5 Bold Predictions for Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto V is so close we can almost taste it. Not that you would want to but we sure as hell want to play it which we will be able to in a mere eight days. We know quite a lot about the game at this point if you've been following all the trailers and promotion from Rockstar but there is still an insane amount to this game that hasn't been shown. And that’s what I'm talking about today.

These predictions are all based from everything that has been shown by Rockstar and no other information. If any do turn out to be true it’s purely coincidental. Some are more believable than others and some I just wanted to have fun with, which you will soon find out. So here we go...

1. A part of the game will take place in a 'hidden area'

By ‘hidden area’ I mean somewhere we haven't seen previously. This one I have two theories for. The first is that Rockstar have been very careful with what areas of the map they have shown so far. This leads me to believe there could possibly be whole areas that will be accessible at all times that we are yet to see. The best evidence for this is a postcard which seems to read “North Yankton.” It shows snow which is something not seen anywhere else so far. It could just be a random postcard but as the rest are all locations we have seen, it is highly likely it’s in the northern region and could be a completely unseen area.

The other idea is that there could be a mission or section of the game where you travel to a new location for a limited time. Think the San Andreas mission where you fly to Liberty City only more fleshed out. With Liberty City already built in beautiful HD it wouldn't surprise me if it was used for maybe a flashback or something similar. More unlikely could be some potential heists that take you out of Los Santos for a big payday. Robbing the Malibu club in Vice City? Perhaps too good to be true but you gotta dream right?

2. Luis Lopez and Johnny Klebitz will return

So we know that characters from GTA IV can return but main characters are unlikely as their story has already been told. While the protagonists of the DLC could be considered main characters, overall their stories were still short and after such great success with them it would make sense for them to feature in GTA V in some sort of capacity.

Luis Lopez is quite hard to find motivation for moving to Los Santos as at the end of his story he was doing pretty well. He doesn't have a major reason to leave Liberty City except for maybe wanting to branch out and build his empire in other cities. Maybe Yusuf moved and recruited Luis for yet more lunacy.

Johnny Klebitz on the other hand makes a lot of sense. At the end of his story we see his chapter of The Lost motorcycle club all but destroyed and Johnny doesn't have any reasons to stick around. Maybe he decided to pack up and move to the west for the sun and sea and to maybe join a new chapter of the club. We've seen that The Lost definitely appear in the game in previous trailers so why not bring back Johnny for the ride.

3. Mythical Creature Hunting

So the Big Foot thing has been played to death over the years, but when it was first talked about in San Andreas it was pretty awesome. Some mythical creature out in the wild that people claim to have seen but there’s never any evidence, just like real life. While I think Rockstar are done with Big Foot after the Red Dead Redemption tribute, I do think something similar will arise from this game.

Also with hunting in the game and the phrase ‘hunt and be hunted by’ it makes all this stuff more plausible than ever. Of course it should mean dangerous animals such as bears and sharks but perhaps you encounter a random pedestrian who has seen something in the wild they would like you to take care of. It could turn out to be rubbish but the potential for mentioning more unique animals even if they don’t exist is too good for them to not at least make reference to.

With such a huge ocean to explore that could be where the great mysteries from this game come from. Imagine deep sea diving through multiple sea wrecks and caves to discover a huge Kraken at the bottom of the ocean. Even if there isn't one we can all go looking for it and thus the legend has begun. Everything starts with a rumor so go and find the Kraken already!

4. GTA Online will come to Xbox One & PlayStation 4 but GTA V won't be ported

OK let’s get serious now. While only announced for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 so far and the next generation consoles out so soon, GTA has to make an appearance one way or another. With the install base for the new consoles so low for the first year it makes perfect sense to release GTA V on current systems but soon they will want to get in on the new toys. The main reason I think this is GTA Online. This is the future of the series and if it stays on current systems it can’t continue to add and build new ideas. It simply has to at some point be available on the new consoles.

Due to it being free with GTA V it makes this whole thing rather confusing. The easiest solution would be to port the whole game over but Rockstar don’t just re-release the same product with a new price tag. Rebuilding the whole game for the systems wouldn't be worth the time which could be spent on developing the next game in the series. So if you only move GTA Online, it won’t come to Xbox One and PlayStation 4, with or without GTA V.

5. Grand Theft Auto V will be released on PC within the first half of 2014

This is a pretty easy and safe one but I thought I should talk about it anyway. PC gamers are already becoming frustrated with knowing if the game is coming or not and have even started a silly petition to bring it over. Just relax, the game will come. It makes more sense for Rockstar to concentrate on the releases that will make the most money first and get GTA Online up and running and then they can talk about it coming to PC when it is not going to be filled with bugs and glitches.

I really don’t think we’ll see it this year so I think by the first half of next year at the latest. Rockstar like releasing in the Easter period so I believe that’s when the game will release, maybe to coincide with a DLC release. My random guess is April 29, 2014, so put it in your diaries PC gamers and if you really want to play it before then I suggest you invest in the eight year old outdated hardware that will be getting this incredible game before you.

So that’s it. A more light hearted feature with the launch looming so close. If you missed my other GTA features you will find the links at the bottom. See who the top characters are as well as the best missions from the series so far.

Top 10 GTA Missions

Top 10 GTA Characters

Top 10 GTA PC Mods


Can Sam Be The Top Dog Once Again?

One of the longest running and most popular stealth series is back. Sam Fisher returns after arguably his strongest performance so far in 2010’s Conviction and looks to improve even further on the formula. But can such an incredible game be topped? While not as innovative as it’s predecessor, Blacklist is still a very strong stealth game that earns it’s right to be called a Splinter Cell game in almost all areas.

The story sees a group of terrorists known as ‘The Engineers’ start a sequence of attacks on the United States they call ‘The Blacklist.’ These attacks will continue unless the government agrees to remove all of it’s overseas troops from all the countries they are currently in. Sam and his team are given the small task of stopping the attacks and finding out who ‘The Engineers’ really are.

While the initial premise and motive for the attacks is good and based on real life events, it unfortunately can’t build upon a strong start. The further you get into the story the less involved I felt and for the most part it was a typical spy story. This isn't entirely a bad thing as it does the job of putting you into many different and fun stealth scenarios, but it definitely lacks the ‘personal’ touch of Conviction’s story that really made me care about what was happening.

Gameplay for the most part is really solid and fun. The level design is great and very diverse with a bunch of different locations to explore. The best parts are when it was just straight up stealth, sneaking from room to room in darkness without the enemy ever knowing where I was. It is classic Splinter Cell and as rewarding as it has ever been.

There was a few areas of the gameplay during the campaign which I was not so happy with however. Some parts require you to play as a first person shooter which I just found completely pulled me out of the experience. They weren't fun at all and is the complete opposite of what I want the gameplay to be in a Splinter Cell game. Also using UAVs from the sky and a gadget called a Tri-Rotor just seems so out of place and something more at home in Call of Duty.

