“I have to move now, or there is no hope...”

Ken Allsop finds a heart-pounding survival horror... lurking deep within the biggest, brashest First-Person Shooter on the market.

Starved of ammo, I take a chance and dart the short distance down the deserted street into the nearest building. Scurrying upstairs, making sure not to be spotted through the windows, I lie as flat and still as I can among the furniture.

I take this opportunity to check the map. This leaves me vulnerable but also holds the key to my survival – the current positions of every infected are visible to me. I let out a deep breath I didn't know I was holding. They appear to be moving away from the house. A quick count suggests their numbers have swelled to eight or nine. I know that with no rounds left in my M16, there's no chance I could take even one of them on by myself... despite their size, the infected move near-silently and are capable of striking a man down in one fell swoop.

My fellow survivor has not been so lucky. Caught up in Seatown's back alleys, he has had to see refuge in a one-story building with only two real exit routes. Suddenly I notice the infected around him begin to close in: one of them has caught sight of him through a window, and now his safe house has become a deathtrap. I watch, helpless, as they swarm through the doors and cut him down as he attempts to flee through a window. Just a few minutes ago he had helped me to bring one of them down – but that was when we had bullets, and their numbers were small. Now he is one of them, and at last I am alone. Suddenly it dawns on me.

He knows. Just as I knew where he was when he fell, he must have seen where I had fled. My position is no longer available to him, but now my hiding spot is compromised. But my revelation comes too late: under his guidance, three of them are already around the house. Suddenly I realise one is climbing up to the second-floor window behind me. Downstairs is not an option – another infected is lumbering in from below. I have to move now, or there is no hope...

Abandoning stealth, I spring from my hiding spot and smash a window out, scrambling through and falling into the marketplace. The landing rattles me, but I know I have to keep running. I sprint forward, knowing there are three or four behind me... If I could just make it to that arch... at that moment, another rounds the stall in front of me and cuts me off. Damn. Without pause for thought, I turn and dash down the nearest side alley.

Too late, I glance at the mini-map. The infected I hadn't checked for steps out in front of me. I attempt a desperate and futile dash past him, but with one swing he knocks me to the ground... It's finally over...

“Damn it, I didn't see you coming!” I shout to my friend across the headset. The scene in question was not one from your traditional horror games, but rather in the somewhat unexpected territory of blockbuster mega-shooter Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Lurking among the private match options are some of the Wager match variants returning from Black Ops, such as “Gun Game” and “One in the Chamber”. But the real winner has been the “Infection” mode, which will be familiar to many as the custom game type from Halo 2 which was made into an official playlist for Halo 3.

The concept is simple. At the start of the match, one player is infected at random. Anyone they manage to kill becomes infected. Slowly the numbers swing from being in favour of the survivors to turning against them, until the last few have to hold off as long as possible against the hordes of respawning infected players until they succumb. The standard setup appears to be a shotgun for the survivors and a knife (perhaps with throwing knife) for the infected. At first, the infected players struggle – with small numbers, getting close to shotgun-wielding opponents is a dangerous game to play. But as more and more players become infected, the slow fire rate of the SPAS-12 or Model 1887 makes it increasingly harder to survive being rushed by three or four players simultaneously.

Among the group I was playing with, however, we found after some experimentation that our favourite way to play was with the odds stacked against the survivors. In particular, making the infected into “Juggernauts” (with their very high health) meant that survival early-on relied on cooperation, and late-game became near-impossible. The game I described earlier pitted the players with M16s with two spare magazines against Juggernauts who only had their mêlée attack. Survivors were given increased sprint distance by Extreme Conditioning and could see Juggernauts on the map, but the Juggernauts had Dead Silence, making them near-impossible to hear coming.

Another later variant gave the survivors MP5 sub-machine guns (almost useless against the Juggernaut infected), pitting them against RPGs. This led to a tense situation in which I fired off a couple of rounds to alert a nearby infected to my position, allowing a friend to sneak slowly and quietly below the walkway he was standing on and away to (temporary) safety.

Over the course of a couple of hours, Infection quickly won a place in the hearts of our friend group. And we are far from alone. It has never been unusual to receive private game invites from recent players in the Call of Duty series, but predominantly in the past these have been “quickscoping lobbies” and the like. Now it seems almost every invite is letting you know that the sender is running an Infection session and to join if you want to play along. And you know what? Next time you receive such an invite, I seriously suggest considering doing so, although I would also note that the fun is exponentially increased with people you know – so if you have that option, go for it.

