You’re Playing It Wrong Or: How Ratonhnhaké:ton Helped Me Enjoy Games Again

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As things have developed for me over the last year or so, both professionally and personally, I have found myself having a little less gaming time than before. For one, as I creep into my mid 30’s, I just don’t have the energy to game until 1am or 2am like I used to. Add to that mix having children (no daytime gaming at weekends), the fact that I’ve been watching more TV & reading more books and it’s easy to see why. So am I in danger of giving up on my favourite hobby?

Nope, far from it, in fact. While my time has been cut down a bit, I’m actually enjoying games more than I have for a long time. A decision I made last year about this blog was that I wouldn’t rush through games just for the sake of getting a review up quickly. I’ll review games as and when I finish them, which eases the unconscious pressure a review deadline can bring. What has happened is that over the last few years my gaming style has changed from mainlining most games (just sticking to the main plotline) to fully delving into the wonderful worlds created by game devs. And in the last 6 months the scales have finally tipped fully in favour of exploration.

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Let’s rewind a little bit though as I can tell you when and where this all started, in the American Northeast back in 1754 – 1783. Or more precisely November 2012 while playing Assassin’s Creed III. There’s no nice way to say it but despite a few clever touches Assassin’s Creed III is the worst entry in the series of games. It starts strong but quickly loses its way after an interesting plot twist. The main character Connor, or Ratonhnhaké:ton to give him his real full name, was a whiny, uninteresting protagonist and midway through the game it became a slog that I simply wasn’t enjoying. But instead of either ploughing through until the end or giving up and playing something else, I took a road very much less travelled (at least by me)… I started doing side quests. Even hunting missions, stalking animals and taking them out. Next time I played the game I spent 45 mins doing side stuff, played a main mission and did a few more side bits before logging off. And suddenly over the next few weeks I found myself really enjoying the game! Sure the main story missions were still fairly terrible but by breaking things up with side quests they were a lot more palatable.

Don’t get me wrong, in some of the bigger/more interesting game worlds (Fallout, Bioshock, Red Dead Redemption, The Last Of Us, GTA and the like) I have often explored the environment but those games were few and far between and while playing titles like Assassin’s Creed, Hitman, L.A. Noire or Mafia II I would usually just play the story missions and do one or two side missions. And some games don’t require you to do anything but the main story, titles like Uncharted or Killzone, which is great and I love those games also.

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It’s just that even with less time to play I find that I’m drifting in between story and side quests in a lot of titles. I’m currently breaking my own ‘only-have-two-singleplayer-games-on-the-go-at-once‘ rule spectacularly by taking on Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor, Alien: Isolation, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Far Cry 4. None of these are small games but whereas before I would’ve burned through something like Shadow Of Mordor, I now soak up the world and enjoy simply being in it and travelling through it. It also helps in that specific case to have the nemesis system which helps keep the world feeling ‘alive’ and constantly changing. Far Cry 4 is another good example in that I’m more than happy to do a few side quests on the way to main mission sometimes. And I think a huge amount of credit has to go to developers for finding that balance between sparse pointless side quests and overloading the player with map icons in a lot of recent titles.

There are of course exceptions, I really enjoyed Infamous: Second Son but the world felt so… quiet. With side quests that were minimal and not that interesting, it left the game feeling empty a lot of the time. From the little I’ve played of Assassin’s Creed: Unity it seems to have the opposite problem. You can barely see the map for a flood of different icons (see below) and the kicker with that seems to be that when you try to do some of the side missions they are actually locked in the game until you sign up for some Ubisoft service or companion app. But that is a conversation for another time.

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I think it’s interesting that my gaming habits have gone in completely the opposite direction to how I would’ve expected. As my time playing decreased I would’ve thought I would be avoiding side quests just to get through and finish titles. Don’t get me wrong, even my reduced game time is probably still more than a lot of people that play games so I will still be completing a lot of games, I guess it’s kind of the best of both worlds? Perhaps stepping out of the review ‘arms race’ has given me a new perspective? Regardless, the simple fact is I’m playing less but enjoying it more – I believe quality over quantity is the correct term and its great.

Have any of you noticed any changes in your gaming habits over time – have you followed the same pattern as me? Or even gone the other way? I look forward to hearing in the comments below.

