Category Archives: Blogs

Sexism, objectification and harassment of the Cosplay girl

Let me take you back to the late eighties / early nineties, computing and the ability to play video games without the need for an arcade machine was breaking into our homes. The 80’s gave us a taste for video games with the release of Tetris and that little yellow bugger Pac-man, both of which reman some of the most addictive games ever created even by todays standards. 1991 saw Sonic the Hedgehog in full swing with his first outing and Mario had been jumping all over the shop for some years already. It was a simpler time but with the inevitable advances in technology our video game characters soon became more and more life like along with the backing of bigger budgets and much bigger ideas. The games industry has grown fast, picking up momentum with each passing year and all of a sudden we are in 2013. Video games are no longer just for geeks, bashing the same button over and over again after school trying to deny the fact they have a load of homework to do. I wouldn’t say that video games are a staple of our everyday life, like movies are, just yet but they are certainly not too far off. So with each year that passes and the thousands of new games that get released ‘Cosplay‘ has become a big part of this for girls and guys. At E3 or Eurogamer and pretty much every other video game expo out there, the problem of objectifying and harassment of cosplayers, mostly girls, is becoming larger and more commonplace.

So what is Cosplay? It’s basically shortened version of the words costume play. Guys and girls wear costumes to represent a fantasy character from things such as anime, comic books, films and video games. More so with the female caricature which tend to be developed and designed by males, and that’s not to say designed just for males, a cosplayer will dress up and become the character. Trying to imitate the look, hairstyle, clothes and personality of each character is the ultimate goal.

image

There is also a side of the cosplay culture based around sex appeal, with cosplayers specifically choosing characters that are known for their attractiveness and revealing costumes. A lot of these caricatures have been styled by a man who wants a certain look for his character, body shape, eyes, hair, lips etc. a designed vision of his perfect fantasy. I wouldn’t ever say that all men design characters to look slutty or like whores, that is simply not true. I will say a lot of characters are designed with a sexy appearance… why? well there is no real reason why, its just how males have decided to design some of their characters. This is where it gets tricky, when you take a fantasy character and put them into a real life situation sometimes problems arise.

Recently the topic of harassment has become more frequent with the issue of grabbing Cosplay girls, or them being objectified, at certain expo events. I in no way condone these actions, it is their choice to dress in cosplay and if thats what they wish to do then more power to them, BUT I see a problem with it just being accepted in society. Just because they have stepped into the guise of a character that was designed to have sex appeal doesn’t mean they want to be harassed. Lets be honest these characters are going to appeal to guys and it works, that is the bottom line. You can Google most female game characters and I would say right now 75% of the cosplayers you will find are half naked with a very prominent chest. When you take fantastical ideas of women, bring them into the real world for everyone to see, these types of problems will continue to arise. Until there are more women developing games with a different vision in mind things may be slow to change. Women need to get into the scene and start their own game development with characters they want to see being imitated. For some men out there seeing one of their favourite characters in real life will be too much for them to handle. They will act or say something inappropriate, this is unacceptable but that doesn’t mean it will stop. I think there has been some amazing cosplay outfits made, but there will also be people that will ruin it and do something stupid.

image

I think this shows us that gamers as a group are still maturing. The way we look at cosplayers, even avatars and being able to see some of the more ‘risky’ efforts in real life shows that maturity for SOME still hasn’t quite hit home yet. I would like to add that I feel no one has the right to tell another person how to dress or appear in public. I personally feel that any girl or guy that is willing to put themselves out there and do that kind of thing is good and more power to them!

Advertisements

The Nintendo 3DS

image

I have now owned a 3DS for about 3 months now and have had the chance to formulate an opinion on it, I didn’t buy one earlier as there is always the suspicion with Nintendo that there will be an updated version of the hardware at some point and there was barely any games available initially. The first point proved true as Nintendo released an XL version of the machine which is physically larger and has larger screens, this is the version I got. And in terms of the software, there have now been a number of titles released and there is a significant number on the horizon too. I have one or two minor grumbles about the machine, the first being that for me the 3D is an irritation, but that’s really a meaningless complaint as it’s entirely optional and it operates via a slider meaning that you can find a setting that works best for you and I suspect my issues with the 3D are predominantly down to the way I sit when I’m playing.

