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Thursday, 25 October 2012

Gamers, Don't Trust The Fans

As anyone involved in games journalism will be aware of, the past few days have been rife with discussion about this weeks hot topic, the integrity of games journalists. I wasn't intending on addressing it, primarily because I believe that we all should be spending our time discussing and producing content for the gaming community, but there are a few comments in a recent column from Robert Florence that I felt I wanted to address in more than 140 characters.

I'm not going to be discussing the ethics of what happened with the competition or who allegedly did what but rather focus on two key points in Mr Florences article:

1. Games journalists cannot write about a game/game series that they have publicly displayed a passion for without their integrity being questioned.

2. Games journalists/PR/developers cannot be friends and possess the ability to separate their professional and personal relationships.

Now as anyone who knows me personally or even online will be aware, I am a huge Mass Effect fan. I got into the series later than others but the titles instantly appealed to me at a grand scale - featuring what I believe to be an interesting narrative and engaging characters.

Because of my love of the series, I have collected many related pieces of merchandise over the years from little trinkets, statuettes and my personal favourite, an N7 hoody that I'm rarely seen without. My Mass Effect collection is made up of items I have both acquired through promotional events/expos and primarily things I have purchased.

The beginning of the end

Rewind to December 11th 2010 and Bioware have announced Mass Effect 3 with a brand new trailer tagged with a Holiday 2011 release date for the final title in the trilogy. Of course I was tweeting prolifically about my excitement around the title as new pieces of information and images were released right up until the release of the game which I would be reviewing.

Now, prior to actually getting my hands on the full game I had attended as many promotional events as I could, published plenty of related content on StickTwiddlers.com, picked up a few freebies (a tee and a blow-up Omni Blade) and developed a relationship with members of the BioWare team - leading to the site giving away a few hundred early access beta keys for a competition following an independent piece of coverage I wrote following the first glimpses of female Shepard in a trailer.

Did my public love for the series and my relationship with members of the BioWare team compromise my opinion of Mass Effect 3? Of course not. Did I think that it was an absolutely flawless title and the best game ever made? Of course not. Why? Because I'm a fan.

Fans of anything are always the most critical of the final product and will do anything they can to find out any piece of information, as trivial as it may be. Their product is something that they have developed a long-term emotional attachment to and as such will pick it apart to the core and will always ask the hard questions. I want a fan to review a product or bring me news on the latest information as I know that they are the most qualified for the job. It's like asking for a different plumber because you think this ones red overalls and thick moustache might compromise his opinion of your flooded kitchen.

My personal passion for a series has meant that I've always been able to provide my community with the best and most up to date Mass Effect related content there is, and I think everyone has been the better for it. Anyone who wants to question my integrity for being a fan or having a relationship with members of the dev and PR team can just ask me what I thought of the "Commander Shepard: Space Farmer" mechanic in ME 2.

Pic I tweeted early 2012 post ME3 hands-on

There are of course fans who will blindly love the product they support and those who may let their personal relationships affect their content, but I feel that these are in the minority and that there are enough outlets for people who feel like they are consistently finding non-critical coverage to discover other places to get what they want.

I firmly believe that those in the gaming industry are here because they have a passion for video games (it's certainly not for the paycheck) and if they're not, I frankly don't want them to be. You get the best out of people who love what they do and anybody who doesn't publicly display their love for games and their favourite titles shouldn't be trusted, not the other way around.

