Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Review.

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Black Ops 2 is an infuriating game, one that isn't the fresh exciting advancement to the franchise the advertisements would have you believe. It's certainly not a bad game, but for every smart and sensible change the folks at Treyarch made, they go and spoil it all by having dialogue which is at times laughable and over the top set pieces which fail to thrill, no matter how many explosions are on screen at once.

The Call of Duty games have split people into two camps, those who hate it and those who pretty much love everything about it, well the multiplayer at least. I like to think I sit in the middle in the hope that one day they can turn the franchise around, in fact that's exactly why I went and played Black Ops 2. Unfortunately the new mechanics they've added are half-hearted and the changes they've made to multiplayer modes while welcomed, do little to make this a new multiplayer experience.

This dude is the worst!
This dude is the worst!

But maybe I'm being to harsh on Black Ops 2, after all it's a perfectly fine Call of Duty game, certainly better than Modern Warfare 3. But it's the potential promise that might infuriate the most, because deep down there's real promise in both the Black Ops storyline and the new Strike force missions which is one of the two important additions to the campaign. But it's as if someone at Activision went "remember folks, twelve year old kids enjoy this" and so decided to add dialogue and dramatic moments that might has well been thought up by a twelve year old kid.

Following on from the enjoyable and intriguing storyline of the original Black Ops, the campaign takes place in two eras, the 1980's and the 2020's. The story as the potential to thrill and some smartly hidden objectives and decisions along the way can affect how the story evolves. It feels like a wasted opportunity however, good things could have come of these changes but at the end of the day this is still about shooting guys in the face with either weapons from the 1980's or the crazy fun weapons of the future. For some, that'll be enough and I don't blame them, we don't all have time to play a forty hour epic RPG. In that regard, you'll be more than satisfied.

The campaign as some real highlights to, none being any of the over the top set pieces the franchise is so famous for. I don't know about you, but I don't find a bazillion explosions on the screen at once that thrilling any more and the fact that pretty much everything explodes as if it were a nuclear bomb just adds to my weariness. It's not all bad, like I said the campaign as it's moments, one being a rather intense scene in a futuristic nightclub as dubstep music adds to the tension as you seek to rescue someone of importance from bad guys, if anything it proves that Call of Duty can still pull off those tense moments when it needs to.

I'm numb to the endless explosions.
I'm numb to the endless explosions.

But does Black Ops 2 continue the tense tale of the first game, nope sadly not. It's a shame because there's great potential in the weird back story that was formed in the original Black Ops. Instead the game mainly focuses away from 'the numbers' with a typical beat the bad guy before the world explodes storyline. That bad guy is Raul Menendez, arguably one of the most interesting villains in a Call of Duty game to date, though the potential is wasted on a forgettable and at times baffling story of drones, special materials and so forth. Oh and I won't even mention the awful video at the end of the credits... Treyarch and Activision, shame on you!

Multiplayer of course can't be passed by and thankfully it's still fun and challenging in the fair and balanced way you'd expect. While most of the modes return, some changes have been made to how you can customize your load out. A new points system allows the player to remove, swap and change the entirety of the class, allowing players to vary greatly to load out they use in battle. Want to have a class entirely based on having a knife? Black Ops 2 allows you to do that. While it doesn't dramatically change the competitive multiplayer, it's certainly welcomed though if you've never cared much for the multiplayer in Call of Duty games, Black Ops 2 won't change your mind any time soon. Just know that the Call of Duty multilayer is more varied than ever when it comes to giving players a larger variety of options in what to take to battle.

Competitive multiplayer and Zombie mode are still great fun.
Competitive multiplayer and Zombie mode are still great fun.

Treyarch's now signature Zombie mode returns and again it's where I found most of my multiplayer thrills. It's still your typical zombie mode seen in past Call of Duty games, but a few things have changed. The new Tranzit mode sees players shifting from one location to another through a strange but humorous bus, fighting off the hungry zombie horde as you seek to survive and meet specific requirements at each location and survival mode is there for those looking for a more traditional zombie experience. It's fun, but there's certainly potential in expanding zombie mode even further and what's on offer within Black Ops 2 feels a little bit of a let down.

So when it comes down to it Black Ops 2 is an infuriating game. The first attempts to 'revolutionise' Call of Duty feels half-hearted and thanks to awful dialogue, stupid moments of men being as macho as they possibly can and a waste of actual potential, makes it a difficult game to recommend if you haven't already jumped on board the CoD train. It's certainly not the worst we've seen from the franchise, but most certainly the worst at squandering it's potential.

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Halo 4 Review.

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A constant that's surrounded Halo 4 since it's announcement as been the ever lingering question on if we actually need a new Halo trilogy. The much loved Xbox exclusive shooter as been well served by it's creators at Bungie, but with a new team in charge and the doubts that have surrounded the game, one must question if Halo 4 is simply a result of a console generation dragging on to long.

Say Halo to 343 Industries, the new daddies of the Halo franchise. We've known for a while that they were to replaced Bungie, a developer greatly acclaimed over the years, but do they really satisfy the demanding Halo fanbase with Halo 4? I'm happy to say they do indeed, but by only keeping to a very familiar format that's been seen in every Halo game since the original blew open the doors for first person shooters on consoles.

