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Jonathan Lester

Crimson Dragon Xbox One Review | Nasty Business

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Crimson Dragon, Microsoft Studios, SHMUP, Xbox One, Xbox One Games

Crimson Dragon Xbox One Review | Nasty Business

Platform: Xbox One (XBLA, £15.99)

Developer: Grounding Inc.

Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Something has gone horribly wrong here.

As the spiritual successor to the Panzer Dragoon series, Crimson Dragon was the first game I downloaded and played on my new Xbox One. An odd priority, perhaps, but I've always lauded SEGA's rail shooting franchise as a near-perfect fusion of gameplay and art. Every second, every moment, every scene and enemy, every word of the fictional language and note of the exquisite musical score is designed to instil a sense of wonder in its players, and to provide an engaging challenge curve. If you ever have the opportunity to play Panzer Dragoon Orta on the original Xbox, the pinnacle of the series, take it.

Crimson Dragon looks and sounds like Panzer Dragoon upon first inspection. You'll blast over some gorgeous environments riding a massive laser-spewing reptile, all while enjoying another soundtrack from composer Saori Kobayashi. You probably haven't heard of her, but audiophiles probably should have, since much of her output makes Aerith's Theme sound like wetly farting through a cardboard tube.

Crimson Dragon Xbox One Review | Nasty Business

However, the resemblance is skin deep; skin stretched thin over a rickety framework of grind, repetition and bad business that the humble rail shooter was never designed to support.

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GameMaker: Studio Is Free To Download, If You Fancy Dabbling In Development

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Deals
Tags:
PC

GameMaker: Studio Is Free To Download, If You Fancy Dabbling In Development

GameMaker: Studio, the game development toolkit used to create the likes of Hotline Miami and Gunpoint, is currently free for a limited time - a saving of approximately £50. YoYo Games are offering the standard edition totally gratis, which you'll download from their official site, and then subsequently register an email address to receive a free license.

Better than a poke in the eye - and their servers are back up to speed too. Well worth a punt especially if you're studying game design, working on independent projects or just want to know a bit more about the practical side of game development.

Sanctum 2 Is £3.00 At GamersGate, On PC Naturally

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Deals
Tags:
PC, PC games, Sanctum 2, Tower Defence games

Sanctum 2 Is £3.00 At GamersGate, On PC Naturally

Sanctum 2 | GamersGate | £3.00 (RRP: £11.99)
Sanctum 2 Review

Sanctum 2 is one of my favourite games of this year. Blending tower defence and FPS action for up to four simultaneous players, it offers both strategy and moment-to-moment action. GamersGate's £3.00 price is a bit of a bargain, frankly, a cheap saving that even undercuts The Humble Store's recent deal.

First Steam Machine Priced At $499, Fires Warning Shot Over Next-Gen Consoles

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
News
Tags:
PC, Steam Machine, Valve

First Steam Machine Priced At 9, Fires Warning Shot Over Next-Gen Consoles

Remember the IBuyPower Steam Machine prototype that broke cover yesterday? The one that looks like a nuclear sandwich with the crusts cut off? We're excited about Valve's new play for the living room, but as always, the price has to be right.

The price, it turns out, is going to be $499. Game on, next-gen consoles.

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Top Ten Tuesdays | Things You Might Not Know About Xbox One, But Probably Should

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
Microsoft, Top Ten, Top Ten Tuesdays, Xbox One

Top Ten Tuesdays | Things You Might Not Know About Xbox One, But Probably Should

Xbox One was released into the wild last week, kicking off the start of Generation Eight here in the UK. Some of us jumped on board from day one and are getting to grips with the new console, others are holding off, while many are instead placing their bets on a certain other bit of kit coming out this Friday. You know the one I mean. The slanty one. Regardless, the internet is awash with pundits and players weighing in on what the Xbox One can (and can't) do.