Just as a brief background, Call of Duty is one of my main fall-back games – my friends and I will often return to play it whenever there is a lull in new releases we are checking out. The online competitive multiplayer remains as easy to pick up, fast, and exciting as ever, plus the other multiplayer game types offer another fun, repeatable experience. We have in the past spent a number of hours on the Zombie modes present in the Treyarch-made releases, but at a point where a game of Zombies can last for well over an hour, Infection offers a very short, but even more tense and frantic, alternative.

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Skyrim Stories: 15th Nov 2011

PLEASE NOTE: Potential spoilers. Nothing big here (I'll avoid any direct quest naming or big plot points), but it doesn't hurt to point out that I may mention something you'd rather find out for yourself.

- Finally travelled to Riften (avoiding a double dragon fight along the way).

- Convinced a loanshark to cancel a debt. My speech must be coming along well as this was far easier than anticipated.

- Stole a ring and planted it on someone else, getting him arrested. I believe this was the first "criminal" act I have performed in game (I did fight someone and got a small bounty which disappeared when they died, although I believe I was supposed to do this for the quest I was on).

- Visited the thieves' guild down in a bar in the sewers. This involved first fighting my way through some lowlifes in said sewers, one of whom was named "lowlife". Most of the rest seemed to be individually named, which concerned me slightly, so hopefully I didn't take out any quest characters.

- Browsed a couple of random dungeons leading to some desperate inventory management as I struggled to stay unecumbered. Eventually managed to sell everything off, albeit across three seperate towns.

- Couldn't work out how to lower a bridge across to me (the only lever around just triggered a fairly obvious spike trap) so managed to find a way to jump across instead.

- Fought a named Draugr who created illusions of himself and (along with said illusions) used the Unrelenting Force shout to ping me around the cavern like a pinball. I used my Fire Breath shout to put a stop to that.

- Went to a quest location behind a waterfall with the intention of forging an amulet. Found a note suggesting I leave the location in peace. Left the location in peace. For now.

- Killed two bears, and a mountain lion. Now significantly less tense when wandering through unexplored undergrowth to reach a new area.

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11/10/2011 - "If you like to stab dudes in the face and neck"

Carried on with Rogue Warrior today - encountered a crash at exactly the same place (about five minutes in). Decided to not let it put me off, and continued regardless. That game is pretty much still the same as it was yesterday, it's competent enough but playing on hard makes it more a case of trying to exploit the fairly basic AI because getting into a straight gunfight will end with you on the floor in a second most of the time.

Also played a little more Horde today in four-player - we did a full run, although a disconnect meant I missed out on my fourth "Long Hauler" ribbon. Oh well. Just got the Silverback left to upgrade now though so will be working on that one. Batman's out real soon though, and from that point I figure I'm going to be pretty darn busy. Still, if I have any spare time after all that there's always Call of Duty 3 - which my friend finished this morning on Veteran - which I've never played. Apparently it's not great, but that hasn't stopped me from ploughing through Rogue Warrior, right?

Ken out.

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10/10/2011 - The Fall of Reach

Today I decided it would be appropriate to pick up Rogue Warrior from the two missions in I'd reached earlier in the week and play through it. I'm on the hardest difficulty, which seems to consist of fairly stupid AI which hits you incredibly hard and incredibly quickly, meaning that you can only stay out of cover for about a second at most before you need a good five-second rest to get over all those bullet wounds. Hey, Dick's one tough mercenary alright.

In fairness, the game does offer you the option of stealth-killing people while you manage to remain undetected. However, there are a number of problems with this. Firstly, "stealth" appears to have been translated as "stay behind the enemies" as you can run around like a loon and fire your silenced pistol all you like so long as they don't see you. Secondly, the instant kill is achieved by pressing X in close proximity to said enemy - this works whether they are alerted or not, although every so often it won't trigger straight away if the man you're intending to assault is busy in an animation of some kind. The moves themselves are probably so far the most satisfying part of this game (plenty of fulfillment of all your face-and-neck-stabbing desires to be found here, although the "Uh uh uh uh uh" is replaced with a gruff, sweary one-liner generally referencing how communist and/or bad the victim is). However, the game world carries on around you, giving the other guard plenty of time to walk back - or, if he's already arrived, shoot you square in the face while you're engrossed in your dirty work.

Also an issue is that no matter how sneaky you are, missions generally seem to involve you blowing something up (intentionally or otherwise) around the halfway mark, meaning that the second half is entirely an exercise in the passable (but nonetheless frustrating) cover-based shooting. Anyway, the game decided to lock up about another three missions in, so I took this as a sign and put Rogue Warrior to bed for the day.