I've seen you somewhere before.
I've seen you somewhere before.

This is both a good and bad thing depending on your perspective, while a new Halo like Halo game is welcomed by fans of the series, it won't do a great deal to change the minds of those already bored by what's been offered before by Bungie. In fact it's almost as if 343 went out of there way to meet the demands of an already established base of fans, with messages thanking fans for their trust and in simply creating an Halo game that cannot at all be mistaken for anything but an Halo game. Not that this is such a bad thing.

Oh no, Halo 4 is in many ways the best Halo game yet. How you ask? Simple because 343 Industries have refined Halo is an almost perfect level. Combat feels outstanding and familiar in a comforting sort of way and graphical Halo as taken a much needed step forward. Halo 4 look and sounds outstanding, every shot fired from every weapon carries quite a punch and the spectacular set pieces stand out, forcing you to stop and take in the view. This isn't just the best looking Halo game to date, it's one of the best looking 360 games to date, clearly showing a mastery of a console coming to the end of it's life. Oh and have I mentioned the soundtrack, as someone who grew bored of the constant recycling of Martin O'Donnell's familiar Halo tunes, a refreshing take on how Halo should sound is welcoming, it is a new trilogy after all.

Campaign takes place after the events of Halo 3, thankfully if you somehow missed those events it matters little. While some characters and back story adds value to the story, this is in many ways a typical Halo campaign, except for one thing, emotion. It's somewhat of a let down than that the rather touching tale told between the Master Chief and Cortana is let down by some spotty dialogue that might as well have come from a Michael Bay flick. That said, it doesn't damage some of the touching moments in the story, with Steve Downes and Jen Taylor providing some of the performances of the year when it comes to voice work.

Halo getting emotional? Whatever next!
Halo getting emotional? Whatever next!

When compared to past Halo campaigns, it's certainly not the best, but thanks to the refined combat and overall presentation, it's one of the more enjoyable. Of course Halo wouldn't be Halo without some multiplayer and in the new 'Infinity' mode you'll find all the usual multiplayer options and more. Traditional multiplayer is to be found, with some interesting changes having been made, the inclusion of load outs similar to the likes of pretty much every modern multiplayer shooter out these days and than there's Spec Ops.

Spec Ops is a new multiplayer mode which you play co-op with fellow Spartans in ten short story campaigns spread throughout a ten week period. As of this writing only two have been released and if you're expecting some revolutionary multiplayer mode you might be disappointed. Spec Ops however does add some added value to the back story of Halo 4 (Infinity being the name of the ship frequently figuring in the campaign). Unfortunately it's not quite a suitable replacement for the much more enjoyable fire fight mode seen in past Halo games and the CG cutscenes that introduce each episode might only be of real interest to those who love the Halo universe, but with ten weeks to go, maybe it worth waiting to see how it all works out.

So your interest in Halo 4 will entirely depend on your need to play yet another Halo game. It doesn't do anything radically new to the franchise and doesn't really need to, as the fan base already well in place will feel right at home and no doubt pleased with the care and attention given by 343 Industries. While one hopes that 343 try and inject their own personality and ideas into the future games in this new Halo trilogy, with Halo 4 if your looking for more Halo you really can't go wrong.

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Thanks for reading,

Joseph.

7 Comments

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater - Revisited.

In celebration of the recent release of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, I thought it'd be interesting to revisit these much loved stealth action games and see if they still hold up to my fond memories. While I'll certainly be playing the HD versions of Snake Eater, Peace Walker and Sons of Liberty, not to mention Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, I'm also hoping to play either the original Metal Gear Solid game, or the Twin Snakes version released on GameCube, though no guarantees. Why am I doing this? Out of pure interest of course plus it'll be entertaining, so let's kick things off with part one: Snake Eater.

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Snake Eater was released for the Playstation 2 in the March of 2005 (December 2004 in the United States), it was Mr Hideo Kojima's second Metal Gear game on Sony's second piece of gaming hardware after the release of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty in 2001. Snake Eater is technically a prequel to the entire MGS series, so it's was only right to start at the very beginning of the timeline. Now I won't be going deep into storyline details or anything like that, all I want to do is provide my impressions upon playing through these games again. As I mentioned previously, I'll be playing the HD versions of a few of these games so please keep that in mind.

Snake Eater's story can be up it's own backside sometimes, but it just about pulls it off.
Snake Eater's story can be up it's own backside sometimes, but it just about pulls it off.

Now Snake Eater isn't one of my favourite games in the Metal Gear series, that's not to say I've never appreciated it on some level, I might even say I respect Snake Eater more than any of the other games in the franchise. Playing through this HD version reminded me of the niggling parts of gameplay that don't quite hold up to the standards of today, now I'm speaking of a game made about ten years ago so of course the experience of playing isn't up to snuff compared to modern standards and its certainly not an awful game to play, it simply feels more aged than ever from a modern point of view. That said I'm sure some of you might argue that the controls of the Metal Gear games were poor all the way back to the original Metal Gear Solid game on Playstation 1, it's only been since Metal Gear Solid 4 that we've seen any real change in how controls are handled.

