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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GregHorrorShow’s Top 20 Multiplayer Maps

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I was looking back through some old blogs a couple of weeks ago and stumbled across my Top 10 Multiplayer Maps feature – I could not believe that was published way back in 2010!

Since then we’ve had lots of great online games featuring some superb level design – so here’s an update, with the 10 now 20:

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20. 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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19. SYR DARYA UPLINK (MAG)

I haven’t played MAG for far too long 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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18. COURTYARD (Resistance Burning Skies)

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Sadly because of the lack of video for Vita games I don’t have footage for this one – but it’s probably the map I enjoyed most throughout my time with the Burning Skies multiplayer. Set in and around a two storey building, including the street it’s on, Courtyard is a mixture of up-close indoor gunfights and some longer range firefights on the street and surrounding areas. Perfectly designed for smaller 4v4 online battles.

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17. 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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16. 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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15. 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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14. HIGHRISE (Call Of Duty:Modern Warfare2)

I’m not a massive fan of Call Of Duty but the 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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13. 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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12. FIREBASE GODDESS (Mass Effect 3)

Another multiplayer that I really need to spend some more time with 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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11. 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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10. 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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9. 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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8. 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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7. 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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6. 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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5. 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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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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And there you have it – an updated list featuring the latest and greatest multiplayer maps… well certainly the ones I enjoy playing the most.

Because it’s such a divisive subject and because of the sheer number of maps out there across a huge amount of games, I fully expect you guys to have lots of maps that you love and feel should’ve been on the list.

So light up the comments and let me know which of the above are your favourites and which maps you’d add to the list!

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Call Of Duty: Black Ops Declassified – Review (Vita)

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Call Of Duty: Black Ops Declassified is a divisive beast. Depending on which review you read scores can range from extremely low to extremely positive.

I would like to start this review by saying that Declassified does not capture much of the Call Of Duty experience. This is more like an upgrade of Nihilistic’s last Vita FPS ‘Resistance: Burning Skies‘. Not necessarily a bad thing but if you’re expecting a Call Of Duty game on your Vita this isn’t it.

I was in the minority that actually quite enjoyed Burning Skies, it certainly had some issues but on the whole I enjoyed it. From what I can gather Nihilistic finished that in May and then cranked out Declassified in about 4 months.

That appears to stem from problems with the company previously handling the port who, it sounds like, were trying to cram Black Ops II from the PS3 onto the Vita.

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If Nihilistic did indeed have less than 6 months to turn this around then surely no-one can be surprised to know it appears to be based on the Resistance code with a few minor upgrades.

The main difference here is that there is no story mode to further the overall Call Of Duty experience. The single player game is one of frustrating, one life levels and time trials. Levels in which you have no checkpoints and only one life can serve to heighten tension (see Unit 13 for a good example) but these should be scattered through the game – not used on every level.

While some of the campaign was enjoyable the overall feeling was one of stress and not in a good way. I wouldn’t say avoid playing it but be prepared to face some tough and often unfair deaths. Alongside the campaign are time trial and survival modes which, while not spectacular, will give you some further challenge.

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Graphically it’s not great. There isn’t really much I can say in this respect, it’s passable but not one of the Vita’s better looking games. The AI is also a bit erratic – enemies will just as often blow themselves up as hunt you down ruthlessly.

Where Declassified saves itself is with it’s online offering. Patches make this a different experience to what was originally reviewed elsewhere at the time of release. Stability is much improved – you do still get kicked to the main menu on occasion but it is a lot less than previously.

The main downside is that because the maps are smaller (to accommodate the 4v4 player cap) you’ll often find you spawn only to be killed straight away. To be honest though that is something I regularly encounter in the PS3 versions of the game as well so perhaps it won’t bother regular COD players as much.

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There is a fairly fleshed out perk, weapon upgrade and killstreak system which allows you to unlock new stuff as you progess. Most of these seem nicely balanced and players seems to be using a variety of different set ups – always a good sign that the game is well balanced.