Now go back to tweeting/Facebooking/blogging about how awesome Hotline Miami is, you fanboys/fangirls.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

SpikeTV Video Game Awards Nominees

Ok, so here is my list of who I think deserves to win in each category:

GOTY: Mass Effect 2
Studio of the Year: Bungie
Best X360 Game: Halo Reach
Best PS3 Game: GOW 3
Best Wii Game: Super Mario Galaxy 2
Best PC Game: Fallout: New Vegas
Best Handheld Game: Professor Layton & The Unwound Future
Best Shooter: Bioshock 2 (Even though I don't really count it as a shooter per se)
Best Action Adventure: Red Dead Redemption
Best RPG: Mass Effect 2
Best MP: Halo Reach
Best Individual Sports: UFC Undisputed (I guess)
Best Team Sports: Fifa 11
Best Driving Game: NFS Hot Pursit
Best Music Game: Dance Central
Best Soundtrack: Rock Band 3 (As it has most of the GH back catalogue)
Best Song In A Game: Goldeneye
Best Original Score: Halo Reach
Best Graphics: Kirbys Epic Yarn (Because it's the only one that's not brown)
Best Adapted Video Game: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Best Performance BY A Human Male: Gary Oldman as Sgt. Reznov (Biased as I frigging love Gary Oldman!)
Best Performance By A Human Female: Kristen Bell as Lucy Stillman (Again, biased)
Best Downloadable Game: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Best DLC: Bioshock 2 Minervas Den
Best Indie Game: Limbo
Most Anticipated Game: Portal 2 (Bioshock Infinite could also clinch it)

Monday, 11 October 2010

BT and why they are shit. A summary.

So BT Broadband customers. Do you know that you ALL have an upload speed of around 500 kb/s? This means it would take about 10hrs to upload a 1gb file.

This CANNOT be changed so I suggest any YouTubers or film-makers stay well away from BT and their 'fair use policy'.

This info took me 6 phone calls, 3 non-call backs, 2hrs on hold, 32hrs and a 5 min conversation to get from BT customer services 'engineering dept.'.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Rage/id Software Conference w/ Q&A (feat. NVIDIA 3D) - Eurogamer Expo 2010

The queue for these conferences have always been huge and today is no exception. People have been queuing at least an hour and a half before the conference is due to start.
Luckily our press passes save the day and we are once again in our usual seats on the front row.

The room is heaving but before Tim Willits takes the stage, a rep from NVIDIA comes onto stage to present us with some groovy 3D effects.

Now for some weird reason, my eyes hate 3D, give me a headache and want to make me hurl, but it appears that my specs have decided that they don't want to sync anyway so unfortunately I can't tell you whether or not this 3D presentation is as mind blowing as we are being led to believe.

We are shown some clips from Battlefield, Just Cause 2, Batman Arkham Asylum, Super Sonic Sled (what?!), Tomb Raider Underworld and Metro 2033 which have all been given the 3D treatment.
We've already experienced some 3D gaming first hand here at the Expo with MotorStorm Apocalypse and Killzone 3, which Stu was highly impressed with.
This 3D is more about depth perception as opposed to things coming out of the screen at you which seems ideal for modern gaming.

Next up are some pictures of landscapes and popular landmarks that have been treated with the same effect.
Following this is a clip of some guy dressed like Jarvis Cocker who throws around some massive rolls of bubble wrap and a basketball game that is presented as being streamed from a YouTube-esque website.

At the end of the presentation the audience appear to be quite impressed with what they have seen.

Lights go down again.
We are being told we aren't allowed to film or take pictures. Bloggers ftw!

Tim Willits is joined by Senior Producer, Jason Kim.
Rage is the first new idSoftware IP in 10 years!

Tim talks about Wolfenstein (small clap), Doom (big clap) and Quake.
The progression of new technology is what pushed idSoftware into wanting to create something outside of the 'corridor shooter' but are still determined to keep to their roots.
'idTech5' is what is allowing new textures in Rage, giving it its unique look and style, stepping away from the same tired old environments. This tech is cross platform.

Rage takes place in the distant future after an asteroid takes out the earth.
The Eden Project (ughhh) put Arcs in the ground which are life supporting pods that were meant to emerge once the dust from the asteroid collision has settled but you are the only survivor fighting against 'The Authority'.

The demo starts in the wasteland about an hour into the game. Supplies are running low and it's your job to get more.
The environment looks very Fallout-esque but is well textured and the running is quite smooth.
You have your standard FPS set up with iron sights ability for precise aiming.

