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

DAI

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.

Horizon

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.

OverwatchTV

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!

FALLOUT4TV

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.

Life Is Strange 1

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.

hITMANtv

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.

.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

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

Maps Part 2

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!

.

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!

.

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!

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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…

——————————————————————————————————————–

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)

.

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

Maps Part 1

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…

.

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.

.

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?

.

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.

.

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.

.

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 🙂

.

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!

.

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?

.

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.

.

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.

.

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?

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

————————————————————-

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).

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

GregHorrorShow’s Guide To Gaming – Part 4: The Parent Edition

Guide Vol 4 Parents Main

So your kids are getting bigger, becoming small people with personalities and tastes of their own 🙂 All of a sudden they are asking about games… all their friends are playing games… can we get a console… can I play on the iPad… and so on and so forth. There is a hell of a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding out there with regards to games so we are going to discuss some of the stigmas around games and bust a few myths while we are at it.

.

PEGI RATINGS

Guide Vol 4 Parents Ratings

So first things first, the most basic of all the information I have to share but also the most commonly misinterpreted. Most games aren’t made for children. That’s the best thing to get your head around. The average age of gamers is now 31. Unless it’s a game aimed at children, presume this was intended for adults to play. PEGI (Pan European Game Information) are the game equivalent of the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) for films. The age rating on the box of a game is the same as it would be for Film or TV. It is NOT a guide to the ability of your child like a puzzle or board game. These ratings are content based, not skill based. I once overheard a lady in a shop who had made this mistake and was considering buying her 10 year old son a copy of an 18+ rated game because ‘he is really good at games.’ Thankfully the shop assistant explained. So always check these ratings before allowing your child to play a game. Of course there is nothing to stop you allowing your child to play a higher rated game if you feel they are mature enough to handle it, that’s your call – my 4 year old daughter often played Skylanders with her bigger sister which was rated as 7+ and we had no issues. However, it should be a decision you make rather than just getting whatever game they ask for.

.

PLAY TIME

Guide Vol 4 Parents Time

Gaming is no different to any other medium; a child should not be sitting down and playing their console all day. To be honest, adults shouldn’t be doing that but they are old enough to look after themselves! I wouldn’t recommend a child sits and watches TV all day, or just sits in a room reading a book all day. I’d also strongly advise against having a console in their bedroom so you can keep an eye on what they are playing but again that’s a personal parental decision. Most things in moderation are ok and gaming is no different. Make sure you explain to them what time you’re allowing (45 mins or an hour etc.) and then stick to it. You should allow a little leeway; say 5 minutes to get to a suitable stopping point. Most games now auto-save very regularly so don’t let them fob you off with tales of having to get to a save point. If they insist try googling the game to see if doesn’t have auto-save, just in case.

.

IPAD / TABLET GAMING

Guide Vol 4 Parents IPad

My area of expertise is console gaming and I don’t have a lot of experience with iPad/Tablet games so my main advice is to be super vigilant. On consoles you would need to have a credit card linked to your PlayStation or XBox to buy anything. On phones it’s a lot easier for kids to accidentally rack up costs (often without realising it). Sadly the mobile gaming space is full of titles made with the aim of getting you to pay money. Beware of Free To Play titles, they are specifically designed to prey on people susceptible to gambling/addiction by making the game ramp up in difficulty or locking things behind a timer – “Wait two days to play again or just pay 79p to jump straight back in.” These games can be very dangerous to the wrong personalities (adults included) and can often be as bad as fruit machines. Best thing to do would be to check around online and see which games are rated highly for kids. Having said that even that can’t protect you from the stream of ads running alongside the game… a well-known kids app called Talking Tom (with a cute speaking cat you interact with) hit the headlines for running hard-core porn video ads in the game while children were playing. This thing is mainly avoidable on consoles as most products don’t have random ads running in the background.

.

CONSOLES

So you’ve been beaten into submission and now you’re looking to get a console! But which one? Well fortunately you only really have three choices and two of them are very similar.

Nintendo Wii-U

Guide Vol 4 Parents Wii U

Nintendo are often kid’s first game experiences as they are very family friendly. Games like Mario Kart, Donkey Kong and Legend Of Zelda have great heritage and with new titles like Splatoon, they are still delivering solid kids content. The only issue you may have here is that a lot of other companies have stopped making games for it so it is mainly just those Nintendo games you’ll be playing.

