Some guy who's opinion you don't care about's GOTY Awards 2013 PT3!

And here were are, the perhaps not so grand but most definitely controversial finale!

RECAPS:

PART 1

PART 2

And now on with the final batch of awards...

Worst Trend-Macrotransactions

Free to play games are fully entitled to have microtransactions plastered all over them because we never have to give them a pretty penny if we choose to play. Sure, progression may be painstakingly slow and some of us will cave in and try to get some XP booster packs or unlock late game gear early, but it is optional and we know going in that a game’s economy is going to be geared towards F2P.

The biggest offender is Forza 5. Seriously, what the fuck (besides them dollar bills) were Turn 10 and Microsoft thinking?! It’s less of the fact that they exist in the first place and more that they have the gall to tweak the game economy to the point where you either spend way too many hours grinding in-game credits or you dip into your real pockets and buy some tokens.

This is all coupled with their usual shtick of cutting out content for launch day DLC and quite frankly I am still fuming from my decision to pay £44.99 for this hollow mess of a product. I had only wished that more reviewers would’ve made mention of the changes made to the progression system being designed with an F2P model in mind. Remember, this was just a slight against one game. This trend may continue to grow into 2014 like an unwanted parasite that sucks the fun out of retail games. Go see a doctor, publishers, you’ve got money on the brain.

Best Boss Fight-Monsoon (Metal Gear Rising)

What happens when you combine Magneto from Marvel, Raphael from Ninja Turtles, someone made of Lego and a Cambodian street thug turned cyborg nihilistic mercenary? You get Monsoon, one of the self-proclaimed Winds of Destruction from Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Honestly, any of the bosses from this wonderful asylum of a product could’ve made it to this spot, but no one has aggravated or gotten me pumped more than the Monsoon boss encounter.

After one of the longest cutscenes in the entire game, a kick-ass guitar riff signals the start of a ferocious battle between protagonist Raiden and the aforementioned Desperado cyborg. Monsoon has quite a bag of tricks up his detachable sleeves. For starters, he is damn fast when it comes to going on the offensive, made even trickier when he pops a smoke grenade and your visibility is reduced tenfold.

Of course, the most notable “gimmick” in his arsenal is the ability to separate any and all of his limbs apart. This particularly becomes a pain in the robotic anus when he starts making a fool of you trying to spam away in the game’s unique and useful Blade Mode, which slows time and allows for precision cutting. You’re simply left in awe at how the best technique you’ve come to rely on has been mostly rendered useless by this bastard.

As he begins his next phase of hurling helicopters and APCs at Raiden, you begin to see plenty amounts of EMP grenades falling from the debris when you slice them open. If you put 2+2 together, you realize you can put a stop to his Blade Mode dodging shenanigans if you manage to hit him with one. From that moment on, all the pieces fall into place and it’s up to you to kill him before he can kill you. And on Hard difficulty or above, expect to be doing a lot of checkpoint reloading on this boss if you want an S rank/take no damage, because I haven’t raged so much at a game since I fought Manus from Dark Souls at Soul Level 1.

Most Emotionally Draining (A.K.A Best Story)-The Last of Us

Never have I had to walk away from a video game for it leaving me in utter shock and a sense of uncomfortableness. That was until I played the prologue level of The Last of Us. Anyone who’s played the game knows what moment I’m talking about exactly. It didn’t just tug at the heartstrings, it basically wanted to get up in them and tear them apart like a bloater wants to do to Joel’s jaw.

It set the tone of things to come. Naughty Dog would be pulling no punches, not like they so love to do with the Uncharted games. Characters we loved were going to stay dead this time. There’d be no happy ending with everyone holding hands and dancing round a roaring campfire. The world had already gone to hell, and those left were only going to be dragged deeper down.

The ending is one of the most talked about moments in gaming for the year and for good reason. No epic conclusion, no dramatic revelations, just our two central characters having a quiet moment after all they’ve been through. We’ve come to love Joel and Ellie and in a single fleeting moment, that bond comes into question, leaving audiences to ponder if it truly “can’t be for nothing.”

Biggest Disappointment-Grand Theft Auto V

Yeah, this does seem like a bizarre choice since it’s the same year where games like Dead Space 3, Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Gears of War: Judgement, God of War: Ascension, Forza Motorsport 5 and much more were released. Out of all those, this was the sequel with the largest gap between itself and the previous iteration and my hopes were as high as the clouds.

To be honest, GTA V isn’t a bad game. The fact that I finished it, which is more than I can say for something like BioShock: Infinite (I really don’t like BioShock games) speaks volumes to how determined I was to enjoy it, but alas, the end credits had arrived and I yearned for so much more. The pacing felt all over the place; one minute you’re hijacking a military aircraft by crashing another plane into its cargo hold, the next you’re driving to your next shootout with gunplay that has been bested by so many other games in the past. The few highs were high but the plentiful lulls in action were all too concerning.

Sure, the writing is strong, the characterization is great and the world is teeming with life….yeah, the game is good, but I just wish the gameplay could keep up, since for me, refined gameplay mechanics trump all over aspects in game design.

Then GTA Online came out, and whoo boy what a clusterfuck that entire scenario was. I’ll freely admit that even if they did keep up on all their promises for this component, I’d still not enjoy it because it still has the core gameplay problems that plagued the single-player, but also the fact that Rockstar has yet to make an impression on me with their online efforts.

Game of the Year-Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

It shocks me almost as much as it would shock any reader coming across this choice. I am beyond terrible at character action games like Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, God of War etc. Somehow, someway, Platinum struck platinum with this particular title. All from the get go, this game seemed destined to be a major catastrophe; a well-known franchise taken in an unknown direction, a troubled development cycle, Platinum receiving very little time to get out a finished product, but all that did was make the payoff all the more tremendous.

Just everything about this game fills me with joy and giddy excitement. The subtitle is dumb, the characters and their designs are fantastic, the writing is ridiculously corny and goes to places that will leave your jaw agape, and the music is a cheese topping filled cheese pizza with extra cheese on top with ear worms aplenty.

