danny_dm_moore / Member

Forum Posts Following Followers
295 243 247

danny_dm_moore Blog

My new Blog

by on

Hey, I know I have some followers on here, and I appreciate everyone of you for taking the time to read my stuff, it really makes me feel like I am creating something people want to read, which makes want to do it more.

However, you may have noticed that I haven't posted anything to Gamespot for several months, despite being logged in for several hours everyday. This is because I have actually setup my own blog. I say blog, it's a tumblr, but I am using it for long form writing instead of publishing to GS. I try to update it every week with reviews and articles, but I have one follower and hardly any viewings at present.

So I would like to formally invite all my followers on Gamespot to check out wygamer.tumblr.com, my official blog! Hopefully one day I can turn it into it's own full fledged site, and I am thinking of creating youtube videos and live streams under the monicker wygamer.

I hope you have all enjoyed the content I have brought to you in the best, I know I am not a professional writer or anything, but I wouldn't be doing it if people didn't read it, so I hope to see you over at my new blog and please feel free to comment and respond to anything I post!

My Top Ten Games of the Year 2013!

by on

Yes it is that time of the year again, when all those lists start to happen and a tremendous amount of disagreeing begins. So with that in mind, here is my list of the top ten games of 2013, as played by me!

It is highly possible you won’t agree with all of them, the order they are in, my reasons for liking them and a hundred other things, but to be honest I don’t care. Hardly anyone will read this anyway so I could say what I liked and no one would be bothered, but in the interests of looking somewhat professional, here is my list anyway!

10. Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag

I did not like AC3. Connor was an incredibly boring protagonist, the random stuff in world seemed almost completely pointless and despite one very cool twist at the start there was nothing particularly interesting in the game.

What a difference a year can make. Black Flag rights all of the wrongs of it’s predecessor, with 20 minutes of game time being more entertaining than 20 hours of AC3. I have barely completed any of the story as I keep finding random islands with loot, and pirating random boats on the open sea. I haven’t yet completed it, but it is a testament to how good the game is that it can make this list and I have barely scratched the surface of the main story.

9. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

I only recently purchased Brothers, and I now solidly regret not getting the game sooner. The fairy tale of two siblings on a quest to save their father is poignant and moving, and once again shows that silly things like being able to understand exactly what the characters are saying doesn’t necessary mean it will create more emotion. Lets be honest, more often than not, having them speak english just reveals bad writing.

The control scheme works really well in Brothers, and despite some fiddly bits where concentrating on one sibling can result in the other spending five minutes walking into a wall, it provides this strange sense of local co-op play, despite playing by yourself. The ending will move you to tears, and that makes it worth the price, even though it is very short at around three hours.

8. DmC Devil May Cry

Reboots are all the rage these days and some work better than others. The reboot of Total Recall for example, wasn’t exactly stellar, while Ninja Theory’s new take on the half human, half demon, all badass Dante is brilliant.

I remember playing the very first Devil May Cry and loving the wise cracking, ass kicking main character. He was surprisingly deep, despite the one liners and the gameplay was top notch, though when the sequel rolled around I was disappointed they didn’t call it Devil Never Cry (play the first game and you will understand).

Ninja Theory took everything I loved about Dante and rebooted him into a brilliant character action title, making him a slightly arrogant young man who is slowly coming to terms with his place in the world. The story is fantastic and sets a new bar for the series, removing a lot of the japanese eccentricities but keeping the core feel, and that is quite a feat.

7. Thomas Was Alone

The Vita has become my indie game box, the system I use to play the smaller, cooler games I might not get chance to on other systems. So when I saw Thomas Was Alone on the system it was a must get, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Who needs crazy things like human looking protagonists or thousands of polygons? It can get just as much emotion out of a bunch of squares and rectangles as you can a digital version of your favourite actor, and in some cases, you can do more with said shapes.

Thomas Was Alone creates empathy for those squares and rectangles, and builds a story of loneliness, redemption and teamwork through excellent narration. Yes the game is relatively simple, but that doesn’t diminish the great work being done and as the story builds and more characters are introduced, each one has his or her own personality, thoughts and feelings and it is proof that polygons do not an emotional story make.

6. Grand Theft Auto V

There are certain series or titles that are events. The new Star Wars movie, that will be an event, not just a film and in gaming, Grand Theft Auto is the event. The fifth title in Rockstars long running crime epic sees a return to one of the cities from San Andreas and it is truly stunning.

If GTA V is the last generation’s swan song, then boy, did it go out with a bang. It is probably the best looking open world game I have ever played, with stunning vistas surrounded by life stretching as far as the eye can see. It plays really well too, and the three protagonist structure proves an interesting way to tell an interesting story and as always Rockstar shines in this regard.

I did play it with a sense of ‘they should have done this different’, but I had a great time despite the potential for truly great gaming moments being almost totally lost. If the heists had been more open to experimentation and failure, then maybe this would be higher on my list, but alas. Still, there is some great times to be had in Los Santos.

5. Hotline Miami

Games have often been criticised for their use of violence above all else, and to be fair there is some merit to that argument. Hotline Miami is the game that takes the concept and runs with it, head long into a mass of armed goons, holding a metal pipe and wearing an animal mask.

It is brutal, unrelenting, and brilliant. It is filled with gore, 80’s tinged neon and a killer soundtrack. But it is also more than the some of its parts, and the story deals with dark themes that few games tackle.

More to the point though, it is fun, brutally hard in places and provides a sense of gory satisfaction games haven’t revered in some time.

4. Bioshock Infinite

The original created wonder by showing you a world you haven’t seen, an underwater city torn apart by civil war and addiction. Infinite does the same, showing a world you haven’t seen before, the floating city of Columbia, and layering philosophy and other sensitive themes over the top.