However, there are a few fun little features, tips, tricks and asides that you might not know about Microsoft's new entertainment system... ten of which I've now rounded up for your eager delectation ahead of our full hardware review.

10: Xbox Fitness Is Free, Also Knackering

Top Ten Tuesdays | Things You Might Not Know About Xbox One, But Probably Should

If you've got an Xbox Live Gold membership - let's face it, if you bought an Xbox One at launch, you probably do - you can download and use the Xbox Fitness app for free until December 2014 (not next month - thanks Late!). This neat tool can detect your heart rate as you follow on-screen workouts from celebrity instructors, perfect for burning off a few pounds.

Speaking candidly, I'm just amazed it managed to identify me as human after trying out the P90X workout, which reduced me to a quivering mass of wheezing blubber within seconds.

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Platformines FINALLY Greenlit On Steam: Spelunky-Meets-Borderlands-Meets-Contra Out Next Year

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
News
Tags:
Magiko Gaming, PC games, Platformines

Platformines FINALLY Greenlit On Steam: Spelunky-Meets-Borderlands-Meets-Contra Out Next Year

I've been covering Platformines for what feels like forever. As soon as I saw Magiko Gaming's idea for a massive procedurally-generated run & gun shooter promising crazy weaponry and addictive persistent exploration, I couldn't resist its charms. As the months wore on and the demos became ever more elaborate, Platformines really did start to resemble the lovechild of Spelunky, Borderlands and Contra. Don't think too hard about the imagery.

Contralanky? Borderconky? Sporderlontra? I'll work on the portmanteaux, but for for now, you need to know three very important things.

1: After several months of near-total inactivity on Steam Greenlight, to the extent where many interested fans felt that the project might have died, Platformines has been officially greenlit and is coming to the service next year.

2: You can read an extensive preview and interview right here.

3: You can play the demo right now.

White Steam Machine Prototype Blinds Us With Majesty (Also Literally Blinds Us)

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
News
Tags:
PC games, Steam Machines

White Steam Machine Prototype Blinds Us With Majesty (Also Literally Blinds Us)

A Steam Machine prototype has been spotted in the wild, or at least the skunkworks of PC manufacturer IBuyPower.

It's hardly difficult to spot, no? This bright white device is reportedly one of two SteamOS-powered prototypes in development at the firm, capable of running Steam games at 1080p, 60FPS. And also blasting out copious lasers if Engadget's images are anything to go by [it's clearly a customisable LED strip, stop being silly - Ed].

Internal specifications are currently unknown (though we suspect it's powered by nuclear waste or Mountain Dew by the looks of that photo: identical substances in terms of taste and nutritional benefit). IBuyPower's range will apparently be priced "competitively" when Steam Machines roll out next year from several manufacturers - how much would you pay for a living room PC considering the potential long-term savings?

Killer Instinct Review | Ferociously Good Fun (But Where's The Rest Of It?)

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Double Helix Games, Fighting Games, Killer Instinct, Microsoft, Microsoft Studios, Xbox One, Xbox One Games

Killer Instinct Review | Ferociously Good Fun (But Where's The Rest Of It?)

Platform: Xbox One

Developer: Double Helix

Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Killer Instinct isn't what you'd typically call "free to play," and that's bloody marvellous.

See, us hacks were quick to mislabel Xbox One's debut fighting game after its E3 showing, but we eventually learned that things were slightly more nuanced than just "F2P." Killer Instinct is free to download and offers a single character, acting like a demo that lets us learn the ropes and get to grips with the mechanics, before deciding exactly how much we'd ideally like to spend. Fancy unlocking everything? That's fine. Want to choose your favourite fighters and save your pennies? No problem. In a launch lineup where microtransactions have wormed their way into the unlikeliest of places, this is a much-needed beacon of consumer choice.