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Infamous: Second Son – Review (PS4)

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I am a big fan of the Infamous series and Second Son was one of my most wanted games for the new generation of consoles. With Sucker Punch’s Playstation expertise, could this be an early killer app for the PS4? I wish the answer was a resounding ‘yes’ but despite some fantastic high points, and coming 6 months after the release of the PS4, Second Son still suffers from early console-cycle jitters.

Let’s start with a positive. Graphically I’m not sure I’ve seen a better game… ever. The lighting, the rain, the neon. I could go on and on and before I do stop, I must mention the cutscenes – Infamous: Second Son has some of the most well crafted scenes I’ve ever seen – a testament to the amount of facial motion capture they did. They are also among the best acted, with some great, believable performances.

Gameplay-wise the enemy AI is robust and will not hesitate to flank you and hide behind cover when necessary. Encounters felt challenging but enjoyable for the most part, although there were a few frustrating boss fights thrown into the mix. Luckily, Second Son does a decent job of giving you different options so that you can change tactics on the fly. You begin the game with smoke powers and as the story progresses you’ll unlock neon and a few others (which I won’t name so as not to spoil it). The powers each have a distinct look which is really cool but unfortunately all of them are essentially just the same set of attacks in a different art style. It’s a real shame because it feels a bit like a wasted opportunity – if they had given the powers a genuinely different feel it could’ve been a game changer. As it is they are still fun but you’ll likely find yourself finding a favourite and just sticking with that.

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Second Son tells the story of Delsin Rowe, a graffiti artist turned superhero. Delsin is, unknowingly, a conduit for superpowers – having the unique ability to absorb and use other conduits powers. Conduits have been labelled ‘Bio-Terrorists’ by the government and the D.U.P (Department of Unified Protection) are sent in to capture any conduits they can find. When the D.U.P endangers the local people, Delsin and his brother Reggie (a sheriff) find themselves thrown into a battle with this dark, government force. Along the way you’ll meet other conduits that Delsin can nurture or prey on as you look to sort out the situation he’s found himself in.

The story is fun and the characters are definitely memorable which is why it’s all the more disappointing that great side characters like Fetch and Eugene are barely used. I would have loved to see more missions with accompanying characters so you had a chance to get to know them better. This for me was probably Infamous: Second Son’s biggest crime, especially with how well crafted the characters felt. It felt like a mis-step to introduce these cool characters and then just brush them aside until the final act.

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Infamous: Second Son is a graphical powerhouse that I had a lot of fun playing. It tells a good story in a concise timeframe (around 10 hours) and the animation in cutscenes is something to behold. In spite of all that I do feel that the side characters could have been developed more and while the gameplay is decent, it is more of the same from the last two games. That isn’t a big issue for me but people should be aware it is not with fresh gameplay that Second Son makes it mark… graphically however, it stomps most other titles into the ground.

Rating: 8/10

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MOST WANTED 2014 – PS4 EDITION

MW PS4 2014

A few weeks ago I took a look at the upcoming slate for PS3 and Vita to give you a taste of the titles you should be keeping an eye out for. Well, as promised, here’s another look at upcoming games – this time focusing on the shiny PS4.

This is a much bigger list with a LOT of titles to talk about – so grab a cup of tea or coffee, settle in and prepare to get hyped about what’s coming up this year (and maybe beyond).

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Infamous: Second Son

I loved the last two Infamous games on PS3. Both were great fun, with good characters and a cool comic art style for cutscenes. Well now that Cole McGrath’s character arc is done, Infamous is moving to the PS4 and we have a new hero/villain in Deslin Rowe – voiced by the ever fantastic Troy Baker (of Bioshock Infinite and Last Of Us fame). Firstly the graphics look stunning – check out the video above. I can confirm it does looks that good, having seen it first hand at a Sony event last year. Secondly we’re promised more fun with moral choices and the decision to be a good guy or a bad guy. Infamous: Second Son is the first *big* PS4 exclusive game release since the console’s launch and it’s shaping up to be a great one. Roll on March!

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Murdered: Soul Suspect

Murdered: Soul Suspect was on my list for PS3 games I was looking forward to, only for Square Enix to confirm a few weeks ago that the game would also be coming to the PS4! Soul Suspect focuses on Detective Ronan O’Connor who must solve his own murder from beyond the grave. As if this wouldn’t be difficult enough he’ll also need to fight off various demonic enemies as well. I’m intrigued to see how this one plays out as I think it’s a really cool idea for a game.

