Wednesday, 30 January 2013

(Feature) This Generation Of Rockstar

Rockstar are undoubtedly one of the best video game developers in history, making some of the most explosive, story and action driven games ever. They immerse you in the worlds they create with deep characters and intriguing stories that play off of the present as well as history. 

With Grand Theft Auto: V only around the corner and the next generation of consoles soon to be appearing on shelves, I take a look back at Rockstar and their efforts to entertain people during the Xbox 360/PS3 generation. (This list consists of the main releases by Rockstar during this generation and some less important titles are not covered).

2008 - Grand Theft Auto: IV 

Rockstar kicked off the new generation with a bang with the release of GTA: IV. Well, it was a little later than people would have liked; 2008 to be exact, a full 3 years after the Xbox 360 was released.

People queued for hours at midnight releases just to get their hands on a copy. The game itself caused a ton of controversies. Even real life crimes were committed that the press and opposers to the series suggested were because of the new game. 

In the end the game received critical acclaim, although personally I never bought into it. Grand Theft Auto: IV just wasn't good enough in my book. The start of the game was compelling and brilliant and set the tone just right. But it seemed to deteriorate as the game went on. The story became a chore and characters, aside from Niko, were just plain out boring.

What's more, having characters phone you up every 2 minutes to ask you to hang out with them or go on another date was annoying as hell. If the mini games you had to play on these dates had actually been enjoyable it might not have been so bad. However they sucked in every way. Pool and Darts mini games were like something from a cheap 1980's arcade game - and I mean that in the worst way possible.

Generally speaking GTA: IV was a solid game, but the successor to its brilliant predecessors? Not really. That said, I certainly liked its darker, more cynical take on things compared to the more comedic tone of previous games.

DLC didn't take too long to come and when it did, it impressed me a fair amount more than a lot of original missions. New characters were introduced and some old ones reappeared, however the game still suffered a lot of the original issues.

It was hit and miss for me, but ultimately, while flawed, it was still a good play. In a way it felt Rockstar were trying to make the game amazing, but just didn't completely pull it off - but at least their heart was in the right place. In other words: the game wasn't not that great because of lazy developers; Rockstar just didn't succeed in all they tried.

2008 - Bully: Scholarship Edition

The very popular Playstation 2 game 'Bully' made a reappearance on the Xbox 360 and Wii in 2008 after Rockstar released a revamped version of the game including new missions and characters. 

However, despite this added content, the game was still very much the same as it had always been. Bully is the type of Rockstar game that represents their older material very well. Quite like the older Grand Theft Auto games, it isn't nearly as story driven or involving as later, more recent, Rockstar games. 

One of the key points that make Bully such a brilliant game, though, is the entirely unique setting and angle it takes. Rockstar have always received a lot of recognition over the fact that their games tend to be extremely violent and adult, however Bully proves that they should really be receiving attention for how brilliantly designed and different their games are. 

Bully isn't exceptionally violent or distasteful. You play as a pupil in a school. It's as simple as that really. However with brilliant angles taken on the lessons, missions and characters, it becomes an intriguing experience you can't put down.

In a way it is just like GTA: San Andreas but in a school. Every bit of equipment in GTA is included in Bully but just in a different, more innocent, form.

The key point, for me at least, that made Bully so brilliant wasn't just the uniqueness of it, but the fact that while the story and characters may not be massively engrossing, the game world was so interesting and different it made the game as good as it is. Certainly, without the epic open world to explore, Bully would suffer and end up as a game with little aim that would simply bore most people. However with this aspect of the game included it makes it all the more worth playing.

If you haven't played Bully at all, I suggest you pick it up. It doesn't represent how amazing Rockstar can make characters and stories, but it does represent how incredible and unique they can make a game and its world.

2010 - Red Dead Redemption

Rockstar didn't release any epic new titles for a little bit and then this gem came out.
In a way, Red Dead Redemption is the turning point of Rockstar games and how brilliant they are. They'd always made epic games, but RDR incorporated such an incredible story it took me by surprise. Certainly, all Rockstar games since RDR have seemed far more satisfying in the story department.

That's the thing about Red Dead; there is so much about it to love, including a phenomenal and unique setting and world to explore as well as superb gameplay; however it is the balance between these aspects of the game and its almost perfect story that make the game so (borderline) perfect.

This isn't GTA: IV, where you go from mission to mission meeting characters you don't really care about with the main focus always on the driving, shooting and Liberty City; RDR was all about having a brilliant everything. The setting was nailed. The Wild West environment? Beautifully crafted. The gameplay? Outstanding. The story? No more shallow characters and a plot that is best used as a bedtime story; Red Dead Redemption had a superb story full of great characters and voice acting that was pretty much perfect.

Sure, going back to some of the characters and revisiting them instead of going about missions in that scripted, linear way would've been nice, but that is a small beef with such a deep and emotional story.

The game wasn't perfect but many of its faults were actually ones that were impossible to avoid, like having a fairly bland environment to explore. Unfortunately that is just the way the West was back then and unless Rockstar were to abandon the realistic aim of the game, having the game world that way was inevitable.

Red Dead was, and still is, brilliant, and it sums up just how amazing Rockstar can be. Their commitment to the cause and their ability to make everything as high quality as possible is incredible. The deep story, the gameplay and the setting were all outstanding.

