Best Of 2012

10 - Max Payne 3

Max Payne 3 comes in at number 10 for me simply because of how the game is presented. With this game I felt like it could of been quite a lot better, however it did enough things right to leave a good impression. Mechanically I felt like this game was confused at times, like Rockstar couldn't decide whether to make a modern third person shooter or an old school one. The bullet time mechanic is still really fun to use, but I felt the game was trying to push me into using cover and in my opinion that is not what Max Payne is about. On the story side this game did a really good job of making me feel sorry for Max, even if he does allow himself to get pulled into all this drama. Overall this was a solid package and fun to play even if occasionally frustrating, and the soundtrack added a lot of atmosphere to this title.

9 - Sleeping Dogs

At number 9 we have Sleeping Dogs aka True Crime Hong Kong, a game that almost didn't make it into the hands of the public but I'm sure glad it did. Over the years I have played my fair share of open world/gangster games, and post GTA V and most definitely post Saints Row The Third it's really hard for these types of games to stand out. This was one of my biggest surprises of the year because of its many strong points, whether it be the great but cliche story or the heavy focus on hand to hand combat rather than guns, Sleeping Dogs did a good job of setting itself apart from other titles in its genre. The main character Wei Shen is probably one of my favorite characters of the year and although I could see almost every plot twist coming, I still thoroughly enjoyed working my way through the narrative.

8 - Dishonored

Dishonored was a game that I was very skeptical about at first as I had no idea how the first person stealth mechanics were going to handle. However this game did not disappoint as I quickly became very skilled at sneaking through areas without being seen and without harming a single person. The ways in which this game allowed you to build your character was one of the best parts of this game for me, as I decided to go full stealth I felt like each upgrade helped my objectives significantly. Another major bonus to this game is the variety of ways you can handle your objectives and how you affect the world. Dishonored also has a few decent plot twists, however I found the ending of the game to be quite anti climactic, but you shouldn't let that stop you from picking this up.

7 - Borderlands 2

Borderlands 2 was basically exactly what I wanted out of a sequel, which was more Borderlands. There were a lot of really smart improvements made to this title and I feel the increased focus on having a story and an actual villain is exactly what this game needed. I easily spent around 30 hours in this game and did my best to 100% Borderlands 2, and I'll most likely dive back in at some point in 2013 once all the DLC has been released. To be honest there isn't a lot I can really say about this game, at the end of the day it's fun, it's stupid, it's over the top and there are so many guns it's unreal.

6 - Black Ops 2

When I look back on this list in a years time I feel I may regret putting Black Ops 2 as high up my list as I have, but as of right now I feel it deserves the number 6 spot. This was Treyarch's year to make a big push and set themselves up as the new A team developers for COD and turn Black Ops into the new Modern Warfare. Although I do not consider Black Ops 2 as good of a game as Modern Warfare 1 or 2, I do consider it the best COD since Modern Warfare 2. This year Treyarch made enough changes to the series with its near future setting and adding some really well done moral choice sequences, that this year COD had more of a new and fresh feeling about it. The continuation of Mason and Wood's story was nicely put together and the campaign had moments when to put it simply cool shit happened. At the end of the day this is still COD, it looks like COD, plays like COD and sounds like COD. However Modern Warfare 3 felt very stale and Black Ops 2 has me interested enough that I'm really looking forward to seeing what Treyarch does with the inevitable 3rd installment on the next gen consoles.

5 - The Witcher 2

The Witcher 2 is normally the type of game I would stay away from as I felt it was going to be very punishing and almost too large of a world that I would care to explore. Once diving in to The Witcher 2 though I was fully engrossed in its world and characters and politics. I liked that there was so much stuff in this game to read and learn about the different kings and factions, but it wasn't forced on the player. One of my favorite aspects of this game was the combat, which on my first attempt at fighting the most basic enemies I was absolutely destroyed. After giving it some time to really get use to the way things work with the different types of swords, variety of spells and the stamina system, each battle then became just enough of a challenge without being frustrating. This game also looks fantastic, and the port from PC to 360 was handled well enough. The story tied up very well for me and I feel like the choices I made had enough of an impact that the story felt like my own. The Witcher 2 was another big surprise for me this year and easily makes it to the number 5 spot.

