Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Has the gaming industry ran out of ideas?

 By Sam Coles:

Gaming is something I’ve been passionate about as far back as I can remember because it was always new and exciting. However in recent years I’ve lost the spark for the industry because they’ve seemed ran out of ideas because they either play it safe or they’re releasing games that came out on the Xbox 360 and PS3 which I’ve already played or owned. The problem is though is that people are praising these moves from the publishers saying that these remasters are “necessary” which I would say no they’re not.

It wasn’t always like this because at the start of the 8th generation of consoles everything was new and exciting as we got new and interesting titles such as Shadow of Mordor and Wolfenstein The New Order which were great games. Then at the end of 2014 the first of many remasters of 7th generation games came out and that game was Sleeping Dogs which at that point only came out 2 years ago and didn’t need a remaster and the differences where not noticeable. This slowly started a trend that has gotten out of hand and developers and publishers are releasing these games because they can’t be bothered to come up with new ideas and the people who are praising it are more than likely the younger gamers who were too young to experience games like Assassin’s Creed II and Call of Duty 4.

Let me make things clear I don’t hate remasters they can be a great way to bring games to a new audience if they are really old and are not widely available due to a platform that doesn’t look great on a modern television as it is in standard definition. A great example of this is Resident Evil the GameCube remake as good as it looks on the GameCube it doesn’t hold up well with its 4:3 aspect ratio and standard definition resolution. When Capcom released this on current generation consoles people ate it up and also showed that people were still looking for a good survival horror game which may have swayed them their thoughts about Resident Evil 7.

The point is that Resident Evil is starting become expensive on the GameCube and not everyone is a game collector like myself and it’s nice to have a bit spit and polish on an old title from the 6th generation and below. The games that are getting “remasters” don’t need this treatment as they are already in HD and most of the games that are getting this treatment still look good on 360 and PS3 I mean for goodness sakes Bioshock on PS3 ran at a native 1080p.

I know what people are going to say to me that the industry did this during the 7th generation, they did however not as much and they were HD touch ups of games that were not HD because have you tried playing a PS2 on a HD TV? It doesn’t look great so games like Metal Gear Solid HD and God of War HD etc. were great if you wanted to play games from yesteryear with a bit of polish instead of a fuzzy mess.

This also aggravates me as a critic because I’m reviewing games that I have reviewed 2-5 years ago which I’m starting to repeat myself and the differences in these re-releases visually are not dramatic they just up the resolution to 1080p and slap 60 frames per second on it and call it a day. Therefore there is not much else I can say about a game that I’ve already reviewed without repeating myself.

I just wanted to do a quick post about my opinion of the industry at the moment so let me know what you think do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments or Tweet at me @samcoles2.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Resident Evil 5 Review - Is it the first downfall of the series?

 By Sam Coles:

Resident Evil is a series that has been a bit…. Oh dear recently and there are different opinions which game caused the problem, some say Resident Evil 4 was the first nail in the coffin and some say 5 was the problem. However in my opinion Resident Evil 6 started the downfall of the series because Resident Evil 5 wasn’t a bad game by any means, yes it wasn’t the scariest game in the series but it had great gameplay, visuals and music believe or not.

You play as Chris Redfield who is no longer part of the of STARS unit in the Racoon City police department because the city is no more, he now works for a counter bio-terror unit to stop terrorist who use biological weapons. His journey takes him to Africa where he teams up with his new part Sheva where they are investigating rumours of a new virus infecting the local populous similar to the situation in Resident Evil 4. The story is decent with good voice acting although there are the staple cheesy and over the top lines especially from the villains where they laugh in an over the top fashion.

If you’ve played Resident Evil 4 then you should have a good grasp of how 5 handles with its gameplay as it is pretty much identical to 4 with the same over the shoulder action where you point and shoot with the human enemies acting in the same way. It doesn’t mean it’s an exact copy of 4 it sprinkles in a few new features to make the game feel fresh such as the addition of a co-op partner throughout the game, but I strongly recommend playing with a friend because the A.I is brain dead as it wastes ammo, all you healing items when they’re not needed and just getting stuck. Luckily you don’t have to play online because this was during a period where local multiplayer was still relevant before online gaming took over so you can play this two player splitscreen which is great.

After each chapter you have a chance to sort your inventory out and unfortunately this is a pain in the backside because they ditched the fantastic attaché case system from 4 where you could sort your items and weapons into a nice neat space. Resident Evil 5 however tries to go for the traditional inventory from 1-3 where you only have a certain amount of slots, so now an egg takes up the same amount of room as an AR15 assault rifle. It’s just mind boggling why they would get rid of an intuitive system and replace it with an arduous system that makes me want to bite my thumbs off in frustration.

