Best games of 2013

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Another year is over and that means it’s time to list my best games of 2013. This has become a little tradition and something I enjoy compiling. It gives me a chance to express my views on the year and it’s always interesting to look back on what games I considered the best. At the very least this might be interesting to read when I look back on it years from now.

7. Skyrim Dragonborn – A great little expansion that creates a small island with all the same mechanics as Skyrim. Bethesda clearly loves to give people lots of rewards for buying these DLC packs - one of the enemies drops gemstones on death. But this expansion also allowed me to revisit Skyrim and the areas that I never explored with renewed vigor. There is so much amazing content in Skyrim that it deserves another mention this year. Dragonborn is how you do DLC packs.

6. Antichamber – This excellent little puzzler has almost nothing to do with Portal, yet it incurs the very same moments of elation. Antichamber is a game about a device that” fires” blocks that can be placed anywhere. These different blocks allow you to solve puzzles in strange ways, like creating a bridge or ladder. Antichamber is also a game where things are not what they seem, inside might be larger that outside and backwards might by the only way to progress forwards. Antichamber trains you almost perfectly and it’s a rewarding / challenging experience.

5. Rayman Legends – The original Rayman got a lot of praise from gamers and reviewers. I was one of the few that enjoyed it, but was not wowed by it. Legends improves almost everything in the original. Levels are more pleasing to explore without the tedious challenge. You aren’t forced to finish specific levels; you can pursue any level that is unlocked. There are daily challenges, music levels and you can speed up the end level countdown. Everything works better and it’s just more relaxing.

4. Splinter Cell: Blacklist – Conviction was not a good entry into the franchise, but it had a few interesting mechanics (mark and execute) that kept it from being a disaster. Blacklist takes some of those mechanics and then mergers them with the stealth aspects of Chaos Theory. Blacklist is not consistently excellent, but there are a handful of great stealth missions and there is quite a good amount of content within. The main reason for the success is the effective and broad range of gadgets that allow a lot of freedom when taking out guards. It’s a game that certainly rewards stealth/ghosting over brute force.

3. Last of Us – A brilliant post-apocalyptic story of a broken man and a young girl. Joel and Ellie are core reasons this game is so excellent. Ellie is the best AI companion in a video game to date, and she takes the title from Alyx (HL2). It’s the little details that matter most to me in Last of Us and there are hundreds of them. One example is when Ellie is distant, crossing her arms, after an argument with Joel. The story is intriguing because these characters change, there are definitely learning processes and trust issues. Just take a moment in vacated suburbia when Ellie tries telling one of her jokes, some of the most memorable bits are when there isn't any stealth or action.

2. Assassin’s Creed 4 – Wow. What a turnaround for Ubisoft. Although AC4 still has some of the problems of AC3, it manages to wash them away with some great open-world piracy. The ship sailing and combat is enjoyable and the change in setting is refreshing. It doesn’t spend 6 sequences forcing you through pointless tutorials. Edward Kenway is an extremely likeable pirate too, even when he is plundering ships for all their cargo. So much to do on land or in the open sea, but it’s all achievable if you have hours to spare. I really hope that Ubisoft consider doing a few more entries into the Black Flag Universe because it has a lot of potential.

1. Metro: Last Light – This exceptional, atmospheric shooter secures my GOTY for 2013. The underground cities, such as Venice, are unmatched for detail. These civilian areas feel so real, not just attractive 3D backgrounds. Visuals are outstanding, especially when you venture onto the surface. Last Light also makes stealth a viable option when dealing with human soldiers. There is more variety to the mutant population than in 2033. There is one sequence in the game that I will never forget: When you take control of a rail car and are left alone in the tunnel. Here you can proceed almost directly to your objective, or you could stop and explore each side tunnel for supplies – a lure that was far too strong for me to resist. Last light certainly succeeded in bringing me into a game world and holding on tight until the very last mission (which was unfortunately abysmal). It is the best game I have played in 2013 and deserves many accolades.

Other good games: FC3 Blood Dragon, CoJ Gunslinger, State of Decay, Brothers, Beyond: Two Souls. Tomb Raider, Dead Space 3.

Disappointments for 2013

Unfortunately there were quite a few games that failed to reach the potential I had anticipated. These are by no means bad games, but they should have been better.

Battlefield 4 – I am still playing this game and I am still enjoying it very much so. It’s a 9/10 game hidden in a 7/10 technical package. It released in an abysmal state. I’m not talking about the usual DICE issues, they are still present. I’m talking about major issues like servers or clients crashing every hour and players losing progress. The sound was broken on some maps for over a month. They released 5 client patches and over 14 server patches in less than two months. It still has many issues, but thankfully the worst seems to be over. BF4 should have been on my best games list, but it’s relegated to disappointing because of all the issues.

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs –Unfortunately getting the Dear Esther guys to delve into Amnesia did not work out. Interaction, puzzles and even scares suffer greatly. Almost nothing is interactive and the puzzles are so basic they might as well not exist. The sanity mechanic has been changed to give you a flickering lantern. It’s just a very poor Amnesia game.

BioShock Infinite – To me this felt like a lot of shooting galleries wrapped around a convoluted story about dimensions. Shooting is ok, visuals great. But I completely lost interest in the narrative in the last third of the game. I was only making my way forward so all of the weirdness could be wrapped up in a neat little bow. It was, and I appreciate the effort to create such a story. But Infinite would have been so much better if it stuck to one Columbia and approached it much like the other BioShock games. Infinite is just an infinite waste of potential to me.

Gamespot Rant

It’s been months since Gamespot was changed. Unfortunately the change has been rather terrible for many reasons. The community is a fraction of its former self. The forums I visit are not as popular as they were before the change. PC games and PC hardware forums were merged, which was awful to begin with but actually a good idea given the reduced user base. Very few of my friends are writing blogs anymore which is certainly one of the main reasons I enjoyed this place. One good change is being able to add screenshots to reviews. The other improvement is probably uploading and sharing images. The rest is just no better. Here is a list of some problems with the new Gamespot

1. The forums and main site is still horribly slow compared to the older site.

2. No way to see which threads I posted in or which posts I have not read

3. Signatures in forums are small with no text allowed. This means I cannot use my raptr sig anymore and have text with links

4. Stacks are still broken. I used to use Gamespot to track my collection but that is impossible at this point and I’m probably a dozen games behind

5. Feeds seem broken or inaccurate. No game updates, blog updates only recently added, ratings are listed as reviews.

6. Search is awful. Search for Battlefield and the first title you will find is an iPhone game from 2011. The second title is a game on the commodore 64 from 1987

I don’t particularly like the new website layout. Reviews are just one continuous stream of text. I guess they are targeting tablet / phone users. I’d take the old site back in a heartbeat and would even praise them for going back. They won’t though, so we are stuck with what we have. Over the past few months I have come to tolerate the site. I’m just posting a lot less than I would normally be and that is because of the site change.

I hope everybody (anybody) who is reading this had a good 2013. Gaming wise it was alright, with a variety of ups and downs. 2014 looks like it will have some good games including: Evolve, Dragon Age 3, Witcher 3 and Watch Dogs. It remains to be seen if I will blog again in the future on Gamespot. If I do not, I would like to thank Gamespot and all of my Friends for the good times we shared. It has been a great journey.

