Mattallica's Top 10 Films of 2013

I’ll try and keep this brief as we are already into 2014 so I’m slightly late finishing this list. Unlike my top 10 games where I’ve pretty much played everything I was interested in, I haven't had the same luxury with films. Most have only had a cinema release in 2013 and without being available on Bluray yet I could include them on next year’s list but as they were officially released in 2013 I’ll just give them a name check now. I am yet to see Machete Kills, Gravity, Oldboy, Anchorman 2, Don Jon & The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Also, a couple of these films were released in 2012 in US but I assure you in the UK where I live we had to wait till 2013 for these fantastic films. Anyway, let’s finally start the list!

10. Bad Grandpa/Metallica: Through the Never

Yep, I’m breaking my own rules straight away by including two films into 1 entry but it’s the only time I’m doing it for either list so deal with it. I only watched both these films in the past week and are both related to things I personally like a lot. I’m a huge Metallica fan (see the username) so it’s obvious I would enjoy this concert film and I’ve loved Jackass my entire life. The “Old Man” sketch was one of my least favorite throughout the show’s duration but this is still great. Any new Jackass related content I will take and this is definitely the funniest it’s been so far. It’s also more heart-warming than you would expect and some parts made me cry of laughter. OK, now that weird entry is out of the way the real list can start.

9. Star Trek Into Darkness

I was never remotely into Star Trek and have only seen the two most recent films which is probably why I enjoy them so much. I’m a huge J.J Abrams fan and I just think they are super fun action sci-fi films. I really like the cast and some of the sequences in this film are incredible. Special mention has to go to one of the best actors around currently, Benedict Cumberbatch who kills it as Khan and completely steals the film.

J.J is the only guy that could get me interested in Star Trek and any new Star Wars films for that matter. With two great films so far under his belt and the huge task of the directing Episode 7 up next I am fascinated to see what he comes up with.

8. The Class of '92

This one is pretty niche if you aren't from the UK or aren't into football (soccer) but if you are it’s pretty much a must watch. A documentary that details the story of 6 young footballers who grew up together and achieved unprecedented glory in the game. Being a Manchester United fan it was always going to resonate with me and the subject material is perfect for a documentary.

As far as documentaries I don't think it is particularly well made. A great documentary can get you interested in something you had zero interest in beforehand. This film won’t do that. But if you are into the subject it’s great and definitely worth checking out.

7. Pain and Gain

Easily the best Michael Bay film I’ve ever seen. And easily the best performance from The Rock who is equally hilarious, scary and sympathetic. Mark Wahlberg is also fantastic and overall I was so surprised with how much I enjoyed this film. I really enjoy the subject matter of 80’s body-building and the story is ludicrous and over the top which works perfectly as a comedy story.

Criticism of the film was that it portrayed killers based on real life people as funny, loveable clowns. I don’t agree as I know this isn’t a documentary trying to tell a real story. Sure, its based on real life events but that's just the starting point to create a fiction film. I was thoroughly entertained and will watch again many times for many more laughs.

6. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

Another film that won't resonate that well outside of the UK. I’ve been a huge fan of Alan Partridge for years and talks of a film have been ongoing for as long as I can remember. Based in my home town of Norwich, Partridge is something of a local legend and the wait for a film was definitely worth it.

Most admirably I liked how the film doesn't rely on old jokes or fans knowing the character inside out. It works as a self contained story if you've never watched Partridge before as most comedies take the easy way out which they certainly did not do here. Long life Alan Partridge.

5. We're the Millers

This was definitely my biggest surprise of the year. Having seen the trailer and thought it looked great I heard that the film wasn't so good. I decided the trailer was strong enough to still give it a watch and was completely shocked with what I got. I don’t know why this wasn't better received as I thought it was completely hilarious. I actively dislike most comedies these days such as the awful Hangover films but this is exactly what I wanted. It doesn't take itself seriously, has a nonsense story which only serves for comedic purposes and does not run for 30 minutes too long.

The performances of all 4 actors are very solid with the chemistry between them all great for the story. Particularly that of the seemingly perfect Emma Roberts who I have to give a name check to for continually being awesome in everything she does. If you just want a flat out funny comedy like the ones of the 90’s that I feel are a dying breed these days, you could do far worse than giving this one a try.

4. Wreck-It Ralph

Yes this came out in November 2012 in the US but in the UK it didn't arrive until early 2013 but was worth the delay. You've probably heard of this film so I don’t really need to add much. What I really liked is that it has the foundation of all my favorite animated films, a great story. Many animated films can be funny but rarely do they have a solid foundation when you strip away all the jokes. It’s what makes the Toy Story films so perfect. This is similar and deserves to be watched whether you are a kid, super into games or none of the above. Just an all round great film.

Also, as I mentioned I haven't really liked comedies the past 5 years or so but this year was fantastic. Half of this list can be considered comedies and that’s a huge trend which I hope continues in 2014.

3. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

What a film this is. An Unexpected Journey narrowly missed my top 5 last year (it was 6 when I wrote the list) but after watching it multiple times this year and reading the book I was super hyped for the film. Overall it’s very good but what makes it shoot up this list is the last 45 minutes. When the attraction that everyone has been waiting for hits the screen, Smaug the magnificent, I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. I don't think I exhaled for the entire final moments of the film and the ending was perfection.

Having only seen the film once at cinema, I cannot wait to relive it multiple times this year on Bluray before the trilogy ends this December. Peter Jackson’s middle earth films are one of the best achievements in the history of film and this was a worthy instalment.

2. Evil Dead

Finally a horror film! I’m insanely into horror and this has been a truly horrendous year for the genre, which I’ll get into at the bottom. But Evil Dead was a shining light which stood out amongst utter garbage. Being a huge fan of the original, this project could have went wrong in so many ways. In the end I think they made the best Evil Dead film that is possible and if I have the option now to watch any, this is my favorite of all entries.