Outside of the main campaign is a ton of optional missions which provide many more hours of gameplay. Most can be done in either solo or co-op (one group of missions are co-op only) and are given the same level of attention that the main campaign got. Being able to play with a friend is really great and totally changes how you approach a level. It is a shame the whole game can’t be played this way.

The collectibles are pretty interesting and add to the experience. Laptops and dead drops provide the usual collectibles, but special enemies you must take down as hostages is a very cool idea and changes the way you play certain areas of a level. You have to make the choice of maybe picking the harder option to get your hostage and weigh that up against just avoiding it and picking the easier option. This level of choice is really great to have.

One of the main things the game likes to emphasize is play styles. There are three available which are Ghost, Panther and Assault. Ghost means you try to not be seen at all and you can engage but in a non lethal way by knocking out enemies. Panther is the same but you can use lethal methods such as guns. Lastly, Assault is when all else fails and you end up shooting everything in sight like a maniac.

This is great as it really lets the player play the game however they want to. You can even play the whole game as Sam Fisher and not kill a single enemy which will please the hardcore community. In theory it is perfect but unfortunately doesn't work as great as I’d hoped in execution. It can be kind of confusing as to what the game considers for each play style and is frustrating when you think you done enough to achieve that perfect score for that play style and see the game thinks otherwise. Also the moments I mentioned earlier when you don't play as Sam stand out even more when you’re forced to kill which goes against everything this feature stands for.

The other part of the package is the return of Spies vs Mercs mode for competitive online play. Having been notably absent from the last game, it is great to see the mode back in full force. It can be kind of unbalanced at times and is undoubtedly more fun to play as a Spy, which can make the experience not as good as it could be. While it is not something I personally want to spend hours getting good at, it is still a really fun mode that many will fall in love with all over again.

The games ties all these modes together really well in the form of the Paladin, the base of Sam’s team which also happens to be a large military aircraft. By accessing a world map you can choose to engage in either story missions or the optional missions at whatever pace you so wish. Fancy a game of Spies vs Mercs? No need to back out to any different menus, that’s right here also. You can also buy upgrades for all your weapons and equipment as well as upgrading the ship to unlock even more goodies such as new gadgets and gear. It really ties the entire package together in a neat and tidy way.

Before diving into any mission you can equip the right gear for the specific job and change difficulties with ease. Finding it too easy or hard? No need to start an entirely new play-through, everything can be replayed at any time without losing any of your overall progress. This means that you can obsess over one mission for hours without going any further if you want the top score out of all your friends, something that game likes to remind you on a frequent basis.

There really is a ton of content here which makes the game well worth it’s price tag. The campaign is designed for multiple play-throughs with it’s emphasis on mastering different play styles and the extra fourth echelon missions add even more to the experience. Multiplayer on top of this could add hundreds of hours if that’s your thing but even if you never touch it you will still get a very impressive bang for your buck.

Technically the game is very impressive and nice to look out. While most of the game is played in darkness, it still looks good even though not as impressive as it’s predecessor. I suffered zero glitches or frame rate issues on the Xbox 360 and overall did not encounter a single problem of note. With a game so finely balanced, even the smallest problem can ruin the experience and thankfully Blacklist passes the test.

Splinter Cell is definitely in the elite for stealth games. In a genre which I think is very hard to execute and can fail very easily, Blacklist absolutely pulls it off. Not as innovative or impressive as Conviction (and personally not as satisfying as Hitman Absolution), it still should be played by anyone who enjoys the slower, stealthy approach to action games. Sam is not pushing the boundary as much as before, but he can still hang with the best of them.


Top 10 Grand Theft Auto Missions: The Sublime, The Creative and The Insane

Ready for another GTA top 10 list? You better be as quickly following on from the previous features I am now focusing on the lifeblood of any GTA game. The thing that makes the experience what it is. The thing that makes you want to replay the game over and over again.

I'm of course talking about missions. Without them you still get the awesome open world and get do whatever you want it it. But sometimes it’s the more scripted events in the series that provides some of it’s best ever moments. So let’s get to it, what are the best GTA missions of all time?

10. Give Me Liberty (GTA III)

Whilst there are way more fun, unique and interesting missions on this list, there is absolutely none more important than this one. After loading up GTA III for the first time and watching the opening cinematic, you are then thrown into your first ever experience of a 3D GTA mission. All the mission consists of is driving to a marker on the map but this is the mission that started it all. Purely for historical importance this mission had to make the list just to show you how far we've come when you play the crazy 3 protagonist controlled heists of GTA V. You've gotta start somewhere.

9. Dropping In... (The Ballad of Gay Tony)

This mission is included for how just plain fun it is. Extra marks for creativity, this could have just been a traditional go here, kill the target, escape mission. Whilst this is still fundamentally what it is, the way in which you can execute the mission shows that Rockstar still know how to have fun. First you jump out of a helicopter and parachute on top of the building the target is hiding in. After going down a few floors and emptying the rooms you come face to face with the target. After disposing of him (which can include throwing him from the building and watching him fall to his death) you then must make you escape. Seeing as your target managed to leave the building pretty quickly via this method you jump out of the window and instead of falling to your death, pull out your parachute. If you can land on the flat-bed of your getaway vehicle you are good to go and feel like a bad-ass in the process. Just a perfectly put together sequence and a real joy in open world mission based gameplay.

8. Get Lost (The Lost and Damned)

GTA finale missions always have a big impact as Rockstar do seem to try and save the best to last. This shows in our first (and definitely not last) finale mission to make the list. Breaking out of prison is a popular storyline for any crime fiction but what about breaking in to kill your nemesis? This mission has all the hallmarks you would want including exploring a new area, mass shoot-outs and explosions and a final confrontation with the antagonist.

7. Saint Mark's Bistro (San Andreas)

This is probably the most unique mission on the entire list and there really hasn't been anything like it before or since. If having three entire cities in the biggest GTA game to date wasn't enough then why not fly a plane and revisit good old Liberty City from GTA III. Of course it wasn't the whole city but just a very small, restricted area to explore but even so it was awesome to see something like this happen and it’s crazy that it hasn't been done since. Imagine in GTA V, you decide to take the heists outside of Los Santos and fly a plane to Vice City to rob the Malibu nightclub. People would lose their minds. And Rockstar are definitely crazy enough to pull it off.

6. Keep Your Friends Close... (Vice City)

Another finale mission and this time it’s the end of Tommy Vercetti’s story and the final stand he must take to seize total control of the city for good. This is one of the biggest homages Rockstar have ever done and if it wasn't obvious before how Scarface influenced the story then it was after you took a last stand at a very familiar looking mansion.

5. The Job (Vice City)

The first heist mission to make the list and one of the first and still best heist missions in GTA history. Vice City was full of homages and this time Killing Zoe was the film of choice. Whilst this mission was the heist itself, this wasn't a stand alone mission. Previously you had to recruit your team which included finding a safe-cracker, getaway driver and gun support. The build up to the mission and then pulling it off really created a sense of accomplishment and showed that GTA can do more than just a traditional escort or murder missions. Heists make for such an incredible setting for a GTA game and I’m really glad they have a heavy focus in the upcoming game.