The Fury, cosmonaut suit and all.
The Fury, cosmonaut suit and all.

Gameplay aside, I was taken aback by what a great job Mr Hideo Kojima and his team at Kojima Productions did with the Playstation 2's hardware restrictions, the HD version highlights some beautiful art design and while you'll certainly notice a few blurry dull textures here and there, for the most part Snake Eater looks as splendid as it did in my memories; another nice addition is the framerate, which runs buttery smooth. Kojima's games have always had a strong art design and that's especially true for Snake Eater. I'd forgotten how much I loved his take on the 1960's Cold War era, while they do take a few liberties when it comes to the technology on display, it's forgiveable when you get to face some amazing looking bosses like The Fury with his cosmonaut suit.

Food and medicine were key gameplay mechanics in Snake Eater, requiring the player to fix up cuts, bullet wounds or burns, while hunting for food to keep up stamina. It's understandable that some out there disliked these mechanics, I wasn't entirely keen on them myself when I first popped in my MGS3 disc back in 2005, however my views on the mechanics have since changed and there one of the real highlights to the Snake Eater experience. It's sort of a shame we haven't seen many other games have a crack at similar features, all we have nowadays is magical potions and regenerating health. Oh don't get me wrong, drudging through the menu's to gain access to 'cure' and 'food' is a chore, but it as a charm.

Snake Eater (being the first game I've revisited) reminded me how mechanically stiff and awkward the stealth mechanics were in past Metal Gear games, it's unfortunate that not a great deal has changed in the years since. While I wouldn't go as far as to say it's not fun and there's certainly a degree of challenge, it simply feels as if the stealth sections are just another hurdle to the next awesome cut-scene. I'm sure this wouldn't be the case if the stealth sections were more varied, take for example the section where Snake is required to knock out and steal the uniform of a major in order to gain access to a locked area of the base, that's a blast and a fun challenge solely because it feels different, however I'd forgotten how much I disliked the mountainous regions of the game as you're crawling through trenches and knocking out soldier after soldier, it just isn't a whole lot of fun. I guess the real frustration comes from the lack of available options within these stealth sections, possibly a sign of the times rather than actual design.

Watch out, she'll start talking about films again.
Watch out, she'll start talking about films again.

Memorable characters linger throughout the Metal Gear franchise, but I might argue that Snake Eater contains some of the most memorable, with the likes of a young Ocelot, The Sorrow, The Boss and of course Volgin, whom might just be one of the most dislikeable bosses I can recall in any Metal Gear game... dislikeable in a good way I might add, the dude is just evil, in a way you just kind of got to love. Being a prequel, I had forgotten just how much setup is contained within Snake Eater, though there may be one to many in-jokes and whilst I appreciate a film related chat with Para-Medic everytime I go and save my game, it gets sort of boring. I've never been one of those gamers who moans about lengthy cut-scenes or to much dialogue (in fact it's one of the reasons I love the MGS franchise) but putting those Para-Medic chats in with the process of saving a game seems like a mistake, no it was a mistake.

Playing through Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater reminded me of all the reasons why it's never been my favourite in the franchise, it might be more personal preference then a case of one game being better than another, but there's still something about Snake Eater that left me as frustrated as it did entertained. That ending is still splendid, and the story weaved throughout is captivating and dare I say, mature in a way videogames often aren't. A memorable Playstation 2 title for certain, maybe one of the best that can now be enjoyed on both Playstation 3, Playstation Vita and Xbox 360 (not to mention a Nintendo 3DS version) with the HD collection or bought separately. If you've yet to experience any Metal Gear game, than there's no better place to start then Snake Eater, the natural beginnings of the franchise that still holds up today... Kuwabara, kuwabara.

Next up... Peace Walker (once I've cleansed my palate of course.)

Thanks for reading,

Joseph.

9 Comments

Rock of Ages Review.

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Rock of Ages isn't your typical tower defence game, in fact it's art style might for a second have you thinking that Monty Python's Terry Giliam had gone and made a video game, he hasn't (though I'd love to see him have a crack at one.) Rock of Ages is the most recent release from Chile based developers ACE Team, yes the folks behind the bizarre first person fighting game Zeno Clash. Their familiar cosmetic oddities are present in Rock of Ages, though to a less freaky and confusing degree.

At its most basic, Rock of Ages is a tower defense game where the objective is to destroy the enemy's gate and flatten one of the many famous historical figures that cower inside; if you do so you win, pretty simple. Rock of Ages takes a page from the artistic styles of historical artwork and the Monty Pythonesque cut out figures give the game a real charming look. As do the between battle cutscenes which splice in a few modern cultural references with takes on famous movies scenes such as 300's "This is Sparta" and Lord of the Rings "you shall not pass" making for amusing moments.

