Sunday, 15 January 2017

Nintendo Switch Presentation Thoughts.

By Sam Coles:

Nintendo had their presentation showing off their latest console, the Nintendo Switch. I want to talk about how I felt about the presentation such as the hardware, software and other aspects whether they’re negative or positive.

Let’s start off with the hardware itself, as you all know the Switch is a portable and home console hybrid where a 6 inch table sits in a docking station and if you want to take it on the go all you have to do is attach the joy con attachments and pull the table out and you’re now playing on the go. However the glaring issue with the table is that it only has between 2.5 to 6 hours of battery life depending on what game you’re playing so basically there is no point trying to play Zelda on the go.

The joy cons are the main controllers for the system and they can function as traditional controllers where you use both on a controller attachment or use them freely. You can split them up as two controllers which is a neat idea but these are tiny and people with large hands are going to have issues and this almost the opposite problem with the original Xbox. They do have motion control and HD rumble.

The tablet itself has a 6 inch screen and will run at a resolution of 720p and a lot of people are sighing at this and I don’t understand why, yes it is a low resolution but to be honest you’re not going to notice it on a small screen like that it will be fine. The big issue I have with the hardware is that the internal storage is 32gb, Nintendo it is 2017 you need to have at least 500gb storage in your console games are huge these days. How did they screw this aspect up by including the same storage as the premium version of the Wii U it’s absolutely baffling.

They showed off some games as well with mixed feelings from me. Super Mario Odyssey looks amazing as it stems off from the usual Mario formula as you don’t appear to be roaming around the Mushroom Kingdom as it looks like it takes place in real world locations and it runs at 60 fps which is fantastic! Of course they showed off The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild which keeps getting better and better every time they show it and it appears they have voice acting in the game minus Link of course.

Splatoon 2 was announced which looks more of the same with new features and a port of Mario Kart 8 called the deluxe version which hopefully will bring in more players as the Wii U did not sell well. Bethesda are Bringing Skyrim to the system and Bethesda please stop re-releasing the game it’s not a surprise that the Switch can run a 6 year old game yes it was a good game in 2011 but it looks archaic these days. 1,2 Switch is their Wii sports game for the system a throw away party game that you will play twice before letting it collect dust where it has some mini games like duelling with guns and swords etc.

Nintendo are joining Sony and Microsoft by charging you to play online, I’ll say this again paying to play online is stupid. It is completely anti-consumer as you have already payed for it as you have paid for the game, locking a feature behind a pay wall is shady. People always say it’s to cover server costs you’re already doing that by paying for hardware, software or using the digital stores whether it be PSN, XBL or Steam. I’m very disappointed in Nintendo for going this route.

The price of the Switch will be $299 or £279 if you’re in the UK and a lot of people are saying that it is overpriced however I disagree it is a game console that is also a tablet and honestly that is not bad for a launch price compared to the £350-£400 price of the Xbox One and PS4 when they launched.

Am I excited for the Switch? Kind of, don’t get me wrong it has some cool aspects but the launch line up looks a tad anaemic with very little to offer I’m not going to buy a console at launch for one game, I’m going to wait 6 months to a year before considering. What are your thoughts? Are you going to pick up a Switch? Let me know. 

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Consoles are no longer consoles anymore.

By Sam Coles:

Console gaming is something I’ve stuck with for the past 15+ years due to the fact the convenience of the plug and play nature. However that convenience has dwindled since late 2012 with the annoyance of waiting for updates and installs to finish.

Back in the day PC’s use to be a royal pain in the neck to game on before the period of Steam where everything was at your fingertips, so if you wanted patch a game you had to wait for the company to produce a file or floppy disk if you go further back to 90’s with a patch. The consoles back then had the advantage because when you bought one you could take it out of the box, hook it up to the TV, put the game in and it would start with a loading screen or two but you were straight into the game with no installs or updates.

The Xbox 360 and PS3 was the step into online gaming with consoles and this wasn’t a problem it was fantastic that games could evolve from standard local multiplayer to global multiplayer were you can make friends from all over the world. This was also great as well as they could fix minor problems and bugs with games with small patches, these were mostly harmless as they were generally between 1-10 MB at most. However once we got towards 2012 the patches started to get bigger and some games started to come with mandatory installs which resulted in console gamers waiting rather than playing. Then as the 7th console generation came to a close in 2013 games came with installs due to the hardware being stretched where they couldn’t stream the data from the disc alone.

The Xbox One and PS4 released in November of 2013 which like any gamer I was super excited, I didn’t get the two consoles until 2014 and I was super excited. However as I got the consoles an ugly reality cropped its head up with the huge patches as game developers realised that they could produce a low effort release at launch where they could fix the problems later. We had infamous launches such as Battlefield 4 not working where it took DICE nearly a year to fix, along with Halo The Master Chief Collection which came with a massive 22 GB patch, but the game still didn’t work properly. This is where the plug and play nature of consoles for consoles died and I understand that games are now bigger and require the horse power and other things to run them but it is persuading me to get a gaming PC and leave consoles.