4. Three Leaf Clover (GTA IV)

Another heist mission and this time it’s by far the most memorable mission from GTA IV. What made this mission unique is that it ties together many of the plot threads throughout all three stories told in the GTA IV world. Both Niko and Luis are present during the diamond robbery and then later Johnny gets involved as the fight for control of the diamonds after the robbery continues. Much of GTA IV felt kinda scaled back but this mission is absolutely everything that makes the series so great. It’s worth playing the game just for this mission alone.

3. End of the Line (San Andreas)

Another finale and the best of the series so far. The conclusion to CJ's story wasn't going to be anything but epic and the closing moments really ended the game perfectly. It had mass shoot outs, stealing a SWAT tank, dealing with a former ally turned enemy and even chasing after a fire truck with your brother hanging off the back. The demise of Officer Frank Tenpenny was apt for what he had done to the city and wrapped up the saga nicely. Epic, exciting, fun and worth the wait, a finale has never felt this good.

2. Black Project (San Andreas)

I love this mission so much. If flying to Liberty City was creative then how about breaking into Area 69 and acquiring a top secret government project? Given by The Truth who specialises in epic missions this was undoubtedly his finest hour. After a nice choice of either sneaking into the facility unnoticed or going in all guns blazing, you find exactly what you were looking for. And it turns out to be a fully working jet-pack. Nowadays it would be out of place and something more suited to Saint's Row but at the time it was something that Rockstar do still do, completely and utterly unique and unexpected. Whilst another jet-pack would seem weird in GTA V, who knows what will be the equivalent that surprises us all over again.

1. Breaking the Bank at Caligula's (San Andreas)

Seeing as heists are one of the main plot lines in GTA V, it was only fitting that the biggest and best heist in GTA history topped the list. Robbing from stores or banks is cool but nothing beats breaking into a huge casino from Las Venturas. Once again you had to meticulously plan the job beforehand and then it was all the fun of executing the job. The getaway included jumping off the roof as police choppers surround you and parachuting to safely before fleeing in your own chopper. This heist was so good and will be hard to beat in GTA V, it really makes me think that the team will look to steal outside of Los Santos for a really big final pay day.

Those are just some of the best missions ever and in reality there were many more that could have made the cut. Vice City had all the film studio missions which were incredibly creative such as dropping fliers over the city in a dodo. Or driving a limo transporting Lovefist which had a bomb on board. Also San Andreas had the craziness including burying men alive in a portable toilets by pouring cement over the top, Zero's RC missions in his ongoing battle with Berkley or stealing the 'green goo' for The Truth using your new jet-pack.

With GTA V on the horizon, I have even more features lined up including some predictions on what may transpire in the new game. If you missed any of the previous features you'll find them all in my blog so you better get ready as the next generation of Grand Theft Auto will soon be amongst us.

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Top 10 Grand Theft Auto Characters: Who Makes the Cut?

It is time for even more GTA content to entertain you with in anticipation for the biggest release of the year, Grand Theft Auto V. Of course the reveal of GTA Online will be on many people’s minds currently with the first video and previews all coming out this Thursday. But before then it’s time for another list that highlights the best of previous GTA games. And this time we are talking all about characters.

Characters are a hugely important part of any GTA game. Sure, if the gameplay is fun and the missions are great then you can overlook the occasional bad one. But a great character makes everything else that more enjoyable and can really tie together the story and the gameplay. We have had a huge array of different protagonists and supporting cast so far, and with 3 unique protagonists in the upcoming game, GTA V looks to continue this tradition. So let’s get started on our top 10 Grand Theft Auto characters and see how many of your favorites are or maybe are not included.

10. Yusuf Amir

Previous Appearances: The Ballad of Gay Tony

Voiced by: Omid Djalili

Kicking off the list is a comedy relief character from the most recent piece of GTA content. Yusuf Amir is one of the main mission givers in TBoGT and provides great entertainment throughout. An eccentric billionaire Arab, Yusuf optimizes everything there is about the Liberty City playboy lifestyle. He loves painting things gold such as his phone, an uzi and even a Buzzard helicopter and really likes listening to ‘Arab Money’ by Busta Rhymes.

One of the best parts about Yusuf is that his ridiculous personality means the game features some rather ridiculous and over the top missions, something that was completely missing from Grand Theft Auto IV. Whilst only brief, Yusuf left such a great impression on me that I really hope he pops up in GTA V one way or another. Who knows, maybe he needs a golden yacht delivered to his new residence in Los Santos. We can only hope.

9. Johnny Klebitz

Previous Appearances: GTA IV, The Lost and Damned, The Ballad of Gay Tony

Voiced by: Scott Hill

Another character from the fantastic DLC for GTA IV, this time its our protagonist from The Lost and Damned, motorcycle enthusiast Johnny Klebitz. Johnny was an easier character to digest after Niko as he has pretty simple morals and goals in his life. By no means a saint, Johnny does not screw with people that don’t having it coming to them. He will stay loyal to those to are to him and will eliminate anyone that gets in his way.

Johnny did not have the happiest ending to his story, with the Alderney chapter of The Lost MC club ultimately destroyed but there could be more to him yet. We have already seen graffiti of The Lost MC club appear in GTA V and with his own chapter destroyed could he have relocated to Los Santos? I think there is a big possibility he may have.

8. Salvatore Leone

Previous Appearances: GTA III, San Andreas, Liberty City Stories

Voiced by: Frank Vincent

Salvatore Leone is the ultimate crime boss in Grand Theft Auto history. Playing a prominent role in three games, he has been involved in more organised crime than anyone else in franchise history. First appearing in GTA III, and ultimately meeting his fate to our protagonist, that did not stop him popping up in later games set before and helped flesh out the character even more than we first thought.

While there is zero chance of a return, Salvatore Leone makes the list for being such an important part of the 3D universe of games. The first family of GTA organised crime and undoubtedly the best, no one has done it better since. Salvatore will be remembered for many years to come.

7. Ken Rosenberg

Previous Appearances: Vice City, San Andreas

Voiced by: William Fichtner

Like Yusuf previously, Ken Rosenberg provides the laughs during his starring role in Vice City and small part in San Andreas. A smarmy lawyer with an addiction, he is the butt of the joke most of the time and is constantly worrying about everyone who wants him dead, which is a list that increases by the day. If it wasn't for Tommy Vercetti, I doubt Ken would have lasted as long as he did.

Ken was one of the first real funny characters in a Grand Theft Auto game and his legacy has continued even if he is no longer present. Yusuf as I mentioned was similar and it looks like Trevor will be providing many laughs in a more dark and twisted style in GTA V. While characters may provide more than Ken let’s not forget how important he was for the series at the time.