E3 by the numbers

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ONE: Xbox One hit fans with DRM and online checks at  E3 2013. The crazy fallout from this mess has been entertaining. Including all the wonderful gifs it has generated. MS did very little to squash the problems they caused at their launch even. Their best feature, 10 person family share, is barely talked about. The Xbone boss said that people should just use the 360 if they have no internet. For me the Xbox One doesnt have anything big to make me want to rush out and get it.

TWO: Two new FPS IPs from big shooter developers. Firstly you have Bungie with their social co-op shooter Destiny. Then you have Respawn, ex call of duty guys, with their mecha shooter Titanfall. Titanfall looks to be the more interesting of the two for me, partly because of the competitive nature. Huge Titans moving about as nimble soldiers parkour over the relatively constrained arenas. Destiny presentation seemed to be pushing the social aspect more, joining up with buddies to take down mobs and boss mobs, sharing the spoils of war borderlands style. Even The Division looked like it pushed the social deal more.

THREE: Witcher 3 has already won a few awards and if they were for graphics then its easy to see why. Its one of the best looking games of the show based on screenshots and the video released. It sounds ambitious too, being many times larger than Witcher 2 and open world.  I sure hope they can pull it off with a mature story-driven experience. They need to work on the combat and balance from Witcher 2 and leave the rest.

FOUR: Battlefield 4 is adding a ton of community requested features onto the core of BF3. Spectator, Commander, bigger squads, reduced suppression etc. As with any new DICE BF game there is a twist in the class gadgetry and some new elements. Huge destruction events change the maps (levolution), like the building collapsing to cover the level in thick ash for the remainder of the match. The presentation of this game made it my  best of the show, although no real surprise since Im a big fan of the series.

FIVE: Watch Dogs is just five months away from release and recent gameplay vids have been impressive as usual. Admittedly I have kept myself in media blackout for Watch Dogs (as I do for most games) because I want to see it all for myself when I play. It certainly has a very ambitious design and it appears to be reaching potential. Integrating games with tablets seems to be the next big thing for gaming and Watch Dogs does this by allowing you to call a tablet user in to help you flee from the cops.

So there you have it, E3 offered a lot of videos, screenshots and gaming news. For that reason, it made it a pretty interesting week and introduced a few games that have piqued my interest.

Other Gaming Stuff...

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I started playing Team Fortress 2 fairly regularly, which I havent played in years. Initially I played some games to get the Steam cards (gotta catch em all), but kept playing because of the entertainment. Im only playing Mann Vs Machine, which is co-op / tower defence mode. There is something very addicting about taking down scores of robots and beating the waves. However, after a few dozen hours, I might be losing interest in the mode.  

On a side note: I managed to sell most of the TF2 items I have accrued from special game editions on Steam Market (e.g. Hitman, Quantum Conundrum, Sleeping Dogs). I have made about $35 from that which is quite nice bonus and there are a few more items to sell.  I would advise people get in and sell stuff, prices seem to be on a general decline.

360 XBLA games:

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Got access to a few keys for FC3: Blood Dragon and CoJ: Gunslinger on Xbox 360. Both have been quite impressive shooters that kept me entertained. Blood Dragon is a great themed reskin of FC3, taking about 10hrs to finish and explore everything. Gunslinger is an arcade entry into the CoJ franchise. Gunslinger has some great combat in between the awful boss battles. I will likely get both games on PC when there is a good deal. Probably during the awesomely inevitable Steam summer sales.

Review of FC3: Blood Dragon

Review of CoJ: Gunslinger

GRID 2

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Loved the original GRID game, but GRID 2 just did not hit the high mark set by its predecessor. Its actually rather bland and full of minor problems that add up. Played most of the game on Hard, ramped down the difficulty near the end because I was losing time trials by fractions of a second and races got long and tedious. Normal mode is easy, but it also seems to have way more rubber banding than Hard. Drivers are very fast for the first 4 corners of a race and then stupidly slow to let you pass. It just felt like I was playing a role in a predetermined script.

Drift races are horrible; in fact most vehicles drift anyway. My enjoyment level was inversely proportional to my vehicles sliding ability. Some of the Hong Khong tracks are mediocre, the visuals really did not impress me (the Sun is horribly overdone).  The game is still entertaining from an arcade driving perspective. TheAbu Dhabitracks have a decent flow. Overtake is a fun mode and time trials are a nice relaxing way to play without needing to put up with bad AI drivers. 

Game impressions for early 2013

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This will be a shorter blog than last time! Q1 has been fairly busy so far and I've been able to play a few newly released games. Here are my impressions of some 2013 games.

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Dead Space 3 came out in early February and thankfully it is pretty good. It's not quite the atmospheric, tense and well paced experience that both its predecessors managed. But its still an enjoyable game with more action, longer campaign, excellent weapon crafting and co-op. I played the game entirely through with co-op after single player. It introduces some minor changes here and there. Like Carver having visions, or short cut scenes with Clarke and carver. It's very easy to play in co-op and I replayed a some of the chapters many times.

My review of Dead Space 3 (external link)

Awakened just came out, not a bad little DLC although does reuse areas of the main game and doesnt introduce much new. The cult leader fight and last puzzle are fairly good though. It continues the story of Clarke and Carver with quite a bit of dialogue, sadly no Ellie. It's only just over an hour long but good quality. It ends on a big cliffhanger.

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Aliens Colonial Marines is a game I wasn't going to buy. My love for the movie series, especially Aliens, forced my hand. Luckily I got it fairly cheap, because Aliens CM is one of the worst games I've played in a long time. About the only thing I liked about it were the constant references to the movie, Bishop perhaps the standout. Everything else was so below par it would have me shaking my head. Even the shooting is quite poor. It's so disappointing to see an awful game come from an intriguing universe.

Just to give you an example of how bad the game is. One sequence has you unlatching three fuel nozzles from a drop ship on the planet surface. The area is fairly open and of course Aliens come. Once you enter the nozzle animation (press E to unlatch) the aliens will run up behind you and slash at you multiple times. Because you are in the animation you cannot be damaged or killed. So rather than watching your surrounds for aliens and picking a moment to unlatch, you just run to the nozzle and press a button. After you remove each nozzle, you can turn around and see 3 aliens lined up behind you who have been slashing at you.

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Crysis 3 also released in Feb, it took the graphics crown pretty easily. It is simply stunning in places and looks as good in multiplayer. C3 is my least favourite of the series. It's still a decent sci fi shooter, just nothing great or spectacular. I had a lot more problems with AI than before, spawning enemies annoyed me esp with the visor. The bow seems overpowered and other weapons felt imbalanced. There really isnt a good sandbox vehicle experience either. Story wasnt that interesting and it just felt quite underwhelming by the end (aside from graphics). The multiplayer is great fun, as in C2, although I havent played much because I feel like Ive done it all before. Cevat may call it gamer fatigue. I think Crytek could try harder.