Finally, the gameplay just feels right and tight. Imagine Ninja Gaiden’s gratuitous violence cranked up to eleven, not to mention being able to choose what limbs to sever from your many foes. Blade mode has to be, for me, the biggest gameplay innovation of the year. Anyone who has longed for a game to have precision cutting at their fingertips cannot go wrong with Rising. The emphasis placed on parrying only adds to the experience, as you size up an opponent, eagerly watching and waiting for them to strike, only to pull off a staggering counter-attack that rips through their thick cybernetic hides.

The boss battles are another piece of the awesome Rising cake that helps sew this masterpiece together. When the soundtrack vocals kick in, you feel in the heat of the moment. When you land a devastating combo, you feel like you’re on top of the world. When you land that final hit and watch as the ferocious QTE takedown occurs, you are the cyborg ninja master.

Not since Dark Souls have I attempted to learn every intricacy and mechanic to master a game. Rising just opened its big veiny nanomachine infested arms and held onto me, not wanting to let go: The best gameplay of 2013, the best music of 2013, the best aesthetics of 2013, the best boss battles of 2013, THE BEST GAME OF 2013!

Sorry The Last of Us, BioShock: Infinite, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Gone Home, DOTA 2 (lol), but in the end, it has to be this way…

Here's to 2014 being a better year!

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Some guy who's opinion you don't care about's GOTY Awards 2013 PT2!

Just a recap of the previous category winners: PART 1

PART 3

2013’s 2012 Game of the Year-Chivalry: Medieval Warfare (Deadliest Warrior)

Favourite Mod I Played-Ultimate Apocalypse (Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War-Soulstorm)

Diamond in the Rough-Volgarr the Viking

Best Soundtrack that is not Metal Gear Rising’s OST-Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

And now for Part 2's awards!

Backlog Shame-Super Mario 3D World/The Wonderful 101/The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

What a year Nintendo has had. Refusing to be drowned under the mass coverage and hype surrounding the next-gen launches and subsequent advancements from Sony and Microsoft, the big N released a ton of great stuff for their platforms; Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate, Fire Emblem: Awakening, The Wonderful 101, Wind Waker HD, Super Mario 3D World and A Link Between Worlds all came out this year, not to mention we have a new Bayonetta, Mario Kart, Donkey Kong Country and Smash Bros. on the way in 2014, all of which will only be available on Nintendo platforms. Whilst it might seem Nintendo are in dire straits, I think they will manage to stay afloat in this ever evolving industry on sheer IP brand recognition and quality alone. You could honestly make a strong case that the best platform of 2013 was the WiiU or the 3DS.

Sadly, I’ve yet to touch the 3 games that have “won” this “prestigious” award, despite owning all of them. I am not proud it has taken me this long to start giving a damn about Nintendo again. My loathing of the WiiU Gamepad (my problem lies with how far apart the analog sticks are) has kept me from turning on the console much this year, but I decided to buckle the fuck up and get myself a Pro controller. I am giddy to finally justify a WiiU purchase after an entire year.

Hey, I Enjoyed a Fighting Game-Injustice: Gods Among Us

I feel as though I need to start out this segment with a long rant and ragging against Killer Instinct, especially after hearing how accessible it was meant to be to someone like me, A.K.A the antithesis of a fighting game aficionado. The minute I laid eyes on the quarter-circle-forward motions for specials, I just heavily sighed inside. I couldn't even finish the extensive tutorial which seemed to just go on and on and on. I have my reasons, mainly my left thumb which has the thing that’s meant to be in the middle of a finger off to the right. This means that bending my left thumb in the middle is impossible and that has a large effect on my ability to pull off a quarter-circle-motion commands.

Now a fighting game without such stuff is more up my street, but the fact that Injustice had a DC roster didn’t exactly hurt matters. MK9 is probably my favourite fighting game of this thus far brief decade because of the way you use binary directional inputs along with a face button press to pull of the specials. The tutorial was short and yet it managed to teach me all I needed to know to enjoy the game in a short period of time.

Once again, nobody can come close to doing Story Modes in fighting games quite like Neatherealm can. It was highly enjoyable in MK9 and that tradition continues into Injustice. The icing on the cake, however, is the fact that the special moves for your character are displayed as soon as you pause the game, not to mention you can bring up specific moves and combos in the practice mod that allows you to hone your skills and remember specific and effective moves as well as learning the timing for them. Add to that the 200+ mini-game mission style S.T.A.R Labs mode and you’ve got a fighting game bursting at the seams with content.

Developer of the Year-Platinum Games

Not one, not two, but a trifecta of top-notch games this year from P*. That sounds silly coming from me because I have played very little of Anarchy Reigns (still love listening to the soundtrack from time to time) and have yet to boot up The Wonderful 101 (I will have to get round to it), but fuck it, my list my rules, or lack thereof if that wasn’t apparent already.

In truth, it’s mostly the effort the team did on Metal Gear Rising. This game was destined to fail; Short development time, previously scrapped project handed off to new studio, taking a well-known and beloved franchise and putting it into new clothes that we weren’t so sure were gonna fit. Somehow, they pulled through in a big way, but we’ll get to more MGR in a later category or two.

Game I Wish I Could Bring Myself to Finish-Saints Row IV/Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen

Yes, it’s a tie again, but only 2 games this time.

I was thoroughly pumped to get my grubby mitts on the latest escapades of the Third Street Saints, but as fate would have it, the game didn’t seem to want to share the love back. What I mean by that is, if you remember back to release week, where there was a crippling bug for the PC/Steam version of the game in which weapons would glitch out and not work properly and save data could become corrupted. It pretty much meant that me and the friend I was playing through the game with didn’t want to go near it until the all clear was signalled. Surprisingly enough, our data had survived unscathed through the patching process, but by then it was already too late. We had lost interest very quickly, mostly being miffed at the fact that I had convinced him to get the game on PC since all the reviews made the strong point that the console versions ran like ass.

