Bioshock Infinite – Review (PS3)

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Bioshock Infinite is one of those games that has been on my radar for ages, having loved the original Bioshock and enjoyed the sequel Bioshock 2.

It was created by the team who crafted the original game (whereas Bioshock 2 was made by a different developer) so hopes were high for this game.

Moving the action from Rapture’s underwater city up into the skies above, Infinite is set in Columbia – a floating city that has broken away from the US to become the master of it’s own destiny. This all takes place in 1912 – decades before the events of the original Bioshock.

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Ruled by Zachary Comstock, a self styled prophet, Columbia is a fantastic world to explore and is as much a part of the game as the characters themselves. You get some basic history while playing the game but there is even more available through the various audio logs and video machines scattered across the game’s levels.

You play as Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton agent, who has found himself saddled with financial problems due to his love of gambling. To clear his debt he is tasked with one simple mission. Get to Columbia and bring back a girl called Elizabeth.

Bioshock Infinite is such a well designed game and you can tell a whole lot of care went into the crafting of the world. The opening is fantastic and gives you a little bit of time to explore and take part in the optional tutorial exercises if you want to.

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Similarly to the previous games, in addition to a weapon your other hand will house a special ability – ranging from electric shock right through to possession of enemies. There are a decent amount of these to choose from however you don’t have them all at the start of the game, they get unlocked as the game progresses.

I really liked the feel of the weapons, especially Booker’s pistol – which I used for almost all the game. The carbine was also very handy and, of course, some of the more bombastic weapons also helped along the way.

Musically, Bioshock Infinite is brilliant. The score is very effective and the use of music to punctuate firefights is really well handled. There are also a few astounding sections where music is used… but I won’t discuss that any further for fear of spoiling anything!

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Speaking of spoilers, I’ll tread very carefully around the story. Needless to say it’s one of the best of this generation and is handled with a soft touch, which makes a refreshing change from being beaten over the head with simple plot points like some other titles do. The last half an hour of Bioshock Infinite is some ride and as the credits rolled I was busy trying to work everything out. Great stuff.

The combat is good, as I said earlier the weapons felt weighty and there are some quite brutal melee attacks to finish off attackers. Elizabeth can pull other items in from different dimensions, which is helpful and means you can strategically alter the course of battles if you need to. Elizabeth will also throw you health/ammo when you really need it, which saved me on numerous occasions.

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You have a skyhook as a method for getting around and mixing things up in battle. There are rollercoaster-like rails that Booker can use his hook to slide along – all it requires is for you to aim at them and press a button which makes them simple to use.

My only complaint was that at times you’d see the shimmer of another dimension item ahead of you and know a battle was coming up. It just takes you out of the world for a second. There are two particularly tough sections in the game but they are certainly not insurmountable, especially on Normal difficulty.

The voice acting is brilliant, with some really great performances. The banter between Booker and Elizabeth is really well handled and a favourite for me was the Lutece characters. Jennifer Hale continues to impress with a wide variety of game roles – I didn’t even realise until the credits it was her, which says a lot.

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Bioshock Infinite is one of those games that I wanted to start again as soon as I’d finished it. I definitely want to jump back in soon so I can experience it all again and, hopefully, fill in any gaps in the story by grabbing all those audio logs and whatever else I can find. A truly great game experience.

Rating: 10/10

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The Playstation Vita: Great Expectations?

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There seems to have been a slight shift in opinion on the Playstation Vita recently, with lots of people moving away from the longheld negative perception of the device.

Nevertheless, everyone still has a different sticking point – it doesn’t have any games, it costs too much, I won’t have time to play it etc. I will dispute the lack of games comment below but the rest are valid arguments, depending on your situation.

I think the biggest problem the Vita had was one of perception – shown off as a ‘PS3 in your hands’ it meant the device was always going to struggle to meet expectations if the software line up wasn’t stellar.

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I personally didn’t have an issue with the launch line up but the gap between big titles was just too long. It certainly isn’t as bad now and Sony’s play for the indie market also means you’re getting some top quality, smaller games in between those triple AAA PS3 style experiences.

As for those who say PS3 style games don’t suit a handheld device, I have to disagree. I had no problem playing things like Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed or even Metal Gear Solid in smaller snatches of time. Especially as the Vita has a suspend button that means you can switch off temporarily instead of having to power the console down.

So let’s quickly bust the myth that the Vita has no games. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I believe what these people mean is the Vita has no games *they want to play*. That isn’t the same thing as actually having no games.