My review of Crysis 3 (external link)

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Tomb Raider is a reboot to a franchise I have enjoyed in the past. It changes a lot of things, most notably the combat. It also reduces puzzle and platforming so it's just a fun game to play. There are problems with the survival stuff they introduce early on. More puzzles would have been nice too. Once I ignored the pointless attempts at survival realism, I enjoyed the rest of the game very much. Actually I've been playing more and trying to find all items and having great fun. Love how the game repopulates the area with a few enemies so I can stealth them or just play with the combat. It has certainly brought a fresh new spin to the series while leaving room for improvement.

My review of Tomb Raider on gamespot

Bioshock Infinite in 10 days, looking forward to that! Keep watching the skies!

Best of 2012

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2012 is over and it wasnt exactly the best year for gaming. Still there were a few good games that deserve some recognition. I have decided to single out 7 games this year but there were a few others that were great games and worth mentioning

Honorable Mentions:

  • Black Ops 2 - A surprisingly good single player campaign
  • Botanicula - Another great puzzler from amanita design, best music / visual combo
  • Darksiders 2 - Solid follow up to the original action / rpg / puzzler
  • Tribes Ascend - Great free to play multiplayer game
  • Prototype 2 - More of the same yes, but more of awesome is great!

The Top 7

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7. Torchlight 2 is a great sequel, improving almost every aspect of the original. There is much more variety to environments and enemies. Once again it has a satisfying progressive loot system that isnt concerned about a global market. Combat is great fun and can be very involving when you bring together skills and spells. The coop left some to be desired but I had a great time with the single player and map works.

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6. Sleeping Dogs is a solid open world game which takes inspiration from many games including GTA and Batman. The melee combat is awesome with satisfying combos that break arms or tackle people to the ground. You slowly learn these moves by collecting statues. It's the type of melee where I'm happy to see another fight scene, not just wanting to breeze through or avoid it. Driving action is fun because you can shunt into cars and also do some Just Cause 2 moves to switch cars. The shooting is rare but underrated; I wish they had more of it. The post release support was excellent, they fixed some PC things with a few patches namely car camera and mouse controls. The nightmare on north point DLC was short but relatively good too.

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5. Black Mesa (Mod) just happens to be worth the wait. A mammoth effort for a team of unpaid volunteers to recreate, improve and tweak the Half Life formula. It was almost fully released this year. All pre Xen levels were launched and it was glorious aside from a few annoying crashes in the second half. I loved the little changes they made, helping flow and just making the play through feel fresh. I must have played the original ten times now and Black Mesa was every bit as good. It proves that not all so called vaporware titles turn into a mess like DNF. Hopefully we get Opposing Force remake after the Xen levels! I also need to replay HL2 but I'm waiting for Gabe to spill the beans on HL3.

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4. Mark of the Ninja is an exceptional stealth game. Dont let the 2D viewpoint get in the way of what is a collection of amazing stealth mechanics combined with good AI scripts. It's satisfying to be sneaking about, dragging bodies, knocking out lights, ducking through laser fields or hiding in containers. It has more refined stealth ideas than the big stealth games of 2012, which I shall not mention for fear of retribution from the gaming gods. Now if only somebody could capture all the stealth ideas from MoTN and transport them into a beautiful 3D world....

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3. Alan Wake technically came out on the 360 two years ago but that doesnt count. After so long Remedy was finally allowed to bring their magic to the PC and it was worth waiting for. I love how quirky this game is, the setting is alluring and it's a really well crafted single player experience. Playing one episode at a time and coming back to it yielded great results. The combat is all about light, juggling enemies and also shooting. I personally really enjoyed how it works together. Placing flares to reload or turn the tide. Using flasblangs to clear out groups or even shooting a flaregun into enemies like a rocket launcher. I'ts not quite as amazing as Max Payne 1 or 2 but its one bright spark in a gloomy year.

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2. Far Cry 3 was a very close to winning my GOTY because I just love it. FC3 developers looked very carefully at the previous games and smartly chose things that worked in both games. They used the tagging system and rock throwing from FC1. They continued with the open world and fire propagation of FC2. There are other things too, and they even got some ideas from the lesser known Far Cry instincts. But they didnt stop there; they added some great things that fit well into the franchise and make it fun to get around and take down pirates.

I found it really enjoyable to clear each outpost, and they stay captured this time. This is essentially the essence of the original small areas of combat that lets you approach how you wish. From the jungle in stealth, from a mountain with a sniper rifle or up close with bullet proof vest and shotty. Most importantly it's the player who dictates when and how the action occurs, if their preparation is inadequate then the difficulty is greater.

FC2 had this to a degree but I could not stand the respawning checkpoints and never finished it (I may go back). FC3 introduces some dangerous animals that add a delicious amount of unpredictability without being annoying. I found the story was generally enjoyable although it fades towards the end and misuses some of the best characters. The AI is very good, allowing effective stealth play and I never thought they cheated. A return to a tropical island is appreciated and the only thing missing is the Trigens! Bring out the monkeys mutants!!!

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1. Mass Effect 3 is my top game in 2012 and also the most controversial of the year. That ending! Yes it was rather short and not really fitting for such a great series. I like to think the whole of ME3 is the ending to the series, not just the final 15 minutes. The extended cut DLC offered a better conclusion and it was good to see Bioware release it without changing their vision. What I liked most about 3 was how it elegantly brought back characters you forged friendships with from the previous games. It wrapped up some long running story threads involving the genophage and geth for example.

ME3 also did combat much better, mostly due to the action pacing, level design and enemy variety. There were a few difficult decisions to make throughout although I wish there were more. I can't imagine playing through the series without bringing your saves over. Playing through these games mere weeks after each other would be even more rewarding. Also slightly impressed with the multiplayer; it has pretty good legs for a single player series and many free maps. I will not likely forget the ME series and the controversy surrounding it. But I will remember it as an amazing journey above all else.

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Over at newgamenetwork.com we recently finished up our Game of the Year awards for 2012. Although I dont agree with all of it, I'm happy with the variation we have this year. Check out our awards by clicking this link!

Games I'm excited for in 2013

BioShock Infinite has the potential to slap gaming in the face with a perfect blend of narrative and gameplay. BioShock was an excellent game and Ken Levine is passionate and knowledgeable about the medium. He is already hyping the ending, which is a little odd given how the first games ending was so good because nobody expected a good ending.

Dead Space 3's development direction has me worried but I still love that universe and want to go back to dismember more necromorphs. This time they are going with coop which certainly could result in something like FEAR 3 (not scary). They are adding random visions in coop, so one player will be attacking something that the other player doesnt even see. I just hope single player preserves the strengths of the previous games and is not Gears Space 3.

Battlefield 4 (beta?) could make it out next year. Nothing much has been confirmed about BF4. Clearly EA and DICE thought BF3 was a huge success so I expect it will follow a similar structure and setting. Perhaps we might see the return of commander, battlerecorder or a third faction? Russians have had a good run. Access to the beta is the only good thing I got from preordering MoH Warfighter.

Last of Us is another game with the potential to elevate gaming as a medium. Naughty Dog are pedigree developers and if they put their collective skill together they could pull off something amazing with this game, just like they did with Uncharted 2.

GTA 5 might not make it on PC next year but it should be close. Its fair to say that there has been no GTA game I havent loved and this bodes well for the next game which looks great so far.