Instead I decided to finish my solo run of Halo: Reach on Heroic. With the last two missions out of the way, my conclusion is thus: I enjoyed Halo way more playing it on Heroic. My first experience with Reach (and the Halo campaign in general) was playing through in 2-player Co-op on Normal, which involved a lot of running around with Shotguns and Gravity Hammers and very little actual tactics. Playing through tactically and focusing on weapons such as the DMR, Sniper and Magnum Pistol was ultimately far more satisfying, although fighting Hunters occasionally felt a little like a grind.

Also I played some more Horde on Gears 3. But that's what it has been for the last couple of weeks, although still good fun. Plan for tomorrow is to continue with Rogue Warrior, but we'll see how that one pans out.

Ken out.

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9/10/2011 - Mortal Kenbat

So since Gears 3 came out, I've pretty much been playing Gears 3. But I'm finally starting to burn out a little on it, and I'm getting back into other games again. More specifically, I've picked up my beloved DualShock 3 once again. I've been absent from PS3 Land for a couple of weeks now, but what with all the new releases nigh-on here over the next two months or so, I'm going to be spending a lot more time on that side of the fence from now till Christmas.

I started Rogue Warrior the other day (something I picked up cheap just because of the Quick Look), but haven't gotten far so more on that one later. However mainly today I got back into Mortal Kombat with the ambition of finishing Arcade Ladder with everyone and actually bothering to go through the Krypt and spend all my Koins on everything that wasn't the alternate outfits (the only things I'd bothered unlocking before now). Probably about two-thirds of the way through all the characters too now so might be finishing that one off today.

I also picked up Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's Decade Duels in the XBLM sale this week. My only other knowledge of Yu-Gi-Oh! is the GBA game which I played purely to see what Yu-Gi-Oh! was actually like to play. (I'd like to take a moment to note how bloody awkward it is to type Yu-Gi-Oh! on a keyboard, even for an adept typist such as myself.) The game seems fine and the board layout is nice, my only real problem is that all the card pictures seem too low-res to read. They have the text typed up elsewhere but in a game based entirely around cards it seems a little foolish not to have said cards look clean and readable.

I leave you with the Quick Look which inspired me to pick up and play a fairly shoddy first-person-shooter-with-cover-elements. Hilarious, but perhaps not one for those of a sensitive disposition.

Until tomorrow, Ken out.

http://www.giantbomb.com/quick-look-rogue-warrior/17-1719/

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StarCraft II: Ken of Liberty

Sooo... I think I may have just bought StarCraft II.
 
I'm not really sure what happened. But I'll start by saying that yesterday I walked into town and when I went into GAME I saw Wings of Liberty by the entrance and said to myself "Oh yeah, StarCraft comes out today". And I very briefly contemplated buying it simply because it's been ten years in the making, waiting and anticipation. And any game that can get Brad that excited must be pretty good - if you haven't seen the unboxing, check it out.
 
Or perhaps you shouldn't. Because watching that alerted me to the StarCraft quest. Which led me to watching five videos this morning, culminating in the multiplayer walkthrough. Then the other three multiplayer commentaries. Which I loved, and thought "I might follow this game on occasion, but I doubt I'll pick it up". But even then I had my doubts in those words. And one Giant Bomb live stream later, I went and hit up Amazon for my very own copy of StarCraft II.
 
It just seems like so much fun, and so well made. And I know that, because it's Blizzard, there will be constant updates and balancing patches for the next few years. I picked up Diablo II this year and upon installing it found they'd updated it in the last couple of weeks. That game came out a long damn time ago, y'know.
 
Also drawing me in is the fast pace, which is a little different from most RTS games I play, and actually quite the reverse of my turtle style in most games of this ilk. But then my favourite RTS is Z, and that's incredibly quick (in a similar fashion - if you take even a second or two deliberating, you're probably going to be dead real soon). Also, with the switcharound of people I'm living with next year, I will be in a house with three guys who are all big RTS players and a girl who has expressed interest in joining us for some C&C Generals: Zero Hour (our standard game of choice after I picked up the First Decade for a fiver early this year). Now at the moment they aren't StarCraft players, but I suspect they will be at least somewhat interested.
 
Other enticing things about the game include the challenges to help you work your way up to multiplayer, the 50 initial games online with no penalty to stats, and the supposedly excellent matchmaking system in place to ensure I'm usually matched up against the other players who still have trouble remembering hotkeys and performing high-speed micro mid-battle after those initial games have been spent.
 