The player takes control of a large boulder and controlling it is both slow and sluggish (as you might expect), unfortunately to many battles end up simply being a case of who can get their boulder down the hill the fastest. The 'tower defense' part of Rock of Ages consists of building of weapons and towers on the play field, with the intention of slowing down and damaging the enemies boulder. It's basic and won't be revolutionising the tower defense genre anytime soon.The relatively slower pace might also frustrate some and while rolling a big boulder and smashing into buildings as its simple thrills, there's little to keep you hooked.

The PS3 version suffers with some framerate drops here and there, especially when the game displays the enemy's boulder on the top right separate screen, but it's more then playable and doesn't quite spoil Rock of Age's charming style. Audio is worth a quick mention to, with silly voices that act as speech for the cutout figures and a pleasant cheery medieval score accompanying it.

Rock of Ages is an odd one, but I'd expect no less from from the folks who brought us Zeno Clash. It's charming, especially if rolling large boulders down a hill and squashing famous figures from history is your sort of thing and while some will find it a little on the irritating side, I can always appreciate a game that travels the less trodden track and in this regard Rock of Ages is recommendable. Flawed but worth a look if your into your tower defense games, double if you like them to be on the strange side.

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Thanks for reading,

Joseph.

3 Comments

Spec Ops: The Line Review.

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Let's get one thing straight, Spec Ops: The Line is a generic third person shooter, the sort you've played to death in this generation of consoles. That's not to say it's without substance or the occasional moment of, dare I say brilliance. Don't get me wrong, it's attempts to tell an emotional story don't always work, but some credit must be given for the method of storytelling Spec Ops: The Line goes with.

Spec Ops: The Line is a generic 3rd person shooter, but tells one hell of a story.
Spec Ops: The Line is a generic 3rd person shooter, but tells one hell of a story.

There's an interesting contrast that exists between the way Spec Ops plays, to the way it tells a meaningful story, whereas gameplay is typical and in places frustrating and forgetful (though I wouldn't go as far as to say it's awful nor unplayable) it's just terribly generic and as the danger of getting in the way of the real highlight, the story. After all, that's what'll keep you shooting bad guys in the face time and time again, it certainly won't be the gameplay.

So how about that story? You play as Captain Martin Walker, part of a three man Delta Force team sent into Dubai after a devastating catastrophe tasked to rescue any possible survivors and hunt down Colonel Konrad, a decorated Officer of the US Army. This is where the story of Spec Ops: The Line is most captivating, rarely feeling predictable and covering many of the darker subjects of warfare, including the costs to both civilians and soldiers alike. Things get pretty crazy in some fascinating ways and spoiling to much would be a great shame. The trouble is this unique take on storytelling isn't present in a particularly outstanding game, leaving some gamers to switch off long before the story gets going (which takes a few hours.)

While gameplay hinders storytelling, voice work is solid throughout doing a fine job of selling the story. Nolan North might be the jack of all trades in the video game voice over world but he puts in one of his best performances as Captain Walker. As do most of the cast and the importance of this good voice work can't be overstated considering the subjects covered in the story of Spec Ops: The Line. Unfortunately there's a few niggling issues with sound in other areas of the game, but none large enough to disrupt.

Devastated Dubai as never looked more... well devastated.
Devastated Dubai as never looked more... well devastated.

Devastated Dubai makes for an intriguing setting, the spectacular city we know today as been retaken by the sands of the desert and there's some truly impressive looking vistas to behold. That said, some textures loading was present especially in cut scenes and a generally grimy look doesn't exactly sparkle the eyes, Spec Ops looks decent enough however and the Xbox 360 version ran reasonably well with few issues. Atmosphere is well captured and good use of lighting helps add to the key moments in the story.

Without a doubt, the one real reason to play Spec Ops: The Line is the story, it's certainly worth checking out if simply for it's take on warfare and yes, while gameplay is a generic blueprint of a third person shooter, it's story wouldn't go amiss in some big summer Hollywood blockbuster. Telling a good story in a video game is without a doubt, one of the mediums greatest challenges and in this Spec Ops: The Line sets down a foundation for hopefully future developers to build upon. One can only hope however, that such a method of storytelling is told in a game considerably more fun to play.

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Thanks for reading,

Joseph.

2 Comments

Symphony: Liberate Your Music Review.

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Audiosurf as inspired a great many developers to follow boot and release their own rhythm inspired indie games. The latest to hit the PC is Symphony: Liberate Your Music, from developers Empty Clip Studios. Symphony is not just inspired by Audiosurf, but also the likes of dual stick shooters such as Geometry Wars with its strikingly bright and frequently chaotic on-screen action. One glance at Steam or GoG will show just how many rhythm indie titles have been released over the years, so does Symphony have enough going for it to be worth your attention?

In Symphony, things can get a little to chaotic for its own good.
In Symphony, things can get a little to chaotic for its own good.

Music collections are in need of liberation, that's pretty much all the back story you'll get or even need. While its commendable that a story was even included in a rhythm shooter, it serves little purpose except to give an ounce of meaning to boss battles. As is usually the case, levels are generated from your music collection and turned into gameplay that's inspired by the likes of Galaga, with your ship being able to shoot in just the one direction. Enemy ships enter on beats and obviously the faster paced the song, the more difficult the level. The boss battles appear in the middle of tracks, requiring you to free a classical composer from the evil hands of some daemon or some such, like I said, the story serves little purpose.

