Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Future of Video Game Violence...

Video games are a form of entertainment. They can be fun, educational, exciting, and a great way to make new friends. Yet there is also a quality that is often brought up in the news; many video games are violent.

There is no denying that an increasing number of video games feature violence, some mildly, others with lashings of blood. Whether it be Dynasty Warriors 6, or Gears of War 3, it seems violence has come to be expected. Even some racing games have an aggressive nature, like Burnout Paradise, where you are rewarding for crashing into fellow racers. Now don't get me wrong, I am not against video-game violence. It can help to create realism, or can provide satisfaction for our natural human desires without us having to attack our neighbors. What I am against, is the use of violence as a substitute for a decent plot, or an original idea.

Lets take Dead Rising for instance. The game's story was poor, its mechanics were flawed and its time limit was a constant nuisance for gamers. Why then, did it sell over 1,000,000 copies? Because it gave the player a staggering amount of ways to kill a zombie. It seems that the developers chose to focus on killing rather than making the game an overall enjoyable experience. Was this the right thing to do? I say it wasn't. I would much rather have a game with a good story, a game that works, and compromise on violence, than play through a blood-fest that angers me and bores me. Why can't developers see that violence isn't everything. I know that sometimes we don't want a game where we have to concentrate; we just want to have some fun. But Dead Rising couldn't even do that.

A game that always does this right is Grand Theft Auto. A good story is there, if you wish to see it. But that's not really why I play GTA. Nor is it, I think, why many people play it. The big draw of the game is the freedom to do what you want. You can fly a plane, jump out, land in a town and kill its inhabitants, if you so wish. It is violent yes, but it does not sacrifice a single thing to achieve that. There is so much more to do and see than kill. This is what I believe to be a good use of violence. There is always a good story, always a high attention to detail, and the game hardly ever frustrates. The designers haven't focused on violence, they've focused on freedom.

This leads me on to the controversy of video-game violence. Someone, somewhere, at this very point of time, will be trying to link video-game violence with aggression. Violent games constantly come under fire, with some claiming that there is a tendency to copy what you see in a game. I'm not going to go into what I think on this topic. What I do want to do is to warn developers. A new generation of consoles are due to release in the next few years. With them comes improved graphics. Using these graphics to improve the realism of on-screen violence is not a good idea. By doing so, you are going to create controversy for your game, and by doing that, you are creating controversy for the video-game industry. With that will come tighter rules and designers will not be given as much freedom when creating their game.

 Listen to me if you will, or ignore me. Just take into account what I have said; good plots, mechanics and overall enjoyment should always precede violence.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

New GTA 5 Trailer Released

Rockstar has released the long awaited second trailer for Grand Theft Auto 5. It focuses on the three main protagonists; Michael, Franklin and Trevor.

Here it is.

Check out my GTA 5 article here for more info on the game.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Black Ops 2 Gets Positive Reviews

Black Ops 2 is finally here. With thousands queuing for the midnight release, it is clear that the words "Call of Duty" still hold weight for many gamers. But was this year's addition to the series worth the wait?

The answer seems to be a resounding "yes". IGN gave the game its highest score, feeling it deserved a 9.3/10 as Treyarch "pushed the series in awesome new directions". They also labeled it "one of the best shooters of the last decade".

CVG were not as generous, giving the game 7.8/10, criticizing the game's single player, despite some "unforgettable scenes". They did however, say this; "While it's fashionable to rag on Call of Duty, you can't deny the series constantly throws out a fearsomely complete package year-on-year, and Black Ops 2 is certainly no exception to that rule."

If you're still undecided, I'll be doing an honest review soon, when I manage to get my hands on a copy.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Xbox 360 USB Storage Limit Increased To 32G

The Xbox 360 dashboard update gave us a lot of things, like Internet Explorer, and a new design similar to Windows 8. One thing you may not have noticed however, was the USB storage limit.

Originally, the storage limit for a USB was 16G. This has been subtly doubled to 32G. A Microsoft representative told Joystiq, "The more our customers use their profile and download digital content, the larger the file size necessary to store that content and move it between consoles gets. Therefore we increased the size of the memory to enable our customers to take more of their Xbox profile with them on the go".