I've talked enough for now. But suffice to say no game previously has gone from "not really interested" to "buying week one" for me in the space of about four or five hours as far back as I can remember. Perhaps I'll say more in the future.
 
Ken out.

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Kendal Mint Cake: Day 5

Well, amongst the revision, Tom and I got a fair bit of BlazBlue in this morning. Really getting to like Tager now, he's quite good fun once you start calculating workarounds to his near total immobility.
 
This was followed later by some fine Street Fighter IV action, which only served to make me want the new version more. However, I remain insistent that I can wait for just 2 more weeks till my exams are over. Also played it briefly online, and had a lovely moment where I hit up Player Match, got to character select and decided to hit Random... and the other guy did just the same. Which made me happy, even though my Zangief then went down in a tight 3-1 to his Fei Long.
 
The plan is to take an extended revision break tomorrow and get deep into some more Borderlands. I suspect Tom and I could keep playing that game for several years. Mind you, you could say the same about SFIV, but then that's not an RPG with a finite story length. Anyway, I'm off to bed. Goodnight society.
 
Ken out.

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Super Ken Fighter: Day IV

Back in Exeter, and I introduced Tom to the wonderous world of BlazBlue. He seemed to really enjoy it and we had a lot of fun, however our character switching playstyles meant that we felt the shortage of players hurt the variety slightly when compared to something like Street Fighter. The characters are all so different that I guess it works out okay. He is leaning heavily towards Arakune as a favourite, while I'm starting to really enjoy using Noel a lot, although I really enjoy Rachel so will be working hard on her multitasking control playstyle.
 
Also hit up my GBA, which I've brought down with me, and got into some Pokémon of all previous varieties pre-DS. Also a bit of Dr. Mario and some Wario Land 4. Was about to head to bed when I spotted the Super Street Fighter IV live stream - and start of TNT - which has just gotten started. And speaking of which, that's just started up again after some technical difficulties, so I'm going to head off now.
 
Ken out.

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Lord Kennington: Day 3

Hey everyone, this will be really really short as I played no games yesterday.
 
Was going to use the DS in the car but instead listened to a couple of old-ass Bombcasts (the Giancarlo Varanini one and the "Flycast" episode after it.
 
Am now back in Exeter though, so maybe I'll hit up some Dante's Inferno soonish. Anyways, I've got things to do.
 
Ken out.

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The Ken Experiment: Day 2

So in an attempt to keep this up, I think I'll get another short blog entry in, for a total of 2 days running so far.
 
Played some more Master League this morning, starting to get to a point where I can bring in players more easily, still no big names though and, crucially, no luck with Zarate. Still, it's only halfway through my first season in the Premier League, eh? After lunch I debated both going back into Street Fighter IV and finally starting Dante's Inferno. However, I thought it prudent till I go back to University for the latter, as having to explain naked demon boob/scythe babies/that tri-phallic monstrosity take on Cerberus to my parents is a task I'd rather not attempt.
 
In the end, something made me pick up FF XIII again and get on with the Hunts, and I'm glad it did because I'm loving them. Not sure so much about having to trek between them as much as you do, but I guess that gets less and less as you unlock more Cie'th Waystones. In the end, it was dinner followed by possibly my favourite night of the week for television that prevented me from finishing the last couple of C marks.
 
James Wong's "Grow Your Own Drugs" is nowhere near as exciting as it sounds, and actually involves a man boiling up various leaves and spices to make balms/jellies/pastes to help you feel better, but a great fun (and informative) slice of programming nonetheless, with some useful medicinal advice thrown in.
 
Sophie Dahl is acceptable but made fine background viewing for a brief foray into the world of the internet (some new kitten-oriented humour and a quick check to Giant Bomb there then), before Heston's Gothic Horror Feast, an amazing and wonderful programme in which the bald culinary maestro served up a blood risotto, deep-fried brain cubes, a faux spinal column, and caramel and chocolate graves with Marquis de Sade-inspired boobs in them.  And all that after getting his guests dizzy on a hefty Gin-laced "Dr Jekkyl Potion".
 
Anyway, I'm off back to Uni tomorrow, so I suspect the day will consist of DS gaming and possibly a few podcasts, but I shall try to post anyway. And hey, what do you know, that ended up a reasonable length after all. Still, should be a new Bombcast any moment now, which is a good thing as I have probably listened to the last 6 Bombcasts, last 8 TalkRadar UKs, and the most recent OPM UK and PSM3 podcasts several times over in the last few days. Not to mention the occasional Sarcastic Gamer PlayStation Podcast. Until tomorrow then.
 
Ken out.

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