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Galak-Z – The Dimensional

At first glance Galak-Z seems to be another bullet-hell shooter in the mould of old classics like R-Type or the more recent Sine Mora. However there is a lot more going on here than is readily apparently from screenshots. AI plays a bigger role than usual for a game of this type – for example, enemy ships will fall back and radio for assistance if they get the chance. Despite appearances this isn’t a twin stick shooter – Galak-Z controls much more like old arcade games with a button for thrust rather than stick movement (think Asteroids). Add to that a superb cartoon art-style and you have a pretty interesting concept.

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Child Of Light

Child Of Light is another game with an interesting art-style and it sees you taking on the role of Aurora in an RPG with some platforming elements. Aurora is a young girl from Austria in the year 1895 who contracts a mystery illness, falls unconscious and awakes in a fantasy world that she must fight her way out of. I’m not a huge fan of RPG games (aside from Persona 4 Golden) but this game looks beautiful and has the potential to be really fun and challenging.

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Lily Bergamo

Coming from Suda51, the man behind titles like Killer7 and Shadows Of The Damned, Lily Bergamo is a bit of an unknown quantity. We know it’s a Playstation 4 exclusive and that it has a wicked cool look that contrasts colour and black ‘n white. The above is all we’ve seen of it but I can’t wait to find out more – the game is scheduled simply as 2014 so hopefully we will get more info at E3 in June.

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Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Here’s one for the gamers jaded by the recent Assassin’s Creed games – a third person action adventure game set in the Lord Of The Rings universe that seems to be influenced in all the right ways by Ubisoft’s Assassin juggernaut. The video above is lengthy but gives you a great feel for the game, which will be set between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. You’re back from the dead as Talion (a ranger) and you are trying to track down whoever killed you (and your family). The trail leads to Mordor and who knows what you’ll find there!

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Helldivers

Helldivers is a top down shooter in which you are part of the Helldivers unit, tasked with battling the alien enemies of mankind. Battlefields are procedurally-generated so you won’t come across the exact same level twice, which should help add to the longevity of the game. Helldivers features a single player campaign and (up to) 4 player co-op content, so this will be a good title to jump into with friends. One of the great features already confirmed is the ability to play cross platform, so whether you have the PS4, PS3 or Vita version you should always have someone to play with! Helldivers is cross-save as well as cross-play so if you’re making good progress on PS4 and want to transfer to your Vita to carry on during your commute to work/lunchtime then you can. This is definitely a title worth keeping an eye on.

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Transistor

Transistor is a turn-based strategy game in which you take control of Red, a singer who has found herself in possession of a sword, the Transistor of the title. Over the last year lots of people have being going missing from Red’s world and she feels this sword may have something to do with it. She now finds herself being pursued by a band of assassins who also want Transistor, an impressive weapon who can talk to Red and help her out along the way. Transistor mixes the ability to move as you wish in real time with the ability to stop time and plan your next attack. When Red’s ability bar is full you can pause the action and set up a succession of moves to take out enemies, which are then played out at super speed. Which is totally badass.

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Watch_Dogs

Ah Watch_Dogs – delayed and pushed back. Doesn’t always bode well (especially after that really terrible trailer was accidentally released looking like a PS2 game) but I have faith in Ubisoft, particularly having played the excellent Assassin’s Creed IV on PS4. In Watch_Dogs you are Aiden Pearce, a man not afraid to use his hacking talents to get what he wants. In a surveillance heavy world you’ll be doing your best to fend off the authorities and complete your mission. Regardless of hold ups and a lack of recent news on the title, the video above still fills me with hope. Come on Ubisoft, make it as awesome as it can be and we’ll all be happy 🙂

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Deep Down

Deep Down was one of the graphical highlights from the PS4’s reveal event and since then we’ve learned some facts that have changed our idea of what this title is. Initially thought to be a single player game it turns out that Deep Down is, wait for it as it’s a bit of a mouthful… a free-to-play fantasy online role-playing game. Got all that? So firstly it’ll be free to play – great news. It will be an online RPG – again, great stuff. Deep Down also had another trick up it’s sleeve. After convincing the world it was going to be a Skyrim-a-like fantasy game it takes places in both that environment *and* also New York in 2094. Well, it certainly won’t be boring!