From time to time, I still like to boot up the game and have a blast traversing the digital cityscape with the fantastic set of powers on offer. Alas, I had already spoiled most of the game’s major plot moments for myself and as such, have lost yet more motivation to plough through the story. I imagine I will find the time and vigour to finish what the President and Keith David started.

This brings me to the second game of this category, which may not feature Keith David or cultural alien overlords, but most certainly does feature dragons and their dogmas. Yes, I did arrive a year late to whatever the fuck kind of crazy party you want to call Capcom’s Dragon’s Dogma, but hey, that meant more content for me, more content that I never even got around to playing.

You see, I have a very Jekyll/Hyde relationship with this particular title. One on hand, I think the combat and the mechanics surrounding it, such as the beast riding, clear class distinctions, pawn data gathering, boss scale and difficulty are all top notch. However, the rather bland themes and story, the letterboxing and performance issues, the endless pawn spewing nonsense and the tedious travelling drop the game down a couple of notches. That last one is indeed my biggest problem with Dragon’s Dogma and from what I have gathered, it was even worse in the game’s original release. Seriously, imagine if in an open world game, there were no means of transport besides hoofing it on foot and the only fast travel points were between the starting area and the main city hub. Sure, you can use items to set manual spawn points, but they cost money. Imagine you’re playing Dark Souls, and you get the Lordvessel for killing Ornstein and Smough, but you can only use it to warp back to Firelink for the time being. If you want any more warp points, you have to spend souls and get more Lordvessels. If you want to warp to any key location, you have to find these rare items that are in short supply hidden around the world and leave them where you want to come back to. That’s not taking into account that Dragon’s Dogma is a more traditional open world game and the map is quite expansive, whereas Dark Souls is essentially 3D Metroidvania.

Despite everything I’ve said, I did manage to make it far into DD: DA, all the way up to the supposed final quest to go slay the dragon, and yet I would still need to go and no all the new Dark Arisen content afterwards, assuming I’m a high enough level to tackle the challenges that await me; once again, likely that I will return to this game, but not anytime in 2013.

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Some guy who's opinion you don't care about's GOTY Awards 2013 PT1!

PART 2

PART 3

For the sake of not cluttering up a single page, as well as saving people from reading over 5,000 words in a single blog, I've decided to split up my awards into different parts. I don't know how many there are going to be (hint: probably 3), but the subsequent parts will be released sometime before the year is over...I hope. With that said, I hope you can muster up the energy to not want to completely shit all over my choices and call me a blight on good game taste.

Say no to Luigi, kids!

The Year of Luigi hasn’t exactly been kind to the community and crew here at GB. With Ryan’s passing in the summer, it would seem that things would never truly be the same, and whilst that may still ring true, we have all greatly honoured his memory by pushing forward united by our undying love and hate of the video game industry. Here at the end of the 2013 tunnel, there’s still a job to be done (not compulsory*). We must figure out what the industry got right and wrong, besides dedicating a year to that big-nosed green toting fuck. So strap in and let me bore entertain you with some of my favourite and not so favourite games of 2013.

2013’s 2012 Game of the Year-Chivalry: Medieval Warfare (Deadliest Warrior)

This was my first full year owning a PC that could easily qualify as a gaming rig. As such, there were a lot of experiences, both old and new that were now available to me. One such game is the medieval themed first person melee romp known as Chivalry. Sure, I had played my fair share in the back end of 2012, but the flower did not fully bloom until I started playing with and against friends this year. Not only that, but a significant expansion pack dubbed Deadliest Warrior, based on the Spike TV show, hit the digital shelves merely a month and a half ago. It could be easy to write it off as a cash grab and a gimmick, but truth be told, it adds a new angle with the 6 wildly different classes and new game modes, along with new maps and gameplay mechanics. If I had to best describe it, it reminds me of what Undead Nightmare was to the original Red Dead Redemption. The core was the same, but the landscape has changed enough without straying too far from what made the original a blast to play.

And the best part of Chivalry: Deadliest Warrior is the shield throw. Good lord, it is fucking straight up awesome when you first decapitate an opponent (or hell, even a teammate) by launching your circular disk of death into their squishy dome….and then you do it over and over and over and over again. Hell, you can even throw weapons as the Viking, such as a great two-handed axe.

Favourite Mod I Played-Ultimate Apocalypse (Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War-Soulstorm)

I already have written a brief piece on why I think everyone should check this mod out. It singlehandedly got me interested in an entire genre that I had previously written off as something I will never be able to personally enjoy. Warhammer 40,000 is fast becoming one of my favourite sci-fi universes to delve into, perhaps even clipping the wings of Mass Effect.

It’s the scale of this mod that gets me the most. Colossal Titans (yes actual Titans, Respawn Entertainment, not 10ft lumberjacks) marching across the battlefield to engage with a bunch of vile daemons of the Warp, whilst perhaps being blindsided by an aerial armada of Tau Manta’s, before all of them get crushed by the almighty Necron Doomsday Monoliths, whilst the Eldar end up surviving cause all of their bases are cloaked, only to get swarmed by a pack of Tyranids-OK, I have to stop myself before I end up booting the mod up again for the umpteenth time. Admittedly, that actual situation I describe above would probably be going at about 5 frames per second depending on army caps and what not, but still, any 40K nut worth their Imperium salt should at least check out what this is all about.

All that and more! The superweapons are unfathomably broken and I love it. One faction (Chaos Daemons) basically get a big WIN button as a super weapon because it launches a planetary exterminator that wipes out all life that is not Daemon (except it will still kill Daemons if they are being controlled by an opponent). Before I end up putting you off cause of balancing issues, said superweapon is incredibly hard to get up and running and setting it off is even more difficult. But if you do pull it off, it is an incredible sight to see everything your enemies(s) have mustered turn to ash.

Diamond in the Rough-Volgarr the Viking

“RISE, WARRIOR!” “UUUURARRGH!”