Well written, finely acted especially by Jane Levy who is just incredible and some amazingly orchestrated gore makes this by a mile the best horror film of 2013. Fede Alvarez deserves huge credit and I hope he stays in the genre with something original for his next project. I don’t think they should do a sequel as this is perfect the way it is but whatever happens next, this film deserves every single bit of praise I could think to heap on it.

1. Django Unchained

Feels like a lifetime since this came out. Released January 2013 in the UK, this is another film that it seems silly to try and add to what has already been said. For me personally Tarantino is the reason I studied film for 5 years and every time he releases a film it’s unlike anyone else in the industry. I don't think this is remotely his best film but Tarantino is on another level to 99% of directors out there.

Compared to how long the ideas for his previous films took to marinate in his mind before release, this film was almost an afterthought. It shows that whatever he comes up with, its guaranteed gold. Special mention to Leonardo DiCaprio who was once again snubbed for an Oscar (funny enough this time by a co-star). Fuck those guys, you are one of the best actors of your generation.

Quick mention to some films I enjoyed that narrowly missed the list which include Now You See Me, This is the End, Olympus Has Fallen & Monsters University. The worst film I saw in 2013 was without a doubt Kick Ass 2. Complete trash. Also, I mentioned it being a poor year for horror as I was really disappointed with many horror films this year. VHS made my top 5 last year and I was underwhelmed with it’s sequel. ABC’s of Death had a great concept but was a chore to sit through in the end. I love Rob Zombie but Lords of Salem was bad and You’re Next which I waited two years to see was my biggest disappointment of the year. I really hope 2014 is a better year for the genre but until then I’ll just keep watching Martyrs. It’s the best horror film of the year no matter which year you watch it.

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Mattallica's Top 10 Games of 2013

I've been updating this list throughout the year as I've played each game so should be a pretty accurate representation of my favourite games. Also there's usually a bunch of games I'm interested in that I didn't play but I mostly got to play everything this time. I don't have a Wii U so I unfortunately can't judge Pikmin 3, Wind Waker HD and Super Mario 3D World and on the new consoles only Dead Rising 3 has my interest so far. And I only just got Pokemon Y so can't really place that either and still need to finally jump into Fire Emblem: Awakening at some point.

Also after reading other lists I think my choices consist of mainly "obvious" (probably because they're good?) games and some that people either loved or hated. If you want to learn of some crazy obscure game you have never heard of then I'm sorry but these are just the games I enjoyed the most. OK? OK, let's go...

10. Batman: Arkham Origins

I had insanely low expectations for this game going in which probably helped me actually enjoy it. Yeah it's nowhere near as good as Asylum but it's still got really fun gameplay and the story was very unexpected. The initial plot wasn't that interesting and the developer really kept a lot secret. If you don't know what this game is about then definitely give it a go because the story is a hell of a lot better than what the pre-release talk focused on.

It's the first Arkham game that I didn't feel the need to keep playing after the story and get all the collectibles but for just a stand alone, linear experience I had fun for the game's duration. Some of the boss fights were also excellent and actually better than most from the previous games. In short, this game is probably better than you would expect but still not as good as it could have been.

9. Gears of War: Judgment

This game gets a lot of hate and some is warranted but definitely not all of it. It's the worst Gears' game so far, but it still contains the best cover based shooting mechanics in any game, a very enjoyable campaign that's nonsense but super fun when played with friends and the multiplayer is hit or miss but I'm glad they at least tried something different instead of releasing the same game yet again.

No Horde mode really sucks and the new multiplayer ideas are good but unfortunately not as good as anything previously. In spite of all this I still played this game for 100 hours. I love Gears for its gameplay and it's still by far my favourite game to play with friends. Even though I'm a huge fan of the series I would be happy to see it retired for at least 3/4 years then maybe revived if any new ideas come up. If not, I thoroughly enjoyed the trilogy and Judgment was still fun even if it wasn't as great as previous entries.

8. Beyond: Two Souls

Oh Beyond: Two Souls. I don't think I've played a game that I believe deserves such differing opinions before. I've heard valid arguments that this game is garbage and many complaints I don't disagree with. But there's also plenty of things I love about this game in spite of its obvious flaws. I really did like the story for the most part even though some of it is nonsense and really liked the themes of afterlife that it brings up.

My favourite section was without a doubt the homeless scene where you must find your own way of acquiring food for the night. It made me feel completely in the character and I 100% believed the situation I was playing. Overall I'm just glad games like this exist. Anything so divisive and opinion splitting definitely deserves to be played, even if it is to just see which side you end up on. You may be surprised at what you get with this game. I know I was.

7. State of Decay

Even though I was impressed with the early showings of this game, playing it was still a great surprise. Sure, there's the typical open world sort of jankiness but if you've played enough games to overcome these slight issues, hidden away is a really fantastic game. I loved the look and feel of the game which was genuinely tense at times, something that Dead Rising (a game I really enjoy) has always lacked.

I sometimes forget this wasn't a full release because it really doesn't feel like any other XBLA game I've played. Now it's on PC and an MMO sequel that will eventually come to Xbox One, I'm really glad this game did well. Microsoft criminally under market their games and without the push of Summer of Arcade this could have easily flopped so it's great to see the audience react so well. Definitely give this game a try if survival open world zombie-ness is your sort of thing.

6. Guacamelee!

This game is such a delight. I was bored one Friday and decided to check the PSN for something to play and saw this as a new release. I had heard good things but didn't know how it played or what it was about. I decided, what the hell, let’s check it out. For the entire weekend I couldn't stop playing it until I got the platinum trophy. Gorgeous to look at, great sound and one of the tightest controlling games I've ever played made this such an awesome experience.