Vehicle driving switches to 3rd person.
'The Caprino' heavily armed with machine guns, rocket launchers and a massive ram at the front which enables you to bounce enemies cleanly off of your vehicle.
The vehicle is pretty quick and handles really well which allows you to turn easily and throw in a couple of drifts for extra awesome.

The town of 'Wellspring' becomes your home base or HQ and is the start of most of your missions, races, etc.

First loading screen: 1min tops

We are led into a bar and told that it's beneficial to the player to 'listen in' on what the NPC's have to say to learn more about missions and backstory.
Mini-games are prominent and allow you to earn extra cash. The one we are shown is called 'Tombstones' and is played with dice and little hologram characters.

There is an outfitters for your personal upgrades and a separate area for you to upgrade your vehicles for races.

We are shown an example of the 'listening in' benefits when we pick up a story about a mutant invasion.
An alarm sounds in the Wellspring office and we are led to go and help out. The mission is to kill the bandits and retrieve the toxin they plan to use to poison the water.
Our character, of course, is their 'only hope'.

Second loading screen: 1min tops

Jason Kim takes over.

Each new area gives you something new to play with, whether its a weapon or a piece of equipment.
Our character is given an electro bolt shooter, ideal for taking out enemies in a watery sewer.

A wounded NPC lets us know that there are bandits around the corner and they are taken out with an electro bolt, frying ala Bioshock. One hit kill in water.

Engineering items are obtained through schematics (*cough*Fallout 3*cough*), one of these we are shown is an RC car that explodes on the players command.
Another is the 'lockgrinder' which allows you to enter secure doors containing loot.
A personal turret is another which can selected via the d-pad for quick deployment. In the demo it is quickly knocked over by an enemy before it does any serious damage.

Jason proceeds through the level displaying some of the different weapons available, in this case, a machine gun, a shotgun and a magnum.
There is also a Xena/Dark Sector boomerang shuriken that can be thrown and even decapitate an enemy.

These bandits are fairly acrobatic but most can be taken down with a few rounds or a quick shotgun blast to the head.

We are shown a second group of enemies who take a bit more of a 'hack n slash' approach and run at you blindly with a variety of swords and clubs.

Another bit of tech is deployed which is a spider turret/sentry bot that runs along firing with its mounted machine gun and is used in this demo to flank an enemy.
Jason heads lower down into the level and after a few more bandits has an armoured 4x4 driven at him, with a mounted machine gun.

'The Dead City' is an old destroyed downtown area filled with mutants where no-one has ever returned.
Our character has been sent in to find out what 'The Authority' have been doing there.

We are back to an external area and are attacked by mutants which look a bit like skeleton/zombie pirates.
Same kind of combat style as the previous enemies but appear to go down a lot easier.

A monstrous mutant comes out armed with a grenade launcher and immediately opens fire, however his accuracy is appalling and he is taken down easily with 2 rocket launcher rounds.
However, an even bigger mutant comes stamping around the corner, Jurassic Park style, and roars as the demo fades out and the 'Rage' logo appears.

Available Sept 13th 2011 USA, Sept 15th/16th 2011 Europe

'Is that the biggest thing (mutant at end of demo) we encounter?'
One of the biggest.

'Melee weapons?'
Each weapon has melee capability, but no dedicated melee weapons (bar fists).

'Game tied to Doom or Quake?'
Quake, Doom, Fallout 3 easter eggs will be in the game but no direct links.

'Online co-op/MP'
Yes, there will be MP. Working on it right now. Want to make it unique so won't talk about it until next year but should be 'very different than anything we have done in the past'.

'Open world free roam game?'
Open but directed. Story arc/missions but side missions and odd jobs available throughout.

'Will Rage run in 1080p on the PS3?'

'Will vehicles and weapons deteriorate?'
Yes you will need to repair vehicles. No encumbrance.

'Will you have to drive and walk a lot, like in Fallout 3?'
You will ALWAYS have a vehicle available to you. The wasteland isn't huge.

