Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End – Review (PS4)

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Anyone who has read this blog for a while will know about my love for the Uncharted series. Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan remains one of my favourite game characters of all time and the dynamics of the relationship between Nate and Elena, among others, keep me coming back title after title. But after the release of Uncharted 3 and a teaser trailer for the fourth instalment, it was all change at developer Naughty Dog – the driving force of the series Amy Hennig left and The Last Of Us team took over the reigns. The game was rebooted and reimagined. So could they continue the good work laid out in the previous games?

The Last Of Us had a huge impact on the gaming landscape both in terms of design and character development in games. The concern from some corners was that the devs might make Uncharted too ‘serious’. I don’t feel that happened and, actually, I believe toning down a few sections really helped the characters shine. Uncharted 4 still has the bombastic, action filled set pieces I’ve always loved but now includes a few options to use stealth for battles if desired. There are still plenty of one liners and quips but also real conversations and moments of downtime. It’s a slow start compared to other Uncharted games but I think it benefits the game in the long run.

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The story this time is your typical ‘one last job/coming out of retirement’ fare, all based around the reappearance of Nate’s long thought dead brother, Sam. For me, Sam was an interesting character but led to a few issues with the overall Uncharted universe. I don’t recall him having been mentioned much previously but if you ignore the ‘retcon’ of back story and just enjoy the plot it isn’t too much of an issue.

Graphically the game is a powerhouse, I’ve not seen anything like it and it’s definitely one of those games (like Driveclub or Star Wars: Battlefront) that you can use to show off what a PS4 can do. Gameplay remains largely the same, lots of climbing and firefights, although the addition of the grappling hook also gives you a lot more freedom of movement to escape from (or rush to) enemies. The AI of the enemies seems much improved and there were a few occasions that felt genuinely challenging on the Normal setting.

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I was a little disappointed that Greg Edmonson didn’t return to score but I guess the new Uncharted Naughty Dog team wanted to put their own stamp on things. Henry Jackson’s score does the job and the opening theme does hit home as expected. The voice acting is, as always, truly superb. Additionally the facial capture is among the best I’ve seen, able to capture subtle expressions of thoughtfulness or glee. Newcomers Laura Bailey and Warren Kole (as Nadine and Rafe, respectively) delivered two more great characters to the series. Rafe might actually be one of my favourite all time videogame villains.

I’ve always enjoyed the shooting in these titles and Uncharted 4 delivers again, with various weapons all feeling different to handle and having a decent heft to them. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the hand to hand combat. Taking a more Last Of Us direction meant that close quarters fistfights became a mess of button mashing and hoping for the best. There were also a few sections when climbing that weren’t immediately clear on direction and I ended up falling to my death. Having said that, at least it added some (small) stakes to climbing, which hadn’t happened in previous instalments.

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Multiplayer is back and bigger than ever, with fast paced action set around a few core modes. Uncharted multiplayer has always been a bit ‘Marmite’ but I’ve always enjoyed the fun nature of it and this game really ramps things up by introducing computer controlled side kicks and mystical abilities based on items from the series. This feels like a good move to me, the game thrives on the magic artefact theme so why not lean into it for multiplayer? Players remain a touch bullet-spongy, again not an issue for me but others may not like that style of combat. The grappling hook also comes into its own here and it’s very satisfying to take out a human opponent from up high!

I don’t want to go into detail about the story but I will say it was the most enjoyable one in the series for me. Uncharted 2, with its triple-crossing, pulp action comes a very close second but the character development in 4 is truly great. They have the benefit of this being the final game, which allows them the luxury of tying up some loose ends and I’ll finish this short section on the story by saying, as someone heavily invested in the series and characters, that I was really pleased as the credits rolled – Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a great way to wrap up the series.

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Another stellar title in the series then, as Naughty Dog continue their amazing run of games on PS4. With the increase of players on Playstation this generation lots more people will get a chance to experience Uncharted’s special brand of treasure hunting. If you haven’t already picked this up, I’d really recommend you do.

Rating: 10/10

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Tom Clancy’s The Division – Review (PS4)

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It seems like an absolute age ago that The Division was revealed at E3 2013 and gamers everywhere marveled at the footage released. Then we all remembered that Ubisoft’s previous title Watch_Dogs didn’t look quite as good as the promo materials and sighed. Over time though it felt like The Division might end up being a great game, a mix of cool story beats and multiplayer co-op.