Since that weekend I haven’t gone back to the game at all after mastering everything there was to do. I definitely want to go back but the first time of learning and unlocking all the new mechanics that completely change the way you play the game was just astounding. The combination of platforming and fighting with the same controls was special and the game slowly got more challenging without ever becoming frustrating. Just a completely unexpected all round fun experience that is unlike most games I've played before.

5. Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon

The year of Luigi’s biggest highlight. All jokes aside, this game is fantastic. The fact that Nintendo has franchises such as this or Kid Icarus that they can revisit from their past at any time makes them unlike any other developer out there. The tone of this game from the start is fantastic with Luigi playing the scaredy cat rather too convincingly at times and the use of 3D environments is by far the best I’ve seen since Super Mario 3D Land. The level design and puzzles are excellent and the way each mansion offers up something new each time keeps things fresh for the entire duration.

I enjoyed my time with this game so much that to try and prolong its length I even found every gem and collected the Boo ghost in every level. What felt rushed and underutilised on the GameCube has found it’s perfect home on the 3DS and I really hope this isn't the last bit of ghost busting action we see for Luigi. Even if his year of glory has come to an end.

4. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

This was the latest addition to my list. I started playing on Boxing Day and for the next three days I could not put it down. I've finished it now but am going to try and collect anything I missed and probably going to start a new game via Hero Mode. Having never played A Link To The Past there is no nostalgia present here for me personally. It was a brand new experience that was so much fun, it's easily one of the best handheld games I've ever played.

I loved the combat, the way you can tackle the dungeons in any order and the puzzles are genius. The wall merging mechanic is so clever and completely changes the way you approach the game. It was one of the only 3DS games I've played with the sound and 3D turned all the way up as both play an integral part in the experience. The 3DS has one of the best games libraries currently across all platforms and this may just be it's crowning achievement so far. Now give me Majora's Mask 3D please.

3. The Last of Us

These next 3 games are almost impossible for me to separate as they would all make my top 10 games of all time list for sure. TLoU is getting many awards for all the things it does so well by so many. Story, characters and visuals are some of the best I've ever experienced in the medium. But I do think a sequel could be better which is why it only makes my number 3 slot.

I loved the early combat sections of the game. Stealthily sneaking around in the dark to avoid clickers, occasionally having enough resources to build a shiv and then choosing the perfect moment to use your only weapon. It was fantastic survival horror. Then the game became more of a blockbuster by forcing me to fight humans with guns, filling areas with enemies and became like Uncharted with no ammo. I'm not sure why this happened but a sequel with the emphasis on stealth and avoiding combat whilst also facing infected far more than other survivors would be a huge improvement. Considering Uncharted 2 was 1000 times better than the first game I know Naughty Dog can improve upon an already incredible formula.

2. Bioshock Infinite

I really, really wanted to give this game my number one spot and if it was released any other year except 2013 or 2010 it would have destroyed the competition. From the initial reveal trailer that trolled everyone by thinking we was returning to Rapture only to then show you this incredible new world I was blown away. Finally playing the game lived up to my expectations and more. I personally loved the story as I'm a big fan of time travel/multi-verse craziness even if it doesn't totally make sense and I had zero problems with the combat like so many people have cited. It's by far the most fun I've had playing a FPS, the combination of Vigors and guns is more enjoyable than ever and with the Skylines thrown into play to create speed and verticality to each environment, it was a total blast.

The performance and characterisation of Elizabeth is one of the best in any game and Columbia might be my 2nd favorite video game world I've ever played in. The opening of the game is so well constructed from the beginning in the boat till the moment you first see Columbia in the clouds, the sound and reworking of popular songs is just beautiful and Songbird is just so freaking cool. I've beat the game 3 times and just talking about it makes me want to play it again. Quite simply the reason I play video games is for experiences like this that no other medium can replicate.

1. GTA V

I've wrote an obscene amount about these game over the past two years I really don't know what else needs to be said. I looked forward to this game on a daily basis from the second it was announced and my expectations were that it would be the best game ever made and more importantly my favourite game ever. It is neither of those things (San Andreas will always be that). But what we did get was probably the most impressively created world to explore in any video game.

I did have some problems with the story and characters, the online component reached nowhere near its potential yet and I've haven't played the game for a month. But I still put in 200 hours so far, 100% the game within a week of release and am still astounded every time I see Los Santos in its all beauty from the seat of my blimp. Such a visually impressive open world game on old hardware with an unrivalled amount of content is a feat that 99% of developers are simply bedazzled by. If you can only play/buy one game this year, this would have to be the only choice.

Its been a strange year for me with so many conversations regarding GTA, it's like the whole world talking about your family all of a sudden. I sometimes forget being in my superfan bubble that GTA is such a huge franchise that everyone has to have an opinion on. Maybe 2014 will be the year when most fanfare has died and I can go back to just discussing/playing the game with fellow crazies like myself in the bubble again until the next game comes out and everyone jumps on the bandwagon. Until then, I will continue playing GTA V for a very long time indeed and I hope it holds up as well as the PS2 games that I still play to this day.

And that's that. Overall I think it may be my favourite year of video games for a very long time. My top 3 as I mentioned are some of my favourite games ever and I don't think they'll be a strong a year for what I like personally for a very long time. I will post my top 10 films shortly (within the week) so look out for that one also. Hope you enjoy, until next time...

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All That Remains: Was It Worth The Wait?

The difficult second album. Trying to follow up from something so loved is one of the hardest things to pull off in any medium. The stigma of whether you can continually reach the same level or whether it was just a fluke can be a very scary task. Expectations for Season 2 of Telltale Games' The Walking Dead couldn't be higher after the studio wowed us and picked up numerous awards for its first season in 2012. With a whole year of waiting beforehand, I couldn't wait to dive back into the world to see if lightning could strike twice for the series. And as far as first steps go, this definitely met my expectations so far.