6. Catalina

Previous Appearances: GTA III, San Andreas

Voiced by: Cynthia Farrell

Everyone has that crazy ex girlfriend who is slightly insane and just doesn't know how to let go. In Catalina’s case, she pushes this to the very limit with not one but two of our protagonists. Later she features in San Andreas that further solidifies her mental state after leaving CJ for Claude but it’s her starring role as the antagonist in GTA III that gets her a place on the list. After betraying us in the opening scenes it becomes instantly clear what our motivation is and without Catalina the drive to progress the ranks of the criminal underworld just wouldn't have been the same.

What’s sad is that Catalina is also the only female to appear on this list. While that shows how Grand Theft Auto really does lack strong female characters and with the next game having three protagonists, it’s a real shame one of them wasn't a woman this time round. Though on the other side it does show how great Catalina really is and hopefully one day there will be another woman in the franchise as badass as the first lady of GTA.

5. Lance Vance

Previous Appearances: Vice City, Vice City Stories

Voiced by: Philip Michael Thomas

So far we have had great antagonists, protagonists and even comedy characters, but now it is time for something different. Lance at first appears as a pretty trustworthy character, one whose motivation is honorable. Avenging his brother’s death. But as we gain power in Vice City it seems that Lance wants the same thing, and there can only be one big dog in this city. And Tommy has no intention of backing down.

Lance had a lot of personality and his passion for coming up with one liners are still quoted today. His relationship with Tommy is very interesting as it ultimately ends in betrayal and is still rather unique for the series so far. Don’t be surprised if something similar pans out in GTA V, as even though Los Santos is a big place, will any of the guys be happy to share?

4. The Truth

Previous Appearances: San Andreas

Voiced by: Peter Fonda

While The Truth may not be as important as other characters on the list or a have bigger role, he is still absolutely awesome. It is hard to explain what is so great about this character except that it just worked perfectly. He wouldn't work in any other GTA games but he completely nailed everything that was great about San Andreas at the time. He was funny, original, unique, weird and most importantly involved in so many great missions.

Whether it was stealing a combine harvester, burning down his weed farm before the cops arrive or even breaking into Area 69 to steal one of the best things to ever exist in GTA history. No one else comes close to The Truth in terms of fun missions provided and shows how much a character’s personality can influence gameplay. Whilst there is zero chance of him returning, I pray for some sort of miracle as only having this character appear in one game is an absolute travesty.

3. CJ

Previous Appearances: San Andreas

Voiced by: Young Maylay

While CJ is quite a basic character in theory, telling the usual rags to riches story, he is still very memorable. Everything around CJ became increasingly ludicrous and he still managed to stay grounded and somewhat realistic. Sure, doing some of the random missions in a faint attempt to save his brother does seem kind of silly but at least his motivations were pure and his voice performance was spot on.

CJ was a yes man and was one of the least involved protagonists as it seems everyone around him progressed the story. But without CJ we would not have Grove Street, Tenpenny, and everything else that his story contained that made San Andreas still the best GTA game to date. So far anyway.

2. Officer Frank Tenpenny

Previous Appearances: San Andreas

Voiced by: Samuel L. Jackson

Frank Tenpenny is a dying breed in the Grand Theft Auto games for many reasons. Voiced by a famous movie star, something which Rockstar now shy away from, and a pretty typical villain in every sense of the word. He does not try and be something he is not and from the first time we see him to the last he acts exactly the same. A corrupt police officer who uses everyone around him to get what he wants. Tenpenny is the enemy you must destroy and is one of the biggest driving forces in any GTA game.

Having a recognizable voice made the performance even better as we knew what the character was capable of from our preconceptions of the actor. While I agree casting unknowns for the most part helps you believe the characters more, in this case I can’t imagine anyone else playing Tenpenny with the amount of charm and arrogance that was needed. Here’s to the best antagonist in GTA history.

1. Tommy Vercetti

Previous Appearances: Vice City

Voiced by: Ray Liotta

Who else could it be? Over ten years on since his only appearance, fans still adore Tommy Vercetti and his magnificent performance as our fantastic protagonist in the 80’s love letter, Vice City. Tommy epitomized everything about the era fantastically and following his rise from backstabbed gang member to kingpin of the city is still the best story told so far.

Voiced brilliantly by Ray Liotta and a perfect fit for Vice City, Tommy is a true one of kind in the GTA universe. The fanbase is so big then when we first got a glimpse of Michael in the first GTA V trailer, many hoped it was Tommy that would be returning. We know now that is not the case, but with Michael being a part of a witness protection scheme, don’t completely disregard the theory yet. Just put the chances of it happening at around 1%.

And there we have it. Of course not everyone’s favorite characters can make the list, but I imagine most shockingly for most is the exclusion of Niko Bellic. I liked Niko and had him narrowly missing out on a spot, but ultimately I just found other characters more entertaining and interesting. Maybe Niko can win me over if he pops up again in GTA V. Just please don’t spend all your time bowling with Roman this time.

I'll be continuing this series as I still have plenty more GTA features lined up before the big release rapidly approaching on September 17th.


Speculating Grand Theft Auto Online: What Do We Want?

With Grand Theft Auto V coming out next month, many different parts of the game have been shown and talked about by Rockstar Games so far. We have seen gameplay, learned about our new protagonists and seen a lot of the new map. But one thing that has not got much attention so far is the multiplayer component. Referred to as ‘Grand Theft Auto Online,’ we know that details are coming this month and many hope the reason Rockstar have been so quiet is because they are preparing something big.

Continuing my series of GTA focused features after I previously highlighted my top 10 PC mods (which you can still check out here), now it is time for the focus to solely be on multiplayer. More information is just around the corner, but before we get all the juicy details why not speculate on what we hope GTA Online will include and go over the little information we know so far? After all, speculating about what’s coming in GTA is half the fun. So let’s start with what we do know.

The first mention of Grand Theft Auto V’s multiplayer came during promotion for Max Payne 3 back in March 2012 when Dan Houser was talking about how crews will work in their upcoming games. He confirmed that the crews you make will work in Max Payne 3 and also carry over for use in GTA V. So how could this work in GTA V? Obviously having your own group of friends you play with regularly is already a stable of online multiplayer, but with crews you get extras rewards for doing so. This could equal more cash and in game items to use in GTA Online. Another potential use of crews brings me onto something I hope to see play a big part in GTA Online, heists.


We know that heists play a huge part in single player, so it would only make sense they are present in multiplayer also. Being able to perform a diamond robbery with a group of friends online would be fantastic, with each person designated with their own job such as getaway driver, crowd control etc. You could also have a mode similar to ‘Cops and Robbers’ from GTA IV where one team must execute the heist with the opposing team playing as SWAT who have to stop you. The possibilities for clever online heists alone could make for a fascinating and unique take on open world multiplayer.

So what would be the point of these heists? Well seeing as the story is about chasing the almighty dollar, so should the multiplayer. Earning cash could be how you level up similar to GTA IV but you also get to spend this hard earned cash on numerous goodies to make your online friends jealous. We know that unique vehicles will feature in GTA Online as one of the Collector’s Edition bonuses includes a Khamelion electric car for your own garage. This means personal garages and safe houses could also be something you can purchase and maybe even customize to stand out online.

