Main Course: Evolve

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The power! The fucking power! Fear me ants mwhahahaha. The feeling of omnipotence you inherit as a monster is tremendous, if played smart. That’s a big if. It’s hard to look past the simple 4 Vs. 1 definition from an outside perspective and an ignorant attitude towards it, but Evolve is incredibly detailed. It’s a lot more complicated than your generic multi-player shooter, if that’s what you’re wondering. Continue reading

Main Course: Far Cry 4 review – creatively destructive

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About three hours into Far Cry 4’s campaign I decided to climb some towers and reveal more of my map. This was a chore I had been avoiding since the first obligatory tower. I hopped into a buzzer – the game’s lightweight helicopter – and flew to the nearest tower which sat half way up a mountain, surrounded by lush trees.

I ditched the buzzer on an out‑of‑sight cliff a short distance from the patrolling guards, and proceeded to grapple nearer to the tower. Plan A was to throw some bait near my enemies so that a bear or snow leopard would clear out the area for me, but the game politely prompted me that no animal was interested in the bait. Plan B was to sniper my enemies from afar and stealthily pick off any stragglers. From my position I could only see one guard, so I took him out before edging closer with bow and arrow in hand.

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Gotta climb ’em all

I took shelter in a nearby bush and aimed my bow’s crosshair at the unsuspecting head of a nearby guard. Before I had the chance to shoot, I heard a grunt and squeak from behind and was suddenly attacked. I turned around to see a disgruntled boar head-butting my legs. Whether it was of poor self-control or lack of forethought, I quickly ran backwards, recklessly firing arrows at the boar. Continue reading

Why did the gamer cross the Crossy Road?

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For all my lambasting of mobile gaming – that is games for mobile phones and tablets, not handheld consoles – I have spent a significant amount of time playing them lately.

Due to having a shiny new smartphone and not having the time to sit down and play all the AAA games that have come out for the holidays, I have turned to the world of mobile gaming.

First up is the Hipster Whale developed game Crossy Road.  In summary, it’s nothing short of brilliant for reasons I can’t explain.  And believe me, I’ve thought about it a lot.  I know it’s just Frogger and I know it’s a free to play game that uses in‑game advertising and payments, but it takes both of these cons and flips them on their road-kill heads.

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The aim of the game is to avoid traffic and jump on logs to cross rivers.  Each step forward is an extra point for the high score that taunts you in the top left corner of the screen.

Manoeuvring between seven lanes is difficult enough, but most struggle with using the logs to cross rivers.  This is the simple sort of genius that videogames excel at.  As the brain becomes familiar with avoiding the objects moving across the screen, it then has to invert this technique to aim for the objects.  The simplicity of the inversed gameplay is brilliant, fluid and keeps you on your toes. Continue reading

Main Course: The Wolf Among Us review

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Having completely avoided the works of Telltale Games despite the barrage of praise The Walking Dead Season One received, I have finally succumbed to trying out their QTE based games that are a natural progression of the point and click adventures of yesteryear.  I had no interest in playing the Walking Dead as I have no interest in the comic book or TV series – sacrilege, I know – but I do have a slight interest in Fables, the source material of The Wolf Among Us.  Having read the first dozen or so issues and generally being intrigued by the concept, I thought I’d give finally give Telltale Games a chance.

In the game, you follow Bigby, the big bad wolf, as he attempts to keep peace and solve a murder mystery amongst ‘the fables’, the heroes and villains of fairytale stories that have been transported to Fabletown, New York City.The Wolf Among Us_20141207174004

Acting as a prequel to Bill Willingham’s comic, The Wolf Among Us shows us the grimm world that favourites such as Beauty and the Beast have been left to inhabit.  This is very much a human world, in which the characters have to struggle with issues such as debt, prejudice, adultery and life-consuming occupations.  It’s an inversion of the original tales we know and love, which used fantastic settings as metaphors for real life issues, as it brings those fantasies back into the real world to witness how these caricatures would survive in reality.  It’s a great yet simple premise with malleable lore that Telltale have used to its advantage.