My other complaint is the selection of titles on the Virtual Console, the majority of games available so far are Game Gear and Gameboy games, there seems to be a segregation where 3DS gets handheld titles and the Wii U gets home console games, again though this is a minor complaint, mostly born from the fact that an English language translation of Earthbound has been announced for the Wii U’s virtual console. I will say that the cost of digital versions of the game are about the same as you would pay in a high street shop and only marginally more than most online retailers, which is actually something of a first when you consider that this has always been a problem with digital releases. Memory wise my machine came with a 4gb SD card which the system uses to save any downloaded games and DLC, this is fine as a starting point as DLC and DSiware games don’t take up too much space however a digital version of a full game can take near to 2gb up, with that said the cost of an SD card is pretty negligible so shouldn’t represent a problem in the grand scheme of things.

imageThe system also has a feature called Spotpass which from what I have experienced allows you to share your Mii with people who you are close to if you have the feature activated and the system in standby mode. This also seems to allow certain functionality within games too though I haven’t witnessed this much, and another one feature where walking while carrying the machine in standby mode will generate play coins which can be used in certain games for different things. In Animal Crossing, for instance, you can purchase fortune cookies which produce fortunes that can be exchanged for rare items.

Battery wise I seem to get around 4 to 5 hours out of the machine, which isn’t the worst I’ve ever experienced especially, but the machine doesn’t come with a power adaptor bundled with it for some strange reason. This means that you have to purchase, or if you have a DS lite or any models afterwards you can use the same power adaptor. With all that said it’s the games that really make a machine so with that in mind I’m going to write a bit about the games I’m looking forward to and the ones I currently own.

Games I’m looking forward to:

Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds – While it’s not the HD remake of Majora’s Mask that I desperately want, it is the sequel to Link to the Past which is my second favourite Zelda game. I’ve only seen one screenshot so far but I will be looking out for this one to see if it can offer the same kind of epicness as it’s predecessor.

Yoshi’s Island – For some reason I’ve always preferred the Yoshi platforming games to the equivalent Mario ones as I find them to be more fun and better looking, so I’m looking forward to this one to see if will be as good as the ones before it.

Fantasy Life – This has been billed as a cross between Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing which are both series that I adore, and it’s made by Level 5 who make the Professor Layton, Inazuma and Ni No Kuni games so it should look absolutely stunning and have some interesting gameplay features.

Mario and Luigi: Dream Team – Assuming it’s like the previous entries in the series then it will be a combination of RPG and platformer and will be great fun to play. I’ve really enjoyed other entries in the series so this one is definitely on my radar.

Hometown Story – From the creator of Harvest Moon and set in the same game universe, this is definitely one that I’m curious about as I don’t really know much about it at all. I will be keeping an eye on it though to see if it’s a game that will generate the same level of interest as the Harvest Moon games always have for me.

Mario Party – This one will be interesting to see if there is a good and varied selection of mini games, and if so then hopefully friends who also own a 3DS will in turn purchase so that multiplayer can be enjoyed.

Pokemon X and Y – When the new Pokemon was announced that was the point where I decided to get a 3DS, I’me really looking forward to it and seeing what tweaks they’ve made to the system and also seeing what new Pokemon there are.

image

Games I’ve played:

Animal Crossing: New Leaf The Animal Crossing series has always been pretty chilled out and just allowed you to fish, upgrade your house and collect furniture at your own pace and while this one also allows you to do that it also changes things up a little by making you mayor of the town. This allows you to customise the town to suit you, be it building things requested to you by residents or changing the opening times of shops. It works really well and is one of those games thats good for a quick go here and there or a prolonged fishing or bug catching session, and the multiplayer works quite well too.

Fire Emblem: Awakening A phenomenal tactical RPG, this requires a lot of thought and strategy in order to progress and while it can be a little difficult at times it also feels really rewarding when you make it past a particularly tricky battle. It also has different difficulties depending on the challenge you want with the easier mode meaning that units stay dead on the harder mode or are resurrected upon successful completion of a battle on the easier mode. There is also a wealth of depth to the game by allowing units to build up support with each other and in some instances certain units can have kids together which offers up even more tactical options.

Luigi’s Mansion 2 – This is a really fun game that should actually be a bit more frustrating than it is as there’s a lot of backtracking in the locations that each level is set in, however it makes it work by offering up collectibles and different ghosts as well as clever use of upgrades that makes sure that the backtracking feels worthwhile.

Harvest Moon: The Tale of Two Towns – As a Harvest Moon fan I had gotten a bit bored with previous entries as there was never a lot different, this one makes one very key change in that you have to pick a town to live in and in doing so this directly impacts your farm as one town specialises on livestock and the other in crops. You can move as the game goes on though so you can get the full experience but overall it’s a fun little game that requires planning to get the most from each in game day.

Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy – An odd hydrid of RPG and rhythm action game that uses songs from each of the first thirteen core entries in the Final Fantasy series, gameplay is relatively straight forward though pretty tough on harder difficulties, but as a fan of the series for the most part it’s fun and provides an awesome amount of nostalgia as well as having a huge amount of unlockable content and the levelling up system is fun too. There is also a large amount of songs to download, each costing 90p, my only complaint would be that from a personal standpoint some amazing songs aren’t in the game.

