Schwarzenegger v. EMA

I'm pretty busy with Uni work at the moment but just wanted to chime in with my thoughts on the matter. My worry is that if the supreme court rules in favour of Yee's bill, the debate as to whether games fall under the first amendment - like movies, books and music - will have officially been lost. This is America's big opportunity to look at the foundations of it's nation, and decide if irrational fear and lack of parental responsibility is reason enough to undermine the crux of it's country's freedom, and affectively place a leash on one if it's fastest growing industries. 


I hope that the people who have been lumped with making this decision can look at the arguments and evidence (or lack thereof) objectively, not through elderly, frightened eyes, and make the right choice. Because if they don't, there becomes a precedent for this sort of thing. It's almost as good as censorship, just in a very indirect, round-about way; they're forcefully discouraging true creative and intelligent expression simply because unwatched minor's might come across adult themes in an interactive form, regardless of the fact that game rating's are implemented more effectively than those of film or music. Even though I live in the UK this is still going to affect me; developers won't wan't to make certain more adult orientated games, which have their worth, because it's no longer a viable economic venture. It will dumb down a huge sector of the industry and its output, and perpetuate the ignorant perception of video games as children's toys. 


They'd rather place the responsibilities of parental judgement on retailers, rather than take the time to educate themselves on this young, developing medium, and allow themselves to make informed, sensible decisions about what is and isn't appropriate.


It won't end here, if games are vulnerable, who knows what's next.

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Our Misspent Youth: Eurogamer Expo 2010 Hits London: Part I

 Our Misspent Youth 

I know it's been a while since I wrote for Our Misspent Youth, but I've been busy with a few things, like up-rooting my entire life and moving off to Uni to study Journalism. Yeah… nothing too major. Anyway, you may be aware that the London Games Festival has officially begun, kicking off with the Eurogamer Expo that's been taking place over past three days. Seeing as I'd like to write about games for a living one day, I thought I should go and all that. So I travelled all the way from my humble student digs in Northampton, back down to my hometown of London, where the event was happening. I saw a whole heap of gaming goodness, but you've heard plenty about pretty much all of it, so I'll just talk about a few of the highlights, as well as what I actually got my hands on. First up was Fable III . Peter Molyneux wasn't around on Saturday when I went, so he wasn't there to whisper sweet nothings of love and morality into my ear whilst I battled relentless hordes of 'hollow men' and an even more unforgiving frame rate, unabating in it's desire to chug... chug... chug along. However, it wasn't final code, the machine had probably been on all day, and that disc had likely seen a fair bit of wear and tear throughout the previous day of the event. 


Aside from the god awful frame rate, which could very possibly be tightened up by release, and ignoring the fact that the demo crashed on me when I first tried to play it, what I played was really very good. Well, if you like Fable II that is; because that was, as the gentlemen of Giant Bomb might put it, some Fable-ass-Fable. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as you enjoy what the last Fable game had to offer, you should be pleased with what's on show here. Combat seems relatively similar, the integration of the gun into combat is much smoother, switching between melee and projectile is as simple as moving your thumb the half-inch from the X button to the Y button. There have been noticeable improvements to the how the game looks too, which is surprising considering how soon after Fable II's release this game was announced. A lot of the time, with such a short development cycle, graphics aren't the priority for developers, and end up being the least improved aspect of sequels. But Fable III looks really, really nice. A darker palette and harsher, quite impressive lighting give the environments a more sinister undercurrent, juxtaposing the usually bright and playful character of the Fable games. 

 

Next I played some Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood multiplayer, and it was the only thing I went back to play again... and again. Yup, I waited in line on three separate occasions to get hands on with the multiplayer, first out of curiosity, second out of want, third out of need. If that doesn't tell you something about what I thought of the game, then let me spell it out for you. It's immediately satisfying, immediately intuitive, and immediately fun. The idea makes instant sense; you try and kill one guy, whilst another guy tries to kill you.  


At least that's how it goes down in 'Wanted' mode, which is sort of the 8-player Deathmatch to the 'Alliance' modes Team Deathmatch. In 'Alliance' you are partnered with another player and tasked with taking out the other teams in the area. 'Wanted', however, was all that was available, so that's what I became temporarily addicted to. So for the purposes of multiplayer, you pick a 'Templar', one of 8 (no two player's can select the same 'templar'), then you pick set of abilities. The choices I can remember are: Smoke Bombs & Morph (changing your appearance temporarily), and Speed Boost & Throwing Knives. I won't bore you with how the game looks or feels because truth is it looks and plays exactly like AC:2. What you do need to know is that stalking a target from the roof tops, then leaping down on to them and sinking a blade into their neck, just as they were about to take out their own target, is hella satisfying. It's all the more satisfying when your target was you're friend and is now bitching down the mic. Who'd a thunk stabbing dudes online would be fun? Wait, scratch that. Why on earth wouldn't stabbing dudes online be like the best thing ever? 

Tomorrow I'll talk about Tim Willits' Rage presentation and my experiences with Rock Band 3, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, and Killzone 3... D. 

Our Misspent Youth

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Anyone Need A Blur Beta Code?