The visuals are fantastic considering this game came out in 2009 and it still holds up minus a few graphical flaws I found. The introduction of the game still looks great where you see Chris Redfield drive across the African Savana with dust kicking up behind him. The detail in the market as you walk through it is beautiful as you see the locales getting on with their business etc. There is only one problem I had with the visuals and that is the screen tearing in gameplay and the cutscenes this occurs with character movement and it gets very distracting this is only on the 7th generation versions as far as I’m aware.

Is Resident Evil 5 the downfall of the series? No. Yes it has its issues but it is still a Resident Evil game at heart and it knows that. Resident Evil 6 is a horrible focus group mess and lacks focus. Resident Evil 5 is a fun game especially with a friend so I urge you to pick it up and if you don’t want to play it on 360 and PS3 you can get it on Xbox One and PS4 with a buttery smooth frame rate of 60 fps.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Dear Esther: Landmark Edition Review - More of an experience than a game.

 By Sam Coles:

There are some games that are more of an experience rather than a game, a game which doesn’t require much attention where you can zone out and relax to. I for one don’t mind these games, but to call them games would be a stretch due to the lack of interactivity and you tend to look and walk around and nothing else.

Dear Esther takes place on a mysterious island and you must piece together what happened on said island, now and again you’ll get a voiceover giving you a hint of the exploits of the area which are voiced well. The further you journey through the game the voice seems to get more tired and angry showing his frustrations of the mystery. The story is interesting although it can be a bit confusing and loses focus sometimes as the voiceover has a habit of describing scenery that you’re looking at for a while which I like to call the “Tolkien” effect. What I mean by the “Tolkien” effect is that he had a habit of describing a mountain or a tree for about 4 pages.

What can I say about gameplay? Not a lot. You walk around look at things and then move on to walk around and look at other things it’s not deep or interesting the gameplay. The one thing I cannot stand with this game is that you walk at a snail’s pace and don’t give the week sauce argument of “It’s for immersion” because you can still be immersed when you have full control. It feels very restrictive making you walk everywhere and I find myself pushing my PS4 analogue stick harder than usual giving me the perception of the character walking faster.

The game is up and down went it comes to its visual presentation I love the effects with the grass blowing in the wind the animation is impressive in that department, but most of the outdoor areas are blurry and unappealing. However when you get to the cave section it’s absolutely beautiful with some fantastic lighting with the superb yet haunting musical score.

The big question is can I recommend Dear Esther? Honestly it’s a good experience but I managed to finish it in under an hour and I was starting to get into it and it ended. I can’t see myself recommending this game even though I enjoyed parts of it, the problem is that it’s too short and isn’t really game, as a piece art it’s beautiful however at the end of the day it is a video game.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Batman: The Killing Joke Film Review.

 By Sam Coles:

Batman has to be my favourite comic book series ever with its dark and gritty atmosphere two of my favourite graphic novels are Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke. I was absolutely thrilled that Warner Bros. were doing an animated film and of course they weren’t going to water down the content for a younger audience hence why the film is a 15 in this country. This film has got a lot of negative attention and honestly I don’t see why except for a few minor flaws but overall it’s good.

The Killing Joke begins with a segment with Barbra Gordon when she was Batgirl which takes you through events of a certain mobster she is tracking down; it starts off okay with some decent action where you see Batgirl and Batman in a thrilling car chase. However it starts to go downhill as they completely miss the point of Batman’s relationship with Batgirl he is more like a father figure to her, but instead they end up engaging in an awkward sex scene. This is the weakest part of the film because Barbra Gordon’s voice is rather grating and most of her dialogue is her complaining and wining which will make you want to stop watching the film all together and to be honest you can skip this and start watching The Killing Joke part.

Now when The Killing Joke finally begins as in the graphic novel, it is superb Mark Hamill once again voices the Joker and steals the show with his calm and collective nature to the over top maniacal laughter as he gains pleasure from other people’s suffering. Kevin Conroy voices Batman again and the chemistry between Hamil and Conroy is great they play the parts as if Batman and Joker were real you can really feel the tension between the two in some scenes. The Joker once again breaks out of the asylum, but this time he decides to punish Jim Gordon and his daughter, Joker wants to push the Commissioner to breaking point and make him snap like him. It's a twisted mind game where maybe Joker can get the Gordon to kill him instead of Batman.

The visual art style is great it’s a mix of CGI and hand drawn the hand drawn stuff is generally reserved for the characters and the CGI is used for the landscapes. The visuals for The Joker are haunting at times especially when he arrives at Barbra’s apartment with his bone chilling grin, revolver in hand and his white glowing eyes that could pierce through your soul. This film is very graphic with violence it doesn’t pull its punches you’ll see blood fly everywhere when people get shot etc. or when Batman is getting seven shades of blue kicked out of him.

