[Edited version of a long email i sent.  Trying to make it less current tense while talking about last year! I’ve also put Demon’s Souls in a proper position. It’s a lot higher than it was! Now i know it got a bit of a anti-hardcore backlash from a few dissenters on the internet, but i geniunely enjoyed it. You know you are really deeply into a game when the clock strikes 3am and you’re still gripping the controller with palms sweaty from the tension!]

Last year was a pretty good year for gaming, in spite of the “run away” mentality of almost every publisher at the end of the year, as the assumed omnipotence of Modern Warfare 2 loomed greatly over what could have been a fantastic final few months.  Bioshock 2, Mass Effect 2, Bayonetta, God Of War 3, Split/Second, and many more all turned their tails and bravely run away into 2010.  It means we’ve had a great beginning to this year, but it meant the pickings were a bit thin at the end of last year.  Not that this has stopped lots of great games coming out anyway, just only from the brave, the niche, or those that just knew that they already had a strong enough fan base.

Aside from this, it’s been a year of my gaining two pretty sweet new consoles.  
Nintendo’s DSi came out in April and was a day one purchase for me.  Although some of the new features are pretty easy to ignore, it’s new feel, better ergonomics, and improved online capabilities made it quite desirable to me, in spite of it not really being a massive technological jump.  More dramatic than this was my succumbing to Sony’s charms once more and finally getting a PS3.  When the much smaller slim was announced with a very appealing price drop, the lure of Little Big Planet, God of War 3, and DC Online Universe overwhelmed me, i could resist no longer and i had to get one.  Although i’m still keeping to my “exclusives only” rule, i’m finding that there are plenty of absolutely great games available on it, show casing a greater power when it comes to processing and graphics in some games, as well as an often more enjoyable, and free, online experience.  It is often a fairly lonely one, with very little in the way of comms, but people are generally friendlier and less annoying.

10) Disgaea DS (DS) – A fun, involving, and practically bottom-lessly deep strategy JRPG.  Great, if insane, characters and a fun and easy to use combat system.  The difficult necessitates a lot of grinding, which can get a little dull, but the levelling options are neatly incorporated in the strategy elements.

9)   Battlefield 1943 (XBLA) – A much anticipated download that just had a lot of well thought out ideas to make it as fun as possible.  A mixture of vehicles, a basic and easily changed set of classes, and simple combat made this a real blast to play and at very little cost.

8 ) Mario and Luigi in Bowser’s Inside Story (DS) – A curious mixture of Mario platforming and RPG type combat, but a lot of fun with a good story and likeable and often funny characters.  Completely bonkers but absorbing.

7)  Assassin’s Creed 2 (Xbox360) – Such a massive improvement over what was a rather dissappointing first game.  A wealth of new features, much more likeable characters, and a fun world in which to explore.

6)  Batman Arkham Asylum (Xbox360) – Rare is the game that does the right thing with a superhero franchise.  Most just mess it right up with either bad story, improperly used characters, terrible controls, or just rubbish ideas.  Batman Arkham Asylum avoids so many of these problems, creating a likeable Batman voiced by proper voice actors who’ve made the characters their own, a decent story, and a simple but exciting combat system.

5)  Borderlands (Xbox360) – A fun, breezy shooter with absurd weapons, bizarre characters, a well judged difficulty curve, and a unique graphics style.  Nice online co-op as well, if the local co-op is spoilt by a cluttered display.

4)  Killzone 2 (PS3) – When i first booted this up, the graphics blew me away.  It does just look gorgeous, unfortunately the single player campaign is like Gears of Wars’ spoilt idiot son, but don’t let that put you off, the online mutliplayer is excellent.  Huge, gorgeous, interesting matches, and plenty of levelling up to do that’s not just handed to you.  A lot of fun and well worth putting the effort into.

3)  Uncharted 2 (PS3) – I managed to get through the brilliant prequel before this came out and already had a big soft spot for Nathan Drake.  As Bourne is to Bond, Nathan is to Indy.  Aside from a likeable lead, this has a great cast, female characters that approach Alyx Vance in terms of strength and doing good for computer generated Woman-kind, beautiful and exciting set pieces, and a lovely control scheme.  It’s also got a wealth of online modes, with a tonne of free DLC available.  Absolutely awe inspiring and exhilirating.