Let’s start with the story stuff. The Division opens strongly, with an interesting video about the virus that has decimated New York. Essentially Smallpox, it was transferred to bank notes on Black Friday in an attempt to spread the virus as quickly as possible. Soon enough the city is on quarantined lockdown and the government calls on The Division – a set of sleeper agents in place for exactly this sort of emergency. You are a Division agent and your first port of call will be creating your agent. I managed to make an avatar I was happy with but the selection of faces and hair etc. is pretty limited compared to most other games, which was disappointing. Add to that the fact that your character never speaks and it means you end up not really investing in your character at all.

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Despite that strong start, the story ends up being almost non-existent. A lot of it is buried in side missions and collectibles which, excluding a few interesting side missions, felt like effort for nothing. A good example of this are the missing agent missions – essentially following a set of arrows to a point where you pick up a file and get a written paragraph about the agent. Unless I missed it these aren’t agents you ever see/interact with during the story and it was a case of wondering why I was actually bothering doing the missions, which is never a good sign. The story told by the main missions isn’t particularly interesting either and when the majority of bigger ‘boss’ enemies are just the same guys you’ve already fought with an extra bar of health, it makes things a lot less dynamic.

And that’s the real disappointment of The Division because the game itself is pretty brilliant. The control of the characters and the feel of the weapons are great. It’s a super fun, third person shooter that requires elements of teamwork to excel. You can play the game on your own and matchmake with random people to play missions (something I did a few times with no problems) but The Division is best when played with friends. It’s been compared to Destiny more times than I can remember but it’s a valid comparison, especially in the sense that playing with others makes a huge difference to the overall experience. I had a massive amount of fun in my time with the game but the lack of story really did sting, especially by the end of the game when I had no investment in either my own character or the events that were unfolding.

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As well as story content there is also a Player v Player arena called the Dark Zone, in which players defeat AI enemies for loot that needs to be extracted via helicopter. The twist is that players can turn on one another and steal each others loot. Doing so will mark you as a Rogue Agent for everyone else though, so you need to weigh up whether it’s worth it! It reminded me of the great heist mode in Kane and Lynch 2 and gives each moment spent waiting for the helicopter to arrive a large dose of tension. It was good fun, perhaps not enough to keep me playing but it might be the thing that brings me back from time to time.

Graphically I’m pleased to say that the developer got pretty damn close to those initial promo shots. The game looks gorgeous and the amount of detail is stunning – there seemed to be a wealth of different environments without reusing a ton of assets. It made every new arena feel like a different place so it was always a shame when the enemies turned up and were one of a set of generic types we’d seen hundreds of times before. I suppose that is a drawback of setting the game in the current time – you’re limited by enemy appearances unless you head further down the Warriors gang style of enemies.

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Overall The Division is a really great game in terms of how it handles and the feel of the moment to moment gameplay. It’s wrapped in an impressive representation of New York that, at times, can be jaw-dropping. The problem is that it all feels like it’s for nothing in terms of story and character. I’m really hopeful that we will see another installment of The Division because I believe there is a really solid base here to build on. They don’t need to change the gameplay much, if they can get a more involving story around it and find a better way to tell that narrative, Ubisoft might have something very special on their hands.

Rating: 7/10

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GregHorrorShow’s Top 30 Multiplayer Maps (Part Two: The Top 15)

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So we’re back again with some multiplayer goodness – this time heading into the Top 15 maps, really showcasing some of my all time favourite arenas.

If you missed Part One (30-16) check it out here:

And away we go!

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15. FIREBASE GODDESS (Mass Effect 3)

Another multiplayer that I would love to revisit at some stage is Mass Effect 3. Firebase Goddess is a great map with lots of ins-and-outs and a cool exterior section showing the destruction that has occurred at the base. With the play in Mass Effect 3 being horde-based the numerous entrances make for some tense moments and you’ll need a good squad of players to hold down locations and complete objectives on this one!

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14. TWILIGHT GAP (Destiny)

Destiny has been one of my favourite online shooters of the last few years and Twilight Gap has housed many happy memories for me. The layout is great, with a few parts of the map requiring you to glide across – which of course leaves you open to attack. Finely balanced and with a lot of different entrances/exits, this is a really cool map. Also the capture point at ‘B’ is both enclosed and exposed at the same time… quite a feat of design and something that I have both benefited from and succumbed to in equal measure!