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Top 5 Most Anticipated Games of 2013

2013 is set to be a big year in gaming. Developers are really pushing the current generation hardware to their limits, and it shows, with some truly gorgeous games due to release next year. Here's my top 5 list of those games.

Number 5 - Splinter Cell: Blacklist

Splinter Cell: Conviction had a mixed response from Splinter Cell fans. Some thought it was too easy to just gun your way through levels, and felt that the developers sometimes actually pushed you towards that route. Others felt that Splinter Cell: Conviction was a brilliant game, and that it was pure stealth, just not in the conventional ways. I fall into the latter group. Some missions were very hard to do stealthily, and the lack of punishment for going guns blazing was apparent, but it was still a fantastic game. Sam's story was engaging, and the new mechanics were a great addition to the game. Splinter Cell: Blacklist looks like a mixture of the classic Splinter Cells and Conviction. Choice is very apparent, with two gameplay demos being shown of the same level, one with stealth, the other with a huge-ass missile strike. Clearly the developers have listened to what gamers want, and have accommodated to the different play-styles. The only fault I can find in the gameplay shown so far is the lack of Sam's original voice-actor, Michael Ironside. 

Number 4 - BioShock Infinite

I was never a big fan of the previous BioShock games. I could quite easily see why people adored them, but I never got into them myself. BioShock Infinite however, has grabbed me by the balls and will not let go, nor do I want it to. The graphics look absolutely stunning, and whoever designed the floating city of Columbia deserves a pat on the back....and a shit load of money if they want it. The game looks to be a lot brighter (in art design, not story) than previous BioShock installments, something I am very glad for. Add in some crazy powers, a sniper rifle and a skyhook, and I am just counting down the months until its release.

Number 3 - Tomb Raider

I can explain to you in one word why I want this game, and no it is not boobs. Emotion. It is already clear from the gameplay demos and the artwork, that Tomb Raider is going to be an emotional game. It seems strange to think that a Tomb Raider game is emotional, I mean....boobs. This installment looks to change that, giving us the beginnings of Lara Croft, the torment and abuse she went through to become the woman we know today. This emotion is helped by gut-wrenching injuries and the voice-acting; we can really hear the pain in her voice. Players will feel connected to Lara; when she gets hurt, we hurt. To look at her boobs would feel wrong due to this motherly aspect....but we'll still do it. It's a brave new direction for the series, but it looks like the right one. 

Number 2 - Watch Dogs

You only have to look at the Watch Dogs demo at E3 to see why it's on this list. Nobody had even heard of it before E3, and suddenly Ubisoft just threw the visual masterpiece at us. We caught it with open arms, watching it over and over again, rubbing our eyes in disbelief. Despite the ridiculous graphics and animations, Ubisoft assured us that it will be released on current-gen consoles. How that is possible, I have no idea, but I'm not going to argue the chance to play what looks to be a unique but brilliant game. In case you don't know what Watch Dogs is, it's a open-world action adventure game. In the gameplay demo, we saw the main protagonist - Aiden Pearce - use his phone to hack into multiple devices. In one part of the demo, Aiden hacked into the traffic lights to cause his target's car to crash. Subtle. Another cool feature was some sort of identification tool, where he could see the identities of everyone in a night-club. The gun-fighting seemed to be a standard affair, but it looked great. While it's not at the top of my list, it would be for E3 2012's biggest surprises. 

Number 1 - Grand Theft Auto V

You knew it was coming. Grand Theft Auto is one of the biggest gaming franchises around. Their games always promise a high standard of production. Grand Theft Auto 5 looks to be the highest so far. Grand Theft Auto was a brilliant game, but I felt it was missing something. It felt more like a simulation than a game. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. It shows how realistic everything was in that game. However, it was lacking the amount of craziness and fun that was so apparent in previous installments in the series. Grand Theft Auto 5 mixes both of those things, and there is no denying that this game is highly anticipated by pretty much every gamer. The map is going to be bigger than the world of Red Dead Redemption, San Andreas, and Grand Theft Auto 4 combined. That's just HUGE. On top of that, the game has three main protagonists, who you can switch between at any time in the game with the press of a button. This is certainly a new and exciting feature that hopefully will work. If you want more information on the game, check out my list of details released by Game Informer here.