Just two words and a grunting sound let you know it is motherfucking on. After watching the episodes/tuning into the livestreams of Breaking Brad w/ Volgarr, my curiosity was reaching dangerous levels; was it the art style? The aesthetic? The punishing difficult? The sheer beauty of the flaming sword spin-attack? Why it was all of the above of course. Games that I have zero expectations going into have a better chance of leaving a greater impression of me, but we’ll get into that ideal more later.

Truth be told, I haven’t finished Volgarr, being stuck on the final boss and all, and I would usually disqualify games I haven’t beaten (barring one certain category), but damn it all, this game needs some more love. When the developers came out and proclaimed that almost the entire player base were using pirated copies. Come the fuck on, people! The game has been on the cheap on Steam plenty of times. You’re not exactly sticking it the man by neglecting a small indie team comprised of a team that has fewer members than a human has fingers.

Back to the game, it is indeed similar to Dark Souls in the fact that you never feel that the game is at fault when you die. It seems to always come down to human error, rather than bullshit programming mistakes. There’s also that euphoric feeling you get when finally conquering a really tough level or boss. Volgarr is far from the most unique game this year, but it does what it set out to achieve and it does it well.

Best Soundtrack that is not Metal Gear Rising’s OST-Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

This was a bloodbath between Blood Dragon and Anarchy Reigns. Whilst AR may have more tracks on offer, the main theme and menu theme in BD are just divine. Quality over quantity as the saying goes. Since this is an audio focused category, I thought I’d let the soundtrack speak for itself:

Pure rockin’ techno like it was straight outta the 80’s/90’s

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How I became an RTS believer/why you should play this mod

I can generally count the number of genres I have no real interest in on a single hand: RTS/TBS, JRPG and Puzzle games. It comes with a mixture of disinterest and being dog-awful (dogs are not awful, just putting that out there) at these types of games. I am working to fix this and find a way to enjoy all the genres that our medium offers. However, over the past few months, I have become enamored with the rich universe of Warhammer 40,000, or just 40K for short. More specifically, a friend of mine got me interested in checking out the original Dawn of War and its various expansion packs. It was a bold new world I was entering, in more ways than one, and in retrospect I am damn well glad that I decided to dive deep down the proverbial rabbit hole.

This is the only game with Final Fantasy in the title that I've played

To get to the heart of the matter at hand, after a few weeks of playing against the AI in various situations as well as the occasional proper PVP match, I longed for more out of these games. I thoroughly enjoyed what I was experiencing, but I wanted the scale to be far grander. So I took to a little site known as moddb. There, I came across what was known as the Ultimate Apocalypse mod and I had most certainly found what I had been searching for.

Any and all heretic scum will be met with extreme missile barrages

In short, this mod added a ton of new buildings and units for each race that already existed within DoW, as well as the mod races that can be found online. There were also options to increase the infantry/vehicle caps and power/requisition resources, which I found to be criminally low in the base game(s). The scale had been increased to the point where playing with as few armies as possible was the recommended route, since there could be way too much going on at one time. In fact, even a 1v1 match can turn to shit if you decide to turn on all the options that increase the caps to their maximum output. We're talking <10 FPS kinds of shit here, with the game turning into some kind of rigid slideshow. It's all about finding the right balance with the settings. Hell, for the minimalists out there, you can restrict as many of the cool, late game structures and units as you want, leaving it to the bare minimum tools for a minuscule slugfest.

The AI don't fuck around when you let them build up armies of this size. Then again, it's difficult to combat them at 3 frames per second...

There's a variety of factions to play as here that cannot be found anywhere else. 9 unique races are playable if you have the base game and all the expansion packs, but that number can be brought up to 12 with an additional 3 races available to download as mods online that work with the UA mod. Some factions do feel a bit copy+paste like how the Space Marines, Imperial Guard and Daemon Hunters all share a lot of common units, but still come with their own unique arsenal. The real Chaos (literally) however, comes when you start picking factions like the Chaos Daemons, who have a superweapon of which is an instant win (it even has it written on the thumbnail for the thing!) ability, though the drawback is that it's the most resource costly item in the entire game, so any competent player can keep you from building it and firing it.

Imperium of Man races tend to come with the caveat of nuclear missile strikes

As the last passage of the previous paragraph suggests, this isn't the type of game/mod to play in a truly competitive sense, as it doesn't have much of a balance to speak of, especially when compared to the likes of say, StarCraft II. This is purely something to be played for fun and a good laugh with friends (for the most part, we've actually had some saltiness between friends concerning matches in UA). Frantically building up your bases before your opponents can amass their stronger units is a real rush. My playstyle tends to lean towards 'hurry the fuck up and build your superweapon and use it against the others before they even know what hit em', though unsurprisingly that hasn't really ever worked out for me. Also, aerial units are the biggest pile of BS imaginable, A.K.A OP as all hell.

The second you see these bastards heading towards your base is pretty much: Game, Set Match right then and there

So there you have it. I could've rambled on much further and probably added a good few paragraphs explained my deep-seeded loathing for barracudas (seen above) and the Tau Empire, but I only wanted to do a quick write-up on how I've been ignoring the initial growing pains of the start of a new console generation. Basically, the answer is to find a game that has an ability labeled as WIN and just descend into madness.

Wasn't joking around!

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(Not)Horror Games Part 2: Odin was a Metroid

Before reading on-please read Part 1’s intro for a brief rundown on what this “series” is all about. Or don’t, I won’t judge. And if you’d be so kind as to take a listen to the mood setter of sorts (seen above). With that out of the way, let’s dive head first into the world of Metroid.