Anyone for 18 holes?

Free roam has to be available in some form as it provides players with their own playground to do whatever they want in the game. Unfortunately, in Grand Theft Auto IV it was quite boring but this time around I hope this is changed. Everything that you can do in single player except for missions should be available in free roam. Hunting, golf and tennis as well as all other side activities would be fantastic to be able to play online and maybe even random encounters and everything else that makes GTA so great. If these things are not in free roam it makes the city seem dead and uninteresting to explore for hours on end with your friends. Hopefully there will be reasons to just explore the world with other players when you don’t feel like diving into one of the competitive game modes.

Another option for free roam or maybe even it’s own mode would be the idea of a territory based mode. Similar to the end of San Andreas when you had to take over local areas by fighting the opposing gangs, a similar system could work for crews online. Fight and beat a crew to take over their territory but be careful as behind your back another crew could be taking one of your own areas. This could add to the safe house idea as some areas would be more desirable than others and if you wanted the sweetest penthouse online you will have to fight for it.

Niko vs Tommy

Something else that has been mentioned is the Online Character Creation System as the Collector’s Edition of the game will feature “Classic GTA characters” to use as your online avatar. This should refer to a deep character customization like that in many games where you can fully create and edit your character including their appearance and attire, something else to spend your money on. The inclusion of classic characters is great and hopefully nearly every character from past games will be available to chose from in some sort of capacity. Having a shootout between Tommy Vercetti, CJ, and Niko Bellic would make things way more fun than just three random pedestrians.

A more ambitious and unrealistic option for GTA Online could be perhaps the inclusion of entirely new areas. It is not called GTA V Online and as we know that the game is set in Los Santos and the surrounding areas, can the same be said about the multiplayer? The glimpse we saw was clearly in Los Santos, but that does not mean it can’t include other areas. It has been a long time goal of Rockstar’s to make the ultimate open world online experience, where you can take a plane and fly to your favorite destination whether it is Vice City, Liberty City, or one of the cities from San Andreas. While this probably won’t happen in GTA V’s multiplayer, don’t be surprised if they take their first step forward in this direction with GTA Online. And with the new consoles that can heavily rely on the cloud, this future for the series could be closer than you think.

Multiple Cities?

Since GTA IV there have been two online offerings from Rockstar in the form of Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne 3. While MP3 was the tightest and most fun multiplayer they have achieved so far, it did suffer from connectivity issues for a while and with GTA V being way more popular I hope a similar episode will be avoided. From their three previous attempts we can see that Rockstar definitely have a specific way of doing online for their single player games and haven't strayed away from the same formula so far. Hopefully they add something new this time around rather than the usual deathmatch offerings. While these games have not reinvented the wheel, they still are very fun to play indeed and they could do a hell of a lot worse than follow the same routine again.

So there we have it. Just a few ideas and expectations on what I hope to see when GTA Online is properly shown off in hopefully a matter of days. Of course one of the best parts about Rockstar as a company is that they are completely unpredictable and always somehow manage to surprise and please it’s fans. Whatever GTA Online turns out to be, I know I will be playing it for a very long time indeed.


Bioshock Infinite: Clash in the Clouds DLC Hands-On

Clash in the Clouds is a hard proposition to sell to people who aren't necessarily fans of Bioshock Infinite for it’s combat and nothing else. A wave based horde mode for only 1 player that gets increasingly harder designed to be played numerous times to master. Many will be immediately turned off by this, and that’s fine. With the story focused Burial at Sea also coming, feel free to give this one a miss. But if you are really into the combat of the game like myself there is some fun to be had here, though it’s still nothing you haven't seen before.

The DLC consists of 4 different maps based on locations around Columbia with 15 waves to beat per map. The objective is to survive all 15 waves and get the best score possible. Dying will result in either restarting from the beginning or forfeiting your leaderboard score to continue, unless you spent some of your hard earned cash on a revive which become increasingly more expensive per use.

To mix things up, each wave contains a unique Blue Ribbon Challenge. This is where things get interesting. Challenges range from quite easy (kill all enemies from Sky Lines) to the insanely difficult (defeat a Handyman without shooting it’s head or heart). Completing a challenge will net you with even more points and cash which can then be spent on more weapon/vigor upgrades in between waves.

The simple concept does work rather well. As you get set the challenge before you start the next wave, you can plan accordingly in the armory and get the right equipment for the job. The problem is that the challenges get so hard that after playing through each map a few times I can already tell which ones are doable and which would take more time than I’m willing to invest to achieve.

Another problem is that you can’t restart any wave at your leisure. For example, if you only need the Blue Ribbons for waves 12 & 14 you will have to restart from wave 1 and work your way back to wave 12 before you can attempt it again. If you fail, it’s back to wave 1 and working all the way through again. If you could restart from any wave from the menu it would make this easier but the current system means you have to waste so much time just to play the parts you want, which is a bad way of doing things. As someone who beat the game on 1999 mode and got every achievement, I won’t be going after every Blue Ribbon unless they patch in the ability to retry any wave once you've completed it once.

The other part of this DLC is the hub in which you can access the 4 maps. Instead of jumping into combat, you can enter an interactive museum called The Columbian Archaeological Society which features a whole host of interesting goodies for you to spend your money on. You can purchase character models so you can get up close and personal with Songbird or a Handyman. Unlock concept art, listen to songs from the game and even view unseen audition footage and unused Kinectoscopes cut from the original game.

The museum is awesome and it’s a shame it’s only got 35 items to unlock as this is what Infinite super fans will absolutely love. Purchasing two of the more mysterious character models from the game will unlock you access to an area Booker visited briefly in the main game and you get to explore and pick up 5 new Voxophones which I assume were cut from the main game. They provide more back story on certain events and made the museum easily my favorite part of this DLC. Also, once you have beat the 4 maps once there is a rather strange easter egg that appears in the museum. I won’t spoil it but it will make more sense I imagine once Burial at Sea arrives.

A small random irritation I had was how Elizabeth is presented in the DLC as she almost serves no purpose. She is needed so you can still open tears during combat and to provide health/ammo to aid the player. But seeing her just randomly walking around, even in the museum, and never speaking was very odd to me.

Overall, this DLC is a hard one to judge. For a relatively low price point (400 MS Points/$4.99 or free with the Season Pass) there is definitely some fun to be had. Plus if you are interested in the next DLC then buy the Season Pass to get those two cheaper and this one free just to pass the time until then. It’s nothing to get excited about and isn't anywhere near the greatness of the full game but it is more content and for now, it’s all we have.


Top 10 Grand Theft Auto PC Mods

While Grand Theft Auto V is still 46 days away, the excitement is already building among fans. To get you ready for release, I will be bringing you many different features on the series and revisit all of our favorite parts of the franchise so far, as well as looking forward to the future. But before we go into more serious topics we will be putting the spotlight on one of the more light hearted areas of the series, mods.