Virtue’s Last Reward – I bought this after reading good things and from playing it the game feels like an interactive novel of sorts, the puzzles feel a bit like a point and click adventure in that they don’t always feel very obvious but then that encourages you to think, there is definitely an intrigue to the game that makes it more engaging to play.

Crush 3D – A combination of platform game and puzzle game, the concept of the game is collect all the items in a level and each the exit but this is only possible by moving the camera into one of 5 positions and engaging the crush feature which turns the angle chosen into a 2 dimensional viewpoint. It’s a surprisingly clever game and really makes you think creatively to progress through each level.

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask – This plays pretty much the same as previous entries in the series which isn’t a bad thing at all, the puzzles are interesting and the mini games are fun and provide a nice contrast. The main difference for me is that the plot feels a bit more personal as it links to the eponymous Professor’s past and this makes for a very interesting game.

Cooking Mama 4 – This game is more or less the same as previous entries, the main difference as far as I can see is that there are a number of unlockable items and mini games as a result of achieving certain goals during the main game. I’ve always found it fun and a game that is good when you just want to have a quick 5 or 10 minute go on something.

Shinobi – I picked this up for a fiver and as such went in with pretty low expectations and while it’s not the best game I’ve played, and it’s certainly nowhere near as good as Shinobi 3 on the Mega Drive it’s a decent game though a bit unforgiving at times.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D – I picked this up for free as part of a promotion where I bought 3 games (Animal Crossing, Fire Emblem and Luigi’s Mansion) and while the game mechanics need some getting used to, it’s a fun and properly old school platformer and it looks good too, there’s a lot of detail on the screen.

Tetris – This is pretty much the same as every Tetris game ever produced, which isn’t a bad thing as traditional Tetris is a classic, there’s other modes to play too though they’re not a patch on the original mode but as with all versions the difficulty increases as you progress while playing.

Pokemon Dream Radar – This is essentially a mini game that allows you to catch certain pokemon and items and then download them to a copy of Pokemon Black or White 2, the main draw is that it allows the user to catch the three legendaries Tornadus, Thundurus and Landorus and import them into your save game but once these have been caught you gain the ability to put one of the DS Pokemon games into your 3DS and use the game to catch that games respective legendary.

Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move – A puzzle game where you have four different modes, each with numerous levels, where you have to fill in the missing pieces for a maze in order to guide the minis on that level to the exit while collecting the three tokens present. It starts of easy enough but does make you think as often the solution requires a degree of trial and error to find.

image

The D-Pad Review | The Last of Us | Naughty Dog Nailed It!

imageThe story of how naughty dog got it right

Survival horrors have long been a genre crying out for something fresh, something different that still gives us the same sense of enjoyment and fear as when the style burst onto the screen with the likes of Resident Evil and Silent Hill. We’ve averted (somewhat) global catastrophes at the hands of super evil mega corporations, rummaged through mist covered streets while being hunted by the evil that lurks within and, more recently, battled horrifying demonic entities across blasted landscapes and broken space stations. That’s not to say that this reviewer hasn’t quivered in fear when dark shadows dart across the screen or god forbid something falls off of a wall, but we’ve done and experienced all this before.

The Last of Us brings a new dynamic whereby, instead of blasting your way through hordes of enemies with an abundant supply of weapons and ammunition at your disposal, you are instead placed into a situation where a length of string and chunk of brick are your only options (you get the idea). This may seem like a restrictive feature, but having your resources limited and scarce really makes you think about each encounter and, instead of charging in guns blazing, you have to carefully consider each of your decisions, which keeps the tension at a great level. Naughty Dog got it right with this game and you will struggle to find something else in the current market that captures the joy and fear on a level we first experienced in the original Silent Hills. Of course, this game is not purely fear inducing from start to finish, but it happens just enough to keep you on edge and at no point does this feel forced.

image

The Last of Us is set in a very bleak world and Naughty Dog is not afraid to show you exactly how bleak it is. There is gore in this game; how can you have a horde of infected creatures baying for your blood and not involve an element of gore? This game is not ‘Manhunt’ though, nor is it a hack and slash with limbs flying left and right, instead when forced into a combat situation it feels necessary rather than entertaining. You fight and kill because you need to survive in a hostile world, you are in a desperate predicament and when having to attack and kill a survivor or infected alike you are only doing so because there is no alternative. You may be forced to go to extreme lengths to survive but you feel for Joel and Ellie’s plight and although this will shock a few gamers, you will empathize and understand their motives and that’s what truly sets this apart from what we have seen before. Your only goal is survival.

The Last of Us has Naughty Dogs super-high production qualities that we first saw in the ‘Uncharted‘ series and by no means is it bad thing. The PS3’s resident explorer brought a world of vibrant, lush and beautifully rendered jungles and ruins and this game has been given the same treatment. A good portion of this takes place in an open and sprawling land filled with the remnants of society and nature has reclaimed large areas, which is a change from the confined alleyways and labs we normally see, although they are in there.

