Showing posts from October, 2011

Spare the Stick, Spoil the Gamer

I just last night wrapped-up the main story in Batman Arkham City. The mini-sandbox was a double edge sword, as the distractions are fun and help to add layers to the universe but at the cost of the relative linearity that kept Arkham Asylum so focused and engrossing, but I loved the story and characters, and the city was as atmospheric as it was dangerous.

As good as everything else was, it's the balletic yet weighty combat that is the real star, as was the case with Asylum before it. While it may be easy to jump into, it does take a while to master, but it is well worth the effort. Once you come to understand the rhythm of the smack downs, how to move fluidly between foes and how best to utilize the different moves and gadgets at your disposal, you have one of the most satisfying combat systems around. In Arkham City, each and every ruckus is full of joy, no matter how severely outnumbered you may be.

Combat is central to it's ability to rise above the countless super hero di…

Stop the Press, its GTA V

Just when I was about to give up on finding a topic for today's post, Rockstar came to the rescue by officially confirming the existence of Grand theft Auto V with an ambiguous logo and the promise of a forthcoming trailer. Twitter, online forums and blogs sprang to life as Rockstar announced the sequel which we all knew was coming, unveiling a logo that tells us nothing and giving a date for what is likely to be no more than a teaser trailer. I'm sure you will agree that this is an exciting development and a fine excuse for a blog post.

A lot has changed since we last had our fill of a console GTA, and the expectations for a new instalment have gone through the roof. In the last three years we have been spoiled rotten by rich and detailed sandboxes - Panau is always the first that comes to mind - and being near the end of the current console cycle, we are not as susceptible to impressive visuals. Rockstar raised the bar even higher with their own Red Dead Redemption, and the …

What's Wrong with Call of Duty?

Despite what you may have heard, the run up to Christmas does not start in August (!) when department stores roll out the baubles and advent calendars. It actually begins with the annual release of a new entry in one of the biggest and most divisive franchise in recent gaming history: Call of Duty. You can set your watch to this fixture of November, and before you know it you'll be quaffing sherry, tucking into mince pies, watching the Queen on telly and returning unwanted presents.

Two weeks away from launch, and you can already smell the testosterone in the air as high-fiving, obscenity spewing living-room-soldiers across the globe prepare for combat. After eleven months of doing just fine without it, I once again find myself looking forward to the release of the latest instalment, minus the high-fiving and musty aroma. This year is the turn of the newly restructured Infinity Ward to give us our third helping of Modern Warfare - the eighth true Call of Duty for those of you kee…

Musings of a Gamer VIII

1. Resistance 3
The Resistance series has long been one of my favourite PlayStation exclusives. I have enjoyed it since picking-up the original with my first PS3 and, although I may be in the minority, I thought the sequel was an improvement on its launch era predecessor. Resistance 3 marks another solid entry in Insomniac’s alternative-history shooter, and the single player campaign alone has kept me entertained these past three weeks.
It’s a bit rough around the edges and the story isn’t up to much, but it is great fun nonetheless. Insomniac are the kings of unusual weaponry, and each area of the game dares you to try out something new. Unlike most games in the genre, where you usually settle on one automatic weapon which you spam for the entirety of the game, Resistance 3 is constantly giving you new and unusual editions to your arsenal and challenging you to use them. Whether you are tagging a nimble target with your bullseye or causing an unfortunate chimera to break out in explosi…

2009 - The Standard of Excellence

This year is already being bandied around as one of the best in recent memory. We have thus far had a handful of critical darlings – Portal 2, Dark Souls, Batman Arkham City – and no shortage of quality, supporting titles, such as LA Noire (apparently), Gears of War 3, Infamous 2, Deus Ex Human Revolution and two of my personal favourites, Yakuza 4 and Tactics Ogre – Let us Cling Together. Things promise to get even better, with a remaining line-up that includes Uncharted 3, Skyrim, Zelda Skyward Sword, Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, Assassin’s Creed Revelations and many more. Despite being heavily weighted to these final three months, it has been a rather impressive year, but how does it stack-up to some of the greatest of all time?

There are a couple of years that stand out to my mind as being momentous periods for gamers and the industry as a whole. 1998 boasts Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil 2, Half Life, Final Fantasy, Ocarina of Time and the gems that were spawned in the final …

9/10 Doesn't Mean What it Used to

As the clock struck 2pm last Friday, something that we had long suspected was officially confirmed: Batman Arkham City will be in the running for game of the year honours. Two days later and it was sitting pretty with an average score of 98% on Metacritic, though this is taken from a limited sample of only eight different reviewers. It may be early days, but the consensus is that Arkham City is something special.