Crysis 3 aims to split the difference between the original and the sequel in terms of level design. This is a good idea and could result in a big pay off assuming they dont botch the PC launch again.

Recently Playing

BF3 Aftermath (DLC) is getting a lot of play hours, as well as regular BF3. I just ticked over 300hrs in game time not too long ago. Aftermath is the best of the DLC packs. Premium has offered great value but the previous DLC packs have been at the extreme ends of the scale (except for B2K). Aftermath is the earthquake themed pack that splits the middle ground (glorious puns). It includes vehicles in midsized maps but keeps the equilibrium and ensures there is plenty of variety. The map layouts are exceptional and fit perfectly with the best in the vanilla game.

Binary Domain is a third person shooter with robots made by a Japanese development team. It's also a surprisingly good game. The shooting mechanics are enjoyable because the robots break apart and this also happens in the mostly good boss battles. The story is very hammy, as there are bound to be issues when things are translated. Still on the whole I found some of the characters interesting, the protagonist likeable and the story of Hollow Children intriguing. I found it to be a very decent port, as controls worked well, visually looks quite good and runs extremely well. Campaign is full of rather well made action cut scenes too. It's even the type of game I'd like to play again when I clear out my backlog.

Saints Row The Third was selling for cheap on steam a while back and I picked it up but only added it to my steam library after playing it during the free weekend. Finished it just recently and it was a whole lot of fun. There are a lot of laughs and mayhem along the campaign even if some of the missions structures were repeated. No doubt it borrows things from grand theft auto games but it ratchets up the crazy to 9000. Being able to throw yourself in front of traffic to get insurance is just one example. Anyway SR3 is a good port and a fun game.

Space Marine is a third person shooter / melee game in the WH40K universe. I dont know anything about that universe so I would assume fans love playing as an Ultramarine? I did not. Space marine is an incredibly dull and lifeless shooter. I found it so boring that my challenge was merely making it through as quickly as possible. It doesnt seem to have any character and 90% of the game takes you through brown corridors, elevators or grey war torn buildings.

The first half of the game is ok, with Orcs that fall nicely to melee attacks and weapons. Then the game introduces a new enemy that takes 10x more bullets (10 headshots). So the free flowing shooting / brawling turns into placing your ultramarine behind walls while you chip away at the health of enemies. The only change up was the jetpack sequences which make you overpowered so you can stomach another hour of gameplay. Interestingly enough there is not a single sequence that takes place in Space. Why call it Space Marine and not WH40K: Ultramarine?

Thief Gold has been a very different experience for a number of reasons. Firstly I have had to relearn everything about quick saving and how to abuse it. It's also surprising me how little the truly primitive visuals are having an impact on me. Good use of sound helps make for this very unnerving atmosphere, even when absolutely nothing is happening! It's hard to describe. In any case there have been some truly sublime missions. The mission "Assassins" has some of the best design in terms of level structure. If there was one thing I'm not fond of in Thief Gold, it would be the zombies. Hopefully there arent too many of them in future missions.

Anyway that is my little yearly summary with a bit of a blog tacked on the end. Hopefully somebody out there finds some use from it. Otherwise it will just have to be useful to me in the future. Also if anybody has a good recommendation for a long running relatively new sci-fi TV series I would be happy to hear it. Hope everybody is having a good 2013.

Dearest of all my friends

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Hello gamespot friends! I have returned to the land of blogging, this is my biannual blog. Its going to be "bigger, better and more badass" due to my infrequency of blogging. Rest assured I am still alive and I have been playing loads of games.

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Mass Effect 3 came out in March and most people would be aware of the controversy surrounding that title. Of course Im talking about the ending which was disappointingly abrupt and unfitting for a huge series. Fast forward to June and Bioware listened to the fans, ate their cupcakes and came up with something better. The extend cut is longer and ends up being a decent finish to a great game. If that ending was original included then I would probably have little problem with the way it ended. I ended up writing a review for ME3 a few months after release, this review changed far more than anything else Ive written. Consequently I reshuffled, deleted and redid a large portion of it. You can read it here.

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Max Payne 3 came to PC a few weeks ago and I have to say that it is my least favourite of the series. Not a horrible game, not a great game. I found it merely average with multiplayer I could not get into. One of the problems I had with the game was the frequent, pointless and interruptive cut scenes. I dont understand why the game needs to take control from the player so often and for so long. Many cut scenes cant be skipped so its clearly a design decision to show bald Max walk through a door and hide behind a tiny piece of cover in the middle of a room. Max has always been strong on narrative but the older games flowed so wonderfully without these scenes. My review can be found here.

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Red Ded Redemption Unded Nightmare has been on my wishlist for a while but I havent been playing much PS3 so I only got it recently when it was quite cheap. I must admit my first reactions were on the poor side. The first horses you get constantly pulls to the right or left, making navigating windy roads pure garbage. After I got the flame horse, navigating became satisfactory again. I also realised I totally forgot that this game has focus mode (slow motion aiming) which obviously vastly improved shooting zombies who really only go down when shot in the head. Also Ive had some quite awful framerate problems, mostly when Im riding a horse into a wall of zombies, it feels like it drops to something like 10FPS

The good news is that the expansion is absolutely hilarious. Probably the funniest game Ive ever played because of how it deals with the zombie characters and weird occurrences with individuals who are non-zombified. Marston is pure sarcasm in human form and its awesome.

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Alan Wake has been a long time coming on PC. Remedy apparently persisted with Microsoft to have it released on PC. Then not long after that, they brought across American Nightmare. I really enjoyed both games, the combat remained good throughout. The unique feel is quite important in terms of it standing out, also liked the tv shows and the bits of humour. I would look forward to the sequel coming to PC, hopefully its not held back by the overlords at Microsoft. My review on gamespot is found here

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Pretty early on I had low expectations for Diablo 3, just the way it looked but also because they didnt include the Paladin (ok not really). The beta came out and I enjoyed it enough to pick the game up at launch. Ive played through the game a few times now with Monk and Demon Hunter. My Monk is finding it very hard in Hell and I just finished normal with my demon hunter.

I think I appreciated it a little bit more after replaying segments and seeing things change. I also enjoyed the action for both classes. Act 1 is definitely my favourite of all four. I dont like D3 as much as the original or the sequel but I guess with all the hate in the forums recently Ive almost gone the other direction. Many people really had high expectations for it, expecting a 9/10 game and receiving something less will always turn the hate on. Instead I think its a good solid game but it wont change the world.

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Journey is touted as one of the greatest games ever made, well at least it rates that way on metacritic. This short game failed to really impress me to those levels. Technically its very proficient and the art team really did a great job with the sand and the wind. It works so well because its minimalistic, it doesnt explain anything and I will do the same in case people are looking at playing it. It was quite enjoyable but, in similar ways to Flower, I fail to see what all the fuss is about.

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Dear Esther is a pretty good contrasting game to Journey. Dear Esther has basically no real gameplay. Its walking and swimming and listening to some guy talk nonsense. It sounds like a waste of money but I actually enjoyed the ride. The real thing that appealed to me is actually trying to make sense of the visual and audio clues. Trying to link the pieces and work out what is happening, then talking about those theories with others. Making you think about a game for days or weeks after you finished playing is an achievement. My review of it here.

