Guest Blog by Mark @EmeraldZone.net
The Just Cause series is known for its high-octane action, gameplay diversity and large, scaling worlds. Its engine has set it apart from the competition and continues to deliver a playground of fire, wind and water where destruction is king and all else can suck an egg. Just Cause 3 continues with the same premise of high-octane action.
As Rico Rodriguez you are once again let loose in a tropical paradise overruled by a violent and omnipotent dictator, General Di Ravello. Rico must destroy the general’s resources across the sunny island to liberate rebel strongholds and build Chaos, Just Cause’s answer for a point system. The character roster features yet another tired foray of empty stereotypes churning clichéd dialogue at times meant to resemble humour. This merry band of hackneyed hacks must work together to defeat Di Ravello to restore liberty to the isles. It’s all rather familiar territory, so what sets this game apart.
In the last game, money was used to buy weapons and vehicles. 3 has an improved system where ‘beacons’ are collected to pay for supply drops, making them infinite to those willing to collect them. ‘Flares’ are another useful collectible used to fast travel between enemy strongholds. The creators have been smart enough to grant free fast travel to ‘liberated’ areas to speed up travel with momentum as you progress through the game.
It's safe to say that Far Cry Primal is a World apart from Far Cry 4. Yes the pun was intended. Far Cry Primal does a lot of things right where Far Cry 4 went wrong and it seems rather ironic that Far Cry Primal seems light years ahead of Far Cry 4. I’ve ben asking myself: why is that? What does it do so well that Far Cry 4 neglected?
Gameplay and setting
Far Cry Primal is set in 10,000 BC in the fictional setting of Oros Valley, Central Europe. When I first heard about this Stone Age setting I felt underwhelmed to say the least. I’ve never really been a fan of books, games or movies from this period so why would I devote my game time to it? How wrong of me to judge. Far Cry Primal feels electric and it felt electric from the get go. Takaar is the main protagonist who is a part of the Wenja Tribe. Taaker feels strong and fearless from the get go as one of the first tasks are to create a bow. That only meant one thing: we became the Predator and the hunt was on; no messin’, no overly baked introductions; straight in to the action. Taakar’s hunting skills are somewhat refined from the outset with his heightened senses. In laymen’s terms Taakar's ability allowed us to easily detect threats and items of interest pressing R3. I wondered if this made certain quests too easy but again I was wrong. Seeing the objects were only viewable if they were in a certain radius and within a level viewing plain. That’s right Taakar can’t see though rock, around corners or through hills which meant I had to move fast if I was going to keep, say, a Goat, within my senses.
Guest Blog by Adam @Adam Miller
Let’s face it. Aliens: Colonial Marines sucked. Big time. Gearbox promised the world, and delivered a shambles. Alien fans everywhere were disappointed. More than disappointed, they were angry. Sega had to make things right next time. Flash-forward to the announcement that Creative Assembly would be making the next game for the franchise; Alien: Isolation. It would be a horror game with a single Alien starring the daughter of the iconic Ellen Ripley, Amanda Ripley. People were understandably sceptical. With a single Alien, would the focus be on androids or even worse mercenaries? How would they include Ripley's daughter in a way that wouldn't feel forced? Can a developer who have only made Total War games really make a decent Alien game? Creative Assembly nailed it. They absolutely nailed it. Alien: Isolation is the redeeming game of the series.
As aforementioned, Alien: Isolation is a survival horror game starring Amanda Ripley, the mechanic daughter of Ellen Ripley (from the movies), who joins a crew heading for Sevastapol station to pick up the flight recorder of the Nostromo. Amanda has a personal interest in this mission because it may help her locate her mother, who has been missing for a long time. After a rocky landing on Sevastapol, you realise that something bad has happened. The place is falling apart, blood and graffiti cover the walls, the androids are acting a little weird, and the survivors don't seem too pleased to see you. Things go from bad to worse as you soon realise that you are stuck on Sevastapol without communications, and there is something lurking in the ventilation above you. Something bad.
Guest Blog by Kevin Kissane @Agent_Prince
In late 2015, Activision released Transformers: Devastation, a brand new Transformers video game (on the PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3 and PC). Developed by Platinum Games (Bayonetta, Vanquish), Transformers: Devastation did something bold. No, not just creating a decent Transformers game (it is in fact fantastic), but it wasn’t based on any Michael Bay rubbish; instead they went back to the beginning of the franchise: Generation One.
For those not familiar, Generation One was the original Hasbro toy-driven cartoon and comic series that started in 1984. Although it only lasted 3 years, it was a worldwide success that spawned an animated movie that has a huge cult following, and countless now-collectible toys. Although that series ended almost 30 years ago, there have been multiple reimagining’s over the years, and it’s fair to say that the afore-mentioned Michael Bay monstrosities have indeed rekindled the memories of the original (and indeed best) series.