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Destiny

When the guys behind Halo have a brand new game coming out people tend to take notice. And Destiny is no different. Coming on like a bigger and more social version of Borderlands the game takes place 700 years into the future, after the collapse of what was the golden age of space exploration and colonizing of planets. Now we share Earth with various alien races and as one of the last Guardians you and your team will be asked to investigate and stamp out alien activity. The game is a first person shooter with some role playing aspects and it looks like it’ll be great fun with friends.

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Alien: Isolation

Ok! Ok! Let’s clear the elephant from the room. Aliens: Colonial Marines was one of the lowest ranked games I’ve ever reviewed. This is *not* made by the same people or is it even the same type of game. Replacing Colonial Marines run ‘n gun playstyle with the horror of the original Alien film, Isolation puts you in the shoes of Amanda Ripley – daughter of series stalwart Ellen Ripley. The game is set 15 years after the events of Alien and 42 years before the events of Aliens. You will be investigating your mother’s disappearance and getting hunted by a Xenomorph while you do it. I think this looks pretty cool and at some stage someone will have to make a good Aliens game this century. Right guys? Right?

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Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

Gaming industry legend and MGS creator Hideo Kojima is drip feeding us Metal Gear Solid V – first up is Ground Zeroes, due for release in March. MGS V: Phantom Pain comes after that but it’s likely that will be 2015 at the earliest. Anyway, you know what you’re in for with Metal Gear Solid – crazy, fun, stealth action. Unfortunately, the series veteran voice actor David Hayter has been dropped so Keifer Sutherland is lending his dulcet tones to Snake. If you’re not a fan of MGS this game isn’t likely to get you on board but it looks amazing – check out the graphics in the video above – and I am a fan of the series so I’m really looking forward to this one.

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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

I haven’t played any of the other Witcher games but the developer has reassured newcomers they will be able to get straight into the game regardless (don’t they always!). Hopefully that will be the case as the previous titles are very highly thought of and I haven’t heard many people talking negatively about the series. You will be playing as Geralt Of Rivia, the aforementioned Witcher, as he travels across the world in the concluding part of his story. This game looks amazing and should have the gameplay to back it up as well.

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Mirror’s Edge 2

A collective sigh of relief occurred when a sequel to the wonderful but not commercially successful Mirror’s Edge game was announced. Rumour has it that this will actually be a prequel to DICE’s title and will tell the origin story of Faith, the first game’s protagonist. Not much is known about this one but the first game was really cool and pretty innovative so I’m looking forward to seeing what EA bring to the table this time out.

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Tom Clancy’s The Division

The Division is one of those games that I use to show people how good games on the PS4 can look. With improved graphics and a huge amount of destructability, The Division looks like it’ll be a powerhouse when it hits the new consoles. Based on real world research that estimates a global pandemic would see society fall apart in just 5 days(!), the game takes place after just such an event and you’ll be fighting for survival against other players as well as the game’s AI. It certainly looks like an interesting set up and seems like another title that will be great fun with friends.

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The Order: 1886

The Order: 1886 is one of the games on this list I’m most excited about – graphically it looks amazing and I love the sound of the story. Set in London, in an alternate steampunk-esque universe, The Order: 1886 sees you take on the role of Galahad – one of a handful of knights from an ancient order that are sworn to protect mankind from all kinds of mutants that roam the city. This is a third person action adventure game with an interesting take on QTE events. It is thrilling to have a game set in London, with a stylized Whitechapel recreating the old days of city life.

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No Man’s Sky

Hello Games that made the wonderful Joe Danger titles are a small team. So imagine everyone’s surprise when No Man’s Sky was revealed unexpectedly at the VGX awards late last year. This is a game in which you travel on foot and by spacecraft to explore a procedurally generated world. The idea is when you start the game you will have no information on your surroundings and will need to investigate to find new planets/territories. Sounds really interesting and it has a cool art style.

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DRIVECLUB

DRIVECLUB is a racing game with a difference. The entire game is laced with social aspects that permeate through races as you drive. For me this is a really smart idea and means that as you race for position against other drivers you will also be compared to your friends via PSN. Not in terms of race time or position but more abstract things who took this corner best, or who was fastest in this stretch of track. It should, hopefully, lead to a much more immersive game because even if you’re losing a specific race you can pick up some XP by beating your friends along the way. A reduced version of this game is planned to be released free for Playstation Plus subscribers so keep an eye out!