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13. MAWLR GRAVEYARD (Killzone 3)

Killzone 3 has a lot of maps that revolve around a specific feature and MAWLR Graveyard is no different. The central route through the map means going through the path of a metal crusher – activated by a button on a raised platform. It’s very satisfying to spot a group of enemy soldiers making a run for it, hit the button and watch the kills stack up. But you also have other ways around, with two rooms on each side for close quarters action – which are linked by an underground tunnel. Fantastic stuff.

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12. CASTEL GANDOLFO (Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood)

The majority of levels in the Assassin’s Creed series have been effective but nothing special in my opinion. However Castel Gandolfo (a real province in Italy) is a fantastically made map that generates an amazing amount of tension during games. Set across two floors of the building, including some of the exterior as well, it’s crowded enough to lose your pursuers but not so busy that you can’t get a good chase on. Great placement of Trap Doors’ adds a further edge to proceedings.

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11. GRAND BAZAAR (Battlefield 3)

Battlefield 3 has given us some of the biggest maps ever seen on a console shooter and Grand Bazaar is a stunning example of how good design can enhance the player’s experience. Basically an alleyway with lots of entrances/exits and the ability to flank around both sides, this is a map that makes it easy to get caught up in the choke-point of the alley but gives you the option of stepping back from the carnage and making a dash via a different route to try and claim a flag. It’s this freedom of choice that makes Grand Bazaar such a strong map.

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10. BILL’S TOWN (The Last Of Us)

Ah, The Last Of Us – potentially the most underrated multiplayer game ever. As you stealth and stalk your way around the game world, it’s important the maps give you enough options to sneak up on your enemies. Bill’s Town is a great example of this, featuring levels of verticality as well as lots of different entrances to the buildings on the map. The walkway across the map from top floor to top floor is risky but necessary for a quick escape in a pinch. Great stuff.

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9. THARSIS DEPOT (Killzone 2)

Set on the same refinery as the single player mission, Tharsis Depot is full of steel and has an elogated bottleneck between the bases down one side of the map. Co-incidentally that is also where one team has to defend in search and destroy – which usually leads to all kinds of chaos. With two floors to choose from there are plenty of ways to surprise your enemies and I am a HUGE fan of holding down the corridor just off the main room in the middle to shotgun any enemies that come my way.

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8. THE SANCTUARY (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves)

This map is my personal favourite from Uncharted 2. Whether it’s plunder, elimination, deathmatch or whatever – The Sanctuary almost always throws up a great match. The underground tunnels are a fantastic addition in that they effectively add a third layer to proceedings and the risk/reward of positioning the Hammer on the exposed ledge is a stroke of genius. In fact you can also climb to the top of the tower in each base, above the main rooftops so technically The Sanctuary has FOUR levels to play with. A monster of a multiplayer map considering how compact it is.

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7. SHORES OF TIME (Destiny)

Undoubtedly my favourite Destiny map, the layout is truly superb – it gives you lots of options for circling round and flanking opponents as well as freedom to traverse the area however you want. That could be through tunnels or across open stretches and the placement of capture points is exquisitely balanced. They are certainly defendable but having three different entrances to each makes it difficult and extremely tense. Add to that the gorgeous, lush look of the level and you have something really cool.

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6. PORT VALDEZ (Battlefield: Bad Company 2)

This was one of the maps from the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 beta and it is still one of my favourite maps on the game. The balance between defence and attack (in Rush mode) in terms of positioning of buildings etc is truly superb. The last few bases of this massive map are fantastic and you really do have to consider your tactics. Making a run for it is all well good but you can almost guarantee a host of snipers will have their sights trained on the entrance of whichever base you’re at. A really well designed map, especially considering the size and amount of bases in it.

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5. CHECKPOINT (The Last Of Us)

Checkpoint is the map that best showcases the slower, more deliberate gameplay of The Last Of Us. If you get two experienced teams of players it can be a thrilling, tense battle to victory. Alternatively if you don’t know the map it can be extremely punishing! Focused around the checkpoint that the level is named after, which sits in the middle of the area, the level has buildings on either side and well placed resource boxes mean there is a big risk/reward element in trying to get supplies. There are choke points dotted around but more than enough other routes to enable you to circumnavigate your enemies and sneak up on them to take them down unseen.

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4. CHATEAU (Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception)

Chateau is one of those maps that creates it’s own centrepiece as the game progresses. At the start of the round the roof is set on fire and soon enough the rooms in the upstairs of the building catch alight, the floor crumbles as it burns and flames lick the walls. It is some truly stunning stuff. And that’s to say nothing of the zipline from a hole in the top floor down to the adjacent garden or the downstairs room with overturned furniture that can be used as makeshift cover. A well designed map full of character.