The DLC for RDR didn't impress everyone. Instead of either a direct story follow up or a new story with new characters, Rockstar opted for the rather, well, weird. Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare was what was on the menu for fans. It featured the same characters as in the original game but put them in a zombie attack situation. It was a spin off and didn't have any relevance to the original games story.

Quite frankly, while it was pretty enjoyable to play through, the multiplayer was the great part. Having to survive wave after wave of zombie hordes with a few buddies might sound extremely familiar, however Undead Nightmare didn't take itself seriously in any way and it was so easy to jump in and play that it wasn't intimidating either.

While story focused DLC would have been nice either instead of or as well, Undead Nightmare got the job done, and it certainly satisfied in the multiplayer department.

2011 - L.A. Noire

While Team Bondi are noted for being the 'developers' of the L.A. Noire, there is no doubt that Rockstar, the publishers of the game, had a fair amount of say in the development themselves.

L.A. Noire isn't a game I have a solid opinion on. It's hard to say exactly how I feel about it when there are so many aspects of the game to consider.
The bottom line is that the game is flawed and can become tedious after continuous play due to its repetitive style, but despite this, it is easily one of the most brilliant games I've ever played. In a way it is similar to the just as brilliant Heavy Rain in that the gameplay can become a bit overwhelming but the actual story and concept is superb.

Yet again the word 'unique' can be used in abundance when referring to L.A. Noire because it is, simply, unique. There is no game like it and it succeeds in being involving, deep and having an almost perfectly executed story.

Cole Phelps is the sort of character that may at first appear the stereotypical American hero who, despite being caught up in a racist and bigoted time in the world, is trying to change everything for the best. In reality he is a brilliantly flawed and realised character. He'll do things you hate, things you agree with and be pompous yet innocent at the same time.

All the characters are deep though. They are involved people with different opinions on different things. Some of them you'll dislike, others you'll like but none of them are perfect - which is a very important point.

The outstanding facial animations help add to the character involvement too. They seem more alive and it's surprisingly easy to get caught up in the game and forget they are actually animated.

Solving cases might include the slightly over the top and tedious clue finding, but despite this it is still a great and important part of the game. Interrogations and questioning of both victims and suspects are great to conduct and are where the facial motion capture really comes into play.

There are things wrong with the game, but at the same time it seems almost hard to put it down and heavily criticise in any way. It is easily one of the most involved games I've ever had the pleasure of playing. It's not just witnessing the story, it's being a proper part of it. Other games do a similar thing but L.A. Noire is very unique in everything it tries to do.

It's an outstanding game and highlights even further just how incredible Rockstar are when it comes to making deep, richly detailed games of any genre. Obviously a lot of the credit for this game goes to Team Bondi too, so thumbs up to them!

2012 - Max Payne 3

Rockstar's first attempt at developing a Max Payne game went incredibly well. Max Payne 3 is an outstanding game and, as it seems with all Rockstar releases, it proves yet another point about them. While Red Dead Redemption showed how gameplay, setting and story focused Rockstar are and L.A. Noire proved how character and story orientated as well as unique they can be, Max Payne 3 concludes that Rockstar can easily develop a far more scripted action game than other titles they've been a part of.

Rockstar did a fantastic job of replacing Remedy as devs of this very popular series. Max Payne 3 is an epic game for so many reasons. The awesome shooting mechanics and great cinematic feel would be nothing without the deep narrative and, in all honesty, sublime story. 

Yep, Max Payne 3 is pretty much brilliant for similar reasons that Rockstar's last few games were so good. Gameplay: Check. Story: Check. Characters: Check. Graphics: Check. Voice Acting: Check - I think you get the picture. The bottom line is that this game rocks, but it rocks because of Rockstar (no pun intended). This is what Rockstar do; they create games with deep plots, sensational characters and voice work and really enjoyable gameplay. 
Sure, not all of their games are 'amazing'. I haven't been impressed by all of their work, no, but when I played Max Payne 3 and saw just how deep they kept the drug addicted, sleep deprived, heart broken character that is, well, Max Payne, it became so obvious that Rockstar are one of the best developers around.
They are getting better with every title released. I'm not a massive fan of their older work but as time goes by and games are released they are clearly one of the most capable developers there ever was. They can turn their hand to any genre; racing, shooting, action, sandbox or just outright violent trash (Manhunt) but they'll always come back with the same results: not just games worth playing, but games everyone has to play. 

Grand Theft Auto: V is obviously the soonest to be released and, quite frankly, I'm expecting it to be a bomb. Hopefully they will keep the game focused on being just as brilliant in all areas, including story and characters (and mini games) and ensure it is as involving to play as their last 3 games have been.

If they fix the issues that GTA: IV had and improve the formula, GTA: V could easily gain every Game of The Year award going.

Rockstar are also working on a supposedly Playstation exclusive franchise, the first game of which has been called 'Agent'. It's a stealth action game set during the cold war and focuses on political and secret missions. As usual it sounds just like a game like no other and will no doubt be as story orientated as ever (after all, we're dealing with politics here).

In all honesty I can't fault Rockstar - or at least the modern Rockstar. They've become far more focused on what their games offer and there is no reason for that to change in the future. The next generation will no doubt open up many new opportunities for developers, however it can be guaranteed Rockstar will be one of the main devs making the most of these new tools.

Rockstar, I salute you. You have provided me with hours of entertainment that has cost you up to and over 100Million dollars per game, at the expense of a mere £40 from myself. You are a top developer, and one to be respected by everyone for your contributions to the gaming world. If you were ever to stop developing, it would become apparent just how much you offer in your games, as we would all miss them.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

(Series:1 Ep.1) Ultimate Team Player of The Week

Introduction: This new series will be weekly and will feature my pick of a FIFA 13 Ultimate Team player who I want to highlight. The player may be well known or lesser known; either way they are a player who I believe is worth noting and reviewing. Each episode will be posted on both Michael The Kyle and Michael The Entertainer. Each series will be the duration of a FIFA game.

Víctor Hugo Montaño

Club: Stade Rennais
League: Ligue 1
Nation: Colombia
Position: ST (Striker)
Height: 5'9"
Foot: Right
Week Foot: * * *
Skill Moves: * * *
Attacking Workrate: Medium
Defensive Workrate: Medium

Average Cost: 300-500 Coins

Card Type: Normal Gold

Base Stats:
Pace: 80
Shooting: 75
Passing: 65
Dribbling: 76
Defensive: 53
Heading: 72

Why is he so good?

 Montano is one of those players whose card does not even close do justice to what they are capable of. 

His pace certainly feels more like 83-4 than 80, as he is quick and speedy to get away from defenders. He gets into great positions so he is always available to pass to and get in on goal. Similarly, his dribbling is far underrated, as is his agility rating. He is able to dribble round players well, although the main key to his success in this area comes from his quick turning. Getting away from the opposition in a tight area is easy enough. His agility, which is rated 66 is far from justifying of how he plays in game. Certainly, he feels as agile as Alexandre Pato in many instances.

His shooting is arguably his best skill, despite being only 75 rated. He is able to put away chance after chance with no hassle at all. Quite simply; his shooting is outstanding. There's no point going on and on trying to give examples of his excellent shooting ability, but let's just say he managed to score a 35+ yard volley from the edge of the pitch on the turn for me in a match. He can finish inside or outside the penalty area with any kind of shot. Truly excellent.

In terms of passing, Montano links up with fellow players fairly well. He can play simple passes left and right but don't count on him pulling off an exuberant long pass over the heads of defenders to a player making a run. He gets the job done, but that's as far as it goes.

Obviously no one really cares if a forward is good at defending or not, although it's always nice to have a striker who is good at pressuring defenders. Montano is surprisingly good at tackling too, however. He is great at containing defenders and making tackles and, ultimately, winning the ball. That said, his strength, while satisfactory, is nothing amazing and is comparable to Faclao, but slightly weaker.

Heading is the last base stat to cover and, quite frankly, it is nothing to brag about. He can win a header OK but getting it into the back of the net is another story. They aren't always on target and even when they are, they are saved easily due to their low power. If the goalkeeper is out of position and no more than one defender is marking him, Montano can put headers away, but those are very special circumstances and so this should not be a part of his game to focus on.

Ultimately, Montano performs extremely well. I still own him, myself, and have a separate squad dedicated to him and other underrated players. His shooting is brilliant, dribbling and agility great and his pace feels faster than stated.

Should you buy him?

With so many well rated gold players easily available for cheap prices, it would seem hard to justify buying one rated lower than average. For example, it's easy to get the likes of Vagner Love - a great Brazilian striker with better base stats than Montano - for only a slightly higher price or even the same in some instances.

That said, not every player does perform to their stated stats, and it can be hard to find players, especially forwards, who perform well and score a lot of goals. Montano, despite his lower rating, does do this, so he is definitely worth a look. 

It would be easy to recommend him for a particular squad (ie. an Italian Squad, Premiere League squad etc.) however, given his fairly obscure league, country and club, it is unlikely anyone would need him for any such squads.

He is definitely worth a look, no matter what your interest and is a very capable player. Given his cheap price and easy availability, it is worth just picking him up and trying him out.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

(Feature/Blog) The Outrageous Truth Behind Microsoft's Support and Laser Burn

Everyone can agree Microsoft can be a total pain, after all the Xbox itself is an issue-ridden console and their customer service can be very helpful and totally useless at the same time (assuming you can actually get to contact them that is).

For me, though, the biggest issue with the 360 has always been laser burn. I've had something around 5-6 games made redundant by this issue in the past 2 years and, like everybody with this problem, I've had to compensate for them myself. When laser burn strikes, it's always up to you to deal with it. Microsoft shelves any responsibility for the console fault because it 'says on the box' that it shouldn't be moved when the disc is running. 

Anyone who has spoken to Xbox Support on the issue of laser burn will be greeted with the typical "Don't move the console then" and "Why don't you get the disc buffed at your local game store?" 
What's more, Microsoft will only replace a game if they publish it, and even then they charge for it. Other publishers offer the same service for their own games but, again, the service costs.

It's possible to understand why they won't compensate though. To ignore cases of games laser burnt by the console having been moved when it clearly states on the box not to do that is fair enough. Mostly.

However if you're like me, and have a disc laser burnt by the console for no reason when it is in a stable condition, then surely compensation is in order?

Well, as Microsoft likes to prove now and again; they are just a big greedy corporation with no one but themselves at heart.