'Will it be multidisc/DLC?'
Xbox 360 - 2 discs. No switching, just finish one then start the other.
PS3 - 1 disc.

'Morality system?'
Not really. Townspeople will comment on whether or not you did a good or bad job.

'What genre is this?'
FPS Action Shooter

'How long did it take to develop mega texturing?'
Started post Doom 3.

Definitely want to do DLC.

In conclusion, Rage is ideal for fans of Fallout 3/post-apocalyptic shooters but don't want to deal with all the vast travelling, weapon deterioration or encumbrance.
It looks and sounds great and hopefully it lives up to all the well deserved hype.

I know I'm definitely going to be picking it up.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Peter Molyneux Presentation - Eurogamer Expo 2010

Here we are in the front row for the Peter Molyneux Eurogamer presentation.

The queue was absolutely heaving so I'm going to be amazed if everyone got in but happy to see that Andy Farrant and Dan Maher are chilling out behind us.

The stage set up consists of a large projected screen featuring the EGE logo but you can definitely tell that Peter has put his touch in here.
One corner of the stage features a large tree with scattered rocks and rusted lanterns. The other a large well (which I am hoping will be were Peter appears from) with a suit of armour standing proudly next to it.
Stage centre however, features a throne, complete with footstool, table, pillows. A longsword is propped against the throne, presumably to deal swiftly with any hecklers that may have snuck in.

A series of costumed characters have appeared. Wenches for the win.

Two of the costumed characters in pirate attire are engaging in a sword fight. It's pretty damn funny.

A town crier comes on and introduces the presentation video.
Everyone seems pretty pumped as we are treated to a look back over the franchises previous titles and their commendations.
Peter Molyneux is introduced by the town crier and opens with a wanking joke in reference to his strapped up hand. Awesome.

Peter is talking about the conception of Fable, looking back to his days making Dungeon Keeper, which only a few people clap for surprisingly, and the ideas that came from what kind of game they wanted to make and their obsession with levelling up.
"Sleepy Hollow' was one of the inspirations for Fable & Albion, tying in with the dark fairytales of Old England, specifically those involving terrible things happening to kids...
'King Arthur' is the inspiration for the Guild, whose destined destruction in Fable II was planned right from the beginning of Fable I.
'The Picture of Dorian Gray' is the inspiration for 'morphing', the way your character looks pending on how good or evil you act in the Fable universe, taking this idea further in Fable II by extending these morphing features to your weapon as well as your characters physical appearance.

Molyneux admits that saying his infamous quote 'Fable is going to be the greatest role playing game of all time' was a huge mistake and the press & public were quite right to call him out on it, but is determined to strive to achieve this mission statement.

Being shown some of the concept art for Fable, including the Hobbes which appear to be the perfect incarnation of the Old England fairytale inspiration.

Molyneux talks about Fable II and the decision between sticking to the Fable I blueprint and adding more innovation.
They chose the latter...which is the dog...inspired by Mad Max 2.
Apparently, the dog was put into the game to make us care and bond about it. Personally I just wanted it to find me treasure.

Molyneux jokingly states how deeply wounded he is by those who state they started the game and never finished.
Fable II's ending is the influence for the beginning of Fable III. After the the feedback of Fable II's 'big decision' ending, a big decision is what opens Fable III.

Kill Bill's 'Crazy 88' scene is stated as one of the influences for Fable II's combat, specifically the one button combat.
Molyneux's annoyance for the difficulty of pulling off incredible looking combo moves in fighters is what inspired the one button combat (rhythmic tapping & holding to carry out different moves).

Robin Hood is what inspired the environment and story behind The Spire in Fable II, which apparently we haven't heard all of.

Molyneux tells us that female characters were included because of an awareness of that there was a large female fanbase for Fable.
He also tells us that his wife doesn't like Fable.

Molyneux tells us about a family in the USA who live their entire life as if in Albion.

Fable III's conception was started in 2008.

