Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Star Wars Battlefront Review - A Different Interpretation.

By Sam Coles:

The new Star Wars Battlefront has been getting lots flak lately and I do get it, however I look at it from a different angle I look at it as a different interpretation from a different developer. This is DICE’s Battlefront and yes from the day it was announced I knew it wasn’t going to be as good as Pandemic Studios Battlefront but what DICE has produced is enjoyable.

The singleplayer is lacking as it is only tutorial missions to help you get use to the different mechanics whether it be using the heroes or controlling the vehicles, they serve their purpose. You have the AI battles that let get a feel for the environment that you’ll get yourself into with the multiplayer. Lastly you have the survival missions where you go through 15 waves of imperial assault on 4 different maps, a bit uninspired but they’re fun with a friend. Yes there is no singleplayer but you the gamer made it very clear that DICE are not good at making campaigns that being the Battlefield games and DICE listened and now you’re kicking up a fuss.

The presentation is absolutely beautiful and it hits you as soon as you get into a game, you can’t deny what DICE has achieved with the visual fidelity is nothing short of amazing with a new technique called photogrammetry. How this technique works is that they take photos of the locations and props to then render them in engine to give them that authentic look. The shining glaciers of Hoth to the lush green forests of the Ewok’s homeworld of Endor, the presentation has been nailed.

Once again DICE and sound design never fail it’s a mixture of the beefy and meaty sounds of Battlefield mixed with the classics sounds of Star Wars. The basters don’t just make a *pew* *pew* sound they have that with the added bass and sonic boom every time you pull the trigger. The shouts of team mates make the battle feel alive coupled with the screams as they get shot or slashed by a light sabre.

You have a variety of game modes to get that will keep you occupied for a while the main attraction is the Walker Assault mode which I did criticise a lot when it was in its beta because it was terribly unbalanced because the Imperials would win for the most part. Fortunately it has been tweaked so the Rebels have more a chance to win so the Walkers don’t take as long to destroy like in the beta but they do put up a fight. This mode is fantastic and tense especially when an AT-AT sees you and starts firing and you’re running for your life. There are generally 1-2 AT-AT’s it depends on the size and density of the map so on Endor there is only 1 because there are trees everywhere and having two might of cluttered the level and caused frame drops if they did.

Hero hunt is an interesting mode where one player takes control of a famous Star Wars character and everyone is trying to kill them and the player to land the last hit becomes the hero, it’s like shooter version of tag. Besides that the game has your usual multiplayer shooter game modes with a Star Wars flavour so you have Team Deathmatch modes and Domination.

The negative I have is that the voice acting is absolutely awful with the hero characters I don’t understand why they didn’t just pull lines from the movies, it’s odd considering the voices for the infantry is very good.

Star Wars Battlefront is a good interpretation from DICE, yes it’s not as good as Pandemic’s Battlefront but it is enjoyable because it looks like Star Wars and sounds like Star Wars.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

How I got into video games.

By Sam Coles:

Video games is a medium that I’m very passionate about and I’ve never really explained how that passion birthed for games and I just want to tell you through this short editorial and maybe you’ll get a bit of insight about me.

When I was a kid bridging into a teenager I played video games but I never really analysed them for any inner meaning or critique them, I just use to enjoy them for what they are and use to play them to pass the time whether that be a rainy Sunday etc. I used to be clued up on the latest titles like the GTA’s the Call of Duty’s and all the popular ones, but to be honest I use to play them because everyone else did.

It wasn’t until I had a somewhat decent PC that could play games in 2007 and I explored a few PC games and the one that caught my attention was The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion. Oblivion introduced me to this beautiful, colourful and vibrant world that is living and breathing and I had not seen anything like it at that point. The setting was familiar with the high fantasy elements as my Father liked Lord of the Rings books and the Hobbit so I was aware of what the races and lore to a certain extent. The game immerse me so much I felt that I could escape from reality for a while and forget my troubles and feel that I have an impact in the world of Cyrodiil. Even when I turned the game off I had the thought that Cyrodiil is still carrying on even when I’m not there which made me look at video games in a different light which made me think “Wow! Games can be more than time wasters”.