The only drawback to this is that because of the nature of The Last of Us you notice the exploration-combat-cut scene style narrative that was also in Uncharted, but because Nathan Drakes adventure shot by at a high speeds you tend to forget that you weren’t actually in an open world while the illusion of it played out well; The Last of Us doesn’t always manage that. As with most games you will be in a situation where door B was the one you need to use and you’ll never quite understand why you couldn’t open door A, or you will be in an area where the cover is positioned nicely in order to push you towards the enemies and the end of combat. The combat within The Last of Us has pretty much been cut and pasted from ‘Uncharted’ as well, but the darker and more sinister theme fits the style well. Cinematic fights scenes always made for good viewing in ‘Uncharted’ and the brutal combat of The Last of Us is no different. There are plenty of tricky fight sequences that keep you on edge and the gunplay which is not too frequent as well as the constant lack of ammo makes every situation feel risky no matter what you decide to do.

Don’t be concerned about the slower pace though because the game play and cut scenes integrate together perfectly and you don’t notice load times too much and the areas connect seamlessly.

image

Ultimately it would be easy to stereotype this as a zombie survival, but although you can draw similarities, it is at its core an entirely different experience. The ‘Non-Human’ enemies you face are infected rather than undead and although they are a consistent antagonist throughout, you appreciate and sympathise with their condition; the ‘Runner’ infected, as an example, is fully aware of what they are doing but is helpless to control itself. The focus though is not on the enemies but instead on an engaging story set in a ruined world with the threat of attack playing behind the scenes; combat is not the focus.

The usual archetypes are present though – a virus has swept across humanity, killing a vast portion and turning others into blood crazed killers. From trailers released it also appears that the virus can spread through bites and life as we know has come crashing down. This has happened hundreds of times before, in small print, on consoles and on the big screen, but what sets this aside is that the writers/Naughty Dog make little to no attempt to explain the source or development of the virus, as these explanations can become quite preposterous at times (2008’s film ‘The Happening‘ I’m looking at you). What Naughty Dog and the writers have done is make a concerted effort to tell the story of the surviving humans and how life continues in the aftermath as they struggle day to day for survival. The best way to generate an image is to think of AMC’sThe Walking Dead‘ – the living characters are the focus and the human interaction is the most important aspect on display.

Continued character development is a key feature to telling a great story and the experiences in the game certainly compliment this. Beginning in the modern day world we are introduced to Joel and his life in the first panicked days of the outbreak. Flash forward then, to 20 years in the future and the remains of an all but devastated United States. For spoilers reasons I won’t go into too much detail as the story definitely needs to be played, but a world weary Joel takes on the mantle of guiding a young and naive Ellie across a blasted and infection riddled landscape which makes up the remainder of the game.

image

This may not seem earth shattering and we’ve been in a similar position with ‘Enslaved’ but the dynamic between Joel and Ellie, his tired and worn experience and her youthful naivety make for a great partnership. This is something that The Last of Us does well, the main characters (portrayed by Ashley Johnson – Ellie and Troy Baker – Joel) feel like people and the survivors they meet and interact with feel just as real. You genuinely feel for these characters; couple this with a well thought-out and executed story and you have a world of survivors and villains that are well-fleshed out and sometimes so disturbing that you will notice and remember when things happen to Joel, Ellie or any number of the supporting cast.

With the general abundance of zombie-survivals available across multiple platforms, you could be forgiven for saying Naughty Dog are merely jumping onto an already existing fan base and making ‘Uncharted: Undead’. However it is clear that those who created The Last of Us have drawn from the best sources when writing and creating this world and have included the best elements from computer games (Uncharted and Fallout) and television (Walking Dead) and although we find comfort in the familiarity of the style we get to experience something which is so much more.

The Last of Us is sure to become a hallmark of the PS3 and with is fantastic visuals, strong game-play, disturbing world and emotion provoking story you will never regret having played this and will remember it as the time when survival-horror made its comeback. Stay Alert, Stay Alive

Preview By; Simon Moore (Si)

Don’t fear the Reapers – A blog about the Mass Effect trilogy

image

With the recent release of the Citadel downloadable content we have reached the end of the Mass Effect trilogy, it’s been a hugely ambitious undertaking by Bioware and one which will held up as an example of what is possible with gaming as a story telling vehicle for future generations.