So far, so typical. However there's a surprising degree of depth in how you fit out your ship with the many unlockable weapon types you're given access to purchase after the completion of each song. To take on the more challenging levels of difficulty, thought must be given to what weapons you want to equipped and there direction of fire, which can be adjusted to different degrees allowing for a more spread out shot, if that's your preference. This mechanic is far from new in arcade shooters, but without it Symphony would feel a lot more empty and lifeless. The ability to experiment with how you set up your ship as its charms, and is required if you wish to aim for the high scores.

Selecting your favourite tracks or artist is a breeze.
Selecting your favourite tracks or artist is a breeze.

Symphony finds any music files of various formats without much trouble and a clean user interface makes filtering songs and artists a breeze, so finding your favourite tracks is easy. Gameplay is a familiar bright neon affair and on faster paced songs can be overwhelming. Spotting enemy bullets or simply dodging enemy ships can be a challenge in the tight space of the play field. There were certainly times when I suffered a few cheap deaths because I couldn't see what was going on, making the fact that so much space goes unused frustrating. Symphony doesn't quite match the likes of Audiosurf in communicating the impact a track as on gameplay, but it does just enough that you'll take notice.

Around twenty songs are included with Symphony, and for the most part they offer a good variation of styles that change up gameplay. Electro to a little classical jazz is included, and while your own musical collection is the real star of the show here, its still welcomed. The lack of controller support at launch is worth mentioning, though gameplay can get so hectic that I can't see myself switching from the swiftness of a mouse. There's also been issues with the game not importing much larger musical collections for some users. Hopefully this issue will be fixed as quickly as possible, after all your music is the reason to keep playing so this bug is a great shame.

Having played a fair share of rhythm games over the years, many of which have been forgettable and lacklustre, I'm happy to report that Symphony is worth your attention. While its charms are not obvious at first, there's more to it once you dig a little deeper. Experimenting with the many weapons and how you fit out your ship had more depth then I was expecting, and the fact that its all just rather well put together makes Symphony: Liberate Your Music one of the more recommendable rhythm games to hit PC in the past few years.

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Thanks for reading,

Joseph.

2 Comments

TEG's Blog: Let's talk about the Nintendo 3DS XL!

LET'S TALK ABOUT THE NINTENDO 3DS XL! 
LET'S TALK ABOUT THE NINTENDO 3DS XL! 
So Nintendo finally got around to announcing that new 3DS we all heard rumours about around E3 time. I'm not quite sure what I expected from a revision of Nintendo's most recent handheld. Now I bought a Nintendo 3DS when it launched in Europe, and all to quickly got the buyers regret. Don't get me wrong, the 3DS is a fine handheld which still as great potential. I rather liked it's charming online functionality, it's cosmetically pleasing looks and it's more pleasant take on 3D. Yet I still found myself selling that 3DS a few short months later. Why? Was it all down to buyers regret or was there a much larger issue affecting handheld gaming in general? 
 
Take Sony's Playstation Vita. On the day that portable system was announced I knew I wouldn't have any interest as a consumer. Never had a device been released where it's future seemed so inevitable. I was left contemplating why Sony even released it in the first place. I can only guess that having already invested considerable amounts of cash into developing the Vita, the idea of just ditching the project probably  wasn't in Sony's interests. But with no real excitement behind it, and no Monster Hunter to help it along in the Asian Markets (whereas the PSP was arguably saved by that behemoth franchise) one couldn't help feel the handheld was doomed before it even hit store shelves. But anyway, back to Nintendo.  
 
Imagine a 3DS, just bigger and you get the idea.
Imagine a 3DS, just bigger and you get the idea.
Whatever the reasons were in me selling my 3DS, I'll admit that fun times were had. Despite it's far from perfect control scheme, I did greatly enjoy Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition and the future certainly looks a little brighter with recent game announcements at E3 and Nintendo's more recent video conferences. So the announcement of a new 3DS revision captured my interest and what we got was basically a larger 3DS. Not the most stunning of revisions, in fact it might be seen as lazy. But that's what we got, a bigger 3DS with bigger screens and a bigger battery. Woo! Bigger battery, that's a big deal and your right. Still, considering what gamers were expecting from a revision to the Nintendo 3DS, the XL is far from a stunner at first sight.  
 
That said, for those that have yet to sink their teeth into a 3DS, the XL might just be the perfect entry point. A bigger battery is certainly a big positive when the original 3DS's battery life is taken into account, as is the larger screen which some might just prefer. From my point of few, one of the potential positives about the XL is the simple obvious fact that it's larger. As someone who as severe joint pain in both hands, holding handheld devices can be a real issue. Holding the original 3DS caused me some pain after extensive use due to it's design and size, as does Sony's dual shock controller. So that's one of the reasons I've shown interest in the XL. But I'm not won over just yet.  
 