After Oblivion I got an Xbox 360 in 2009 with Halo, Mass Effect and Forza Motorsport 2 (which I didn’t play that much as I wasn’t into racing games at that point) Mass Effect introduced me to a galactic adventure where the whole galaxy were relaying on me to save them from an invading force. Halo 3 was the final struggle that I took part in to help end the war between the Covenant and UNSC. These worlds have been well crafted to be believable and I would get excited when a new game would be announced and I still do because with each new game whether it be a sequel or new IP I’m curious what new world they have created.

Early 2010 I was in a dark place I was doing my A-levels and the stress was getting the better of me, I cycled home one afternoon and I stopped in my local Blockbuster (yes they were about still). I had a look at some 360 games and I was skimming the sleeves left and right which I then came across a game that I didn’t really know about and that game was Dragon Age: Origins. I had no idea about this game so I bought it and popped it into my Xbox 360 and I immediately feel in love with the world of this game and it made forget about my stress and I adventured through the world of Ferelden for the rest of the evening. The characters were well written which could make laugh, cry or aggravated with their actions.

I continued to play games and at the end of 2010 I started to write reviews for my local newspaper because I wanted to share my passion with others. I would get feedback from friends saying that they haven’t read something so passionate, which filled me with positivity. This led me to where I am today still writing reviews where publishers let me critique their products.

So where am I now with gaming? Well I own a wealth of consoles because I’ve started to play retro games as well as I own a PS1, Mega Drive, PS2 and Gamecube etc. I’m Exploring the past with gaming as well as experiencing the present with what worlds that PS4 and Xbox One can produce and I’ve experienced the Northern Kingdoms of The Witcher 3 to the destroyed yet beautiful world of Mad Max. I have evolved from someone who played games to pass the time to the man who is passionate about it and wants to share that passion with others.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Trilogy Retrospective: Halo.

By Sam Coles:

The original Halo trilogy has its own space in the video game hall of history as it set the bar of how a first person shooter should be made for a console like Goldeneye did back in1998. It also set the standard for online multiplayer on consoles as well which Sony didn’t really grasp until the PS3.

Halo Combat Evolved (2001):

Halo was originally announced as a Macintosh exclusive during the late 90’s at an Apple event, but it wasn’t the game that it is now. The game was being developed by Bungie who were known for making Marathon which was the Mac’s answer to Doom which was dominating the Windows platform at the time.

Halo was actually conceptualised as a real time strategy game like their game Myth, but something happened Microsoft bought Bungie to secure for their launch title for the Xbox. Bungie started see what would it be like to take control of a soldier in the first person so they decided to make it an FPS, they wouldn’t revisit the RTS genre until Halo Wars.

Halo was launched with the Xbox in late 2001 and no one expect this game to be hit but it was a smash with its great singleplayer campaign and classic local multiplayer and yes local this was before Xbox Live.

Halo is a science fiction FPS where take control of a super soldier known as a Spartan called Master Chief. Chief has been in cryogenic sleep for a while, then he is awaken as they are boarded by the alien enemy called the Covenant. The Covenant have been at war with the human military called UNSC as they are fleeing from one of their colonies called Reach which has been destroyed. They then crash land on a mysterious ring called Halo which seems like a strange planet, but they find out that it is one of many rings which act as super weapons to wipe life on a galactic scale.
The campaign was interesting with different characters with big and varied environments which you’ll shoot you way through, it does take things from other science fiction sources such as Aliens and Stargate etc.

The gameplay was incredible it blew what Goldeneye did for consoles out of the water and the main reason was the fact the Xbox had a second analogue stick so you could turn and strafe with ease. It kept traditional FPS tropes like health kits which people seem to forget and said Halo CE had regenerating health, but it was the shield that regenerated and not your health. It also included vehicles to help you traverse the more wide open spaces and they controlled well for the time, but they do feel slippery now.

Halo had a great multiplayer and I have so many memories of getting loads of friends together and playing 16 player multiplayer in one room, yes Halo had a great LAN community it was an expensive thing to do at the time but worth it. It had big scale battles for the time with complete chaos with game modes such as Capture the Flag or the classic Slayer with twists such as shotguns only, pistols only which is the most powerful weapon in the game and Rockets. Let’s just say that the multiplayer is still fun to boot up now when you have a group of friends to play with.