Metroid is a series all too famous for giving players a real sense of isolation. Samus Aran may not be alone in the universe, but any allies she may have seem to either die on her or arrive too late to the party. Enter Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, the finale to Retro’s fully realized 3D trilogy. Right off the bat, Samus is greeted by a Galactic Federation fleet and is requested to come aboard the flagship Olympus. Inside, she passes by many engineers and GF troopers until finally heading to the meeting room with Admiral Dane, who is accompanied by 3 fellow hunters. Suddenly, Samus no longer has this battle to fight alone. Or so it would seem…

You see, shit goes bad very quickly. No less than a couple of hours into the game, Dark Samus shows up on a planet that Samus and the other bounty hunters were trying to save from an incoming organic meteorite known as a Leviathan seed. The 4 of them are easily dispatched by the Dark Hunter and when Samus awakens a month later, she finds herself in a fancy new suit that comes with a heavy price. Whilst she was unconscious, scientists discovered that she now carries a bit of Phazon inside her, thanks to her evil counterpart. You now see where the subtitle comes into play. Samus is soon sent off to discover what happened to the missions the other hunters were undergoing and finish their jobs if need be.

It comes as little surprise that her former allies have now gone mad from the corruption within themselves. Our attention today is drawn not on these encounters, but rather a mysterious ship that was said to have been attacked by the nefarious Space Pirates. Whether you choose to go there immediately or leave it for late in the game, the result remains the same. The situation is about as bad as it gets in the world of Metroid. The music alone already tells the tale. All that remains on this broken vessel is the debris and the broken husks of GF troopers stationed here.

(No one dies gracefully or peacefully in Metroid. Not even our flipping-off friend here.)

WELCOME TO THE G.F.S VALHALLA.

An ironic name if I’ve ever seen one. Valhalla is the Norse mythos equivalent of the afterlife, but there are no Gods and eternal paradise aboard this ship. Only corpses and broken machinery. Moving into the bowels of the ship, you discover the bodies of those stationed here, completely lifeless. Using your trusty scan visor, all indications point to cause of death as the titular creatures, who love to feed on their victim’s life energy and leave nothing but an empty shell behind. What is most haunting are the troopers who so desperately tried to open an ID locked door, whose very flesh now remains stuck in place, blocking the only means of progressing onwards in this deep space graveyard. Having no choice but to shoot the bodies, they just dissolve into black dust. Once inside the meat of the ship, you can see through the windows as a ferocious pack of metroids pass by the debris outside on the backdrop of the blood red hue coming from the nebulae. It sets the mood, letting players know that Samus Aran is now alone on a desolate vessel in the middle of nowhere with her greatest enemy somewhere aboard the ship, possibly in their hundreds.

The metroids are not alone, however. With them comes all manner of Phazon infected beasties hell bent on sucking down your energy tanks and testing your mettle. Unlocking more areas of the ship using energy cells that are scattered both on board and on other planets, you venture deeper, not knowing where you may be led. It only becomes hauntingly apparent towards the end of this journey that the space pirates (led by Dark Samus at this point) that laid siege to this vessel were after the Aurora Unit that was assigned to it. After fending off a Metroid Hatchling, you find the final transmission of Aurora Unit 313, who in an almost sombre yet emotionless tone, reveals the true nature of the Phazon corruption’s point of origin, the sentient planet of Phaaze, before shutting down with the final message:

Darkness…..coming……..

(Orange Optimus Prime informs us just how dire the situation is.)

It’s a fitting end to this haunting level, setting up the final confrontation of the Prime trilogy as Samus and her Galactic Federation buddies use the remaining Leviathan seed stationed by the Pirate Homeworld to create a wormhole and take the fight to Phaaze, where Samus must defeat her nemesis and dark clone, who now has the intention to merge with the stolen AU and help spread Phaaze’s poison until nothing is left.

Winding down this story, I’d like to point out the fact that I was having second thoughts on including this level as part of this series; the reason being is that our beloved Chozo-raised heroine is a walking engine of destruction. Compare and contrast to the debut entry, which features the protagonist of a Soul’s game, which basically means by default that they are going to be weak and brittle from the get go and depending on what order you tackle Demon’s Souls’ worlds in and how high a level you are, your character is still going to be harshly vulnerable to the nasty creatures that dwell within Latria. The game and location I’ve chosen for the next part also does a good job of making your character feel exposed to the dangers of the world. In the end, I decided that it was Retro’s stunning presentation of this level in particular that sealed the deal, coupled with the fact that the MP games are rated 12 here in the UK and T for Teen in the US, yet still managing to make me feel unnerved and unsettled by the environment and carnage strewn before my glowy Phazon eyes.

In any case, thanks to you (yes you, sitting right there) if you stuck it out this far. My next choice will soon be gracing these forums and let me tell you, it could stir some controversy as to what classifies as horror as well as how subjective the entire topic is.

(When we return, we'll be heading to a different kind of Mushroom Kingdom.)

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(Not)Horror Games Part 2: Odin was a Metroid

Before reading on-please read Part 1’s intro for a brief rundown on what this “series” is all about. Or don’t, I won’t judge. And if you’d be so kind as to take a listen to the mood setter of sorts (seen above). With that out of the way, let’s dive head first into the world of Metroid.

Metroid is a series all too famous for giving players a real sense of isolation. Samus Aran may not be alone in the universe, but any allies she may have seem to either die on her or arrive too late to the party. Enter Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, the finale to Retro’s fully realized 3D trilogy. Right off the bat, Samus is greeted by a Galactic Federation fleet and is requested to come aboard the flagship Olympus. Inside, she passes by many engineers and GF troopers until finally heading to the meeting room with Admiral Dane, who is accompanied by 3 fellow hunters. Suddenly, Samus no longer has this battle to fight alone. Or so it would seem…

You see, shit goes bad very quickly. No less than a couple of hours into the game, Dark Samus shows up on a planet that Samus and the other bounty hunters were trying to save from an incoming organic meteorite known as a Leviathan seed. The 4 of them are easily dispatched by the Dark Hunter and when Samus awakens a month later, she finds herself in a fancy new suit that comes with a heavy price. Whilst she was unconscious, scientists discovered that she now carries a bit of Phazon inside her, thanks to her evil counterpart. You now see where the subtitle comes into play. Samus is soon sent off to discover what happened to the missions the other hunters were undergoing and finish their jobs if need be.

It comes as little surprise that her former allies have now gone mad from the corruption within themselves. Our attention today is drawn not on these encounters, but rather a mysterious ship that was said to have been attacked by the nefarious Space Pirates. Whether you choose to go there immediately or leave it for late in the game, the result remains the same. The situation is about as bad as it gets in the world of Metroid. The music alone already tells the tale. All that remains on this broken vessel is the debris and the broken husks of GF troopers stationed here.

(No one dies gracefully or peacefully in Metroid. Not even our flipping-off friend here.)

WELCOME TO THE G.F.S VALHALLA.

An ironic name if I’ve ever seen one. Valhalla is the Norse mythos equivalent of the afterlife, but there are no Gods and eternal paradise aboard this ship. Only corpses and broken machinery. Moving into the bowels of the ship, you discover the bodies of those stationed here, completely lifeless. Using your trusty scan visor, all indications point to cause of death as the titular creatures, who love to feed on their victim’s life energy and leave nothing but an empty shell behind. What is most haunting are the troopers who so desperately tried to open an ID locked door, whose very flesh now remains stuck in place, blocking the only means of progressing onwards in this deep space graveyard. Having no choice but to shoot the bodies, they just dissolve into black dust. Once inside the meat of the ship, you can see through the windows as a ferocious pack of metroids pass by the debris outside on the backdrop of the blood red hue coming from the nebulae. It sets the mood, letting players know that Samus Aran is now alone on a desolate vessel in the middle of nowhere with her greatest enemy somewhere aboard the ship, possibly in their hundreds.

The metroids are not alone, however. With them comes all manner of Phazon infected beasties hell bent on sucking down your energy tanks and testing your mettle. Unlocking more areas of the ship using energy cells that are scattered both on board and on other planets, you venture deeper, not knowing where you may be led. It only becomes hauntingly apparent towards the end of this journey that the space pirates (led by Dark Samus at this point) that laid siege to this vessel were after the Aurora Unit that was assigned to it. After fending off a Metroid Hatchling, you find the final transmission of Aurora Unit 313, who in an almost sombre yet emotionless tone, reveals the true nature of the Phazon corruption’s point of origin, the sentient planet of Phaaze, before shutting down with the final message:

Darkness…..coming……..

(Orange Optimus Prime informs us just how dire the situation is.)

It’s a fitting end to this haunting level, setting up the final confrontation of the Prime trilogy as Samus and her Galactic Federation buddies use the remaining Leviathan seed stationed by the Pirate Homeworld to create a wormhole and take the fight to Phaaze, where Samus must defeat her nemesis and dark clone, who now has the intention to merge with the stolen AU and help spread Phaaze’s poison until nothing is left.

Winding down this story, I’d like to point out the fact that I was having second thoughts on including this level as part of this series; the reason being is that our beloved Chozo-raised heroine is a walking engine of destruction. Compare and contrast to the debut entry, which features the protagonist of a Soul’s game, which basically means by default that they are going to be weak and brittle from the get go and depending on what order you tackle Demon’s Souls’ worlds in and how high a level you are, your character is still going to be harshly vulnerable to the nasty creatures that dwell within Latria. The game and location I’ve chosen for the next part also does a good job of making your character feel exposed to the dangers of the world. In the end, I decided that it was Retro’s stunning presentation of this level in particular that sealed the deal, coupled with the fact that the MP games are rated 12 here in the UK and T for Teen in the US, yet still managing to make me feel unnerved and unsettled by the environment and carnage strewn before my glowy Phazon eyes.

In any case, thanks to you (yes you, sitting right there) if you stuck it out this far. My next choice will soon be gracing these forums and let me tell you, it could stir some controversy as to what classifies as horror as well as how subjective the entire topic is.

(When we return, we'll be heading to a different kind of Mushroom Kingdom.)

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(Not)Horror Games Part 1: A Mindflayer a day keeps the world tendency black

In the spirit of October come early this year, I’ve decided to take a look back on areas in games that nailed the atmosphere and spirit that one would find in a typical horror game, just without the horror part. With that said, keep in mind that I’ve not played every game ever released, and it is my own personal list, so before you make the obligatory “where the hell is location X from game Y?!” it is more than likely that I have not played this game. Also, horror can be a subjective term, so perhaps one or more of the following picks do fall under the genre for you, but as far as I’m concerned, I think these games have enough elements in them that are distinctly non-horror that they can make the cut. This is Part 1 and at the time of writing, I have yet to start a write-up on the other picks that I have planned, but I think I already have some games and locales in mind. With that intro out the way, let’s dive head first into From Software’s unforgiving Action/RPG PS3 classic, Demon’s Souls.

This inaugural pick is sure to give people a good idea of what this feature is all about. I’m sure more folks have shut off a Souls game out of spite and rage than being in sheer terror, but make no mistake; Demon’s Souls nailed a macabre, almost gothic-like dark fantasy setting, with a bit of Lovecraft sauce on top. Nowhere embodies the above statement quite the 3rd archstone (basically DeS’ terminology for “portal to different locations in the world”). You are first greeted with the sight of prison cells, some shut, some open, lining the walls up, down and across. You hear bell chimes, the rattling of steel doors, the exasperated grunts of a prisoner far below. You progress onwards to find the occupants of the cells, seemingly harmless dreglins, as they begin to surround your character with prayer and bowing like gestures. Perhaps you slay them because they are in your way, or you know the game has been too cruel in the past that this is some form of trap; either way, you continue along the narrow paths. Eventually, you’ll encounter what is known as a Mindflayer (which has my vote for coolest fucking elite mook name in all of everything ever). You now realize where those bell clanging sounds originated.

YOU DIED (most likely scenario to follow)

Turns out that bell is also the source of a nasty AOE magic blast that is likely to one shot our dear hero if they have not upped their vitality (health) enough. Time to go grab that soul pile (or go to another archstone, that’s fine too) and teach that squid faced fuck a lesson! Wait, what is it doing to my face?

YOU DIED (for sure this time, probably)

(“Have you heard about our lord and saviour, the Old One?”)

After much perseverance, you will pass this bastard, only to discover that he’s not alone. Meet the prison guards of this hell hole. Yeah-you thought that it might’ve been one that strayed away from some demonic pack from a faraway land and won’t respawn either? This is Demon’s Souls, not The Hungry Caterpillar. Eventually, you should be able to deal with Innsmouth’s long lost family to stumble across some lovely Iron Maidens (that’s the torture device, not the metal band, no matter how “metal” the aesthetic in the Souls games are). I imagine anyone who’s played/watched a Let’s Play behind the safety of a close window hotkey of Amnesia: The Dark Descent would know what to expect. One of these Iron Maidens happens to contain an unfortunate soul who, once released, feels the need to hug someone with his shanking device in hand. GG, Demon’s Souls, I didn’t think you’d be capable of a jump scare.

What follows is basically a hunt for different keys that unlock different doors in this wretched hive so that you may progress onwards to the boss of 3-1. Along the way, you’ll discover what can only be described as a ball of yarn, that is to say that people are the substitute material for yarn in this world. A lovely image has crept into your minds, I’m sure. Once you are whisked off to 3-2, the middle portion of this world, things take a turn for the worst. Gone are the confines of corridors lined with prison cells, now replaced by narrow pathways with no barriers in a game that is rife with falling to your death. I don’t think you need Columbo to tell you that this is going to be a bad time. Gargoyle type dudes are the main course of the day; they can fly, you can’t, do the math!

Once you figure out the tricky landscape, you’ll soon find a “pleasant” NPC who appears to be stuck in a makeshift cage elevator. Once you free him, he’ll offer you his thanks and be on his merry way, but this isn’t the place to be discussing what one Yurt the Silent Chief has in store for you later in the game. Once riding to the bottom in the elevator, you’ll be in a swamp like environment, instead it’s filled with blood instead of mud because, as I may have failed to mention at an earlier time, there’s a gigantic freaking heart in the middle of the stage obstructing your path. Residing in this swamp are what appear to be human centipedes, only it’s not 3 (or 12) unlucky souls sewn together by a mad bastard. No, the Souls games are far too classy to indulge in such things. Instead, they are black centipede like creatures with human faces on the front, sides and spine. See, what did I tell ya? Classy stuff only the Queen of England would bother waving to.

Once cutting down the beating heart, which promptly causes it to stop, you find out the source of those centipede creatures from earlier-inside the heart (yummy)……

("Guess you could say this place is not for the faint of heart-I’ll slap myself for that later, I promise")

The nightmare train is not over, however, for awaiting you before the boss of 3-2 (Satan’s acolytes incarnate) is a Black Phantom Mindflayer, one of which you have already fought near the murky blood swamp below. Instead, this guy chooses the dickish spot of a winding staircase, of which the right side has no guarding whatsoever. Oh, I should explain the Black Phantom part of the equation. The simplest and most widespread comparison I can think of is comparing a green shelled koopa and a red shelled koopa, except ratchet up the difficulty gap up 100 times and you’re good to go. Once you pass that red aura chump, one of the most difficult bosses of the game (and quite possibly of any game) greets you past the fog gate. This is where the terror subsides and the good old fashioned raging can begin anew.

Anyway, I’m tired and going to bed at early hours of the morning here, hoping I don’t have nightmares of a squid face skullfucking me. Part 2 will come when I muster up the energy or more importantly the enthusiasm to write a lengthy entry like this one, but I should have it out within a week or two, there’s no real set schedule here. Sweet dreams, everyone!

(From not-so abandoned prisons to not-so abandoned spaceships, the next part won't be heard because in space, no one can hear you waggle a Wiimote)

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E3 The Hype Engine Part Two

ALL OF THE GAMES! (Third Party)

Ubisoft

A lot of people, myself included, believed that these French-Canadian daredevils stole the show last year. Watch_Dogs was so out of left field that I thought it would end up nothing more than a tech demo that would never see the light of day as a final product, but alas, it appears to be real deal. But what other tricks does Yves Guillemot and his company have up their collective sleeves this year? More of the aforementioned sandbox title is assured. After a disappointing romp on the American Frontier, will Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag be able to garner enough interest from myself and other uh-uh-uh-uh-uh enthusiasts. I thoroughly enjoyed the naval combat portions of AC3, so perhaps a pirate themed Assassins is what the plague doctor ordered. Rayman Legends should also be making an appearance, though Ubi have done their best efforts to suck the wind out of that game with the delays and platform whoring. I never got around to playing Origins because.....errrrr.....I have no valid excuse. Maybe one day I will reunite with the man-thing with no arms or legs. Another thing that has been brewing is a new title from Reflection, the minds behind Driver: San Francisco, yet another key title I missed out on. Will we get a megaton reveal like last year? Will Mr. Caffeine return (hopefully a resounding no)? Will there be more laser tag shenanigans? Sooner rather than later, we will find out!

(Who is this man and why was he at E3?)

Electronic Arts

EA always do their best to squeeze in as many titles in as little time possible. This includes the regular installments of sports games and Battlefields and Need for Speeds etc. I expect another by the numbers conference from them this year: around 8-10 titles shown in succession with no real shocking revelations and hopefully no more on The Old Republic. It is likely too early to see anything from the Star Wars camp since their recent acquisition of the franchise on the gaming front, as well as Mass Effect content. However, there are 2 games that are looming on everyone's minds: Mirror's Edge 2 and Dragon Age 3. Sadly, I have no real connection with either of these franchises, so I can't comment on my shock levels if one/both of them make an appearance in any capacity.

(You got to have Faith, EA!)

....and the rest!

When all the pressers are said and done, it's on to the show floor, where the following titles will no doubt have space to breathe and impress me. First mention obviously goes to Dark Souls 2, which I am anxiously awaiting more scrumptious gameplay footage. Why anxious you ask? Well, since the project was handed over to two new directors as the Demon's/Dark Souls one, Hidetaka Miyazaki, stepped down, I have been cautiously optimistic on where this franchise is going. Thanks to what can be perhaps be attested to as mistranslations, Souls veterans believed that these new heads wanted to dumb down the experience to appeal to "the Skyrim audience." I was worried. Dark Souls should stay as Dark Souls and not go chasing after a demographic that may not want what it has to offer. Anyway, once the debut gameplay footage was out there, most of our fears were stamped out. I still need to see more of what the game has to offer to decide whether this is the next evolution in the franchise that I want.