It is a brilliant game, at least in my opinion, and as the story expands and you start to see just what is going on, for every answer you get at least one other question. It is a game that prompted a lot of intellectual discussion, and few games can claim that as a legacy.

3. Dishonored

Ok so I know this came out in 2012, but I played in 2013, so it is my 2013 2012 game of the year! And what a game it is. A new IP, providing multiple ways to play, an interesting story and a bleak, steam punk world? What more could one ask for!

The thing I liked the most about Dishonored was that in the entire game I killed around 11 people, and even those were mainly due to mis-steps in a carefully thought out plan to stealth my way through and get by undetected, and it made for a brilliantly refreshing change. It made me think about how to complete a given objective, and due to the fact that you can take out primary targets without actually killing them, gave you other things to do.

It’s not the perfect game by any means, but it is certainly ain't far off. It hones stealth action to a razor point and grants you the tools to approach a mission however you see fit. Just fantastic.

2. The Last Of Us

If you want bleak, overbearing universes, play The Last of Us. Coming from the makers of the Uncharted games, you would think that the protagonist would be killing hundreds of goons in a complete antithesis to the way his character is portrayed in cutscenes. Not so here.

Naughty Dog have created characters that must do horrible things to survive in a horrible world. You might only encounter four bad guys at a time, but every situation is a him or us deal and it just makes sense. It is a brilliant world, showing what life could well be like after such an apocalypse.

The relationship between grizzled old timer Joel and teenager Ellie provides drama, heart and action, and proves that games do not have to be kill fests to provide a human element to the tale. The writing is top notch, as is the voice acting that went into giving these characters life, but the truly special thing is that Naughty Dog have almost given Ellie and Joel a soul. You care about these people, and how this journey will affect them long after you have put the controller down.

A truly first rate game, and my second favourite game of the year.

1. Gone Home

Gone Home is something special. Not because it revolutionises any particular mechanic, or for its writing or art style. It is special because I played it a few days ago and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.

It might be short, but it doesn’t need to be any longer. It tells it story at the pace the developers want, and draws you in as you search the empty house looking for reasons why everyone has gone. It creates a brilliant atmosphere, and deals with themes many will find close to their heart. If several games on this list try to make you cry, Gone Home may well be the one to actually succeed.

I hope it is played more, it deserves to be. It worth every penny of whatever you may pay for it, and will show just what gaming can do, how interactive entertainment can be more than just shooting stuff. A true classic.

Well there you have it, my top ten games of the year! I hope you liked reading this as much as I enjoyed writing and playing the games on it. If you want to chat about anything, hit me up!

A Tribute to Ryan Davis

by on

For those of you who dont know who he is, Ryan Davis is a former Gamespot staff member and founding member of Giant Bomb who sadly died last week at the young age of just 34. There have been many blogs/posts/comments about him in that time, but I wanted to offer just a small taste of how the man affected me from thousands of miles away and having never met me, and that is something quite special. 

I first encountered Ryan when I started listening to the old Gamespot podcast, The Hotspot. I found him hilarious at times, but also very deep about the subjects he was interested in, and he always gave me food for thought in those times when he had something serious to say, whether about games or any other subject. 

He was a man who's sense of humour shined through everything he did, with an infectious giggle that had me smiling ear to ear on more than one occasion in a single viewing/listening of something he was involved in, and I can only imagine what that must of been like for the people who were actually in the room with him. 

He was part of a small group of people that inspired me to start writing about games, and giving a dam about what happenned in the industry I had become so involved in. While the last couple of years had seen his writing taper off as more video work came to the fore on GB, those pieces he wrote before then showed how easy it was to write naturally, without listing the bullet points of a game in reviews and things like that. 

My closet contact with Mr Davis came from him reading my letters out on the bombcast - there were only a couple - and I hope at those times I gave him something to think about, at least for a few moments. I did send a satchet of something called 'Angel Delight' to the GB offices one time but never heard anything about it, but I hope that he and the rest of the team enjoyed it. 

Ryan showed me that it was ok to like something other people found really dumb, be it movies, games or music. He was one of the people who taught me to not like everything had I spent most of my youth doing, because thats just how I was, and Ryan and the rest of the GB and GS teams gave me the hints and tips I needed to start writing game reviews and articles on the industry as a whole, sharing my opinions and having fun along with it. 

The one thing I will always remember of Ryan Davis though, happened during the last PAX panel Giant Bomb hosted. I am sure some of you will remember, but for those who dont know a reader produced a bottle of his wifes breast milk and placed it on the counter. Thus ensured a good five to ten minutes of laughter, summed up by the fact that Ryan just drunk some with very little hesitation. The thing that had me rolling on the floor though was about 2 minutes later when he just looked to the sky and said:

"I feel like I crossed a line.."

It might not seem so funny writing it back, but trust me watch the video. Watch all his videos, and look at the legacy the man has left on video game journalism. I wished I could have met him, I used to dream about getting a job at GB and what I would say at the interview which would go something like this: 

"Gamespot have a british guy, so so should you guys!" and then hearing that infectious giggle. 

It was a daft dream I know, but that was the influence that Ryan and the close family that the GB crew had become had on me and I for one am going to miss his presence deeply. Words cannot express my condolences to his family and friends, but I hope this post along with the many others will show just how special Ryan Davies really was to so many fans. 

Thank you for indulging me in this, and most important of all, Thank You Ryan Davis.

On This Generation and the Next: Part 3: Nintendo

by on

Welcome to the third and final part of my look at the aftermath of E3, and a look back over the last generation for each of the big three console makers. Thank you for reading and hope you have enjoyed this look into how gamings biggest show and my thoughts on how it might shape the future of the industry. Again, if you want to chat about anything, hit me up on the site or on twitter @Optimusprime223!


