Wednesday, 26 December 2012

(Feature) What Tomb Raider Can Learn From Far Cry 3

Tomb Raider is looking to be a fantastic revival of a dying series, however with still a good few months to go until release, here is a list of things which I think the upcoming title can learn from an already released gem of a similar genre: Far Cry 3.

Gameplay is key

Tomb Raider showed off some interesting game mechanics at the last E3 and while it certainly intrigued it also looked a little wobbly. Something Far Cry 3 did was it sustained the same highly intense and similar combat situations while making them constantly fun, no matter how familiar they felt.

Going from stronghold to stronghold then completing a few missions was never a bore or a chore in FC3 simply because deeper than usual gameplay mechanics and a variation between stealth and action kept it interesting.

I'm not saying Tomb Raider should copy Far Cry 3's style; it just has to make sure the gameplay is varied, deep and interesting enough to keep people, not just playing, but also constantly having fun - something many games fail to do.

Tomb Raider is looking a much different game from previous installments in the series and while change is good - especially for a revival game - Crystal Dynamics must not forget that old fans will still make up a large part of the audience so familiarity is also required in some aspects.

Story can make or break

Tomb Raider promises an outstanding, emotional story - and it better deliver. If it doesn't the game will suffer. Far Cry 3 is proof of this. While FC3 offered a great story and adventure it wasn't told to its full potential. Some characters weren't used enough or expanded on enough and it felt a little hollow towards the end and overall it did suffer as a result. 

To fully succeed Tomb Raider must ensure it tells its story to the max. Don't do what Far Cry 3 did and hold back on characters or any of that rubbish; give us something to play for, abuse that story, make players sad - whatever it is: DO IT. The games success may depend on it.

A world worth exploring

Like Far Cry 3, Tomb Raider will be a mostly sandbox game. Being free to explore is fine and everything, but only if the environment offered is actually interesting. 

Far Cry 3 hit the nail on the head with its game world. It actually reminded me of Tomb Raider/Uncharted at times. There were caves to explore, animals to hunt, jungles to learn and constant obstacles between you and your goal.

Tomb Raider has to have an intriguing, unique and awesome game world that will have players exploring because they want to, not because they have to.                          

A key thing FC3 did was it had a world full of secrets. I remember playing through the game and on the way to an objective there was a massive stone pit. I went down and it was full of snakes and treasure. There was a hole full of scary looking water that I was terrified to go in because of crocodiles or something. I struggled to find my way out again until I finally found a hidden vine to climb up.

That one, small, five minute long section is a great definition of why Far Cry 3 had such an awesome world. It wasn't just roads and trees; it had secrets, places to explore and things to gather and learn. If anything, the only thing its world lacked was more of the same, great stuff its world offered. 

If Tomb Raider does what a fair amount of mediocre game worlds do and simply offers players a map with some collectibles in it and some interesting landscapes, it won't be worth playing and it might as well be completely scripted instead. 

This is particularly essential because Tomb Raider, as a series, has always been about the fantastic places Lara goes to explore and the awesome things she (and the player) discover there.

Don't let us down...

This is the most important thing, Crystal Dynamics, OK? Do what Far Cry 3 did. Hype us up, like you are. Get us totally psyched. And then, when we play it, don't, I repeat don't, let us down. If you can deliver as awesome a game as we expect and hope for, then Tomb Raider may be in the running for Game of The Year 2013. 

So, please, don't let us down.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

(Feature) Top 5 Most Anticipated Games of 2013

2013 approaches fast and offers a vast range of fantastic titles for gamers to enjoy. Here is my personal pick of my (5) most anticipated games it has to offer!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Why it made my list: Is there much explanation needed here? 
While not my most anticipated game of the 2013, it has certainly got me, and many others, excited. It is Grand Theft Auto - what is not to look forward to?

In all honesty, Grand Theft Auto IV didn't massively impress me, however if GTA V manages to fix most of the issues I had with its predecessor it is guaranteed to be a sensational game.

Tomb Raider 

Why it made my list: I liked the old Tomb Raider. I have great memories of playing it on PS2 and Xbox 360 and it wasn't until Uncharted came along that there was anything that really rivaled it. It was never perfect, but always fun and great to play; however the success of Uncharted certainly brought about hard times for the long lasting series and it isn't surprising to see it getting a make over.

While I'm still slightly skeptical about some of the gameplay features, Tomb Raider looks to be a sensational adventure. It touches on a mature darkness that wasn't expected from such a previously 'friendly' series. 

Lara is still as attractive as ever, but it is no longer focused around how sexy or 'cool' she is and wild her adventures. Instead it is about her struggles to survive on a tropical island full of scummy mercenaries and troubling puzzles. It has, in a way, grown up. 

It looks to be a highlight of next year - for me at least - offering a totally story focused experience that could, if successful, reinvent Lara Croft and Tomb Raider for good. 

Bioshock Infinite

Why it made my list: In a way Rapture is BioShock and BioShock is Rapture. That is why my first thought was of how dangerous the change in setting was for BioShock Infinite. However, after considering the dreary sequel that was BioShock 2, it's impossible not to fully support 2K's aim to move forward with the series.