4 - The Walking Dead

As a huge fan of The Walking Dead TV show I was very excited when I learned a game set in this world was in the making. I was even more excited when I learned it was going to be a serious, story focused moral choice type of game. I had been waiting for someone to make an attempt at telling a serious and dramatic story in a zombie setting as I always felt it had tremendous potential. The Walking Dead season one was exactly what I had been looking for, and managed to pull off episodic gaming so well I'm hoping many other will take a shot at it. Now I wouldn't want to spoil any big story moments for anyone so I'll just say this. The story, characters and the world that this game takes place in are all written extremely well when you consider this is a video game. The attachment I had to some of the characters throughout this story was more than I've had in possibly any other game, and it feels that much worse if you end up losing someone. This is video game story telling done at its best and it deserves everyone's attention, regardless of how into games they are.

3 - Mass Effect 3

Well what can I say about this game that hasn't been said already. I think the controversy surrounding this game speaks for itself, and although I like many others was kind of disappointed by the ending, it still makes it to number 3 for my list. The reason this game comes in so high is simply because of the journey it provided me with, the ending could of been better but when it came down to it I still very much enjoyed my time with game as I finished MY Mass Effect story. Mechanically I honestly can't make too many complaints, although the 3rd installment leaned even further towards the shooter genre and away from RPG It still provided me with a very competent shooter with cool weapons and awesome powers and abilities. This game felt very much like a Mass Effect reunion in many ways as Shepard traveled from planet to planet fighting along side friends and tying up loose ends. It also gave me a lot of great memorable moments from the mass effect universe. This game did not end as well as it could have, but when it comes down to it, I stopped the reapers and the ride along the way was truly my story and one of the best experiences I had all year.

2 - Halo 4

Being the huge Halo fan that I am it took me a while to decide where this game would fit in top 10 list. This was definitely one of the best games I had played all year, but when I really thought about it, it wasn't the best. The reason I feel Halo 4 is the 2nd best game of this year is because it's an extremely well made FPS experience in the Halo universe, this game very much impressed me but it did not amaze me. 343 industries had a huge task of taking the reigns for this franchise and I can happily say that they did great job kicking off a whole new trilogy. There weren't many changes made to the Halo formula but the visuals were highly improved, the story had a more personal feel and the shooting still feels as great as ever. Once again we also have another great Halo soundtrack which I am listening to as I type this, and in my opinion this is possibly the best soundtrack yet. For me to explain what I like about Halo would just be a waste of time, at this point everyone pretty much knows whether they like it or not and what type of experience to expect with this title. Halo 4 is very much a game with the right improvements in the right places, and does more than enough to leave me excited to see where 343 go with this series. So to sum up Halo 4 is not a game changer, but still a fantastic game.

1 - Far Cry 3

So here it is number 1, my favorite game of the 2012. Far Cry 3 is without doubt my biggest surprise this year, as I completely forgot about it until a few weeks before its release. This game has been called by many "Skyrim with guns" which is a fair comparison, but for me this the type of experience I wanted from Skyrim in 2011 but did not receive. Far Cry 3 gave me an open world, but not too huge it seems like a chore to explore. It gave me a variety of options when approaching enemies, and made each one feel like a good option. It gave me a great story with fantastic characters, and it did all this in a game that looks amazing and plays just as good as any other top shooter out there. This game had so many "Oh shit" moments for me from using a flamethrower on a cartel's weed field, to unleashing a tiger onto a group of pirates and then sniping them as they ran away. All round this game just worked for me, I felt like enough of a badass to take on 5 pirates with an assault rifle, but at the same time felt slightly intimidated when approaching a bear or a shark. My only complaint with this game is that I wish I got to see more of the best character of 2012 which was the villain of Far Cry 3, Vaas Montenegro. Now although this character was basically like most other bad guys in movies today in a post dark knight world, the performance given by the actor who played Vaas (Micheal Mando) was so good that seeing him in real life is actually quite terrifying. Going back to Halo 4, I said it wasn't the best because it was extremely well made but it did not amaze me, and Far Cry 3 did just that. This game deserves to be played by everyone as it provides a technically impressive, mechanically sound game with great narrative that each player seems to have a different experience with. For the reasons listed above, Far Cry 3 is my top game of 2012.