Ico's game design, specifically the touch feature, is what inspired Fable III's touch mechanic, a further idea into Molyneux's obsession with immersion and bonding with your character and the NPC's in Albion.
The period of Oliver Twist is the main inspiration for the setting in Fable III, the industrial feel that Charles Dickens portrays in his books.
Molyneux talks about how hard it is to not talk about the plot twist when you become King/Queen of Albion, hinting at the 'big decision' we had to make at the end of Fable II and how there will be more decision like this.

We are presented with 'Kingmaker', a mobile app.

You are placed into one of 2 factions, Rebels or Royalists, and you earn points by checking into locations.
Think 'Fable FourSquare'.
As a personal incentive, every time you check in to a location, you earn gold that can be imported into your Fable III game.
Molyneux talks about the possible inclusion of 'treasure hunts'.

'totally blown away...totally blown away....totally blown away...'

They are handing out t-shirts from the stage. I am stuck in my chair.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Halo Reach October update details

Hey Twiddlers!

Courtesy of www.zombiegamer.co.za, here is the list of updates you Reach fans can expect to see in October.

Playlist Changes

* SWAT Playlist added (SWAT removed from Big Team Battle and Team Slayer)
* Campaign Matchmaking (live on 10/15 – You will be required to have earned the Grade “Corporal” to enter this Playlist)
* Team Slayer rebalanced to highlight default Slayer game variants and include new offerings
* Classic Slayer removed
* Removed “Pro” game variants from the Arena Playlist
* Removed Boardwalk from Arena Team Doubles Playlist
* Added “Return to Battlefield” volume to Space on Zealot in the Arena Playlist

Game Variants Additions

* King of the Hill (multiple Playlists, including Arena)
* Rocket Race
* Juggernaut (Rumble Pit Playlist)
* King of the Hill not included in Arena

General Housekeeping

* Sudden Death will be added to all Assault game variants, including Invasion
* Team Objective will now feature the map Powerhouse
* Replacing Drop Shield with Evade for King of the Hill, Territories, and Oddball
* Replacing Hologram with Evade in Oddball, Capture the Flag, Assault, and Stockpile
* Replacing the Scorpion on Hemorrhage with Wraiths (Hemorrhage Heavies variant, TBD)

I'm pretty stoked to see SWAT get a playlist as I love playing SWAT but I know a lot of BTB and TS gamers get frustrated if they get stuck in a lobby with a load of headshot lovers.

How do you guys feel about the update?

Saturday, 25 September 2010

'Chuck Greene: Carrying bitches and kicking zombies since 2010' - A 'Dead Rising 2' Initial Impression

So I have just started Dead Rising 2.

I managed to score a copy of GAME's exclusive 'Outbreak Edition' by pure luck on the morning of it's release and what you get for the £60 price tag is pretty good.

I've bought Special/Limited/Collector Editions of titles before and have been massively disappointed with what I have received (I'm looking at you Fallout: New Vegas Collectors Edition with no exclusive DLC) but the initial shock alone of how massive the box containing all these goodies is makes you feel like you've gotten your moneys worth.

The 'Outbreak Edition' of Dead Rising 2 gives you a copy of the game; a 'Sports Fan Theme Pack' DLC code; a 'Tape It Or Die' booklet featuring combo weapon ideas; a bonus DVD featuring a 'Making Of' documentary & Zombrex 'Dead Rising Sun' film and the crowning jewel, a 12" articulated zombie figurine with servboat head and traffice cone.

I've named mine Duane and he's now chilling out with R2-D2 next to my TV.

I also managed to snag the 'Ninja Theme Pack' GAME pre-order bonus courtesy of the store manager, which I am yet to try out.

Following the advice of my lovely Twitter followers, I downloaded and played the XBLA prologue 'Case Zero' before getting knee deep in zombie guts in Dead Rising 2.
Despite a fair amount of reviews calling 'Case Zero' a glorified demo, I thought it worked well as a standalone title and at 400MSP you can't really argue.
Yes, it would have worked as the first level in Dead Rising 2 but it was a nice treat for fans to get an early taste of the game for a small price and was great promotion and hype for the release.