After a quick recap of the first season we are thrown straight back into action however this time we are in control of the little girl we were first tasked with protecting, one little girl named Clementine. Make no mistake, Clementine is the star of the show here and Telltale know this. Putting her front and centre makes perfect sense after we established such a strong connection with the character and as soon as you start playing this episode you will remember all the struggles you went through previously.

The series is famous for it's gut wrenching, shocking moments and this episode certainly has its fair share of them. From the get go you will be tested mentally and will once again have to make difficult decisions under immense pressure. This is what the game is built upon and is still as powerful and meaningful as ever before.

There was however one section which I didn't feel had the same level of emotion as the rest. It involves Clementine coming across an animal and from the start it's inevitable which direction this storyline is heading. I felt it was cheap as its much easier to develop relationships with animals rather than humans in a short period of time and I felt it only served to give us yet another gut punch which was unjustified in the grand scheme of things.

Overall the game is incredibly tense at times and the sound design is excellent. It sets the tone perfectly and nails the setting of the universe. The episode features some action sequences which were very hit and miss previously but are definitely more fun to play this time around. They control similar to the combat scenes in Beyond: Two Souls, where you push the stick a certain direction to dodge that direction which works very intuitively.

I played through the game on Xbox 360 which is where I played all the previous content and my save file with all my previous decisions loaded fine. The game is still slightly laggy at times which was my biggest complaint with the last season which is slightly disappointing. It isn't immersion breaking but it can occasionally take you out of the experience. I hope it gets fixed in the upcoming episodes but considering its always been present I guess it's just something you have to deal with.

Towards the end of the episode there is a stealth section where you must sneak around a house to acquire different materials you are after. You can approach them in any order you like and the whole thing feels very tense as you crept past open doors as Clementine, worried you will be caught at any second. This is a completely new element to the series and I like that Telltale aren't afraid to try new things and adapt the series over time which help keeps the series fresh and exciting.

Visually the art style is unchanged and still looks as fantastic as it ever has. New character models and the subtle changes to Clementine are great and overall it is one of the most visually distinctive games on the market. Voice overs are excellent, with some lesser characters maybe less fleshed out than others, but most of the new characters are very well constructed and after a short period of time with them you immediately start to form opinions, be it good or bad.

One section which is bound to stand out is when Clementine has to make herself better after a rough encounter and is not for the faint hearted indeed. It seems to go on forever which I think is intentional and really is an unsympathetic, bleak scene which once again characterises this series perfectly. The end of the world is not a fun place to be and perhaps this series proves that point more than anyone else.

Overall the episode really feels like the aftermath of the first season, even the title says as much as Clementine is left completely alone in a scary world. The events that we previously went through meant something and we are now seeing the consequences, learning to survive without Lee for the first time whilst still using the techniques that he taught her. It really feels like the only way to connect the two seasons and with an interesting ending that forces you to make another split second difficult decision, it sets up the rest of season two incredibly well. Episode 2 can't come soon enough.

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Can Telltale Games Pull Off Their Busy 2014 Schedule?

If you didn’t know already, Telltale Games have been one of the fastest rising developers in the industry in the past couple of years. After the huge success of last year’s The Walking Dead which won countless game of the year awards, Telltale certainly have some ambitious plans for the future. As of right now the studio is currently working on FOUR episodic series for release in 2014. Let’s discuss what this means and without or not it is the best plan of action for the beloved studio.

The series which has undoubtedly gained the studio their most success is the aforementioned season 1 of The Walking Dead. Since the season ended what seems like ages ago back in November 2012 we haven’t had much to keep us interested. The nice but short DLC episode 400 Days arrived in July 2013 and since then we have to settle for just a promise that season 2 is coming. Looking likely to be arriving this month it will mark over one year between seasons and quite frankly I think that’s too long.

Of course these things take time but you really have to strike while the iron is hot and people are interested in your game. The industry has changed a lot since season 1 with the arrival of new consoles and you wonder if the momentum will continue for the new season. Will saves from previous consoles carry over or will some people have to go back to their old consoles if they want to continue their personal story? Lots of questions are hovering over whether Telltale can emulate the huge success with the new season.

Since The Walking Dead ended, Telltale have also started a new episodic series in the form of The Wolf Among Us. Episode 1 was released in October 2013 to great reception but we still haven’t got episode 2 yet and with TWD returning next we must assume it will be arriving early 2014. Is this too big of a gap between episodes which ideally should be coming every 1-2 months?

This brings us onto the new adventures Telltale are also taking up in 2014. Recently announced are the two new series in the form of Tales of Borderlands and a Game of Thrones adaptation. It is obvious that after their success in 2012 many people were interested in working with the studio and these two IPs seemed to big for them to refuse. But is it a good idea when they seem to already be struggling to hit dates? Let’s break it down.

History shows that Telltale like to take their time with things. 2013 so far has only produced Poker Night 2, 400 Days DLC, and The Wolf Among Us Episode 1. Compare this to what they want to release in 2014 and it seems pretty much impossible, but there is another way of looking at things.

Earlier in the year Telltale expanded to a new location and raised their number of employees from 125 to 160. Due to not releasing much content presumably this means there has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes and all four series should already have a lot of work done on them. Telltale don’t like announcing things until shortly before they release them so it potentially means that The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead season 2 are further along than we think.

Again it is just purely speculation but in theory they could alternate now between the two series releasing one new episode a month and have them both finished by around August. They could then focus on their two new series for the rest of the year and pull off an incredible year of releases. That’s if everything goes to plan of course.

We ultimately won’t know whether they can pull it off until this time next year and while I’m rooting for them entirely, I do fear for the quality. The worst case scenario is that all the series become rushed to get them out on time and end up nowhere near their full potential. As someone who personally isn’t that interested in the two new announcements and hasn’t got around to playing The Wolf Among Us yet, I selfishly wish they would just focus on finally getting season 2 of The Walking Dead out. After all, one whole year of waiting already I’m worried they might not be able to recapture the magic that made us all fall in love with the series and Telltale as a studio in the first place.