Nintendo

Well the house that Mario built had an interesting E3 this year didnt it? Whats that? were they even there? Well err, thinking about it I am not even sure. Their presence wasnt exactly bombastic, or even of much note. They might as well have not turned up at all, because announcing what, six games could have been told via a Nintendo direct on their homepage. Oh wait, thats what they did.

Sorry for the sarcasm, but E3 for Nintendo was a little dumb. The most I know about it was that Reggie Fils-Aime came out and every third thing out of his mouth was Play the game!, which is a nice sentiment, but since there are hardly any games out for the Wii U or 3DS or on the horizon it fell more than a little flat.

The first nintendo console I owned was the Gamecube, and it was a great little system, despite my first game on it being Super Mario Sunshine. Nintendo werent ones to have thousands of games on their systems at a time, and I remember the section for Gamecube games in the branch of GAME I was working in at the time being tiny compared to PS2 and even the original Xbox.

A lot of the titles available werent great, but there were some standouts, and it made the system worth it. Then comes the Wii and everything changed. While Sony and Microsoft were touting shiny new features like HD graphics and Blu-ray drives, Nintendo came out with a system stuck with low res graphics, a slightly dodgy interface, barely any online component and something they called motion control. It was a revolution.

The marketing effectively did itself, all anyone had to do was say You bowl like you do in real life or You play tennis like you would normally and consumers got it. It generated a whole new revenue stream because people who didnt traditionally play games took up the hobby, if only to play Wii Sports or Wii Sports Resort on social occasions.

This, combined with DS sales made Nintendo a player again, and silenced people worried about the company's fortunes. Unfortunately, both systems ended become little more than shovelware boxes, with cheap easy to make mini game collections coming thick and fast. To be fair, for the average person these titles did the job perfectly, but for more hardcore people it was a depressing sign of what the Wii had become.

And so, months before Microsoft or Sony, Nintendo came out with the Wii U, and did a terrible job of telling people exactly what it was. Even veterans of the games journalist industry had some trouble telling if it was an add on for the existing Wii, or a brand new console. I lost track of the number of people who asked me what it was, and if that is happening to someone who doesnt get paid to write about such things, something has gone deeply wrong.

I purchased a Wii U on launch along with New Super Mario Bros U. I bought the black, good version of the system, because it made little sense to save a few quid for a lesser experience. The system locked up on me after I downloaded the patch that was supposedly going to make it better to use, and I had to send it off to be repaired. It is now working fine, but much like its older brother, I am finding it difficult to find excuses to turn it on.

My original Wii sat under my TV gathering dust, and not being turned on for about a year before I traded it in for a Wii U. I dont want history to repeat itself, but I have started to find New Super Mario Bros U boring and Nintendo Land is the Wii Sports of this system so that only gets played at social events. I was hoping E3 would allay my fears, get me excited for the future of the console and show some interesting games that make use of that fantastic game pad. This did not happen.

Looking down the official Nintendo site for its E3 announcements, I can see eight games that I didnt know about before the event. Eight. Activision had half that number by itself at its event, just to compare. Only one of those eight titles was a third party game. This is the stuff the death of consoles are made of, just look at the Dreamcast.

The first party titles announced were all known quantities, apart Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, which is a strange choice to have a company as talented as Retro working on, but hey, who am I to question internal decisions at Nintendo? There was always going to be a new Mario title, a new Zelda, a new Smash Bros and a new Mario Kart. Some of those games you only get one of on a system, and while I have no issue with this, mainly because I do not want to have to update my copy of Mario Kart every year to get only minor updates to courses, it does provide a poor E3 showing.

Nintendo primarily seem to trade in nostalgia, this has served them relatively well over the years, but the problem now that people want more. They want compelling reasons to boot up their consoles and play or at least interact with them. Say what you will about Microsoft touting TV as one of the big features of the Xbox One, but the fantasy sports stuff, while not interesting to me, is a compelling reason to switch on and interact with that system, and thats before you get to the games.

Nostalgia will only take them so far, and peoples patience is starting to wear thin. The Wii U deserves better, it is a good system, but Nintendo look only what they can improve on in their systems, not what anyone else is doing and if they could take a page out of someone elses book. It makes them out of date quickly, and people are getting bored of it, or at least that what it feels like. I hope they can turn it around, or come up with something completely new, something that really shakes up the console market.

Some of the games at E3 looked cool, the new zelda I will definately get upon its release, and Mario Kart is probably a must have for any self respecting Nintendo fan, I just hope that they can do something more with the Wii U, and that it is great.



Conclusion

So, am I excited for the future? Hell yes. There are some extremely cool looking games coming soon, new consoles will be out before the end of the year and the indie scene has never been better. The games industry is changing, but that is a good thing.

Even developers cannot even begin to predict what the industry will look like in a couple of years time, and with brand new console entries such as the Ouya and many other ways to play great titles, it has never been a better time to hold gaming close to your heart.

I am proud of these three articles, and I hope you have had as much enjoyment reading them as I have writing them, they are probably my best writing to date. I know some will think I have no business commenting on such things, but I dont care, here are my thoughts on the industry right now, and they are just as valid as anyone elses.

As I said at the top of this article, if you want to chat about anything, hit me up on the site or twitter @Optimusprime223, and yes, I am a massive Transformers fan!

On This Generation and the Next: Part 2: Sony

by on

Welcome to the second part of my three part series on the aftermath of E3 and the past generation of consoles. My first article garnered quite the conversation, as everything to do with Microsoft these days, so it will be interesting to see if my thoughts on Sony will do the same, enjoy and again, hit me up on the site or on twitter @Optimusprime223 if you want to chat about anything!