2) Demon’s Souls (PS3) – This is a curiousity. It’s a game that, well, i really shouldn’t have played when i did. You see, i bought it for myself as a Christmas present. It’s only available on import from the US from what is likely to be a limited run, but the word of mouth and reviews were seriously glowing. Most of it’s praise however, was due to it’s unashamed hardcore nature. Never being one to shy away from some sort of elitist niche 😉 , or at least give it a go, i got it on import. While i was off sick, i was naughty, and in a fit of illness induced self-pity i started playing it. My thinking being, what if it’s just too hardcore for me. What a frustrating dissappointment that would be. I owed it to myself to give it a go. 😉

Well, it is pretty hardcore, but it is definitely fair. In fact, it takes most of the quite unrealistic things from RPGs that help you get by, and gets rid of them. No wolves dropping spoons for you to sell, all monsters are a threat to the unready, carelessness costs you lives, in fact, this is a game that embraces your characters death. At the end of the tutorial there’s boss which is supposed to kill you. Really. (It will kill you on your first playthrough at least.) It will scare you when you see this enormous beast swining a huge axe at you. Then you get to start playing.

You spend most of the game, in soul form, with a depleted health bar, fighting things that can easily kill you with a few well placed blows. There’s a lot to be said about this game, mainly because it’s got a wealth of refreshing and original ideas all packaged up in the unassuming guise of a standard dungeon crawling RPG. For me, it’s the fantastic combat that allows you to be graceful if you can master it, and the fact that every move you make, every step, every retread is filled with intrepidation and fear. Thrilling but demanding and destined to be a classic.

1)  Left 4 Dead 2 (Xbox360) – Bit of a no-brainer.  Very much the social online game as far as i’m concerned the new version adds so much to the game and is definitely much more than just a collection of add-ons to an already excellent game.  With so much done to fix the original, not that it really needed much fixing, this is a game that deserves praise for taking it’s own ideas in exciting new directions.  Also, hurray for Valve, DLC is already planned for next spring, bringing back Zoe, Bill, Francis and Louis for a zombie packed meeting (including a new Campaign for Coop and Versus, Scavenge and Survival) and extra weaponry!

Published in: on 29/03/2010 at 9:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Bob’s 2009 gaming wishlist – Revisited

A while back i posted a list of hopes and dreams of games to come.  As time has passed five of them i’ve picked up (Batman Arkham Asylum, Prototype, Scribblenauts, Moving Notepad, and Sacred 2), one of them i became a lot less interested in when i had a chance to play (Ghostbusters) and one of them is due out in a few weeks time (Modern Warfare 2).  The remaining five have all slipped back to next year.

I’m pretty sure that two of these have made the move because of Modern Warfare 2 (Bioshock 2 and Red Dead Redemption).  DC Universe Online and Final Fantasy XIII are more likely to have been the victim of over-expectant development schedules, and Infinite Space is most likely fallen foul of the difficulty with which niche JRPG’s have in finding Western publishers.  (Something which is annoyingly keeping Demon’s Souls from having a European release although it’s reviews and demand is exceptional.)

Unusually for this time of year, the actual crop of games due for your release has diminished, with many blaming the assumed might of Modern Warfare 2 causing many publishers to shy away to the start of next year.  To be honest, i’m not too bothered by this.  Yes it gives me the task of avoiding buying some games so that there’s something to want for Christmas, but there’s still one or two gems to come.

For a start Borderlands is out on Friday.  With it’s local co-op splitscreen and absurd, and supposedly neatly distinct and varied, range of weapons counting the “Bazillions”.  I’ve been keen on this for a while, and the unique selling point of “Bazillions” of weapons seems to be holding out quite well.  I would have liked to have been able to customise them to my liking rather than having the random, RPG-esque loot drops, yet i’m still pretty psyched about it’s arrival.

Then there’s the almighty L4D2, with a whole host of new special infected, weapons, additional gameplay modes, alledgedly more dynamic AI director, and stronger – although that might just mean existent – story line.  This was shamefully missing from my original 2009 wishlist – possibly not announced at that point – but has been the cause of much excitement and expectation.  Roll on the demo! 🙂

Published in: on 22/10/2009 at 1:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Pokemon Platinum – Review (Part 1)

One thing i noticed when reading reviews for Pokemon Platinum was that for almost every reviewer it was just another installment.  Of course, many added “if you’re new to the series this is a good one to start with”, but for none of them was that the case.  Everyone had played it before.

I suppose even i’ve played it before.  I had Pokemon Stadium on the N64.  I still don’t know why i bought it.  I had only a minor interest in Pokemon, as i do now, and found the gameplay to be really uninspiring.  But if you’ve read my other article on this site (why i’m buying pokemon platinum) you’ll know that an overwhelming desire for quality JRPGs made me go for Pokemon Platinum.

I got it on Friday – thank you Game pre-order – and have played only about 10 hours so far.  I know in terms of hardcore gaming this is pretty poor, but i’m not a kid, a student, unemployed, a bus/train commuter nor a full-time games reviewer, so it’s not that bad really.

So far, it’s actually pretty good.  The visuals are basic but bright, colourful and appealing.  It sounds pretty good with a soundtrack i don’t mind listening to.  In terms of gameplay, well, it is pretty addictive so far.  I get why you might want to “catch ’em all”, because that’s what i find myself doing.  I’m happy doing some grinding to get levels up and it’s pretty cool when your pokemon gains new abilities.  Most fun i’m having though is in naming them, in my collection i have Pokemon called Cheese, Trousers, Moped, and Devastator.

What you’ve got to understand is, i find giving things stupid names, a LOT of fun.  So i’m finding Pokemon Platinum a lot of fun.  It’s not without flaws.  I cannot help but feel that the game expects you to know your way around a Pokemon.  To understand the merits of not evolving or evolving your pokemon and from what i’ve read, without having a Pokemon playing friend, there are somethings in the game that i just won’t be able to do.  (Like evolving my Abra that i spent a lot of time levelling up.)

Other than this minor gripe, it’s got an immense amount of depth and a nice feeling of making the game your own.  The question is, and the reason this is just part 1, is how long will this last?  When i’ve covered another 10 hours of gameplay, i’ll let you know.  In part 2.

Published in: on 28/05/2009 at 7:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Bob’s 2009 gaming wish list

Si asked for it and here it is.  I’ve always got my finger on the gaming pulse and this year there’s plenty to throb for!  (By which i obviously mean your pulse.)

Batman : Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360) – If the videos are anything to go by this could well be the definitive Batman game.  There haven’t been many good ones, although the one on the Amiga was alright, but this has got everything.  A nigh on perfect voice cast (Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy provide the voices for Joker and Batman as per all decent animated versions of the two characters from the last two decades), gorgeous looking graphics, some very exciting looking gameplay, and a great back story (based on the Arkham Asylum graphic novel).

Prototype (Xbox 360) – Fighting as an amnesiac, genetically modified, free running killing machine in a busy city sounds like a lot of other games. Looking at it the protaganist resembles Altair from Assassin’s Creed, but his powers are like nothing i’ve seen in a game before.  A glorious looking mash-up of Incredible Hulk : Ultimate Destruction, GTA IV and Assassin’s Creed.

Bioshock 2 (Xbox 360) – All it needed was to just sound as good as the first one, but it looks like Bioshock 2 could be even better.  Playing as the prototype Big Daddy this time fighting against a grown-up little sister/uber Big Daddy with the added joy of mix and match plasmids!  Also, online multiplayer!!! Woo hoo!

Red Dead Redemption (Xbox 360) – From Rockstar comes another massive world to explore, this time set in the (wicky wah wah) Wild West.  Looks gorgeous and hopefully will play great as well.

Final Fantasy XIII (Xbox 360) – Although probably restricted and on multiple disks on the Xbox 360, if it’s anywhere near as awesome as Final Fantasy X on the PS2 was, then this will be a joy.  Early FMV footage looks INCREDIBLE.

DC Universe Online (PC) – Fight alongside Batman against Lex Luthor.  Use super speed to run up a building to join Superman in a fight against Doomsday.  This might be the first MMO i get.  Maybe.

Ghostbusters (Xbox 360) – With a story penned by the original cast, starring the original cast – except Sigourney – and with hopefully good online co-op and a good gameplay mechanics, it could be a unique movie/gaming crossover experience.

Call Of Duty : Modern Warfare 2 (Xbox 360) – Little is known of this, except that some of it’s likely to be set in snowy conditions judging by early footage.  Hopefully it will have the same great online gameplay and maybe some online co-op as well.

Infinite space (DS) – A DS game that sounds like it ticks many of the right boxes for me.  A space strategy JRPG with a wealth of customisability in terms of both the ship you fly and the crew you lead spanning two galaxies there should be plenty to do.  No idea what the gameplay mechanic will be like, but i’m hoping for something that will make good use of the stylus and maybe be in realtime.

Scribblenauts (DS) – If you can think of it, and it isn’t rude, you can use it in this game.  Solve puzzles your own way.  Brilliantly playing to the DS’ strongest points, a very simple and potentially endless puzzle solving game.

Moving Notepad (DSi Ware) – Not really a game but a free application exclusively for DSi.  Unfortunately we’re still waiting for Nintendo Europe to get their act together and set up the infrastructure for it, but this is a basic tool that sounds like a lot of fun.  It’s just a basic animation package and it’s free.  Hopefully when we get it, there’ll also be the feature to send your animations to people as well as to post them to the online theatre! 🙂

[Edit]  Sacred 2 : Fallen Angel – This game moved onto my gaming radar recently.  It’s reviews aren’t great but it falls into a category that i’m fairly sure will make it a win for both myself and Michelle.  Local co-op.  Not only that but with a relatively decent camera – ish – and plenty of hack’n’slash action.  It’s also got local co-op online, if you know what i mean, which opens the window to further winnery.


Posted by Bob

Published in: on 13/05/2009 at 6:05 pm  Comments (2)  
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Bob’s Games of the year 2008

10) Burnout Paradise (XBox360) – Possibly hampered by no local multiplayer, this is still an excellent driving game. With the addition of lots of very cool features through free updates (bikes, extra cars and races, night/day changes) a game that every so often i still pop in my xbox and have a quick zoom around.

9) Spore (PC) – An odd one this. As games go, it’s unlike anything else, but like a lot of things. Part-sims, part-RTS, part-sandbox toolkit. I was totally absorbed by this one, and if the expansion pack coming next year has it’s own customisable space missions, i may well be returning to it a lot in the future.

8) Bangai-o Spirits (DS) – A shoot ’em up, puzzle, robot fighting thing. It’s got an excellent level editor built-in to it and an odd way to share said levels on-line – you create wav files which can be easily uploaded and downloaded from any website.

7) Fable 2 (Xbox360) – A gorgeous and interesting game which forced me to make some hefty in-game decisions – one of which has left me with a saved game that i don’t want to return to. 😦 I found the combat good fun and being evil is a hoot. Shame about the multiplayer though, just a little too broken to be any real fun.

6) Civilization Revolutions (Xbox360) – A game that kept me coming back to it time and time again. Fun and breezy compared to the sometimes workman-like standard PC editions, with some bright graphics and some little gameplay touchs that kept me coming back. (Nothing like winning the race to complete a wonder that gives you MASSIVE military superiority, especially when you’ve been playing the whole game with a line of enemies camped outside your door.) It speaks volumes about this game that it’s where i’ve made the most achievement points.

5) The World ends with you (DS) – Like being trapped in an awesome and stylish – yet weird – Manga. It’s not weird in the kinky sense, it’s just got a lot of really deep and unusual ideas wrapped into it. The best thing is the fantastic use of the DS for combat. Each ability you can gain and develop requires you to perform a different action, so you can really make your character very powerful if you find a combination of stylus movements that just work for you.

4) Gears of War 2 (Xbox360) – Gears of War kind of passed me by. I bought it mainly because of my boss raving about it, but found it a bit dreary and repititive. The sequel is a blinder. The controls feel tweaked to the point that using cover is natural and easy, the range of weapons has been expanded for the best, the variety of execution moves is fun in combat, co-op is great fun, and horde mode co-op is brilliant fun. That all said, online matchmaking is BROKEN. 😦 EPIC you FAIL.

3) GTA IV (Xbox360) – I was seriously hyped about this game. Seriously.

I took time off work to play it. I got the special edition version and paid for express delivery to make sure i got it on the release day. I bought “Sounds of Silver” by LCD Soundsystem so i could walk around listening to “Get Innocuous”. I bought every gaming magazine with a mention of the game for the hope of an exciting new feature or playtest or anything! When i got it, well, it was possibly not as absolutely awesome as i thought it would be. But VERY close. 🙂

Driving around a very realistic faux New York is great. The first time you go up in a helicopter and see the cities sprawling out below you is awe-inspiring. Ricky Gervais doing stand-up is a great touch. A sort of cover system was a fantastic addition. I grew to seriously love the car handling, getting drunk, mucking about in the on-line modes, the songs on the radio – although weaker than previous efforts, i won’t deny – but still it’s got Les Savy Fav, LCD Soundsystem, and Justice. All that and it looks gorgeous and it feels next gen. Roll on the DLC! 🙂

2) Call of Duty 4 : Modern Warfare (Xbox360) – Although i did buy this late last year, it didn’t get into my xbox until this year. I loved it.

In fact i’m loving it all over again. You see, i figured i would return to it just to see if i could remember what was good about it. In doing so it’s pushed Left 4 Dead to one side briefly, and has given me a few later-than-i-had-planned nights. It’s pretty gritty – name another game where after playing as a character for several levels you then end up playing them as they slowly and utterly inevitably die – and on veteran quite tough, but always great fun.

It’s a funny thing but for several months this year, this was almost our ONLY reason to go online together. Sure we had a few Halo 3 frag-fests and the a few GTA IV sessions. (And yes, those of us that have it are finding ourselves zombie hunting in Left 4 Dead most days.) Yet it was this that kept me coming back to it. It’s a bit unfair to pin the issues that there can be with other players on the game (there’s a joke i’ve seen online that basically goes “anonymity + the internet = jerk”), especially as the perks system and prestige modes make it a greater joy and more rewarding to return to than most.

So unlike most other people, i actually loved both the single and multiplayer aspects of this game. Very different games but always a superb FPS nonetheless.

1) Left 4 Dead (Xbox360) – As pure a FPS as you’ll ever play. The game is actually incredibly simple. You and three others have guns. You have to get from A to Z. Letters B to Y are tonnes and tonnes of zombies and associated nasties. And that’s it. No maps, shields, bullet time, perks, or ranking, and only a few weapon types. And it constantly scares the poo out of you whilst doing it. More than any licker behind a mirrored window or chainsaw wielding mad-man ever did.

(All thanks to the awesome Director, a part of the game that sits in the background and thinks, “these guys are doing too well, I’ll throw a tank at them, or stick a witch at the bottom of that ladder they have to go down, or just spawn tonnes of zombies in that toilet they thought they just checked” or “they’re really struggling, I’ll give them some health and pipe bombs.”)

The thing is, you have to co-operate. Absolutely. I’m as guilty as it as anyone else, possibly more so, but the moment you think, “hmm i’m going to see if i can find a second hand gun” or “i’ll look in this dark room for some health” or “don’t worry guys i can take out a witch from behind with an autoshotgun easily” 😉 you are putting yours and the rest of your team’s life in serious danger. So you have to cover your teammates, have to wait for the last guy, have to ask everyone repeatedly “are you ready?” before you do something to trigger a zombie onslaught, you have to co-operate. This makes it a LOT of fun. You really do feel like you and your friends are actually trying to survive within a zombie flick.

It gets better though. Not only can you be the survivors, but you can also be the aggressor too in Versus. Nothing like a well timed pounce and taking out the guy who’s just fallen down a hole, or giving someone a tongueing from a rooftop, or a perfectly timed spew covering your opponents in zombie attracting bile, or swatting a car at the whole opposing team and killing them all in one fell swoop. A lusciously evil delight. 🙂

I know i have, and i know Sam and Si and Giles and Michelle also all have, spent a lot of time running around in teams together and against each other until “too late”. I know that i will keep on doing so as well. And probably for a long time to come.

(And if a lot of this is meaningless to you, trust me, get the game and find out what I’m talking about. Really. Especially if you’ve enjoyed watching Dawn of the dead. Just don’t expect an existential analysis of consumerism. Just a lot of shouting down your mic, late nights, and tense fun. Oh and if you’ve got a loved one, there’s a similar option to Halo’s multiplayer, so they can join in too!)

Published in: on 10/05/2009 at 1:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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