Having had my FIFA 13 disc savagely scratched to death by my Xbox 360 console for no apparent reason at all I decided enough was enough and wanted something. Compensation from the company whose console had already done exactly the same mysterious laser burn to a few of my games before was in order.

Remember to read what I'm about to tell you with the knowledge that this laser burn case was not my fault. My console is not broken or faulty and simply, like my first Xbox console, decided to have a go at one of my discs.
So let's take a look at what Microsoft did.

Contacted Xbox Support On January 3rd Through Online Chat Support and Conducted Research on The Matter

Being forced to contact Xbox Support via online chat wasn't what I wanted, but it seemed the only option, as my phone had been out of order for the last 3 weeks.

I began a chat and explained that my disc was laser burnt for no apparent reason. The response received pretty much sums up any support person when you have a complaint with their product: Denial.

Over and over the woman on the other end kept saying not to move the console when in use and linking me to the EA Disc Replacement website. 

After getting nowhere with this person, I decided it was time to employ sneaky cornering tactics. Doing a quick search online found other people had the issue of random laser burns too. According to an article these could happen just as much, if not slightly more, when the Kinect was connected to the console; though my own one was Kinect free.
I found an entire group of articles on a website dedicated to the issue of unexpected disc scratches by the Xbox (all referenced articles that I have a link to are linked at the end of the article). 

Doing some more research found an article on Wikipedia dedicated to faults with the console. According to a report by 'The Llamma's Adventure's'; the 360 lacks a mechanism to keep the disc in place, so even vibration can cause the disc to move around and get scratched when stationary. I'll let these quotes say the rest:

"Tilting or moving consoles with these drives, when operating with a disc spinning inside, can potentially cause damage to the disc, in some cases rendering the disc unusable. Discs have also been scratched by stationary consoles during normal use. One side of the disc can also be scratched by the disc tray if it malfunctions by closing with the disc in an odd position."

Not done there though:

"Prompted by consumer reaction to its February 2007 report, Kassa performed several tests with Xbox 360 units from consumers who claimed their Xbox had the problem. Kassa stabilized these consoles and positioned them at a location remote from contact by anyone. The results of the laboratory conditions test revealed that one of the nine tested Xbox 360 units had spontaneously scratched a disc after five hours of gaming. The consoles were also tested standing upright, and the test revealed that three of the nine tested Xbox 360s significantly scratched discs."

So there it is, right there; proof. I think it's safe to say that the Xbox 360 DOES randomly laser burn discs.

Despite this massive digression, though, let's return to what was started at the top.

After doing this research, I told the Xbox Support woman that there were articles and posts online that supported my accusation that the 360 does just massacre discs out the blue.

To my shock she ignored me and simply linked me (again) to the EA support page. I then asked her: "Am I to assume that you are denying that the Xbox 360 Console randomly laser burns discs?" 
As I recall, she simply replied either with yet another link or a description of how the console only does it when being moved.

That is disgusting 'Support' Microsoft.

E-mail of Complaint and 1st Phone Call

Due to my outrage by the support person I had just spoken to, it was time to complain. Unfortunately, Microsoft don't like complaints and refuse to give any decent way of contacting them unless you need help with a particular issue. 

I decided to start yet another chat, however this time with a Microsoft assistant. Asking for a way to complain led to nearly 10 minutes of waiting until; finally, I received a link to an e-mail page. Funny it doesn't appear on the website normally.

Upon writing out and sending a well-worded e-mail of complaint demanding an explanation and some compensation, I received a response the next day.

It was short, reading:

Hello Michael,

Thank you for contacting Microsoft Customer Service.

I have learned from your email that you are having complaints about Xbox 360 console.

Xbox has a dedicated support team to assist you with these types of questions. You may contact the Xbox Support Team directly by calling 1-800-4-MY-XBOX (800-469-9269). Support is available from 6:00A.M. - 10:00 P.M. Pacific Time, 7 days a week including holidays.

For more information, please visit the following site:

Let me also provide you the dedicated Chat Support team for Xbox:

Please let me know if you have any other concern about this email.

Thank you
This was a massively disappointing response, and not just because it didn't give me the call times or number for the UK. I was complaining, not asking for help anymore. I was moaning to Microsoft about them and their support, so why were they telling me to talk to the Xbox Support team?

It became obvious that the simple and best thing to do all along would've been to request a call from Xbox Support to my phone. That way mobile charges would be avoided and the ability to speak directly to another human being would be gained.

So that's what I did. 

The call was mediocre. In truth the support person on the other end came across confused and didn't know what to do. They simply explained about how (yep, you guessed it) not to move the console and buff the disc and blah blah blah... All that, to be quite frank, crap.

She actually asked me what I wanted her to do. I replied with something like: "Well what can you do? I'm not happy about this and maybe some compensation would be in order!?"

She didn't compensate me though and after going through a pointless process that involved giving her my details and my console serial number, then answering questions on my 360; she simply said "Yeah, that is unfortunate" and then went on (did you guess right again?) "Well it's best not to move the console when it is in use. You could try getting your disc buffed...."

Really? I'd already told her multiple times that the issue was not with me affecting the console. 

The phone call ended. It would've been easy to badger her over and over but that would be unfair. She didn't seem to be very confident about tackling the issue and I already felt bad for putting her on the spot. 

2nd Phone Call

After deciding to give up on the issue, but then, after pondering it for nearly a week since my last call;  I took matters, again, to Xbox Support. With my phone recently fixed I was able to call them myself. 

I waited on the phone, my Xbox 360 serial number in hand, ready to give the person on the other end a piece of my mind in the most sophisticated way possible. A man answered my call and I began the chore of explaining, again, what had happened to me. 

It was fairly surprising when he recited exactly, word for word in some parts, what the woman I had spoken to less than a week back had said. 

As usual: "If you move it when playing a game it can scratch the disc" was the main point he continually made. 
I began to explain it wasn't me that caused it though. I threw the idea that maybe it does it because of vibration at him and he responded with a shocking, shocking admittance. While I cannot remember word for word what he said, I can remember exactly the point he made.

He went on to explain that playing Kinect games can cause laser burn because 'you're jumping around'. I think we all know why that statement is shocking. Microsoft are selling a device (the Kinect) which features many games that require you to 'jump around' and are admitting that simply playing those games can cause and increases the risk of getting a game laser burnt; all to NO compensation from Microsoft themselves.

I was shocked, but I didn't delve into that statement and focused mainly on the issue of laser burn caused by natural vibration (mainly because I do not use Kinect, so this point was invalid in my case). After nearly an hour on the phone of me complaining over and over, and him responding with information on how to avoid it happening again; I did what I should have done all along. I asked him to give me compensation. Just asked, and suddenly he offered to talk to his superiors if I held the line.


After waiting more than 5 minutes he came back on the line with 2 options for me.

Option 1: I pay them nearly £100 for them to "inspect my console" and "fix it" even though he himself stated that all Xbox 360's sent in with the issue of them scratching discs had no faults found with them (there is so much wrong with that statement alone). 

Option 2: I escalate the case and take it higher up the board to his superiors. 
So that's what I did.


Before I continue, let's recall what we've learned so far about Microsoft, their support and their attitude towards laser burn and their own customers.

First of all there is proof the Xbox 360 console laser burns games at random due to its own vibration as well as normal household vibration. They openly admit that using their own Kinect device increases the laser burn risk. However, despite this, they refuse to take any responsibility for it and are in denial about it being anything to do with anyone except the user. 

The fact that moving the device by hand can cause laser burn is just about acceptable, given it does warn not to do this on the box. However laser burn at the hand of its own vibrations AND household movement? THAT was not warned of on the box and is disgraceful. 

Phone Call From Microsoft

After 8 days I finally received my call from Microsoft regarding the escalation of my complaint.

The man on the other end sounded bored before we'd even started the conversation properly. After describing the issue and complaint, he immediately denied the Xbox scratched discs. I asked him to clarify what he'd said and he elaborated that the 360 does not 'randomly' scratch discs. I argued the points I brought up in my other calls but he did something odd. He took what I said, and while he didn't deny it, he used it against me. 

After stating the Xbox has many reports of scratching discs due to it's own vibration and household activity and did this with me and had not been touched by my own hands, he implied that was why my point was 'invalid'. 

He continued something along the lines of: "You just said yourself about your household movement". 
He said it as if, because I, and any gamer for that matter, move around my house when a game is running, that is obviously going to get the disc scratched. But it shouldn't. What's more, he didn't deny the Xbox scratches discs because of vibration, but denied the console did it at 'random'. That doesn't even make sense. Again, this is disgraceful.

I took another side, mentioning that it stated on the box of the console not to move it when it was running, but did not mention vibrations contributing to this. He did not answer me directly and avoided the question.

I decided to ask for compensation. He then stated that if they (Microsoft) were to compensate me, they would be admitting what I was saying was true, which they deny. This confused me because it seems while they admit it scratches discs, and even does because of movement and vibration, they deny it does it itself. All they seem to be doing is contradicting themselves.

He then continued that if he could compensate me in any way, he would, but Microsoft wouldn't allow it.

I asked if I could take my complaint higher, to which he answered yes, but they would only say the exact same thing as him - which I believe(d).

In the end, the phone call was short and pointless, but at least opened my eyes to how deluded and messed up Microsoft's support is. 

This isn't the end.

This is, to say the least, disgusting. They're support on this issue is pathetic and they do not take responsibility for their product faults. What's more, it's not unrealistic to say that the 360 has been mis-sold to people as it NEVER stated on the box it laser burns because of its OWN vibration and the users household movement. 

However this isn't the end. It is clear no one can penetrate Microsoft's in-denial support, so it's time to take this further. I will be contacting Trading Standards and Watch Dogs to make this complaint heard. One person isn't enough though. The Xbox 360 may be nearing the end of its life cycle, but users have been ripped off for years. It's time to do something. If you have suffered laser burn in ANY way, I urge you to make an official complaint to Xbox Support and get your voice heard. If the next Xbox is released with any issues of a similar nature, why would Microsoft improve their support then if they never needed to for the Xbox 360? 

I will be posting updates on this issue and my progress to take this further. If you have any experiences of poor support from Microsoft/Xbox or Laser Burn issues but don't want to complain; send me an e-mail or tweet with the details. Any information I can gather here will help to get this point backed.

Thanks for reading,

Michael Kyle

Links: (there are a lot of other laser burn articles on here too)

I read many other articles too, but recently I deleted a lot of my bookmarks and got rid of links to some of those other articles by accident.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

(Feature) The Rise and Fall of 3D

For some reason 3D was hailed as the future of film and TV watching. 