Never mind all that, though, because I'm also delighted to report that the oft-inconsistent Double Helix have outdone themselves and delivered... shock horror... an undeniably good game. Their first, in fact, at least since MX vs ATV. Killer Instinct is ferocious, tactical and deep - and as brutal as you'd expect from Rare's beloved fighter. Though unfortunately it's not quite finished yet.

Killer Instinct Review | Ferociously Good Fun (But Where's The Rest Of It?)

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Please Understand: Xbox One Set To Overtake Wii U's Lifetime UK Sales In Less Than A Week

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
News
Tags:
Microsoft, Nintendo, UK retail, Wii U, Xbox One

Please Understand: Xbox One Set To Overtake Wii U's Lifetime UK Sales In Less Than A Week

After securing over a million day-one sales worldwide, the Xbox One is already set to beat the Wii U's lifetime UK sales total in less than seven days on shelves.

The Wii U is set for a reasonable Christmas, and boasts some truly outstanding games... but this is a somewhat embarrassing state of affairs considering that Nintendo's console has been available for an entire year. As Satoru Iwata famously likes to say: please understand.

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Xbox One's Microtransactions Are Doubly Dangerous, But Killer Instinct Shows The Way

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
Microsoft, Microtransactions, Xbox One

Xbox One's Microtransactions Are Doubly Dangerous, But Killer Instinct Shows The Way

Now that I've spent a long weekend tinkering with my shiny new Day One Xbox One, I'm scurrying to get to grips with its launch lineup and plan to fully review the system by Wednesday. Though we're receiving the biggest games in a trickle and I won't push out a review without playing them for an appropriate amount of time, we'll get through them as and when.

I'm having an absolute blast with the new system, mainly thanks to Kinect actually delivering on almost all of Microsoft's promises and filling me with a sense of childlike wonder every time I command it to perform an action. It's wonderful, convenient and feels like a truly futuristic next-gen experience that's soon to become second nature. In fact, I caught myself talking to my PC earlier.

However, it's already clear that a worrying trend has sneaked into Microsoft's launch lineup, both in terms of the biggest box games and downloadable Xbox Live Arcade titles. Microtransactions. Xbox One has put its little in-game purchases front and centre at the very start of its life... and without putting too fine a point on it, we're worried that this could set two rather nasty and dangerous precedents going into the next generation if Microsoft doesn't throttle back - and follow one shining example from the unlikeliest source.

Xbox One's Microtransactions Are Doubly Dangerous, But Killer Instinct Shows The Way

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Xbox One Storms The UK Games Charts, Though Familiar Faces Reap The Benefits

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
News
Tags:
UK Games Charts, Xbox One

Xbox One Storms The UK Games Charts, Though Familiar Faces Reap The Benefits

The Xbox One released worldwide last Friday, and we're already seeing its effects in the UK games charts. Forza Motorsport 5, Dead Rising 3 and Ryse: Son Of Rome have all entered the top ten, though FIFA 14, Call Of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 have leapt back to the top of the league tables, buoyed up by promotions and upgrade offers. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is also likely to become a chart mainstay for some time, and deserves to, on account of it being excellent.

The Legend Of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds has also managed to debut at a respectable ninth place. I probably won't have time to handle the review myself since the Xbox One requires my rapt attention, but be in no doubt: it's excellent. Perhaps not as forward-thinking as Spirit Tracks or The Minish Cap, but still superb nonetheless. Looking deeper into the top forty, the 3DS is clearly enjoying  a bit of a boom, boasting numerous exclusives in chart positions.

We suspect that Killzone: Shadow Fall is going to hit next week's charts in a big way next week, though once again, EA, Activision and Ubisoft will be laughing all the way to the bank. That they've probably bought.

Did you buy an Xbox One last week? If so, what are you playing?

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Xbox One Controller Review | A Stunning Little Black Number For Any Occasion

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Microsoft, Xbox One, Xbox One Controller

Xbox One Controller Review | A Stunning Little Black Number For Any Occasion

How do you improve on what was, for many gamers, the definitive console controller of a generation?

