Will The Division be good?

I have the game coming next Tuesday and to be honest I’m a little apprehensive.  The two Betas that we had were ok, and the gameplay and combat seemed good…but I’m still not entirely sure how interesting the final game will end up being.  Will it be a game that only really comes alive when playing co-operatively, or will it work just as well (or well enough) in single player?  The world it depicts that of a post-virus outbreak near-future New York is certainly compelling and developer Massive Games has done a great job of bringing New York to gritty life, but the wow-factor of the first reveal and the final graphical downgrade still stings me.

the division art

I have been playing a lot of Destiny lately and enjoy it on an exploration and character developing basis, and the various missions whilst a bit samey are still fun with solid gunplay mechanics and an interesting world.  Yet that has several large planet environments to explore and therefore gives some variety to the surroundings.  The Division on the other hand just has New York and as well realised as the city environment may be, for a game that is meant to last for a long time, several years in fact … one admittedly huge environment is still that – one environment.  I’m sure the various areas and districts will have their own flavour, but at this stage I’m wondering about the game’s lasting appeal for months to come.  It also niggles me the developer’s focus on The Dark Zone, a multiplayer PVP environment that for me, was never the big pull of this game and turns it into basically another multiplayer shooter but with loot and a few NPC characters to shoot.  It’s interesting but the developer seems way too focused on it and less  focused on the game’s narrative or single player / co-operative experience outside the ‘dark zone’.

I’ll offer a more rounded opinion on the game once I have played a fair bit of the final product.  At the moment though I’m a little less excited than I should be.  I’ll leave you with the launch trailer…

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt impressions

Geralt W3

Probably the most anticipated game of the year.  CD Project Red’s long awaited follow up to the award winning Witcher 2: Assassin Of Kings takes the series full open world RPG and is the most ambitious project the acclaimed studio have ever under took.

But the important thing here, beyond the hype is for a fairly take them or leave them fan of RPGs, how does it play?  I chose to pick up (or more specifically download) the Xbox One version, and after about seven hours with it, I can confidently say … this game has me hooked.  Think a cross between Red Dead Redemption, The Elder Scrolls series and to some extent Assassin’s Creed and you sort of get the idea.  You play as Geralt, a bad-ass monster hunter or Witcher; feared, respected and reviled in equal measure.  The quest kicks off with you in search of the sorceress Yennifer; a former lover of Geralt’s who he’s been tracking for years and is close to catching up with her.  Also you are on the look out for your prodigy Witcher / sorcerer Ciri, who we meet in the flashback prologue where you train her as a child.  The story holds many twists and turns however, places to visit monsters to hunt and kill for bounty, and a massive, highly detailed world to explore and get lost in.

Launch trailer

This kind of game for me can be a little daunting and I’ll admit it took a while to really get into.  The fighting controls are a little unwieldy at first until you get your head around them and learn to throw in magic and protection spells with your swordplay.  Yet with plenty of character customization, potions to brew and abilities to unlock … this becomes a very deep and engrossing experience that I’ve really only touched the surface of.

On the Xbox One it looks fantastic.  One of the most impressive aspects is the weather and the lighting, how trees blow in the wind, rain fall, mist rolls across the land and moonlight bleeds in through the trees (or eye-burning sunlight).  Also add the sheer detail to houses, villages, grass, very realistic water and the wealth of creatures and monsters … and a myriad of interesting folk and characters.  This is a joy to behold.  There are a few (minor) fluctuations in frame rate and occasional pop-in or glitches, and the game did freeze on me once after dying.  So it’s not perfect, but for the scale and number of things going on it’s still an impressive technical achievement that will only get smoother and more polished with future patches.


Screenshot captured directly from my Xbox One

Anyone after a long, rewarding and deep game to really get involved in, then you can’t go wrong with this epic RPG.  It has it all and I’m sure will throw up many surprises and memorable situations as I progress.  It’s out now for PC, PS4 and XB1.  So what you waiting for?  Time to kick some monster ass and break some hearts.