Visiting some of the bigger video game websites, and feeling rather good about my pre-order, I stumbled across a very detailed video review. The reviewer clearly enjoyed the game and went to great lengths to set out the reasons why they were so smitten, whilst avoiding the PR talk that will ruin any review. Their gushing praise culminated in a score of 9/10 which, despite being fractionally below the average, is a bloody good score. However, it seems that this favourable review didn’t go far enough for some commentators – a sentiment that was echoed on other sites.

There was …

Wii-lly Ugly

Running on my 42" HD TV, with the original component cable, No More Heroes 2 on the Wii is a special kind of ugly. It may have a great personality, but if it were a dog I'd shave its arse and make it walk backwards. Or probably just have it put down. The stylish elements of NMH2 fall victim to the limitations of the Wii, all but lost in the fog of 480i, where menu screens are so blurry that the text within is virtually illegible. As much as I was enjoying the gameplay, I have had to shelve Travis Touchdown's second outing, at least until I buy a composite cable, which I am told will slightly improve things.

The Wii is a peculiar console; a piece of kit that features specs more akin to the last generation than the current, and can look better running on an SDTV than the HD sets that are now the living room standard. The result is that Mii's look like they have had a bottle of acid dumped over their gurning faces, crisp detail is irrecoverably lost and it is near impossi…

Dark Souls & Repeating the Same Mistakes

I have always equated Demon's Souls with absinthe. This potent pair seem like a good idea, until you actually try them. That hasn't stopped me from quaffing my fair share of the green fairy over the years, and it also hasn't prevented me from struggling through the waking nightmare that is Demon's Souls on multiple occasions.

I first braved Demon's Souls back in 2009, but I quickly came to the conclusion that it wasn't the game for me and abandoned it well short of the finish. I tried again earlier this year, and although I stuck with it longer this time around, it was always doomed to be shelved in favour of more forgiving, and enjoyable games. You see, I have never been very good at Demon's Souls. It is of course a challenging game, but it was not the difficulty that put me off, but instead the patience that it demands.

Learning from your mistakes and constant repetition are core elements of Demon's Souls, unless of course you are an uber-talented dunge…

Long Live Play

Sony has always had a knack for provocative and memorable advertising. From the Mental Wealth ads and the stirring Double Life spot for the original PlayStation, to the bizarre David Lynch directed, Third Place TV campaign for the PS2 and the more recent Kevin Butler commercials,Sony has always known how to get people talking. Their most recent ad is no exception, and based on the buzz it has already created, it may end up trumping them all.
The “Long Live Play” advert is part of a new campaign which is set to bring our favourite video game characters to life, whilst celebrating the people who put them to task: us. The first spot, which has been available online for a couple of days, features 25 famous VG characters from Nathan Drake to Solid Snake. The voice actors are authentic, and for the most part Sony has done a pretty good job of filling the roles with real-life actors who bear more than a passing resemblance to their digital counterparts. The outfits and props are spot on – man…

If I Were King....

If the gaming landscape were organized into one unified kingdom, and if I were to rule over this wondrous realm of Gamedom, then I would waste no time in laying down some much needed rules.
Publishers and developers would come to fear me and gamers would worship me as a god. My armies would cover the land, laying waste to unfair business practices and forcing Crytek UK to make a new Timesplitters. All the while I would sit on my throne of Sega Saturn Hi-Navis, knowing that all is well in the land of game.
These would be my opening commandments:
1. Previous generation, backwards compatibility is to be compulsory
HD collections can be great. They offer the opportunity to revisit some recent vintage, tidied-up and up-scaled to make use of the HD TVs that the majority of gamers are now using. They can also introduce trophies and achievements, which I realise are not everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoy the way they add new challenges to familiar experiences and encourage me to play in diffe…

Thoughts on a Trip Back to Japan

As regular readers will be more than aware, I recently took a trip back to Japan for two weeks. This coincided with Tokyo Game Show, which I attended on a press pass (you can find my coverage here). I have been back in the UK for almost a week now and I'm still fucking shattered and unsure if I should be having lunch or going to bed. I think I’m also still slightly hung over, after a solid fortnight of drinking.

The two weeks stirred-up mixed emotions, and served to further confuse my wife and I as to our future plans. Having recently lived in Tokyo for an extended period, returning for just a week or two always feels strange. It’s not quite a holiday, as my wife is on home turf and I have long since exhausted Tokyo’s tourist activities, but instead feels more like a fleeting return to our old lives, only with the added inconvenience of being situated outside of the capital and an atrocious exchange rate that made the trip far more expensive than ever before. A ¥400 beer no longe…