Sony

The house that PlayStation built got quite the reaction didnt it? and a very, very different one from when the PS3 was introduced, especially when the frankly ludicrous price was announced. I remember watching that E3 conference and thinking Robbing B*****ds!. It did not stop me from getting one though, but I did wait over six months before doing so.

I bought my PlayStation 3 primarily as a blu-ray player to go under my main TV. This was one of the best decisions that I could have made, it has proven to be a reliable player of HD movies and games since I bought it all those years ago, and apart from a few lock ups, I have never had a problem with it, which is only a good thing.

My biggest issue with it, though, is that the XMB sucks. It sucked on the PSP and it definitely sucks on the PS3, while the Xbox Live dashboard has become nothing but a series of ads, at least it was pretty and relatively easy to use (or, at least, it was). While the XMB does have everything set out in a relatively easy to find manner, it aint pretty, and truth be told is one of the most boring UIs I have ever encountered.

That said, it works so small graces. There was a time when Sony had the potential to radically change how we interfaced with our consoles, and people were excited. Hell, I was excited, I remember emailing the Giantbombcast asking what they thought about it, and if they thought an idea I had for it would be cool. That idea was a persistent grave yard where you could go and see a given gravestone and find out how many deaths you had in a particular game. The potential, as I am sure you have worked out by now, was PlayStation Home.

I remember watching the reveal of Home and thinking if they pull that off it could be awesome. Seriously, if they just booted the console straight into Home and had you moving around and actually going to meet your friends to hook up and play together, as well as all the other stuff, the console landscape would be very different today.

It was a grand experiment filled with amazing ideas, but several years down the line and Home has become a glorified chat room. The potential is still there, and yes I am aware that many people call Home, well home, on a regular basis, but it could have been so much more. With no mention of what the deal with Home on PS4 is, can we expect it to make an appearance? To be honest, I really do hope, despite my feelings on it, people do like it, so why take it away and upset a ton of people.

If you're wondering why I am not fussed about Home anymore here is why: I downloaded it soon after launch and logged in, setting up my character and going for a wonder. I was bored sometime later, but liked the look of it and again that ever present potential. I then, just for giggles, created a second character, a female one. I loaded into the main hub, appeared outside and within 3 seconds had 5 male characters crowded around me going hey baby, how are you. It was what I expected to happen, but not as quick as that, and so I was out.

The PS3 is a great system, I have enjoyed my time with it. Move and Home were grand experiments that failed to meet potential, and in Moves case, where a little expensive, but the whole generation can be summed up with the term missed potential.

Sony, however, have changed. The original reveal of PS4 was confident, a bold statement that yes, indeed they have listened, not only to consumers, but to developers as well. Gone are the days of custom made Cell Processors, this time only a few items are custom and even then not in a way to completely mess with developers heads.

They anticipated where gaming was heading, and looked to the e-sports scene for inspiration in what software and online features to add. They have changed the interface, removing, at least as far as anyone can tell at this point, the XMB and replacing it with a slick new interface that takes inspiration from Xbox Dashboard with the ads underpinning it all. I am basing that on a few quick looks at the system, but I do know it ain't the XMB, which is great.

Actually while I wrote this Sony confirmed that the XMB is a thing of the past and a new interface, a very slick and cool looking thing has been confirmed, and I hope it lives up to what is promised in the latest video.

They even had developers come out and say that the PS4 is much easier to develop for and that Sony had been a dream to work with. They had indie darling Jonathan Blow announce The Witness and kick off a series of partnerships with smaller studios. It was fantastic news.

Microsoft bit back with its announcement, and I have to say that the PS4 still had me. I would love to say that I wont get an XBO, but that would be a lie, I will, but I will get the PS4 on launch and wait a few months for the Xbox One. This is a decision based mainly on price and it is a fair one, I have no particular love for either company over the other, both have provided me with fantastic gaming experiences over the last seven years and will continue to do so.

That price makes a difference though. Sony knew it as soon as Microsoft announced their price plan, and almost bounded onto the stage at E3 knowing that at the very least the price would cause a stir. But that pesky DRM thing is still causing issues, and Sony capitalised by having Jack Tretton come on stage at the end of the press conference not only to announce the nearly £100 (or exactly $100) cheaper price, but also to say that PS4 will not require an always on internet connection, nor a 24 hour check in, the system will be region free and they support used games, along with trading and all the stuff Microsoft allegedly dont.

Jack could have effectively dropped the mike and walked off stage at this point, the crowd already going wild. I laughed. Not because it was especially funny, but because the biggest reaction anyone got, company, celebrity or game, for the whole show, was the fan reaction to that news from Sony. It said a lot about the state of the games industry.

What Sony did was the PR equivalent of a guiding principle of Korean Martial art Taekwondo: One block, one strike and the fight is over (I am a black belt in TKD so that might help with this reference). They blocked Microsoft's aggressive stance on DRM and exaggerated price, and countered with a strike that knocked them pretty cleanly out of the ring, the ring in this case being the hearts and minds of consumers.

There are, to be fair, still questions Sony have to answer. Just what will the digital DRM policy be? disk based games can be traded fine, but what about digital content? They have stated that season passes are going away, but what are the third parties going to do if they cant use them? Can free to play games still happen, such as Dust 514? Will there be a bundle with the thinly outlined new PlayStation Eye camera? just what does that thing do anyway?

They also, very quietly, very sneakily, announced that multiplayer was being locked behind the PSN+ subscription fee. While personally, I have no issue with this, I can see why some people will take umbridge. I did hear an interview with a Sony exec that said this decision was because multiplayer is an extremely expensive thing to run, and I have no issue with them being honest about the reasons why they have had to make this decision.