XBox / Playstation

Guide Vol 4 Parents XB-PS

For younger kids you might be able to get away with giving them the older consoles (XBox 360 and PlayStation 3) which both have a wealth of back catalogue games and, while not quite up to the standard of the latest titles, will be great for playing lots of awesome games. However as they get older and need to keep up with the Jones’s, you’ll be looking more at the XBox One or PlayStation 4. These two are fairly similar and it will probably come down to what your kids friends are playing on. I’ve always preferred PlayStation, which also has the benefit of being market leader and getting the best versions of most games. Also there’s LittleBigPlanet, but more on that later!

.

TOYS TO LIFE

Guide Vol 4 Parents Toys

There is a new kid on the block in terms of games for youngsters – Toys To Life. This genre encompasses heavyweights like Skylanders, Disney Infinity and the newly announced Lego Dimensions. These games are played like others with a gamepad but the difference is that they come with a little portal. You pop the toys on top of the portal and then they appear in game for you to control. It’s pretty awesome actually, I would’ve loved this for my He-Man or Ghostbusters back in the day! My (gentle) warning on these games is not the content – they are definitely kid friendly – but more the fact of knowing what you are investing in. These games are full price (usually with a toy or two) and then further toy figures are around £10 each. Some (optional) areas of the game can only be accessed by specific characters and as you can imagine the cost can escalate quickly, especially if your kids have more than one of these titles!

.

SUITABLE GAMES

Guide Vol 4 Parents Tearaway

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of games out there that your kids could play. Make sure you research titles before allowing them to play. Here are a few titles that I’d recommend.

.

Under 5’s

.

.

  • Joe Danger
  • Super Rub A Dub
  • Katamari
  • Skylanders
  • Disney Infinity
  • Octodad (this is actually really difficult but the kids love the comedy element)

.

These games should always be simple and not too complicated so the child doesn’t get too frustrated – I’d strongly recommend Joe Danger (video above) and Katamari from this list as they can be played on a basic level with just one or two buttons. And both are great fun!

.

5-12 Years

.

.

  • Skylanders
  • Disney Infinity
  • Minecraft (more on that below)
  • FIFA Soccer
  • LittleBigPlanet
  • Various Lego Titles (Batman/Avengers etc.)
  • DriveClub
  • Child Of Light
  • Tearaway

.

There are some wonderful games in this list – LittleBigPlanet is shown above but Tearaway is also amazing and for something a little deeper Child Of Light is unbelievably good. These are games that both children and adults can enjoy (together if you’d like!)

.

The ‘Teens’ .

.

  • Destiny
  • Uncharted
  • Need For Speed
  • Mass Effect
  • Journey

.

So included here are a bunch of game series that are higher rated age-wise and deal with violence but with a more sci-fi slant that isn’t going for realism. Another series in this vein is Uncharted, which is more like Indiana Jones than anything else. Also worth noting that Mass Effect contains (non-explicit) sexual content as you can romance a member of your crew, just in case that influences your decision.

.

BIG NAMES

Guide Vol 4 Parents Minecraft

And now we come to the big names, the ones the kids will be begging to play.

PLEASE NOTE SOME OF THE VIDEOS BELOW CONTAIN EXTREMELY VIOLENT GRAPHIC CONTENT – I AM EMBEDDING THEM BELOW TO HIGHLIGHT POTENTIAL GAME CONTENT BUT CLICK AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION. .

.

Minecraft

Minecraft is great for most children, it encourages building and exploration. Some of the enemies might be too much for very young children but I’d say this one is generally ok for most age groups.

.

Call Of Duty

Call Of Duty is a huge franchise in which you play as a soldier killing other people. There are two elements to the game, single player and online. The online multiplayer is where they will likely be playing, in modes where killing the other players is the name of the game (literally, it’s called Deathmatch!). This tends to not be too graphic, although bear in mind you will be shooting and stabbing people. The other issue is online chat, although I’ll go more into that below. The other side of the game is the campaign in which you would play through the story. Known for its shocking violence these can sometimes be tough to watch as an adult – for example an interrogation scene in which you put glass into a man’s mouth and then crush it by punching him in the face. It’s probably most infamous for its ‘No Russian’ that sees you take part in a terrorist attack at an airport, shooting civilians. Footage below so you can see for yourself…

.

.

Assassin’s Creed

The Assassin’s Creed games all take place in different eras of history (1400’s Italy, 1700’s Paris and 1800’s London for example). This means they can give a feel for those places at that time and you can visit recreated landmarks and go inside (Notre Dame was particularly impressive!). However, as the name suggests you will be tasked with killing targets as part of an overall Templar/Assassin storyline. Usually using blades, although guns do feature, this is probably the least graphic of the biggest games but still I wouldn’t really recommend for kids younger than 15, depending on the child of course.