Just like GTA V, BioShock Infinite doesn't really need a full explanation of why it made my list. To anyone who has played the series and loved it: this choice probably seems obvious.

Set up in the clouds in a magical city; BioShock Infinite looks to take the player on an epic a journey as the first installment in the series did. A strong story, character line up and, most of all, an incredible world, looks to be the focal point of Infinite.

If executed properly, the game could easily be one of the best next year has to offer. Either way, it has been delayed enough times to warrant this. Let us hope it performs.

Metro: Last Light

Why it made my list: It was thrilling to learn Metro 2033 would receive a sequel; although surprising to say the least. Being such a budget game and carrying its fair share of flaws, it seemed unlikely to produce a follow on. It has, however, in the form of Metro: Last Light. 

Despite the fact the first Metro game was based on Dmitry Glukhovsky's first Metro book; 4A Games have, along with the help of Glukhovsky, taken the different angle of basing it on a story unique to the game.

The reason Last Light is one of my most anticipated games of 2013 is simply because if it is anywhere as good - if not better - than 2033, it could easily be one of the best successes of next year.

Story driven, scary, intriguing, unique and very Russian, Last Light is based a year after Metro 2033 (in 2034) and follows the original games main protagonist Artyom. Little is known about the story or the game as a whole, but 4A Games appear to have introduced many new features and fixed old bugs.

If there is one game to keep a look out for next year that may slip under anyone's raider, this has got to be it.

The Last of Us

Why it made my list: While Microsoft hopes to impress with Gears of War: Judgment, Sony have something else up their sleeve. To say The Last of Us looks great or even amazing is an understatement; it looks in-cre-dible. 

Naughty Dog created one of my favourite ever series with Uncharted and look to push the boat out even further with this.

Set in post-apocolypic America, The Last of Us follows two characters, Joel and Ellie, as they try to survive in a seemingly doomed world. While it offers apocalyptic cliché’s; like an American military you can't trust, dodgy quarantine zones and basically typical regimes you see in many films of the same genre; to portray this in a game is something sensational. This setting may be a common sight in horror films, but never has a game treaded in this territory. 

Cliché’s aside, the story looks sensational and characterisation could possibly be some of the best anyone has seen in a game. The Last of Us doesn't just push the boat out with the story, characters, setting and atmosphere, either; the gameplay looks to be different and very much 'choice' based - as does the entire game itself.

Quite like other games on this list, there isn't a whole lot of info known about The Last of Us. However it looks to have potential to be one of the most incredible games, not just of next year, but also of this generation.

Others to look forward to

The are loads of awesome games being released in 2013 and it was hard to pick the 5 I'm anticipating most. Below are a few other games I'm really looking forward to that didn't quite make the cut for my Top 5 list!

  • Gears of War: Judgement

  • Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist

  • Crysis 3

  • Dead Space 3

  • Aliens: Colonial Marines

  • Lost Planet 3
Don't forget to put in the comments what your most anticipated games of the upcoming year are!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

(Feature) 2012 - Games of The Year

2012 has been a sensational year for gaming. Here is my own personnel pick of the best and most disappointing games of the year. Please note that lists are in no particular order.

Top 5 Games of The Year

Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Witcher 2 easily takes its place on my list of best games of the year. 

There are few games that engage you in such an interesting and mature story and characters like Witcher 2 does. It's these elements that can make or break games and it is great so much effort was put into this game to ensure it succeeded in these areas.

While not being perfect, Witcher 2 involves the player in a miraculous world with astounding attention to detail. The combat system was a little hit and miss but the successes of everything else the game offers way out way any cons there might be.

Arguably you have to be a hardcore RPG fan to get the most out of this game, although I would beg to differ. I'm not a dedicated RPG player, yet Witcher 2 thrilled, intrigued and touched me.

If there is one game that likely slipped through peoples radars this year that shouldn't; this may be it.

Catherine is the type of game that is so unexpected it's hard what to make of it at first. 
Essentially it is a sort of 'role-playing platformer' - although even that description far from hits the nail on the head. 
In a way the best description would be to simply say that it is one hell of a messed up emotional rollercoaster. 

I wasn't too keen on the platforming parts of the game at first; I preferred the interesting conversations and text talks with friends part of the game to be honest. However, as the game went on I realised that Vincent's nightmares played such an important part not only in the story, but in understanding things that I put more effort into them and, as a result; my liking for those gameplay segments increased.

It's a wicked and harsh game that really brought something so unique and different and, in its own way, fun, to the table, it is impossible not to love this game. 

New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS)
The odd one out on the list because it is the only handheld game I've included; NSMB2 for the 3DS proved that 2D Mario is triumphant over 3D Mario (on the 3DS at least). Indeed; Mario's 3D Land outing last year left me far from overly satisfied. 

New Super Mario Bros. 2 is an awesome game though, and proves the Italian plumber is far from getting old.