The Last 8 Years Of My Gaming Life

So I realized the other day that my Xbox Live subscription is coming up for it's annual renewal, then I realized that I had been a gold member of Xbox Live for 8 years, which also lead me to my final realization that Xbox Live will be 10 years old come this November. So what does the last decade online mean to me? What does Xbox Live mean to the industry? and how does it affect the future of the industry?.

So let me set the scene for you. It's late into the year of 2003, I'm a few months away from turning 14, I just finish school and I head to my local Asda (Wall-Mart UK for my american readers) in order to purchase the latest copy of Official Xbox Magazine. Waiting in line to buy the magazine I stare at the front of the magazine and see the words "Xbox Live" written across the cover. Reading the words "Xbox" and "Live", my initial assumption was some new live game show of people competing for cash playing Xbox games. As I return to my home and quickly flip through the magazine I discover what Xbox Live really is. Words used in the magazine such as "a revolution" and "the future of gaming" caught my interest. This continued as I placed the demo disc that came with the magazine into my Xbox and played the promotional video for Xbox Live (shown below).

At this point I was sold and half an hour later when my mother came home begged her to upgrade our internet connection from dial-up to broadband, so I could join this wonderful online community. Nearly 8 years, £320 and 80'000 gamerscore later I have to say I am one happy customer.

I remember the early days of Xbox Live like they were yesterday, although it took me over an hour to decide on the gamertag that the 14 year old me thought the online community would fear, I finally decided to go with the name Super Saiyan 14, I also didn't realize at the time that I had would have to update this name annually, a tradition I abandoned after only 4 years of paying money to change 1 character of my name. I spent months just playing the Xbox Live demo disc which featured Moto GP and Mech Assault in order to scratch my online itch. 6 months later Halo 2 arrives and what I call the golden age of online gaming begins. The years roll by, I play anything and everything that has the ability to access Xbox Live, and also add anyone and everyone that I came across online hoping to build a group of elite gaming friends to take on the world with. Whether it be Project Gotham Racing 2, Halo 2, Unreal Championship, FIFA or Splinter Cell: Chaos theory I was playing them all and fully hooked on the Xbox Live experience.

Around the same time I pick up another issue of Official Xbox Magazine, this was just before the launch of the Xbox 360 and one of the articles within this issue was focused on Microsoft's aim with the 360 and Xbox Live. I'm always surprised by the way some people react to the way Microsoft operates these days, the main reason for my surprise is that within this article they flat out told you exactly what they were about this generation. This article went on for about three or so pages about how Xbox Live and the 360 was going to replace your TV provider, DVD player, CD player and PC along with the ability to download your games instead of actually going out and buying them. So when everyone complains about how Microsoft has lost touch with the hardcore because they add stuff like Facebook to Xbox Live ( and I do agree with this statement to some degree) It's surprising to me to see all of this uproar because this was their plan all along, and they told us from the beginning.

Over the last decade, I along with a lot of you out there have seen this service go through many changes especially the different dashboards shown below. By the way I still find the original Xbox dashboard extremely cool for some reason.


Original 360



But through all these changes its not just been a simple cosmetic upgrade. The introduction of Xbox Live in my opinion is one of most important times in video game history. Not only was this service a revolution to video games by allowing the us to play and meet all sorts of people across the globe and introducing this to the mainstream. But it also changed the industry as a whole, whether it be the strategic business moves of Microsoft competitors with Sony and Nintendo introducing their own online service, or the way in which games are developed today to the point where it is almost considered suicide for a developer to release a game without and some kind of online multiplayer aswel as online pass. I'm not very happy about that last point though.