Assassin's Creed 3 Review: A Revolution In The Series

Now before I get into this review, I'd like to recount to you my history with Assassin's Creed games. When Assassin's Creed 1 came out, I was psyched. The game seemed like it had everything; assassination, free-running, free-roam, and an interesting plot. Whilst it did have all of that, it didn't use them to the best of their ability. Assassination's were stale and boring, free-running felt quite stiff, free-roam was only good for getting feathers, and the plot was hindered by an extremely boring Desmond section. Then came Assassin's Creed 2, and it improved on absolutely everything. There were more things to do, more people to kill, and more of a reason to pay attention to the plot. After that came Assassin's Creed Brotherhood. I held off buying that game straight away, because I had hoped for a new character. Still, I bought it eventually, and it was a great game. I didn't even think about buying Assassin's Creed Revelations. I had grown tired of the same old game-play with the same old (literally in Revelations) character. So I wasn't going to buy another Assassin's Creed until a new character was integrated in. When Assassin's Creed 3 was announced, I felt the same joy I had when I heard about Assassin's Creed 1, except this time, I knew it would be great, and it was. So great. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, this is the best Assassin's Creed game to date. Here's why.

The premise of Assassin's Creed 3 is much like the others in the series. You are Desmond Miles. You are from a long line of Assassin's. By using a machine called the Animus, you can relive your ancestor's lives. First you relived the life of Altair Ibn-La'Ahad, then the life of Ezio Auditore, and now you can relive the life of Ratohnhak√© ton. He's also known as Connor. We'll call him that. Now when I say you can relive the life of Connor, I mean it. You play as Connor from when he is five, all the way up to his adulthood. Except, and this is where things get really interesting, you don't play as Connor until about 5 hours in. What precedes that, is a lengthy introduction where you play as his father, Haytham Kenway. This was one of the game's biggest surprises, and Ubisoft did a good job of hiding it. Apart from being a good tutorial, playing as Haytham adds massively to the plot. It is the greatest story-telling technique of any Assassin's Creed game to date. There's a huge and unexpected twist during that introduction, so I wont spoil it. Instead I'll go on to the story of the main chunk of Assassin's Creed 3.