The PSN+ subscription is, and will continue to be, fantastic. Mine has paid for itself already just in games I have gotten free. I know I might be taking money from the developers by getting them, but the other side of that coin is that I also known that developers name and if the game is good, can look for future titles, willing to give them money. The fact that it also extends to my Vita is such a massive bonus its untrue, and I cannot wait to see what new goodies come my way as things move along.

The one thing I will say that Sony did extremely badly was promoting the Vita at E3. That system is way, way better than people give it credit for. It may be that the remote play on PS4 gave them plenty of promotion, but it will be down to the games to use that feature in a compelling way, and I honestly dont see it happening, but I could be wrong. The Vita deserves better, and selection of indie titles coming to both it and PlayStation 3 and 4 are compelling reasons to stick with Sony.

Of course, they can still screw this up. It is months until the console is unleashed on the world, and there could be hardware issues, server issues, even both, not to mention what could turn out to be a strong launch but a dwindling supply of games thereafter. Indie titles that can be self published on the system can make up for this, but even they take time to create, something Sony needs to manage carefully.

Still, the PS4 is getting my money on launch day, and I cannot wait. I may have been swayed by the hype, but my decision is mainly based on price, and as I say, an XBO will be in my home some time next year. The games look just as compelling, if not more so, on PS4 and I am always talking about how I need to play more Indie games. It doesnt help that my PC keeps just turning off for no reason, so one of the better avenues to the indie scene is just not reliable enough for me, but still, I the next offering from Sony gives me another way in.


I hope you have enjoyed this article, and that it sparks as much discussion as the last one. Tune in later this week for the final part, on everyones favourite nostalgia house, Nintendo!

On This Generation and the Next: Part 1: Microsoft

by on

So the dust has settled, and the first volleys of the new console war are over. Microsoft are following up the Xbox 360 with the Xbox One, while Sony are being all logical (who would have thought!) and making the sequel to Playstation 3, the Playstation 4. There has been some controversy, some great announcements and some interesting ideas laid out, and now that E3 is over for another year, I wanted to take a look at what has happened over the last generation, and why I am excited for the new one.


Microsoft

The day before the Xbox 360 launched, I was made redundant from my job at the time. The HR manager said to me What are you going to do now? I replied, Buy an Xbox 360 tomorrow and play games until I find another job, and that is exactly what I did.

I worked at GAME when the original Xbox appeared onto the scene, and when I bought one, it was fantastic. I loved that thing, so I more than happily plonked down for a 360 way back in 2005, and for several years it was my console of choice, my games nearly always going on the Xbox first. Plus, it had Halo, a big plus for me.

Microsoft seemed to be doing everything right, Xbox Live was now an integral part of the system, the games were great, Indie developers were able to hit up XBLA and provide some great, cheap titles and it really seemed like MS were the console maker for the developer community. Thats despite some unfortunate technical hitches with the actual hardware. I am currently on my fourth Xbox 360.

They kept the interface fresh, improving it every year and making it better and better, providing some technically stunning games and even creating XNA to help bedroom coders create a console game easily. It was a fantastic time, but at some point, something changed, and it started to feel as though the company that I spent so many years loving had forsaken me in the name of advertising dollars.

Shortly after that, Kinect appeared. I remember watching the Microsoft E3 press conference where they announced the device, sitting on google talk with one of the guys that worked at the gaming site I was writing for at the time, just amazed. The thing looked so damn cool, and I couldnt wait to get my hands on it, and I did, on launch day no less. This was a mistake.

The first Kinect was a gimmick, nothing more. It allowed them to extend the life of the 360 for a couple of years, but the thing barely works, a number of factors preventing it properly detecting your body and your movements. These were things that should have been known to Microsoft, things that limited the usefulness of the peripheral. I managed to get mine to work in a small room, but I had to stand right in the corner as far away as possible, at night, with the room light on.

The voice commands do work, and at this point are the easiest way to navigate the 360 interface, especially if you want to find XBLA games, or indeed, anything gaming related. This is where they have forsaken me. The Xbox Live dashboard is more an advertising space than anything else, and as a result I havent switched on my 360 in nearly four months. I dont begrudge Microsoft making money, but there must be a better way.

So what about the next generation? Well I have to admit, the Xbox One looks very cool, even if it is a small form factor PC. Hopefully the kinect will work this time, and the dashboard isnt as cluttered with ads. Maybe even games will be easy to find, especially if they are trying to push an all digital future.

Speaking of, Microsoft had a strong showing at E3 with its titles, such as Titanfall, which looks awesome, Project Spark, Forza 5, Ryse, Dead Rising 3 and Sunset Overdrive all looking very cool indeed. They pushed the TV stuff a little too much, but for the way I will be using my Xbox One it could prove useful. I do like the grab to minimize, it looked slick and gave hope that Kinect will work consistently, also providing a case for the whole three operating systems thing.  

There is, of course, the elephant in the room, the whole DRM stuff. It is my opinion that it has been blown massively out of proportion. At the end of the day, it has always been the case that what you buy is the license to use the software, not the software itself. This has NOT changed, Microsoft are simply being more overt about it. I do, however, get why people are annoyed at the whole check in online thing, it should be longer than 24 hours. I do think that it wouldnt be that hard for them to change that limit though, but I have to also give them respect for having the stones to stand up and say most people are connected to the internet in their homes, so our console requires it.

Its a bold move, and remember, everything they are doing on Xbox One has been happening on PC for years with Steam and at this point no one bats an eyelid. I remember the same controversy happening when that system first launched with Half Life 2, hell, even my own uncle, a programmer himself, found it annoying and didnt like it at all. Now he buys most of his games through Steam.