I have to admit that when it was first announced for the Xbox 360 and Pc I was thinking that I wouldn’t pick it up, it was a space RPG that wasn’t Knight of the Old Republic 3 and as such it really didn’t appeal to me but I remember seeing the first trailer and from that point I was hooked and read everything I could about it and I found myself being fascinated with the prospect of being able to make choices that would effect the way people would react to you and I was also intrigued to find out how the game would work as a hybrid of third person shooter and RPG.

image

I bought the first game for the Xbox 360 on day of release back in 2007 and immediately fell in love with it, the story was fairly standard in the sense that you’re trying to prevent galactic annihilation but it’s focus on characters immediately made it stand out, and the sheer number of side quests meant that a first play through could take upwards of 40 hours if you did everything. Playing through it the first time I found myself wanting to find all the resources available and complete every side quest as each quest seemed to provide more characters moments and characters like Garrus, Wrex and Tali are fantastically realised and even non party characters like Anderson are done justice. The music has something of a retro vibe to it as there’s a definite hint of synth work to it but this somehow works to for the tone that the game is aiming for and make it even more atmospheric and there are some superb pieces such as the main theme when you’re initially introduced to Commander Shepard. That’s not to say there aren’t problems mind you, the fact that you need to level up your gun skills when you’re meant to be a veteran soldier is fairly silly, the inventory system is a bit arbitrary and the long elevator rides to mask loading aren’t great (though they do provide some cracking dialogue) and the Mako also isn’t a whole heap of fun to drive but these flaws somehow just make the whole package that little bit more endearing. The fact that they could marry the two different game styles together and come away with a game which is better than most third person shooters and also better than a lot of RPGs is testament to the skill of the team at Bioware and the level of detail on the universe (available through the in game codex) tells you just how much of a labour of love it was.

Downloadable content wise there were two packs released, the first pack was Bring Down the Sky in which Shepard is tasked with stopping an asteroid which has been set on a collision course with a human colony and the second pack was Pinnacle Station in which Shepard visits an Alliance training facility which is essentially a combat simulator and you try to achieve the best scores. Overall these packs were solid but felt like more of an experiment and the potential of the downloadable content would be better realised in later instalments of the series.

It was also released on the PS3, much later on, but this can only be a good thing as it gives Sony fans the opportunity to play through the whole trilogy from the very beginning and experience it the way it was originally envisaged by the developers and from a personal stand point I’m not really into the whole console rivalry thing, I think that if a game is good it should be experienced by as many people as possible and this is a fantastic game.

image

Moving onto January 2010 I picked up Mass Effect 2, which I had been eagerly waiting for. And what a sequel it turned out to be, it looked fantastic, introduced more fascinating characters while also featuring favourites from the first game and allowed you to port your save file over from the first game which allowed for call backs to the decisions made which was a nice touch. Bioware also came up with an ingenious way of taking you back to level one and also allowing Shepard to be altered from the look chosen by the player in the first game – Shepard is killed off in the first ten minutes during an attack on the Normandy which also destroys the ship in the process. This plot device also serves to radically shift the focus of the game as Shepard’s body is recovered by Cerberus, whose role in the first game had been an adversarial one, and resurrected as part of the Lazarus project which was created to bring Shepard back due to his talents as a leader and his experience dealing with Reapers. The story basically starts with an attack on the Cerberus facility used for the project and flows through to the fact that human colonies are being abducted and no one will help so the Illusive Man, the leader of Cerberus, entrusts Shepard with the Normandy SR-2 which is a new and improved version of the ship destroyed at the start of the game and tasks him with recruiting a squad to end the threat. You then travel around the galaxy and completing missions to the recruit these squad members, including old friends like Garrus and Tali while also introducing new faces such as Thane, Mordin and Legion. Once the squad is assembled you get the opportunity to undertake missions to gain their loyalty and upgrade the Normandy before leading a suicide mission to take on the faction responsible for the abductions.

There also some very large changes to the structure of the game, a lot of the RPG elements have been stripped away, there’s no inventory to speak of and rather than exploring planets in the Mako there is a mining mini game which can be a bit tedious at times. These resources are then used to upgrade the Normandy, upgrade weapons and build heavy weapons which provide considerably more stopping power in a firefight. There is also no levelling of weapon skills this time around, instead the class you choose dictates which weapons are available for use. Also the unlimited ammunition/gun overheating mechanic is done away with and replaced with a more standard limited ammunition system. There was some controversy at the time due to a perceived dumbing down but when the game is vastly superior to most third person shooters and RPGs this type of criticism seems excessively harsh and in my opinion the changes just tightened the game up and it was comfortably the best game released in 2010.