It's obvious none of that is true given how few people these days actually care about 3D in either films or games. However for something full of such hype to all but die shortly after release is an odd occurrence. Either way, here's my take on why it didn't work in each of the genres it tried its hand at.

3D in Film

3D cinema experiences were the thing during a lot of 2012. Going to see a film? Going to see it in 2D when a 3D option is available? Loooossseeeeer. 
3D was in; 2D was out. You couldn't invite a group of people to go the cinema and ask to see it in 2D. Why would you want to anyway when there was the option of having things pop out of the screen into your face?

Well, here are some good reasons: 3D can cause headaches. 3D can cause eyestrain. 3D can distort the image. 3D glasses are annoying. 3D is more expensive. 3D is a barely noticeable.

The fact of the matter as to why 3D never made it massive in cinema is that there is, simply, no point. The picture doesn't really pop out. It's more expensive and, quite frankly, a bit of a hassle with the glasses and all. It soon became apparent that money was being wasted on these more expensive 3D tickets and it was time to call it a day.

Obviously films are still being released in 3D, but you'll probably get as many - if not more in some cases - people in 2D showings as you will in a 3D one.

It's not hard to see why nobody, as of yet, has properly bought into the whole 3D in film/cinema thing yet.

3D in TV

It was only a matter of time before 3D invaded people's homes. Get the 3D cinema experience at home they said. Just buy a 3D TV and a 3D Sky package they said. What they didn't remind people is that they'd be sitting in their living room with the family all wearing these big, odd, mostly horrible looking glasses like something from one of the sci-fi films on the TV. What a great way to watch TV folks. Gather round the 42", more than half a thousand pounds TV set while wearing these disturbing glasses.

If there's a knock at the door you better take them off otherwise the person you open the door to will no doubt be legging it down the road.

What a way to watch TV.

It never was massive and never will be - not until glasses free 3D becomes properly available anyway. 

3D in Video Games

3D in video games didn't exactly get very big either. Surely a service that allows gamers to view their already beautiful HD game's in 3D was something people wanted? Well, not so much.

The thing with a lot of gamers is that they're original. Gamers don't really like change to the things they know and love. I'm the same and no doubt, if you're a gamer, you might be the same. Different controllers, different online systems, motion controls - just leave us be to enjoy our games.

3D never felt necessary for anything, but for games? It's borderline pointless. If companies think that a majority of gamers are going to sit there with these big glasses on, playing Call of Duty or something then they have (or already had) another think coming. 

Gaming is all about immersion, and while 3D may sound like a way to extend that immersion, it really isn't. It's cumbersome, if anything, and the 3D itself just isn't good enough to warrant putting up with the issues.

Nintendo integrated glasses free 3D into the handheld 3Ds. At first the device borderline flopped, but then it picked itself up and is still selling well enough. But while the main attraction of the device was supposed to be the easy to view 3D, it wasn't. People bought and buy the device for the game's it offers. Many users actually turn the 3D off. It was just too much effort to use in truth.

3D in video games hasn't taken off well. It may do in the future but for now; no way.

3D in The Future

What is the future of 3D? It's hard to tell but it's likely that it won't ever be accepted or liked on a massive scale. Companies are already focusing more on high-powered TV systems that offer even better quality image displays and are somehow thinner.

3D is OK and everything, but in truth it just lacks the finesse required to make it a streamlined service that is not only enjoyable and comfortable to use, but readily available and good quality. In the future it will no doubt be completely glasses free, which will eradicate a lot of the issues with it, but health problems will always be there. Forcing your eyes to view images in 3D goes against the build of a human's eye. In other words: it's far from natural.

3D will have to be safer, easier and far better quality before it is widely approved of and used, but even then it is unlikely it will be that popular. It doesn't matter how smooth the service becomes; the simple action of viewing actual images in 3D is just more effort than watching basic 2D ones. 

There's no doubt it will be used in the future; but in a more optional way. Unlike super HD TVs which no one has a problem with in todays society, 3D will always have haters and people who avoid it like the plague. There is no way that can be forced on people.

What are your opinions on 3D in film, TV and video games as well as in the future? Let the comment box be your thought area.

(Blog): Updates!

I tend to issue updates about my blog work on Twitter, so if you aren't following me on there you might miss some important points.

There is far too much to write here, however, than can be said in a simple tweet, so let's get on with these updates I wish to inform all readers of!

Oh, before we do that though, I'd like to give a big thank you to everyone who has read my blog articles either occasionally, once or consistently! Thank you so much!
If you want to help the blog grow even more, however, taking 30 seconds out of your time to share an article on twitter goes a long way, and is certainly something I would be extremely grateful for.

Now onto these updates then.

1) More Varying Content and Second Blog

So my first update is regarding my second blog which has recently been set up and the content you can expect from it.

Given how much I love video games and tech and they will always be two main parts of this work, I want to keep this, my main blog Michael The Kyle as my standard video game/tech blog where you can expect the same things that have been published over the last few months. That said, I wish to branch out into other genres of entertainment as well, in the form of more frequent blogs, vlogs, podcasts, funny/quirky entertainment articles and videos etc. These will be posted on the likes of my second blog: Michael The Entertainer.