If Microsoft can follow Valves footsteps and offer games at reasonable prices, with great sales and a non-intrusive system then maybe the Xbox One is the future. I am not going to predict that, but I hope they do. Right now, having a title available for download at the same price, or in some cases, more expensive than what I can get in a retail store is just goddamn ridiculous.

The last thing I want to say is that I hope people start using the abbreviation XBO instead of this stupid XBone thing that has sprung up. It makes soooooooo much more sense, at least to me, and slips off the tongue just as well as PS4, which can only be a good thing for Microsoft, who are getting a lot of flak at the moment and need to build consumer confidence and faith.



Well, this post was going to be about all three companies, but Microsoft has certainly been able to generate headlines going into the next generation, so I have had to split it into three, parts two and three coming later this week I hope. If you want to chat about my thoughts on this or anything else, hit me up on the site, or twitter: @optimusprime223.

On Not Having a Pile of Shame

by on

Hi, I am Dan, I am 31 with a full time job in IT support and a wife. I also do not have what is known as a 'Pile of Shame'. For those who don't know what I am talking about, the Pile of Shame is a collection of games/movies/books/albums that are considered classics or must haves that you know you should play/watch/read/listen to but simply haven't and that brings about a shame you apparently cannot escape. 

Well you know what? You can escape it, and very easily. All you have to do it forget the concept of the pile of shame altogether and realise an inscrutable fact: There simply isnt enough time. Great works come out on a nearly daily basis - games, books, albums, movies - there is already a ton of these this year that will be great things that should be enjoyed, but you do not have the time to consume them all and that is no bad thing at all. 

Life is a complex thing where everything is competeing for your time and attention. The things I have already mentioned, plus wifes/girlfriends/boyfriends, regular friends, family are all wanting to grab some of your attention, eating away at available time in any given day. How you deal with life relies your ability to juggle all these attention seekers and carve out your own way of dealing with each. 

I spend time with my wife cuddled up on the sofa watching various TV shows, current favourites are The Walking Dead, Dexter, Arrow, Hawaii Five-0, Glee, NCIS: Los Angles. Some great things in there, some total fluff, but those are what I am into at present. They all allow me to spend time with the wife while also consuming some TV, killing two birds with one stone. Are they the truly important TV shows on at the moment? Hell no. Well maybe one is, but I dont have time to consume those shows, and I haven't seen anything in recent memory that fits anyway. 

Those shows I miss out on would count towards my pile of shame. I haven't seen some of the truely great movies ever made: 2001, Apocalypse Now, Blazing Saddles, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Exorcist, The French Connection, again all adding to the pile. Movies I have seen include Space Balls, BASEketball, Die Hard 1-5 and hundreds of others including some of the big names. These are movies I can receit lines from off by heart but get no credit for, I just get crap thrown for not seeing the other ones. 

I haven't listen to Dark side of the Moon, The Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack, Achtung Baby, Off the wall - great albums that haven't graced my ears before due to either a lack of interest or, more likely, a lack of time. My musical tastes are probably not worth going into in much since I am fully aware my affinities are not to everyone's taste, but those albums would make the pile. 

I haven't played To the Moon, Psychonaughts, System Shock, Super Meat Boy, Katamari Damacy, Call of Duty 4, Nights Into Dreams and any Castlevania title. Do I still consider myself very knowledgable when it comes to games? yes I do. Looking down the list of 100 games to play before you die that I took the above examples from, there are just as many games I have played if not more, but because those are the cult classics, thats ones that people can trace most of moden game design back to they would go on the pile. 

However, I chose to not have a pile of shame. I have limited time, and if I am ever graced with kids, that time will go down even more. If my job, like the good folks here at Gamespot, were games journalist, then it wouldnt be so much of a problem and I would be able to see many more great games than I get to at present. My job isn't that and it isn't for lack of trying, but I just accept that some things slip through the net. 

These are things that will not radically change my life had I actually consumed them, and I can live happily in the knowledge that I have limited time and cannot see/hear/read/play everything I probably should. This because I consume enough for me, to make me happy and feel satisfied, and therefore I do not have a pile of shame. 

My hope, as idealistic and futile as it is, is that people reading this editorial will say "Ya know, that dude is right. I don't need this pile of shame I have in my head or even physically in my room. I just need to be happy in what I do consume". It is not going to happen, but I hope I have at least given you some food for thought. 

On Playing the Ingress Beta

by on

Ingress

Augmented Reality is an interesting thing. The potential for amazing things is almost unchecked, offering a world where every day life can be seen in a whole new way, allowing access to data you didn't even know you needed, and of course, a brand new way to play games.

Ingress is one such game, using AR to present a fairly unique experience. I have to say the interface does look very cool, NianticLabs@Google presenting a way to make a GPS interface look slick and futuristic, while also adhering to the world and fiction they have created. Said fiction, is that Higgs-Boson research has created a strange side effect, a substance called Xotic Matter that is both energy and matter. This is seeping into our world via portals, and two factions are vieing for control of those portals, so that they may have control over the minds of people.

Ok, so its a bit hoaky, but it works in the context of the game. The interface presents a GPS view of your current position, and a blue circle surrounds your arrow. Floating dots are scattered around you, and any thay enter this circle are sucked to your arrow. This is XM, and powers a lot of your abilities in game. You must then find 'Portals' that can be hacked, attacked and linked to gain items and other goodies.

To find these portals, you must walk. A lot. In a noble effort, however, portals are generally located on either art projects or post offices scattered around various towns and cities around you. This is all well and good, but at present, at least in the UK, there simply isn't enough of them. I don't live in out in the sticks, my town, Birstall, is pretty central to no less than 3 large cities, all in easy communting distance, but I can only collect XP locally. There is a large statue of Joesph Priestly in Birstall (he discovered oxygen), but that doesnt count as a portal. Neither does the post office or anything in a 3 mile radius.

