Playing Games Like You Watch TV Or: Why It Took Me Over Two Years To Finish Dragon Age: Inquisition

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I’ve spoken about my gaming habits plenty in the past but I’ve noticed another shift in the last year or so. If I have an hour spare now in the evening I’m much more likely to play an online game, not something single player based.

While it sounds contrary to the above, I feel like I want to invest more time in single player game sessions than ever and really lose myself in that world, which conflicts with my gaming schedule – essentially the odd hour here and there in the evening. I’m finding that I don’t want to play something story based for 45 minutes or an hour. Or at least that’s how I feel about open world games, I’m certainly still happy to play an hour long session to complete a chapter of Uncharted or a main mission in Tomb Raider. More linear games still lend themselves to that style of play. I’ve always played those kind of games like TV shows anyway, a chapter or two at a time over the course of weeks rather than days. I’ve never been a gamer who will rush through a 15-20 hour game in a weekend.

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Horizon: Zero Dawn is a good example of this new play style, a game I likely would’ve rushed through before is now a title I’m planning to play over the course of months rather than weeks. Crucially, I also feel like I’m getting more enjoyment out of the game by taking the time to explore and discover smaller content along the way.

I think there is an accompanying parallel change in multiplayer games, which are doing a much better job of getting you to come back and play more often. There has been a positive change in a huge amount of games whereby new content (new levels/maps or characters) is being added free of charge for all players. This is important because, firstly, it means the player base isn’t split (some that paid have the new content but others don’t and they can’t all play together) and secondly it gives people a strong reason to come back to games they might not have ever returned to before this trend. In addition a lot of games are rewarding players for logging in and playing, which keeps people interested for longer.  I also feel like there are a ton of pick up and play online experiences that last 5-10 minutes per game, which align perfectly with the time I have available.

If I only have 30-45 mins spare why waste my time on an open world title and have to turn it off just as I’m getting into the rhythm of the game? I’d rather play a few rounds Overwatch and a game of Rocket League. It’s also occasionally quite nice to play something that has a set beginning, middle and end. I guess it’s similar to watching a really good eight episode TV show knowing it only has one season and tells a complete story within that.

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Big, sprawling open world titles are definitely still attractive to me, Horizon is one of the best games I’ve played in the last 4 or 5 years, but I just need more time to play and invest in them. Dragon Age: Inquisition took me over two years to finish. Why? I suspect the TV season-like structure helped, along with the change in my own gaming habits. What I loved about the structure of Dragon Age in particular was that your main hub in the game was your ‘War Table’, where you and your colleagues/advisors would plan your next tactical move and which mission to take on. On this table you had a selection of smaller missions, including favours for your colleagues that would reveal more about them and strengthen your relationship with them, but also one bigger mission that moved the main story on considerably. So for me, the game became like a TV show in so far as I would spend a few weeks playing side missions, levelling up and getting some character development for my team before doing the big, climatic ‘end of season’ mission and then putting the game down for a month or two.

Another huge title in terms of scale is Fallout 4, which I’m still playing 18 months after I started. Why? Well for similar reasons to Dragon Age but with the added decision from the outset not to follow the direct path for ‘character reasons’. I decided to make my character more selfish than my usual created characters, for example my elf Inquisitor from Dragon Age or Commander Shepherd from Mass Effect. In Fallout, Bella would be a character that was, for the most part, more interested in her own current affairs than any grander goal – which has been great fun and I’d recommend everyone to try playing a character like it at some stage!

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Another issue with mainlining games is burnout, doing the same thing over and over again is certainly not fun and can severely lessen your enjoyment of a game. However, I think there is a huge difference between repetitive gameplay over a longer period of time in hour sized chunks and repetitive gameplay experienced in bigger 3 or 4 hour time slots.  I genuinely believe that the reason I still enjoy long running game series like Assassin’s Creed, where you are essentially doing the same thing in every iteration of the game in a different setting, is because I’ve never really sat down and played them for 4 or 5 hours at a time.

Episodic gaming kind of solves this play style problem, although it doesn’t always necessarily do the best job. Titles like The Walking Dead and Life Is Strange are great games, although each episode usually runs the length of a film which runs into the same problem for me time-wise. Hitman, which is perfectly suited to the episodic format, is another title with lengthy levels (a positive when I have the time to invest) although the inclusion of smaller one off assassinations does mean that is a game you can also dip into here and there.

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Some people are quick to mainline these huge games and I just don’t get it. Why would you want to rush through these big titles? Where Uncharted is like a film, games like Skyrim, Mass Effect or Dragon Age are like having 10 seasons of a TV show in front of you. Finishing these open world games as quickly as possible by doing just main quests would be like having a cut down version of the TV show that just focuses on the main character and no-one else. Sure you’d get to experience the story at the centre of the show but without any focus on other characters. Imagine a Buffy The Vampire Slayer without any development of Willow or Xander? Or an Orphan Black with no focus on Donny or anyone except Sarah? Indeed, imagine a Mass Effect that didn’t bother to flesh out your crew but just double downed on the main story.

I’m as guilty as the next person of binge-watching TV shows but I do feel that for games it is a little different – as I mentioned above my confusion isn’t really based on people playing games quickly, it’s what you might be missing along the way. Even if I binge something like Jessica Jones I am still seeing all the story the creators put in there and want us to see. If you mainline a game you could be missing a wealth of interesting content and potentially things that might be integral to the wider plot of the game.

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Even in this age of on demand binge watching it can be nice to watch a TV show week by week – one of the biggest luxuries of the ‘old’ approach to watching TV or playing games is that you have time to think about and appreciate the content you’re consuming. I’ve found that in games but also in TV. Recently, Legion was a delight to watch week by week and I actually think I needed that time between episodes to process what I’d seen. Sure, there is a rush from getting through something you’re enjoying – it can exhilarating knowing that you are just a click away from another episode or main mission but I’d recommend giving slower paced gaming a shot. It’s definitely a different experience and one, for me personally, that means I’ve gotten more enjoyment out of open world games.