As of now we have these mid generation consoles which add a bit of extra power due to the fact the consoles were under powered when they were released, this is where these companies have forgotten the reason why people buy consoles because when you buy a console you have a fixed piece of hardware for at least 5 years and then you move on to the next one. These “new” consoles are dumb in my opinion because these specs are what the Xbox One and PS4 should have been when they originally released these damage controlling consoles really show the state of gaming on consoles.

Reading this you probably think I hate the Xbox One and PS4 and that is not true, I like them I’ve played some fantastic games on the systems I’m just merely highlighting the issues that they have, you can like something and still critique it that’s what makes us human.

This was a short editorial about how consoles aren’t really consoles anymore they’re trying to be PC’s and inferior PC’s at best. Honestly I might just give up on future consoles and move to PC gaming as the parts are getting cheaper and they are easy to assemble. Who knows maybe things will get better but it’s not looking good at the moment.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Review - 10 years later and it's still a landmark title.

By Sam Coles:

Now I know what you’re thinking why don’t you wait until November to review Call of Duty 4, which you would be right but I absolutely love this game and I just want to talk about it. It has been nearly 10 years since Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare came out on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. Believe it or not my first flirtation with this game was on the PC at my mates house and I was totally engaged with the fast pace combat and tight controls, it wasn’t until 2009 when I got an Xbox 360 that I really delved into the gameplay and I fell in love with the series as a whole. I still love the series whether it is set in World War II or in the distant future, when I see that logo on the box I know what I’m getting into.

Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare takes place in well…. The present day, can’t you read the title; anyway you take control of two characters Sgt Paul Jackson of the United States Marine Corps and Sgt John “Soap” Mactavish of the SAS. The plot revolves around a Russian ultranationalist party lead by Imran Zakaev who is manipulating a conflict in the Middle East involving nuclear weapons.
The plot isn’t anything mind blowing but it is the pacing that is excellent as it can switch gears from a loud gun fight to a calm stealth mission giving the player time to breathe and you know what I’m talking about. I love the constant switch between protagonists in the campaign because you play as the US who tend to cock everything up and then the SAS are behind the scenes fixing it, they’re working together without them knowing about it to begin with.

The gameplay is stripped back with no one off gimmicks like the other games so you will be doing a lot of standard shooting, but you will sometimes take control of AC-130 gunships which was controversial with its realistic look back in the day. 

As I said above you’ll take part in stealth missions the most notable one being all ghillied up where you take control of a young Captain Price when he was a Lieutenant. The main problem I have with the gameplay in terms of the campaign and this something that plagued most COD games during this period that is the enemy throws too many grenades and this is noticeable on the highest difficulty.

Multiplayer was the main reason people kept playing this game years down the line and for good reason because it was simplistic yet hard to master with good progression. The stripped back nature of COD 4 is fantastic so you don’t have over the top kill streaks you only have 3, you have a UAV, Airstrike and an Attack Helicopter when you get 7 kills in a row. These kill streaks didn’t break the game compared to Modern Warfare 2 where they got stupid where you could spam multiple kill streaks.

The weapons are minimal with simple attachments such as red dot sights and suppressors, however the weapon that was completely overpowered was the Desert Eagle it has a high damage output and you could fire as fast your index finger will twitch. Perks were an interesting addition which could double your damage output to not appearing on the enemies radar, there were some useless ones like eavesdrop which gave you the ability to hear enemy voice chat, but it was useless especially if you were playing on PS3.

Visually the game still looks good and yes it’s nothing compared to the remastered version that came out a few months ago, but it still looks fantastic from the rain soaked infiltration on the tanker at the start of the game to the radiated fields of Chernobyl. It has fantastic detail with excellent weapon models and great muzzle flash effects as you pull the trigger of your rifle or side arm.

Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare is still a great game and it is hard to believe that it is turning 10 years old this year, the game is very cheap to pick up for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, but if you want to play an updated version you can get it with Infinite Warfare Legacy Edition  remastered on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.  

Thursday, 5 January 2017

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Review - It's not the best game or Zelda title ever.

By Sam Coles:

You often hear the term “The best game ever” from a select number of gamers within the community and that is a bold statement. The game I’m referring to is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, now hear me out I like this game and I played it when it first came in 1998, however it’s not the best game ever or is it the best Zelda game that goes to Majora’s Mask. Let’s get into it shall we.