It would be another 3 years until we see a sequel for this game, but it did change the front for multiplayer and how games are played with friends today.

Halo 2 (2004):

Halo 2 up the ante in every aspect such as graphics, sound, music and multiplayer it was a huge game for the time and the first in the series to have online multiplayer and was still played online until they closed the servers in 2010.

Halo 2 takes place after the events of the original Halo and this time the game begins a cutscene from the Covenant point of view as you follow an Elite soldier who is in court due to the destruction of the Halo ring. He is then branded a traitor then later on becomes the Arbiter which is a sort of prophet that goes on suicide missions to takedown heretics. Yes for the first time in the series you played as two protagonists so you see the war from both sides which gives you a perspective and how the Covenant start to fight each other and split off. It was an interesting campaign despite its cliff hanger ending which would continue until 2007.

The graphics were the best graphics on the market for the time aspects that were improved was the details on Master Chief because you can see the engraving and blemishes on his armour and it made him look as if he was a battle scared hero. The vehicles and environments were given a much needed boost in details from ancient ruins to the Covenant homeworld.

Multiplayer was a big due to the new Xbox Live service at the time and defines how we play games online today on consoles; it was the most played game on the service for years to come until Halo 3 came out. It had the same game modes from the first one, but it had events some weeks and weekends with altered versions of current game modes something that would become standard in later Halo games.

Halo 2 was one of the best games of 2004 and Bungie were tooling up for a new generation of consoles and we wouldn’t see anything about until 2006.

Halo 3 (2007):

Halo 3 came out on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and like Halo 2 added more content for fans to get stuck into.

Halo 3’s campaign starts from where Halo 2’s campaign ended with Master Chief plummeting to the Earth. It doesn’t look good for Chief as long-time friend Sargent Johnson examines his stiff and battered body from his fall and is ready to give up. Chief fortunately wakes up and everyone rejoices, but what Chief is not made aware of is that the Arbiter is working with them and gets into an altercation with him. Your objective is to takedown the prophet of truth and destroy the Covenant to end the war. This game was meant to be the conclusion for the series, but it cleary isn’t as the series is still going with 343 making the games now while Bungie work on Destiny.

Halo 3’s graphics were beautiful for the time as it was Master Chief’s jump to HD the first level in particular with its lush and vibrant jungle environment were stunning and honestly I would say that the environments still hold up. I can’t say that for the character models as they look very polygonal, but they served their purpose for the time.

Multiplayer was the main reason why many players logged so many hours for years on Xbox Live, with a higher player count and more game modes and events for players to take part. There were new and bigger maps for more chaotic battles my favourite being the map Valhalla with two bases with jump pads to throw you straight into the middle.

Halo 3 was the best game in the series in terms of its gameplay it’s the tightest of the series although they did tone down some of the weapon damage on some of the game’s most iconic weapons one of them being the Magnum which had no scope and the fire rate was slowed down by a lot. Overall the gameplay was fun and tight.

Halo 3 was a great conclusion to a trilogy well until Halo 4 came out, but that wasn’t handled by Bungie.

So where is Halo now? Well Bungie worked on a prequel called Reach which told the story of the events before Halo Combat Evolved which was fantastc. 343 Industries took the reins and started a second trilogy with the latest one being Halo 5 which was good but nothing compared to the original three games. Whatever you think of Halo you know it had an impact with how games are played today.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater - The Birth of Big Boss.

By Sam Coles:

After the somewhat disappointing outcome with Metal Gear Solid V I’ve been going back and playing the older MGS games so I’m starting with Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater which is my favourite in the series. So does it still hold up well after eleven years? In short yes.

Metal Gear Solid 3 takes place in year 1964 during the height of the Cold War; you play as Naked Snake a new soldier who eventually becomes the legendary soldier Big Boss and you witness the origin of how he obtain that title. It’s a great story with fantastic characters with twists and turns and over the top antics, my favourite cutscenes are the ones when a young Ocelot shows up and him and Snake get into a scrap every time. The story is entertaining it will make you laugh and it will make you cry which will keep you hooked from beginning to end.