Overall The Killing Joke is a good film, yes the Batgirl stuff at the start is hit or miss but after that it is The Killing Joke brought to life with animation. If the Batgirl aspect bothers you can skip it to The Killing Joke part and you don’t lose anything.  

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Hue Review - One of the most beautiful games I've ever played.

 By Sam Coles:

There are some games where you can relax and be amazed with its art style and music that was the feeling I got when I played Hue. I don’t usually like to play indie plaformers due to the overabundance of them on Steam etc. Hue however has a wonderful soundtrack, graphics and great puzzles to solve which can get tricky.

You play as the titular Hue where you start off in a seaside town saturated with a grey tone with all life sucked out of it, you get hints about what happened when Hue’s mother has left letters scattered throughout the world which are voiced well as you play. The story is about Hue’s mother mostly and how she found a way to manipulate colour in the world which plays into the gameplay and this is story telling done well in games when it attributes to the gameplay rather than random fluff to pad out the game or stopping the game all together.

Hue is a 2D platformer where you do the usual running and jumping over treacherous and dangerous obstacles which is standard fair like other games but it has a unique gameplay mechanic but utilising colour. How this works there are various colour blocks, platforms and hazards that you can manipulate by making them disappear or reappear. This great because there are some fantastic puzzles which get fiendishly tricky in the latter half of the game and sometimes the solution can be staring you in face but it does require you to think for a minutes.

Graphically the game looks superb it evokes the shadow puppet theatre look with silhouettes with only one detail which are the eyes. It’s black and white with most objects except for the colour specific platforms and doors throughout each stage. The music is worth a mention because it’s subtle yet beautiful with a soothing and sometimes haunting piano musical score, which makes me want to buy this soundtrack.

The only nit-pick I have with this game is that the jumping can be a bit floaty and Hue can run a bit slow but I can see why they made the pace of the character that slow it’s not a game that you rush, it urges you to take your time.

Hue was a nice change of pace from my usual gaming, it was nice and relaxing where for once I didn’t have to shoot anything, it’s a game that required using my brain and rewarded me when I was successful. It’s short but it’s as long as it needs to be, I would highly recommend getting this game.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Verdun Review - A clunky experience.

 By Sam Coles:

While everyone is focusing on Battlefield 1 there is a title that may have gone unnoticed and that game is called Verdun. Verdun has some good ideas but ultimately falls short due to the controls and questionable mechanics. However it’s nice to see other developers to tread in the waters of World War I.

Verdun is a squad based multiplayer shooters set in the trenches of the First World War where you can play only a handful of modes in different fronts of the conflict. First impressions were good with the atmosphere and sound design, guns sound like they can do some damage with piercing shots from sniper rifles to the crunchy sound of machine guns as they pierce flesh with the screams of your enemies. After a few hours of playing this game the issues start to emerge and after a while it became more frustrating than fun to play and I stopped playing.

Before I get into the negatives about this game let’s go over what content you get to take part in. First you have your standard Team Deathmatch which you know what you’re in for if you’ve played any FPS in the past 20 years, Free for All I shouldn’t have to explain, Frontlines and Squad Defence.

Frontlines is full out trench warfare where you spawn at either end of the battlefield and push forward to towards the enemy team, the way to gain the advantage of this mode is to stay in the trenches because if you peer your head up above the trenches you’re dead. Squad Defence is yet another horde mode. I don’t know about you but I’m getting bored of horde modes because fighting waves upon waves of enemies is not my idea of fun it gets boring fast because most of the time you don’t need to change your strategy and it becomes monotonous.  

You have several classes of weapons to unlock from you standard rifles and pistol to the more heavy offer like the machine gun, which unlike Battlefield you can’t wield it standing up you have to mount a placement to use it. Verdun is slower than Battlefield because it aims to be more realistic for better or worse so guns tend to do realistic damage for the most part if the hit detection doesn’t play up which does now and again.

 Now there are a few issues with this game that made me stop playing, the first reason I stopped was the fact I had great difficulty finding game that wasn’t team deathmatch, there aren’t many people playing this game. Another issue I had was the controls and the delay; there is a delay from when I pressed a button and the action happening on screen which can result in hundreds of frustrating deaths because the game takes a minute to realise what button I pressed.

I had issues with graphics not in terms of them being bad (which they are) but with visibility, there is one map set at night which usually I wouldn’t have a problem but I couldn’t see anything unless I was out of the trenches which resulted with me getting my head blown off. The final issue is that there are few sound problems with them syncing with animations for example when I reloaded my weapon I heard all the usual noise such as removing the magazine and putting in a new one but when I cocked the bolt absolute silence. I know some people wouldn’t take any notice of that but I have a keen ear for sound effects and it breaks my immersion.