Please subscribe or bookmark my other blog to keep up to date with it's posts!

I will be posting all other content that isn't video games or tech on Michael The Entertainer. Blogs and Vlogs will mainly only be available on there too, except important updates and notifications. If you only like my video game content then stick with this blog, but if you are interested in anything else I want to offer, then keep an eye on my second blog.

In the long term I wish to publish podcast shows, a series of videos to do with the general public, as well as out of the blue, random articles that will be pretty crazy, but, hopefully, entertain you.
Currently, equipment gathering is still in progress and it may not be a good while before videos are consistently published. The podcast shows will hopefully be set up over the next few months.

2) More Consistency

Admittedly, the rate at which articles are published is not high. I would like to get out an article at least every other day, but this is not my job, and I am busy with other things so writing as high quality articles as I can as often as I would like is hard.

That said, I will try to make my second blog: Michael The Entertainer, get frequent blog updates and articles published on it - so watch out for that.

Another thing I'd just like to note on consistency is that I am working really hard to bring not just articles, but podcasts and shows to entertain everyone on these blogs, so I'm not just busy doing nothing - progressing my blogs and bringing more content to viewers and readers is really, really important to me.

3) Podcasts and Other Shows

I am currently working on bringing at least a couple of brand new podcasts to you guys. The first one will be a chat show, the second a consistent, scripted, fictional, pure entertainment series.

On top of that I'm always trying to come up with new ways to entertain people, so expect a few unusual, experimental articles to be published, especially on my second blog. Feedback on what you want is very important, so don't hesitate to share your opinion.

And that's it....

Well, that is this update out the way. I hope these changes will please all readers and allow for more ways for people to lose themselves in entertainment. 

If you like this blog please share it and the articles published on it on Twitter or Facebook - I appreciate this to the ultimate MAX!

Either way, expect more articles, and enjoy!

Monday, 7 January 2013

(Feature) Why FIFA 13 Ultimate Team Sucks

Ah FIFA; how many, many days I have spent playing you over the years. You've given me enjoyment, the ability to command my favourite clubs, play as the worlds best footballers and, since 2009, have my very own ultimate football team!

There are hiccups along the way of course; flaws that come in the form of this and that. Nothing big. 

Well they're quite annoying actually. 

Screw it; they're f*cking infuriating.

EA's pride and glory, Ultimate Team, is a flawed mess, and here is why.

There's Nothing To Play For

Would anyone believe it wasn't until this years FIFA 13 that EA finally put in a season's mode? When I played FIFA 12 I couldn't believe we still had pretty much the same system from 09; play online against some person and then, when you feel ready, brave the tournament mode. 

Luckily, 13 switched things up (phew) with this new mode that basically takes the online Head-to-Head seasons and applies it here. 
It works. It's fun. But just like the old UT it gets old - fast.

FIFA Ultimate Team still lacks anything proper to play for. You still earn just coins for completing standard matches, and a few extra goodies like packs or high coin prizes for completing tournaments. The season's mode is shallow and lacks any unique features that make it that different. To be honest, it is basically the exact same format as FIFA 12, except EA justify playing match after match by allowing you to 'get promoted'. 

The fact that real money is spent a lot in Ultimate Team by players, yet the actual core gameplay features - like the seasons and tournaments - are still as boring and repetitive as ever is madness. 

New game options to spice things up have to be incorporated. The market and auctioning system has expanded big time, but the match options haven't, which leaves a very sour taste in the mouth.

Packs Are Still Pretty Stupid

I never had a massive problem with packs. But then I never spent much real money on them. Since FIFA 13, however, I've had a bit of a change of heart. After spending nearly £100 to date (which isn't a massive amount compared to other people) on packs, I can safely say they are pretty damn stupid.

Something EA seems to forget is this is a game. There may be the option to spend real cash, but it's still a game. Meant to let people have fun. Not to be ripped off by nearly every pack purchased. 

Obviously getting a Messi or Ronaldo every other pack is a ridiculous thought, but maybe actually getting decent players that can earn some profit would be nice.

Like said above; it's still a game, so making the packs so frustratingly lacking in good players is hard to understand. In a way it just enforces the proposition that EA are, just like every publisher and big company: money snatchers.


This point is easily one of the most frustrating and highlights many issues with the entire game in general (hence the capitalised heading).

Getting a DNF (Did Not Finish), which is caused by indirectly quitting a match, like turning the console off instead of Forfeiting from the menu, can be justified. Making players receive less coins in future matches is there to prevent rage quitters from ruining games, but receiving a DNF from EA's own server disconnects, online crashes and other issues is disgraceful.

It's easy to accumulate lots of DNF's (like me) all because of EA. When their servers crash online and the game freezes forcing a return, directly, to the Xbox Dashboard or Playstation Home, it's the player who pays in the form of a DNF. These DNF's make a real difference to match earnings too. Instead of getting an average 500 coins per match it's more likely players receive something closer to 300.

What's more; these aren't one time deals. A DNF % is in order here and the more DNF's, the less players earn. The DNF % slowly decreases over time, but it won't be a while until coins per match go up again.

EA Servers

EA servers are inconsistent and probably one of, if not the most hated thing about the FIFA series. They are the cause of many DNF's, disconnects, and unnecessary and unfair losses, among other things.