The modding scene has been huge for GTA games on PC for a while and it lets the fans go crazy to do whatever they want. From the ridiculous (Angry Birds character skins) to the incredibly impressive (entire new areas), mods add another level to the games which many will be happy to never even touch upon. So before we dissect the best that Rockstar has given us for the series, let’s run down our top 10 favorite mods that fans have created over the years.

10. Back to the Future DeLorean

This one you've probably seen even if you’re not into the mod scene as it’s pretty well known for being such a simple concept that was executed perfectly. It’s all of the little things together that make this mod as great as it is. Complete with Marty McFly skin, fully detailed DeLorean, on screen HUD and once you hit the magic speed you disappear complete with fire trails. Pretty epic mod. Check it out in all it’s glory below. Doc would be proud.

9. Crimson Mecha

Ever wanted to stroll around Liberty City in a giant killing machine? Well now you can with this mod that gives you control of a huge mech that fires multiple rockets whilst walking and jumping around, causing an insane amount of havoc. This is the type of mod that is great for people who found Grand Theft Auto IV too serious as it’s way too ridiculous for Rockstar to ever include, so the community has made it for you. Enjoy.

8. Batmobile

There are probably more vehicle mods out there than anything else and this is the only one to make the list. It made it because what’s cooler to drive around in than the freaking Batmobile? There isn't anything. You can also get the Tumbler from Nolan’s trilogy, but the model from Tim Burton’s films still looks fantastic today. Now we just need a full Batman mod that turns Liberty City into Gotham City.

7. Millennium Falcon

Need I say more? This mod’s only downfalls is that it doesn't have any sort of weapons and can’t enter warp mode for obvious reasons. But it is huge and come on, it looks pretty epic.

6. Iron Man/Hulk/Superman

I decided to bundle these together as a sort of superhero special, but even individually they are still a lot of fun. With this mod, you get one step closer to an open world superhero game which let’s you just cause as much havoc as you so wish. Superman in particular complete with a flying mod is just incredible. Reminiscent of the jet-pack in San Andreas, being able to traverse the city at such speeds is awesome and would make for a great cheat for Rockstar to include themselves in Grand Theft Auto V.

5. Titanic

The king of all ships had to make an appearance sooner or later. The level of detail in the interior and even working chimneys makes this better than your average mod. It’s a shame you can’t actually move it but the size would make it almost impossible. A nice touch would be some funny Easter eggs relating to a certain iceberg but that would make this more of a joke than it is, which is a faithful recreation of the famous ship.

4. From the Earth to the Moon

Another mod that requires many elements which when put together creates a fairly unique experience. Firstly, there’s the rocket ship which is used to leave Liberty City as you slowly make your way into space. Then there’s the new detailed moon complete with an alien ship behind it. Space travel in GTA? Why not.

3. Gravity Gun

This is a very fun tool that shows why everything is great about the modding scene. Not just some new skin but a weapon that actually adds an entirely new gameplay mechanic to GTA IV. It’s completely ridiculous and ludicrously fun and just great all round. More of this please.

2. Bigfoot

The most nostalgia filled mod on the list, this will only be awesome if you were around when San Andreas was released and everyone was obsessed with trying to find the mythical Bigfoot. Even though he never existed (or did he?), the impact this had was so big that Rockstar themselves even made reference to it in Red Dead Redemption. This mod let’s you finally get that battle we wanted with Bigfoot in the woods of San Andreas. And he won’t get down without a fight.

(Skip to about 3 minutes in for Bigfoot action)

1. GTA IV San Andreas

There are way more funny mods out there. There are also more unique mods but this one is so impressive just for the sheer amount of work that went into it. This mod brings the entire San Andreas map into GTA IV, running on the RAGE engine. Similar mods for GTA III and Vice City also exist but this one dwarfs them all and is a truly incredible feat. This goes beyond most mods that are designed just for 15 minutes of fun. This is a love letter to an incredible game made by people who clearly care about the project. Just bravo.

So there it is. The first feature in a series focusing on a selection of our favorite parts about one of the best loved franchises in video game history. Soon we will also be bringing our lists of the best characters, missions and more from the previous games as we look towards the future of the series. I will have plenty more content to help the unbearable wait as the release of Grand Theft Auto V draws nearer.

[Originally posted at Entertainment Fuse]


The Future of The Last of Us: Where Can It Improve?

So The Last of Us is finally here and it seems like everyone is pretty damn impressed. The game is currently the highest rated release of the year so far according to Metacritic. It also seems to be selling incredibly well and looks like it may end up as the best selling PS3 exclusive behind Gran Turismo 5. This undoubtedly means we will get a sequel on the PlayStation 4, but after such a strong first offering, how can Naughty Dog improve? I have a few suggestions.

The survival horror elements of this game were my favorite part of the gameplay. Early on when you find yourself entering darkened rooms, sneaking from wall to wall, desperately trying to avoid making any sound not to alert any nearby clickers is fantastic. The thrill of slowly sneaking behind someone only to shiv them in the neck is the type of violent stealth I haven't experienced since Rockstar Games' Manhunt. Unfortunately after a strong start these moments become few and far between.

As you progress we are heavily pushed into more and more gun battles with other survivors. These encounters are still fun, but carries none of the tension of the early sequences as the game seems to forget about these survival horror scenarios and almost turn into a cover based shooter if you are ever seen. Next time make the whole emphasis on these moments and keep the gun battles to a minimum. This game shines when the gameplay is as far away from Uncharted as possible.

Speaking of enemies, another part which can be improved upon is the variety you encounter. Outside of clickers which are absolutely terrifying, the other enemies just aren't as good and there are enough of them. The bloated enemies suck so remove them and add some completely different ones. Perhaps some that are incredibly fast, an enemy that suicides near you to cause damage or even more intelligent infected that are closer to other survivors. The possibilities are endless.

Now let's talk about stealth. Early on I became increasingly frustrated with the stealth elements which was mainly due to the AI of Joel's companions. Tess would just randomly start shooting enemies and alerting my presence to infected and also bump into them and do the same thing. However once it was just Joel and Ellie it actually worked rather well. I was able to beat entire sections without being seen and that felt awesome.

However some sections seem to be designed to be played as a shooter. Particularly the final sections are almost impossible to play entirely through stealth which is a shame. I don't think this game should be 100% stealth, I love that the game mostly gives you the choice. Just makes sure that choice is always there. Also regarding the stealth, listen mode is another thing I have a problem with.

For a game that strives for realism constantly and pretty much always nails it, this feature seems so out of place. Of course you don't have to use it but when its there it is extremely hard not to. It is not explained in the narrative why a guy can see someone's movements through walls just by sound and ultimately completely kills the tension you would have had when sneaking around, not knowing what's around each corner. In short, get rid of it entirely.

With the game being all about survival and in a lot of ways having some very hardcore game mechanics, one disappointment is how little the penalty for death is. If you die the game will restart at basically the exact same spot, with the same amount of enemies and with all of your resources intact. Due to this, you can play the game via trial and error and even though the characters fear for their life, the player doesn't fear the consequence at all.