From a downloadable content point of view Mass Effect 2 had a lot released for it, ranging from new costumes for squad members, new weapons and armour and finally additional assignments and squad members. The additional characters, Zaeed and Kasumi, both have their own individual loyalty missions and are just as unique and individual as the other squad mates. The Normandy Crash Site offers a change of tone and pace by allowing you to visit the site where the the original Normandy crashed and collect the dog tags of the crew members lost in the crash, it’s a somber and reflective piece which does a good job of making you feel a genuine sense of loss which shows that the Normandy is very much a character in itself. The Firewalker Pack introduces the Hammerhead hover tank and a number of missions built around the vehicle, which are interesting to play and improve on the Mako segments in the first game. Overlord provides a more straightforward piece of content, a Cerberus facility has been taken over by an experimental virtual intelligence and it’s up to Shepard to sort it out, it’s not the best content available but does provide a nice moment in Mass Effect 3. Lair of the Shadow Broker is a huge piece of content that reintroduces Liara and follows Shepard as he tries to take down the Shadow Broker, there’s a lot to do on the course of this and ends with Liara taking on the role once you take him down, you then get access to the Shadow Broker’s intel centre. The final piece of content for Mass Effect 2 is called Arrival in which it becomes apparent that the Reapers have found a back door into the galaxy and it’s up to Shepard to close it off, it also ties into the start of Mass Effect 3 so is well worth playing. All in all there was a lot more content available and the mission packs were of a good standard and added to the lore of the series, the weapons, armour and costume packs were there if you happened to want them but they didn’t provide anything to the story or character development.

image

Which brings us to Mass Effect 3, the final chapter of the saga of Commander Shepard. It also introduces multiplayer to the Mass Effect universe for the first time, this multiplayer has teams of 4 player characters taking on computer controlled enemies in waves and trying to make it through to the end with experience being awarded to players and also galactic readiness being bestowed on on the the galaxy map on the main screen. This galactic readiness has a knock on effect with the single player campaign in that it means the war assets you acquire are more effective in the context of your effective military strength which goes towards the final battle. Multiplayer has also received a lot of support from Bioware in the shape of downloadable content packs, these packs have contained new maps new species for players to play as and new weapons with Bioware offering these packs free of charge. Moving back to game itself it uses a new engine and looks even more stunning than the second game and plays in the same way as the previous game with the exception of the heavy weapon mechanic, rather than having these as part of your arsenal these weapons are found over the course of missions and have a limited amount of uses and also the side missions are predominantly finding war assets which get added to your EMS. Mass Effect 3 is also bigger in scope than previous games as rather than trying to assemble a squad you’re trying to bring together an army of the various species you have encountered over the games and this is where a lot of the emotion comes from and make no mistake there are a lot of emotional moments in the game, leaving Earth after the initial Reaper attack is effective in that you don’t want to leave but it makes you determined to come back with a force that will save the planet. Other standout moments include (and these are my choices, there are other connotations based on your choices in this game and from previous games) the curing of the Genophage, which was a disease introduced to the Krogans to stop them reproducing, the ending of the Morning War between the Quarians and Geth, I chose to make peace between the sides and it definitely felt like an organic and well realised outcome. Thane’s appearances really hammer home just how much these characters have to mean to the player over the course of the series, as does the final conversation between Shepard and Anderson.

That’s not to say there weren’t problems in the original release of the game, the From the Ashes dlc contains a new squad mate in the form of the last Prothean, a race heavily tied up in the Mass Effect lore who were wiped out by the Reapers the last time they wiping out organic life 50000 years before the setting of the games, and as a resullt there is fair amount of additional lore and backstory thats come with him but the decision to make this paid dlc (unless you bought the special edition of the game) rather than being part of the game to start with was met with some controversy however the main and lasting outcry from fans was to do with the ending. The original ending contains 3 choices but the end cinematic is more or less the same except for a different colour being used as part of an explosion, there are also elements which aren’t clear such as why Joker, the Normandy pilot who has been with Shepard all the way through the series is escaping the system and also becomes a victim of it’s on lore in that the mass relays explode which has been established to essentially wipe out a solar systems essentially you stop the Reapers but destroy all galactic life, there is also a general lack of closure as you don’t get any idea of the impact of your actions. The outcry was so great that Bioware actually produced a free dlc called the Extended Cut which while keeping the essence of the original ending filled in these plot holes with additional scenes, changed the destruction of the relays to them just being damaged and added a kind of slideshow complete with a voice over to add some closure to the whole thing. While it personally still wasn’t the ending that I wanted it was still a marked improvement over the original ending and it’s an amazing gesture for Bioware to genuinely listen to their community and act upon it. Dlc wise beyond the multiplayer packs, the Beyond the Ashes pack and the Extended Cut pack there are the usual weapons packs and appearance packs but there are further 3 single player packs. The first of these is Leviathan in which Shepard is tasked with tracking down what appears to be a weapon capable of killing a Reaper and as the the story progresses it actually provides some back story on the origins of the Reapers which is in interesting. The second is Omega which follows on from a conversation you have with Aria in the main part of the game, who was the ruler of a space station called Omega which has been taken over by Cerberus and she wants your help to take it back, which you do. The final pack is Citadel which is the final piece of content of the Mass Effect trilogy, and it feels like a real labour of love by the developers, it has fun with the characters, with some nice in jokes such as a moment where Shepard realises he says “I should go” a lot when ending a conversation. The story is a little hammy but has so much fun with it that you forgive it but the real standout of the dlc is the interplay between the characters and pretty much every squad member from each of the games is present and makes for a very enjoyable send off.