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Rise Of The Tomb Raider – Review (PS4)

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I was quietly confident that Crystal Dynamics would be able to deliver a strong follow up to their 2013 reboot of Square Enix’s beloved franchise. The sequel arrived on XBox One a year previously as a console exclusive and it got great reviews so I was excited to get a chance to play it. The initial reboot provided a good story paired with familiar but fun gameplay. So did they manage to better this with Rise Of The Tomb Raider?

Graphically the game is stunning and while it can’t match Uncharted 4 it certainly has some sections I thought were beautiful to look at. The level design and more open ended areas give the game some nice spaces to explore, although it suffers from that age old open-world issue of giving you ludicrously low stakes side quests while the end of the world approaches.

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In this instance Lara is chasing an artifact that can grant immortality but the supernatural side of things doesn’t really come into play before the final third. Until then you are taking out an army of mercenaries and trying to beat their leaders to the artifact. The story is so-so to be honest and I saw the main twist coming a mile off but overall it’s an enjoyable campaign to play through.

In addition to the main missions there are also bigger open world parts of the game which contain the optional side missions I mentioned above. The return of puzzle based Tombs is welcome as the ones I completed were a nice distraction from the main path but didn’t take too long to finish.

There are robust skill and crafting trees, which is cool and lets you build your own version of Lara that can play to your own gameplay strengths. Likewise Lara has a selection of different outfits that each come with a stat boost, 10% more melee damage for example, so you can really shape the character to your playstyle.

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While Rise of The Tomb Raider doesn’t have the impact of the original, it builds on what came before and delivers a really good experience with amazing graphics. Unfortunately it suffers a little from hitting the PS4 after Uncharted 4 and can’t quite match the heights of Nathan Drake and co. Nevertheless it’s a strong title which I’d recommend checking out.

Rating 8/10

GregHorrorShow: Game Awards 2016

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So another stellar year done and a lot of games played, there have been some great releases and so many that I simply didn’t have time to get to them all. So apologies to Doom, Watch Dogs 2, Mafia III and Dishonored 2 (among others)… I will get around to playing you soon I promise!

Anyway, for 2016 – here we go:

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MISSED GEM OF 2015

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WINNER: Telltale’s ‘Tales From The Borderlands’

I’m seriously considering changing the name of this award to ‘Telltale’s Missed Gem’ because once again they take this with ‘Tales From The Borderlands’, an episodic adventure set in the Borderlands universe with a (mainly) new cast of characters. Telling the story of Rhys and Fiona from both viewpoints and with what can only be described as unreliable narration of both sides, it’s good fun. Great writing and some awesome set up in terms of vibe and atmosphere made this a whole lot better than I expected – heartily recommended.

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BEST DLC (CONTENT)

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WINNER: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate didn’t get the props it deserved in last year’s awards as I hadn’t finished it. So let the record state I thought it was the best AC game since Brotherhood. In addition to that we also got a great chunk of DLC based around the mythology of Jack The Ripper in which, playing as an older version of Evie, you have to track down London’s most notorious serial killer. Good fun and a rare chance to play as an older incarnation of a character, its well worth checking out. In terms of online DLC support both Uncharted 4 and Overwatch provided their players with free maps and new modes along with, in the case of the latter, new characters. Great stuff.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • Destiny
  • Overwatch

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THE JOE DANGER AWARD

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WINNER: Skullgirls – 2nd Encore

I put a whole host of, unexpected, time into Skullgirls upon it’s release for Vita in April. I had been looking for a fighter to get into and while I did consider the latest Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, in the end Skullgirls cartoon style won me over. What I wasn’t prepared for was how enjoyable the game would be to a newcomer. Playing through the character stories was great fun, though I did get repeatedly beaten online!

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MOST ANTICIPATED GAME OF 2017

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WINNER: Mass Effect Andromeda

This was a pretty close run thing, truth be told and Mass Effect ends up taking it by virtue of the fact I’m confident it’ll actually come out this year, unlike Red Dead Redemption 2! Both are highly desired though and I can’t wait to get my hands on them. I loved the original Gravity Rush so it makes sense the sequel is up there and Horizon: Zero Dawn looks set to be the most exciting new IP of 2017. I did want to put Persona 5 on here but I’m a bit nervous about it, just in terms of having had a connection with the characters of the previous game. New characters, new location… same magic? Fingers crossed.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Gravity Rush 2
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn

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BEST GAME TRAILER

WINNER: Red Dead Redemption 2

What can you say about Red Dead Redemption 2? Rockstar dropped a logo on Twitter and the world went crazy. When they dropped the trailer the gaming world pretty much unanimously stopped for 1 minute and 8 seconds. The piano, the graphics, the feel of the Wild West. It’s all there and showed us a brief glimpse of what might be on the horizon. Battlefield 1 dazzled us with amazing graphics and Gravity Rush 2 maintained the awesome style of the first game. Meanwhile Blizzard delivered a near Pixar-quality short as a trailer for Overwatch.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Battlefield 1
  • Overwatch
  • Gravity Rush 2

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BEST VITA GAME

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WINNER: Skullgirls – 2nd Encore

As noted above I hadn’t thought Skullgirls would grab me the way it did, especially as someone that doesn’t really play many fighting games. But it definitely did and the game does a great job of teaching you as much as you want to learn with a really in depth tutorial system. The characters and art style are cool and the music is fantastic. The Vita port is solid as well and the game controlled really well. I’d definitely say to pick this up if you’re interested in getting into a fighting game.

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BEST GRAPHICS

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WINNER: Battlefield 1

DICE have a history of nabbing this award with previous wins for Battlefield 3 (2013) and Star Wars: Battlefront (2015) and this year the competition was even fiercer with both Uncharted 4 and The Division delivering awe inspiring worlds and Overwatch bringing a stylised vibe to the party as well. Having said that, Battlefield 1 is a stunning looking game – one of those games you’ll show to people on the edge about buying a new console… ‘But look at this!’

