I guess it’s a problem that has to be addressed at some point – I can’t be the only one that seems to collect video games more than I actually play them. My retail Xbox 360 collection is definitely over 100 games now, my retro collection is growing from various charity shops, and my Steam library… the less said about that, the better. How did it get so bad?
I like it when games are cheap. During the first year or two of owning my Xbox 360, I had the mentality of seeing a game that was on sale (say, under a fiver) and going “Oh, that’s cheap, never going to see it cheaper, so I’ll buy it”. That doesn’t seem too bad in itself, but multiply £5 by 50 or so games, and you’ve got quite the investment. It doesn’t help that some of these were absolute crap games, only there because of a gamerscore boost addiction. The cheap games fix carried over to PC, where I think I’ve bought every single indie bundle that graced our screens so far. Sigh.
But I think there’s another issue that needs to be addressed, one more about gaming culture in general – As a ‘gamer’, I feel like I’m expected to keep up to date with modern games, by an unseen force that doesn’t actually exist. So I’ve bought most of the new titles that came out over the trail end of 2012, like Dishonored, Sleeping Dogs, and Borderlands 2, but haven’t played much of any of them. It feels like an uphill struggle, where there’s not enough time to actually play all the games that come out.
I may not even get a chance to play any (or want to play any) come next week, where I move up to Edinburgh to start work at Rockstar North. Maybe that’ll throw me off games for good, but I’m going to at least create a completion plan to destroy this backlog, and the best website to do this is Backloggery. Been using them for a few years to track my game collection, and I’ve set up an “A-Z of games I should have played by now” list – See the header image and list in the sidebar. If there’s any games you think should be replaced by something else, let me know in the comments! Feel free to track your own collection and challenges as well. I’ll also be writing about them as and when I beat them, so there’ll be plenty of stuff to read here over the next few months!
Is my gaming credibility put to the test when I say that I like the Call of Duty series? I understand that there’s a somewhat bad reputation for having a dreadful (and mostly underage) fan base, and I can hear other friends sneer at me about rehashes and expensive DLC packs, but I believe that it’s a great series. I prefer to think of it as ‘refined’ rather than rehashed, always setting the new benchmark for the first-person shooter genre’s gameplay… well, certainly not the graphics.
And just like the rabid fan base, I dove straight into the multiplayer mode, and I’m enjoying the heck out of it. It provides a great fast-paced take on the genre, and really shouldn’t be compared to Battlefield and other ‘tactical’ online shooters. Everyone knows what to expect from it, so instead I’ll tell you about the magical class combo known as Engineer / Black Hat that makes everything fantastic and let’s you hack everything:
- For enemy explosive equipment you can use the Engineer perk to see them through walls, then use the wireless hacking device to turn them ‘friendly’. It works particularly well on snipers camped in an upstairs room guarded with a claymore or bouncing Betty, where you can arm their own device and lure them to their doom.
- BLOW UP ALL THE THINGS. I’ve found the Black Hat device the easiest way to take down turrets and other large scorestreak rewards quickly, purely because you don’t have to be in their line of sight (but I wouldn’t try it against a K9 unit). You can even use it against aerial vehicles, which is great news when a gunship takes three hits and you only have two AA rockets!
- Both items combine to make care packages the most useful reward in a game! If you don’t like what lady luck has given you, reroll it! Stealing an enemy care package and replacing it with a trap is also a better system than in MW3 where nobody touched enemy packages at all. Finally, use the hack box to capture care packages from a distance, from out-of-bounds, and (if you’re a complete dick) capture an ally care package before your teammate even gets a chance to pick it up.
So now you know that it’s not all about shooting! Most of my points come from anti-air and hacking, and it’s an incredibly fun! If you want to play with me on Xbox 360, feel free to add my gamertag – ‘philcsf‘. Happy hunting!
Isn’t it typical that I spend loads of money on a fairly high-end computer for gaming last week, only for the newest titles to end up on my doorstep? Last week it was Assassin’s Creed III, and next week it’ll be Call of Duty: Black Ops II… year of the numerals, is it? I’ll get a chance to stretch my new system’s legs when the Steam Christmas sale comes around and I buy a few more games in the ‘Phil, why the fuck haven’t you played this yet’ collection (See: Skyrim), but for now, let’s crack on with the new console titles!
I’ve been a big fan of the Assassin’s Creed series for a few years now, but I grew a bit tired of the yearly rehash formula - Don’t get me wrong, Brotherhood and Revelations were good, but they weren’t doing anything to radically change the franchise and felt more like expansion packs when compared to the epic life story of Ezio in Assassin’s Creed II. So I’m glad that this is a ‘true’ sequel, focusing on a new character in a new time period… and I love it. I’m only halfway through the main story, but it’s pretty much nailed how I wanted the series to evolve. Combat has been tweaked to add a bit more cinematic flair, whilst exploration and hunting provide much-needed variety to the old pattern of ‘stab-hide-stab’.
However, I think the element that stands out most in this sequel is the writing quality. I find myself taking breaks between action segments to read through all the Animus database entries (were they always this sarcastic and humorous?), or checking out random spam e-mails the characters are sending themselves whilst Desmond’s too busy pissing around in the 18th century. The attention to detail is fantastic, and this feels a lot more ‘whole’ than the past few disappointing games. If you’ve ever thought about picking up the Assassin’s Creed games, this would even be a good place to start! And if you’re a fan… why aren’t you playing this yet?
…oh wait, you’ve got to wait another 13 days for the PC release. Sucks to be you, huh?
It’s about time I got around to talking about this, as you guys on Facebook and Twitter are probably sick of me mentioning it all the time. Amidst all the MMO hype for Guild Wars 2 (and to some extent, Tera), The Secret World‘s release seems to have slipped quietly under the radar, and it’s a damn shame. I’ve followed this game’s progress for the past six years since my man-crush Ragnar Tørnquist (the guy behind these games) first announced it, and I have to say that all my expectations have certainly been met. It’s taken me about 80 hours to do all the content in the first zone of Solomon Island, and I’ve still got two more areas to explore… as someone who’s been taking my time and only playing a few hours every other day, I feel there’s enough content here for me to go at my own pace for a good few months. I now feel like I’m in a place to give my first impressions of the game, but it’s so hard to write and review massively multiplayer games. The mainstream games media is having trouble as well, with most slapping on a straight 70% score and complaining about repetitive combat and launch bugs, but giving nothing but praise otherwise. You don’t see people taking Skyrim down off its ‘game of the year’ pedestal for the same reasons, do you?
Annoyances aside, I’m just going to focus on the story today, and throw in my own opinions and experiences along with it. I’ll look at other aspects of the game in the next article – There’s just too damn much to write about for one post, I’m afraid.
The story is really the main focus of the game, above all else. The game is meant to enjoyed at a leisurely pace as the mysteries unfold around you, and not the old MMO staple of running to a quest hub, picking up 20 quests, and ignoring any reasoning or plot. In fact, the game stops this by only allowing one primary quest to be actively worked on at once – whilst this initially seems like a restricting gameplay choice, it encourages a ‘path’ to be created through a zone and makes you focus on the story and not mindlessly killing monsters. When you finish a quest, you phone it in (this is a modern-day MMO), and then there will be a new quest or NPC right where you finished the last one, creating a great flow. If you don’t like linearity, then feel free to keep running back and forth, but as a big fan of adventure games, I don’t mind it at all. And you find new things every time – When I’ve had a friend sign up and start playing, I played through with him at the same time (all quests are repeatable), and found quests I missed on my first playthrough of the area. Oh, and did I mention that all quests are fully cutscened and voice-acted? There’s at least 5 minutes of optional dialogue for each NPC as well, making this the first time you’ve ever actually cared for a questgiver in an MMO. And it throws in plenty of movie tropes and classic horror references, giving a ‘Whedon-esque’ quality to the writing style.
That’ll do for now. Check in tomorrow for more opinions, but for now… go sign up for the five-day free trial, pick a secret society, and jump right in.
And no, not the awesome clothing company that recently supported us for out latest charity event (love you guys). I recently went on holiday to Florida with the folks, somewhere I haven’t been in nine years – I needed to fill some childhood nostalgia by going to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios again, and it didn’t disappoint. Old memories came flooding back, old rides still thrilled, and the new stuff was even better. Yes, Hogsmeade was awesome, and ‘Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey’ was one of the best rides I’ve ever been on (because robots make everything better). I also enjoyed the hidden aspects of Disney, understanding how everything was designed, and the secrets that lie within. An attraction isn’t just a ride, it’s a whole experience that starts the moment you see the attraction building, and lasts until you get back into the open. The design work done by Walt Disney Imagineering is superb, and I’m sure there’s some obvious link that can be made to game design… just look at this showreel. In any case, I’d highly recommend picking up a copy of ‘The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World‘ by Susan Veness if you’re ever heading over there. I’d like to say that Epcot is my favourite park because of all the ‘edutainment’ and science stuff, but I might have a new preference…
DisneyQuest, in the Downtown Disney shopping and nightlife area, is a huge 5-floor building full of arcade games and interactive attractions. You pay once for a day’s admission, and everything is set on free play. I never really grew up with arcades, so my 14-year-old self didn’t appreciate the awesomeness of the place the last time I was there. But going back as an experienced gamer… oh man, that place is amazing. Even though I spent 7 hours in a dark warehouse playing video games, the time just flew by, and I wish I could have stayed there longer. The classics section is where I spent most of my time, the top floor dedicated to original arcade cabinets of classic titles like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Tron, and so many more. Of course, I sucked at most of them, but the great thing about free play is that I can keep practicing (and actually finish a game of Time Crisis without spending ALL OF THE MONEY).
I want to go back, just so I can go there again. Actually, I’d love to go with some friends or new people, and show them the wonders of Walt Disney World. Anyone up for a holiday?