Alice: Madness Returns – impressions

In a games industry seemingly crowded by first person warfare shooters and simplistic casual family games, it’s good to actually play something that isn’t interested in trying to appeal to the widest audience possible or re-create New York city or a war-torn battlefield.  This is happy just being a videogame.  A sequel to the widely publicised but rarely seen American McGee’s Alice, this time on all platforms rather than just the PC, has you controlling an adult Alice as she tumbles into Wonderland once again following her release from a mental asylum as featured in the previous game.  Fans of the stories by Lewis Carol will be immediately familiar with the dream-like fantasy world, but this is certainly no children’s fairy tale, with Alice portrayed as a much more violent and attitude driven girl happy to bludgeon her enemies to death with a Hobby Horse or slice them to shreds with a Kitchen Knife.

Developer Spicy Horse have crafted a lovingly dark tribute to the classic stories with each location (each with its own distinct theme) beautifully realised if not exactly graphically ground-breaking on a technical level.  This game harks back to the classic days of the 3D platformer, a genre I’m sad to say seems to be disappearing at a rapid rate.  It feels very nostalgic to play though, and has some great ideas, inspired by the stories such as shrinking to discover hidden paths and get into otherwise unexplorable areas, and along with a good variety to the monsters and some quality fight mechanics with imaginatively bonkers weapons, this so far is a joy to play.  I’ve barely been off it and only received the game yesterday.

I have also come across some interesting diversions from the standard platforming and fighting mechanics, such as a side scrolling shooter level, some interesting, if simplistic puzzle solving (which suits me), and challenge rooms where you are set upon by a wealth of monsters and if you survive you win a section of a rose – which I’d guess fills up an extra rose on you health metre.  Very Legend Of Zelda.  Granted, the ideas aren’t exactly new, so if you’re looking for something fresh or innovative, then by all means look elsewhere, but if you want quality tried and tested gameplay, a classic platforming hack ‘n’ slash adventure with no end of imagination and a gorgeous visual style … then I’d recommend this in a heart beat.

Apparently the game clocks in at a good twenty hours with five very big chapters.  It’s not terribly tough however, so play on HARD for a more satisfying experience.

Note: The game comes with a code to allow you to download the original American McGee’s Alice, which is a great free extra but the game hasn’t aged well, and compared to the new game, the fight mechanics and control system (converted from PC’s mouse & keyboard to the 360 (or PS3) pad)  is not particularly well implemented.

What are Valve up to?


I’ve made no secret of my complete adoration for Half-Life developer Valve Software.  The often highly secretive games studio, that spawned also the likes of Left For Dead, Counter Strike and Portal franchises have a reputation for teasing hungry game fans with hints to new projects.  Yet the image above, taken by a fan who was able to visit the Valve offices a few weeks ago to find such artwork adorning a wall, teases us once again what the future may hold for Valve’s next release, post-Portal 2.

I for one think the image looks highly Half-Life styled, especially in respect of Half-Life 3.  Now some people have said it could be an all new game, something along the lines of Mass Effect.  Which granted would be cool, but considering the artistic design of Half-Life 2, it’s quite feesable this could be concept art for the next entry in the award-winning and much acclaimed series. 

Consider my fingers well and truly crossed.

More pictures HERE

My review of Half-Life 2

Crysis 2 – impressions

Have I been waiting eagerly for this!  The fabled sequel to one of the most acclaimed, graphically demanding games on PC now finally makes its way to consoles.  The jungle environment of the first game is swapped for the ‘urban jungle’ of New York City following an alien invasion, and you are a lone soldier forced to take matters into his own hands when you are given a prototype suite (the nanosuite 2.0) which enables you to take on the enemy with super human abilities.  On first impression, this very impressive looking game, featuring what has to be one of the best realised game worlds yet, this game offers a more tactical and at your own pace playing style compared to the follow the leader action-fest of Modern Warfare for example.  Here you get wide open areas where you can navigate the environment, climb up ledges and figure out your approach to certain destinations, whilst taking on the enemy either using stealth or going all guns blazing.  Enhancing this is the varied modes of the nanosuite, where you can use invisibility or enhanced armour for a limited time, making every fire fight unique and immersive.

I must applaud developer Crytek’s work on this as combined with the stunning visuals, the gameplay feels deep and enjoyable and I can see myself coming back to it many times after completion due to the fun the nanosuite offers.  On a side note the multiplayer, which I’ve only briefly dipped my toe in, seems well done and offers the perks and progression of Modern Warfare / Call Of Duty with the added tactics of the nanosuite for more imaginative gameplay.

I’ll report back on this at a later stage when I’ve seen all this has to offer for a fuller opinion.  For now though, I’m very impressed.