The gameplay is like any other Metal Gear Solid game where you sneak around and infiltrate to free prisoners or gain intelligence on the latest Metal Gear. However it takes a different and realistic approach because instead of starting in the base you’re dropped in the middle of nowhere and you must find your way there.

Survival is the key word in this game because you have to manage your stamina by eating food and how you gain food is by hunting the flora and fauna which will gain back some of you stamina. How much stamina you gain back depends on what you eat so a snake might give you lots and a mushroom will give you very little, but don’t live your food because it will go rotten. You have to camouflage yourself as you’re in the middle of the jungle, you have a small indicator in the top right corner which will display a percentage and the higher the number the more you blend in with the environment, I like this because it makes you analyse the area and plan what strategies you can use to slip by undetected.

The graphics have actually aged very well in terms of the environments, but the graphics on the character models can look a bit polygonal which I can’t fault it too much as the game is eleven years old and that’s was what they could do at the time. Also the lip syncing with the dialogue is terrible in this game and I’m sure someone will say that’s what they could do, but that’s not the case look at Silent Hill 2 that has spot on lip syncing most of the time and that came out in 2001. The environments are good and varied from the starting jungles, massive military bases to the side of a mountain.

Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater is an entertaining romp which still holds up eleven years later with its fantastic stealth gameplay and entertaining narrative so pick this game up it’s easy to find on PS2 or you can get it in the HD collection on Xbox 360 and PS3 so there are many ways to experience this game.   

Friday, 18 December 2015

My Favourite games of 2015.

By Sam Coles:

It’s that time of year again where I express my opinion on my favourite games that came out in 2015. I’m not going to do it in any particular number or any order. Remember this is my opinion if you don’t agree with me that’s fine but be mature about it or go home.

The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt:

I’m a huge fan of The Witcher series even down to the books that the game are based and I was so excited when they revealed the third game in the series at E3 of 2013 that I couldn’t wait to get a new gen system. It’s nothing short of amazing what they have achieved with this game; they took the extremely detailed world of The Witcher 2 and presented it in an open world. The characters are well written and are likeable and hateable, you really engage with the characters because they have interesting back stories and origins. The combat is extremely visceral and much better than the combat from The Witcher 2. If you haven’t played this game then stop what you’re doing and go out and buy this game.

Battlefield Hardline:

Now I know that this game got a lot of flak with its campaign because everyone was saying it was clichéd, but that was the point it was meant to be clichéd because the game is taking the piss out of all these cop shows. You can tell on the actors faces that they were taking the piss because they’re almost grinning when they’re delivering their lines. The campaign is over the top and ridiculous and people were stupid to take the game seriously, hell it even carries over into the multiplayer with it’s over the top nature. People in the gaming industry need to laugh and lighten up and stop taking everything seriously.

Rainbow Six Siege:

I know this game is somewhat controversial because of the lack of singleplayer and the price point, but that doesn’t mean that game is bad, no not at all. Rainbow Six Siege is tense, fun and exciting with a fresh take on multiplayer shooters where you have no regenerating health and one headshot will put you down. The AI in terrorist hunt are on the ball where they actively hunt you down for example if they know you’re in the next room they won’t walk round and go through the door they’ll breach the wall or shoot through it. I would say pick this game up in a sale as it doesn’t warrant its full price.

Mortal Kombat X:

Mortal Kombat X was my most anticipated game of the year and it lived up to my expectations, the big elephant in the room was the fact you had to pay for Goro if you didn’t pre-order it because he’s already on the disc. Besides that MKX is a fantastic fighting game with tons of content with a cinematic story mode which all fighting games should have to stay relevant on home consoles. NetherRealm have done a fantastic job making fighting games relevant still.

Mad Max:

There was a lot of hate towards this game and too be honest I don’t understand why because I rather enjoyed it. This is exactly what I expected from a good Mad Max game with a beautiful yet destroyed open world to the car combat and ridiculous physics with the cars. The characters are engaging because they’re all very unique and psychotic; they’re characters you would expect from the source material. The combat is bone crunching and satisfying especially when you nail that perfect counter and you break their arm. Great game I would highly recommend picking it up and plus it’s made by the same guys who made Just Cause.

