchmen)

Michael Sheen (David Frost – Frost/Nixon)

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BEST ACTRESS

WINNER: Rachel McAdam (Della Frye – State Of Play)

I almost gave this to Abigail Breslin for her stirling showing in Zombieland but in the end, looking back over the year, it was Rachel McAdams performance in political thriller State Of Play as journalist Della Frye that really impressed me. Firstly because it was a great bit of acting and secondly because I’d only ever seen McAdam in rom coms and it’s always nice to see an actor/actress leave their comfort zone and put on a good show.

RUNNERS UP:

Abigail Breslin (Little Rock – Zombieland)

Marisa Tomei (Cassidy – The Wrestler)

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FILM OF THE YEAR

WINNER: Zombieland

Head and shoulders above everything else I saw this year was the superb Zombieland. The tale of four survivors of a zombie outbreak just trying to stay alive long enough to learn to trust each other. Great performances from all four leads, and a wonderful cameo I had no prior knowledge of, made this a joy to watch.

Close behind were The Wrestler, a truly touching tale of an aging ring warrior and Watchmen, which I really enjoyed even if most of the World didn’t 🙂

RUNNERS UP:

The Wrestler

Watchmen

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So that wraps up the film awards for 2009 – only games to go now!

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Dante’s Inferno by Dante Alighieri – Review (Book)

I thought seeing as I was looking forward to playing the game of Dante’s Inferno (which arrives in February 2010) I maybe ought to check out the literary classic that it’s (loosely) based on.

Being honest I was a little nervous upon seeing the size of the hardback book and the fact it was a poem didn’t inspire confidence either.

But how wrong I was.

Of course the subject matter is dark and twisted (it is a journey through hell after all 😆 ) but it was a very pleasurable read.

The fact it is a poem didn’t hinder my enjoyment and the entire thing weighed in at around 200 pages.

Written in the early 14th Century, Dante’s Inferno tells the story of a man (Dante) who finds himself lost in a wood on Good Friday of 1300 with seemingly no way out. Then a spirit called Virgil comes and explains he can help him but the two of them will have to travel through the nine circles of hell: Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Avarice (hoarding of material possessions), Wrath & Sloth, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and Treason.

Virgil acts as the man’s guide on behalf of Beatrice – a beautiful goddess who wants an audience with the man.

Beatrice is believed to be Dante’s real life childhood sweet heart, who lived next door to him but died aged only 24 years old. 😦

And so begins their descent through hell, meeting lots of well known historical figures and also some of the people from Dante’s life (presumably those who really annoyed him :smile:)

This really was one of those books that I couldn’t stop reading. Don’t let the fact that this is classic literature put you off, it’s a great read.

Now I’m looking forward to playing through the nine circles of hell in the new year!

Rating: 8/10

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Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines – Review (PSP)

As someone who quite enjoyed the first Assassin’s Creed game, despite it’s somewhat repetitive nature, I was really looking forward to stepping back into Altair’s shoes.

Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines picks up after the end of the previous game, with Altair travelling to Cyprus to seek out and destroy the last of the Templars.

Having been playing Assassin’s Creed 2 alongside it the button set up felt natural but it might seem a little confusing at first, with three sets of controls attributed to the face buttons depending on what else you’re pressing.

So on their own they perform low level feats such as blending into a crowd etc, with the left shoulder button held they control the camera angle and with the right shoulder button held they perform high risk feats such as climbing/assassinations etc. It sounds more complicated than it is! 😉

Unfortunately, as is the case for the two PS3 games (though less so for Assassin’s Creed 2, which is a lot more intuitive), this means you’ll often be trying to flee by climbing and the game won’t recognize your button press in time. It doesn’t happen too much thankfully and when the system works it is thrilling.

Obviously being a handheld title the AI doesn’t challenge too much and it was a little easy to just blend into a crowd after murdering someone but once the alert is raised they will persue you fairly relentlessly – which is great.

They come in numbers as well, although you’ll probably not have more than 4 or 5 around you at one time. Believe me that is more than enough – on a few occasions I found myself ducking out of fight situations and making a run for it 😆

The storyline was fairly interesting and concerned the Templar archive that Altair was trying to track down.

On the downside the audio was pretty poor, not only in terms of voice acting but also the spoken word parts skipped and jumped in places (switch the subtitles on!).

The gameplay itself is a touch repetitive and overall the experience reminded me much of the first game rather than the improved sequel.

The graphics are superb and Altair has some great assassination animations. There was no slowdown or anything like that, even with numerous enemies and civilians on screen. It’s nice to see people pushing the PSP.

One thing that is cool is the connectivity between the PSP game and Assassin’s Creed 2 on the PS3. Depending on your progress you can unlock new things in both – to be honest it’s better going from the PSP to PS3 as you get 6 new weapons (sweet :cool:) whereas on the PSP you get a few bits, like being able to block with the hidden blade etc. Would love to see more games do this.

Overall then Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines reminds me a lot of the Syphon Filter PSP games – good fun to play but a touch repetitive and without major challenge. Definitely worth a play though.

This gets an 8 rather than a 7 for the very cool connectivity idea.

Rating: 8/10

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