RUNNERS UP:

  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • The Division
  • Overwatch

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BEST STORYLINE

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WINNER: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

I expect this one will come as no surprise to anyone as my love for Uncharted is well documented on these pages but after the departure of Amy Hennig I wasn’t entirely convinced that the heart of the game would still be there but thankfully Naughty Dog delivered everything we wanted story-wise. Sure, Nathan Drake now has a brother we’ve never heard about previously but the story here is well paced, enjoyable and uses the characters to great effect. Titanfall 2 has a claim on best level of 2016 with one mid level (pleasant) surprise and I thought the Infinite Warfare campaign was one of the best in Call Of Duty history. While Battlefield 1 tailed off in the last couple of story missions it started really strongly and Black Bess in particular was fantastic.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  • Titanfall 2
  • Battlefield 1

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BEST MUSIC (SCORE)

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WINNER: Overwatch

Skullgirls has a wonderful score that compliments it’s crazy outlandish aesthetic perfectly. Uncharted 4 and Battlefield 1 have amazing, soaring scores that do a great job to match the on-screen action throughout. But Overwatch… That theme when you load the game up, the swell as it reaches a crescendo. The ‘Play Of The Game’ theme is such a cool, heroic riff that does a super job of conveying that sense of heroism. Even the smaller parts like the music that accompanies the end of a round hit the mark. Really impressive stuff.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Battlefield 1
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • Skullgirls – 2nd Encore

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BEST MUSIC (LICENSED)

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WINNER: Gone Home

Despite some misgivings over the game itself there is no doubt that Gone Home had a killer soundtrack, with songs from Heavens to Betsy, Bratmobile and The Youngins (as GirlScout). With the game set in 1995 the developer did a great job of nailing that feel with the music. FIFA 17, as usual, delivered an eclectic mix of new artists for players to discover like Bishop Briggs and Barns Courtney alongside heavy hitters like Beck and Two Door Cinema Club. Special shout out to Tales From The Borderlands as well, I know it came out last year but as it wasn’t featured I felt a mention was in order for first class use of stuff like James Blake, The Rapture and First Aid Kit. Also apologies again to Watch Dogs 2 and Mafia III, who I suspect may have featured here if I’d played them.

RUNNERS UP:

  • FIFA 17
  • Tales From The Borderlands

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BEST VOICE ACTING

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WINNER: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Uncharted once againtakes home the best voice acting award – adding the irrepressible Troy Baker (Sam) and amazing Laura Bailey (Nadine) to the already stellar cast of Nolan North, Emily Rose and Richard McGonagle. The game itself is so full of graphical prowess and little touches that give the characters personality that it’s easy to forget the stunning job the cast of Uncharted consistently delivered. Unparalleled in gaming. I enjoyed the cast’s performance in Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare as well, with Ethan the robot shining alongside David Harewood as Sgt. Usef Omar. Camilla Luddington was spot on as Lara Croft in Rise Of The Tomb Raider and while I loved the voices in Overwatch I didn’t feel there was enough voiced content in the game for it to take the award.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Overwatch
  • Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  • Rise Of The Tomb Raider

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SINGLE PLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

What a way to round out the series! Uncharted 4 excels in so many areas it’s difficult to know where to start. Graphically it’s a powerhouse, with a great story and excellent voice acting. It controls really well and Naughty Dog also managed to keep a more gritty tone while retaining the original trilogy’s sense of swagger and humour. A fantastic achievement and a bench mark for single player campaigns. Rise Of The Tomb Raider continued the series high quality revival, expanding on several elements to give the player a host of customisation to their playthrough. Considering the original Titanfall didn’t have a campaign, it’s surprising that the sequel’s turned out so well. But it did and had lots of memorable moments that set you up nicely for the multiplayer. Hitman was a delight this year, split into episodic chunks that you could consume at leisure, basking in each level’s quirks and areas. Similarly to the excellent Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, I really felt like if I made a mistake in Hitman I had a chance to recover or at least try something different. A real triumph and I look forward to Season 2.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Rise Of The Tomb Raider
  • Titanfall 2
  • Hitman

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MULTIPLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: Overwatch

I put quite a bit of time into both The Division and Uncharted 4’s online components this year and really enjoyed both of them. The Division’s cooperative online set up meant it was fun to play with friends and I’ve always enjoyed Nathan Drake’s multiplayer adventures so Uncharted 4 was no different. Probably the best ever offering in my opinion and while I didn’t play as much Titanfall 2 I thought what I did play was great fun. Despite all that only one game captivated me since it’s release back in Spring, of course, it’s Overwatch! With so many characters and classes (and sub classes) on offer (23 at last count with more coming) there is something here for everyone. Not great at shooters? Go with a healer instead, or maybe a defender like Mei, who can pop up ice walls to block off the opposition. Coming across like the best Saturday morning kids show ever, Overwatch might be the best multiplayer game I’ve ever played, and that’s saying something!

RUNNERS UP:

  • The Division
  • Titanfall 2
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

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GAME OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: Overwatch

I was really looking forward to Overwatch, I thought the Beta was neat and wanted to get my hands on it. It wasn’t even mentioned in my most anticipated games last year but it was the first game in a long time that I actually hit the level cap for. As discussed above there simply isn’t another shooter, or game, like it. The team based nature of it and the positive feedback loop of having good things during the match being the focus of end game round ups is awesome. Add into that the gender, and race, diversity that flows through the cast of colourful characters and you have a winning formula. Yes it can be frustrating, especially in competitive mode, but to win a closely fought match is one of the best feelings in gaming.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • The Division
  • Hitman

So there we go, another year down and lots of amazing games on the horizon for 2017!

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GregHorrorShow: Game Awards 2013

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Well what a year it’s been for gaming! With the arrival of new consoles in the Autumn we were left wondering whether the support would still be there for the PS3 and if you needed convincing you only had to look at The Last Of Us, Beyond: Two Souls and Gran Turismo 6 to see there is life in the old dog yet.