.

.

Mortal Kombat

And now I’m afraid I’m going to be really hypocritical. Let me explain. The original Mortal Kombat came out in 1993, when I was just 13. And we played it for hours at friend’s houses. While not quite as graphically impressive as games nowadays it still allowed you to perform brutal finishing moves on opponents and was, no doubt, not suitable for a 13 year old. Having said that it didn’t seem to do me any harm but I digress… The latest installment of Mortal Kombat is the tenth in the series and the games have leaned even more into the gross-out over the top finishing moves than ever before. As an adult I can differentiate between this type of ‘video-nasty’ horror/violence and real life, knowing that these moves are displayed tongue in cheek. However parents should be aware that although this verges on satire, they are still extremely, graphically, violent. Again, here’s a video showing a few of the moves in the latest game.

.

.

Grand Theft Auto

Ah Grand Theft Auto – the bane of game headlines around the world! First let’s bust a few myths.

‘This game makes you sleep with a prostitute and then kill her to get your money back’

While this is possible in the game it is never requested as part of a mission nor are you asked to do so. The logistics of that statement are correct but this is player agency, you aren’t asked to do this.

‘Playing this game turned this kid into a killer.’

From all of the research I’ve read there has never been a proven link between games and real life killing. I strongly suspect playing GTA all day every day is going to do the player no favours, in the same way sitting and watching video nasties would potentially warp someone’s perception of the real world.

————————————————————————————————————

The Grand Theft Auto games are violent, involve crime and come with a lot of baggage in terms of cultural experience. This means a whole lot of swearing (including the c-word) and possibly the most racial slurs/slang I’ve ever heard in a game. The most recent game also includes a torture scene in which you select which ‘instrument’ (pliers, wrench etc.) to use for most damage. Here’s the scene below, again it’s a tough watch but you should know what you’re letting your children get involved in.

.

.

The irony of all this is that Grand Theft Auto is a superb game. It has furthered the media in so many ways. For all of the above negative points it is unrivaled in creating a lifelike vibrant city with an endless stream of things to do for the player. You can go to the cinema, play golf… even get a haircut or tattoo. The radio stations in the game allow players to discover new types of music and bands they may never have heard before. This game, all of the games in this section are great games. I’ve enjoyed playing them but as an adult. Not a child.

.

ONLINE GAMING

Guide Vol 4 Parents Headset

Another thing parents should be aware of is online gaming in general. Gamers are able to communicate with game headsets so that they can talk to other players while in game. This can be a good thing, socially especially, and is a helpful feature when playing with friends. However you need to bear in mind that if your child is using a headset to talk to other gamers they could, literally, be talking to anyone. They could (and sadly probably will) hear abusive phrases thrown around casually. Racist slurs, homophobic slurs. It’s the same as being on the internet – if you let your child visit whatever sites are available and talk to people they don’t know there is a chance they could end up talking with some quite unsavoury characters. This isn’t a reason to panic but try to ensure they understand the dangers and, if possible, only use a headset to talk to people they know.

.

—————————————————————————————————————-

.

So that’s pretty much it, I know it’s a *long* piece but I’ve been asked by enough people that it felt something like this could be helpful to fellow parents who aren’t as aware of games.

If you do have any other questions feel free to drop them in the comments or, of course, e-mail or tweet me. In the meantime feel free to share among fellow parents and anyone who might appreciate a heads up.

The main takeaway should be that games are not made exclusively for children but that they aren’t inherently bad for kids either. Be aware of what they are playing and monitor their progress.

.

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

PlayingItWrongMain

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.

PlayingItWrong1

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.

PlayingItWrong2

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.

PlayingItWrong3

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.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

MOST WANTED 2014 – PS4 EDITION

MW PS4 2014

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

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

.

Infamous: Second Son

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

.

Murdered: Soul Suspect

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

.

Galak-Z – The Dimensional

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

.

Child Of Light

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

.

Lily Bergamo

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

.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

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

.

Helldivers

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

.

Transistor

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

.

Watch_Dogs

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

.

Deep Down

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

.

Destiny

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

.

Alien: Isolation

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

.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

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

.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

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

.

Mirror’s Edge 2

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

.

Tom Clancy’s The Division

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

.

The Order: 1886

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

.

No Man’s Sky

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

.