Despite the quite frankly surprising news of a Generation One based video game in the works, I was initially met with mostly scepticism. Transformers videos games largely have a terrible record, as do many series/movie tie-ins, unless Lego appears in the title. The news of Platinum Games as the developers certainly helped alleviate those initial fears; Bayonetta and its sequel are 2 of the best video games to ever grace a television screen, so I became swiftly confident they could deliver. The result is more than meets the eye.
Platinum’s somewhat traditional third-person hack n slash formula is adopted well here; incorporating both physical attack combos and artillery-based projectile attacks. There are 5 classic Autobots to choose from, and once you get over the cool factor of being the original Optimus Prime, with his original Peter Cullen voice once again, you soon discover the other characters (Grimlock, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack) have enough variety between them to offer different experiences. Grimlock in particular, in his Dinosaur form, unlike everyone else’s vehicle forms, offers different combos and attacks.
But by far the most amazing factor of Transformers: Devastation_ is the fan service, the nostalgia factor. It is by no means a perfect video game; it doesn’t have the combat depth of Bayonetta, or the consistently flawless backdrops of Vanquish, nor does it try to reinvent the wheel in any other way. But don’t be mistaken into thinking it is a poor game with just great fan service, like many other anime titles. The characters and combat style is interspersed with the storyline and boss-ridden levels delightfully, and of course the bosses themselves are recognisable favourites such as Starscream, Soundwave, and of course Megatron. Each and every character even has their own heavy metal theme from the excellent accompanying soundtrack, which surely has to get a release. Believe me, I’ve asked, but it’s a ‘no’ for now.
The perfectly nostalgic cast and characters come together with a plot that easily fits in canon with the series, and plays out much like any typical episode would. It’s the perfect Saturday morning video game derived what was once everyone’s favourite Saturday morning cartoon series. Everything about this package is any Transformers fans’ dream. The beauty of the game is its appeal; it knows why you’re playing it before you’ve even booted the game up: you love the 80’s Transformers, so you are going to love this.
Guest Blog by Kevin Kissane @Agent_Prince
Guest Blog by Ronald K@MusicManiac1965
Before the Current Generation release of Grand Theft Auto V, I had the Xbox 360 version, and finished the story five times even before the Xbox One version came out. GTA online was a ton of fun too but there where no heists. I was eager to find out what a more tweaked and more detailed version could add to my gaming experience, as I knew, I love this game a lot!
The first thing I noticed was how much smoother the frame rate was. Billboards next to the freeway could be read far into the distance. In poor parts of the city, you see more worn out houses, bad paint jobs, tagging, and litter on the ground. All those small details give the city a more realistic look as no streets are as clean as they where on the Xbox 360 version. The sharper textures, more cars on the road, more pedestrians, and much thicker foliage in forest areas gives the game a finished and polished look. All that I can find that I don't like to much, is how close to the screen the shadow gets more detailed. This is mostly noticable on the freeways around the city, and it does not really ruin the look of the game, but it could have been a more smooth transition from a blurry shadow to a sharp one. I'd much rather have a less sharp edge closer to the car, than a shadow that has a hugely noticeable swap in detail, close to the car.
This goes for the in car radio stations and the music but also the voice acting, and sounds of the city. I noticed a better sound quality in the music, but also the voice actors sound a bit more clear on my 5.1 surround set. You can leave it up to Rockstar Games to give attention to detail in the sound and music department. The hustle and bustle of the streets, the conversations all around you and the story of the main three characters are of a high caliber. For me, this feels like I'm playing a action movie. The extra music in the next generation version is nice, and ads more variation to the radio stations. When I play the story, I leave the radio where the characters are listening to, but when I play online, I listen to Los Santos Rock Radio, and Non Stop Pop the most.
At first, when I came from GTA IV, I was not to fond of the way they changed the handling of the cars, but now after putting a lot of time on the 360 and One version, the car handling grew on me. I love it how you now can get faster around corners, and some cars can even be put on two wheels when you hit the curbs and proper direction of the front wheels. The smoother frame rate sure gives the handling a boost compared to playing it on the Xbox 360. I love the fact you can choose different aim assist, or even turn it off completely. When you play in first person mode (new to the next generation versions, this is not available on the Xbox 360), it's cool to turn off the aim assist if you want to challenge yourself a bit more. I finished the game twice in first person mode, and only the parts where you have to shoot while driving (think about the boat from Michael being stolen and you Chase it on the freeway), I switch back to the far view and then aim the crosshair on the target, but other than that, I love how this new mode gives the game a fresh feel. Also it's cool to see Rockstar Games put lots of time and effort in the extra animations, as it's not just a matter of slapping on a new point of view.