All in all I’m very glad I took a chance on the series as I would go so far as to say that it’s now my favourite series of games and one that I’ve played through numerous times. I’ve loved being able to steer the story by making choices in a way that I thought that my Shepard would, I think it was a real achievement to create a player character that feels so personal to each player. With all that said the things that will stay with me most is the sheer depth of lore and detail which was created for a fictional universe, though it will hopefully serve them if they choose to make further games in that same universe, and also the characters which I met over the course of those three games, from Garrus who was this tremendously realised, morally conflicted character but a steadfast and loyal ally at the same time, to Tali who started as a shy awkward outcast who matured and grew with each game, to every single other character. It’s rare to find such a group of characters who feel so vivid and real and that for me is the true magic of the Mass Effect series. And with all that said it feels like this should be wrapped up with a quote from Commander Shepard – I should go.

image

My on-off relationship with Metal Gear

image

Ever since the release of Metal Gear Solid on the Sony Playstation in 1998 I have been trying to find my way into the vision created by legendary game designer and director Hideo Kojima. Still going strong today his story now spans well over ten games of which most are critically acclaimed for various reasons, gameplay, graphical achievement, story telling or whatever the latest development may be. Even before its release on the Playstation the series had existed for almost ten years in the form of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake.

Which brings me onto one of the biggest lures of the Metal Gear world, is its protagonist Solid Snake. Snake is an amalgamation of some our favourite 80’s action movie heroes, Michael Biehn, Mel Gibson, Kurt Russell and even Lee Van Cleef have all been noted as influences. Voiced by David Hayter Snake is a combination of spy, spec ops soldier and FOXHOUD (a renegade special forces unit). He acts alone only supported via radio by commanding officers and specialists. To me he is the James Bond of video games, he’s the kind of guy men want to be and the ladies want to be with.

image

Metal Gear Solid was reviewed at over 90% on average and was very well received shipping more than six million copies. It is now recognised by many critics as one of the best and most important games of all time. Despite its transition into 3D the core gameplay remained the same as its predecessors, we have to navigate Snake through the game’s areas without being detected by enemies. It is widely considered as the game which made the stealth genre popular. Progress is punctuated by many long… long cinematic cutscenes, using the in game graphics engine, helping to give the feeling of it being more than a video game. Hideo used this as a way of creating his very own interactive movie.

For whatever reason I just can’t seem to play one all the way through but I’m at the stage now where I feel I owe it to myself to finish at least one of them. I mean it’s not for lack of trying, I have owned almost all of the games at some point on varying formats, every time I find myself with a new console my brain clicks into overdrive and screams… Oi you, play MGS now!

My latest attempt was again thanks to Sony, offering the classic PS1 version of MSG + VR missions as a download for my Vita (and PS3) half price. The transaction was complete and all I had to do was download, install and enjoy! Surprisingly I managed to get a good half way through before I knew it, the story was holding my interest. Even though the visuals are now very dated and the control method fiddley I found it really, really enjoyable. Had I finally cracked playing a Metal Gear game? No. I finally gave up and continued to play the other games I had waiting for me with the idea of going back to it at some point. I think I have given myself an inbuilt fear of the game, there’s a little too much cut scene viewing and convoluted dialogue going on.

To my joy Sony announced that Metal Gear Solid HD collection would be added to PS+. I now have access to 3 MGS games on the go. I cleared the extra 4GB of space on my memory card for the install of the HD collection. I am yet to play. I am yet to finish a MGS game.

theflamey

image

Colonial Marines: How long is too long?

Aliens Colonial Marines: How long is too long and should it have happened?

Initially when Colonial Marines was picked up from the previous developer TimeGate it must have been a total mess, half coded, half imaged, half conceptualised with many ideas all mashed around the place. Its like looking into one of those guys garages who thinks he is great at fixing engines and machines only to get half way thought the thing to find out, oh I don’t actually know what I’m doing. TimeGate previously made Section8 which was a half baked game at best but with an amazing concept idea.