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The use of cel-shading ensures the game is firmly rooted in a comic book world.  As far as I can tell there has not been a resolution bump for the PS4 version and the graphic fidelity doesn’t exactly bedazzle one’s balls.  There are also some minor clipping issues every so often.  But even when the textures are low res, the neon drenched noir-ness of it all lifts the game to heights that any attempt of realism in the graphics would undermine.  There were also a few instances where the textures turned to black or shook for no reason.  It would have been nice for Telltale to have smoothed these out for the PS4 release.

The world is full of small details, as every environment is dilapidated, dirty and messy in its own way.  This mostly echoes the divide between the good and bad side of town and the richer and poorer inhabitants.

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For me, the insight to these seedy lives outshines the choices that the game revolves around.  While the choices do become increasingly more interesting and influencing, the majority fall to good, bad, or, worse, no real consequence at all.  At times the game does give you a choice of which places to visit before another, and which ever you choose you’ll miss something or someone will die.  There is no right or wrong answer and little opportunity to circumnavigate this, it is simply a trap set for replay value.

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One great subversion of the branching narrative and choice system is when confronting Gren, a secondary rival-come-ally, who drops his tough guard only for the player to be told discreetly, ‘Gren won’t remember this.’  It’s a playful moment that fits the narrative and knowingly dismisses the choices made over the last five minutes.

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Some of the voice acting in the game can grate, such as with Toad’s comically flawed English accent.  The script isn’t gold either.  The obtuse swearing may seem unnecessary to some but it does sit well in the world.  There’s also the stereotypes, such as the silver-tongued villain and the morally ambiguous or poor having regional and distinct accents.  It’s a common trope in all forms of media that is a pet hate of mine, but it won’t be going away any time soon.

For me, Wolf Among Us triumphs where games like Heavy Rain failed by avoiding convoluted storytelling and gameplay and maintaining a charming simplicity.  It’s far from perfect, but at least it respects the source material and never becomes a chore to play.  I won’t be playing The Walking Dead or the upcoming Minecraft Telltale series anytime soon, but I will play the next entry to the Fables series.

 

Medium

 

Edible, yet slightly over cooked with a hint of what could have been.

Please consult the rating guide.

The Evil Within – less bargain bucket, more bargain bin

 

Horrors and thrillers are somewhat Marmite genres. Beyond the hate it or love it motif – who am I, the Game? – the analogy relates more to whether the genre works for you or not.

For me, Alien: Isolation was a game that exercised tension. For others, it was a game that tested a player’s bowel controls. For some reason scary games struggle to scare me. Bear this in mind when reading the following.

Shinji Mikami is considered a legend in videogame circles, and with Resident Evil and Vanquish under his belt how could he not? Sadly, for those hoping a return to what made the now flailing Resident Evil series exciting, The Evil Within is not it. It is not scary. It is a slightly broken, kind of alright game with an absolutely dog-shit narrative. It opens to a very weak first hour but quickly finds its mediocre size 8 feet.

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Main course: Call of Duty Advanced Warfare review – the same old, slight changes

Another year another COD. Well, I say that, but I have refrained from buying a ticket for the hype train since 2010. The last ticket I bought was for Black Ops, which was a bit of an experimental entry with a thriller tinged campaign and the addictive wager multiplayer modes, including my favourite, One in the Chamber. With Sledgehammer’s first attempt at taking the helm for the series, we see the return of the experimental muscle Treyarch had previously flexed.

My absence from the series has worked for and against its favour. The exoskeletons of Advanced Warfare brighten up the multiplayer mechanics – seriously, I fucking love double jump – and the campaign is actually decent with some genuinely interesting level design.

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Main Course: Infamous: Second Steak

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Infamous: Second Son. Well, what a f**king roller coaster. It’s like a ‘playing hard to get’ boyfriend /girlfriend (For you gender equality nuts); at first (s)he’s ignoring you and you can’t stand it so you try everything to grab his/her attention until you get bored yourself. As soon as you stop, he/she is clamoring all over you and you love it, you slag! But, this all comes back to that roller coaster analogy, it goes up and down really fast until it comes to a grinding halt…… heh up and down like… well you know what I’m childishly referencing.

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