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3. CASPIAN BORDER (Battlefield 3)

There are so many great maps in Battlefield 3 that I could probably do a Top 10 list just based on that title alone but the one that stands out above the rest for me is Caspian Border. Finely placed objectives and a wonderful mix of high and low positions mean sheer fun. The four main areas are far enough apart that it makes sense to grab a vehicle but if you find yourself stranded it isn’t too far to run. Add jets and helicopters into the mix and you have a recipe for some seriously amazing mutilplayer action. Outstanding.

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2. LENTE MISSILE BASE (Killzone 3)

This is a map that I simply love playing on. The way Lente Missile Base spans so many levels is brilliant and, of course, the fact that missiles actually take off from the basement (and you can get killed if you’re foolish enough to be down there) make this one of Killzone 3’s best experiences. Like some of the other centre-pieces in the game’s online offering there is a switch you can push to cancel the missile launch. It’s the little touches like that which really give the level a touch of character. From tense fights in the main tower through to open battles in the courtyard and below to tight skirmishes in the tunnels under the base, there is always something going on in this map.

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1. RADEC ACADEMY (Killzone 2)

Yep *still* the daddy of all multiplayer maps, Radec Academy is a superbly designed map with both open areas and some really tight corridors/stairways which leads to some intense firefights. The positioning of the search and destroy targets (for both teams) is inspired – essentially requiring you to hold a room that has three or four different entrances. Meanwhile there is the opportunity to snipe from the balcony overlooking the square – but you’ll have be quick to take those chances as people don’t hang around… unless you’re lucky enough to find an unsuspecting soul taking stock in one of the doorways opposite. Then of course you have the tunnels that run between each base and the building at the back of the map which can get quite crowded if a speaker spawns down there. Overall for me personally, it’s tough to think of what more they could’ve done to improve Radec Academy…

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So there we go – not a huge amount of movement right at the top of my list but there have been some really great maps over the last three years.

What have I missed? Drop a comment below or find me on Twitter (@greghorrorshow)

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GregHorrorShow’s Top 30 Multiplayer Maps (Part One: 30-16)

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It’s been a while since I ran down my favourite multiplayer maps, three years in fact, and I thought it would be a good time to revisit the idea. Having gone through all the games released since the last time I made a list I’ve had to extend the list out from 20 maps to 30.

This extension also means I’ll put these up in two parts as 30 videos is quite a lot for one post! If you have any trouble with the video quality on the clips below just click on the YouTube logo on the video to view them on YouTube direct, which may be smoother.

There were plenty of other maps that I love but didn’t make the cut and I did try to stick to only having two maps per game, which was tougher than you might think!

So without further ado, here we go with Part One…

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30. FRINGE (Call Of Duty: Black Ops III)

I’m not the biggest fan of Call Of Duty’s fast paced online action but I usually get a fair few hours of enjoyment from each new title. It didn’t take long for Fringe to cement its place as my favourite map from Black Ops III. The increased movement and different abilities that the game brings to the series has meant the developers have had to plan accordingly. Several levels of verticality, along with window access to ground floor buildings and the open central area led to plenty of great battles.

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29. DRONE (Call Of Duty: Black Ops II)

I’ve found that my taste in Call Of Duty games tend to favour the Black Ops side of things rather than the Modern Warfare series. In terms of multiplayer I’d say Drone is my favourite of any Call Of Duty map. Tightly designed with plenty of ways in (and out) of buildings, you’ll need to keep a constant eye in all directions to avoid enemies flanking you. The main room with the slide doors will have you second guessing yourself – everytime you hear the ‘swoosh’ of the door opening you have milliseconds to decide… friend or foe?

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28. SEASIDE – GLAMORGAN, WALES (Resistance 3)

I still maintain that Resistance 3 was a hugely underrated game and that extends to the online. Glamorgan’s mix of small one floor barns/buildings makes for a strong map and while the bridge in the centre can be a choke point, the fact that you can also go around the sides means it never becomes too much of an issue. Raised platforms at each end also offer the opportunity for sniper fire but it’s when up-close and personal that the map thrives.