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Is PS4's "Blue Ring of Death" A Genuine Concern For Potential Buyers?

You may have heard, but the PlayStation 4 launched last week in the US. It seems to be doing rather well, having already sold 1 million units and even with a pretty awful lineup of games, the system itself seems to be impressing everyone that has had the pleasure of using it so far. However, unsurprisingly every launch is not without it’s problems and Sony is not faring any different.

It seems a problem is arising, coined “Blue Ring of Death” after the Xbox 360’s insanely bad issue which rendered consoles useless after the red ring appeared, it seems that some consoles are suffering similar problems. It could be a whole host of issues that can cause the blue light and Sony have already released a long list of potential fixes if this happens to your console. You can read this list of fixes here.

However that’s where the similarities with the Xbox 360’s RROD ends. Currently this issue only affects apparently 0.4% of PS4's, which is incredibly small compared to the Xbox 360. The original systems manufactured were pretty much guaranteed to get it at some point, it was just a matter of time before they stopped working and the issue wasn't fully fixed until the slim console came and eliminated the problem.

Of course right now this problem could surface more over the coming months and then become a real issue, but right now it seem very unlikely. Sony are doing a good job of making things right for the unlucky consumers with broken consoles. It is unfortunate and while it is no excuse for a product you buy to not work but these things are bound to happen.

Early adopters of consoles are like guinea pigs to make sure things are working correctly just like day one online games players are pretty much beta testers. This is the risk you take, but it is still just a minor downside and the 99.6% unaffected seems to be very much enjoying their shiny new console. So I wouldn't let this change your mind on the console if you’re thinking about getting one. But you may want to just wait and see if things get worse, however doubtful that may be.

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Bioshock Infinite - Burial at Sea Episode 1: Rapture's Return a Worthy One

Burial at Sea is a tough sell. Following on from of the best gaming experiences I've played all generation it was always going to be hard to capture that same level of quality. The intrigue of the story, the excitement of a new location and the enchanting introduction of Elizabeth all created such a wonderful game and for Irrational Games to then go in a completely different direction is an extremely bold choice. But do they pull it off? Let's take a trip back to Rapture once again. But things may not be exactly as you remember them...

The opening of the game throws you straight into the swing of things as it has the leisure of assuming you already have some knowledge of the universe if you have already played Infinite. Once again we play as Booker DeWitt, tasked with mission of finding a little girl named Sally. However this time the motivation is that of one Elizabeth hiring the private investigator for his skills, though her own motivation in finding the girl remains unclear.

As you would expect if you've played any Bioshock game before the plot features a few twists and turns and plays out very similar to that of Infinite's final moments. While the same level of shock is nowhere to be seen, mainly due to the short length which I'll get to later, it is still an intriguing story that sets up Episode 2 very nicely. Seeing past Bioshock characters return is great (the Sander Cohen section being the best in the game) and I hope there will more of this to come in the next part to follow.

Maybe surprisingly the first third or so of the game features no combat whatsoever. I liked this change of pace as it really let's you take in the wonderful environment and world without worrying about killing enemies. Considering this is our return to Rapture it makes sense we are given the privilege of being able to take in the world in all it's glory and is a very nice way to start the game. However when the combat does return it is once again one of the most fun in the entire genre.

As you would expect the game does revert to more of the original game's combat with a more haunting and scary feel to the encounters which is a joy to relive as it reminds you what made the original game so great. It does mix the two styles of combat rather well however. While having nowhere near the same level of speed and verticality that Infinite possesses, the fusion of fighting splicers while using Elizabeth's abilities to create tears and the inclusion of a Skyhook rip off, it actually creates a new style that is unique to this DLC. Hearing the splicer's casually talking as you enter a room before even seeing them is super creepy and the sound design overall is top notch.

As I mentioned earlier the game is quite short. I went through very slowly, checking every room and getting all the audio diaries and the game took me roughly 2 hours and 45 minutes to finish. I would like to go back and play through again on 1999 mode as I did with the main game, but the urge to replay the story after seeing the game's concluding moments isn't a factor this time round.

The game does feel slightly rushed which is probably my biggest complaint/disappointment with the DLC. The NPCs at the start don't interact like those of Infinite and the promise of seeing Rapture before the fall for the first time wasn't fully capitalized like I had wished. Having such an important moment in the franchise's history made is great and it's such an interesting period that I wish it would have been given the proper sequel treatment. Had this been a full retail title with a more traditional development time as opposed to around six months, which is still very impressive when you think about it, it could have been as special as Irrational’s previous titles.

One of my biggest fears going in was that this would feel more like DLC for the original Bioshock instead of Bioshock Infinite, and unfortunately that fear was correct. As I mentioned the interesting fusion of the two combat styles was an unexpected joy, but with the game set in Rapture and having a slower pace overall it lacked most of the features that made me fall in love with Infinite. Columbia itself I've always found a far more interesting setting, skyline combat was completely unique, and the interaction between the game's two main characters are all completely missing here. Elizabeth possesses none of the same characteristics that made her so memorable (this could be by design after certain events in the story), but I couldn't help but feel slightly short changed after being completely spoiled in every area by Infinite.

Burial at Sea's biggest flaw is having to carry the burden of the Bioshock name, something which many people consider to be one of the best franchises of this generation. It couldn't possibly have been as intriguing as the main games but considering how quickly it was made it is still a fantastic experience. If you love the gameplay and style of the series (particularly the original) then this is a fine expansion on the previous games. Just don't expect your mind to be blown again by Irrational so quickly after Infinite. I'm sure they're saving that for whatever they make next, but until then we still get a thoroughly enjoyable, albeit short experience, that leaves us counting down the days till Episode 2 even more.