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Uncharted

I absolutely love the Uncharted series so I was stoked that Naughty Dog announced a new game, which will be exclusive to the PlayStation 4. The trailer above shows us a map of Africa, specifically Madagascar, so if the game takes us there it could be a really interesting setting. Because the voiceover wasn’t Nathan Drake people are undecided as to whether he will actually feature in the game or if we’ll be playing as one of his ancestors in an earlier time frame. I hope it does feature Nate, Elena and Sully (at least!) but I have faith in Naughty Dog and can’t wait for whatever they deliver!

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Cyberpunk 2077

Unfortunately it looks a lot more likely that Cyberpunk 2077 will hit in 2015 but it’s definitely one to keep on your (long term) radar. It’s an RPG title based on a tabletop RPG game and is unsurprisingly set in a dystopian cyberpunk universe. The developers have said the game can be played in first or third person view and will feature a highly customizable main character as well as a varied and interesting game world. Count me in!

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Still with me? Yep, it was a touch on the long side BUT it is a great time to be a gamer and these ‘new’ consoles have kicked off a boom in gaming.

If you haven’t jumped aboard the PS4 train yet this year will give you plenty of gaming reasons to consider it – I think for most people the end of this year will be the tipping point, as great games continue to be revealed.

So is there anything from the list you guys are excited for? Or anything I missed that you’re looking forward to?

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Top 100 Single Player PS3 Games: Part 9 (20-11)

Top100 20-11

Well it’s Top 20 time – not long to go now until we finally hit the top spot.

If you’ve missed the previous installments, catch up here!

Part One (100-91)

Part Two (90-81)

Part Three (80-71)

Part Four (70-61)

Part Five (60-51)

Part Six (50-41)

Part Seven (40-31)

Part Eight (30-21)

Please bear in mind this list doesn’t take into account multiplayer aspects of games, it’s based solely on single player experience.

Strap yourself in – here we go…

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20. Dead Space 2

Continuing the story of Isaac Clarke, Dead Space 2 picks up three years after the first game was set, with Clarke now finding himself as a citizen on the Sprawl – a huge space station development on one of Saturn’s moons.

Sadly for Clarke he has no knowledge of the last three years and discovers a situation has arisen that only someone with his expertise can deal with.

Visceral continue their great job of creeping you out by NOT throwing stuff at you. I would’ve liked to have seen slightly more of the insanity that featured in NPC’s during the original game but on the whole the Sprawl is definitely somewhere you wouldn’t want to find yourself and this is a game well worth playing through.

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19. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

It has to be said that a lot of people were wondering whether Naughty Dog would be able to improve on the superb ‘Among Thieves,’ a game that walked away with awards for ‘Best Voice Acting,’ ‘Best Graphics,’ ‘Single Player Game Of The Year’ and the biggie – ‘Game Of The Year’ in my end of year round up for 2009.

Where both ‘Drake’s Fortune’ and ‘Among Thieves’ concentrated more on the relationship between Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher, this installment focuses on Nathan and Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan. As a big fan of Sully that’s a plus in my book.

The plot is great and throws up a few curveballs but nothing like the backstabbing double-crossing of the last game. ‘Drake’s Deception’ is the story of Nate and Sully and it was great to find out more about their relationship.

The gameplay itself isn’t anything new, a mixture of climbing, shooting and solving puzzles but after the success of ‘Among Thieves’ refining, rather than changing, was probably the best route Naughty Dog could’ve taken.

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18. Infamous

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So good it’s the only game this generation I’ve played through twice (seeing it’s rating bumped from 8/10 to 9/10), Infamous is a great game.

You control Cole McGrath, a courier who just happens to be carrying a package containing an electronic bomb when it goes off, devasting the city. Somehow Cole survives and, after coming out of a coma, realises the explosion has given him electrical superpowers.

From there on out the city is your oyster and there is plenty to do as you try to track down the people behind the explosion.

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17. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

Brotherhood continues the Assassin’s Creed story with Ezio Auditore in 1499 and Desmond Miles in 2012, picking up exactly where the second game left off.

The changes Ubisoft have made to the game feel subtle but really they have honed this title so much it really doesn’t do much wrong.

There are lots more side mission types and your map will be chock full of things to do if you fancy a change of pace away from the main missions. This is a monster of a game that will keep you entertained for ages.

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16. L.A Noire

L.A Noire takes place in 1940′s L.A, with you taking on the role of Cole Phelps – recently returned from the war and starting out as a cop on the beat.