I understand that the point is get you to seek out art in your local area, but first starting out with the game can be confusing and with little do if you don't live in a major city the game becomes boring. This is a shame, because despite some GPS lag that means your arrow never, ever, appears to be on a road, the game is very cool.

All of these things can be addressed as the beta progresses, and I personally think the look of the game is awesome and so doesn't really need much improvement. The problem is the lack of things to do if you don't live in major metropolitain areas, and Ingress unfortunatly falls down here, with even the cities I do go to not having enough to do within the game to warrent the battery drain.

I you live in a major city, give the beta a go, its free and can be fun. If you live anywhere else though, give it a miss, you just won't make any real progress at present, try it again later in the year.

My First Top Ten Games of the Year List!

by on

Christmas is here, almost, and the game of the year lists are showing up already. I don't normally do such lists, but I have decided that this year will be the first time I will partake in the festivities. So, presented below are my Top Ten games of 2012!

These are games I played in 2012, though they may have been released earlier and I was only able to get around to them during this year, but I really enjoyed them so here they are. I doubt you will be surprised by the number one, but hey, I thought it was the best so monkeys!

10. Rayman Origins (PS Vita)



Rayman OriginsI don't play a lot of Platformers, but when I do I try play the best ones I can find, and Rayman Origins is certainly that.

Challenging, but not overally so, it controls really well on Vita and that screen really makes the absolutely stunning artwork pop. I had no idea what was going on and why I was running around the levels, but it didn't matter, the game is just a joy to play and provides everything you would want from a platformer. The sequel is due sometime in 2013, and I am very much looking forward to it!

9. Pullblox/Pushmo (3DS)

Pushmo

Pullblox (Pushmo in the US) shows the genius of Nintendo, plain and simple. That last word is actually very apt, as the game itself is easy to pick up, but boy, it can be hard to master.

You control Mallo, who has to save kids trapped inside puzzles made up of push and pullable blocks, each of a different design. The objective is to figure out what to pull/push and when, to allow Mallo to ascend each puzzle and rescue the kid. It sounds simple, and to be fair a lot of the puzzles are, but some are an absolute nightmare. It really tests your spartial awareness, and, more importantly, the 3D actually helps the game and you to solve the puzzles.

I haven't finished it yet, because I am stuck and get very confused on the particular level I am on. I must finish the whole game though, I am addicted to it, and that is why Nintendo are geniuses.

8. Mark of the Ninja (XBLA)


Mark of the NinjaI have played all of the Splinter Cell games, most of the Metal Gear Games, along with many others that were considered Stealth titles. I recognised that some constraints of what that word means had to be made in those titles but the core idea is still there. Mark of the Ninja is better.

It shows that being seen isn't an automatic game over, and that if you give the player all the information needed to set up their run through a level and how to sneakily take out enemies, stealth can be a hell of a lot of fun. The fact that the game looks gorgeous, like a saturday morning cartoon, and sounds great only adds to what turned out to be one of the best downloadable games ever made, and the best stealth game ever imagined.

7. Trials Evolution (XBLA)


Trials EvolutionThe first game I ever reviewed semi-professionally was Trials HD. It was great, though I recognise now that I had an abusive relationship with that game and unfortunately, I was the one getting getting the abuse.

Knowing this, I still went ahead and bought the excellent sequel Trials Evolution, and once again started getting a beat down. However, Evolution does improve on HD in every way, from more varied enviroments to an easier learning curve and greater length. I did get to a point where I just had to walk away before I killed myself, but I enjoyed it up to that.

6. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3)

Skyrim

I knew Skyrim was a great game when I was playing one night and I heard a rustling from upstairs. I carried on thinking my wife was just restless, but shortly afterwards she appeared at the living room door and said 'Get to bed!' I looked at the clock, and it was 3am. Oops.

Skyrim sucks you in like nothing that came before it, thrusting you into a world of dragons, vikings and magic. Even though the PS3 release was plagued with problems, and still hasn't had the DLC releases enjoyed elsewhere, it served me well for the 100+ hours I put into the game. Whats depressing about that is that I have barely scratched the surface of the content in the core game, let alone expansion packs. I just had to walk away at some point, my wife was getting seriously annoyed.

5. Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360)


Mass Effect 3Mass Effect is about as close to the Star Wars films as gaming is going to get. That might be controversial, but its true, and I for one am very happy about that.

The beauty of the series is that each game is a continuation of your sheperds storyline, the choices from previous games carry over and you build up your version of the story. Of course, major plot points will always be there, but friends might be killed or survive and your abilities will improve. Its great, and while Mass Effect 3 had its fair share of controversy this year regarding the series finale, I for one enjoyed every second of it. Roll on with the next game and a new character to build up!


4. Transformers: Fall Of Cybertron (Playstation 3)


Fall of Cybertron

"Metroplex heeds the call of the last Prime" with those words, I knew I had to play Fall of Cybertron. I am a massive Transformers fan and this game didn't disappoint from a fiction stand point.

It did, however, have some technical issues on the PlayStation 3, but I forgave it due to the great story and the fact it had a) Metroplex and b) you can play as Grimlock. I was sold. The fact that it was actually pretty good really helped. I ended up buying a Metroplex G1 figure from Ebay after playing this, and he now stands pride of place in my computer room, surrounded by all my other Transformers.


3. Borderlands 2 (PlayStation 3)

borderlands 2

I didn't play the original Borderlands, but I kinda wish I had after playing 2. Its fun, silly and awesome at the same time. The variety of guns and abilities on offer, as well as different characters to try, make it cool to just tool around in the world, and Pandora is a big place.