Need more be said?

And A Lot of Others Are The Game Itself...

FIFA 13 is, altogether, a very flawed, issue ridden game. The fact of the matter is that there are a lot of problems with the actual gameplay. Tons of in game problems and frustrations are prevalent and they affect every game mode; career, Head-to-Head season, friendlies, Ultimate Team - anything that involves actually playing the game.

So this isn't a problem with UT itself, but a lot of frustrations playing matches in UT can come from these too.

So there you have it. Ultimate Team is a flawed, problem-ridden mess of a game mode. It might even be classed as a fail.

But the format is pretty unique and nothing as big as this can be found in other footie games. So, as always; we take and take the problems shoved in our faces by EA, we play the game and we give them more money.

What are your issues with the game though? And what are your thoughts on EA as a publisher and company? Sound off in the comments!

(Feature) Why do new and budget games struggle so much?

Breaking into the video games market is hard. There is no doubt about that. In fact, it appears that new, budget games, are in decline and it's not hard to see why so many developers are giving up. 38 Studios, the development team behind Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning went bankrupt and shut down not long after it was released. It's not that it was a bad game; indeed, many reviews did not do justice to the borderline excellence produced by the devs. It's hard to put a finger on why it struggled so much. Obviously poor sales are the main culprit, however they are the result of other problems faced by Kingdoms of Amalur as well as many other budget titles trying to break into peoples 'to buy' lists.

There is one, hard, clear point that helps to explain the problems faced by new games and developers on the block: how far we are into this generation. When a new gen begins, it is the perfect time and opportunity that is required for new game series to break in. With so few games available on new consoles, people want something to play. People are less interested in reviews and simply want to experience their newly purchased and released devices.
Just look at the first 3 years after the Xbox 360 and PS3 were released. Gears of War - although being an exclusive IP backed by Microsoft that was always going to draw more attention - caused a storm and gathered a cult following. Uncharted exploded onto the scene for the Playstation 3 and gathered much praise.

But there are even more unlikely games that became massive successes. Games that, while they probably still would've succeeded had they been released in the past year, might not have got the critical acclaim they deserved. Bioshock, Saints Row, Just Cause, F.E.A.R, The Witcher, Assassins Creed, Mass Effect, Crysis; the list goes on and on. These are all games you will recognise and are all video games that went on to have at least 1 sequel as well as become very popular. If anything, the list of games just presented are a great example of why this generation has been so great.

But had they been released more recently, say, in the last year, would that success still be prevalent? Maybe, maybe not. Bioshock is an outstanding game, and one that would gain as much appraisal from reviewers today as it would have 6 years ago; however would the likes of F.E.A.R, or even Saints Row and Assassins Creed, be as appreciated? In truth I doubt very much that had Assassins Creed been released in the past year it would have gone on to have the outstanding sequel it did. The same goes for F.E.A.R and, possibly, Saints Row too.

Assassins Creed was released in 2007 to very mixed reviews. Some loved it, others hated it. I myself was not a fan, however it is impossible to deny the series has really come into its' own; both story wise and gameplay. Ubisoft had time, however. It was 2007, the generation was 2 years in. People still didn't really mind what they were given, so long as it showed off the awesome capabilities of consoles and was fun enough to play. Ubisoft are a big developer/publisher too. If they want a sequel, they'll damn well make one. And they did. And it was massive. And it changed everything.

Similar things can be said about the two other series mentioned - Saints Row and F.E.A.R - that they got off to a rocky start but regained their balance in the form of sequels. But games just aren't given those sort of chances anymore. Big developers or not, video games are punished critically if they fail to impress completely on their first go.

The game Singularity, comes to mind as the perfect example of this. Not only was the game released in 2010 (not too old) but it was also excellent, despite being flawed. What is more, this was no 'budget' entry into the FPS genre, this was a game developed by Raven Software and published by giants Activision.
The response? Generally favourable in terms of reviews but sales, while above mediocre, were nothing special. In the end, while a sequel has not been completely ruled out, the game was nothing massive, or even big.

So the ultimate question is: how do developers, old and and new, increase sales and popularity? It is clear that just producing a fantastic game does not cut it. Dishonored is another video game that provides a good example. A borderline AAA title released only a few months ago that has every reason to succeed, but may not, if sales do not exceed a certain amount.
One thing you cannot do is blame consumers for not supporting new games enough. The last few years have seen many excellent, established, loved and well known video games be released to much expected success. So why in the world would people make a note of some new, unusual game that promises neither success or failure?

Maybe it is as simple as getting in first, when consoles are just released. And if you miss the showing? Well do what some other successful (and fairly successful) games have done: try to force yourself and hope you don't get pummelled by the big boys.
It's not easy for new developers, but this gen has been around for a good while; and the longer it lasts, the harder it is always going to be to be a success. There isn't any particular thing to pick on when it comes to distinguishing what needs to be done to help new titles, because a look back through the years shows us that being fundamentally good or great or, hell, even excellent, doesn't always cut it. Timing looks to be the most important thing to take note of. A sequel can make or break a game series; however there is no doubt a sequel can help many aspiring, struggling series - we've seen evidence of that over the years too.

This generation is almost over, however, so we can expect to see many more new series enter the market the moment the new Xbox and Playstation are released - and for me, I absolutely can't wait.