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Guild Wars 2 beta hasn't been off to a good start for me, certainly not as good as the GW1 beta. But I'm happy that the beta weekends finished better than they started.

First Beta Weekend (BWE) terrible performance, not fun at all as warrior norn, cluster**** in all dynamic events, balance pretty terrible.

Second BWE actually playable on low settings, balance better, slightly more enjoyable even though instances (personalized story) are weak and downed state is not fun

Third BWE First time I actually enjoyed the game, possibly because I left my norn warrior in the gutter and played around with Slyvari Elementalist and Charr Necromancer. Dynamic events show more potential, better balance and some more interesting locations. They still need to basically redo the introduction / tutorial sections which arent good. At least this weekend has me hopeful that my money was not wasted and will attempt to sink some time when it comes out in late august.

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Tribes Ascend is Free to play. Yes you heard that right, costs zero to play the game. Its a multiplayer shooter with jetpacks and skiing. Hi-Rez gets money from people buying boosts (non-boost XP earn rate is painfully slow) and buying weapons/skins with gold. In general the weapons you can buy are not better than the free ones, just better at a different role. Ive spent a meagre $30 and already got 70 hours of entertainment. Im impressed with how they have translated the series into a modern feel, appealing to casuals without losing that insanely high skill ceiling.

Its the first F2P game that has changed my perception about F2P games, they certainly can be relevant to me. With many more F2P games coming in the next few years Ill be checking out more thanks to Ascend. The game is still growing, which is actually a big plus, more maps, weapons and even modes etc. It has some teething problems, partly because they are a small dev team. I havent played it for a few months but I still recommend checking it out.

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Darkness 2, Syndicate, Spec Ops and Sniper Elite v2

Linking these all together because they are all average shooters which will be basically forgotten in GOTYs and in years from now. Spec Ops has an awesome setting in Dubai with sand storms but pretends you have choices when you dont. Sniper Elite v2 has some satisfying long range sniper skills with moronic AI. Darkness 2 has an interesting art style, solid shooting and probably the best of these games. Syndicate has a pretty poor single player with a ridiculous overuse of Bloom, the co-op aspects are quite good but barely anybody is playing on PC. Apparently Syndicate sold like 150,000 copies across all platforms worldwide. These games more or less fill my shooter quotient no more, no less.

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DiRT Showdown is like a party / demolition derby spin off for the popular racing series. They developed the whole game in under a year and I think it shows. Its really thin on content and quite unsatisfying. Not sure exactly what they were trying to achieve with it but they failed pretty badly. They should have made it more arcade or copied the formula from something like FlatOut.

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Still playing Battlefield 3 recently broke through the 200 hour barrier which means its my second most played Battlefield game after 2142 (327hrs) . BF4 coming late 2013 or early 2014 sounds ok but I was really hoping for a futuristic Battlefield game. The new close quarters maps are pretty good but I can already see most people going back to normal rotations. Armored kill has some more potential for longer life but hopefully they are not ridiculously big just for the sake of being big.

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Picked up Prototype 2 recently and its good to come back to this franchise. Just quietly I rank the first one up there with infamous. P2 continues that fun, its just really enjoyable to run around consume bad guys, slash groups of enemies, perform powerful attacks with tendrils or hammer fists. The powers are awesome and the story has lifted in quality. Few new enemy types which so far are quite good. Visually it looks a lot better too, the city is more detailed and less washed out. There are three zones in the game world and so far Ive only been to yellow and green. Ironically the green zone is far more dangerous. As far as PC ports go I dont think its horrible. Performance could be better because I get a playable 30-40fps. There are some strange mouse jitters but they dont bother me enough to switch to my 360 controller.

Steam sales were back this year and I must say I missed the achievement hunting activities. They did replace them with some smaller activities that go towards permanent badges so its not all bad. I picked up a few games some of which I have yet to play so my backlog grew a little bit. Im working my way through Rayman Origins which is a decent platformer with some really quirky music. Finished the free DLC pack for Hard Reset which was really great and much appreciated freebie from the developers. Three cheers for Flying Wild Hog!

Now we are getting into the business end of the year for games, its a shame quite a few were pushed back into 2013 but there are still plenty of games that look to be coming along nicely. Hitman, Torchlight 2, Ass Creed 3, Far Cry 3 and Dishonored all have the potential to be the best of the best.

Well that was quite a long blog, it's been forming for a few months now though. I've been writing bits and pieces on the games but never actually got around to posting a blog which I should have done months ago. Better late than never I suppose. I hope everybody is going well even though I don't see many blogs on my feed anymore. :)

Games of 2011

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Hello Gamespot friends! You may not remember me but I remember all of you. Yes even you! I haven't blogged in a few months but it is time to do my gaming year in review. Overall I think 2011 was good and better than last year. Of course there were quite a few disappointing games. Some will be making an appearance in this very blog, so grab your reading spectacles and come with me down memory lane!

Best Games of 2011

6. Crysis 2

The one problem C2 had was that it released 3 months before it should have been. However I'm not afraid to admit there were many situations during the campaign I felt were more enjoyable than anything Crysis 1 produced. Aside from some linear missions in the mid section it preserved the multi-option gameplay far longer than the original. I also thought the mp was very good but underplayed and buggy.

5. Deus Ex: Human Revolution

This third game is a good revival for the franchise after invisible war was spoiled by some questionable design decisions. DX3 acknowledges the strengths and weaknesses of the previous games and ensures simple mistakes are not made. I thought it was well written and has some quite good stealth / action gameplay. Also glad they didn't tack on a multiplayer portion just to fill checkboxes. I hope the next game is more ambitious. It's time to get creative with a genre mix that should be leading the industry.

4. Dead Space 2

This atmospheric nightmare has plenty of slick action. It doesn't change a whole heap from the original, just refines the formula and paces things well. Aside from the end level the game is rather well balanced. Really happy it made it to PC after rumours that it was cancelled. Multiplayer isn't bad but hardly good enough to compete with the leaders. I hope they continue with the franchise formula and give me more necromorphs to dismember.

3. Skyrim

This game is Oblivion with more snow. And I loved Oblivion. Sure they have a tweaked engine with some great shadows and environmental effects. Many locations look fantastic (Blackreach). The main story quest is better than fallout 3 too. It's a success because of how much stuff there is to do. I think it shows real confidence to hide some of the best quests in the most unlikely places. Have people explore and craft their own legend as the Dovahkiin. Bethesda knows how to use resources and they know how to make an open world game.

2. Witcher 2

Close call for #2 and #3, but Witcher 2 nudges through for a win. It is a truly rich RPG with incredible choices that have large impacts on future events. The combat is nicely tweaked even if the difficulty is a bit wonky. Visually a masterpiece with story that is layered and intelligent. It has great characters with solid voice work. I am still very impressed by both games from CD Project RED and look forward to their next game.