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Xbox One vs PlayStation 4: Launch Lineup Debate

We are just mere days away from the first major new home console from either Sony or Microsoft in over seven years. The PlayStation 4 arrives this Friday in the US (2 weeks later in Europe) and the Xbox One launches the following week. The potential of what these consoles will go on to achieve is huge and over the years will grow and have their own identities. Of course they both offer a range of services outside of gaming but the main reason for buying these consoles is the games.

So what games are there? Launch titles are becoming notorious for the wrong reasons recently. Long gone are the days that a console ships with a game like Super Mario 64 which is then arguably one of the best games of the console’s lifetime. As the years go on developers get more familiar with the hardware and usually the games get better, for the most part. That being said, let’s check out what games will be available for both consoles at launch and what you should be playing, starting with the PlayStation 4.

There are two big console exclusives available on PS4 day one. The first is Knack, a family friendly mascot platformer that looks to be Crash Bandicoot for a new generation. It looks to bridge the gap between old school platform games but also add new ideas to the genre in the form of how the character changes shape and takes different forms. Obviously targeted at a more younger audience it is hard to say right now how much content is hidden away which core gamers can really get stuck into.

Having the title of the first ever PS4 game shown off, I hope Knack is a fun, memorable title and not just fitting the quota of ‘generic family launch game’. Only time will tell. The other exclusive available at launch is the core gamer’s offering in the form of Killzone: Shadow Fall. Killzone has tried to be for PlayStation what Halo is to Xbox over the years and never managed to fully achieve that goal. With no other next gen exclusive shooters coming to either console (more on that later) it could fill a hole in the market for players wanting to scratch the itch if they have grown tired of Call of Duty/Battlefield that has dominated the genre on current gen.

It is a shame DriveClub got delayed as the exclusive PS4 games at launch looks extremely bare at this point. Other than the two I mentioned this is a bunch of downloadable exclusives you can play at launch also. Resogun is a side scrolling shoot em up by the folks who made Super Stardust HD that hopes to be game that will have you chasing high scores to beat your friends for hours on end and will be free for PS+ members. Also free will be Contrast, a puzzle/platform game with an intriguing art style. Next gen versions of DC Universe Online,Flower, and Minecraft will also be present but overall the lineup is looking very scarce. Before we get into the games coming to both new consoles let’s examine the exclusives for the Xbox One.

Compared to the PS4’s two exclusives, the Xbox One is arriving with an impressive six games ready to go at launch that you won’t find on Sony’s console. The first three probably aren't anything to get too excited about as they are Zumba Fitness: World Party (also on 360 & Wii U), Zoo Tycoon (also on 360) and Fighter Within. The latter being a Kinect based fighting game with almost no details available so I would say it’s not one to look forward to. However the first of the three games you should be aware of is Ryse: Son of Rome.

Originally a 360 Kinect game but now a fully controller based Xbox One game by Crytek, Ryse could go either way. The game looks gorgeous and has a very interesting setting and could be a hugely entertaining game to just unwind and have a blast in. However, the early showings of the game weren't great as the gameplay looked to be QTE heavy (something which has been dismissed since but still remains unclear) and people that have got to play the game recently at events haven't had amazing things to say about it.

Next is the game I’m personally most interested in on either console, Dead Rising 3. Looking to try and walk the line between the ridiculous open ended gameplay that has always been a hallmark of the series but also trying to exist within a more serious tone, much like Ryse, this could easily go both ways. I think at worst you will still have a lot of fun messing around in the open world but if they pull it off we could have the definitive zombie game in our hands.

Finally is one of Microsoft’s biggest properties outside of their shooters, Forza Motorsport 5. If you’re a racing fan then you are most likely already a fan of these games and this looks to carry on the high standards of the series into the next generation. Racing titles along with shooters is the best genre to show off new hardware and running at 1080P with 60 FPS, the game just looks stunning.

On the digital side is a few nice looking titles including Crimson Dragon, an on rails shooter and a successor of sorts to Panzer Dragoon, Killer Instinct, the return of the famous fighting game and LocoCycle, a racing/fighting hybrid from the team that brought us ‘Spolsion Man. Shortly after release will see Peggle 2 and Project Spark, Microsoft’s take on LittleBigPlanet that looks like it could be rather intriguing to say the least. The absence of no exclusive shooter is a strange one but it seems that Microsoft are just counting on the entire COD crowd coming over to their console which probably isn't the worst assumption to make.

Games coming to both consoles include next gen versions of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4, FIFA 14, Madden 25, NBA 2K14, NBA Live 14, Need for Speed: Rivals, Just Dance 2014, Lego Marvel Super Heroes and Skylanders: Swap Force. These games really help fill the lineup nicely as they will all presumably be superior versions of the game and help to cover how little the support for exclusives is right now.

Overall it is pretty clear the lineups for both consoles is rather weak. The delays to Watch Dogs and DriveClub didn't help things, but this is pretty much to be expected. We know the big games are coming (Titanfall and Infamous: Second Son to name a few) and it makes sense for Sony and Microsoft to keep the bigger titles for down the line. The early adopters will buy the consoles no matter what and then when the dust is settled we will see what Naughty Dog, 343 Industries and countless other studios are working on for the new consoles. Until then there is still some interesting stuff to play, more on Xbox One currently in my opinion, and enough cross platform games to keep you busy until these consoles really start to build up momentum.

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Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4 Resolutiongate: Genuine Debate or Disguised Fan War?

You've probably heard by now that there seems to be some controversy surrounding the resolution of some upcoming games on the new consoles. Of course wherever there is discussion of the differences between cross platform games, the fanboys come out strong and it is hard to discuss whether there is actually an issue to talk about or just the usual flaming when it comes to these kind of things. If this is completely news to you then let me give you a quick update on this all and what it could mean if you are still undecided on which new console to pick up in the coming weeks.