Ocarina of Time begins with Link a sleep as he has a dream of the world being destroyed by an evil figure known as Ganondorf. The Great Deku Tree sends Navi the fairy to wake Link up and sends him on a quest to obtain the Master Sword and how he obtains the Master Sword is by collecting three pendants. I thought I was playing a new Zelda game and not A Link to the Past, this is something that you’ll realise as you progress through the game is that it is an exact re-tread of A Link to the Past. To be fair they had to get the standard Zelda story out of the way for the 3D series before they could do something original but it does feel a bit been there done that.

As this was the first 3D Zelda game it no longer has an overhead view or sidescroller perspective, instead it takes a third person camera view similar to Super Mario 64, but like that game it has huge issues in certain areas. The camera is terrible in the original 64 release of Ocarina of Time it doesn’t know what to do with itself when you’re in tight spaces and this becomes problematic during the Ganon fight as he takes up the entire screen and you can’t see Link.

The combat was new and interesting as you can no longer explore and fight at the same time like the games prior to it, not to say the combat is bad but it has a disconnect as you have the exploration part and the combat part. It is satisfying to kill enemies in this game with good sound design as Link swings his sword with his signature yells as he slashes, but there are moments where you’re waiting for the enemy to attack you and you just end up sitting there twiddling your thumbs. Controlling Link when you’re exploring was fine, however his walking speed was far too slow and if you watch playthroughs online you’ll see players utilise Link’s side dodge and roll to traverse Hyrule Field.

It still has the classic dungeon crawling you would expect where you go through a temple, grab a new item and perhaps use said item in temples to beat the boss. Now I always hear people complaining about the Water Temple and honestly I don’t know why, it’s not hard and yes I did beat easily when I first played the game back in day and I was five years old. The bosses at the end of each temple are unique with their design and how you defeat them from the first boss Gohma to the terrifying Dead Hand in the Shadow temple which gave me nightmares for years.

The main item you use in this game is the titular Ocarina of Time and what this does is that it can open certain doors, move blocks or it can make the mundane journey across Hyrule easier as it can teleport you across the map. All the songs are catchy memorable from Zelda’s song to The Song of Time.

Visually it doesn’t look great and I know most N64 games have not aged well as they tend to look like inflated blow up dolls when it comes to character models. Textures are blurry and bland with vomit inducing frame rate as it tends to drop below 20 frames per second when it gets busy.

Overall Ocarina of Time is not the best game ever made nor is it the best Zelda title and this is coming from a Zelda fan. It is marred with camera issues, a rehashed story and combat that gets a tad boring. If you want to play this game I would highly recommend getting the 3DS version as it completely fixes the problems I have with the camera and the visuals are huge step up from the original game.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Haze Review - A missed opportunity.

By Sam Coles:

Haze is a first person shooter that was released for the PS3 exclusively back in 2007 and it had somewhat of a troubled development cycle as it was meant to be a multi-platform game but one thing lead to another to make it a PlayStation exclusive. The game was dubbed a Halo killer because before Call of Duty was really popular games tried to out-do Halo with mixed results. Developed by Free Radical who are most famous for the Timesplitters series which you would think you’re in good hands right? Well yes and no, mostly no.

Haze takes place in a sci-fi setting where you are part of a private military group who are bunch of idiots and act like dude bros. Trust me you’ll thank the volume button on your remote control as the voice acting in this game is absolutely abysmal. It’s a shame because the concept is very interesting as the mercenaries inject something in their system called honey, what this does is that it increases their adrenalin and blinds them from the horrors of war. This could have been a dark and twisted story, but due to the horrible writing and acting it never lives up to the potential which is a damn shame.

The game is a first person shooter where you travel through level by level killing anything that gets in your way. The unique selling point is the honey which when injected it will warp your mind and highlight enemies on screen, but take too much of it you then will overdose and won’t be able to do anything for a short period. This is a cool idea but you only utilise it for the first hour and half the game and then you never use it again as you defect from the mercenary group and join the resistance. There are vehicle sections but they do not control very well and the vehicles damage easily and you’ll end up dead on the side of the road with a couple of grenade explosions so it’s padding at its finest. The shooting isn’t bad it’s fast and fluid and you don’t have to aim down the sight as it has the fast pace shooting of the Timesplitters series.

The game visually is ugly it looks drab and horrible and considering games like Halo and Call of Duty 4 came out the same year with excellent visuals is jarring. The game looks like a PS2 game up-scaled to HD with blurry character models and boring and grey environments. However there is one good looking level in the game and that is the intro level that is set in a jungle with lush foliage that sways in the wind, but after that it just looks abysmal and this is a PS3 exclusive.

Haze is a missed opportunity but is it the worst game ever? No it’s not, however it’s not a good game either, it had some interesting elements but due to the poor dialogue and writing and questionable gameplay it lets it down. Give it a go if you’re curious I picked up my copy for £1 so it’s not going to break the bank.  