As the PS4 didn’t arrive until November 29th (and I didn’t receive mine until early December) nothing for that platform will be eligible for this year’s awards (as they run November to November). Also there were a few games I held off of so I could get the superior PS4 version, namely Assassin’s Creed IV and Battlefield 4, so they also won’t feature.

We start with a new award, that recognizes the fact that I simply can’t play every game within the year. The ‘Missed Gem’ award goes to a game from the previous year that I didn’t play until this year but feel would’ve warranted a mention last time out if I had played it in time.

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MISSED GEM OF 2012

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WINNER: Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead (Season 1)

Everyone has rightfully raved about The Walking Dead. I’m one of them (check out my review) and I can safely say it was a fantastic experience. It’s a point and click adventure game, which wouldn’t normally be my cup of tea but the story here is soooo good. Highly recommended.

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BEST GAME INNOVATION

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Winner: Grand Theft Auto V (Multi Character Selection)

GTA V was a trend setter in many ways but one of the most impressive aspects of the game was the way you could switch between the main characters at will. With a button press you would be pulled to an overhead view of the map, moved across to wherever the other character was and then plonked down to them. This in itself isn’t a completely original idea, Driver: San Francisco had a similar mechanic that allowed you to swap between vehicles. The difference here are the little character vignettes when you land with a new character; Franklin pulling his friend away from a fight, Michael finishing a coffee and tossing the cup away or Trevor… well God knows what Trevor will be doing! This small touch gives you a real feeling that the world of GTA V is continuing around you at all times. It’s a very nice mechanic.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Crysis 3 (Multiplayer Highlights)
  • Bioshock Infinite (Skyhooks)
  • Metal Gear Rising (Precision Cutting)

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BEST DLC (CONTENT)

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WINNER: Mass Effect 3: Citadel

The ending of Mass Effect 3 left a bad taste in many people’s mouths, even with the update Bioware released. If that was the case for you, or if you just loved the game/series then give the Citadel DLC a spin. This is the ‘Christmas Special’ of Mass Effect, a set of side missions that see you fighting off enemies, carrying out a heist and planning a party for your crew… Yes, that’s right organizing and hosting a party 🙂 It. Is. Awesome. And great fan service. The Walking Dead: 400 Days also deserves a mention as it carried on with the hard choices of season 1 straight off the bat, even if the characters were new. Soul Sacrifice on Vita was supported with a ridiculous amount of free DLC post launch which was all really cool so make sure you check that out as well.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Battlefield 3 – End Game
  • The Walking Dead – 400 Days
  • Soul Sacrifice – Various Free DLC Packs

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BEST DOWNLOAD ONLY GAME

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WINNER: Hotline Miami (Vita)

Enough people were raving about it on PC last year but 2013 was the year I finally got my hands on Hotline Miami – the super fast, super violent and super challenging top down kill fest. I absolutely loved this game and don’t know anyone who played it that didn’t get hooked. The Vita version looks super crisp and the soundtrack is awesome. Most of the games in this category I played on Vita (though all of these were on PS3 as well) with some great titles like Guacamelee, Thomas Was Alone and Lone Survivor. Another pleasant surprise was Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon – it had Robocop’s gun in it! ROBOCOP’S GUN!! 🙂

RUNNERS UP:

  • Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
  • Guacamelee (Vita)
  • Thomas Was Alone (Vita)

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MOST ANTICIPATED GAME OF 2014

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WINNER: Infamous: Second Son

Well, the clear winner for this in my eyes was Cyberpunk 2077 but it turns out that isn’t arriving until 2015 so I had to have a rethink! A new Uncharted has me interested but so little is known about it at this stage, same goes for Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture. The Witcher 3 and The Order: 1886 are definitely on my radar and No Man’s Sky looked awesome at VGX earlier this month. For me, at the moment, it has to be Infamous: Second Son. The game looks so damn good up close (I wasn’t allowed to play it but watched a hands off level playthrough) I could barely believe it. I’m hyped for this one, roll on March.

RUNNERS UP:

  • The Witcher 3
  • The Order: 1886
  • No Man’s Sky

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BEST GAME TRAILER

*Warning Contains Strong Language*

WINNER: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

I’m not sure I need many words here, as someone who grew up in the 1980’s… just watch the Blood Dragon trailer to see why it won 🙂 GTA always has great trailers and the below is no exception, super use of music as well. Love this Last Of Us one, not always a fan of live action stuff but this is clever. And Killzone always looks amazing, Shadow Fall is no different.

RUNNERS UP:

GTA V

Last Of Us

Killzone Shadow Fall

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BEST PS VITA GAME

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WINNER: Persona 4 The Golden

If you’d told me a year ago that a Japanese RPG would win my Vita Game Of The Year in a year when a Killzone title came to Vita, I would’ve called you a liar. I haven’t really ever played a JRPG before but then again Persona 4: The Golden isn’t like other JRPG’s. Like The Walking Dead this is a game all about your relationships with characters (Oh Chie) and P4G grabbed me from the start and didn’t let go. Don’t let the fact Killzone: Mercenary didn’t pick up GOTY deter you from grabbing it if you have a Vita – it’s the best handheld shooter ever made. Soul Sacrifice was another title I might not have played on a home console but it just seems like a great fit on Vita and it’s really fun in short bursts. Tearaway was a beautiful game that put you in a superbly realized papercraft world and utilised all of the best Vita features. A charming game.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Soul Sacrifice
  • Tearaway
  • Killzone: Mercenary

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BEST GRAPHICS

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WINNER: Beyond: Two Souls

It was a pretty close run race in this category with four superb looking games. The Last Of Us probably came closest to nabbing this with it’s fully realized, if grim, world and characters but while the animation of Beyond: Two Souls might’ve been off at times, graphically the game was stunning. Especially impressive considering they were using actors that people recognize and could more easily spot any faults. Also the fire/flame effects were majorly impressive. Los Santos in GTA V was such a wonder to look at sometimes I would just stop and admire the view – I can’t wait to see what Rockstar deliver on PS4. And while it was stylized, Bioshock Infinite created a beautiful world in Columbia and then filled it with dark, interesting people. Definitely a world to be explored and experienced.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Bioshock Infinite
  • GTA V
  • The Last Of Us