DRIVECLUB

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

.

Uncharted

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

.

Cyberpunk 2077

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

.

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

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

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

.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Persona 4 Golden – Review (Vita)

Persona 4 Main

As someone who has never played, or been interested in playing, a Japanese Role Playing Game (JRPG), such as Final Fantasy or Valkyria Chronicles, I was intrigued to see Persona 4 Golden essentially clear up the Vita Game Of The Year awards at most gaming sites last year.

Released back in 2012 in the US/Japan the game finally arrived to Europe in February. Having read from practically every gaming site I trust/respect that this was the best Vita game out and one of the best JRPG’s around I felt obliged to give it a try.

The jazzy intro left me with a smile on my face but also a quizzically raised eyebrow as I wondered exactly what I had let myself in for.

Persona 4 1

The game is a year in the life of Yu Narukami as he transers schools to spend a year living with his Uncle in a small town called Inaba. You have control over his life, from schoolwork to making friends and even deciding on where to work part time. While the story doesn’t change your decisions do affect your relationships throughout the game.

And Persona 4 Golden is all about relationships. Whether it’s your friends or relatives, everything you do has a knock on effect on what the game calls your ‘Social Links’. The better your social links the more powerful your (and your allies) Personas can become when fighting shadows.

Oh, did I forget to mention as well as Yu Narukami’s daily life of school and work you also FALL INTO TV’s AND BATTLE SHADOW MONSTERS 😆

Persona 4 2

Without getting too spoilerific, you discover that you can access this other world through the TV. After a spate of murders in Inaba, you realise they are tied to the other world. You and your friends decide to try and save whoever might be the next victim.

Because I hadn’t played a game like this before I put Persona 4 Golden on ‘Very Easy’ and to be honest this was probably a wise move. I died in battle only a handful of times and when I did was able to revive on the spot with full health. While this reduced the challenge of combat it enabled me to get to grips with the game without becoming frustrated. It also meant I was free to concentrate on the social side of the game and just enjoy the story.

And what a story it is. Traditionally Japanese games have been a bit more ‘out there’ than Western titles (see Bayonetta/Vanquish/Metal Gear Solid) and Persona 4 Golden is no different but the game also deals with some interesting themes – loneliness, responsibility and even coming to terms with one’s masculinity. It might be wrapped up in J-Pop gloss but Persona is definitely full of great character arcs.

2013-03-30-121243

The characters are well written and by the end of the game I genuinely cared about them. It’s not often that happens with game characters – probably The Walking Dead, Mass Effect and Uncharted games are the most recent examples I can think of.

As you build relationships with the other characters you’ll get different options in terms of who to spend time with and the game often gives you a few options when you only have time for one. You may even eventually get a girlfriend (or several if that’s more your ‘style’) and the game does a good job of conveying the slightly embarrassing beginnings of a school relationship at that age.

The difference between this and other games with social options is that Persona 4 Golden isn’t just a case of ‘this person likes/dislikes you’ it’s that in forging and building these relationships you are effectively levelling up. Even studying and doing well at school gives you bonuses. It means that of all the 41 hours I ploughed into the game not a minute was wasted. There was no filler.

2013-03-30-065500

The combat is based around fighting monsters in dungeons that are themed around various thoughts/fears of the townspeople. You have the ability to call on monsters of your own (Personas) to aid you and you’ll always be with a few of your friends (another difficult choice, who do you take with you?). You walk around the dungeon freely in third person and once an encounter is initiated the action moves to a turn based setting.

I won’t go into story details beyond the above but I enjoyed it and thought it did a good job of maintaining the mystery of events until the reveal. One word of advice though, keep 3 or 4 rolling saves because it is VERY easy to miss the real ending of the game. First time out I got a disappointing ending that skipped 3 months of in-game time (around 8/10 hours of gameplay) so keep a spare save ready to go back if needed.

Even going back and getting the proper ending I still missed a part of the game and didn’t have a back up (thinking I’d finished) so I will have try and get to that on my next playthrough. Yep I plan to go back through the game again, this time on a more competitive setting.

Persona 4 3

I didn’t imagine Persona 4 Golden would grab me so hard if I’m honest – as I said at the outset I’ve never been interested in this type of game before but I’ll be keeping an eye on the genre now and hopefully might find some other great experiences for my Vita.

If you have a Vita then I can’t recommend this enough, Persona 4 Golden is a fantastic game that offers a lot more than just turn based combat and will leave you wanting more at each turn.

Rating: 10/10

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine