Gaming’s Next Generation


So where do I stand on the forthcoming releases of the XBOX ONE and the PlayStation 4?

Over the last few days I have been studying both consoles, their good and bad points, their gimmicks and their capabilities.  I have discovered over the last few years that I like using my XBOX 360 as more than just a gaming device … I enjoy watching Sky, Netflix, Youtube on it, and sometimes can go long stretches without even playing a game.  So multimedia capability would be a benefit to me.  Both consoles offer this, but Microsoft’s machine seems to deliver it in a more innovative package.  Looking at both operating systems, the XBOX ONE has the inclusion of the Kinnect sensor, which enables the user to control the device not only with hand gestures but also your voice … something I have long thought was a bit silly – but watching videos of it in action … I am coming around to the idea.  See the video below for a full detail of this and other functionality of the console:

In comparison, Sony’s machine is seemingly focused on the gamer, a good thing I am sure but not exactly forward thinking.  It has much of the gimmicks as detailed in the video above, but with Sony’s Eye Toy camera sold separately, so therefore not something every user will have a go with – but this cuts down the price, making Sony’s machine £70 cheaper than it’s rival.  They have also designed a nicer looking console, more futuristic and sexy than the black box of Microsoft’s machine.  See more details on Sony’s machine below:

Both consoles have similar specifications of which I wont bore you with here, and both seem to like the idea of involving social media into your gaming, such as the ability to record and upload game footage.  Sony’s integration of using its troubled Vita console as a second screen however seems pointless considering it’s never really been a massive hit.  On launch, both systems will see several games released on it, including third party titles such as Assassins Creed 4, Battlefield 4 and Call Of Duty Ghosts … but for me it is the exclusives that will sell each system, what you can’t get on the other machine and vice versa.  Some major highlights from day one include:

Sony PlayStation 4 Exclusives

Killzone: Shadowfall

Knack

Microsoft XBOX ONE Exclusives

Dead Rising 3

Forza Motorsport 5

Ryse: Son Of Rome

Both consoles also offer a wealth of arcade titles exclusive to each machine, but for me these aren’t a reason to jump to the next gen and offer nothing we can’t currently find on 360 or PS3, regardless of what both company’s are saying.

In the future, and not for a while yet I will be getting a next-gen console.  Which one?  I have been an XBOX fan-boy for a long time and always found much of PlayStation’s titles left me wanting … and I greatly prefer the controller on the 360.  Sony’s new machine does offer up the much improved Dualshock 4, and sexier looks.  But it will most likely come down to price, games I personally want to play … and just how well each machine is doing sales-wise.  I am currently leaning towards the XBOX as you can probably tell, because I think it’s just a more fully-rounded experience – but I haven’t fully made my mind up at this stage.  Over the comings months both systems will see big titles released that have just missed the launch window, such as the much anticipated Watchdogs and the next Metal Gear Solid, but early adopters I think will still have a fine piece of kit, whichever side of the fence they land on.

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State of play


I don’t write on here much about videogames these days … choosing to concentrate on movies as  a whole.  Yet sometimes games come along that make me sit back and my mouth fall open – their excellence too obvious to go un-spoken (or un-written) about.  Two such games I’ll be reporting on are the PlayStation exclusive action / adventure The Last Of Us, and the hotly anticipated Grand Theft Auto V.

thelastofus

I have just come from a lengthy game of The Last Of Us, a sort of The Walking Dead inspired action game where you’re pitted as Joel, who has to escort Ellie, an immune teenage girl from one side of the states to the other so to take her to a science lab and possibly find a cure for a virus that has all but destroyed mankind.  Developers Naughty Dog of the famed Uncharted series have truly delivered their masterpiece.  First and foremost it looks stunning, with highly detailed, life-like environments and ultra-real character animated and human behaviour I haven’t seen done quite so well anywhere else.  You get the feeling each character is alive, especially the full of personality Ellie, your computer-controlled partner for much of the game.  Add to this gameplay that allows you to be strategic, upgrade your weapons and traverse each environment with an almost-open-world freedom – and this is a game that not only looks great, but plays great also.  Combat in my opinion has often been Naughty Dog’s Achilles Heel, but this time its fun and clever, with a great use of various types of weaponry so you can plan your way through each encounter however you see fit.  The story too is highly involving, very emotional and above all else – real.  Story telling of this depth is rare in videogames, but here it’s on par, if not surpassing at times those you see in a blockbuster movie.  Take note Hollywood.  Essential.

Then we come to GTA V, a game I just can’t get enough of.  The open-world of San Andreas / Los Santos is easily the biggest in the series and has so many areas to explore and secrets to find, that just driving around, causing chaos is a game in of itself.  Now add to this a first in the series, three very individual characters to control, Michael a former mobster now in witness protection, Franklin a typical hood gangster, and then there’s Terry, a psychotic hillbilly nutjob.  GTA has often been about its characters, its tongue-in-cheek humour and its satire of modern living-  and that continues here, with the same funny, sarcastic radio DJs, the great, varied music, and above all else, a joyful disregard for taste and decency.  GTA is the gaming world’s rebellious cousin, and he’s on top form here.  Developer Rockstar have pulled out all the stops, with a vibrant never-looked-so-good game world, believable characters and situations, with plenty of nods to movies and TV shows.  It’s the kind of game you keep in your collection and even if you don’t want to do any of the 60+ missions, this game offers more fun per minute than almost any other game out there (with this time, the whole world open to explore from the start).  It’s adult humour and subjects aren’t for everyone however, and the frequent strong language and sexual or violent moments can get a bit much – but it’s to be expected in a series that has always pushed boundaries and caused controversy.  Either way this is a must play.

Sitting back and looking at the above games, makes me wonder just what is the next generation going to bring us?  These two games look amazing, with more effects and ideas going on than we’ve seen for a long time, a pinnacle of design and programming, and dare I say it, artistry, that trumping them next generation won’t be easy.  We can’t possibly get the technical leap we had from say, PS2 to PS3, but with technical limitations further widened, developers have even more power at their disposal, and games of this style or even things we haven’t imagined yet, could just be around the corner.  I remain on the fence as to whether its needed – our currently consoles still very capable of wowing us – but it’s certainly exciting times we live in as gamers.

Modern Warfare 3 – impressions


This needs little introduction.  The biggest video game franchise in history, at least as far as sales go, and the widest played online multiplayer game in the world.  Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare franchise reinvigorated the Call Of Duty brand, bringing into the modern-day and hitting us hard with total realism, glossed over with Michael Bay-like fireworks.  It’s the blockbuster of the video game world, and one of my favourite game series ever.

This time around you’re after a Russian terrorist who brings about World War 3, and you are sent in with your team to stop him.  This is a game filled with ‘oh my god’ moments of action and spectacle, with a globe-trotting storyline and production values that set it apart from almost any other game on the market.  Infinity Ward this time have teamed up with new developer Sledgehammer Games, and each mission and each fire fight feels like its been designed with absolute immersion and Hollywood-like excitement in mind.  I’m almost done with the single player campaign, and have experienced some amazing moments, none of which I will spoil for you, all I’ll say is … its brilliant, well crafted, and longer lasting that previous instalments.

Now onto the reason 90% of fans love this franchise … the multiplayer.  Again you have a variety of maps to play on, and a reward system that enables you to upgrade weapons and install new perks to help you in your quest for online supremacy.  Not much has changed from the well-honed formula of MW #1 & 2, but this time with new mode Kill Confirmed where you collect dog tags of your fallen foes to increase points for your team – it seems more addictive than ever.  As can be expected, the online lives or dies depending on the time you put into it and how good your reflexes are, but when ‘in the zone’ it can be an adrenaline-fueled joy, and one I will be returning to again and again.  Add to this modes like Spec Ops, Domination, Free-For-All and the classic Team Deathmatch, and this is one game that just keeps on giving.

Modern Warfare 3 is the best Call Of Duty yet, no question … and a flagship title regardless if your playing it on PC, Playstation 3 or XBOX 360.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution – impressions


I have played each game in the Deus Ex series, and this much-anticipated third instalment has been a long time coming.  Sort of Half-Life meets Metal Gear Solid, with a sprinkling of Blade Runner on the top.  You play as Adam Jenson, a cybernetically enhanced security agent working for Sarrif Industries who must investigate what happened during an attack on his previous employer that ended with the death of a close friend.  Set in a future detroit, you have the freedom to go about missions and side quests in you own way, upgrading your abilities along the way to further enhance and customize your experience.  This is a very deep and expansive game, with tons to see and do, and will no doubt last be a fair while.  Interacting with the environment and the characters is a joy as the world you inhabit seems very alive, aided greatly by an impressive graphics engine with life-like animation and some stunning lighting and other effects.

The story too is quite complex and obviously had some care put into it.  Although you have an arsenal of weaponry at hand though, this is no run and gun shooter either, with the gameplay leaning much more towards stealth and finding hidden areas and different routes through an area.  This is also much of the fun, as discovering different way to approach a given situation can be really absorbing and often I have found the time fly by as I get lost in such a detailed and interesting world.  Having played the previous games, although extremely polished, it still feels very similar and the actual mechanics haven’t really progressed from Deus Ex #1.  Which considering that game is regarded as a masterpiece, I suppose is no real criticism.

So a solid experience then, and although only a little way into it (just reached China) I’m really enjoying it.

Catherine – impressions


This has to be one of the weirdest but most addictive games I have played in a long while.  Japanese developer Atlus have built a reputation out of releasing unusual but clever video games, and this is one of the first to gain a mainstream release (at least in the US … not currently available in Europe).  At its heart it’s a puzzle platformer, but it could also be taken as a dating sim as you play the role of Vincent, in a relationship with fashion designer Katherine, a hot business woman with dreams of settling down, getting married and having children.  Vincent isn’t quite as eager to settle down, and begins to experience nightmares revolving around his insecurities.  In these nightmares, he must climb a tower and reach the door at the top.  This is the meat of the game, with each tower full of traps and enemies.  Each tower is a box pulling / pushing puzzle and with a strict time limit, where in as you climb, the lower levels begin to fall away, and if you don’t hurry – you’ll fall to your death.

This is a very unique game, part RPG where in you can send and reply to texts on your phone, talk to people in a bar that you frequent, and follow the story through beautiful anime-style cut scenes.  The production values here are high, and the imagination is exceptional … it may not be to everyone’s taste, and compared to picking out the latest World War II shooter, some casual gamers may not even acknowledge it’s existence.  Yet I urge you to give it a chance, as unlike many games these days, it takes risks, is actually quite mature in its themes of commitment, adultery and sex, and is actually really fun, in a brain teasing, addictive way … meaning one more go is never enough.

I’m only a little way into it (Day 2 of 8 apparently) but so far am enjoying it.  It’s not easy, but this isn’t a game you just plough through … you need to learn it’s gameplay and master it to get anywhere, which is what I aim to do.