Overall Verdun wasn’t an enjoyable experience for me due the clunky controls and the blurry and muddy graphics.

Friday, 2 September 2016

King of Fighters XIV Review - Lacking in the content department.

 By Sam Coles:

The King of Fighters series is something that has interested me but for one reason or another I never played them, what appealed to me was the classic sprite art style that kept all the way up to XIII. I jumped into XIV thinking “can’t wait to play a classic 2D fighter” however they decided to use 3D models that doesn’t mean they’re bad they just lose their unique look from the old 2D sprites and it doesn’t help the 3D characters are lacking in detail. Is it a good fighting game? Well yes and no.

The King of Fighters XIV has a few modes to choose from however the content is lacking, I thought after the Mortal Kombat reboot fighting games needed more than just a Vs and Arcade mode. Once you’ve done the laughable story mode there is not a lot to do unless you want to play with friends which I don’t think you’ll want to due to the clunky movement and controls  which I’ll get into later.

This is not your traditional fighting game and it feels fresh because you don’t pick one fighter you pick a set of three which determine the amount of rounds you fight. There is not a set amount of rounds in this game it depends how many opponents are defeated for example say if you have only one fighter, if you’re skilled enough you can turn tide on your enemy and win the fight, it adds tension and unpredictability to fights. You can play through a story mode which to be honest I had no idea what was going on it’s you standard tournament story where you try and win the championship where different characters interact differently to each other.

The problem I have with this game are the controls they feel extremely clunky and sluggish and what I’ve heard from fans of the series is that the games don’t normally play like this they’re usually fast and responsive. It pains me to say that this is the first game in the series I’ve played and it hasn’t left a positive outlook on the series for me, but maybe I’ll go back play them to see. The controls feel like early 3D fighting games as it feels like you’re pushing a shopping trolley filled with breeze blocks that’s how slow some of the characters are in this game.

Graphically it’s not great as I said a few paragraphs ago they ditched the unique and stylised 2D sprites and instead opted to use 3D models, 3D character models aren’t bad in fighting games but these models are low in detail and something you would see on an early PS3 and Xbox 360 game. I would ignore graphics generally if the game played well but it’s clunky.

Overall I like the idea of a three on three fighter, but do to the subpar visuals, lack of content and clunky controls I couldn’t muster up the energy to keep playing. 

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Battlefield 1 Open Beta Thoughts.

By Sam Coles:

DICE had an open beta for Battlefield 1 yesterday and I managed to get a chance to play it and overall I was pleasantly surprised with what I’ve played it is Battlefield at its finest with historical warfare. Like most people I was blown away by DICE’s bold move to take the shooting franchise back to the past rather than having another modern warfare shooter or futuristic although I would have been open to another futuristic Battlefield. So how was beta? Great! Let’s dive in and talk about it.

The beta allowed players to access two modes which are staples to the Battlefield franchise, Conquest and Rush. Conquest has been streamlined to appeal to a wider audience so you no longer have tickets in this game which deplete when you kill enemies, but instead they go for a more traditional Call of Duty style of play where you accumulate points over time depending on how many flags you’re holding.

Rush is where you slowly push through each enemy outpost where you have to destroy two telegraph poles and after they have been destroyed the enemy has to retreat further back and you have to do the same again. I like Rush the most because it keeps the momentum of the battle flowing rather than the stop and start nature of conquest where you’re in this bottle neck where you’re fighting over the same flag.

Gameplay wise the game has a more up close and person approach where you’ll use your trench gun to tear through flesh, bludgeon your enemies with clubs or run at them with a heroic scream with you bayonet ready. This game is extremely brutal with the intensity of the violence. The vehicles are a tad primitive because obviously it’s during the First World War so tanks are slow and are prone to breaking down which means your best bet of traversing a battle is a horse which you can use weapons while riding.

Again DICE have out done themselves with the presentation the desert map we had access to is absolutely stunning with the oranges and whites with sand makes you feel like you’re there. The sound design is what you would expect from a Battlefield game with distant cracks of gun fire to the thunderous explosions from grenades and tanks. However I did notice a few sound hiccups where the sounds for guns were not playing however the game is not finished and it didn’t happen too often.

The only problem I had which is the same problem I have with every DICE game and that is the net code it’s awful, the game had lag issues when I was playing and it’s not my connection my internet is fine, I have the same problem with Battlefield 4. This was on the PS4 version I can’t confirm with other platforms.

Battlefield 1 is probably my most anticipated game for autumn and this beta has made me more excited for the full release in October.