While a lot of people felt that this would be a 1940′s GTA (much like Red Dead Redemption was a Western version of GTA in many people’s eyes) Team Bondi have crafted a much more linear experience than expected.

The game this most reminds me of is Heavy Rain, stunning captures of the actors and an interesting, if flawed, story. Unfortunately it doesn’t feature the numerous different endings that Heavy Rain does so you don’t ever feel the story is in your hands.

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15. GTA IV

GTA IV

One the biggest selling games of this generation GTA IV features the fortunes (and lack therof) of Niko Bellic – an immigrant arriving in the US at Liberty City to find empty promises and broken dreams from his cousin Roman.

As you work your way up the criminal ladder you’ll encounter all sort of dodgy characters and befriend even more.

Liberty City is a wonderful, if run down, place and Niko Bellic’s story is one you will enjoy playing through so make sure you pick this game up as soon as possible.

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14. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I’m not sure if I’ll *ever* finish playing Skyrim. Not because the game is bad – quite the opposite – but because, well… to be honest… I’ve never played anything like it.

The content itself isn’t unique. It’s a first person, middle earth type, Elves and Orcs affair in which you pick from a selection of races and build your character to take into the World.

What Bethesda have done an amazing job on is making Skyrim feel like a blank canvas for your character. It’s this aspect of the game that is like nothing else I’ve ever played. You could have a thrilling, intense gaming experience for tens of, possibly hundreds of, hours without even doing much in the way of the ‘main storyline.’

If you’re looking for a game to sink hours and hours into then Skyrim is perfect for you. The sense that you can go anywhere and do anything is unlike anything else out there. This isn’t a game to play for a quick blast but if you can invest the time you won’t regret it.

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13. Metal Gear Solid 4

Metal Gear Solid 4

Hideo Kojima’s tale of Solid Snake’s final mission is a brilliant showcase of the Playstation 3′s power.

This is a game that often gives you three or four different ways of approaching things – whether you realise it or not.

Metal Gear Solid 4 rewards those patient enough to stick with it by giving them a great gaming experience, with some memorable boss battles, that they won’t forget.

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12. Killzone 2

Killzone 2′s biggest achievement is, possibly because of the brilliant graphics, sound and AI, that you feel involved and become embedded in the Killzone universal whenever you pick up the pad.

It’s not perfect by any means but at the time it was easily the best first person shooter I’d played and I recommend anyone with a remote interest in this genre to check this out immediately!

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11. Bioshock

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Bioshock has a great story to tell and it does it well with some interesting objectives and brilliantly designed levels.

There are several twists and turns in the plot, most of which are not obvious and it’s no surprise to me that a film version is in the works (although I believe currently suspended due to budget concerns).

Dark worlds like Rapture aren’t to everyone’s tastes but you really would be missing out on an awesome story if you decided not to book a trip to the underwater city.

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So, it’s time for the top 10 – any guesses on what’ll be in there? Any games we’ve already had that would’ve made your own top 10?

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Playstation 4 – Hands On

PS4HandsOn Main

So I was fortunate enough to get some hands on time with a PS4 and some of Sony’s upcoming titles yesterday.

I had gone from ‘getting one at some stage’ pre-February reveal to ‘saving for one to get it as soon as possible’ post E3. However I still had some concerns – mainly regarding what other games would be coming for it in the first year but also on the redesigned controller.

I’ll need to wait to find out more info about new games as the titles on display were the same ones from E3, however I can confirm that the controller is great.

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PLAYSTATION 4 CONTROLLER

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I had no issue with the new thumbsticks or the new triggers. I used L1/R1 for shooting in the Killzone demo so not sure if I’d prefer to use the triggers on an FPS going forward. For driving the triggers felt great.

The pad itself seemed a bit heavier than a PS3 controller, but certainly not a massive difference. The touchpad was responsive but I think will take some time to get used to.

Ok, moving on to the games.

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DRIVE CLUB

PS4HandsOn DriveClub

Drive Club was first up and whilst there didn’t seem to be any massive innovations in terms of the actual driving, the game has an interesting focus on social challenges that are integrated into the main game. As you’re driving it gives you little challenges versus your friends, like ‘stick to the driving line’ or ‘best average speed’. They last about 10 seconds but it gives Drive Club legs beyond just racing around the track. Although I’m guessing you can turn those off if you want to stick to pure racing.