Connor is an assassin, at the time before, during and after the American Revolution. Although he is a Mohawk, he is also half British, meaning he is not generally subjected to the racism that was aimed at Native Americans in those times. Connor, as a character, is not as likable as Ezio. Ezio was, to put it bluntly, a bad-ass. He would kill for retribution, and would not let anything get in his way. Connor, on the other hand, just can't make his mind up how to be moral. Whilst this does provide an interesting view of the American Revolution, with Connor frequently commenting that the Patriots fight for freedom even though many own slaves, it isn't a likable trait. He is too pessimistic. Throughout the main story, you will meet many key historical figures, such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Adams. This isn't the pro-American propaganda that the Youtube comment section furiously argued. You will find enemies on both sides of the fight, and the key figures are portrayed as historically accurate as possible, such as George Washington's knack for loosing battles. If you know your American Revolution history, the story will be perfect for you, discovering historical figures down the backs of alleys asking you to find the missing pages of their book, or finding famous adventurers with stories to tell. This brings me on to another vastly improved area; game-play.
Connor meets George Washington.
If there is one word that can perfectly sum up Assassin's Creed 3, it is FUN. The combat is born from trial and error through the Assassin's Creed series. Assassin's Creed 2 provided us with brutal cinematic kills, but it was still just a matter of pressing B at the right time. Assassin's Creed Brotherhood added chaining kills, which provided a more engaging combat system. Assassin's Creed 3 combines these two, and gives us a brilliantly well thought out mechanic. You still have to press B when an enemy attacks you, but now that isn't the end of it. By parrying, the game enters slow motion. You haven't killed the enemy, you have just knocked his weapon away. Where you go from there is up to you. Press B again to throw him in a desired direction, press A to disarm him, press Y to use an equipped tool on him, or press X to see a cinematic kill that can make even the most mild-mannered of us have a nerdgasm. Some enemies require different techniques to kill, and can break your kill chain by parrying you. This simple yet deep addition to the game makes combat fun yet challenging. It is reminiscent of Batman Arkham City, and that is far from a bad thing. Exploration also plays a big role in Assassin's Creed 3.
Case in point: Nerdgasm.
The map is split up into 4 areas; Boston, New York, The Frontier and The Davenport Homestead. Boston and New York are architecturally similar, which is unfortunate, but the Developers are just being historically accurate  After all, the Colonists didn't really have a lot of money to be adventurous with their homes. The Frontier provides the most amount of variation. It is a large expanse of wilderness, filled with animals (both harmful and harmless), villages, warring soldiers, and so much more. Free-running works well in the forests, and climbing through the canopy feels natural, helped by the stunning animation. You can't help but feel a sense of glee as you see the start of a free-running line through the trees. The Davenport Homestead works in much the same way as the Monteriggioni Villa in Assassin's Creed 2, except it's a lot more interactive. As you complete optional Homestead missions, you will encourage more and more people to set up shop around the Homestead, each providing bonuses. The main bonus you gain is new materials, which can be traded with merchants, or used for crafting new items. When trading across seas, you have to take the risk of the caravan getting there into account. The only way to reduce risk is by completing naval missions. Ahh the naval missions.
The Frontier is stunning.
It is fair to assume that the naval missions are just going to be like the not-so-great invention missions from Brotherhood. That assumption though, is wrong. You have free-reign over where you want the ship to go, and you even have to take into account the wind direction, choosing sail deployment accordingly. Sinking another ship feels great, and you can really see the impact your cannon fire is having on their hulls. Your ship, the Aquilla, can be upgraded in many different ways including different ammunition types, or how good the steering is. The crew on the ship aren't static either. If you decide to take your eyes of the seas (provided there are no rocks about),  you can watch as your crew-members perform their various tasks, loading up cannons, climbing the mast or tightening the ropes. They really add to the awe of the game, and help to bring it to life. Assassin's Creed 3 does come with quite a few issues though, mainly in the technical department.
Naval combat is fun and rewarding.
Bugs and glitches are common in Assassin's Creed 3. Too common. Within the first few minutes of the game, I was provided with humorous glitches, as women's dresses would suddenly lift, or a man would be talking to a wall. Either he has friendship issues, or his friend has unfortunately glitched behind the wall. In my play through, I found no game-breaking glitches, but texture-popping is extremely common, and it takes away from the beauty of the game. The Frontier is filled with beautiful scenery, but it's not quite so good when the scenery takes its time to fully appear. Still, the game is graphically stunning, and I loved the facial animations in particular. They really captured the emotions of each character; something that cannot be achieved with script-writing alone.

Multiplayer is back, and it's better than ever. I have to admit, I wasn't a big fan of multiplayer in the previous Assassin's Creed games, but Ubisoft have hit the nail on the head in Assassin's Creed 3. There are now 5 modes, each with its own flavour. My Favorite has to be Domination. There are various capture points scattered around the area, some in your territory  some in the enemy's, and you goal is to hold on to as many as you can until the game ends. If you enter the enemy territory, you become a target. Obviously, the same can be said if an enemy enters your territory. Also, if you are in the enemy territory, you can only stun the enemy, but they can kill you. It provides tense game-play as you are trying to stay hidden whilst capturing a point, knowing that the enemy is probably on your screen. Another unique addition is Wolfpack mode. This is co-operative team play against an AI enemy. It is a lot like Gears of War's horde mode, except every wave provides new targets that your team must eliminate. Sometimes there will be a synchronization mode, where you must all assassinate a target at the same time for maximum points. Customization also plays a big part, being able to pick your abilities, and how you character looks. I cannot see the multiplayer as being long lasting as other multiplayer games, but it is still a great success.

Assassin's Creed 3 is a brilliant game. The historical side of the story is superb, the graphics are beautiful, if a bit glitchy, and the combat is extremely fun and satisfying. In previous Assassin's Creed games, "open-world" seemed to be something tacked on to the definition to draw in a larger audience. However, Assassin's Creed 3 truly is an open world game. There is so much to do and see, and I am nowhere near finished. I believe I was on around 49% completion of the game after finishing the story. Ubisoft are heading in the right direction with Assassin's Creed, and though the ending may leave some people with a bitter taste in their mouth, it leaves a sweet one in mine, knowing that the potential for the series hasn't even been reached yet, even though Assassin's Creed 3 is such an amazing game.

Story: 4/5
Graphics: 4/5
Gameplay: 5/5

OVERALL: 4.5/5