1. Battlefield 3

This flawed masterpiece is still the most deserving of my GOTY. No other game this year consistently produced these electric moments of action and amazement online. In the middle of a warzone with a tank on my right, attack chopper in the air and infantry moving between the rocky outcrops as sniper bullets crack past my ear. Every weapon feels superb from the bolted sniper rifles, carbines, pistols, shotguns and even the knife. So many ways to die and yet it retains rewarding teamplay aspects of the series.

A better collection of conquest maps than BC2, solid team deathmatch and a more interesting ranking system has already consumed over 90hrs of my life (colonel service star 2). It seems they even took some inspiration from 2142 to increase game speed. BF3 also happens to be the best looking and best sounding game of 2011. This combination and great animation elevates the multiplayer experience. I look forward to playing more in the months to come.

Honorable mentions:

LittleBigPlanet2 (PS3) – more fun sack people platforming

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood – continues AC2's quality, for the most part

Portal 2 – Great follow up with solid co-op puzzles

Infamous 2 (PS3) – Nothing but improvements over the original

DiRT 3 – One of the best driving games around and it looks amazing

Biggest Disappointments of 2011

Rage

This game just turned out wrong on many levels. id software has my respect for Doom 3 and many of their older games. But they can't make an open world shooter if their lives depended on it. They clearly took some ideas from Bethesda but they should have just handed over development. Not only was the launch a complete mess on PC but the game is just not fun to play. The world is empty and lacks character and doing levels in reverse is not what I consider a good time. id software please go back to linear shooters.

Uncharted 3

Shock. Yes the sequel to my GOTY for 2009 is actually my biggest disappointment for 2011 although certainly not a bad game. The story is poor, badly paced and several characters never return or stay missing for too long. The gun play is limited by bad enemy locations and a melee system that saw unnecessary change. Even the co-op levels aren't that fun. I went back and replayed UC2. It only took me one chapter to realise how superior that game is, then I played 10 without a break.

Special Achievement Awards for 2011

Best original mechanic: Driver San Francisco (Shifting)

Greatest use of road-kill as armor: Assassin's Creed Brotherhood (armor of brutus)

Dullest use of AC-130 in a mission: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Most effective deployment of Russian dolls in a game: Stacking

Biggest bastardization of a franchise: Red Faction: Armageddon

Best use of dirt in a video game: From Dust and DiRT 3 (dual winners)

Least scary game that should have been scary: FEAR 3

Most cleavage present in a single slide manoeuvre: Batman: Arkham City (Catwoman)

Worst gaming meme adopted by the most people: Skyrim (no I won't say it)

And here is a brief list (40) of games I played from 2011.

LittleBigPlanet 2, Monday Night Combat, Dead Space 2, Stacking, Magicka, Bulletstorm, Killzone 3, Painkiller Redemption, Homefront, Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, Crysis 2, Portal 2, Hydrophobia, Prophecy, Witcher 2, LA Noire, DiRT 3, Red Faction Armageddon, Infamous 2, Duke Nukem Forever, Alice Madness Returns, FEAR 3, Limbo, From Dust, Bastion, Deus Ex Human Revolution, Dead Island, Hard Reset, Trackmania Canyon, Driver San Francisco, RAGE, Renegade Ops, Costume Quest, Battlefield 3, Uncharted 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Skyrim, Serious Sam 3 BFE, Batman Arkham City, Trine 2

Hope everybody is well and are enjoying 2012 so far. I haven't been very active on Gamespot of late with blogging or forums. If I have missed your blogs in the past few months I apologise. I've read some good game lists in the last few weeks, keep them coming!

Blast from the past

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It's been a while since I last blogged, Reason? None really, I just haven't got around to gathering my thoughts in an intelligible fashion. Still playing games, including some old ones as indicated from the blog title. Therefore this blog will proceed in chronological order so hold onto your hats!

Deus Ex (2000) Replay

I went back to this game weeks before the prequel was due out. I wanted to see how it stood the test of time and also get my mind into the franchise. Interestingly enough, not only did I finish the game I loved every single second. Therefore it's only fair to say that I think this game is the best game ever made (Half-life was always close).

There are many reasons for its success in my eyes. The whole game is still ambitious to this day, proving just how far ahead of the curve it was back in 2000. The choice through each level and the weaponry available makes it better on replay. I probably forgot just as much as I remembered so it was also refreshing to go back to Hong Kong and actually navigate it with ease. I even saw a few new things even though I've played through it a few times before, you can't put a price on that.

Call of Duty (2003)

I picked up the warchest on Steam thanks to the CoD sales. I never owned these games before, so now the only CoD game I'm missing is CoD 3 (eww console exclusive). To be honest with you this game did not impress me much, not to say it was bad. CoD seems like a franchise that relies on presentation more than anything. This includes the cut scenes, the set missions, the aerial bombers, the animations and the large battles. As technology moves on these things become less impressive so what's left is basically shooting, which I find merely adequate. The pacing is pretty good, there weren't many sections that feel too slow or repetitive. Interesting to see how World at War basically stole a few sections from this end of this game.

Call of Duty: United Offensive (2004)

Similar to CoD although it has some better missions but it also does some things worse. AI in particular is either brain dead or quake 3 nightmare aimbot good, there is no in between. The last mission is atrociously designed; it is the pure and raw form of whack-a-mole gameplay. CoD 4 had seemingly infinite soldiers running to a window to kill, UO is the true original for this mechanic. Plus it had numerous glitches – like one sequence when I destroyed a tank and it pretended I didn't, after which 100+ enemies kept spawning. At least the 3D credits are good.

Call of Duty 2 (2005)

This game fairs better in my eyes because of the visuals and shooting mechanics. This game is barely a few steps from COD 4. There are some more open missions that let you approach objectives in different ways. It is funny to come around an empty alley and see 4 enemies appear from the corner. Even the tanks you have to blow up try to drive away from you. Really enjoyed the "clear that house soldier" mechanic even if it was repeated dozens of times. Regenerating health makes this game much easier than the previous games for me, can totally Rambo it on normal. There is some reuse of levels which felt like padding to me. All the CoD games were pretty short though.

Uncharted: Drakes Fortune (2007) Replay


Finished this again on hard, the third game is due out in November. I love the colour palette and the game probably looks better than the uncharted 3 beta. Enjoyed it as much as a few years back. I guess its fun to be part of the adventure and perhaps also because I suck less with controller aiming (playing on Hard). Drake, Elena, Sully are now characters I know and love so seeing them again is great fun.

Newer Games!