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BEST STORYLINE

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WINNER: Bioshock Infinite

There have been some great stories to play through this year and again The Last Of Us came very close to taking this award but this year’s winner is Bioshock Infinite. A title that had me guessing throughout and while I thought I had the twist sussed it turned out to be one of many that, by the time the credits rolled, left me reeling. As I uncovered more and more clues while playing through it was satisfying to put the pieces together. I thought Crystal Dynamics did a great job with the Tomb Raider reboot but the story was strongest in those opening few hours and fell away a bit beyond that. Those few hours though… what a ride. DmC was one of my more pleasant surprises this year (all round in fact) and I enjoyed the game’s story of greed and corruption and thought the world they’d created was very fleshed out.

RUNNERS UP:

  • The Last Of Us
  • Tomb Raider
  • DmC

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BEST SOUNDTRACK (SCORE)

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WINNER: Persona 4: The Golden (Vita)

This was a really difficult category to decide on – all four of these are great scores that you should definitely check out. GTA V was the surprise for me as I didn’t expect the score to be so awesome and well suited to the heist aspect of the game. The Last Of Us and Bioshock Infinite were more subtle but packed a big punch when necessary. However the award goes to Persona 4: The Golden for it’s crazy, fun and memorable score, which includes a few songs written for the game that are used during battles. There were plenty of other great scores worth checking out from this year, I’d also recommend Tomb Raider, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Beyond: Two Souls.

RUNNERS UP:

  • GTA V
  • Bioshock Infinite
  • The Last Of Us

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BEST SOUNDTRACK (LICENSED)

Hotline Miami 3

WINNER: Hotline Miami (Vita)

I mentioned Hotline Miami last year because I’d heard the soundtrack but hadn’t played the game. Nothing can quite prepare you for what is one of the most powerful collections of tracks in gaming. The songs here perfectly capture the feel of the game and lend a kind of hypnotic vibe to proceedings. Absolutely brilliant. The Grand Theft Auto games always have stellar licensed material and GTA V is no different, featuring great songs across lots of different radio stations. Bioshock Infinite‘s use of tears to play songs was inspired, especially as it also featured ‘Columbia’ versions of them all in game as well. And Far Cry 3, well that M.I.A use was brilliant and the Skrillex track fitted so well with the mission it was used on – just good solid choices.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Far Cry 3
  • GTA V
  • Bioshock Infinite

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BEST VOICE ACTING

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WINNER: The Last Of Us

This was another tough category this year as so many games delivered massive performances in terms of acting. The Last Of Us though is a deserving winner, with Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson bringing most to the table with solid support from, among others, Nolan North. Baker delivered another fantastic performance as Booker DeWitt in Bioshock Infinite alongside the excellent Courtnee Draper. Steven Ogg as Trevor gets GTA V a mention just on his own and alongside his other cast members helped to make our stay in Los Santos a memorable one. I suppose when you hire big name actors like Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe you expect big things but as we’ve seen in the past bringing Hollywood to games doesn’t always work out. Luckily for us with Beyond: Two Souls it did this time and Page’s delivery and commitment to the role added real depth to her character Jodie Holmes.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Bioshock Infinite
  • GTA V
  • Beyond: Two Souls

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SINGLE PLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: The Last Of Us

The Last Of Us is one of those games that has to be played to be believed. Titles such as Uncharted 2 and Journey carry the same gravitas and The Last Of Us can be added to that list of games that anyone with a PS3 should play. The journey of Ellie and Joel during the game is astounding and the world is a brutal, beautiful place to (carefully) explore. The Clickers were hideous enemies and the fact they could kill you in one hit just made things worse. Everything works here – the scarcity of ammo/supplies, the confined spaces you’d find yourself in and also little touches like finding the after effects of horrific events and finding out the mini storylines contained within. While GTA V and Persona 4: The Golden are totally different styles of game I stuck almost 60 hours into each of their single player offerings this year, which is a testament to their quality. And while the combat did drag at times in Bioshock Infinite, overall it was just such a great game that you can’t do anything but recommend it.

RUNNERS UP:

  • GTA V
  • Bioshock Infinite
  • Persona 4 The Golden (Vita)

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MULTIPLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: GTA Online

It says a lot about the opening 6 months of 2013 that during that time my most played online games were Killzone 3 (2011), Mass Effect 3 (2012) and Battlefield 3 (2011). The one new thing I played in this time was Far Cry 3, which had a nice co-op online mode and handled really well, in terms of feel of weapons etc. Then June hit and The Last Of Us arrived, with it’s new and fresh idea of what multiplayer could be. Run and gun was out, scavenge and hide was in. I had some very tense rounds of this immensely underrated online offering. Killzone: Mercenary offered Vita owners a glimpse of what an FPS title could do online and it was very fun, despite a few issues with spawn point locations. But the award this year goes to GTA Online. Finally released in October it was… well, broken to be honest. But now that it’s (mainly) fixed it is an absolute blast. Whether doing scripted missions or just messing about with friends it has been some of my most memorable online gaming in the last few years.

RUNNERS UP:

  • The Last Of Us
  • Far Cry 3
  • Killzone Mercenary (Vita)

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GAME OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: The Last Of Us

The Last Of Us takes this year’s award – a combination of it’s superlative single player and fantastic online offering is more than enough to justify it’s win. All four nominees are outrageously great games and well worth playing. Bioshock Infinite‘s mix of bright, vibrant colours, stylised graphics and dark, sinister undercurrent make for a compelling game and while Persona 4: The Golden shares some characteristics with Irrational Game’s title it also has a wealth of depth that left me stunned. In GTA V Rockstar have created a living, breathing love/hate letter to L.A that will keep you gripped and amazed both online and offline.