The larger screens could be a negative or a positive. Nintendo have stated that internal hardware hasn't changed so basically you'll still be running 3DS games suited for the bog standard 3DS but on a bigger screen, which could result in a poorer quality picture. A few previews out there have given off mixed messages. Some say screen quality as taken a hit with the larger sized screens while others have said the differences are barely noticeable, there have also been some reports that Nintendo are using some sort of filter to help with picture quality. This is why I think it best to wait until a much broader picture can be painted as we near it's release. I'm unsure what to make of the XL just yet, but as someone slightly tempted to jump back aboard the 3DS train, I'll certainly be keeping a close eye on it as we near release. 
 
Handheld gaming as changed. While it's difficult to say if that change as been for the better, change is usually a positive thing and I can't help but wonder how handheld gaming will look in another three or four years time. Will Sony risk developing another portable system considering how poorly the Vita is doing right now? What about Nintendo, will we see a successor to the 3DS? Smartphones have changed the very essence of portable gaming, making it difficult for both Sony and Nintendo to compete. Its almost as if the two companies are desperately hanging onto a dying genre of gaming hardware, it's just that Nintendo have a slight better grip on the ledge then Sony right now. Still, that doesn't mean we can't get excited about a new Animal Crossing... that's a cool thing to be excited about right?
 
Thanks for reading, 
Joseph. :D
1 Comments

TEG's Blog: E3 2012 thoughts & the future!

E3 2012 THOUGHTS & THE FUTURE!
E3 2012 THOUGHTS & THE FUTURE!
As the dust gently settles upon another crazy E3, we're left pondering what the whole chaotic show meant to the industry we hold so dear to our shrivelled hearts. Did it meet expectation? We're we left dangerously staring at our monitors for hours in anticipation for the next big piece of news? No... not exactly. But that's not to say this years E3 wasn't without it's fireworks, it's just most of those fireworks had almost no sparkle and to quiet a bang. E3 2012 was, in essence the perfect example of a transitional year. It was honestly, what we should all have expected.  
 
Members of the crowd seriously cheered when this happened.
Members of the crowd seriously cheered when this happened.
What one hopes for from such an event, and what is realistic are two very different beasts. Yes folks we can speculate till the cows come home but it does us no good. Eventually we'll all begin to sound like Apple fan boys speculating about the next iPhone, and we all know how useless that is. Still, we had our hopes and dreams. It's just that E3 2012 was always going to be a rather flat event when it came to big announcements and shocking reveals. That's not to say there was nothing good on show. Oh no, not at all. Halo 4 was one of the few glimpses of light in a truly dull Microsoft press conference. Assassin's Creed 3 looked spectacular in a surprisingly impressive Ubisoft showing and simple minded gamers cheered when some poor dude got his brains splattered across the wall in The Last of Us demo.  
 
Oh yes, E3 2012 had much to offer. It's just that expectations were higher then they had any right to be. We knew Microsoft and Sony wouldn't have any new hardware on show, we knew Nintendo had the Wii U and thanks to a bucket load of leaks beforehand, we knew pretty much every game that was to be shown. Ubisoft's Watch Dogs was a pleasant surprise. But we knew what we were getting and in that regard it was a year of known quantities. Yet more Gears of War is on the way in the form of Judgement. There is another God of War coming to Playstation 3 and waves of frustrated shouts of 'What the hell?' met Dead Space 3 and it's move to more co-operative action... yeah I still don't get that one either.  
 
And then there's Nintendo. After a poorly presented, but informative pre-E3 video showing off some of what the Wii U can achieve with online functionality. I was excited to see some games, after all that's what Nintendo promised, hardcore games for the hardcore gamers. Oh boy did we get our hopes up. Let's be fair, we had every right to. Nintendo promised us last year that the Wii U was targeted to third party developers who would meet the need of the so called hardcore gamer. What did we get instead? We got Batman: Arkham City (with a very special new costume you know) and Nintendoland. A game most have already played through at least once, and a mini-game 
A poor showing from Nintendo at E3 2012 could have painful repercussions.
A poor showing from Nintendo at E3 2012 could have painful repercussions.
collection. Pikmin 3 looks splendid, but that was pretty much it. Honestly folks, at the end of that press conference I think I had lost the last drops of faith I had in Nintendo.   

It was going to be difficult for Nintendo to screw up at E3 2012, with the Japanese company being the only one showing new hardware. Yet somehow they did exactly that, they screwed up. Now it would be wrong to entirely judge the Wii U from what Nintendo had to show. It's only fair we keep open minds, it's just that now Nintendo have to work even harder to win the hard earned cash of gamers. I still worry for the Wii U. It's a console that as a lot against it. It's not made a great impression so far and with Microsoft and Sony expected to announce new hardware next year, the Wii U could be left behind. It's as if Nintendo don't know if to bet on the more hardcore gamer, or the casual crowd that helped the Nintendo Wii become such a success. Between a rock and a hard place.    
 

A GLIMPSE OF THE FUTURE! 