Admittedly the story is stupid and can be pretty much disregarded, but everything else, from art style to how the weapons feel make it a very special game. I liken it to Skyrim in terms of tooling around in the world, but its sense of humour really helped take any pressure off and let you just enjoy, the fun in Skyrim tended to come accidently.

2. Halo 4 (Xbox 360)


Halo 4

343 Industries officially took over the reins of Halo this year with the release of Halo 4, and what a release it was. Halo is my favourite franchise in gaming, the universe is so rich with lore and stories to tell that I cannot get enough of it, especially the expanded universe books.

Halo 4 looks awesome, the details on everything are amazing and when it manages to make even the lowly Covenant Grunts look menacing you know it is on to something special. It feels like Halo, but fresh and modern at the same time, and while the story has a few missteps, it is still probably the best in the series and really shows that an old dog can learn new tricks. I am also pretty good at multiplayer, which is nice.

1. The Walking Dead (PlayStation 3)


The Walking Dead

What can I say about The Walking Dead that hasn't already been said? Quite frankly, it is one of the best games of this generation, let alone this year.

The story is truely gripping, and the fact it can play differently depending on choices you make allow for those 'Water Cooler' moments where you discuss with friends about what happened in their game compaired to yours. It isn't based on the comics storyline or the TV show storyline, so is free to tell its own tale, and it does so with aplomb.

It looks great, sounds even better and plays like a point and click adventure. The story is the stand out here though, Telltale crafting a yarn that is terrifying, pointant and exciting all at the same time. Each episode has its twists and turns, and though some are better than others, they combine to make a truely stellar game.


So there you have it, my top ten for 2012. As I said at the start, you could probably predict the number one slot going to the Walking Dead, but you can also do it with a lot of professionals lists too. If you take anything away from this list, can I request that it is an desire to go play The Walking Dead? It is special for so many reasons, but I genuinely believe it is a landmark moment in the mediums history, one that even if you dont like how the game plays, you should see to the end so you an appriciate what it does for gaming. See you in 2013!

On The Risk That Never Was: Six Days in Fallujah

by on

Six days in Fallujah

So the modern military shooter has pretty much taken over the world. Call of Duty's recent instalments have certainly proved that, busting sales records over and over and providing millions of gamers with millions of hours of entertainment. The 'hardcore' are getting tired of them, as are some members of the gaming press and, to be fair, saturation point is fast approaching, some say it has already been exceeded.

It is getting increasingly difficult to tell these games apart and for these titles to carve out their own niche in such a crowded market place, but one game from 2009 dared to try something different, to take a risk and tell the story of one of the most brutal battles of the modern era, it was called Six Days in Fallujah and to say it was controversial is a bit of an understatement.

The battle of Fallujah, of which there are two, focuses on the battle for control of the Iraqi city ofFallujahin 2004. I wont go into all the details of the event, but need less to say it was bloody and brutal. Sometime there after, members of the Third Battalion First marines who took part in the conflict asked Atomic games to create a title based on the event. Those marines helped the team at Atomic create training tools for theUSarmy, and asked them to create Six Days, even lending names and likenesses to the title.

The game was announced in April 2009 and immediately caused a stir, and not due to its amazing graphics engine, tight gameplay or gripping story. This controversy was caused by the fact the game was coming just a few years after the actual battle occurred and everyone saw it as an entertainment product. It wasn't.

Atomic games themselves described the game as a 'survival horror but not in the traditional sense', meaning that they wanted to show the horrifying nature of the battle and the tactics the insurgents used and how the Marines reacted to them. This game was trying to portray a real and devastating conflict in a way only video games can, and was ripped apart for it.

The publisher of the game, Konami, became scared of the controversy surrounding the game and pulled its publishing deal with Atomic later on in 2009. This was a mistake. As I have said before, games need to mature, and having a game that tells a real life story, based on something as raw as the Fallujah battles, would have gone a long way to help this cause. Konami became worried that the issues that arose after the games announcement would have too many people boycotting the company and not buying future titles, but I believe this wouldnt have happened.

If they had had the stones to stick to the publishing agreement, and let Atomic release the game they envisioned, sure some people would have boycotted them but not enough to cause a major problem for a publisher as prolific as Konami. After all, this is the company that gives us Metal Gear and other well known titles so while they would have been in the dog house for a while, it wouldnt have caused an issue.

Gamespot's own Tom Mcshea had an issue with the game, stating that it shouldnt feature regenerating health if it wanted to be the 'most accurate and realistic military game ever made'. To be fair, I do agree with this statement, however I also know certain liberties must be taken when creating a game - players need both a win and loose condition, on the whole.

The point is that Six Days explores what it would be like to be in that conflict. Movies do this all the time, The Hurt Locker for example told a story about bomb disposal units inIraqand had no such issues even though those units were operating, and still are, in the country.

Its a double standard, purely because films have been around longer. The interactive nature of Six Days meant everyone saw it as a game first and its actual status as almost a documentary of the battle not worth considering, which is stupid, and if Konami stuck to its guns and released the game, maybe they would have been hailed as the most forward thinking publisher, and a true force in the future of gaming.

Such issues need to be told through games, as well as books, movies and TV shows. The medium is a legitimate way of expressing personal opinion, historical facts, autobiographies and more. It needs to mature and grow and stupid decisions by scared business men hold it back.

Six Days in Fallujah may have been a rubbish game with something interesting to say. The rubbish game isn't the issue, its what it had to say and what it was trying to do. Carving out your own little bit of such a crowded market, especially one as saturated as modern military shooters, is hard to do at the best of times. Six Days would have done this with aplomb and helped move games along. Yes it was a risk, but it is one that more developers and publishers need to take.

Hopefully one day, someone will have the stones to release a title documenting a recent conflict and it will show the world just what gaming can do. We can but hope.