Changing this in the next game I believe would be a huge improvement. Maybe don't have so many checkpoints to look after the player so you don't feel like you're missing out on anything by dying. If you have to restart from an earlier point it would hype up the tension considerably and would keep within the tone of the game much better. You could even remove all checkpoints entirely and rely only on save locations. Something which would annoy many, but as a fan of the old school games in this genre, I think it would be a breath of fresh air.

Something which hasn't been getting a lot of attention, but has been received well by players is the surprising multiplayer. Not just adding a tacked on Deathmatch mode like Tomb Raider did (and failed), what we get is somewhat unique. The overall metagame is very interesting and something that makes you want to keep playing beyond the usually leveling up. The modes themselves though could do with some more depth.

Extra modes in the next game would go a long way in improving upon a solid foundation in a sequel. Perhaps a mode where you and your crew enter a village to hunt for supplies whilst an opposing team of survivors try to stop you. Also everything you earn gets converted into medicine currently which helps keep you clan healthy. The option to chose what to spend match earnings on such as medicine, new weapons or food would also add another level of resource management which could be a fascinating twist on the regular multiplayer format.

Finally I want to touch on the story. This is arguably the hardest part to improve upon as it is already so strong. But where do they go next? Naughty Dog have said that this game tells Joel and Ellie's story and doesn't need to be expanded upon. This of course could change and after the phenomenal success of the game it would be crazy to abandon such strong, well loved characters after one game.

Of course the other possibility is to go like The Walking Dead and make the series about the setting, and that each game tells a new story within that setting. This could happen but I still think its doubtful. So many people would be disappointed if Joel and Ellie were completely absent so who knows where the next game will end up. Maybe they could show more of the initial outbreak and fill the 20 year gap between this event to where most of the first game takes place.

Really this has to be Naughty Dog's hardest task in their history in trying to expand upon what is arguably their best game to date. Whilst it didn't have the same impact as The Last of Us, when the first Uncharted was released many did question how it could be improved. Then Uncharted 2 came out and absolutely blew it out of the water in every area (and still Naughty Dog's best game in my opinion). If anyone can achieve this task, it is Naughty Dog. And I cannot wait to see what they come up with.


What On Earth Happened to 'The Getaway' Franchise?

Many of you may not have even heard of The Getaway before. And hopefully many of you will be like myself and have fond memories of the series but wonder where it seems to have disappeared to this generation. It’s actually one of Sony’s best exclusives in my humble opinion and should be involved in today’s battle for open world supremacy. Let me give you a quick history of the series and then talk about why I believe this franchise could make big moves for Sony on the PlayStation 4.

The original is born...

The Getaway first arrived on PlayStation 2 in December 2002 (January 2003 for North America) and was developed by Team Soho, who I will talk about later. It was an open world crime game (or “GTA clone” like many of these were coined) set in a gritty and realistic London. Featuring real licensed cars and shops the game had a sense of realism unseen previously in the genre. Mechanics such as car indicators showing you where to go and increased blood to the player to indicate health kept the screen clear of HUD options resulting in a cinematic experience. The game had a fantastic story that was told through two different characters that you control which intersect over time till they finally come to a massive conclusion involving a ticking bomb aboard a huge ship.

However the game wasn't without it’s problems. Many didn't like some of the mechanics with the driving in particular being quite frustrating at times. The game was also quite short in comparison to similar games but overall the way the game impressively captured and recreated a real life London to explore was remarkable. Having been already hit with an 18 month delay it felt like it was still rushed for release and you really have to wonder what could have been if the game was given time for extra polish.

Another unfortunate problem was the timing of release. Coming only one month after Vice City the game was always going to suffer after players have been spoiled with such an incredible game in the same genre. Surprisingly though from the numbers I can find it sold unbelievably well. According to Sony in January 2005, it sold 3 million copies. That’s a fantastic number and makes it one of Sony's best selling console exclusives. Granted games sold more last gen but Sony would absolutely kill to have one of their games do those sort of numbers nowadays.

Sequels are all the rage...

Everything seemed to be set up perfectly for a sequel, and that’s exactly what we got. The Getaway: Black Monday arrived in November 2004 (January 2005 in North America) but unfortunately couldn't improve upon what we had already seen. The mechanics were unchanged, the story at least tried to be different with multiple endings but wasn't as engrossing as the original. The city still looked amazing as ever but it really felt like they thought they could release the same game again after how successful it was and people would still enjoy it.

The sequel unfortunately couldn't better the original

The biggest problem however was once again the timing. Released a mere one month after San Andreas, the best selling PS2 game of all time and regarded by many as the best in the genre, Black Monday was destined to fail. I can’t find any sales figures for this title but something tells me it was very poor after a hugely strong start for the franchise.

After a spin-off PSP title that wasn't an official The Getaway title called Gangs of London, many wondered if a third title would ever surface. At E3 2005 a demo called Piccadilly Circus showcased the tech behind what would be making The Getaway 3 and it looked fantastic. Any more news of the game went cold for a while until it was then reported that the game was cancelled in June 2008. Then in October 2009 we hear the game isn't cancelled but ‘on hold’ for the foreseeable future. Since then we hadn't heard anything about the game until someone asked Shuhei Yoshida on Twitter if the game was still in development, to which he replied “No” on April 9, 2012. So what happened? To get some context let’s take a look at Team Soho who developed the previous games.

Studios merge and projects fall...

Having created the first game the studio was merged into Sony’s London Studio which they were then a part of when they made the sequel. The studio is responsible for some huge financially successful games for Sony including EyeToy and the insanely popular SingStar games. Most recently they created Wonderbook last year. According to reports The Getaway 3 and Eight Days, another announced action third person game were cancelled so they could concentrate on other projects. Due to how much money the other games bring in for Sony it’s no surprise they were seen to be not worth the time especially after Black Monday seemed to underwhelm in sales.

Another aspect to this story to consider is that of the first game’s writer and director, Brendan McNamara. Many will recognize this name after he hit headlines concerning the work conditions at Team Bondi, the company he founded, as they cranked up for the release of L.A Noire. Afterwards the company folded and since then many former employees including McNamara started work on Whore of the Orient which was announced for next generation consoles. However last month the game was reported to still be seeking a publisher and after the ordeal behind their last game became public, that could be a difficult task. So where does all this leave The Getaway franchise.

Could The Getaway 3 help build the PS4?

It’s actually all rather quite messy and muddled right now. Of course Sony still own the IP but seem to have no intention of releasing a new title, which I think would be a bad idea. The Getaway could be a big hit for the PlayStation 4 for many reasons. If you look at the huge success of Saints Row: The Third and even Sleeping Dogs it’s clear that games in the genre without GTA in the title can do very well. What’s important here is that all these games are multiplatform titles with neither console having their own exclusive title to show off. If Sony come out with a new The Getaway which blows everyone away and says its only available on PS4, that could be one of their biggest draws for potential buyers. It doesn't suffer sequel fatigue like many franchises this gen yet isn't a complete leap of faith by Sony as the first game proved that the audience is there.