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KNACK

PS4HandsOn Knack

Next up I played Knack, which was actually pretty cool. This is one for the Jak/Ratchet fans, not usually my kind of game but I suspect kids, and more casual gamers, will love it. You play as Knack, a creature made up of hundreds of small parts. You start off small but can grow by picking up other bits, usually gained by smashing things. It was good fun and actually reminded me a bit of God Of War (you even use the right stick to dodge), although certainly it was a lot less complex. Funnily enough I probably would play that genre of game on the Vita, so maybe I’ll pick it up for remote play.

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INFAMOUS: SECOND SON

Infamous: Second Son was hands off. The poor guy showing me it was frazzled, he’d been doing the demo almost every day since E3! The video above is the same as what was shown to me. He was glad I’d played the other two games in the series so he could talk about some more interesting bits rather than the basics. It looks fantastic. Truly next gen. When it switches from cut scene to gameplay it is seamless. I haven’t seen that before in an open world game. The demo is essentially a side mission (which gives a sense of the scale of the overall game) and he was causing all sorts of havoc showing off how the game plays. He was pretty candid and said the aim on this game was ‘just make it awesome-er’ 🙂 Looks like they are well on the way to achieving their goal. Second Son isn’t a launch title though, looks set to be coming around February/March time in 2014.

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KILLZONE: SHADOW FALL

PS4HandsOn KZShadowFall

Ah Killzone: Shadow Fall 😎 This was a pretty long demo, I got to play for about 15 minutes. Firstly, the graphics are wonderful. Lots of colour and some great lighting left me impressed. After watching a few others running round kamikaze-style and dying, I stepped up to the plate. Took it a lot slower and was pleasantly surprised with how it played out differently to the other guys before me. I cleared out a few areas fairly stealthily, before hitting a few tough firefights. The game controls really well – it still has that nice ‘heft’ to the character, which makes for a more realistic movement.

You also have a robot with you (like the medical droid in previous games) that you can send out to help. Swipe the touchpad to set the mode (zipline or shock or attack etc) then tap L2 to activate it. This works well but alongside using the d-pad to activate things, its a lot to get to grips with. I’m sure it’ll be fine when we know our way around the pad better. One thing that was pointed out is that rather than using the touchpad you can also hold L2 to select the droid’s mode from a radial wheel, like more traditional titles. It’s nice they aren’t forcing the touchpad onto people but I found it fine to use.

Another cool feature is that you get a few seconds of ‘slo-mo’ when you use a health pack. It’s perfect, as that is the time you might need a cheeky little time slow down advantage the most. I didn’t have a chance to explore much beyond that as the developer talking me through it was on hand and there was literally only one TV for Killzone Shadow Fall, so there was a queue behind me! As an interesting aside I mentioned Mercenary (the Killzone Vita game) and he was raving about it, even though he hasn’t worked on it directly.

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So there you have it! Now I’m looking forward to Gamescom in August, when we should get even more information about the new consoles.

Have you guys made your mind up yet on next gen? Will you be jumping in straight away? If so are you going Sony or Microsoft – why?

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Spec Ops: The Line – Review (PS3)

Once in a while a game will show up out of the blue and knock your socks off. Spec Ops: The Line is one of those games but maybe not for the reasons you might think.

Spec Ops: The Line tells the story of Captain Martin Walker, a soldier who is part of a squad sent into Dubai to investigate the failed evacuation of citizens by an army squad called ‘The 33rd.’ As things quickly unravel you find yourself under attack from all directions and hampered by the constant threat of sandstorms.

You see this isn’t present day Dubai but an alternate version in which the country has been decimated by sandstorms that have left thousands stranded and desperate behind the ‘Storm Wall’ – a huge permanent sandstorm that has disrupted communication and stopped travel in (or out) of the area.

I won’t spoil the story for you here as it is the best thing about the game – this isn’t a title you’ll come out of brimming with joy and with a smile on your face but it really is one of the best stories I’ve played through in the last few years. And while a couple of the twists were a touch obvious, for the most part I didn’t anticipate many of them.

The gameplay itself is solid but unspectacular and you’ll spend a lot of time in cover popping out to take down enemies. One thing I liked about the game was the feel of the weapons, with some of the more powerful ones genuinely delivering an appropriate sense of recoil and a real kick.