This entry remained exactly what fans know and love while still offering a few different takes on things. New levels, power ups and a large focus on coins; NSMB2 is easy to put on this list because it is just such an entertaining game. It never fails to amuse just like almost all Mario games. That deserves something.

Spec Ops: The Line

There have been many great games released this year and it was hard to come to a final decision on whether Spec Ops deserved a place. It isn't perfect. In fact, if I were asked to 'rate it' I wouldn't give it above an 8.5 out of 10. 
So how come it beat ingenious games like Dishonored and got a place here then?
Any person reading this has the right to ask that and, while I understand my justification, it is likely many won't agree. That is fine, however. An opinion is n opinion.

Spec Ops: The Line is a special game. It may have a dreary multiplayer mode, average pacing and a questionable lack of unique fights in the singleplayer; but it has an intriguing psychological twist to it that will have any gamer really wondering what the hell is going on. 

The story becomes confusing and weird, violent and scary; but that is the whole point. The game confuses with its surreal ability to make you actually question not just the characters but yourself. The confusion felt is not because the plot line is hard to follow; more that who you or your characters are anymore is near impossible to work out.

There were many times throughout the game when I thought I'd missed the point. It is, in fact, the missing of the point that is the point.

Spec Ops takes its well-deserved place on my list for being so damn thought provoking and emotionally brilliant. 

Far Cry 3
There are many reasons to praise Far Cry 3. It's fairly deep, mature and unique story. The island it is set on. The characters or combat. In the end if it weren't for all these things beings as top notch as they are; the game wouldn't be as good.

While the story and characters (mainly the two main enemies) weren't done to full potential, it still offered a far better plot than most other games released. 

Exploring Rook Island and completing missions while learning more about the cast of characters was a sensational experience. Few games hooked me like Far Cry 3 did and, I imagine, I will still be playing it next year.

Ubisoft got a lot spot on with Far Cry 3. There really are few games anything like this one.

Top 5 Arcade Games of The Year (360/PS3) 

Fez is an excellent example of how and by the Xbox 360 is a sensational arcade console as well as being a hardcore one.

Fez is difficult, intriguing and beautiful to look at. Using various camera angles to make the experience more complex and unique is something other games have explored; few, however, implement them in such a sensational way as Fez. 

Being an arcade title it's not likely a ton of people bought it upon release; so it is safe, then, to assume there are still people left to play it. To those people I say: put down Call of Duty and Far Cry 3 and get this game. I know there are many amazing games I've recommended (and will recommend); but Fez is a cheap, excellent addition to any gamers arcade library.

Journey is breath taking. A simple concept perfectly executed.

It isn't that Journey is astoundingly fun per say; or totally full of content. There is no blasting other players away online or killing thousands of people. It is just a magical, unique and totally awe inspiring game.

While travelling through a desert towards the objective, the player is often joined by other people playing the game and must work together to succeed. With no words spoken or typed, the game relies on a unique 'song' system that allows players to communicate via in game sounds.

It's an astonishing experience and one that is far from forgotten after completing.

Walking Dead 
Telltale successfully made the Walking Dead actually interesting with the arcade episode releases.

Being point and click and based on a mediocre (in my opinion) TV series I didn't expect much. I was pleasantly surprised to find, then, that they had actually produced something rather fantastic.

Story driven and interesting; the Walking Dead arcade series really impressed me. It's hard to fault the obvious dedication and awesome results Telltale produced.
Each episode was eagerly awaited and it really felt not only like a 'TV' series was being watched but truly participated in and, most of all, dictated by the player.

Trials Evolution
The whole Trials format is basic. You can find online games that can be played for free that offer the same gameplay basis. However, it is what RedLynx does with that format that makes the Trials series so frigging awesome.

Trials Evolution gives players exactly what they want: a fun challenge.
Awesome levels and a basic, yet outstanding and enjoyable gameplay system will leave any player satisfied.

Some would say that Trials is the bet arcade series around and while I would disagree, Evolution is extremely awesome and not to be missed.

Alan Wake's American Nightmare 
I absolutely adored the first Alan Wake and was really interested to find out what this indirect sequel would be like.

American Nightmare isn't a straightforward follow on to the first game and is more of a 'spin off'. I didn't quite like the concept at first and just wanted a straight forward sequel; however AWAN succeeded in being a really enjoyable, content packed, experience and, most of all, it was more Alan Wake - which isn't a bad thing.

The game suffers from story issues and returning flaws from the first game as well as offering an awesome side mode that doesn't include multiplayer or co-op(?). However it is a long, action packed experience that is great fun. Given that it is a cheaper arcade release that could almost be released as a full game as well as being really enjoyable, Alan Wake gets well deserved place on my list.

Top 5 Most Disappointing Games of The Year

Call of Duty: Black Ops II

Despite still being a good game, the sequel to one of my most disappointing games ever (Black Ops); Black Ops 2 disappointed me on a more personal level. 

It failed to excite me upon playing and, unfortunately, failed also to get me back into the series that first got me into gaming. There isn't much to else to say about BLOPs 2 except it let me down for my on gaming reasons rather than ones that can be picked apart technically.