Got sent some, message me if you want one, then go to Blurthegame.com/beta to sign up and you'll get a Blur Beta Xbox Live marketplace token and a 48 hour free trial of Xbox Live Gold. Just realized this looks super spammy, but I think it's legit, cos i signed up to the Beta. Think they just want to get it out to more people.

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We Have Lift Off...

 Well my foray into the world of game journalism has taken a significant leap forward today. It would appear I am now officially a published game critic/journalist/raconteur if you will.  
 
Official Playstation Magazine UK has included two of my reviews in their April issue, Way of the Samurai 3 and Dynasty Warriors Strikeforce. Go out and buy it, support the dwindling art of print media. Or you know... just me.      
 
Our Misspent Youth


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Heavy Rain Review

It’s rare that a game totally delivers on its promises. It’s even more rare when a developer manages to live up to the claims they have made.   When Quantic Dream announced their follow up to Indigo Prophecy (aka Fahrenheit), we heard whiled claims of creating a new and innovative ways of gaming. That they’d tell a story in a way never before seen in this industry. That they could make you feel, care and hope. That we’d be taken on a journey, as if we were watching a film. Well, after seeing Heavy Rain through to the very end, I can say that without a doubt, they have most certainly succeeded. 


Quantic Dream have genuinely achieved something incredible with Heavy Rain. You may be skeptical. I too was hesitant to trust that it would do everything they boasted. I too feared it would be, (god-forbid) one long quick time event. But until you have experienced it, there is no real way to express how refreshing and exhilarating it was to play through what is, frankly, a groundbreaking product.  


The first thing you’ll notice is how visually arresting the game is. Heavy rain employs stylistic techniques similar to what you’d expect from a full motion picture. Everything from the hazy background chatter of a busy police station, to the thoroughly impressive lighting effects - highlighted spectacularly as you hesitantly creep through a desolate apartment block, sunlight triumphantly pouring through grimy windows, bouncing off the dust particles floating aimlessly across your path. Of course there’s the rain itself, relentless and foreboding, it sets the tone for the dark, unsettling tale it permeates. 


These visual tweaks and graphical flair make for cinematography that easily rivals the most depressing of European indie flicks; and the added touch of spot on performance captured animations mean you totally believe in these digital actors. You are engrossed from the word go, and as you are introduced to each character and treated to a beautiful close up of them, dilating pupils and all, you fall more and more in love with the sinister, yet downright beautiful world of Heavy Rain.

 

 When Quantic Dream began tossing the terms “interactive film” and “interactive drama” around, showing screens of gameplay that saw huge button prompts appearing above characters, there was an almost universal moment of stomach churning dread amongst the gaming community. The fear was that we would be forced to endure a 10-hour long quick time event. Thankfully this is only partially true. Whilst you will occasionally be frantically tapping buttons and swiveling analogue sticks in order to keep the digital face you inexplicably care about from being murdered. The majority of the game however, proceeds and at a much calmer pace. 


Instead of pressing ‘Triangle’ to block a punch or hop over an obstacle, the sticks are employed to mirror the actions that you are performing on screen. Similar to the control scheme in Skate, the input method here aims to represent as closely or intuitively as possible, the behaviour or actions of your character. This could mean anything from rotating the stick to wrap bandages over a wound, to holding ‘R1’ and slowly dragging the stick to set the table without dropping or breaking any plates. In one case, you’re even asked to gently sway the control pad from side to side to mirror the seductive dancing of Madison Paige, the games heroine.  

 

 It’s these innovative and exciting applications that make playing Heavy Rain so wonderfully refreshing, even if you’re simply cooking eggs or putting on lipstick, these mundane activities instantly become totally exhilarating. At least the first time round that is. Having replayed large chunks of the game more than once I can already see where some of these simpler, less interesting activities, may not be so fun a third or fourth time. 


That’s not to say that the game becomes boring or too slow at any point, the pacing of Heavy Rain is one of the most impressive aspects. It manages to be exhaustingly quick one moment, and then reservedly slow the next, all the while being thoroughly enjoyable; whilst the quieter sections may drag on momentarily, and the more hectic segments seem too challenging at times, for the most part the game is constructed and present in a way that is virtually pitch perfect. 


You’ll never be fighting for your life wishing you were methodically investigating a crime scene, and you’ll never be watching television with you’re kid hoping for a murderer to come crashing through the window. Somehow Quantic Dream have created a narrative in which you are happy at any given point, you are always satisfied with the challenges of that scene. Whether things are moving at a snail’s pace or hurtling at you with life threatening hast, you’re never left wanting more. 


I wont give anything away about the story, all I’ll say is that although it’s not the most original yarn to be spun in recent times, and influences such as Saw and The Departed (to name a few) can be seen throughout. If we consider the way in which that story is told, with it’s endless variables, branching paths and multiple endings. The authentic and terrifically realised characters that act out these gripping scenes, as well as the vivid, engrossing world they inhabit. Then it’s clear that Heavy Rain is not a game, nor is it a movie; it is in fact is as perfect a cross between the two mediums as we’ve ever seen, or are likely to see for years to come. A unique and refreshing experience, that sucks you into its dank, grimy world, makes you care about the people within it, and leaves you with a sensation games rarely manage to evoke. This one is definitely not to be missed. 