My dream scenario would be that Sony have hired Brendan already to head up development on the new title and that’s why Whore of the Orient seems to be on hold. Even without his involvement the game could still be the ace up the sleeve for Sony this year and I really hope the series doesn't get buried for good. This franchise is too unique and special with a clear hole in the market for Sony to exploit for them to not use it in the upcoming console war. Here’s hoping we will be cruising the streets of a beautiful HD London on Sony’s new console in the near future.

The original protagonist Mark Hammond exacting his revenge


State of Decay Review - A Full Open World Adventure for a Budget Price

Everything about State of Decay screams survival. Whether its trying to help fellow survivors so you can recruit them, scavenging for food and ammo or just running for your life from a zombie horde whilst your character slowly runs out of stamina. This isn't your typical zombie game where you constantly feel powerful and almighty. This is the end of the world as we know it and if you are to survive you will need to constantly fight and plan your every move or you will end up as someone's dinner. And there ain't no coming back from that.

State of Decay is an open world zombie game in the same vein as DayZ but is strictly a single player experience. This adds to the tension as you don't have a team to rely on in bad situations. If you mess up, you're going to have to deal with it. If your characters dies, they stay dead. Permanent death is here but you can go and loot your dead body to retrieve any items or weapons you had at your unfortunate time of death, after you have switched to another one of the survivors in your group.

Controlling your character is easy to pick up and intuitive. Within no time at all you will know how to run, attack, change weapons, loot houses, creep, and take down zombies in all manner of horrific and satisfying ways. Car controls are slightly awkward and with each vehicle only taking a certain amount of damage, it does stop you feeling invincible which happens in similar games once you acquire four wheels.

Graphically the game isn't the most gorgeous you have ever seen but definitely holds it’s own and is even more impressive for a downloadable title. Unfortunately the visuals are slightly marred by a few glitches such as texture popping which is frequent when travelling by car as the world takes time to catch up with the player. On top of that the usual open world jank is present here in full force. Zombies clip through walls and disappear whilst cars can sometimes hit invisible walls. Nothing gamebreaking but just general small things that can sometimes frustrate and distract you from the experience which for the most part is incredibly enjoyable.

The variety of weapons is good with a vast array of melee items to use. Guns are also present but the shooting mechanics aren't the best so I would recommend sticking to hand to hand combat as it is more satisfying to play this way anyway. The option of crafting weapons like Dead Rising 2 would have been nice especially as you are constantly collecting materials but you will have to settle on the weapons the game gives you. These also degrade over time and you can’t repair them so you will have to change weapons frequently.

Story is also something this game lacks as it doesn't really have one. Other than the initial premise of trying to figure out what’s going on the story isn't anything other than these characters trying to survive. Whilst this does reiterate the importance of survival, establishing a relationship with the characters would have meant losing someone would have had more impact rather than just losing a number from your base.

The world itself is fantastic. Completely nailing that broken down society look that every apocalypse game tries, it feels like you are exploring what used to be a functioning community before the undead appeared. Broken down cars, skinned animals and devastation everywhere, really adds to the overall dread and tone of the game. It feels like you are exploring a town in The Walking Dead and that is a great thing.

The different objectives you are set include taking out zombie infestations in houses, helping other survivors and the occasional more meaningful mission but do lack some variety. After doing the same thing multiple times it can become tedious and a more diverse selection of objectives would have been nice. One of my favorites was when one of my group got infected and I had to take them away from the group and ‘execute’ them. These type of moments unfortunately aren't frequent enough.

Heavily present is the reliance on resource management. You constantly have to worry about the morale of your home base which is decided by many factors including having enough beds for everyone so they don’t get tired and agitated or having enough food so people don’t get hungry. If you are running low on a certain resource then you have to go out and find out.

This can become very stressful as the demands of your group never slows and the larger your base becomes so does the problems that come with it. It’s very realistic and trying to survive in this situation wouldn't be enjoyable but in this case it would have been nice if everyone pulled their weight and you weren't in charge of absolutely everything.

Stamina is something you have to keep an eye on as everything you do whether it’s run or fight will drain your energy which you can refill by eating a snack or just waiting for it to refill automatically. This adds another level of tension as you really don’t want to be stranded with no stamina in the middle of nowhere.

One time I was exploring a house for resources with a character I had spent hours with and a zombie horde come flying in out of nowhere, which was absolutely terrifying. I was in a small bathroom area and had to dropkick zombies and jump out of the window to barely survive. I was so worried about losing my character I had spent hours leveling up and it felt so awesome to survive that situation. These unscripted, unique moments are what make this game special.

There are also many different types of zombies to keep you on your toes during the adventure. “Screamer”s will make you temporarily immobile as well as making your presence known to the surrounding area. Big Uns can absorb a lot more damage and will charge you frequently. But by far the hardest and most annoying is the “Feral” zombies which move incredibly quickly like cats and are incredibly strong. Word of advice, if you encounter one on your own and are low of health/stamina, try and get the hell out of there as fast as you can.

A very nice touch is a bunch of different references and Easter eggs to other zombie media that is present in the game. Whether it’s the name of specific achievements or in game weapons it really does draw a wry smile if you are big into the genre. I won’t ruin any of them but I have to mention my favorite was after I first moved my home base I ended up living in the “Savini Residence.” If only Tom had been there ready to help me on my zombie killing quest.

The game costs 1600 Microsoft Points which puts it on the high end of downloadable titles alongside Minecraft and the first season of The Walking Dead. With Minecraft being the most popular XBLA game to date and The Walking Dead being many people’s GOTY last year, is this game also worth that price? I think it absolutely is. If you compare it to say Dead Island Riptide, which was a full retail release, this is a way better experience and costs far less. This game deserved the spotlight of Summer of Arcade and hopefully without that push and the high price point this will still find it’s audience.

The amount of content of offer here is huge. Having spent already 16 hours with the game and really feeling nowhere near bored, it is almost unrivaled in replay value for an XBLA game. Whilst the price is high compared to other downloadable titles they could have easily released this as a retail game and it wouldn't have looked out of place on the shelf.

What is most refreshing is that this is a hardcore, uncompromising game that is so unlike most games released today. You are given almost no tutorial after being immediately thrown into the action and have to adapt to the world all by yourself, just like the characters. This game does have a few technical problems that are easy to criticize but there’s a certain charm that you can only see once you have played it that cannot be described. Once you start playing you will find it hard to put down. Rewarding, addictive and unique gameplay make this one of the surprise hits of 2013.

The groundwork established in this game is the formula for the perfect zombie game. If they fix the few problems, add in encountering other human players online, and expand upon this concept they could have something very special on their hands. However for a first attempt this is still a fantastic game that sets the standard for how deep a downloadable title can be. The best XBLA game of the year so far is a treat and should be played by all zombie lovers immediately.