Guest Blog by John @roundeggfilms
I remember a time, it wasn’t that long ago either, when the realm of real time strategy was dominated by three major franchises. Back before the cruel reign of e-sports and competitive matchmaking, these games sat atop their strategy thrones akin to the likes of Xerxes or Caesar Augustus. Millions of fans (I being one of them, of course) and if it wasn’t for their development or subsequent domination of the market, gaming as we know it today just wouldn’t be the same. What are these games I’m speaking of, you ask? Simple. I’m talking about Command and Conquer, StarCraft, and Age of Empires.
Even if you’ve never played these games first hand, chances are you probably have. Their unique playstyles and mechanics have been copied and retooled so many times throughout the years, that even to this day we can still see them pop back up on gaming radars from time to time. Command and Conquer with its fast paced, no nonsense combat. StarCraft with its competitive edge and focus on balance. And of course, Age of Empires: its base building, economy juggling, worker placement meta-game we’ve all come to love, continue to leave an impact on the gaming world at large.
As great as these games were, however, they seem to have fallen spectacularly out of favor with the masses as of late. New gamers, many of which are young or uninitiated, crave nothing more than quick, easy gratification (something a slow, methodical game like Age of Empires can’t deliver.) As a result, it’s rare now that developers choose to emulate these older yet venerable titles, and give ornery old codgers like me a trip back on memory lane.
But the times, as they say, are a-changin’. Seemingly out of nowhere, the developers at SkyBox Labs have done what very little developers do, that is, I.E: release an expansion pack for a 14 year old game. This latest blast from the past is none other than Age of Mythology: Tale of the Dragon, giving fans a long awaited touch up to one of gaming’s most beloved franchises. Boasting a plethora of new units, scenarios, maps, buildings, and effects, can this posthumous expansion pack herald a return to the glory days of Real Time Strategy? Or does it simply just light a candle in honor of one of the greats? Well, grab your Chu-Ko-Nu and praise your ancestors, because we’re about to find out.
For those of you who might not know anything about Age of Mythology, I’ll try to sum it up as best I can. In the game you’ll take the role of one of three major pantheon of gods: Egyptian, Norse, Greek, or Atlantean. Each pantheon has its own strengths and weaknesses to consider, as well as a whole laundry list of divine powers to benefit from. As you build, defend, and research your way to domination, you’ll be given the opportunity to “age up” just like you could in earlier Age of Empires titles (and countless other spin-off games.) This gives you access to even more powerful units and magic that you can then use to crush your enemies and make them squeal. Age of Mythology: Tale of the Dragon, takes this tried and true formula by adding a fifth pantheon to the game: the long speculated Chinese.
Throughout my time as The Chinese I could best compare them to the Egyptian pantheon, a faction whose might at first is fairly weak when compared to their Western counterparts. However, if a Chinese player can survive the grueling early ages and keep a level head, the Chinese evolve into one of the strongest late game factions in the game, bolstered by powerful mythic units and a borderline overpowered economy game.
The latter is brought about by the unique Chinese building called the Garden. A Chinese player can build Gardens which will grant a slow trickle of any of the four collectable resources: food, wood, gold, or favor. Giving the player the ability to collect on a resource without the need of assigning a peasant to collect it gives that player a huge advantage over other players, an advantage that I I’ve now grown accustomed to having. At first the trickle is slow, giving you a few extra resources here or there to help you get over the hump in dire times. But considering the fact that you can build up to 10 gardens at a time, that Trickle can soon turn into a down right geyser of extra resources, so much so that you can totally ignore harvesting, say, food for instance, and instead just let your gardens do it for you. This mechanic, while unique, is a tad overpowered, but future tuning might knock it down a peg.
But let’s not get bogged down with the negatives so early. The one thing I absolutely loved about the Chinese is their mythic power. Everything from their gods to their magical abilities downright throbbed with Chinese influence, and it really hit the mark. Units like giant amphibious salamanders do tons of damage, and bridge the gap between naval and land combat. Massive birds of fire called Vermilions fly overhead and wreak havoc with whirlwinds of flame. Terracotta soldiers fight nobly, only to explode in a poisonous gas when finally killed, dealing extra damage. They even brought back the much beloved Monk unit from the original Age of Empires. While he might not recite the epically quoted “Wololo”, he does heal units and convert the unbelieving just like his distant cousin could. All in all the Chinese go into the game with a tough lineup and most importantly, are fun as hell to play.
I’ve also had no qualms with the graphics. The Chinese buildings have some of the most soothing aesthetics out of all the pantheons, and I quite like just building massive cities just because they look pretty. The new maps are alright too I suppose. While I didn’t get a chance to play all of them, I don’t remember any of them being boring or bland looking. SkyBox Labs did an amazing job with the HD remaster of Age of Mythology a few months back, and unlike some, I find the visuals and effects to have come together nicely considering the game is again, 14 years old.