After two run throughs, saving all the survivors and getting Chuck to level 5 ('Case Zero's level cap) I decided that amateur hour was over and it was time to go pro.

So far I have racked up about 3 hours of play time and I can already start to see the positives and negatives of Dead Rising 2.

The AI seems to have finally developed a survival instinct and you no longer find yourself having to rescue them from an overwhelming horde of 3 zombies.
In fact, every survivor I have acquired on my travels will actively go out of their way to lay the smackdown on any nearby brain munchers and have gotten me out of a tough spot more than once.
Survivors have become a help more than a hindrance. Just make sure that you arm any that aren't already wielding one of the many weapons/objects made available to you.
My favourites so far have to Shewanda, armed with a crowbar and cussing out her cowering husband as she cracks another zombie around the head and Chad, armed with a shotgun, blasting his way through crowds of hungry shufflers looking for his trigger happy other half.

The combo weapons are the best thing about this game.
I was quite disappointed that after playing 'Case Zero', I wouldn't have the opportunity to 'tape it or die' until about 30 minutes into it's big brother but once the option became available, I was wielding baseball bats with nails in and 'laser swords' at every opportunity.
Using combo weapons give you a 'PP' bonus for each kill which makes levelling a lot quicker and easier (I am already level 7) and zombie slaying is much more fluid than wielding their uncombined components. I have even opted to use combo weapons over firearms which is a bit confusing at times as logic would permit that a gun is more powerful than a bat with nails in it.
My favourite combo weapon? Well I don't want to give anything away but..

The frequency of the cut scenes and loading screens have a tendency to break up the action.
In an ideal world, I would like to be able to cross into different 'sections' of the mall with my broom/machete combo still swinging without having to wait 10 seconds for it to load in.
More than once I have been unexpectedly attacked by a cutscene, some of which are, in my opinion, fairly pointless and could easily have been replaced by one of the in game pop up notices.
On some occasions there have been cutscenes into loading screens into another cutscene. It gets very frustrating.

The time frame Chuck is allocated to carry out the main storyline along with side missions is fairly unreasonable.
When the game hits you with your first task in the main storyline, you are instantly sent several side missions, each with similar time periods and at completely opposite ends of the map.
Now this may only be a problem for the completionists, which I am one of, but I even found completing the first chapter of the main storyline within the time allowance to be a challenge.
It feels as if the game wants you to only use these fantastic weapons to take out the few zombo's that stand directly in the way of your objective and you should just try and ignore the huge crowds just begging to be cut down by a lawnmower.

It's also pretty irritating that you always have to be back at the safe house between 7am-8am to administer Katey her 'Zombrex' when Chuck could easily give it to the several people looking after her to administer.
I say let the kid turn! If 'Shaun Of The Dead' has taught us anything, it's that having a pet zombie is awesome as you always have someone to play co-op with but I imagine a zombie child is twice as annoying as a live one.
'Katey got sent home from school today for swearing at the teacher' becomes 'Katey got sent home from school today for eating several of the other pupils'.
From a game point of view, I get what Capcom are wanting to do but logically it's infuriating.
Apparently decent parenting is still applicable in the occurrence of a zombie epidemic.

So far, Dead Rising 2 overall is a great improvement on its predecessor and despite a few flaws, is really great fun to play and I really can't wait to try the multiplayer and co-op features, which are a new addition to Dead Rising.
Rescuing survivors in Dead Rising felt like a chore but I would encourage you to gather as many as possible in Dead Rising 2 as they are a huge asset and sometimes even life saving.
I'm hoping that a 'Free Roam' will unlock upon completion where you can have the option to just wander around the mall enjoying your zombie lolacaust without having to worry about getting Hilda to her husband Brian at 'Casual Gal' before the time runs out and he disappears.

I'll be sure to let you know how Chuck and I get on.