Resident Evil 6
What has happened to you Resi? You hit such a high note with number 5 and then you come out with this? It isn't so much that Resi 6 completely sucked; just that compared to what was expected it was a disappointment. This list isn't compiled of the worst games of the year, only the ones that disappointed me, so Resi 6 isn't a terrible game; just a let down.

Medal of Honor: Warfighter
After the last Medal of Honor offered a good experience with potential, I fully expected Danger Close to produce a great game here. Instead, MoH: Warfighter came in the form of a mush of mediocre gameplay and graphics, a bland mission selection and a multiplayer boring enough to make a caffeine addict go to sleep. 

Ninja Gaiden 3
What on earth were you thinking, Team Ninja? 

Ninja Gaiden 3 is an appalling follow on to a series that had a lot going for it. I don't even know what to say here as almost everything about the game sucked and disappointed. That's all anyone needs to know. Don't play it.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified
 I hoped maybe Declassified could offer a really unique and awesome experience and truly be the best handheld console FPS yet. It wasn't. At all.

Disappointing? Yes. Utterly rubbish? Yes. Complete confusion over just what went wrong? Yes. 

When playing this game, instead of thinking how awesome it was, I couldn't get this though out my head: how do you screw a game up so much? If being this bad and disappointing was an Olympic sport and Declassified had been released before London 2012, it would've won gold. Fact.

I don't want to even waste more words on this thing. Bottom line: avoid it like the plague.

Seems my lists are done. It is unlikely many will agree with them so voice your own opinions on what were your best and worst games of 2012 in the comments!

Friday, 7 December 2012

(Review) Far Cry 3 - Review (Xbox 360/PS3)

Please Note That While Great Care Has Been Taken To Ensure There Are No Spoilers in This Review, if You are VERY Uptight About The Information You Know About a Game Before Playing it, Then Please Read With Caution. 

I didn't actually enjoy Far Cry 2 all that much. It was the type of game you had to dedicate hours to just understanding what the hell you had to do. It was difficult, but not in a challenging way; more in a confusing way.

That said, Far Cry 3 is easily my most anticipated game of 2012 and has been at the top of my 'Can't Wait' list for some time.

The game is set on a tropical island called Rook - or rather, Rook 'Island' - and follows main protagonist Jason Brody as he attempts to survive on the deadly island while trying to rescue his friends after a skydiving expedition went more than just a bit wrong.

Getting captured by psycho bad guy Vaas wasn't part of Jason or his friends' or brothers' plans, but unfortunately, that is sort of the way things went.

Playing as Jason Brody, it's your job to survive a wilderness thriving with vicious animals and evil humans as you attempt to find your family and friends and escape.

Far Cry 3 is very much as story orientated as it is focused on bringing Rook Island to life; so in other words: very story orientated. That is great, because to make the whole journey worthwhile, a game like this needs to have deep characters and a rich narrative.

It is great that Ubisoft has accepted in Far Cry 3 what many other developers still don't: that the player's character should often be their own character. It's getting boring having characters being 'strong and silent' in an attempt to make them feel more like the player. Instead of  being like this, you are simply going along with Brody for the journey; but not actually him.

Indeed, Jason Brody is a fairly mouthy character that clearly is his own person. Just like everyone in the game, he has a distinct personality. He isn't necessarily the most likeable character; in fact, neither he nor his friend's and brother's are necessarily going to be everyone's type of people. That is fine, however; Far Cry 3 embraces its story and characters and basically says that is the way they/it are so deal with it.
After all, you are along for the journey, and not every character is designed to make you love them.

As much as Jason is, technically speaking, the main guy on the scene, it tends to be the two main bad guys who steal the show. Vaas and Hoyt are incredible enemies to come up against are interesting characters. Just like everyone in the game, they are superbly voice acted.

Despite all the praise that the story and characters have just received from me, they aren't perfect. Everything that the story and characters need to be the best they can is there; it is just that Ubisoft didn't execute it as well as they should've done.

While the mental transformation Jason Brody undergoes while roaming the island and trying to save his friend's is well portrayed, the other characters are not explored enough. I'm mainly referring to the likes of Vaas and Hoyt here. They are both two awesome bad guys but not only do they not appear in the actual game enough, but their characters are left hanging.

This is, in a way, how the entire story goes. It's good, but builds up to epic moments and then doesn't do anything. I'm not necessarily talking about the ending; more situations throughout the game. Is there a massive twist? Do these hallucinations Jason suffers from mean anything? Is this or that going to happen? These are all examples of things not explored enough by the game.

Don't get me wrong; it's an interesting tale - just don't get caught up in it thinking something astounding is going to happen.

Despite the seemingly heavy focus on your two main enemies, you will meet plenty of other interesting characters throughout your journey. Whether it's bad guys who you will want dead or rebels with a cause; there are many great personalities that make the adventure even more interesting.

As much as completing missions and helping the rebel's is key to Jason's success, the most important thing to do is learn the island. Only a small chunk of Rook Island is actually visible in great detail at the beginning of the game; the rest is simply a blue blur. It will remain that way until you activate radio towers. Doing this makes that small part of the map available for detailed viewing.