The main point of contention seems to be Call of Duty: Ghosts and the resolution it runs at on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The game is already out on current gen and Infinity Ward Executive Producer Mark Rubin has confirmed the game runs at native 1080p on PS4, but will be upscaled from 720p to 1080p on Xbox One. But what does this actually mean? Well until we see both versions alongside each other there is no way of telling exactly what it means but ultimately the PS4 ‘should’ look better. How much better is up for debate and may be so unnoticeable unless you really go looking for the differences.

This then leads to people already claiming the PS4 is ‘more powerful’ and ultimately the way to go. But there is more to how powerful a machine is and how well a game runs than just the resolution. Both games will run at 60FPS which is far more important and something which would be noticeable between versions. Also if the Xbox One is able to upscale to 1080p with no noticeable difference this could potentially leave more processing power to make the games look even better than on PS4. Again currently this is all speculation and until the games are out we are just guessing.

The most interesting part of the whole debate is how strongly people feel about this subject and inherently brings out an intriguing side of why ‘fanboys’ exist. I hate that phrase but it is an easy way to describe someone who loves everything one company does and tries at all times to criticize its competitors. Really this isn't an issue of resolution or power as if those things meant a huge amount to you then you would be a PC gamer. It us clear that’s where the best technical capabilities lie when it comes to games resolution so this is more of an issue, once again, of picking sides.

If you are buying a new console this year it is definitely a big investment and most people will feel the need to justify their purchase at any given time. This is why I believe ‘resolution gate’ started, not because the difference actually matters but because it is just another reason for people to justify which side they are on. In the end I believe the outcome will end up exactly like the current consoles. Cross platform games look almost identical with few exceptions and even if one console is more powerful, it is up to the individual developers to make the games look better. Not just a case of it will be better because it exists on a specific console.

If you are still undecided on the new consoles my advice would be like always. These consoles will share a vast majority of the same games and have very similar architecture over the next 5-10 years and all comes to personal preference. In the end I highly doubt anyone will actually base their decision on a brand new consoles on whether a cross platform game is upscaled to 1080p or not.

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Batman: Arkham Origins - Money Grab or Worthy Prequel?

Stop me if you've heard this one before. A prequel, seemingly rushed out in an attempt to cash in on a series' brand before the next generation of consoles arrive. This year we have already seen Gears of War: Judgment and God of War: Ascension. Judgment, just like Arkham Origins was made by a different team who made the series what it is, so it is no surprise I was cautious about this one. With Rocksteady looking almost guaranteed to be working on next gen Batman it was up to Warner Bros. Montreal to tell the story of how Batman met The Joker.

The plot takes place over the course of one evening which happens to be Christmas Eve as Black Mask hires a team of assassins to take down Batman. The assassins are of course a bunch of familiar faces from the Batman universe including Firefly, Copperhead and Electrocutioner. Whilst some are not instantly recognisable, it's great seeing all aspects of the universe being explored and not just the ones made famous by the films.

I found the story to be completely unexpected. In that what starts out as a cool premise, it develops very nicely over the course of the game and ultimately was very enjoyable. I feel that in trying to keep many things secret they did the plot a massive disservice during promotion of the game and without spoiling anything I will say that all the elements you want from a good Batman story are absolutely here.

The opening of the game sets things up nicely and gets the plot up and running very quickly and throws you straight into action. I must also take a moment to mention The Joker and the performance of one Troy Baker. Taking over from someone so iconic as Mark Hamill has to be one of the hardest jobs around and I feel Troy was the only person that could pull it off. His performance is incredible and his scenes truly are the best in the game. One sequence in particular which references one of my favorite films was stunningly well put together and my only criticism is that he isn't featured in the game more.

Of course no Arkham game would be complete without boss battles and this game is no different. They come thick and fast with varying difficulty and the result is a mixed bag. The most original is probably the fight with Firefly, but the execution ultimately doesn't quite fit the ambitiousness of it. Copperhead's was very fun and matched the tone of the villain and the multiple fights with Bane are again very solidly put together. There isn't anything as strong as the Mr.Freeze fight from Arkham City, but there still plenty of enjoyable battles throughout the game.

A lot has been said about the combat in the Arkham games over the years and it's wonderful combo system and the praise is warranted. When it ties together you do feel like a complete bad ass and it hasn't really changed here. My only problem is the challenge is increasingly getting harder in the form of adding more and more enemies to each encounter. At times when I'm fighting what seems like 50+ enemies my fingers can start to hurt from all the button bashing and I would prefer if they scaled it back slightly at times.

The stealth is still present and this to me is where the gameplay shines. It feels way more Batman to me when I'm stalking from above rather than running in head first using my fists instead of my brain. Some enemy filled arenas take the fun away slightly again by putting so many of them in one place you just have to wait till they split up unless you want to get gunned down immediately.

The game is somewhat open world, but not in a traditional sense. There is the whole map out there for you to explore, but the game forces you down a very linear path when you are playing through its story. With the inclusion of fast travel which I relied on more as the game progressed, it does take a level of exploration out of the game. Outside of the main story is all the extra content which is an insane amount. You can help the police solve crimes, go after the Most Wanted criminals which include more boss battles with famous villains and additional side missions. With new game plus unlocked after you complete the story you could easily double your time with the game if you explore everything there is to experience.

All of the best gadgets from previous games are back with the inclusion of a few new ones but nothing too memorable. The best new feature I enjoyed was the crime scene investigating you do via the detective vision. You scan for clues and even reverse and play the scene out to try and gain more information. It is similar to Remember Me's memory remixing but works very effectively. Especially when it is used for a pivotal story moment I thought it worked great and should be used more in the future.

The level of detail and attention paid to the Batman universe and not just it's main characters is incredible. All the usual hints and Easter Eggs at the greater mythology is here in full force and the amount of fan service paid is unquestionable. Even as a casual fan of Batman I thoroughly enjoy the little touches, but a hardcore Batman comics fan will absolutely adore this game once again.