Bulletstorm (February 2011)

After selling my soul to the devil (buying a game on EA's Origin) I was able to get this game for a decent price. My initial reaction to this game was pretty poor, too many cutscenes and a bad story opening seemed to indicate this game was destined to fail. However as the seven hour campaign progressed I found myself loving it. The vulgarity is stupid (and unnecessary) but the game is actually very funny and the combat is great. Using the leash, kick, environment and weapons is a magical dance of violence. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I wrote a glowing review for it

From Dust (August 2011)

Controlling nature is basically the premise for this game. You can absorb water, lava, earth and protect your tribe of idiot humans as they try to capture totems. Additional powers and crazy natural disasters give a sense of urgency to your actions. It is also technically impressive because you can mould the earth and redirect rivers. Check it out if you dabble in strategy games. My review.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (August 2011)

This prequel is a great game, no doubt about that. Good to see it is getting good scores and is being played by a lot of people. There are numerous things Eidos Montreal have improved on the original – the augmentation system for one. The persuasion battles fit perfectly in the franchise. The stealth gameplay is excellent and some later levels are great. Still I can't help but feel like this game has been held back, it's less ambitious. Some contrived design, some superfluous levels mars the otherwise great game. Hopefully at least it starts a trend, one that should have started back in 2000 after the release of the original

Hard Reset (Sept 2011)


This little game was announced and released in the same year and that in itself is pretty unusual. These days we get told about a game 2 years before they are coming just to start the hype train. As a shooter it's decent, but comparing it to the previously mentioned Bulletstorm it lacks in some areas, barely attempts a story (certainly not a comprehensible one) and doesn't do any twists or combinations that it perhaps needed to. Great looking game and it runs superbly well, I enjoyed the shooting aspects and the cyberpunk world. Hopefully Flying Wild Hog make enough to bring more.

And because you can't go back without going forward here is a list of games that I'll probably by buying during the next few months. Makes for quite a busy few months I must say!

Rage, Batman: Arkham City, Serious Sam 3, Battlefield 3, Uncharted 3, CoD: MW3, Elder Scrolls Skyrim, Tribes Ascend, Torchlight 2, Trine 2

July gaming megablog

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This is a megablog mostly because I don't do blogs enough. However I still play many games then I get caught writing about every game I played. Thanks to the crazy Steam sales I now own over 300 games :o Did you guys pick up anything good? I've also been on GameSpot now for seven years (!) (16th July 2004) and just managed to hit level 63 which looks to be an especially slow one. Now for the games!

Red Faction Armageddon

This game proved to be quite disappointing in the end, the freedom and sheer madness of Red Faction Guerrilla has been lost. The open world nature of the previous game wasn't perfect but it was several steps in the right direction. The shooting in Armageddon isn't horrendous but it just seems like such a waste. From all indications sales have been particularly poor for it, I saw it 50% off just recently and it had only been out a few weeks which can't be a good sign for THQ.

My RFA review on gamespot

Alice Madness Returns

I admit I never played through the first game, I did watch a few hours of a walkthrough on youtube. It looked OK but control wise rather ancient and combat looked more annoying than anything. I did enjoy the sequel though, perhaps my biggest issue is the game doesn't take enough risks and gets a little monotonous in places. I also found the music particularly dull. Game looks pretty nice but importantly plays smoothly. Hoping Spicy Horse sees some good sales for this one and aims for some bigger projects in the future. Reviews have been mixed which is understandable but I think it's a good game.

LA Noire

Picked this up on PS3 like a week before they announced it was coming to PC. I may end up selling it on PS3 and buying the PC version cheap because damn the roads are blurry. No game gives me more mixed feelings in recent times than this title. I was either loving it or hating it. The formulaic structure of game events (foot chases, car chases, shootouts) really gets on my nerves. But the basic investigation and interrogation is actually really neat even if it is repetitive. There were a few story related issues that I can't really explain without spoiling. I've tried my best to explain them in my review without giving anything away. I think the game is still good but overrated, I don't see enough good qualities to justify the 9+ scores here or elsewhere. RDR and GTA 4 are much better games from Rockstar.

L.A. Noire Review on Gamespot

F3AR

As a FEAR fan I went into this third game with exceptionally low expectations and wasn't surprised with what I received. It's not a particularly bad game, most of the core fear elements are present but it just doesn't seem quite as fun as the Monolith games. Some parts of the game feel overly generic, others aren't quite up to the standard set by the original in terms of AI or effects. Their focus here was probably on co-op which is pretty underpopulated. I had to join various steam groups to even get a game at times.

I've managed to get a few games going in both the co-op and other mp modes. At times it can be fun, but mostly it just feels average Not a great deal changes when you play the campaign with another player, just go through quicker. Contractions is like the zombie mode from the recent call of duty games, which never appealed to me. I don't expect to play mp for very long but it would be a lie to say the mp is worse than the other fear games. I'll probably review it over the next week or so.

Just Cause 2

This is an interesting game, I remember trying the demo a long time ago and not really seeing the appeal. But playing through it now and it is genuinely quite fun. The world is so huge and just exploring by parachuting around is fun in itself. The basic gameplay revolves around getting into areas and doing damage to government facilities to have gang members take over the area. Combat with the grapple is reasonably fun, vehicle controls aren't great but workable. There are of course other side missions, like races or courier type scenarios. It doesn't get too complicated but it just gives you a world to play in and from a distance the world looks fantastic.

Uncharted 3 Beta

The beta is over but it felt a lot like Uncharted 2 from the game modes to the characters. Only this time you can customize what your character wears, hopefully they provide some more humorous combinations. Now they have Nathan Drake with a trucker hat and some silly taunt moves. The gunplay feels the same as UC2 with some little bugs that don't really detract from the experience. I have been playing co-op modes against soldiers who steadily get harder.

I think I prefer the coop to the competitive side of things. Visually it's a little disappointing compared to the second game, just seems to be running at a really really low resolution without anti-aliasing. Even Elena looks different compared to the last game, hoping this is just because it's the beta. Environments look pretty good and there is basically no load time between lobby and getting in the game.

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Next few months might be a little thin for new games. Still there is From Dust later this month which looks a little bit like Populous. Then there is Deus Ex 3 next month which looks really great from the recent gameplay videos, preordered that already. Cartel was delayed by noobisoft again on PC which really irritates me because they always wait until the last minute to delay the PC version. Expect Assassin's Creed Revelations to be delayed into early 2012 on PC too. That's all, thanks for reading!

Being a Witcher is DiRTY work

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In May I was able to pick up two great games in Witcher 2 and DiRT 3. I am very impressed with both the quality and quantity of PC games this year so far. Dead Space 2, Crysis 2, Portal 2, Brotherhood to name a few. The year still has plenty of big games coming too.

WITCHER 2

What a fantastic looking world CD Project Red has created. The texture work and environments are something out of this world. The very first time I was in the Flotsam woods at night is something I won't forget. Streaming technology means basically no load times although it is a little choppy when things are streaming in. Characters and the animations look fantastic.

I've heard conflicting views about the combat but for me it is far more enjoyable than the original. Signs are more balanced, and I used a lot of bombs to harass enemies. I do agree that difficulty is pretty inconsistent, being extremely hard at the start and pretty easy at the end. Being able to meditate anywhere is very welcomed. Love the characters and most of the quests. Took me about 28 hours to finish, I know I missed a few side quests. The choices you can make are certainly more pronounced than the original. The entirety of chapter 2 changes based on what you do at a key moment near the end of chapter 1. I finished a long review for it on Gamespot which only really scratched the surface, it is essentially spoiler free.

My review of Witcher 2 on Gamespot.

DiRT 3

Having a blast with this racing game, the driving controls are extremely satisfying just like the last game. Powering my way through Rally events with ease whether it is snow, tarmac or dirt. Gymkhana is all about controlling your car during spins and drifts which is surprisingly fun for me considering I hate drifting only events.