RUNNERS UP:

  • GTA V
  • Bioshock Infinite
  • Persona 4 The Golden (Vita)

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So there you have it!

There were plenty of other decent games that didn’t get nominated but I’d still recommend. Titles like Call Of Juarez: Gunslinger, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Rain and Puppeteer to name a few.

It’s also been a good year for Vita owners with titles like Retro City Rampage, Guacamelee, Hotline Miami, Thomas Was Alone, Stealth Inc., Lone Survivor and Spluenky making the jump over, along with exclusives like Persona 4 : The Golden, Soul Sacrifice, Killzone: Mercenary and Tearaway. It was nice to see a Vita game crack the nominees list for Game Of The Year for the first time as well.

So what have you guys been playing? What have I missed? What was your favourite game this year?

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Top 100 Single Player PS3 Games: Part 6 (50-41)

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Wow, I can’t believe we’re already at the Top 50!

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)

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

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50. Call Of Duty: Black Ops II

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I’ve really enjoyed the last few campaigns in the Call Of Duty series so when I heard that Black Ops II had the best one yet I was pretty excited to give it a shot. Unfortunately my initial time with the game did not go well. During the opening hour I got trapped in a game breaking glitch and after getting through that my PS3 froze up. I also had some pretty weird instances of character models getting stuck where they shouldn’t be and the game just felt really unpolished.

However beyond those issues, the campaign *is* the best in a Call Of Duty game to date. I know a lot of people just buy the game for the multiplayer but really you should check this story mode out. It flits between the 80’s and 2025 but is far less confusing than previous games. I always had a sense of which character I was controlling, something that hasn’t always been the case in former iterations of the titles.

The story is formed (and endings chosen) as you go through the game and the coolest thing Black Ops II pulls off is that half the time you’re not even aware you’re making a choice or triggering something that will change the story. Very refreshing.

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49. Kane And Lynch

You take control of Adam ‘Kane’ Marcus, a criminal on his way to death row for crimes committed in Venezeula. Kane is busted out of his prison van by a mysterious group called The7 who he worked with previously. They think Kane stole the money from their last job and stashed it somewhere.

If he doesn’t get them the money back in three weeks his wife and daughter will be killed. Kane claims he doesn’t know where it is but he does know who took the cash and will hunt them down. And so begins a thoroughly enjoyable ride into the desperate life of Kane…

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48. Vanquish

From the makers of Bayonetta, Vanquish tells the story of Sam Gideon, a member of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), who is tasked with rescuing a scientist that was working on the O’Neill Cylinder Space Station when it was hijacked by Russia. Russia are holding the USA to ransom, destroying San Francisco and targeting New York next unless the Americans comply with their wishes – total surrender.

Got all that? Right now forget all about it and SHOOT THOSE ROBOTS!

Vanquish is certainly an experience I’d recommend and for a few sessions of a couple of hours each it is a blast to play. It doesn’t quite have the same depth as Bayonetta with regard to the characters but it can hold it’s head high in terms of a single player experience.

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47. Red Faction: Guerrilla

Red Faction: Guerrilla is a bit of an underrated gem. It’s your basic David vs Goliath battle with the Red Faction resistance (you guys) taking on the evil Earth Defence Force who have taken advantage of their position in power on Mars.

But the main part of the game is the destruction. Buildings fall realistically and weakening them structurally can often mean a delayed collapse.

I heartily recommend Red Faction. It’s not massively difficult but it has a good solid story and is insanely fun. You can pick this up for about £15 pre-owned in most places and it will be money well spent.

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46. Deus Ex: Human Revolution

You play as Adam Jensen, who works security at Sarif Industries – a biotechnology firm specialising in human cybernetic enhancement. Adam is severely injured and patched up using new cybernetic augmentations. Adam returns to action 6 months later with Megan and several other colleagues having died in the attack that injured him.

Running and gunning is an option in Deus Ex, it’s just a more risky strategy than taking the non confrontational approach. But that in a nutshell is the beauty of the game. There is almost always a whole host of ways to approach situations – depending on what augmentations you choose.

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45. Mafia II

Mafia II tells the story of Vito Scaletta, a returning war veteran who comes home to find life has changed while he’s been away and soon fins himself mixed up in the world of the Mafia.

This game is an interesting beast, as during a lot of the promo leading up to its release we were led to believe it would be open world (ala GTA) at least in some parts. In reality this is a very linear experience and that has led to some negative feedback.

Personally while that discovery came as a disappointment if you can look beyond it then you will find a strong, solid single player experience with a well crafted and immersive story.

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44. X-COM: Enemy Unknown

XCOM

I hadn’t really played many RTS (Real Time Strategy) games before embarking on XCOM: Enemy Unknown. I wasn’t sure if this was one that I would enjoy and really get into – in the end I surprised myself by how involved I got.

You take control of the XCOM Initiative, a coming together of lots of countries to fight together to stop alien invaders. You’ll be destroying enemies, capturing them and using their tech to create fantastical new weapons for your soldiers.

You don’t play this game as you would a third or first person shooter – you only have a set amount of moves per turn and will have to be very careful in planning them. XCOM is a brilliant, and challenging, game.

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43. Fallout: New Vegas

Fallout: New Vegas sees you play as The Courier, a… ahem… courier who has his package stolen, is shot in the head and left for dead in a shallow grave. Saved by a passing robot you end up, not only conscious, but looking for revenge.

In New Vegas there are various groups that you can align with and you can play factions off against each other up to a point but as you get towards the end of the game, you’ll need to decide where your loyalties lie.

Overall Fallout: New Vegas is a very good game. While it doesn’t do a great deal of new stuff it delivers a worthwhile experience that will tide fans of the series over until Fallout 4 arrives.