While much of E3 was predictable, it wasn't without one or two pleasant surprises. One such surprise was an exciting potential glimpse at the future. Star Wars 1313 was the talk of E3, and for good reason. LucasArts released a few stunning gameplay videos along with a slightly more in-depth look at the game on Spike TV and Gametrailers. Yes I know it basically looks like Uncharted in space, but what's wrong with that? Hell, the idea of a Star Wars game in the same vain of those wonderful Naughty Dog thrillers as me all rather excited. Gameplay aside for a second, Star Wars 1313 was a glimpse into what future hardware might offer us as gamers and it's only right to be rather excited.  
 
Star Wars 1313 was the talk of E3 this year, and offered an exciting glimpse into a possible future. 
Star Wars 1313 was the talk of E3 this year, and offered an exciting glimpse into a possible future. 
Now LucasArts stated the game was running on Nvidia hardware, so PC for sure at least in that demo. But there as been much debate if it indeed might be a sighter into what we can expect from the next generation of hardware. No doubt many developers have their hands on hardware representing say the next Xbox or PS4 and it was clear that many publishers/developers are now looking into the next generation. So it's quite possible that Star Wars 1313 might just be set for unannounced systems, and if it's any indication we might be in for good times. Jeff while discussing 1313 said that instead of the next gen offering 60 frames per second experiences, it's more likely that developers will stick to 30 FPS but offer more visual splendor and Star Wars 1313 certainly seems an early sign of that.  
 
Of course we're speculating, and as I said speculating really gets us nowhere. We'll just have to wait and see what the future holds. Hopefully we won't have to wait to long with both Sony and Microsoft expected to unveil their next generation of hardware at next years E3 event. But as gamers, we have every reason to be excited. E3 2012 might not have been a thriller, but it did give us a look at what we might be playing when the next cycle of consoles comes around and in that regard E3 2012 was pretty darn fascinating. 
Most exciting of all, is that it might only be a taster to what we get next year... I can't wait.  
 
Thank you for reading. 
TrueEnglishGent. :D
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TEG's Blog: E3, The Wii U and Much More!

E3 2012, THE WII U AND MUCH MORE! 
E3 2012, THE WII U AND MUCH MORE! 
E3 is upon us! Well okay not quite yet but it's pretty darn soon folks. E3 as always felt like some sort of gaming holiday to me, where we gamers can worship all that is holy in this great hobby of ours. It's not perfect, far from it in fact but it's an event that holds a special place in our shrivelled cold hearts. Where we can squeal in joy at some random game announcements we weren't expecting or shuffle in our chairs uncomfortably as some child actors try a little to hard to make the Kinect seem awesome, a difficult task indeed. But even when we expect a less then classic E3, I still find myself excited by what we might see and discover.  

E3 2012, NINTENDO'S TO LOSE?

It's essential that Nintendo 'win' this years E3 event, and it's difficult to see them not doing so with little real substance expected from both Microsoft and Sony. The big N will be showing off their latest and greatest console, the Wii U to the wider world hopefully in a more fleshed out manner. After a less then stunning reveal last year, Nintendo have found themselves a little on the back foot with the Wii U and will surely be hoping to make a big splash in Los Angeles. Like many gamers, I was left a little baffled by the Wii U when Nintendo first showed the successor to the mightily successful Wii. One of my greatest hopes for this years event is that Nintendo had the sense to change the name of the Wii U to something less... crappy. As a passionate gamer the name Wii doesn't particularly bring up great gaming memories, in fact it reminds me of the dust which covered my Wii for the many many months I never started it up. I really should clean my consoles a little more. 
 
The Wii U and it's much talked about tablet controller.
The Wii U and it's much talked about tablet controller.
Of course names don't matter, what does matter is the console itself and all the juicy components inside. The general consensus is that the Wii U will be slightly more powerful then what the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 offer right now. I'm happy with that, while I expect both Sony and Microsoft to make the bigger leaps forward hardware wise when they reveal their latest consoles next year, the idea of playing Nintendo games in beautiful high definition is one that will win many a gamer over. Arguably the bigger concern thrown at the Wii U is the tablet, which acts as the consoles main controller. I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of the controller/tablet with it's clumsy look. But like they say, you should never judge a book by it's cover and having not held the tablet myself I can't say for sure how I'll feel about it. Now some recent reports state that Nintendo have made a few design changes to the controller so we'll have to wait and see how it turns out.  
 
But what about the games? Well while I'm eager to see more of the Nintendo Wii U at E3, for many gamers out there it'll be the games that should reveal most. What can we expect Nintendo to show at their press conference on June the 5th. Will we see some form of the Legend of Zelda demo turned into a game? what about Pikmin 3? And most importantly of all, what third-party titles can we expect Nintendo to show of to it's 
Will Nintendo 'win' E3 2012 with the Wii U?
Will Nintendo 'win' E3 2012 with the Wii U?
eager audience. Third party games were desperately absent from the Wii, so much so that Nintendo have targeted third party developers for the Wii U. But will we see more then just simple port jobs from current Xbox 360 and PS3 games? 
 