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27. PARACEL STORM (Battlefield 4)

Battlefield 4 didn’t quite live up to expectations in the online department, although I did have a lot of fun with it. One thing it did right though (despite the terrible name they gave it) was the ‘Levolution’ aspect of maps, where a huge event would change the layout of the map while you played. Paracel Storm was a close knit set of tropical islands that had you engaged in both long and short range firefights. It was already a great map but when you heard the siren sound… well, you knew there was trouble afoot. Suddenly the environment would be rocked by a tropical storm – heavy rain and huge crashing waves. As if that wasn’t enough, sometimes a massive navy ship would run aground and smash into one of the islands. Really cool stuff.

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26. SAO PAULO BUS DEPOT (Max Payne 3)

Max Payne 3’s gritty, dark universe comes through in the multiplayer as well as the single player and Sao Paulo’s Bus Depot is a prime example. Run down and seemingly abandoned, the design of the map is fantastic. There are so many different ways in (and out) of the depot itself, as well as vertical levels, that you’re never far from trouble. Perfect for settling those Vendetta’s 🙂

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25. RICHMAN MANSION (Grand Theft Auto Online)

A lot of the areas used for battles in Grand Theft Auto Online are small stretches of street or perhaps, an abandoned trainyard. None of them really grabbed me but the close quarters of the mansion map meant you had to stay on your toes. Although it was small in size there were plenty of low walls and alcoves to hide in and I have lots of happy memories of great, intense shootouts on this map. The video above is an example of one of the rare occasions I came out on top… for a while at least!

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24. THE HANGAR (Killzone: Shadow Fall)

The Hangar was a free map that arrived as part of one of the games updates (thank you Guerrilla Games for all the free content! That’s how DLC should work). It soon became a firm favourite, with a huge open area in the middle, corresponding walkways at the side and various alleyways on the lower floor underneath. Clever placement of mission objectives meant that while there were a few chokepoints, they were only clogged while specific missions were in play. Did I mention it also looks glorious?

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23. SYR DARYA UPLINK (MAG)

Sadly MAG is long gone but this was always my favourite of the huge maps on offer in the game. The initial capture points are perfectly placed and having them upstairs means it’s difficult to take but equally as difficult for the enemy if you do manage to secure it. The final point in the warehouse has so many twists and turns that it housed some epic battles for me.

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22. HOTH REBEL BASE (Star Wars: Battlefront)

There has been some grumbling about Star Wars: Battlefront’s lack of maps – different variations on 4 areas at launch – and while I think more environments should’ve featured, what we do have looks absolutely stunning. My pick of the bunch is the Rebel Base on Hoth. Bright white, almost antiseptic, walls inside the base make way to icy caves and pathways. You’ll find yourself fighting among parked spaceships and even using them for cover! While it is narrow in spots there are so many options to traverse the map that it never feels like too much of an issue. Great map design.

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21. GRAY RAMPART (Metal Gear Solid V Online)

Metal Gear Solid Online isn’t a game busting with content. There aren’t a great deal of maps available but what is there, for the most part, is very enjoyable. My pick of the bunch is Gray Rampart, which I’ve found to be super well designed and big enough to host the madness that is Metal Gear Online. There are buildings scattered throughout that give hiding places or somewhere to regroup and plan your next move. Taking place in the shadow of a huge dam, it’s a vast map with lots of ways to get around and just the right amount of open space. Do you chance going over the bridge and getting sniped? Or head underneath to try and sneak around?

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20. OPERATION 925 (Battlefield 3)

The Close Quarters DLC for Battlefield 3 is among the best DLC I’ve ever played. And the map design of the levels is the main reason for this. Operation 925 contains a host of destroyable walls/glass which means no-where is safe to hide! The video above is an excellent look around the level. As well as the two levels of the building you also have the underground car park to contend with, which opens out nicely after the tight corridors leading to it.

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19. VALPARAISO (Battlefield: Bad Company 2)

With plenty of hills to fight up/down on, this is a wonderfully varied map boasting four differently styled bases that will keep you entertained for ages. The mixture of jungle environments just within this map is a testament to how well made it is – you’ll start in dense jungle before breaking into the open for a while until eventually you’ll find yourself in another dense jungle setting for an enclosed final base.

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18. HIGHRISE (Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2)

Call Of Duty’s multiplayer is pretty fun in short bursts and the Highrise map is one of the highlights of the series. Set, essentially, in the upper floor of two buildings and on another building’s rooftop inbetween – this is a close quarters map with plenty of scope for sneaking into the enemies’ tower. One of my favourite tactics was using the lower walkways to get into the opposite tower and launch an attack behind the enemy – that is of course if I could get in without being spotted… easier said than done.