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42. Resistance 3

Resistance 3

In Resistance 3 you play as Joseph Capelli but a lot has changed since the 2nd game in the series. The humans lost the war. Resistance 3 is about survival. Beaten down and living mainly underground, Capelli and his fellow survivors get on with life as best as possible. These are not just soldiers, there are children and non-fighters as well, just trying to get through each day.

You’re outnumbered and underpowered for the most part but the game’s great controls and wonderful weapon selection make it joy to blast through the levels. There are small victories here and there but as a battle heats up you’ll likely find yourself running away to survive.

Unfortunately the campaign loses it’s way in the last few hours and the final battle/ending was a touch disappointing to me. But make no mistake – despite tailing off towards the end, it had one of the best campaigns I played that year.

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41. Tomb Raider

TombRaider2

Crystal Dynamics delivered on their promise of a reboot for Lara Croft. Gone is the Lara of old with the wonky body shape and in her place is a more realistic Lara, both in terms of appearance and character. As a wannabe archaeologist Lara is not a trained hunter/killer and is still wet behind the ears after coming out of college/university.

The opening few hours are definitely the strongest here – Tomb Raider is at it’s best during tense moments with just one or two enemies. With Lara coming to grips with the fact she’s going to need to do whatever it takes to survive. It’s been talked about a lot but her first kill is handled perfectly.

Tomb Raider is a fantastic game. There are a few annoying difficulty spikes here and there but that’s par for the course in most games. Lots of action packed set pieces and climbing/falling moments raise the bar but it’s the quieter moments in Lara’s journey that really struck a chord with me.

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Another ten games down and more coming soon – stay tuned!

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Tomb Raider – Review (PS3)

TombRaiderMain

It’s not often I find myself in a position to make a u-turn on my feelings for a game when I’ve already played some of it and wasn’t keen.

Here’s the main part of my comments on Tomb Raider having played a section at the Eurogamer Expo last September:

I know I joked about it previously but if you only have an XBox 360 and haven’t played the Uncharted games then you’ll love this. Sadly for me, while it plays well, Tomb Raider is just a clone of Uncharted. Hopefully the story will lift this above that status.”

Perhaps a busy exhibition floor wasn’t the most suitable place to experience the game because within 10 minutes of starting Tomb Raider at home I was impressed.

TombRaider1

Graphically the game looks pretty amazing, with good character models and some great lighting and fire effects. Lara’s movement is fairly smooth and animations for both the good guys and enemies are nicely done.

Crystal Dynamics have delivered on their promise of a reboot for Lara Croft. Gone is the Lara of old with the wonky body shape and in her place is a more realistic Lara, both in terms of appearance and character. As a wannabe archaeologist Lara is not a trained hunter/killer and is still wet behind the ears after coming out of college/university.

The opening few hours are definitely the strongest here – Tomb Raider is at its best during tense moments with just one or two enemies. With Lara coming to grips with the fact she’s going to need to do whatever it takes to survive. It’s been talked about a lot but her first kill is handled perfectly.

TombRaider2

Unfortunately it doesn’t take long for Lara to start mowing down 10 or 20 enemies at a time. And it jars more here than it does with something like Uncharted. Possibly because of the tone of the game, I’m not sure but I think if they could’ve found a more creative way to deal with this it could’ve made this one of the best games out there.

The answer isn’t immediately apparent – maybe keep adding new enemy types to keep things fresh but keep the fighting to small skirmishes with just one or two enemies. And then keep that 25 enemy fight for the end of the game? Possibly they could’ve incorporated the great optional tomb puzzles as main quests?

Regardless, on a personal level at least, using the bow for the most part (Lara had studied Archery) and guns as a last resort enabled the disconnect to not be too serious for me.

TombRaider3

Jason Graves (of Dead Space fame) delivers once again with the score and incidental music – this is one of the better scores I’ve heard this year so far. The voice acting is strong and it’s nice to hear so many different local UK accents in one place!

There will no doubt be the inevitable comparisons between Tomb Raider and Uncharted but I think they are different beasts – for now at least. Lara’s origin story is gritty and harrowing. For the most part she is alone, fighting to get her friends back. Nathan Drake spends a lot of time with Sully/Elena/Chloe and that brings with it the opportunity for a few wisecracks and conversation.

In fact the part of the game that felt like Uncharted-lite was the multiplayer – not bad in any sense but the addition of traps isn’t enough to differentiate this from Naughty Dog’s superb online offering. As I said at the top there, if you only have an XBox then you may love this online as it’s different to most stuff out there on the 360.

TombRaider4

Overall though Tomb Raider is a fantastic game. There are a few annoying difficulty spikes here and there but that’s par for the course in most games. Lots of action packed set pieces and climbing/falling moments raise the bar but it’s the quieter moments in Lara’s journey that really struck a chord with me. Considering I wasn’t massively psyched for the game it’s nice to genuinely recommend it as one of 2013’s best offerings so far.

Rating: 9/10

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Eurogamer Expo 2012

So Friday saw the Eurogamer Expo hit Earls Court in London again. I went along to check out some of the titles we can look forward to playing in the next 6 months or so.

Unfortunately I have to begin by saying, as always, there were a few queues that were just too large to wait in. The biggest were Assassin’s Creed III, Hitman Absolution, Resident Evil 6 and Call Of Duty: Black Ops II.

I guess when time is limited it boiled down to one simple fact; I know I will be playing all of those games. For me they are all titles I am sure to pick up, so queuing for an hour to play them seems like madness!

Anyway, there was plenty of other stuff to play at the Expo, so here we go:

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TOMB RAIDER

Eidos have been doing a lot of work pushing this game recently and highlighting how it’s a reboot of the series in the same vein as the recent Batman films. I know I joked about it previously but if you only have an XBox 360 and haven’t played the Uncharted games then you’ll love this. Sadly for me, while it plays well, Tomb Raider is just a clone of Uncharted. Hopefully the story will lift this above that status.

