28: IT’S BEHIND YOU!

This week I got to indulge in a forgotten pleasure; I got to watch someone play a game in its entirety. This is something I used to do when I was young, when my elder brother would hog the controller. A few times it was because he played the scary games that I couldn’t. I mean, I could have just picked the pad up, but I’m a big wuss, you see.

I’ve never played Silent Hill or Resident Evil but I have watched them. Now we have went our separate ways I haven’t finished a ‘scary game’ since these. I tried Condemned but I just couldn’t manage it. I was scared even watching Dead Space – funny story about that, will share it another day.

But I got to watch Dead Space 2 being played by my good mate, Damo, as he was staying over for 4 nights. He beasted the game in one massive sitting and I was his old fashioned wingman Calling out the location of those nasty little bastarding Necromorphs, helping him in the frustrating puzzles, and trying to scare him in tense sections by creeping back into the living room and jumping in him. Didn’t work.

So when the next game comes out I’m either going to kidnap someone or rent myself out as a gaming wingman. What do you think?

22: Kill With Unbelievable Tekkers

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BULLETSTORM! I AM ACTUALLY SHOUTING THIS! THE CAPS ARE NEEDED!

The demo dropped onto the marketplace with a mighty thud, causing explosions to erupt all over the world as people rushed to their Xbox’s to see if Cliffy’s hype was validated (as long as it’s better than Gears of War 2).

I downloaded it in record time and jumped in to be greeted with a barking, foul-mouthed, bearded, muscle-bound space pirate. He Showed me the game mechanics and it’s many skill kills before firing through a quick synopsis of the story. That alone should sum up what we have here.

And I really don’t mind.

It’s as balls through the wall as the trailers portrayed it. My first run through was great fun, I was happy with it. Then I saw the score and saw my only friend listed ahead of me. “One more go?” The question was not needed as I was already nailing my first phyco to the wall after wrapping explosives round his neck, grappling him towards me then booting him to his fate.

It’s fast, hectic, surprisingly beautiful, and very possibly hopelessly addictive. My third run-through presented more skill kills and combos, and I just wanted more guns and levels to play with. The only worry is will the levels be customisable enough to make multiple play-throughs fun? Even if they aren’t the online should make up for it. All I know is I’m now excited for Bulletstorm. Sorry, BULLETSTORM!!

21: LAN (Laughter And… N something)

I’ve got a LAN on the 9th of February and it could not come sooner. Last one I had was in the Summer and it was a blast. It’s not going to be on the same scale as some of my friends recent ones – My friend Callum hired out a gym hall, it was ridiculous – but the fact that it’s local and we’re all friends makes it all the better.

I think there’s eight people coming and possibly six TV’s and Xbox’s, all set up back to back down the middle of my mate’s flat. Halo Reach will be the main game, with L4D, FIFA and a bunch of arcade games being played as the night goes on. Throw in large amounts of food, a big take-away order, and a few crates of beer then you have a good day.

I drank a little too much last time, something I am definitely not doing as there was nowhere to sleep and recover, making for an unpleasant morning. So this time I’m planning to sober up and stay up all night until the bus home. Should be more fun that way.

I think the funniest thing we did last LAN was creating different tags for each game. They were based on movies, games, each other, and they were all very infantile. But that’s why we were laughing, of course.

Anybody else have any LAN days on the cards? Any funny memories?

009: Gotta Catch ‘Em All

I’ve just completed Assassins Creed: Brotherhood and what jolly good game it was. The story went a little haywire near the end but the vast majority of it felt so improved upon it’s predecessors’, which I am a huge fan of. Besides all the improvements on combat, exploration, story, all of which will be detailed in my up and coming review, Ubisoft managed to improve on one little thing that made the game so addictive: Collectibles.

I remember trying to collect all the flags in Assassin Creed: The Altair Years, but it was just so tedious. Assassins Creed: The Italian Job improved upon this by opting with the less is more strategy, but most people would still have to go through the arduous process of looking through a map on their laptop or personal computer.

Now in Assassins Creed: Ezio’s Second Coming you can buy maps from the shops that detail where all the flag, treasure and feather locations are. Cheating you say? Possibly, but most of the maps aren’t available until later on in the game and by that time I already had bagged quite a few of the buggers myself. Alongside this you can buy everything in the game bar predestrians and trees. Well, not that much but it’s still A LOT. These shops and tourist spots improve your tri-hourly revenue as well as up the little percentage in the top left hand of your map that today hit 100%.