14 Comments

Heavy Rain: Review

It’s rare that a game totally delivers on its promises. It’s even more rare when a developer manages to live up to the claims they have made.  When Quantic Dream announced their follow up to Indigo Prophecy (aka Fahrenheit), we heard whiled claims of creating new and innovative ways of gaming. That they’d tell a story in a way never before seen in this industry. That they could make you feel, care and hope. That we’d be taken on a journey, as if we were watching a film. Well, after seeing Heavy Rain through to the very end, I can say that without a doubt, they have most certainly succeeded. 


Quantic Dream have genuinely achieved something incredible with Heavy Rain. You may be skeptical. I too was hesitant to trust that it would do everything they boasted.  I too feared it would be, (god-forbid) one long quick time event. But until you have experienced it, there is no real way to express how refreshing and exhilarating it was to play through what is, frankly, a groundbreaking product. 
 
The first thing you’ll notice is how visually arresting the game is. Heavy rain employs stylistic techniques similar to what you’d expect from a full motion picture. Everything from the hazy background chatter of a busy police station, to the thoroughly impressive lighting effects - highlighted spectacularly as you hesitantly creep through a desolate apartment block, sunlight triumphantly pouring through grimy windows, bouncing off the dust particles floating aimlessly across your path. Of course there’s the rain itself, relentless and foreboding, it sets the tone for the dark, unsettling tale it permeates.  
 
Read More...
  
http://www.ourmisspentyouth.com/2010/02/heavy-rain-review.html    
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On The Brink Of Something Great

 New gameplay footage of Brink, shows of some objectives, class selection and gunplay. 

There are moments when frankly this looks incredible. Graphically the game feels reminiscent of Killzone 2 (with a little TF2 mixed in), and as a result is just as visually arresting. The detail in the environments is instantly noticeable and small things like motion blur and excellent particle effects create a look that appears visceral and engrossing.

However, there is just something that bugs me about the movement. It feels a little off, it's not quite right and it shows. I get the impression that the game controls in a similar stilted and delayed fashion, to that of Killzone 2, and for me that could be a deal breaker. Killzone 2 looked and sounded amazing, but the faux weight they attached to the movement and aiming ended up feeling sluggish and obtuse. It certainly didn't convey the realism of being a physical body and occupying a virtual space, which is hopefully what they were going for when they instead ruined the feel of their game.

It's still early daze yet so lets not jump to any conclusions. So far Brink looks very very promising, with an interesting approach to multiplayer and class/objective selection, this is definitely one to keep an eye on.

8 Comments

MAG Beta Early Impressions

    The first thing I noticed when I booted up the MAG Beta, was just how smoothly the whole thing ran. It might still be in the beta stages of development but it's already clear that they have a very solid foundation on which they are building this enormous experience. I connect to players almost instantly with very little lag or delay, and that's on my so-so wireless connection. I've had trouble with almost every online game except Rock Band, LBP was particularly troublesome (at least the last time played it) and even Uncharted 2 has been a tad sketchy at times.         

    So when approaching MAG my main concern was that it throw a whole bunch of network issues in my face, and things weren't looking good when it took me about an hour and a half to download an update. But alas, all my worries vanished as soon as I was connected. The other surprising thing is the level of polish, not only in the user interface and network, but the character models and environments themselves. I haven't really been paying much attention to MAG since it was announced, it sounded like a cool idea but it never really struck me as that exciting. I suppose I just assumed that to accommodate 256 players, they would be sacrificing the level of graphical fidelity and detail that I have come to expect from games of this generation.      

    That is not the case, the first thing you notice is that the game really doesn't look half bad, and this isn't even the finished product. As soon as you connect you are asked to select a character, cycling through the various head I could select I kept thinking how much better everything feels and looks compared to what I had imagined. The frame rate is smooth and the draw distance is great enough to have it feel like your part of something epic. The guns feel and sound incredible, firing off rounds is almost reminiscent of Black, and possibly even the beast that is Modern Warefare 2.     

    Before you do anything you must pick from 3 different PMC groups, who you choose to fight for will affect the look and feel of your user interface. You can then outfit your character with weapons and equipment, connect with friends who are also online, or just jump straight into a firefight. At the moment I am only allowed to access 2 game types, 'Objective' and 'Sabotage', this may be due to my low rank or the restrictions of the Beta, at the moment I'm unsure. Once you pick a game mode you are placed into a cue to join a game, the longest I had to wait in a cue was only around 15 seconds. After that you pick which squad you would like to be a part of and off you go.    
  
    For some reason I thought the whole thing would be a bit low budget, but it has definitely surpassed my expectations. I'll update you on how my experiences change as I play more. But at the moment I'm fairly impressed. It's definitely a rush spawning only to see a dozen of your player controlled comrades running along side you, it's a total "Fuck Yeah" moment, and one that doesn't happen all that often in games like this.    

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