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DISHONORED

Dishonored is one of those games that is very difficult to judge from playing at an event like this. Set in a steampunk world you play as a wronged man who uses his various skills (possession/slowing down time etc) to get his own back. Unfortunately being dropped into the game at a random point and without much guidance, I promptly forgot all about the powers and just used the crossbow and knife. I enjoyed playing it though and it should be a great game when you get it on your PS3 in the comfort of your own home.

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ALIENS: COLONIAL MARINES

While I’m more interested in the story of this game, it was the multiplayer that was hands on today. Setting Marines against Aliens isn’t the most original premise but it was well handled and the one button press to bring up your motion tracker was slick and effective. I did find it a bit tough at times but I think that might also have been down to the fact it was Sega staff controlling the Aliens! 😆

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GOD OF WAR: ASCENSION

In a neat reverse of Colonial Marines I bypassed the single player demo for this (I’ve enjoyed bashing square and triangle for all the previous games so I don’t need to go through that at an Expo) and headed straight for multiplayer. Having little to no interest in this I wasn’t expecting much. What I found however was a fun, engrossing brawler-type of affair. Still not sure how much I’d play this long term but I will certainly dip in after finishing the campaign.

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NEED FOR SPEED: MOST WANTED

I’ve been looking forward to this game (and the accompanying Vita version – absent today) for months. The switch to a more Burnout style open world driving game is welcome and it looks like it’ll be insane fun online. The steering was a bit loose but once you got used to that it was a blast.

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MEDAL OF HONOR: WARFIGHTER

Again, another game I’m more interested in the single player of but we battened down the hatches and got some multiplayer on. This was mostly enjoyable, certainly miles better than the last Medal Of Honor’s terrible online. Warfighter straddles the online gap between Call Of Duty and Battlefield. Perfect for it’s target audience but not one for me. I am looking forward to the campaign though as I thought the last one was pretty good.

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GRID 2

Ah GRID. If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen me squeeing with excitement when they announced this was coming out next year. The original GRID was one of my favourite driving games ever and GRID 2 didn’t disappoint. It looked gorgeous and handled like a dream. Everything I hoped it would be. And certainly the most impressive game I played today.

* ‘GRID 2′ : GREGHORRORSHOW’S BEST IN SHOW – Eurogamer Expo 2012*

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METAL GEAR RISING: REVENGEANCE

As disappointed as I am that Bayonetta 2 isn’t coming to PS3, this game (from the same developer) looks set to more than fill the gap. A mix of Bayonetta and Vanquish, Revengeance is NOT the Metal Gear you know and love. Raiden is the main character rather than Snake and he is a frantic cyborg killing machine. Revengeance has no need for stealth, you just kill everything 🙂 A lack of direction stifled things somewhat but overall most enjoyable.

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FIFA 13 (Vita)

I was hoping to see some pretty big changes in FIFA this year on the Vita. The game available at release was a (good) port of the PS3 FIFA 11 engine. It didn’t feature some of the new AI stuff from FIFA 12 and so I hoped some of those features might make their way into FIFA 13. Sadly from what I could gather in the time I played it seems to be almost the exact same game barring some cosmetic changes. 😦 Still the best football game around for a handheld device but if you already have FIFA for Vita you might be better off sticking with that.

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ASSASSIN’S CREED: LIBERATION (Vita)

I finally got my hands on the forthcoming Vita Assassin’s Creed game and I have to say I was mightily impressed. Graphically the game looks great, although the main character Aveline does have a touch of the ‘crazy eyes’ if you get in too close 🙂 Overall I’m impressed – the animation looked smooth and there was a solid fidelity to the graphics of the environment and a decent draw distance as well. Can’t wait for this now.

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FAR CRY 3

Far Cry 3 had a pretty substantial queue to play it but fortunately when you sat down with the game you were given 10/15 mins to just get on with it. I really enjoyed this and thought it could be a game I’d plough a decent amount of time into. The demo dropped you in the middle of the island and allowed you a fair amount of freedom. I didn’t do a great deal of story stuff – but had an action packed playthrough in which I began crafting my own mini story within the fiction. That’s always a good sign. Did see a few crazy glitches (characters suddenly zooming across the screen/flying etc) but this is early code so hopefully they will be ironed out before release.

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PLAYSTATION ALL STARS: BATTLE ROYALE

I’ve never played Super Smash Brothers, the Nintendo game All Stars (apparently) borrows heavily from. I’d read quite a bit about All Stars and seen some character reveals/trailers but nothing had really interested me that much. I’m not big into fighting games and this looked like it might be too complex for me. However I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the round we played. There is a real depth to the game in terms of moves/control that is there if you want it but alternatively you can just use the face buttons and directions to pull off whatever moves take your fancy. I was almost reluctant to pick up the pad and play it but I walked away impressed & with a smile on my face.

* ‘PLAYSTATION ALL STARS: BATTLE ROYALE’ : GREGHORRORSHOW’S MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE – Eurogamer Expo 2012 *

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LOST PLANET 3

After waiting for what seemed to be an eternity for the guy on the console in front of me to stop playing (seriously – how long can one man die against the same enemy before letting someone else have a go?) I sat down and got some time with Lost Planet 3. Coming across to me as Dead Space in the snow (and without the horror) it certainly wasn’t a bad game. Some of the aesthetic seemed to ripped straight from EA’s game (unless EA stole it from an earlier Lost Planet game?) but I’m still not sure how much fun it was to just hold the trigger and pump the bigger creatures with bullets. Having said that my time was slightly hampered by the fact there was no option to invert the Y Axis on my demo pod :angry:

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So that’s the games and after all that I would like comment on how well run the whole thing was. Having people walk through the crowd while we were queuing to scan our tickets and give out the relevant wristbands was a stroke of genius and genuinely saved about 15 minutes of queuing time compared to last year. When the doors opened at 10am we went straight in. Great stuff.

Overall Eurogamer Expo 2012 was a little muted for me personally. There wasn’t one particular game I was desperate to play – perhaps that is tied to the fact we’re nearing the end of the console cycle? However I enjoyed everything I played and even liked a few titles I might not have otherwise bothered playing.

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