There is also no question that this game is extremely attractive. Weather effects are a pretty good addition. What astounds me most is how well it runs at absolutely maxed settings. I barely drop below 50fps with 8AA. It completely blows the visual versus performance scale out the window. The entire tour was good, has some nice variety toward the end with the tracks. The multiplayer has some more casual modes with some being quite fun but nothing that will hold my appeal for too long.

HYDROPHOBIA: PROPHECY

Imagine BioShock with real water effects, now take out the great gameplay and you have Prophecy. Hydrophobia may not have the best shooting, story or puzzles. In fact they are mediocre at best but the water effects far exceed those in BioShock. Water has real volume, resistance and bounces back and forth between the walls. More a tech demo than anything but if they could work out how to exploit the water effects to create some fun puzzles and make the combat well…better it would be a solid game. If you see it cheap then consider checking it out.

DON'T BET ON DUKE.

It feels like very little has changed since the 90s after I played the DNF demo courtesy of my Boredlands preorder. My initial reaction to the demo was not pleasant; in fact I would compare it to one of the bad shooters from that era. Certainly the worst 20 minutes of gaming I've played in many years. I actually felt insulted at the end because this is a product that will be sold to many people very soon. Duke3D I enjoyed for what it was, when shooters were in their infancy.

There is no nostalgic value for me with a poorly voiced protagonist spitting out a series of unfunny lines. The experience disregards the many years of evolution the shooter genre has undergone. Weapons placed lazily over the world, bad pacing issues, basic AI and a range of pointless interactive items. I expect it will still sell fairly well with the hype train but the demo has me wishing this had stayed vapourware.

POST E3 RUNDOWN

Although I am generally asleep for much of E3 I did catch some of the Noobisoft and Sony conferences. Nothing has really wowed me this year, the footage from Uncharted 3 looks amazing, Hitman absolution has piqued my interest. BF3 still remains a front-runner despite the thunder run demo being pretty stagnant, MP is where it's at. MW3 looked much better single player wise even if it had really similar sequences to MW2. Again I would get MW3 on PC if dedicated servers are confirmed but I won't be touching it otherwise.

Tomb Raider looks interesting, although carefully controlled for an open world game the sequence demonstrated that it is trying some new things. I would like to see that franchise become a high quality one. I'll be following Far Cry 3 closely too, fast travel should remove most of the annoyances I had with the highly overrated Far Cry 2. I barely use my PSP so I don't see much reason to buy a PSP Vita even if Uncharted looks great on it. Wii U doesn't interest me due to the game selection. Even though more third party support is promised I don't see those games selling well because the audience won't be there. Time will tell.

Overall there was nothing really big or amazing that I wasn't already interested in. There were a few great videos that I enjoyed watching so for that reason alone E3 was worth it. Once again an E3 without anything Half Life related.

RED FACTION: ARMAGEDDON

Another sci-fi shooter, I just can't resist them. The demo on PS3 was ok, nothing at all like red faction: gorilla. After picking it up on PC it's a straight forward underground on-a-rails third person shooter with destruction and some nifty weaponry. Played it for a few hours, the combat is alright, the magnet gun hilarious to use. I miss the open world stuff, so in that way Armageddon seems like a step backwards

Portal 2, RDR, Guild Wars

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Portal 2 is another great game from Valve with lots of clever puzzles and hilarious writing. The new characters bring plenty of complimentary humour to GLaDOS. Some of the end puzzles have that great moment where everything fits together so nicely. Not many of them gave me trouble, only a few at the end of co-op and single player. I'm not upset that it was fairly easy though, I'd rather the puzzles be on the easier side than hard because it makes the game flow much better, and boy does it flow really well. I like the new tools they introduced and how they gradually taught you the basics so you could naturally work out the progression of the puzzles. Co-op and it is fairly good with the exception of the times you are replaying puzzles.

I reviewed the game and gave it perhaps a fairly harsh score in comparison to critics and gamers alike. It is currently 9.5 on metacritic and users rate it almost as high which means it's probably front running for GOTY. It is better than the original I think if only due to the co-op but not a game I loved as much as most others.

My Portal 2 review on gamespot.

Picked up the almost universally accepted GOTY 2010 for a very good price on PS3 and ploughed through it over a week or so. Rockstar certainly know how to make funny games with circumstances that do more than enough to keep you interested. Once again a selection of great characters (West Dickens was a favourite) and varied missions kept me going back for more. They did a great job taking the GTA formula to the Wild West although I don't think I liked it quite as much as GTA 4. Toward the end the narrative fades away especially compared to the strong first half. Also the end missions, with few exceptions, tended to be just 'shoot everybody'

Maybe it is just me but there seemed to be too much horse riding across the country side too. Yes you are given some more story when you ride along with your posse (think lost and the damned). They also throw in random mini-missions on the side of the road which was done carefully enough so it doesn't become overbearing when you are doing other missions. Somebody in distress might steal your horse, or you might see criminals escaping the law. Still a great game, it wouldn't replace my GOTY from last year but it might've grabbed one of the lower spots on my list. Tempted to pick up the Undead nightmare pack considering my affinity for zombies.

My MS Internet Media Pro keyboard has served me well for a while now but the ridiculously cheap stickers on the keys have all but worn away (WASD the first to go) so decided to get myself something new. Backlighting was important due to my tendency to game in darkness. MS Sidewinder X4 was my final choice and I have been using it for games and typing for a few weeks now. Pretty good keyboard to type with and great keyboard to play games with, backlighting is very nice. Not sure I'll ever use the macros but I do use the media / calculator keys. Considering the price it was well worth it.

Finished Brotherhood and it was as enjoyable as the previous game but didn't really last as long as the second game. I question the mindset of the people in charge with creating the endings to each of these games. They are probably related to the people that did the Mafia 2 ending. I can't say I've liked any of the endings in any of the Assassin's Creed games. I also couldn't say they have gotten better. Solving the Mensa puzzles was also a complete waste of time that served to only create more questions. In terms of game quality and endings they rate as follows AC2 > Bro >> AC1. Revelations was just announced and my feelings are mixed, I did really enjoy AC2 and Brotherhood but is the franchise going to be about yearly releases? And am I going to get a proper conclusion this time?

Finally finished Guild Wars Nightfall, the gate of madness mission actually wasn't too bad. All I needed to do was go in the right direction and use some of the recommended skills. Considering my good luck and work on optimizing my heroes I tried my luck at finishing the Eye of the North which had given me problems for months now. Pleased to report that expansion pack is also now complete. I was stuck on destruction depths for quite some time and the Destroyer was a royal pain. Basically he is located in an area that sets everybody on fire and almost kills every party member in one hit. Never has pain inverter been more useful than against this guy. Now I've finished all the retail games for Guild Wars. I also finally got my Hall of Monuments to level 30, giving me the GW2 title "Closer to the Stars" and a few neat items. It marks the end of my HoM grinding but it reminded me what a great game Guild Wars is.

Witcher 2 and Dirt 3 show their beautiful faces this month. I am predicting good things for the little RPG and hope it lives up to expectations. Some of the environments look great in Witcher 2. DiRT 3 should be a solid racer, hoping the car handling remains as brilliant as the second. Dx11 should also look great for that game.