It's a big E3 for Nintendo, possibly one of the toughest to as they look to win over less then thrilled (and arguably more cautious) gamers who felt burnt by the Wii. There's no doubt that it's theirs to lose with both Microsoft and Sony waiting at least another year before revealing what they have in store for gamers. Microsoft are proof of the advantages of releasing a console before their competition, and Nintendo certainly have the chance to do the same with the Wii U. But it's all to possible to, that Nintendo might (and forgive me for this!) shoot their load a little to soon. Can Nintendo finally do online right? Can we expect more then just port jobs from third-party developers and will we finally see a new F-Zero game? The only guarantee we can be certain of, is that that they'll probably be a new Mario game (Duh!).
 
 

AND A FEW OTHER THINGS!

Dragon's Dogma!! It should be arriving today and I'm eager to find out for myself how Capcom's attempt to get a little of that Skyrim cash turned out. Despite it's obvious flaws, there's something about Dragon's Dogma that intrigues me a great deal. It's possible it's entirely down to the combat, after all I'll admit I can't bring myself to finish Skyrim because I simply hate the combat in that game and no amount of world detail will stop me from lashing out in frustration as my character clumsily swings his sword in Bethesda's latest entry in the much loved RPG franchise. Still, I hope to maybe write up a little post on my impressions of Dragon's Dogma when I've played a good amount of it.  
 
I continue to play some Diablo 3, though I will admit I haven't had the desperate urge to do so like many of you. It's certainly a fantastic game, but one that's felt a little flat so far. I'm told the higher difficulty levels are where the game really comes alive, but at the same time I'm not sure I want to experience the rather dull story sections again. It's fun, and seeing skeleton bones shatter into a million pieces thanks to my giant barbarian axe is oh so satisfying but I'll have to wait and see how I feel about Diablo 3 when I finally push myself to finish it. Speaking of which SaitenMar#2459  is my battletag and I'll probably be playing some multiplayer at the higher difficulty levels. EU servers I might add. You more then welcome to add me.
 
Thanks for reading folks! :) 
TrueEnglishGent.   
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The Walking Dead Game. Episode One: A New Day Review.

 

 ANYTHING AS GOT TO BE BETTER THEN JURASSIC PARK!
 ANYTHING AS GOT TO BE BETTER THEN JURASSIC PARK!
 I'm not sure if you knew this, but The Walking Dead is pretty hot right now. So it seemed inevitable that this zombie invested property would eventually make it's way to video game form. Who was tasked to turn the popular comic book and AMC television show into a video game? Well none other then adventure starlets Telltale games, who at one point could do no wrong. But things have changed, with the release of the poorly received Jurassic Park game last year, Telltale Games finds themselves seeking redemption. 
 
Thankfully The Walking Dead game doesn't shy away from gore.
Thankfully The Walking Dead game doesn't shy away from gore.
Episode One, titled 'A New Day' sets a strong start for the series. Especially when one considers how easy it would be to turn The Walking Dead into a Left 4 Dead clone. It's refreshing to see Telltale's take on what makes the show so captivating, the drama. Some developers might not even bother to include the tense dramatic moments that are scattered throughout Episode One, and so for that Telltale deserve credit. Capturing what makes the show so popular in a video game could not have been a simple thing, but within this first episode I felt a connection to a few of the characters. Even if some of the tech on display struggles to equal the impact of those scenes.  

The story revolves around Lee Everett, one of the more likeable murderers you'll meet. His interactions with fellow survivors and in particularly a young girl call Clementine play a large part of what makes The Walking Dead game captivating. Telltale promise that the decisions you make will have an impact in future episodes, and you do have to make some life or death decisions. How well these will these are represented in future episodes cannot yet be determined but they are an exciting possibility and it seemed to me that a preview of Episode Two took decisions I had made into consideration. Controlling Everett is pretty basic, using a controller you use the left analog stick to move Lee around and the right stick to control the main cursor for which you interact with the world. It's a strange system at first, but one that I felt worked well with the pacing and flow of the Episode's action. Action that felt honest to the show as Lee comes to terms with what's going on in the world. 

 Lee protecting Clementine from those nasty flesh eating zombies.
 Lee protecting Clementine from those nasty flesh eating zombies.
The comic book visuals seem the more sensible choice and are a nice callback to it's comic book roots. There's certainly limitations with the game engine which doesn't quite capture characters facial expressions particularly well and there are a good few hiccups with the PC version unfortunately, while most can be ignored some are more troublesome. Audio levels seem to differ throughout the game meaning that pieces of dialogue were difficult or even impossible to hear and cut-scenes stuttered here and there, frustrating but they only had a limited impact on my enjoyment of Episode One. The series starts strong and certainly as me excited to see what happens next. 

In an age where most zombie games are simply being turned into third person shooters, it's great to see Telltale Games prove that zombies can still provide tension and suspense. More importantly they've somehow captured within the game the fundenmentals of what makes The Walking Dead must-see television, the drama and tension between survivors in a world that's pretty much doomed. The zombies are often the background wallpaper to the arguments and fights between those who fight off the flesh eating horde, and in that The Walking Dead Game captures the show wonderfully well. It's just frustrating that it's let down by a few technical limitations and bugs, but any fan of The Walking Dead will be pleased with what they find and Telltale fans should rest assured, they've still got the magic.
 
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