Friday, 30 December 2016

Call of Duty 3 Review - The black sheep of the series?

By Sam Coles:

Call of Duty 3 is regarded as the black sheep of the family and honestly I don’t know why people think that, considering Treyarch only had 8 months to make the game it is one of the best campaigns in the COD series. Call of Duty 3 was released in 2006 on the Xbox 360, Xbox, PS3, PS2 and Wii but curiously not on the PC.

Call of Duty 3 takes place during the European front in World War II where you swap between several different armies from an array of countries. You have the predictable US and British chapters, but it’s the Canadian and Polish chapters that are more interesting especially the Polish as you are part of a tank crew. They really emphasise the characters in this game as they are very likable and you tend to grow attached to them and it makes it all the more devastating when they die in battle. The voice acting is fantastic across the board from funny quips to arguments in your squad.

The gameplay is what you expect from a Call of Duty game where you point at things and you shoot at them and they tend to die, but they have added a few things to change the gameplay for better or worse. They’ve added in vehicle sections where you drive a jeep or a tank flattening everything in your way. A negative aspect of the gameplay are the quick time event fist fights you have with German soldiers, it’s not so bad on Xbox 360 but on PS3 and Wii you have to use motion controls to wrestle them off and it is not very fun. The gameplay in general is pretty solid although some of the single shot weapons can be questionable with their hit detection but overall great gameplay.

There is multiplayer but the servers are practically dead these days, but in its hay day you could have matches up to 24 players which it was weird when it came to Call of Duty as they only go up to 18 players and still do to this day. It would be great if they made more large scale COD games.

Visually the game looks great with great explosion effects and even the character models still look decent. The weapons are accurately modelled in the game from the classic M1 Garand and Thompson Machine Gun to the MP40. The sound effects are amazing with the terrifying chatter from the MP40 to the earth quaking thud of the grenades as they explode the attention to detail when it comes to the visuals and sound are amazing and it still holds up today.

Overall I don’t understand why people hate Call of Duty 3 it’s one of the best games in the series and one of the best World War II shooters of the period and considering they only had 8 months to make this game it is a true testament of creativity. The game is easy to find and you can play the 360 version on Xbox One via the backwards compatibility programme. You can get for a decent price but it’s not what I would call cheap for an old game from that period especially on 360 and PS3.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Rainbow Six Vegas Review - Take your time.

By Sam Coles:

Tactical shooters are far and few these days as people tend to like fast pace action like Call of Duty and Battlefield where there is not a lot of strategy. Back in the day there was a small shooter that came out on the PC called Rainbow Six back in 1999 and what that game did is looked at all the current shooters and said “No that’s not how it works in real life”. So what we got was a realistic tactical shooter where you could deal a lot of damage but your enemies could do the same to you so there were real risks to take in these games. The games went on for many years but it wasn’t until the Vegas games where it got really popular and that was due to the fact that it was released on the Xbox 360 and PS3.

Rainbow Six Vegas begins in a Mexican city where you’re investigating a terrorist group who are threating the US border as they want to attack Vegas for some reason. Honestly I never play a Tom Clancy game for the story because during this period the games had a basic set up and context to complement the gameplay and didn’t really have in-depth stories it’s all about the gameplay.

This is a tactical shooter although it has been streamlined compared to other games but it’s still very much a tactical shooter as you take damage easily and you have to command a squad. This game really encourages you to take your time don’t rush in and try and gun down everyone at the same time as that is a great way of getting yourself killed very quickly. Utilise your squad mates they will follow every order you give them, set them up on a vantage point to give over watch, set them to infiltrate mode where they will only fire when you tell them to or assault where they shoot hostiles on site. The different tactics add a layer of replay value as the levels are fairly open ended and you can take different approaches.

The graphics are pretty good with some decent lighting especially in the first level during dawn in small Mexican town. The character models are somewhat decent but can look a bit dated, but to be fair this game did come out 10 years ago so I wasn’t expecting a huge amount of detail in that department.

The only problem I have is the cover mechanic can be a bit fiddly and your character has a habit of taking cover in the wrong position. Another aspect that got on my nerves is the voice acting and it is absolutely terrible it sounds forced and is not enjoyable to listen to, that is something that got much better in Vegas 2. Also the game is very conservative with checkpoints, look I’m not asking for checkpoints every five minutes like Call of Duty, but having to start 10 minutes back from where I’ve died is annoying and frustrating, that is something they’ve fixed in Vegas 2.

Rainbow Six Vegas is a great and challenging game but with some its flaws I would highly recommend picking up the sequel as it irons out those issues, but it’s still a fantastic tactical shooter. This game is super cheap these days I picked up my copy for 99p and plus you can play it on Xbox One via the backwards compatibility.