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17. THE PARK (Killzone: Shadow Fall)

Killzone, as a series, has always had superbly designed maps that work vertically on many levels. The Park is another great addition to the collection, adding in a few chokepoints to fight over and capture. If you can keep the enemy from coming through the central corridor on the upper floor (a VERY popular flashpoint) then you can force them to use alternative routes. Having said that, it’s rare for one team to keep hold of that corridor for very long! There is also a cool underground network of tunnels that are very tight but can be used to get across the map of needed.

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16. LONDON UNDERGROUND (Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception)

Like almost all Uncharted online maps London Underground is based upon a single player campaign level. And this one runs the full gambit. Three vertical levels of fun and a speeding train that passes through the level, killing anyone in it’s path. Fortunately Naughty Dog also put some of the objectives on the tracks or near where the train passes, just to add to the chaos! This is a really well designed map with lots of entrances/exits to all rooms, meaning you’ll need to stay focussed to keep hold of objectives.

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So there we go, the first 15 maps done and with 7 new entries there is plenty of new stuff in the mix. The Top 15 should be up next week hopefully, that also has some new entries so keep an eye out for it.

Have you enjoyed any of the maps above? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@greghorrorshow).

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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

The Order: 1886 – Review (PS4)

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The Order: 1886 had been on my radar since that amazing first trailer reveal – the graphical fidelity of the game coupled with an alternate history plot and Victorian London setting had me hooked. As more trailers arrived it seemed to just get better and better.

And then I played it. Last year’s EGX gave the public the chance to get hands on and I was very keen to do so. It certainly looked great but the animation felt lacking and the gunplay wasn’t what I was looking for. I walked away feeling a little deflated. However two friends that also played the same demo really liked it and came away impressed. I figured maybe when I was playing it at home it might click with me.

So now that I’ve had the full experience of playing the game, did The Order turn out to be a disappointment? Or did Ready At Dawn deliver on the initial promise of the game?

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Well the good news is that the animation problems I had previously with jerky movement of NPCs were almost non-existent so you could lose yourself in the game without being dragged out of the world every time someone would stammer across the screen. The issue with enemies not flinching from gunfire sadly remains, although this too is reduced. For such a film-like experience it does jar to have enemies not respond appropriately when hit by bullets. I mean if you look at games like Killzone 2 and 3 it can make a huge difference and make taking on enemies a lot more enjoyable.

Much was made of the game’s length before it’s release, with some people citing playthrough times of 5 hours. While The Order isn’t a long game, my initial playthrough took around 7 hours which I felt was a decent enough length. Whether or not you feel that sort of campaign length is worth £50 is up to you but it certainly wasn’t quite as short as was reported previously.

Another issue some people had was the amount of cut scenes and time spent not in control of the character. This definitely could be a problem for some, I personally felt ok with the way it was handled and enjoyed the story. Again I was happy just looking around the environment and exploring little pockets of the game world, enjoying the stunning job the developers had done. It almost verges on the ridiculous, with items in the world (like chairs or books) fully fleshed out and gorgeous looking, even when there is a good chance players won’t actively stop to look at them. There is no doubt The Order is a truly stunning looking game and between this and DriveClub you now have a couple of titles that can showcase the difference between PS3 and PS4.

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Unfortunately for all the talk of how wonderful the game looks it simply isn’t that exciting to play. The gunplay, while having a certain heft doesn’t match titles like Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, Max Payne 3 or even Grand Theft Auto V. It’s such a shame and it means those sections where they are throwing 20 or 30 enemies at you can be a bit of a drag. Of course I did have fun with some of the encounters, it was just those longer ones that tested my patience. There is also a stealth section that drove me mad, wherein you need to kill a set amount of guards but have no indication of where they are. If you are seen it’s insta-fail and right back to the beginning. Not including a checkpoint in there and having to restart every time meant it really broke the flow of the game.

It’s not all bad though, there was a lot of talk about there being too many QTE’s in the game but I thought it was handled ok and the addition of a few new mechanics thrown in for some helped to make some of the encounters feel different. The music is also superb, with Jason Graves delivering once again. Having such a dense, heavy score really helps to colour the game world and give you a sense of the atmosphere and feeling of this alternate London.

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The Order: 1886 certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I felt that the plot was good and the gameplay was enjoyable enough for the most part. When I got to the end and the credits rolled I thought to myself, ‘I’d play another one of those if they made it’ and I hope Ready At Dawn get a chance to refine this experience and give us a game that delivers on all fronts.

Rating: 7/10

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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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