A nice touch that uses the Vita’s technology is that you can upload your loadouts to Near for friends/players close by to download. And you can use these regardless of whether you’ve unlocked the weapons/perks yourself. It’s a pretty cool feature that I’d like more games to adopt.

I’ve had a few rounds online that have genuinely rivalled some of the experiences I’ve had on PS3 in terms of excitement and tension and that is a big positive for me.

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Certainly it fills me with hope that if someone can step up to the plate and deliver a great looking, great playing FPS for the Vita some brilliant experiences could be on the horizon. Could Killzone Mercenary be that game? I hope so but that’s a debate for another time.

So, Declassified is a tough one to rate. The single player experience is frustrating and doesn’t add much story-wise but is enjoyable in places. Counter to that I had a great time with the online, despite a few technical issues. I’d say try it – if you like the way the game handles (or enjoyed Resistance Burning Skies) then you’ll have a good experience with it but if you dislike how the engine plays then avoid.

Rating: 6/10

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Resistance: Burning Skies – Review (Vita)

As a fan of all of the PS3 games in the Resistance series I was looking forward to Burning Skies hitting the Vita. With it also being the platforms first dedicated FPS, excitement (as well as the pressure to deliver) was high.

Burning Skies tells the story of firefighter Tom Riley and is set between the events of Resistance 1 and 2. The Chimera invasion hits and Tom gets separated from his family. He has to find them and along the way gets tangled up in taking on the alien invading force.

Development here has been handled by Nihilistic as opposed to Insomniac, who handled the PS3 versions. They do a good job for the most part.

Graphically the game isn’t massively impressive. In general, and certainly in battle, Burning Skies looks fine. However you’ll notice a fair few jagged edges and lots of pixels during quiet moments which is a little disappointing but doesn’t distract during play.

The controls feel good – I tweaked down the sensitivity (as I always have the movement speed pretty slow) and I had no problems at all with aiming or shooting. The cover system was largely redundant in my opinion as I found myself crouching behind cover manually and just popping out when needed.

In true Resistance fashion this isn’t a game about accuracy – headshots don’t kill the Chimera with one shot, you’ll need to empty half a clip into enemies to take them down. I don’t have a problem with that (the Uncharted games are the same for the most part) but people looking for a Battlefield/Call Of Duty type experience will be disappointed.

It’s a fairly substantial game, I didn’t time it specifically but I would say the campaign was around 6/7 hours including retries. I died quite a lot but the checkpoint system was pretty well paced, although there were a few moments where the game sent you back an extra room or whatever and led to a long replay.

I certainly felt like I got my money’s worth from the campaign of Burning Skies but for me the most fun has come online.

This game caters for up to 8 players and has three game modes: Deathmatch (all v all), Team Deathmatch and Survival. Survival was most interesting to me – one or two of the players start as Chimera and the remaining players have to survive 5 minutes. If a Chimera kills a human then that human also becomes Chimera, until there are no humans left (or the 5 minutes is up).

I have had a few issues in terms of getting connected – but it’s just been a case of trying to connect until you do. Once I’ve been in a game I have never been dropped out or lost connection, which I think is really impressive.

I experienced no lag whatsoever, the online runs as smooth as the offline. The maps are well designed and the weapons are really well balanced. I have been having a blast with this online and it’s really shown me how great an FPS could be on the Vita.

Unfortunately that is the biggest compliment I can give Burning Skies, it truly shows the potential for FPS games on the Vita but doesn’t quite fulfil it. This would’ve got a 6 if it was just offline but the online did genuinely impress me, both in terms of stability and balance so I feel it’s well above average.

It’s certainly worth playing through, especially from the perspective of what other FPS’s could build on from this, but if you’re not a fan of Resistance and it’s brand of non-realistic shooting you may struggle to enjoy it. It’s the solid and enjoyable online that sees Burning Skies rise above average.

Rating: 8/10

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