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Here is a list of Vita games I would recommend. This isn’t a list of every game available but consists of titles I feel are worth your money. I’ve noted in brackets where a title is only on Vita:

  • Unit 13 (Vita Only)
  • Motorstorm RC
  • Everybody’s Golf
  • Lumines
  • Uncharted: Golden Abyss (Vita Only)
  • Super Stardust (Vita Only)
  • Resistance Burning Skies (Vita Only)
  • Gravity Rush (Vita Only)
  • Metal Gear HD Collection
  • LittleBigPlanet Vita (Vita Only)
  • Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation (Vita Only)
  • When Vikings Attack
  • Need For Speed: Most Wanted
  • Mortal Kombat
  • Rayman Origins
  • Retro City Rampage
  • Persona 4 Golden (Vita Only)
  • Guacamelee
  • Soul Sacrifice (Vita Only)
  • Sine Mora
  • Thomas Was Alone

Most of these titles on their own may not sell you on the system but I do feel there is enough of a library building up to make that initial outlay worth it. Especially when you factor in something like Playstation Plus, which gives you free Vita games every few months.

I can see the argument that a lot of those aren’t Vita exclusives but for me titles like Guacamelee and Thomas Was Alone were not games I’d sit at home and play on my PS3. So I probably wouldn’t have played them (certainly not at this stage) if I didn’t have a Vita.

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Looking forward to E3 next month, it’s clear the Vita will have a bigger role than ever. With the upcoming PS4 aiming to have every title also playable on your handheld I imagine there will be an uplift in Vita sales towards the end of the year.

The Vita was always going to struggle in a market that has seen smartphones/tablets eat away at some of the more casual gamers in the space. When initial expectations weren’t met, more and more gamers were reluctant to take the plunge on a Vita.

The next few months will be a perfect time to get involved though. With a possible price cut at E3 and with more great games in the pipeline (I cannot wait for Hotline Miami and Killzone: Mercenary) the future is looking brighter for Vita after a rocky start.

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What do you guys think? Any other Vita owners out there – what are your thoughts on the Vita and the ‘lack of games’ for it? If you haven’t got one what would entice you?

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The Raid – Review (Film)

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I had heard only good things about The Raid from friends and various film blogs. I’d seen the director interviewed about his love of games and it seemed like the kind of film where you can enjoy, switch off and get blown away.

Thankfully The Raid didn’t disappoint, delivering a high octane mix of heavy gunfire and martial arts.

Taking place in Jakarta (the capital and largest city of Indonesia) it is the story of Rama, a cop in the city and father-to-be. His squad is called to an apartment block being run by a local crime lord and they are tasking with going in and flushing out any criminals that may be inside.

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It’s a great premise and with the squad going up the building floor by floor it allows director Gareth Evans to put a lot of spectacular set pieces into action. A lot of those are gun based battles in corridors and stairwells but there is plenty of fist fighting action to be had as well.

Characters in The Raid use the traditional Indonesian martial art ‘Pencak Silat’ and there are some great fights in the film. If you’re not someone that likes gore it might be best to avoid this one though, as there are gunshot wounds and snapped bones all over the place.

The story itself wasn’t really anything special, unfortunately. And the film appears to have fallen into the same trap many games do in that the action is glorious but there isn’t much behind it to back it up.

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The Raid certainly delivers a popcorn action punch and if you’re looking for some fun fighting/gun action then you could do a lot worse than this. I look forward to seeing what Gareth Evans comes up with next.

Rating: 8/10

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‘The Chrysalids’ by John Wyndam – Review (Book)

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Written in 1955, The Chrysalids is a story set in a post apocalyptic world where it appears a nuclear war several thousand years ago has seen whatever people survived living a more rural life.

Because such a long time has passed the people now believe the nuclear event was God punishing the ‘Old People.’ Exposure to radiation has meant that occasionally animals or people are born with ‘defects’ and seen as ‘blasphemies’ from the devil.

Anything with a defect is killed as a sacrifice or (for people) cast out of the land and into an area the locals call the ‘Fringes’ and left to fend for themselves against the other desperate people out there.

David Strorm is only ten years old and has been bought up with a strict religious upbringing because his father is one of the town’s respected senior members. It is always refreshing to read a book written from the perspective of a child when it’s done right, and Wyndam does it right.

After befriending a girl that has a small physical defect (six toes on each foot), David begins to question the rigidity of the environment he has been raised in. Coupled with vivid dreams of technologically advanced cities and the discovery that he may also have a ‘blasphemy’, it’s enough to put him on a path that clashes with his upbringing.

It brought to mind the recent stories of Megan Phelps, who left the infamous Westboro Church movement. When all you’ve known growing up is the hatred fed to you why would you question it? You can find more info on thatΒ HERE.

The Chrysalids is an interesting book that deals with some interesting aspects of society and religion. The characters are well written and Wyndam does a good job of fleshing out the world into a believable place. It stumbles here and there with some pacing issues, the ending in particular felt a little rushed but this is a book well worth checking out.

Rating: 8/10

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