Competitive multiplayer comes to the Arkham series for the first time in the form of the Invisible Predator game mode. It sees two teams of three people controlling the gang of either Bane or The Joker while also taking on the threat of two players of Batman & Robin. So that's 3 vs 3 vs 2. It sounds complicated and it sort of is but I won't go into tons of detail explaining as it's not really worth your time unfortunately.

Playing as either of the three player teams just controls like a bad Gears of War clone and isn't why I play a Batman game. The introduction of new gadgets specific to this mode is cool and it's a shame we can't use them in the campaign in some capacity as this alone isn't worth playing this mode for. I also struggled to find any games and this being the launch week of the game means the long term success for this mode looks troubled to say the least. With the huge amount of the content this game offers already its nice to try and add something new, even if it's something I really won't be playing again any time soon.

So have the new studio pulled it off? The short answer is yes. While nowhere near as revolutionary as Asylum (or City) but when it comes to a 3rd game in four years it is almost impossible to add new tricks to a series without changing what made it a success in the first place. The game looks and plays as good as the previous titles and ultimately tells a very enjoyable story. The ensemble of villains is as impressive as usual and the amount of hours of content presented is well worth the price of admission. If you, like me, was scared Arkham Origins was just an unnecessary cash grab then fear not. There is plenty of fun to be had here with the Dark Knight once again.

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GTA Online 1st Week Impressions: A Potential Diamond in Rough Shape

Last week saw the launch of yet another Grand Theft Auto product to the general public. After waiting over four years for new content we get two GTA releases in the space of two weeks. Some would say it is like waiting for a bus. Anyway, trying to build upon the most successful game launch of all time with GTA V, Rockstar looked to wow everyone once again with GTA Online. But things didn't exactly go to plan.

Rockstar warned us previously that there could be teething problems with the servers as the game rolls out and those warnings turned out to be a self fulfilling prophecy. Most people couldn't access the game at all on launch day and the main problem seemed to be the tutorial which was broken and ultimately stopped anyone from accessing the game. It seems PS3 users suffered the most problems and some players even got their characters and money reset after already getting the game running.

Having finally got into the game on Xbox 360 late Tuesday night it has worked for me barring some connectivity issues of course. So server issues aside and if we assume the game will be running smoothly at some point, how is the game? Well first of all you must choose your character that will be causing havoc all over Los Santos.

The character creation system is a strange one. You chose the race of your parents and grandparents as well as assigning different skill points based on your characters daily routine and your characters face is created from these choices. As a collectors edition owner I got the choice to use Misty and Claude from GTA III and Niko from GTA IV as my parent options as well as John Marston from Red Dead Redemption for using the Social Club.

I went with Misty and Claude as parents and actually quite like the results. The nose and eyes in particular really look he's related to Claude and its a cool feature which should have included tons of different classic character options. Sadly this will probably be DLC down the line. Aside from this the creation system is unnecessarily complicated to hide the fact it's rather basic. It's totally fine but could have been way better with a few tweaks.

Once your character is ready you're good to go. After watching a few cinematics seeing our new character enter the city and the rather pointless tutorial ends you are given the freedom of the open world. You can rob stores, enter races or do jobs to earn cash. All of this can be done on your own or with friends (you get extra rewards for this especially if you are in the same crew) and plays out similarly to the main game.

So far the jobs are rather basic. It includes stealing cars for Simeon or simply interrupting a drug deal and stealing their money and merchandise before planning your getaway. I'll assume missions will get harder and slightly more complex as you progress as you also unlock access to more content the higher you rank such as the better weapons at Ammu-Nation.

Unfortunately what we all want to play is co-operative heists which aren't available right now. They will be coming at a later date as a free update and due to how advanced they are I guess it makes sense to ease players in with smaller missions to learn how online works first. This is what we are waiting for and hopefully will be worth the wait when it does arrive.

The overall layout and presentation of GTA Online is really poor. Everything is so hidden and hard to work out and generally could be so much easier. Just the basic level of understanding needed to play this game is rather high and will undoubtedly scare away many players. Being a hardcore Grand Theft Auto fan it isn't a problem, but if you aren't completely clued up and just play the game casually, don't expect to just jump into GTA Online and know exactly what you're doing for a very long time.

When the game works however there is definitely something special here. It is just a shame it is very well hidden. Exploring the world together with friends is just great and really does make the single player seem somewhat boring in comparison. The randomness that occurs when playing the game is what you will fall in love with rather than the scheduled jobs and missions which is really the essence of Grand Theft Auto and has definitely transferred well from the main game.

After really starting to enjoy my time and seemingly having the problems behind me, tragedy struck on Saturday. My character disappeared. I was rank 27 and I had bought an expensive apartment and still had $250K in the bank. This seems to be the worst problem right now and Rockstar have said they are currently working on trying to resolve the issue. I haven't made a new character in the small hope it gets recovered which means I can't play the game at all right now. I've decided to avoid it for the time being and hopefully come back when the issues are gone as the level of enjoyment to be had is outweighed by the frustrations at this point.

Overall the first week with GTA Online has been one of highs and lows. I expected issues especially on launch day and after the initial server issues it seemed to be going great. I played multiple jobs with my crew, started to build my empire complete with customized car and apartment and I really felt like I was seeing the start of something great. With my character now reset I'm left with the problem of waiting for an unlikely fix or trying to regain what I had achieved and then pray it doesn't happen again.

It is a risk I'm not willing to take and hopefully my faith in Rockstar will be repaid with these problems being fixed and then maybe in a month I can finally jump into this game and have an opinion, as right now there are just too many factors that make passing judgment on the game impossible right now. All I will say is you are better waiting currently as your experience of what could be a fantastic experience is probably going to be soured, which is a real shame.

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