Unfortunately, the single player campaign which accompany the Chinese in this expansion pack, feels roughly the same age, despite it being totally new and crafted in the modern age. Characters are boring, the voice acting is weak, and individual scenarios are long and drawn out. While the Chinese may be fun to play as, the campaign that revolves around them was nothing more than filler in my eyes, and after a few missions, I got fed up and reverted back to random skirmishes and multiplayer.
I should also mention, that there does seem to be a slew of bugs and crashes. One simple glance at the Steam discussions page bring about over a half dozen posts about people’s game’s no longer functioning after the DLC was installed, etc etc. But since I had no such bad luck with the expansion, I’m going to leave a lot of those complaints up to user error or client side hiccups. Everything just simply worked for me, down to the multiplayer, which when played with friends, is as awesome as it was years ago.
So does Tale of the Dragon deserve a look? Yes. Absolutely. Despite the bugs, despite the semi-overpowered nature of the new Chinese faction, and despite the slog of a campaign, Tale of the Dragon adds a bunch of new content to a venerable franchise that many would have thought to been long deceased. I’m all for developers reviving older games at acceptable price points (This expansion is only $9.99 USD) and if the trend can continue, I can only imagine what they might do with some of my old favourites.
Pick it up if you’re a fan of the old “Age of” titles, have a soft spot for ancient mythology, or just want to take a trip on memory lane, and see how far Real Time Strategy has come along since those glory days of old.
Guest blog by: John @roundeggfilms
Guest Blog by @DanRush
From the first start up screen, it’s clear that Fallout 4 is a quality game, designed with a real focus on user experience. Throughout the installation, you’re presented with a series of humourous videos showing the benefits of each of the game’s core SPECIAL statistics; Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck. Not only does this serve as an excellent explanation prior to setting these stats for your character, these shorts set the tone and kickstart that immersive experience from the moment that you load the game. Bethesda Game Studios finest hour perhaps?
The main quest plays out as a role reversed Fallout 3, tasking you with finding your missing son. This is far from a simple retread, however, with part of the setup throwing in a unique twist for the series that will keep you guessing exactly what’s going on throughout your play through.
The numerous side quests play a fantastic role in creating a unique player experience. I’ve enjoyed talking to gamers who’ve had a completely different adventure to me, simply because they headed in another direction at one point. From pirate obsessed robots who need help fixing up their ship to ages old laboratory research in need of completion, there’s so much to do here that you will undoubtedly have plenty more to discover after dozens of hours of playtime.
Throughout your journey, you’re tasked with managing an ever increasing number of settlements, and while optional in the main, it is beneficial to do so. The most immediate advantage is the generation of currency through trade, so build up shops, plant crops, and ensure they’re adequately defended. Everything build-able has a list of required materials, and this is a game changer for the series. The junk that litters the world now has a real purpose. I’ve never felt more like a true post-apocalyptic survivor as when wandering the wasteland looking for old plates.
Notably absent when compared directly to Fallout 3 is the karma system. In its place, your companions will either like or dislike your actions based on their personality. For example, the synth detective Nick Valentine likes when you hack terminals and dislikes when you act in a threatening way. This feels far more natural than the rigid good or evil choices presented before, and contribute to that unique experience depending on player choice.
Graphically, Fallout 4 isn’t the most beautiful game of this generation, and there was one moment that I experienced a severe drop in frame rate (I’m playing on PS4), but all of this is easily forgiven when you look at the scale of the title. There is so much to see and do here, and it’s all of such high quality, that if a choice had to be made between content and aesthetics then I’d choose the content every time.
Despite all of this praise, when I finished the game I didn’t feel entirely satisfied. I was hoping to experience the same sense of wonder that came when I left Vault 101 in Fallout 3. I’d never experienced anything like it before, but with Fallout 4 I had, in its predecessor. This was more Fallout 3, with added polish and gameplay refinement. More Fallout 3 is no bad thing, but a magic trick is never quite as impressive the second time you see it.
Guest blog by @ DanRush
My experience of playing every Call of Duty game has always been dominated by playing multiplayer. Whilst I am far from the skill level of Optic Pamaj or Optic Scump (or in fact any of the Team Optic members) I have been enjoying various grinds on Call of Duty Black Ops 3 Team Deathmatch and Kill Confirmed. That enjoyment level peaked again last week with the release of the Black Ops 3 Awakening DLC on the Playstation 4 which includes four new maps and one new Zombie map: Gauntlet, Skyjacked, Splash and Rise. If you’re in to Zombie mode then you’ll know that Der Eisendrache is the new map there. But is the Awakening DLC worth buying yet? I have not played the new Zombies map yet so I cannot comment. One thing is certain with any Call of Duty DLC and that is that it reignites my passion to play. Anything new will always do that to a game.
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