Batman Arkham Knight:

The final instalment to the Arkham series where they finally introduced the ability to drive the Batmobile, which is fun to speed around the streets of Gotham. The graphics are absolutely beautiful such as the rain effects on Batman’s suit you can see every rain drop rolling off his face. The combat has been tweaked and feels the tightest out of the series; the difficulty is certainly higher especially in the later stages of the game as they through different enemy types in greater numbers.

Halo 5 Guardians:

Halo is one of my favourite franchises but this one had a bit of a lacklustre campaign with underwhelming results with a cliff-hanger ending, but it was well performed with awe inspiring visuals. The gameplay is great with a fast pace almost similar to Call of Duty Advanced Warfare. The new multiplayer modes like Breakout and Warzone are fun additions to the series and I keep going back to them over and over.

Until Dawn:

Until Dawn was a game that came out of nowhere because I had no idea that game really existed because there wasn’t too much marketing behind the game, then a review copy dropped through the post from Sony. I started it up and the first thing that caught my eye was the motion capture of the actors which is outstanding. The gameplay is similar to games like Heavy Rain, but unlike Heavy Rain choices have real consequences where you can get the entire cast killed if you want to. The game really does emphasise choice and it is fun to replay and do the different paths to see what happens.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Halo 5 Guardians Review - Chief Gone Rogue.

By Sam Coles:

So after the train crash that was Halo The Master Chief Collection does Halo 5 Guardians save the series after that? Most yes it has refined multiplayer in terms of its movement and it has big wide open battles in its campaign which puts  modern shooter to shame that are on the market

Halo 5’s story takes place after the events of Halo 4 where Chief in the previous game woke up an ancient Forerunner who wanted to enslave the human race. Chief managed to stop him and save Earth, but lost the only thing that he was close to when he was out on missions and that was Cortana. Chief continues to serve the UNSC and finds out that Cortana is not as dead after all, he wants to go and investigate but is told not to so he goes rogue.

So like Halo 2 you shift between two protagonists The Master Chief and Spartan Locke who is hunting down Chief. You’re also accompanied by three other Spartans  who can help you up when you’re down, but make sure you play with other players because the AI is a bit dumb. The campaign does ultimately fall as there are no high stakes, but it will keep you engaged because the cutscenes are well performed by everyone so it will keep you busy for a bit.

Gameplay has been changed from previous titles where they have given it some speed and I know I’m going to get crucified making this comparison, but it reminds me of Call of Duty Advanced Warfare. Let me explain before you lynch me. It has a fast pace coupled with the jet thrusters where you can dodge left or right or charge straight into your enemy to kill them. Plus you can perform a ridiculously powerful ground pound which never stops being funny when you get it right.
Graphically this game looks amazing with lush swamp areas to canyons with the extremely detailed character models perfectly motion captured. The game runs at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second which really works with the fast paced gameplay.

So the reason why people play Halo is the multiplayer and the first strike with this game is that it has no local split screen multiplayer at all, so what made the original so iconic has been ripped out and thrown out with the bath water. So you can no longer invite your friends round and play the campaign co-op or have a hectic free for all. So you have to play online instead and I must say this is where the multiplayer thrives, it includes the standard but fun modes like Slayer and Capture the Flag etc.

The new mode I like is Breakout, this a twist on Capture the Flag where it is split up into 5 rounds (depending how many you lose or win) and you have one life, so it’s a great pick and up play mode because they’re quick and tense. Your objective is to either to eliminate the other team or take the flag that is in the middle and take it back to home base. The standout mode in Halo 5 is Warzone which is big scale warfare which is 20 vs 20, however there are also AI controlled enemies on the battlefield sort of giving it a MOBA feel, but also feeling similar to Titanfall, it’s a good game mode besides the fact that it’s overrun with micro-transactions.

Halo 5 Guardians is a great game; yeah the campaign doesn’t hit the same heights like the other games, but it’s well performed that it will keep you engaged. The new movement and gunplay makes the game fun and fresh keeping the player on their toes. So if you want more Halo multiplayer fun then I would recommend it.