Speaking of new blood being injected into existing franchises, Batman: Arkham Origins is being made by a new studio other than Rocksteady. I expect that the latter have left behind enough existing foundations to be built upon to make a solid game, but I need to see the Dark Knight and Deathstroke in action. Hopefully they also show some new voice work, since the VA changes could impact my decision to purchase this at year's end.

From developer changes, to leading role changes now. Metal Gear Solid V is now starring Kiefer Sutherland as the biggest of bosses, Big Boss (!). Or is he? Fans have already began crafting crazy theories, perhaps out of denial and desperation, that may link series veteran David Hayter back to Snake. Seriously, just look at the man's Twitter feed this past week. Either he's going insane or playing a game. Back to the meat of the project, I wonder if we'll see the Phantom Pain running in real time, or whether it will merely be a crazy Kojima cut trailer that leaves a ratio of questions to answers at 1000:1. I'm still in a coma, flying flaming whale eater?

Of course, I could go on at length about a lot more titles set to appear at the show. Honourable mentions include Saints Row IV, The Evil Within, Destiny, The Witcher 3 and the new Thief. And that's just what we know will be there? Surprises might be the best part about E3...speaking of which?

Wild Mass Guessing

My biggest hope for an E3 appearance is among not the usual suspects like Half Life 3, Beyond Good & Evil 2, Last Guardian etc. You ever hear of a little game called TimeSplitters or its two sequels? In short, they are essentially the GoldenEye/Perfect Dark formula attached to a goofy setting which covers a multitude of settings. And they were fucking awesome. I'm willing to bet that you have more chance of the three games mentioned beforehand making a collective appearance than a TS4. This crushes my spirits. At the very least, a HD remastering of 2 alone would go along way in them getting me to buy about 5 copies for myself. Instead, Crytek would rather have the former Free Radical team slave away on Crysis multiplayer, which is, you know, great for the 20 people that play that.

(Whilst some of you were kicking Covenant ass or scanning Space Pirates, I was helping Vin Diesel Sgt. Cortez save time or something)

The next best thing is a game that has even less chance of returning. When you think old school survival horror, Resident Evil, Alone in the Dark and Silent Hill spring to mind. Well, there was another cog in the system at one time. DINO CRISIS! I imagine a new Dino Crisis game wouldn't even be good, depending on what team at Capcom you handed the project to, but a part of me just wants a Dino Crisis 4, for history's sake.

And that was E3.....

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E3 The Hype Engine Part One

E3 is known by a number of titles. Often hailed as the Superbowl of the gaming industry, it's a place where everyone's cards are laid out on the table. Secrets will be revealed. Technology will move forward. Sequels will be rampant. New IPs will be met with open arms. Whatever happens, I am excited. This is truly the time of gaming Xmas. The naughty will be punished and the nice will be treated. When all is said and done by the end of next week, gamers will be left with their own impressions and interpretations on things, but for now, let us break down the highlights and what I am personally looking forward to.

THE BIG (E)3

Microsoft

You wanna talk about a company that has it all to lose, look no further than Microsoft. They are navigating a minefield right now with how they have rustled up consumers on the eve of the biggest gaming convention of the year. From the lukewarm Xbox One reveal to their downright dubious console policies, MS have found themselves caught flat against the wall. Rumors are already circling about a fairly strong 1st party line-up supported by 3rd party timed exclusives, so perhaps some megaton announcements from the big green camp could cool the boiler down just a touch. In any case, MS have to bring their A game to the conference or risk having even more of their consumer base turn their backs.

(Is it ever too soon for the Chief to come back?)

Sony

Sony find themselves in a comfortable position with the Playstation 4. They have kept their cards close to the chest, instigating fans to hit the Internet up with petitions and such. Whilst it would be ever so easy from the consumer perspective for Sony to play the good guy and not follow suit with DRM style policies, they would risk alienating 3rd party publisher support, which makes up a huge chunk of a system's library at the end of the day. In an ideal world, the Playstation 4 would sell well because it is a more consumer friendly console, which would cause both Microsoft and other big corporations like EA, Activision and Capcom to change strategies. All these businesses want is money. If being anti-consumer makes them some big bucks, they will enforce it so long as it works for them. But enough about this hotly debated topic. The games is what we're all eagerly anticipating, and Sony are no slouch in the triple A exclusives department. The fact that The Last of Us is launching in the same week as E3 should be a strong enough indication of that. Speaking of titles with Last in them, will we see a shocking reappearance from Team ICO's MIA juggernaut, Last Guardian. I think the verdict may already be out on that one.

(A new inFamous game is coming, you guys!)

Nintendo

The little Nintendo that could. The once leading giant in the industry has decided to omit the usual conference format this year in favour of their more casual Nintendo Direct videos. What does this mean in terms of changes? Well, I imagine not a whole lot is going to differ just because of a new presentation style. In fact, this may be an improvement over the normal press conference routine. Nintendo are lucky this year, for all eyes will be firmly set on the brewing next-gen conflict between the XBone and the PS4, in regards to their launch windows and system restrictions. Iwata and co. have an ample opportunity to steal some thunder with new WiiU titles coming thick and fast. Imagine if an hour video consists of gameplay footage from a new Smash Bros, a Retro Studios title, a Mario Kart, a 3D Mario platformer and maybe even something on the Zelda/Metroid front. What about Bayonetta 2? Even if only half of the aforementioned stuff shows up in some capacity, Ninty will have me firmly grasped by the horns. My WiiU's been needing some love lately.

(Does Nintendo believe in angels and witches?)

Come back at some unspecified time in a possible specified location to learn about my thoughts on those 3rd party cats, as well as some good, pure Wild Mass Guessing that may not involve Half Life 3.

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