Just as important to complete, however, are the stronghold takeovers. These involve going to enemy strongholds and, well, taking them over. Killing all enemies in the base is enough to warrant this and the immediate area will become free of enemy patrols to allow for safe travel. Rebels will move into the base and you will unlock more side quests.

Hunting and plant collecting is essential to progressing and surviving. Killing and skinning various animals, both predator and prey, allows you to craft better weapon holsters to carry more weapons, ammo pouches, munition pouches, wallets etc. Crafting these items requires fairly basic skins at first but the more you craft the rarer and harder to obtain the skins become.
Plants are also necessary to craft health, hunting and exploration syringes to name a few. These aren't essential as you can still heal without health shots and the other syringes are mainly helpers and not vital. In fact, I found myself rarely crafting any syringes except health ones.

Obviously, getting around Rook Island is important and while it is likely a lot of time will be spent traveling on foot as to try to remain as stealthy as possible in case of unexpected enemy encounters; there is the option of many cars, boats, trucks and even hang gliders. As much as the land vehicles in particular are useful, it is advised that use of them is mainly only in areas known to be safe; otherwise you could find yourself alerting nearby enemies to your presence.

As Rook Island is explored, it soon becomes apparent just how beautiful, but dangerous, it is. There are amazing places to explore and at many times it felt a bit like a first person version of Uncharted and Tomb Raider. Caves, underground tunnels, plane and boat wrecks, islands to explore - Far Cry 3 seems to have it all. As much as Far Cry 2 had a very much bleak and fairly mediocre map, Far Cry 3 goes the other way in having a very exploration encouraged map. And it's fantastic.

That is one of the awesome things about Far Cr 3. It is driven by it's fantastic landscape as much as it is the story. Albeit, the story does underplay itself but is still an awesome adventure. Many games of this type often focus on one or the other: story or sandbox environment. But Far Cry 3 doesn't and that is certainly good.

E3 2011 left me unsure whether to expect a Call of Duty styled combat system or one more reminiscent of Battlefield - because it certainly didn't look anything like Far Cry 2.
Gunplay and movement instantly brought to mind Battlefield; however Far Cry 3 still remains its own master. It took a bit of getting used to, which was nice. Having expected a more arcade styled system, it was surprising how realistic the weapons acted. Shooting an enemy a fair distance away even with an assault rifle is not an easy achievement. Trying to use an SMG for that is near impossible.

Whether playing a mission or attempting to take over a stronghold, there is almost always a choice of how to complete the objective. Go in guns blazing or stay stealthy - the choice is there. Going in balls out crazy it not always the best option though.
At the beginning of the game Jason is fairly underpowered compared to opposition and almost every point of the available arsenal is restricted. How much ammo, weapons and syringes that can be carried is limited and going into a battle without using stealth is a real challenge. Like I said earlier, however, you can easily go on a large hunting spree and upgrade your equipment to allow for a better load-out early on.

Stealth always feels like the focus of Far Cry 3 though. Using the camera to tag bad guys will allow you to see them through objects and learn what type of enemy they are (regular, heavy, sniper etc.), which is extremely helpful to say the least.

Also  available are the, arguably overpowered, takedowns. Go up behind an unaware enemy and press the right stick and Jason will instantly take him out with a knife - silently too, I might add. There are plenty of takedown variations to unlock too. Above takedowns, grenade takedowns, knife throwing takedowns, chained takedowns - you name it, there is a takedown for it.

Unlocks play an important part of increasing Jason's ability and skill in different areas. Earn enough XP and a Skill Point will be available to use to unlock a new ability. There are three different categories - The Shark, The Heron and The Spider - that offer different types of skills.
Far Cry 3 isn't overwhelming in this department and it's easy to mix and match what you unlock. In fact, by the end of the game it is likely there will only be a few different skills left in each category.

Unfortunately, this part of the game is a little hit and miss. It is certainly more hit than miss, but it isn't exactly perfect. Combat and skills are fun - very fun and it is never boring entering into a fight with the enemy or completing a quest; however it is very easy to become what can only, really, be described as overpowered early on. As already mentioned; dedicate yourself to hunting and you will be able to carry the max number of weapons and ammo in no time. Weapon unlocks are dependent on how many Radio Towers have been activated; so put a lot of time into that and great weapons will be available earlier too.

Very little of the things unlocked are dependent on how far you progress in the main story. Ultimately this leads to the games combat situations becoming fairly easy at an early stage.
What's more, the game never tries to throw you off course. It's not hard to just fall into a routine of activating radio tower after radio tower and taking over stronghold after stronghold before moving onto the main story missions and side quests.

On the whole the single player is an outstanding experience. The story isn't executed to its full potential but it is still an extremely enjoyable and mature experience. The combat may become fairly easy early on in the adventure but that doesn't make it a drag to play in any way; it remains a massively fun experience. Rook Island is beautiful, dangerous and, most of all; full of life and things to do.

Despite the fact that single player is clearly the main focus of the game; it also offers a multiplayer and co-op mode. To save some time for everyone I'll just go ahead and say that, strictly speaking, both are average.