Now when I get an idea in my head, sometimes out of no where, like ‘hey I’m going to build myself a gaming room in the loft’ you get the ladder out, climb up there and start shifting things about. Then you take a look about the place and start assessing your surroundings, thinking to yourself ‘hummm… ok well I have the space now, but its totally bare’. You suddenly find yourself saying, right I need flooring, lighting, power points, internet points, TV, a desk, chairs, kettle, sound, it goes on and on. In the end its ‘hummm… ok now it sounded like a good idea but maybe its not going to work out’. This is the point where you either make the right or wrong decision depending on a few factors, such as do I have the money, skills, time, persistence to do this. Can I realistically make all these needs come together so that this works. If the answer is no, climb down the ladder, shut the door and get on with your life. I hope you see where I am going with this.

I strongly believe that during the games development Gearbox got in too deep and didn’t realise they should have climbed down the ladder. If they had decided to cut their losses and shut the door on the game, yes there would have been a lot and I really do mean a lot of upset fans, but the companies development skills and integrity for the most part would have remained intact and unsullied by this erm… well what do you call this? I think without being to harsh lets just call it a questionable effort to make something not so shiny, shiny again.

So when you are faced with a final product like Aliens: Colonial Marines, which you have without a doubt put effort into but know isn’t good, what do you do? Well you fabricate a portion of the game and hope the loving, adoring fans will keep the faith purely because of your history? If you come to that conclusion you really don’t know gamer’s or critics well at all.

Its not like the game is totally unplayable, there are sections of the game that bring up the feelings I would expect from a game in the Aliens franchise. When this game was going through Q&A did no one say ‘wait guys, this game looks like CRAP’. Who knows what went on and what they decided, only time will tell.

So going back to my opening question, how long is to long and should it have happened? I think when a game is tossed from one team to another, the vision can easily be lost. The concept changes, the drive is different, how can you make a game that fans with love when it is based on the half finished vision of someone else. Can you really take someone else’s product and touch it up with your own ideas when it has already been hashed and re-hashed again. You don’t have to look too far to find another game in the same situation with the same problems… Duke Nuke Forever. Can you start sculpting the statue of David and half way through decide to make the statue of Liberty using the same stone, who knows?

We the gamer’s know, that’s who.

Whippyice

Free-2-play… with our money and minds?

Free-2-play… you like a fool?

As the weeks have gone on I’ve seen the free-2-play model come on in leaps and bounds. There are now some pretty outstanding games about such as :-

  • Ghost Recon online – a tactical shooter based on the popular Ghost Recon Series
  • Battlefield F2P – a cut down (or enhanced) version of the game depending on your views
  • Planet Side 2 – a space shooter (very similar to popular games like Tribes)
  • WarFace – which I would say was the best out there. Made by Crytek, graphically its great, as you would expect from the guys who brought you the Crysis series. It’s even browser based, all in all very impressive.

So with content coming along like this I am pretty sure that these games will keep improving over time and start to appeal to more and more gamers. So with this in mind why are so many hardcore gamers set against the idea of F2P? Well for starters websites like MCV will post articles about how this system a threat to our much beloved and coveted AAA titles. They see this as a dark cloud looming over what we know and love, threatening to change the shape of gaming from now on. Personally if the quality of all F2P games are anywhere near Warface I wont have a problem with them. Articles like this cant be the only reason why so many gamers are against this model, even major publishers like EA state the figures say otherwise?

So here is what I believe is going on. You get in, bored after work thinking about what you can play, you look at your game stack and think ‘man I don’t really fancy any of that’ Well have no fear! come and check out this brand new great looking game totally for free. All you need do is sign up, download, install, launch and GO! Fun times to be had, but this lasts only so long, the fun factor slowly dwindles and you are left with a game which now seems a mission to make any kind of progression in. No matter what you do you don’t seem to be doing as well as you have been up to this point, so what gives? Ohhhhhh, they all have better gear than you! So how do I get that stuff? Oh you have to pay for it? No way really? Ah well I suppose its only a few £, that wont matter much to the bank account… sure lets pay it. You see how this works.

The thing I don’t like about F2P is that you don’t own any content. You are essentially paying for the privileged to use weapons offered buy the service, ergo, guns, armuor, abilities, perks, the list goes on and on. Its the iPhone investment issue all over again, once you start spending money on it are you willing to give it all up and move to a new game/phone for your apps/gear? No, because you have spent that money that didnt seem to matter so much before? I personally don’t think that F2P would be anywhere near as popular now if people knew that they where buying into a system like this. Why do you think you don’t see any F2P adventure games or you know like a F2P ‘the walking dead’ it’s because they can’t segment that up and sell you functionality in the way they can with COD clones and so on.

As long as gamers are bored while waiting for the next AAA title to come out and spending money on these so called Free-2-play games then they will keep appearing, they will keep making gamers angry until they realize what they are actually doing. I don’t see Free-2-play as a huge threat to AAA, as long as gamers start to get smart and realise what they are getting involved with. Remember, the best way to let a company know you don’t like what they are offering is to not pay them for it.

Thanks for reading this lovely blog,
Whippyice

%d bloggers like this: