Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Top 5 First Person Shooters Of 2013

Posted: December 31, 2013 in Reviews

Happy almost new year. I must admit, out of all the myriad of game genres out there, FPS games are among my least favourite, I’m a third person guy through and through. It goes back to my love of old school survival horror games like Resident Evil, Dino Crisis, Silent Hill and more recently Dead Space. The third person atmosphere just lends itself better to that kind of game, in my opinion. But shooters are not without their merit and while I may not be a huge fan, that doesn’t stop me from trying them all. And this year was a particularly decent year for the FPS.

No. 5: Crysis 3

 

Crysis and me have always had a love hate relationship. I’m a console gamer so I never really got into the PC space much. But I remember being back in college, and we had these super sweet Alienware desktops in our labs (I studied Game Development so we needed that kind of hardware for the stuff we were doing). So when someone presented me with a copy of Crysis to try out, I said why not. I loved it. It was gorgeous, smooth, played very well, and appealed to a broad range of play styles, everything I look for in a game really. So I played it, and played it, and played it some more until it was completed. Lucky for me, when Crysis 2 came out, it was getting a console release so I was able to play it on my large TV on the PS3. Sure, it didn’t look as good as the PC version but comfort is comfort.

But that’s beside the point. Crysis 3 ups the ante considerably from the first 2. While it is not as good as its predecessors, it still hits a lot of the right notes, and is suitably epic enough to earn a spot on my list.

No. 4 Battlefield 4

 

I waited for the PS4 to play Battlefield 4. I wasn’t in any rush to play it and I was trying to clear out a backlog of games before the next generation officially started up. I haven’t completed the campaign as of yet, but all I can is, after 4 levels, WOW! It just starts at 100 miles an hour and never slows down. Buildings blowing up, thousands of people being mowed down by machine gun fire, racism, xenophobia, all an integral part of those first 4 levels.

The multiplayer is, as expected, amazing. My very first match, I jumped into a quick random game and I was catapulted into a 52 player match. I spawned in a boat and drove down along a river. All of a sudden, a building exploded to my right and it collapsed on top of me. This is what pretty much sums up multiplayer in Battlefield 4. Chaotic, epic, and endlessly cool. Will you die a lot? Absolutely! The only question is, how good can you look while doing it?

No. 3: Killzone: Shadow Fall

I was not a big fan of the previous entries in the Killzone franchise, but as this list will demonstrate, Killzone’s year was 2013, at least in my opinion. On the surface, the game seems to be all style and no substance, but when you start to play it, you realize that this isn’t the case. There is an awful lot of style to it, yes, but the game itself is immensely enjoyable pretty much from start to finish. There are a few stumbling blocks along the way, but for the most part, its an engrossing and beautiful experience that is worthy of being the top next gen launch title. And if a launch title can look this good, imagine what games will look like in 3 – 5 years time?

The multiplayer is a drastic improvement over the terrible experience that was Killzone 3. It actually puts me more in mind of Killzone 2 which was one of the best multiplayer experiences I have had on any console last generation. The key word in Shadow Fall’s multiplayer is “teamwork”. Work together as a team and you will succeed. Break out on your own, and you will fail…hard! There is nothing better than getting a group of friends together into a team and tasting the sweet nectar of success.

No.2: Killzone Mercenary

We should never discount the Playstation Vita. It hasn’t gotten much in the way of blockbuster games since its launch. We’ve had gems like Little Big Planet VITA, Tearaway, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, but nothing that set the console alight. That all changed when Killzone: Mercenary launched earlier this year.

Lets face facts, shooters are high sellers, difference makers. They can make or break a console. So when Killzone: Mercenary launched on the vita, it was met with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Then the review scores came in, and it was pretty unanimous, the game was awesome. And having played it myself, I have to say I concur. It’s a shooter that makes the Vita a worthwhile purchase. And if it attracts people to Vita who wouldn’t normally have bought it, maybe they will discover the other great titles it has to offer like the above mentioned, and Uncharted, Gravity Rush and a host of others.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that 2014 could be the year of the Vita.

No.1: Bioshock: Infinite

It should come as no surprise that this made it to No.1 on my list. This will probably be top of everyone’s shooter list for this year. Bioshock is a shooter with a difference. It has everything an FPS is meant to be, but it add’s magic, mysticism, RPG elements and more to create something unique.

The latest iteration was no exception. It was a beautiful game with a compelling story and plenty of “Holy S*!t!” moments throughout. I have replayed it multiple times going after the collectibles and to complete the ultra hard “1999 mode”. It never gets old. In fact, I discover something new every time I play it, subtle nuances that make the game that much more beautiful.

Much like The Last Of Us claiming the top spot in my Top 5 Action / Adventure Games of 2013 these are the kind of games that we need more of. We don’t want them to all be like this, but more than 2 or 3 a year would be a nice start.

And that concludes my Top 5 Shooters of the year for 2013. IF you agree, disagree, or just want to talk about games in general, hit me up on Twitter @GameOverGary

Top 5 Action / Adventure Games Of 2013

Posted: December 27, 2013 in Reviews

This was a great year for gaming. Not just with the launch of the next generation but with a lot of AAA titles that made me proud to be a gamer more so than most other years. We are slowly moving closer to the mainstream with each passing year, and while 2014 may finally be the year we get there, 2013 was a huge push in that direction.

There will be a number of these articles going up between now and New Years Eve but I figured this was the best place to start because the action / adventure genre encompasses so many games, it is the hardest to whittle down to a top 5 list.

So, without further ado, let’s get started with No. 5:

No. 5: Splinter Cell: Blacklist

 

I have been a hue fan of the Splinter Cell series since it’s inception 11 years ago back in 2002. I’m a sucker for a lot of things, but 2 of them are stealth games an Michael Ironside’s voice. So when these two came together, I knew I was going to love it. It was just the icing on the cake that they turned out to be awesome games as well. Some might say that the newer Splinter Cell games are not the same as the originals, and those people would be right, but we live in an ever evolving world and need to be able to adapt to change.

The biggest change for Splinter Cell: Blacklist was the removal of Michael Ironside as the voice of Sam Fisher in favour of a new, more youthful voice in Eric Johnson. For any “Smallville” fans out there, you may remember him as Whitney Fordman from the first season. He has a good voice, and he does an amiable job as Fisher, but he can never match the gravelly, masculine voice of Ironside. But at the end of the day, the voice actors don’t make the game (normally) and if the game is enjoyable, it should not matter who is voicing the characters. Luckily, Blacklist is an immensely enjoyable game that is up there with the series best.

Blacklist essentially serves as a reboot for the series (hence the new voice actors). It keeps the backstory and lore from previous games, but gives Sam a new lease on life and de-ages him a little bit so that it is more believable that this man can do the things he can do. The story follows Fisher and his team of miscreants as they trail a terrorist group who are executing a series of increasingly devastating attacks on the United States that they call “The Blacklist”.

The missions are tight and focused, even though there are always 3 approaches to take; Assault, Ghost and Panther. I had hours of fun with this game, even going so far as to achieve the Platinum Trophy in it. The only reason this is the lowest title on the list is that there were just so many other great games this year!

No. 4 DMC: Devil May Cry

 

Devil May Cry is another one of those series that I have loved since the beginning. The original was one of those games that was cripplingly difficult but never frustrating. The second made a few stumbles (the Diesel promotion in the game didn’t help!) while still retaining most of what made the game great. Then 3 came along and made it all better. 4 was a fantastic game marred by a terrible protagonist.

A reboot may not have been necessary, but after playing DMC, it was sure as hell welcome!

Capcom decided to hand off development duties to Ninja Theory, the studio behind the under-rated PS3 launch title Heavenly Sword and the criminally awesome Enslaved! So I was cautiously optimistic that this was a good match. I still remember playing the demo and then kicking myself for playing the demo, since the game was not out for another few months and I would have to wait to enjoy more of it! Everything about it just worked, the story, the art style, the gameplay, all of it just clicked together into one supremely awesome package.

If you haven’t played this yet, you really should. And now is as good a time as any since it is 10 euro’s in most GameStop stores, and free on Playstation Plus for those of you who are members.

No. 3: Grand Theft Auto V

 

Is anyone surprised that this made it onto the list? It will be on most peoples Top anything lists for this year, and will probably be in a lot of people’s “Games of the Generation” lists. And with good reason. It was years in the making and made by Rockstar, a company that has consistently churned out quality titles, however infrequent they may be. Regardless of my feelings on the story and tone of GTA IV, it was still a great game all around. I personally preferred Saints Row The Third to it, as it was more fun, but something you are never short of in Grand Theft Auto V, is fun.

The dynamics between the 3 main characters are a large part of what works in this game. The missions are also epic and fun in equal measure. It’s everything you would want a GTA game to be, but so much more. It took some notes from Saints Row in the whacky fun department while still retaining the grounded approach we have come to know and love. This is the best GTA game we are ever going to get, so savour it while you can!

No, you might be asking yourself; why is this not number 1? Or at least number 2? Well, put simply, while it is a great game, I am compiling this list based on fun had while playing and a number of other factors. And the remaining two games on the list just were more fun for me than GTA V. Please don’t bun me at the stake!

No. 2: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

 

No doubt a surprising inclusion on the list, but this is the game that I have been playing non-stop for 2 weeks now. Before this, my favourite Assassin’s Creed game was “Assassin’s Creed II” but this (if you’ll pardon the pun) blows it out of the water. It’s fun, it’s thrilling, it’s epic, the story is awesome, the gameplay works on so many levels, and it is without a doubt, the best PS4 launch title available. Would that be different if Watch Dogs had release at launch as planned? Yes, but that isn’t the case, so Assassin’s Creed IV stepped up.

I’ll be honest, after the cavalcade of mediocrity that Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and Assassin’s Creed III were, I was ready to give up on the franchise entirely, even going so far as to declare outright that I would not buy IV. And I was steadfast in my resolve. But, since I am married to a woman who is a big time gamer also, and also a huge AC fan, we ended up getting it anyway. I didn’t play it though, just watched, at first. The more I saw, the more curious I got. So I picked it up and started playing..I haven’t looked back since!

There are a number of new features in the game that I won’t spoil for those who haven’t played it yet but needless to say, it takes all the best parts of 3 (which were few and far between) and builds upon them and improves them in every single way! If you haven’t played this game yet, go out and pick it up. If you have yet to pick up a next generation console, it is currently available at GameStop for €34.99 both online here and in stores everywhere and in lots of other places around the world!

No. 1: The Last Of Us

 

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To the shock of no-one, The Last Of Us is my number 1 action / adventure game of 2013. It is a masterclass in storytelling that few games achieve and also a masterclass in acting from the verstalie, talented and frickin everywhere Troy Baker (Saints Row, Bioshock Infinite, Batman: Akham Origins to name a few) and Ashley Johnson; a relative newcomer to video game voice acting.

I was hooked from minute 1. I have always been a big fan of story based games, be they RPG’s, action games, even the occasional shooter with depth. This game is all about the story and the relationship between the two main characters. The gameplay and action are merely there to offset everything. While playing The Last Of Us, it was the first time in a long time (maybe ever) that I was playing the game just to get to the next piece of the story, not for the gameplay or to have fun. That is special. And you know a game is different and breaking the barrier between games and movies when it makes it into top 10 lists for movies, when it isn’t even a movie!

We need more games like this. I don’t think every game needs to be like it, but if we had more games like this, the gaming industry would be all the better for it. And as far as all the awards and praise it got, it hasn’t seemed to phase our main character Joel at all:

And that concludes the top 5 action / adventure games for 2013.  Keep an eye out for some other top 5 lists that I will be posting over the next couple of days and thanks for reading!

Xbox One Review

Posted: November 25, 2013 in Reviews

X1_Logo

The next generation has begun in Europe as of Friday. And as I always am, for better or worse, I am an early adopter. First and foremost, I’m a Sony guy. My PS3 gets a hell of a lot more use than my Xbox 360, but at the same time I am not a “fanboy” who dedicates himself totally to one console. If there is an exclusive on the 360 that is worth playing, I will be all over it. Be it Splinter Cell: Conviction, Witcher 2, Dead Rising 1 etc, I love them all. Apart from Halo, I think Microsoft has a great stable of exclusives.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Xbox One. I picked up the only 2 games I wanted to get for the console at launch: Dead Rising 3 and Zoo Tycoon. Forza Motorsport 5 was also included in the box as I was one of the lucky people to get a Day 1 edition. Reviews for some of these will probably come at a later stage but as this is a new blog and is just me contributing at the moment, I feel like these will take a back seat to some of the PS4 launch titles. But the console is what I am here to review for now so lets get to it.

Setup

I approached the midnight launch of the console with cautious trepidation. After the PS4 launch in the US presented some minor to major issues for people and with no real visibility provided by Microsoft on hardware and other things, I was concerned that I would plug it in and it would just explode. Luckily, the setup process was pretty painless. The initial day one patch was only 360 megabytes and because my internet connection is quite fast, this was all completed and installed in about a minute. Setting locale and other base settings is painless. Kinect setup is the same as it was on 360, only this time, there was no calibration card required. All in all, I was up and running in a few minutes.

User Interface

The one thing that I think will divide people with this console is the UI. It’s obviously taken a lot of cues from the Windows 8 “Metro” interface and this can be both a good and bad thing. Voice commands will be your friend with this interface (if you are in the right location and can use them) as this makes it easier to find and navigate things. The whole UI is broken down into 3 areas:

  • Pins
  • Home
  • Store

Pins is where you can place your most used apps, games and areas that you visit (Settings, Store, Achievements etc). This will be used mostly by people who do not have voice commands enabled in their area.

Mine is not green and gaudy.

Home is where the main content is, like the disc that is currently in your console, and your most recently used apps and areas.

X1_Home

Store is pretty self-explanatory and is split up into Games, Movies, Music and Apps. There is also a “Search with Bing” feature at the bottom of the store page.

X1_Store

It’s simple, but deceptively complex in reality.

Things like Achievements, Store, Game DVR and other apps that will be used quite regularly are buried within the “My Games and Apps” section of the Home screen. You can pin them and they will appear on the Pin screen but the fact that this is required for the basic things like Achievements and so forth is a strange design decision. It seems like they went with a very minimalist, less is more approach here but it puts a lot of work on the user to get the kind of experience they want. As I mentioned before, voice commands are your friend.

NOTE: If you are in Ireland like me, voice commands are not supported in our locale at launch. There is however, a way around this. Even though Albert Penello says that the locale for voice commands is tied to where the console is sold, I changed my locale to United Kingdom and ta-dah, voice commands are working for me now.

Kinect

X1_Kinect

Kinect and myself have a tenuous relationship at best. I am not a fan of tacked on motion controls but I love the ease of use of voice commands and gestures. Unfortunately, after 3 days, I have not been able to use the Kinect in any great depth for gestures as my living space to not be enough for the new Kinect, but was perfectly fine with my first generation one on 360. I tried to clear more space but it seems to just not react to me for whatever reason. This is simply for navigating the menus however. When I booted up Zoo Tycoon, I was able to use the Kinect successfully to feed the animals, pet them etc with a good degree of accuracy but it feels completely tacked on (more on that later). I will continue to work with the Kinect, and plan to move it to my wifes TV later and place it on top of it (it is at the foot of my  TV as mine is paper thin) to see if this helps in any way so stay tuned for updates.

Games

X1_Games

The meat of any new games consoles will always be its games. Microsoft would like to make you think, at times, that games are not the most important part, but if you are dropping 500 euros / dollars on this machine, you are probably some form of gamer. I will be trying more of them out over the coming weeks, but at the moment I am focused on 3 in particular:

  • Dead Rising 3
  • Zoo Tycoon
  • Forza Motorsport 5

These are 3 of the exclusives for Xbox One and they all have their strengths and weaknesses in my brief time with all of them. Forza Motorsport 5 is obviously the graphical powerhouse of the 3 from what most of us have seen but what we have seen in the videos and screenshots does not do justice to how it actually looks. This game is gorgeous. The cars are practically real, the tracks are great, and the sounds really help sell the package. There were some times when things like barricades and trees looked a bit square but then your focus goes back to the cars and you will forget all about it.

Zoo Tycoon and Dead Rising 3 are not exactly made to show the power of the console but they are both incredibly fun. Zoo Tycoon has the before mentioned tacked on Kinect controls but these are thankfully optional and everything can be done with a controller. This was something I was concerned with before launch as I really wanted to play the game but I didn’t want to use the Kinect for it. I was relieved when I realised that I had an alternative option. The voice commands are useful in times when you don’t feel like navigating the often-cumbersome menus as they can get tiring but overall, it’s good fun and harkens back to the older games, but adds enough new things and cute animals to make it feel fresh.

Dead Rising 3 was the one I was most excited about. I am a huge fan of the franchise and because it was exclusive, I would have had to buy the console day one to play it alone. It doesn’t break any barriers in terms of innovation and it isn’t something that will push the console to it’s limits (maybe not even half way there) but it’s a lot of fun and still looks great. There was one thing that I noticed that bothers me as it relates to the hardware and that’s that when I pause the game to talk to someone, sometimes it would randomly un-pause because I said something a fraction similar to the word “Resume”. All the menus are voice controlled as well as by the controller and as of now, I haven’t been able to locate any way to turn this off. I have died a couple of times thanks to Kinect which doesn’t help me love it any more.

Controller

X1_Controller

I believe the controller deserves it’s own section because it is a remarkable improvement over the 360 controller. I may be in the minority here, but I was not a fan of the 360 controller. Maybe it’s because I loved the Dualshock since it’s inception years ago, but I could never get used to it. This has made enough small changes without altering too much to make it great. The feedback is great, the analog sticks are responsive, and the triggers are much improved over the previous generation. One thing I was surprised by was the fact that with the new “Start” and “Select” buttons, neither are used to instantly share clips to Twitch or UStream. Obviously, the PS4 controller has the “Share” button, so I expected MIcrosoft to have something similar. Actually, I found the process of sharing a clip quite cumbersome  on the Xbox One, as compared to how I believe it works on the PS4 (Will have to wait until the 29th of November to know for sure). To share a simple clip in Dead Rising 3, I had to go back to the menu, go to Upload, start recording, go back to the game, do what I wanted for the clip, go back to Upload and end the recording and then upload the clip using Upload Studio. Thats 7 steps for those not keeping count, far too many to do something so simple.