The co-op feature offers a separate story set six months before the main single player and follows four people who, after being ripped off by Vaas, go to seek revenge. It's not a massively long story - about six hours compared to the 20+ you'll spend in the single player - and, quite frankly, not all that interesting either.

Multiplayer is a fairly standard affair. It offers the usual line up of game modes; the main difference is that it is set in a beautiful jungle. While offering nothing new, the core mechanics of work and the setting makes the maps that bit more interesting. It's nothing special, but it isn't bad either. Will this be the game to replace CoD? No, never; but don't bother not playing a game or two because it is still a bit of fun.


Far Cry 3 is one of the best games of 2012. The criticisms made throughout the review are relevant, but Far Cry 3 is a mature, unique and, most of all, extremely fun game. It has issues but so do other games and the pros way override any cons. 
So, should you buy it? Yes - or at least rent it. It's an adventure no gamer should miss.

<<I confirm the subscription of this blog to the Paperblog service under the username m00kyst>>.

Monday, 3 December 2012

(Feature) Single Player Games CAN Have Good Multiplayer

I'm not a multiplayer guy myself, although I appreciate how much it can mean to a lot of gamers to have a good online option available in a game. In fact forget a lot; it's safe to assume a majority of gamers find decent online multiplayer important - if not essential - to a new title.
This is clear from the amount of attention online gets nowadays. People are always looking for good, interesting, fun and - most of all - populated online experiences. World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Battlefield; the list of online focused games is long. There is little reason to explore an explanation here, as I'm pretty sure everyone understands how and why multiplayer has become so big. Playing socially is extremely appealing and it's fair to say gaming videos on YouTube wouldn't be quite so big if it weren't for the likes of CoD and Battlefields' popular online modes.

The online requirements of single player games have dramatically increased over the years. While originally games like Bioshock, Assassins Creed, Dead Space and more, survived fine with just the immersive single player experience; it seems that in the last couple of years developers have thought it necessary to expand into the multiplayer genre too. 
It's fairly easy to place the blame of this on pressure from consumers, however more realistically you have to question the devs and publishers themselves. Multiplayer is where it's at and the amount of extra buyers a game might attract simply for offering a broader social experience is incredible. Top that with the Online Pass system, forcing people to pay full price to access the extra features, and you have a recipe for some extra money. A lot of these added multiplayer modes are worthless, however. Indeed: they are often dry of players only a few months after the launch of the game.

It's safe to say then, is it not, that single player games and multiplayer rarely mix well? After all, how many online modes included in a campaign focused game flopped? A lot. There are, however, some exceptions. And it's these exceptions which show why multiplayer in single player games, while admittedly not necessary, can - and often should - be great. In fact it's these unique single player games that actually, often, have the most online potential. 

Take Assassins Creed, for instance. Multiplayer made its debut in the series in the Brotherhood installment. It was a success too, which is the main reason for this example. Critics mostly loved it, fans appreciated it and overall it seemed to please people. The reason for the praise it received is obvious: it was new, unique and different and fitted in with what Assassins Creed is all about. Ubisoft executed perfectly what made the single player so awesome and different into the multiplayer. They didn't put people in an arena and tell them to battle it out in a death match; they took what made the single player so great and fitted it into the online mode. It wasn't trying to be like every other multiplayer game out there. It was its own identity. 

A good example of the opposite end of the scale is the recently released Far Cry 3 (review coming soon by the way). While the single player is astonishing, the multiplayer? Not so much. It's functional but basic and ordinary. Considering how unique an experience the single player is, you'd expect Ubisoft to draw from that and include those different elements in the online. However, just like a lot of games, they didn't. I can't stress enough how much potential the extra mode in Far Cry 3 had - if they had only drawn from the single player and shaped the online around that. 
What Ubisoft should've said was: forget bog standard TDM or weird variants of Capture the Flag; in fact, screw those modes completely! How about you have two teams of so many players and have one team guarding a camp/base/island or something and make the other team attempt to infiltrate and complete an objective? 
That was off the top of my head, by the way, so that particular example was always going to be a bit naf; but even that sounds better than What FC3 has going for it now. And considering Ubisoft had 4 years (assuming development began after Far Cry 2), you'd think they could've come up with something a bit more inventive than this.

Dead Space 2 tried something different, and it almost worked. In fact, I'm surprised it didn't catch on more. It wasn't too stereotypical or linear and had/has potential; however, in truth, the main issue with Dead Space 2s attempt to break into multiplayer was probably the lack of content. Online was a pretty basic affair in the game and ultimately it lacked any real passion. It became a bit of an effort to play after a few hours and EA are going to have to work on that for the third installment.

It's becoming a drag having developers simply including multiplayer for the sake of it when there has clearly been little effort put into it. Games are being contaminated with these stupid online inclusions that are mostly lame, sometimes broken and often downright bad/boring.

Bioshock 2, while having a lacks single player, had a baffling multiplayer. Baffling from the point of view that it was so ridiculously lame and pointless. There was nothing unique or interesting about what 2K offered and, in truth, I doubt very much there could have been. Bioshock (or rather the last two Bioshocks) isn't the kind of series where social interactions really work. Bioshock 1 and 2 had very secluded single players and there weren't really any elements that could be put into an online mode that would make it awesome and different - and that is fine; who said every game must include some sort of multiplayer option anyway? This is where the line steps in. Single player games can have good online modes; in fact a lot of them should, given a lot of new titles unique settings and features. However when will developers and publishers realise this and that not every game is cut out to have a social platform? It seems with almost every single player game released there comes bundled with it this 'compulsory, don't really want to be here but have to' online function. Who wants that? Yes some games, like Bioshock, shouldn't have multiplayer to start with because it just doesn't work; but other games like Far Cry, Dead Space and more, can and should have worthwhile social functions. 

If developers actually put in the effort then we would see a lot of single player orientated games have excellent multiplayer modes that might even set a new standard. It's not that I even want a majority of single player games to offer multiplayer: just that a lot of them do, but are completely worthless. Well, devs: it's time to put in the effort - because what is the point of including something if your heart isn't in it?

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

(Review) Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Review (Xbox 360/PS3)

Over the last few years, for better or worse, Call of Duty has changed. It has its fans and, like everything, it has its haters. The last two Call of Duty's failed to impress me; however despite my best efforts, Treyarch got me excited for Black Ops II like they managed with the fairly average original Black Ops.
Despite the fact a full review is about to commence, the question everyone wants to hear the answer to straight off is, simply: does it live up to the hype?! Well, quite simply, no. But that does not mean it is a bad game by any means. It by far succeeds MW3, which means it is above being bad. Indeed, the answer 'No' does not (unsurprisingly) do the game any justice.
Black Ops II is a massive game and it's certainly best covered in segments, so let's begin with the campaign.
Set in the year 2025, you are thrown into the shoes of the original Black Ops main protagonist, Alex Masons, son. While he is the main man on the scene, you'll also control other characters in other time periods too. It is typical CoD design and to be expected, however as with Black Ops, you never feel like you are being switched between characters too often and you always get a good idea of who is who. Despite revisiting the past on a fair few occasions (1986-89 to be exact), the main story is all about the future and according to Treyarch the biggest threat to the human race (or more directly, the USA) is it's own robots. Well, while droids are causing serious problems, none of it would be happening if it weren't for a man called Raul Menendez. He's the bad guy, the guy behind the terrorist plots and the plans to destroy America, and, in the end, the entire world. While he is certainly an interesting enemy to come up against and does a lot to boost emotion and depth to the characters, his motives for his evil plans feel weak and unconvincing. As a character he is interesting and the type you enjoy watching and seeing progress in the story, however the actual role he is given is somewhat unrealistic and a bit, well, blah. Treyarch try to make you feel sad, angry and confused at the character all at the same time, but really his plans are too laughable to cause any serious emotional disturbance. The character as a whole is intriguing but the plot not so much.
Black Ops II does a fairly good job of adding more depth to all involved characters; including those returning from the first Black Ops, and certainly it is the first CoD game that actually affected my emotions more than usual. That said, the main success here is based on how well the characters are portrayed, the actual story, as mentioned before, is a bit mediocre. It feels like Treyarch definitely tried to go for a different, more emotional take, and they partly succeeded, but the overall plot certainly needs improvement.
Treyarch decided to opt for a more customisable single player experience in more than one way. One of these ways is the new 'custom load-out' choices you are given before missions - that is unless one mission continues directly on from another. This gives you the opportunity to change weapons, gadgets, attachments etc. or you can just start the next level with the default loadout. While not a terrible feature to implement it feels fairly useless except when replaying missions. You know little about what you will be tackling in the next level and thus you cannot really make any educated decisions on what to use. What's more, most gear is actually locked and requires story progression to unlock and this makes the entire feature feel kind of pointless. In the end I found it mostly just interrupted the flow of missions and immersion which is more of a con than pro.
The campaign has also taken more of an open route by allowing for 'free' choices which alter the outcome of the story and events within it. These choices may be small ones which you barely consider to decisions which will have you really thinking. It's a nice inclusion and does a lot to improve the overall experience as well as re-playability. I'm a big fan of choice systems in games and it is safe to say Black Ops II implements it well. You never feel overwhelmed with choice and the focus is still on the shooting, so it doesn't dominate. The balance is set well.
Aside from those already listed, the only other main change, or rather, 'inclusion' are the Strike Force missions. These are RTS styled encounters where you control a squad or soldiers on the battlefield to complete objectives. Unfortunately these missions aren't just hit and miss; they fly out of view, miles from the target. The AI is basically non existent and the RTS functions are far from in depth. It's a basic system in every way and does nothing for the game. This is a major problem because they are vital to story progression and outcomes. The best way to solve this issue is to just control the squads yourself in first person, which ultimately turns these from different, unique missions, into normal shooting missions. For missions that play such an important part in the story, these are a major let down. Luckily not all of the Strike Force levels available are compulsory to play.
The campaign is a bit hit and miss in truth. It offers typical CoD single player gameplay while going for the more 'deep and meaningful' story approach which is very much failure and success in one. The new features added try to mix it up and give a new take on things but in truth, what is wrong with normal story missions that play out as they used to? In a way it would be beter if missions followed on from one another without silly class setup interruptions and there were no stupid RTS missions that completely failed! A lot of these new features feel implemented for the sake of being implemented while not successfully switching things up in any way.
In the end, however, multiplayer is where it is at. You don't buy CoD anymore simply for the story; it's all about the online experience.
Despite being the series biggest selling point, it has also been it's weakest attribute in recent releases. MW3 was a bit of a joke and the original Black Ops tried to innovate but fell short. So, where does Black Ops II fall then? Well the bottom line is: it is Call of Duty. There is no revolutionary new gameplay feature that changes the experience completely and makes everyone who hated it before love it now and there never will be. The main changes come in the form of game modes, maps, weapons, killstreaks etc.
The entire multiplayer experience is set in 2025, so expect more future styled maps. Despite Treyarchs best efforts, the maps fall short for various reasons. First of all it has been evident for some time now that CoD is becoming far more fast and furious, with smaller maps and a more run'n'gun friendly design. Campers are pretty much non existent now, which is great for some people, but highlights a map issue I have. Maps are too small and too fast. There seem to be no larger maps to break up the pacing and match after match you tend to be faced with the same thing. Hell, I found it pretty pointless having more than 2-3 classes because all maps are so similar in design and size. That is a great shame because it becomes wearing after hours of play.
The second map issue I have is, quite simply, the graphics. 60fps engine offers a great gameplay experience and all but it is so old and grotty looking, mainly in multiplayer, you'd be forgiven for thinking I was playing an old MoH PS2 game. Well, maybe that is a bit extreme but you get what I mean?! Maps look bland and boring instead of being lively and gorgeous and this ultimately makes them far less enjoyable to play.
Create a class has had a minor overhaul (again) too. No longer are you simply unlocking items over and over again, nor are you using the loved/hated CoD points: instead you are given the '10 point' system which allows you to customise what 10 things your class contains. Forget having three or even two perks; stick with 1 and add more attachments to your guns and become a one man army or use all three perk slots to make yourself as fast as possible and become a speedy ninja - the choice is yours. It is a flexible arrangement which is interesting to play around with; however the style of play is still the same, so in the end having a good balance between perks, attachments, weapons and equipment is almost compulsory.
League play is a different way of playing multiplayer as it gives you the opportunity to play with players best matched to your skill level. On top of that everything is unlocked in league play, allowing you to get the full, free experience you get in custom games. It's a neat addition however I didn't find myself going into it anymore than I was normal matches.
Love or hate them Killstreaks are, of course, back, however the only changes to note here are the different ones on offer, and even they aren't worth noting. In truth a lot of the 'new' killstreaks are simply old versions of killstreaks made to become more futuristic. Nothing to see here folks.
In truth there is little to explain or share other than that already stated. Multiplayer is your typical CoD affair. The changes made are really more cosmetic than anything and aren't the type of alterations that will win awards or set new standards. There is only one other thing worth mentioning that comes to mind, and, unfortunately, it is not a pro. The amount of ammo it takes to kill someone in Black Ops II is far from satisfactory. The fact it can take up to half a clip to down a player is fairly outrageous. I didn't find it made me lose more gun fights; it is the same for everyone after all, however it is a fairly unrealistic change that appears to be deliberate. So, for the record Treyarch, it is not appreciated.
This is the part of the review I wasn't looking forward to, simply because it is the most disappointing. Zombie's is not exactly the new and improved affair I had in mind. There is no 'zombie campaign' so to speak of; instead we are given a more objective based game mode, however it feels as deep and interesting as a small puddle. The lack of new, fun, game modes is not the problem however, it is the maps. They just are not fun to play. Annoying fire, boring surroundings, irritating glitches and no real structure make the zombies mode borderline worthless. If any of the DLC maps are good then it will be worth having a game, but until then don't waste your time.
I've already reviewed several other CoD games, and the enjoyment I get from writing yet another article about yet another Call of Duty is similar to the amount of enjoyment I got from playing a week of Black Ops II. It's a fun game, and if you are still a hardcore fan of the series, then buy it, but, despite being a massive fan of the series since the beginning, Black Ops II fails to keep me very amused. It's better than MW3 by a mile; however it is also similar to last year's instalment in that it lacks any true innovation and change. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but a good way to express how this affects the series is to say that it no longer raises the standard of shooters; rather it simply reaches the standard it set a while ago.
Despite the fact it does not change the formula or raise the bar more, Call of Duty still remains the best at what it does, and that is the pure truth. It may no longer be unique but when you look at the other shooters of the same style and design that are on the market, CoD prevails as the best (for the record BF3 is a totally different shooter so I am not comparing the two). Black Ops II is a good game, and it is not broken or poor in any way at all, it is just that after 7 years of next gen CoD, it's safe to say I, and many other people have had their fill.