Looking back at Microsoft and their vision of the future of Xbox Live that they spoke of back in 2005, and looking at my TV screen right now as I am writing this with the LOVEFILM app playing movies while also in party chat with 2 other guys who are playing Modern Warfare. It is clear to me that Microsofts vision is fully realized as Xbox Live has completely replaced all of my other services and electronic equipment apart from the PC I am writing this blog post on. Now I'm not saying that Microsoft has made all the right moves, and has crafted a perfect service over the years, but what I am saying is that Xbox Live's influence on the gaming industry, whether you consider for better or for worse, is almost too large to measure. This service has shaped the industry and its their competitors forever and I must say that I'm glad that the 14 year old me begged his mother to upgrade the internet to broadband in order sign up for Xbox Live, because although this community has its share of screaming and verbally abusive teenagers, it also has it's share of friendly and interesting people that I have met over the years. Were it not for Xbox Live allowing me to communicate with all these different people about games, there's a good chance I may have moved onto other interests. Were it not for XBLA I would not have discovered some of the classic games that were way before my time. Were it not for Xbox Live I would not have been able to have some of the best cooperative experiences in my gaming life, the most recent being spending 5 hours going from wave 1 to 50 on Gears of War 3's horde mode. But as I sit at almost 22 years of age, I'm glad to say I was part of a defining moment in the industry I love so much.

P.S. Now get back to making games Microsoft, I have enough apps on my dashboard.


What's So Bad About Being Bad?

What is wrong with being the bad guy? I ask this question as I am around half way through my third play through of God Of War 3. Kratos is without doubt a very angry and evil character. Sure his motivation for his anger is fueled by the death of his family, but the way in which he goes about seeking his revenge could only be done by a bad guy, a good guy character would seek revenge, get to the last boss and decide not to kill them because they are not worth it or killing that boss would mean that the good guy has become just like his enemy. To put it simply a good guy would have some redeeming qualities about himself. 

Lets take a character such as Nathan Drake. Now although this character kills a serious number of people he is still considered good person. Drake has charming aspects to his personality, allowing the player to look past the fact that he is really a treasure hunting mass murderer when you look at the facts. However Kratos has no charm or even any mercy for those around him that have nothing to do with his war on the gods, and to be honest it feels great to play as this character. To long have i played as the good guy who has to save every person on the planet, who has make sacrifices for the greater good and never thinks about his own personal gain. Point is i have a lot of fun being extremely powerful and no mercy for those around me in this game, but why is this way of thinking so unexplored in the industry.  
I know what your thinking, you can be evil in plenty of games such as Fable or Infamous these games are not the same for one simple reason. When playing games with moral choices such as infamous and you are forced to make a choice between good and evil, these choices are so clearly labeled as good or evil choices, and most if not all games with moral choices at least color these choices blue and red as if to symbolize some kind of heaven or hell contrast. In my opinion by labeling these choices good and bad the developer is almost suggesting their own morals on to the player. This to me means that the moral choice is extremely shallow at this point, as the choice is not made on what each individual player's morals are, but the developer telling the player what is right and what is wrong, this leads to most players choosing the good choice simply because they feel its right thing to do and not actually thinking about the choice.  
Anyway back to God Of War, the reason i give the developers credit for this franchise is that they force you carry one being the bad guy, there is no point in these games where you can back out or do the right thing at the last second like the force unleashed did. Most games that have evil choices always show the innocent feeling your wrath but do it in a sympathetic way towards the innocent or good people, God Of War is completely unapologetic about it all and does not try leave the player with any guilt what so ever. Now im not saying that i want to go outside and slaughter people in real life, but in a video game where the consequences of my actions generally only affect which achievement i get, its great to be selfish, its great not to care for once and its also great not to try and save everyone and then have to play escort missions. ( I cant stand escort missions ) But this is something that i think should be explored, and not in a humorous way but with a serious tone to it like God Of War but with maybe a little less constant shouting from the main character. In closing i hope that more developers experiment with being evil or at least try to make characters that are a little more realistic because lets be honest half of these sacrifices and good choices we make in games im willing to put money on that 90% of the population would take the easy, selfish and personal gaining route, but you might know it as EVIL!!!.

Just Do What It Say's On The Script!

A lot of games today use scripted sequences or quick time events. The good thing about this is that they normally use it to show you cool set pieces that are extremely memorable for the campaign. Sometimes designers may spend hours or even days on putting something into a game an then the player may not even notice it if the scripted sequence or the QTE was not in place. Now although these set pieces are very cool and impressive, there is still a huge amount of fun and satisfaction gained from discovering things on your own.   


My best example of this would be games such as the Crysis or the Assassins Creed series. Now both these have very similar approaches to gameplay, both present you combat situations that allow you approach in a number of different ways. I have found the the good thing about this is the replay value this will bring to the game as package. But one of my issues is my own fault, now this may just be me but I have a slight OCD when it comes to playing my games. For example when playing Assassins Creed Brotherhood if the mission required me to sneak into an area without being seen and assassinate my target I would try to carry out the mission exactly like that, if I was spotted or I messed something up I would actually let the guards kill me so I could start the whole thing over again an do it not only the way the designers intended but also the way that seems coolest. No being cheap an shooting my target from a distance and then running away leaving my assassin friends to deal with the rest, I wanted to follow the target, wait for him to get in the perfect position and then jump on him from the top of a building as my hidden blade plunged into his chest. Now the reason I have an issue with this as I stated before is my own fault, my own weird video game OCD will not let me carry out a mission sloppily, and although I repeat some missions many times because of this, there is a great satisfaction I get when I do eventually complete the mission the cool way that I wanted to. However If these open and free situations in video games were scripted and had some kind of QTE, the plan would always go along smoothly and you will probably feel like a badass the first time you complete it, but what about the second?  


I have no problem with quick time events and scripted sequences in games really but I do feel that for how far gaming has come as an both a form of entertainment an industry, what it has really boiled down to in a lot of games today is having really nice looking stuff semi played for you. Almost to the point where the main focus of designers today is to create an interactive movie that leaves you with memories of sections of a game that you can talk about to a friend who had the exact same experience. There are developers who seem to do this very well, Uncharted 2 for example is a very linear and cool set piece type game, yet I have played through that single player campaign a bunch of times. But as the new Tomb Raider has QTE's and Mass Effect 3 has turret sequences I am left wondering if developers are designing more of an story for you to play through, or a game for you to experience how you want to on your own. As part of a community that I hear cry on a regular basis such things as “you’re dumbing it down!” I do understand that as a growing industry, variety is essential if gaming is to be taken seriously as a form of entertainment. So is this just simply a question of why developers cant figure out a way to direct players and not funnel them in order to show them something cool in their game, or is that too much of an ask?.


Westside For Life

So I wanted to talk about a genre that i kind of hate but in a wierd way i also respect. This is not very hard for me as I have had many discussions with my friends about the topic I am about to speak on. This genre is the JRPG, this genre has presented many frustrations in my gaming life and I have yet to find a JRPG that I find fun or even interesting. I have similar feeling towards a lot of Japanese games in general, which I admit is very strange as my favourite franchise of all time is the metal gear solid franchise so I guess that’s an exception, but yes my taste in games remains very western the older I get.

What is my issue with this genre? You might be thinking, well everything apart from the turn based combat. We have all played as a spiky haired teenager with a ridiculously large sword at some point, and this is a repeated theme throughout this genre, along with a soft spoken girl who can cast magic healing spells and who your main character will most likely fall in love with by the end of the game. I find these characters to be some of the most repeated characters in this industry, as within playing one hour of any JRPG I know that my main character is either some cheerful, clumsy and spiky haired teen who is some how the chosen one, or some quiet, depressed, orphan, emo kid who is again the chosen one. This is not however my main issue with this genre or the Japanese style in general, my main issue is the game play.

JRPGs seem to present me with the same game nearly every time and the Japanese way of doing things in game development puts me in the same position every time which is wanting to kill myself. I find the that a lot of Japanese games and JRPGs in particular to almost be stubborn in the ways that they have progressed over the years, I have played at least 3 JRPGs on 3 different consoles in the last 12 years and I see little to no progression in this genre other than graphical if I am being brutally honest. The first JRPG I ever played was final fantasy 9. Now when I played this game I found some problems such as with a game being based around strategic turn based combat I found that strategy a lot of time meant nothing as the best way to beat the game was to grind and grind and grind and then grind some more until you could just about stand up to a boss. Grinding is what ruins this genre for me, especially when I feel it’s forced upon the player which is the feeling I get from a lot of JRPGs. This problem was reoccurring throughout a whole bunch of JRPGs I had the pleasure of experiencing from the from the PS1 days to the PS3 and Xbox 360 days. This is why I feel there is little progression in this genre, I see little difference between final fantasy 7, 10 an 13 other then graphical.

Let’s take a look at the western RPGs of recent years, the reason I am able to get along with these games at all is because they are built to suit so many different types of players. Many people would call this watering a game down or making it too easy for players who just are not good enough, but I say its smart game design. If you want a challenge and want to grind for 40 hours that’s fine but the fact is there are a lot of other people out there who don’t want that stuff, and I fail to see the JRPG genre catering to those players needs, there are players who want to play games like these but are too scared off by the thought that this genre is seriously difficult. I can understand back in the SNES or even the PS1 days it may not have been possible to create a game as complex as mass effect or fallout that changes its difficulty according to how the player is progressing but its easy on today’s consoles, this genre still stays in the same unforgiving shell its been in since its creation.

I have come to accept that this is the way of the JRPG, but why is making a game more accessible referred to as dumbing it down from what I hear from a lot of gamers. By no means are fallout, mass effect, borderlands or oblivion a kids game or an easy game, but its accessible and with all of these games I have grinded through by choice and not by force, simply because I found the world around me to be interesting enough to explore and the game play fun enough that I want to build my character, not that my character was not strong enough to progress, because in a western RPG I could just about progress anyway on my own skill and tactics. As far visuals go JRPGs have really pushed today’s consoles to their limits, but in my opinion there is a lack of innovation in the game play, almost as if the developers are either lazy or scared to change the formula because of the fear of losing some of their fan base. Other Japanese developers change the formula all the time, take a look at Mario, Metroid, Zelda and Metal Gear and if anything these innovations have caused these games to be called the greatest of their generation and creating a spark in the industry. The titles that have made this industry what it is today are all from Japan and JRPGs are one of the key foundations of this industry and has sparked hundreds of clones trying to emulate its success. The western RPG in my opinion has stolen the spotlight, as they incorporate all of the JRPGs best features with the accessibility to allow anyone to pick up and play with the choice of a challenge if they consider themselves "hardcore".

However I do have to give JRPGs some respect, one of the main reasons for this is that in this day an age of gaming when nearly everyone is willing to change their entire business plan in order to capture the grandma and baby market, JRPGs have stuck too their guns and carried on making the unforgiving, grind filled games for their fans and no one else. This is one genre that I feel has not really progressed or had any major innovations but has had enough small advances to make them relevant. Another reason I must tip my hat to this genre is its difficulty, although I may hate the difficulty of most of them, back in the day almost all games were difficult and it’s hard to find many games in other genres that really prove a challenge without being cheap. A lot of people today talk about how many games today are also getting shorter in length I have to agree with this as I do see a lot of 6-8 hour single player stories these days, so it is nice to see games lasting up to 40 hours. So many games are only just about worth their value in length and could easily be completed in a weekend, no real effort involved or serious amount of time required to finish it, just progressing from A to B and game over. I also have a big interest in Japanese culture in general so I can appreciate some aspects of the way the Japanese developers do things, especially the art design and the soundtracks of a lot of these games. This industry use to be majority Japanese with a hint of western developers, now days it seems the other way around so its nice to have a bit of difference and change of pace in gaming, no matter how much it frustrates me I still find myself now and again trying the occasional JRPG and saying to myself "maybe this time its different". So that my two cents on the genre, I don’t see myself changing in opinion anytime soon but I still respect and understand the people who are starting online petitions for a Final Fantasy 7 remake, to make things clear, by no means do I think these are bad games but this is the only genre i seem to respect but not play. For these reasons i will probably remain Westside 4 Life.  

The Reality Issue

I have been thinking a lot about the future of this industry and the direction it’s going right now with all the motion controller stuff that all three console makers are starting to come out with. Now from the way I see things in the gaming industry the objective of most developers is to make the player feel as involved in the experience as possible, almost to the point where you feel you are not playing a game. A lot of developers talk about moral choice and connecting with characters along with feeling all sorts of emotions while progressing through a story. With all these motions controllers soon to be released the aim seems to be a new way to play but also a better way to connect with the game as you do the motions that your character is performing in the game. A lot of these advances are towards realism and making things more realistic. With every new console that is released there is a progression in graphics and processing power, the goal of these new consoles is to bring the gaming experience closer and closer the photo realism. I would imagine the road this industry is taking is to get as close to have a gamer look like they are playing a movie, photo realistic graphics, human like AI, realistic sound and feel to a game and stories that will move players just as much as serious films. This is not the case for such games like mario or zelda as they have a completely different style, but in alot of mainstream titles today, The motion controls that are being released, especially Microsoft’s Natal is another attempt to make the player feel like they are in the game by ditching the regular controller. With realism being a big target for developers and console makers I am curious as to whether games will ever be too real.

I think it may be a bad thing for some gamers if the consoles got to the point where it was hard to separate them from reality. Games today resemble their real life counterparts, people look like people now instead of the old days when characters where shaped like squares and triangles and had rigid edges, today its not hard to come across a main character that looks like a realistic human being, with smoother shapes to the character model but still looking kind of cartoonish, it is still extremely easy to define a game character and real person. Now because it is easy to see that Nathan Drake, Soap McTavish and Ezio are not real people, it stops the player from fully connecting with a character that you would in a movie or a TV show. If a main character dies players will be upset because they liked the character and wanted them to succeed but they won’t be in tears for a week as if a family member just passed away. But what if games got to the point when the way they looked, talked and reacted was life like, with entertainment such as movies and TV you are simply just watching a story unfold, it may seem real but their is no physical connection only a possible emotional one. With games on the other hand, and especially some motion controls, the player is carrying out the same motions as the character, if the character on screen is beating someone to death with a weapon, the player is performing the motion, if a character in a game such as modern warfare 2 is killing hundreds in an airport, the player is performing the motion. I found it hard to pull the trigger in the No Russian mission on today’s consoles and if tomorrows gaming platforms are able to produce something that resembles real life in a way that most developers dream of then I know for sure I wouldn’t be able to pull the trigger.

Maybe I am just too nice of a guy I guess but with this industries main selling point in around 95% of its games being violence but in different ways, realism could change everything. It could go the good way in which I am hoping for and actually provoke thought and emotion from a player and make morale choices in games seem important and not just "do I want the evil powers or the good powers?”. I just see some bad effects of realism, the thing that makes games so much fun for me is the fact they are games at the end of the day. No matter how realistic they may look I can shoot three bullets, reload and not waste an entire clip of ammo, I can move at ridiculous speeds without the getting tired at all, I can completely restore my health by hiding behind a wall for a few seconds and I am able to perform all sorts of actions that I will never be able to do in real life. The complications of realism is that games need aspects that are not realistic to be fun or even playable, but also at the same time its easy to detach yourself from a game. The only genre that I want to be truly realistic is the sports genre as that genre benefits the most as it is a genre of simulators, but as for action, fighting and FPS games I am a little hesitant. I hope and pray that developers find more ways to bring the gamer in to the experience more but not in a way that every year we just see more and more realistic headshots and assassinations.


Just Call Me The Achievement Hunter

Achievements and trophies are still quite new to games and seem to be as natural and expected with games today just as much as multiplayer or even automatic save points. But how much have achievements and trophies changed this industry, I know that when it comes to games I am some what of a completionist especially when it’s a game that I enjoy. I think that achievements are more than just a way to keep score of how good you are at gears of war compared to your friends list, I actually believe that Microsoft have created something that is genius from a business prospective but a nightmare at times from a gamers prospective.

I’m not going to lie about this topic I am without a doubt an achievement whore an my gamercard shows it, this is not to the extent that im going to buy Hannah Montana or avatar just to get a quick 1000 gamerscore but when I buy a game I aim to complete it but also to get as many achievements as possible at the same time. I love the sound of unlocking an achievement or trophy it’s extremely satisfying to me for some reason. It did not use to be like this in the early days of the 360 however.

So what has changed over the last 4 years, I remember specifically saying to my friends when I first bought my 360 that I did not care at all about achievements an im not going to be hunting for them because I simply can not be bothered with them, "I just care about the games" I said as I plugged in my 360 and threw in the perfect dark disc. I was completely true to my word for awhile, until I took a look at my friends list about a year an half later. I was top of my friends list and a few people actually complemented me on my gamerscore. This only fed my ego as a gamer, I had always been slightly above average online at these games and all of a sudden I had an official score that I could wave in other gamers faces.

The addiction started then, any game I purchased I would install and look at the achievements while I was waiting, I was hunting these things down like a dog looking for the spot it has not urinated on yet to mark its territory. I still have the highest gamerscore on my list and I still try to maintain that score as it’s probably the only time I will be the best at anything in life.

The reason I feel that the gamerscore is a genius addition to Microsoft’s console is because the way its changed peoples look on games. Before I had a gamerscore I would only purchase the games that a general 7.5 or higher score across the review board of the internet, or games that I was personally interested regardless of the review score. Today things are a lot different, and from what I hear from others it’s the same for them too. A few years ago I would have took one look at games like Dante’s Inferno and Ninja Blade and say “im sure it’s cool but I don’t think it’s worth buying". Now days I look at games like those and say "looks ok, an if it sucks I can always just get the achievements and trade it in after". This is the problem now for a lot of the games I buy, achievements have now become a legit selling point for me when I look at a game. I’m completely addicted to them although it’s just a number on my screen I do find pleasure in seeing my gamerscore hit the 44000 mark that it did a month ago. Dont get me wrong i still play games for the experience and the fun of it, but it has almost brought the competitiveness of online multiplayer to the single player. When xbox was first introduced i would play single player without even thinking about how my friends had done it, how quick they got it done or what difficulty they finished a game on. But i look at the single player experience a little differently, gamerscore has added replay value an all sorts of extra play time to my games as i hunt a 10G here and 25G there.

Maybe it’s just me but achievements have become another reason for me to play games, just like people use to aim for the high score in arcades back in the day. I am slightly competitive as person in all aspects of life but it gets worse when it comes to gamerscore, and now that gamerscore and achievements have become so natural to the industry how will they transfer into the next generation, will I still have my 44000 or whatever it will be for the Xbox 720 or will it just disappear or reset to zero. I suppose the gamerscore has to carry on into the next generations as I feel a few gamers out there would kill themselves if they bought a new console and their score meant nothing as it no longer existed in the new generation. Achievements and trophies along with the ability to transfer gamer profile from consoles of today to future console easily have possibly changed the industry forever. Leaving everyone like me searching for the beautiful sound that you hear after getting 100000 kills on gears or completing halo 3 on legendary.