Fable 3, Red Dead Redemption, Godfather 2 and now Assassins Creed have been the 4 games in the last year that I’ve just had to complete. I don’t know what it is, just knowing that there’s something out there that I don’t have sends me to the internet with a notebook and a twitch. Even though I have 100%’ed (how do you write this?) Rome I still haven’t got all the custom weapons and treasures. And I want them. Badly. There’s no achievements to gain, just the enjoyment of the world and my own personal satisfaction, and lately that’s been more important than any achievement point.

004: GAMES ARE FUN!

Halo is my particular poison when it comes to multiplayer shootery. I played Halo 3 to death and made a lot of friends online, even convincing some IRL friends (losers) to join me. So I generally play with two of my best friends, who are both flat mates in my local town.

The more we played the better we got, and we got pretty decent on Halo 3, even following the MLG circuit where 15 year olds are idolized for their inhuman reactions and well drilled teamwork. But it’s bloody exciting to watch, especially when you get to know the players and actually follow a team. We’re getting addicted to Reach in the same way, pursuiung challenges every day, comparing our commendations, and waiting for the launch of the new season of MLG.

The only drawback to this Bungie love-in is that sometimes it can lose its fun. We get angry when we don’t win. We get angry when we don’t hit our personal bests. But tonight Damo and I headed away from matchmaking and into co-op campaign and had an absolute giggle. We weren’t going for an achievement or a challenge we just did it for fun.

We shot each other more than the covenant, racking up a stupid amount of betrayals. Attempted splatters in forklifts, they didn’t work, and managed to make a Warthog go where it really shouldn’t. I laughed more in this hour of play than I have in a week of matchmaking. No strings attached, just simple fun, what games were made for surely.

I’m going to try and make this a common event because I need to get gaming back to its roots. Modern gaming, brilliant as it is, sometimes gets itself lost behind leader boards, achievements, stats and bloody Twitter integration*.

*He says as he gets ready to tweet and facebook this post while checking his views**.

**The whole asterisk thing may be inspired by Ian Dransfield’s blog, even though he nicked it off of my main inspiration: Terry Pratchett.

Link To The Pass

So far this year I have reviewed both Tiger Woods 11 and Madden 11. Both I praised, giving them positive and glowing reviews respectively. Both I was enjoying – and still am, technically – playing through their individual career modes.

But now I find myself reviewing NHL 11 and starting yet another career – and that’s before I even get FIFA 11 and PES 11. I know in advance, no matter how much care I garner for my created ice-thug, that he will be left to die of hypothermia in the save file of neglect.

It’s not out of choice. I don’t go, “nope, had enough of you” and throw it into a dusty corner of the room. There’s just always something else coming out, something else to distract me, to review, to play until my eyes leak. I miss the days of my youth where I would play the same Master League on PES for about 7 seasons, constantly upgrading and replacing.

It’s not like I don’t have the time, I think I need to concentrate on just one. Focus on taking the Packers to the Superbowl, putting the time in, instead of pissing about on the golf course when I should be on the training field.

It’s different with shooters. Give me an average to amazing multiplayer game and you won’t see me for weeks, months even. But they lack the true grind of a good manager mode. Sure, they have ranks and leaderboards to keep you fragging, but they don’t touch the almost RPG like grind of the good-old-days of PES.

There is a connection between sports games and RPG’s – faint, yes, but it’s there. RPG’s have the epic stories and great battles but so do these sport games, only you crate your own. The boss battles take the from of promotion games and Champion League finals. Meeting and falling in love with new characters is akin to picking up an unknown star on the transfer market and turning him into the next doomed box-art star.

I look back at the stars of Geroge Street United and they shine in the same light as Barret and “the boy” from Secret of Mana.  I just need to recreate these times, invest a little bit of myself into these teams, get that bond back.

Or maybe I just have more of a life than I did in my teens.

Kane and Lynch (me please)

Here is a demo impression that does not seem to have a home. I was reasonably happy with it, experimented with a personal narrative and an in-depth analysis of the shooting mechanics, which are shit by the way.

Kane and Lynch: Dog Days


The camera shakes like a Youtube video capturing a storm. Through the motion I recognise one of the protagonists, the long-haired-psycho, Lynch. The visuals are good. Very good in fact. They are all dark and moody, the cinematography perfectly suiting the story.

So far so good, I’m impressed. But then they give me control of Lynch and here I see the major flaw in the game; the combat just does not work.

The shaky camera fixes itself on the back of Lynch, shotgun in hand, staring at a sea of riot cops who are charging through the quickly disintegrating Asian restaurant. I fumble with the pad as shots rain in on me. My screen quickly filling with a red wave. I see a green button on the screen and press A as Lynch swings into cover by the pillar – it looks and feels right, with smooth animation and a weight that was implemented so well by Gears of War.

My third-person-shooter training comes into full effect as I dip out of cover and take out a couple of cops. “This isn’t too bad” I think to myself. Just as that thought leaves my head I get dropped to the floor. I lie on my back and scan around to work out what happened. As it turns out a cop ran around behind me and shot me in the back. Bit unfair really.

I jump back to my feet and work my way out the room. Kane and I have to work our way through a sea of corridors until we get into the next fire-fight. I can see the door open in the distance as more police spread through the room seeking cover. I preempt this and bolt around the corner of a wall, hoping it would lead to a vantage point behind them.

It does, but sadly I get to watch the shockingly poor AI in full effect. The “enemies” pop out of cover in an almost sped-up fashion, jumping from wall to crouched cover in the blink of an eye – imagine a whole squad of soldiers moving like Captain Kirk. Then, when I get over my amused confusion, I open fire on them with a machine gun I liberated from an officer and watch them soak up bullets. One clip later I switch back to my shotgun and seem to be able to drop them from 20 yards. Strange.

After an extended fight we get to see the back alleys and streets of the city, and once again, it looks great. The lighting is wonderful, especially when we reach the neon lit streets, but it is always overshadowed by the AI. Whether it’s enemies jumping around unrealistically or pedestrians casually strolling around five feet from the bullets, some even wandering into your fight then realising what’s going on before sprinting away.

The toughest section of the demo lies in wait; a narrow street chock-full of police and bystanders. I get told I can grab a human shield, and I try, but it won’t work. It turns out, after a few failed attempts, that you can only grab police based human shields; which makes very little sense seeing as you’re two criminals who are fighting for their lives.

I eventually get my hands the shiled and step out of cover, expecting to be given some sort of safety to progress to the next cover, but instead the police shoot straight through their colleague leaving me and my “shield” dead. Again, strange.

I die numerous times on this section, too many to remember. It feels like the enemy can train their guns on you with ease, from an angle no matter how obtuse, and are able to hammer shots on you without stopping to reload. This makes any fight against large groups very tough and more importantly not very fun. Kane doesn’t seem to help any, in fact he seems to do nothing at all. The only helpful thing he did was distract them while I opened fire their flank, dropping them one at a time while not one of the survivors paid me any attention.

I honestly cannot describe how confusing the AI is. It’s haphazard and random at best. I did finish the demo but I actually had to enable the steady camera as the motion was really getting to me: a gamer who very, very rarely suffers from motion sickness.

My initial excitement turned into exhausted joy as I quit to dashboard. I still maintain that it’s a great looking game, but it needs to learn that form follows function; a game must play well before looking well; and in it’s present state it does not. Hopefully some work will be implemented before release to tighten up some aspects but I was left very skeptical.

The online, however, has some potential, although it still suffers from the same gameplay errors. That and lag. Horrible, horrible, lag. I can look past this as it is a multiplayer demo, so the servers should be improved by release. Dog Days looks at the standard multiplayer and skews it slightly by almost combining competitive play with co-op.

The three game modes – Fragile Alliance, Undercover Cop and Cops & Robbers – instill a sense of mistrust as your team-mates are often waiting for the opportunity to backstab you. In Fragile Alliance it’s for the loot, whereas in Undercover Cop it’s because one of you is, well, an undercover cop.

I played a few games of these with it taking a long time to fill the game – my pad battery actually powered down while waiting for the sixth and seventh player in a game of Undercover Cop – and then when I got in the games the lag was awful, with players disappearing and reappearing all around me.

But I did get a feel for the game and it’s very refreshing. You have to keep an eye on how much loot you have and then watch your back for trigger happy team-mates. Often games ended up with a genocidal shootout while waiting for the escape vehicle. The survivor taking the winnings. Annoying as getting betrayed is, you get to respawn as a cop and seek your revenge on your traitorous team-mates.

I can see a lot of fun with this, more so with friends rather than random players as I think the betraying may be a bit too prevalent. I would comment on Cops & Robbers but I couldn’t get a game. Not even in twenty minutes of trying.

As a demo, Kane and Lynch: Dog Days is not great, but it does show some promise – even if it is only in the online. I don’t know if I can look past the fact that a shooting game lacks good shooting mechanics; but you never know, the addition of online co-operative play might be the big selling point that the game needs.