The setting is pretty stunning and the sand tech is well realised. I was personally more impressed with the way the game portrayed the intense heat of the environment, with harsh sunlight and a nice shimmer on surroundings.

Speaking of the sand, one of the game mechanics they showed off lots in pre-release media was the ability to shoot out windows/glass roofs to take out enemies. However in the final product that is all fairly scripted stuff and doesn’t factor in greatly.

A quick shout out is needed on the music front as I felt Spec Ops really delivered on that note. A great soundtrack and paced perfectly. Also the voice acting is superb. I thought it might be an issue having Nolan North (of Nathan Drake/Uncharted fame) in the lead role but after the first 20 minutes or so I completely forgot he was even voicing the character.

The game is fairly tough and isn’t afraid to throw a large number of difficult to deal with enemies at you all at once. My main gripe with the combat was the enemy grenades. They felt too overpowered and I didn’t think the game did enough to warn me when they were nearby, or maybe more accurately it didn’t warn me quickly enough. I died a lot of times unnecessarily because of that.

Spec Ops makes a comment on the shooter genre, taking several pot shots during loading screens and differentiates itself from games like Call Of Duty and Battlefield by giving you several ‘moral’ choices during the story. Unlike games such as Infamous, where the choice is simply good or bad, in Spec Ops you’re choosing between bad or bad. There is no right or wrong answer. So who do you punish? Who do you sacrifice? I would love to see more games give you this kind of choice as opposed to the more straight forward options we usually get.

Another great addition in this game is the degradation of your character and squad over the course of the game. This is something that I can’t believe hasn’t been done before in this genre. The Batman games attempted something similar in terms of Batman’s appearance changing during the game but here, as well as physical changes, you and your squad take a psychological battering as well.

Late in the game, when your character finally takes down a heavy enemy and screams an expletive he is echoing the cry of gamers across the globe when defeating a tough enemy. Even reloading calls are shouted through gritted teeth further on in the game. It just makes the game feel incredibly visceral.

I didn’t touch the multiplayer as even the developers have said it was forced upon them by the publisher and brings nothing to the table. This is a game that *definitely* didn’t need multiplayer.

Spec Ops: The Line might not be for everyone and the gameplay might not be anything special but it has a great, interesting story and makes a decent comment on today’s shooter genre.

Rating: 9/10

NB. If you do play and finish the game I’d strongly recommend checking out this interview with the writer of the game (contains massive spoilers): GAMESPOT INTERVIEW

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Infamous: Festival Of Blood (PS3) – Review

Having thoroughly enjoyed both Infamous and Infamous 2, I was really interested in seeing what Sucker Punch would come up with for this stand alone downloadable game (which doesn’t require a copy of either game to play).

Festival Of Blood tells the story of Cole’s night as a vampire. The story is told by Zeke, Cole’s friend, as he looks to keep a woman in a bar interested in him.

The game takes place during ‘Pyre Night’ a festival held in New Marais every year as a way of warding off vampires and celebrating the death of ‘Bloody Mary’ – a vampire allegedly burnt at the stake long ago.

While investigating screams from the catacombs under a church, Cole is bitten by Bloody Mary herself and he only has until sunrise to find a cure.

If you’ve played either of the Infamous games previous to this you’ll find yourself in familiar territory as Vampire Cole parkours his way across the terrain of New Marais… but there is a nice twist in traversal because Cole can now transform into a swarm of bats to travel extremely quickly over the city.

You’ll need blood to activate this ability though and Cole is able to feed on the citizens of New Marais as often as you need/like. Slightly troubling after I’d played through Infamous 2 as a hero but it’s set me up nicely for my second playthrough as an evil Cole 🙂

Cole can also use a type of Vampire radar that allows him to enter an x-ray vision mode – normal humans are shown with red internal organs and a beating heart while fellow Vampires in disguise are just a blue skeleton. Cole can then attack the Vampires with a one hit kill if you’re close/quick enough.

This is a fantastic downloadable game, one of the better ones I’ve seen – certainly in terms of scope/gameplay. It seems crazy to me that you don’t need a disc to run it but Sucker Punch have done a great job here.

Clocking in at under 4 hours and with a price tag of £7.99, I’d recommend this to anyone. Obviously it’s not as long as a full Infamous title and one of the main elements (player choice re: Karma) is missing but Infamous: Festival Of Blood is well worth a playthrough.

Rating: 8/10

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