Such was the challenge facing Microsoft as they threw hundreds of millions of Dollars into research and development over the last few years. A woefully poxy D-Pad notwithstanding, the Xbox 360 controller was a masterpiece of form and function, an ergonomic delight that provided countless hours of comfortable convenience.

Though I'm still fighting off sleep deprivation to bring you a full Xbox One hardware review and launch title verdicts, we're well-placed to pass judgement on the new peripheral, having spent plenty of time with it both before and after launch.

In short? It's lovely.

Xbox One Controller Review | A Stunning Little Black Number For Any Occasion

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Persona 5 Officially Announced As PS3 Exclusive

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
News
Tags:
Atlus, Persona 5, PS3, PS3 games

After what feels like an eternity, Atlus has officially revealed that Persona 5 is in full development and headed exclusively to PS3.

BOOM.

We'll likely have to wait a while for the next iteration of the legendary JRPG series to arrive on UK shores, mind, considering that it's slated to release next Winter in Japan. Atlus games tend to take an age to secure European distribution. Perhaps we won't have to put next-gen on hold after all.

This move is highly reminiscent of Persona 4 releasing on PS2 instead of PS3 - Atlus doesn't play by anyone else's rules. Hopefully Sony will have brought Gaikai games streaming to European PS4s by 2015...

Xbox One Kinect Voice Commands: The Essential Guide

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
Kinect, Microsoft, Voice commands, Xbox One

Xbox One Kinect Voice Commands: The Essential Guide

Kinect isn't just a gimmick any more. Well, I suppose it is, but it's a damn good one nonetheless. Xbox One's powerful depth sensor is capable of automatically recognising us, our profiles and even when we put down our controllers; tracking our movements and keeping us in frame during Skype calls. Plus, if you outstretch an arm and clench your fist, you'll discover that the Minority Report dream is almost here.

However, by far our favourite thing about Kinect is its microphone, which lets us control the Xbox One using simple words and phrases. It's powerful, enjoyable and feels a bit like helming our own videogame starship. You'll need to say the exact phrases, though, the words of power, in order to navigate your new console without touching a controller.

So here, dear reader, is an exhaustive list of voice commands to show off to your friends today.

Bear this in mind: If you see text written in green, chances are that you can read it aloud to perform an action. Also, after successfully performing a voice command, Kinect keeps listening alertly for a few seconds (an icon appears in the top-right corner of the screen) so you don't necessarily have to say "Xbox" each time to get its attention.

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Oh Yes, It's The Xbox One Unboxing Video!

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
Microsoft, Videos, Xbox One

Oh Yes, It's The Xbox One Unboxing Video!

The next console generation begins today, friends. My Xbox One has just arrived, meaning that it's time for me to spend an entire day bunking off work to play with it...

...wait, what? Make an unboxing video? Really? With this face?

Fine, Matt. Fine. FINE.

So here's the contents of an Xbox One: Day One Edition FIFA 14 package, liberally scattered over a sofa by a fat guy wearing devastatingly handsome patent leather gloves. Apologies for the light level, though, since it played havoc with the detail. I'm not unboxing it again.

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Next-Gen Starts Tonight: Tell Us Where You Stand!

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
News
Tags:
PS4, Xbox One

Next-Gen Starts Tonight: Tell Us Where You Stand!

Eight years after the Xbox 360 launched, its successor is set to release and kick off a new console generation here in Europe. With the PS4 snapping at its heels next Friday, you'd better believe that we're ready to deploy all manner of coverage. We've already cracked the seal on our PS4. The excitement is mounting. We are so very ready.

For now, though, there's not much we can do but wait until midnight (unless you're Matt, who's still trying to get his video capture box to work with the office PS4). Perhaps we should while away the time by having a little chat.

So, dear reader, we want to know where you stand on next-gen, and what you're buying. Are you splurging out on an Xbox One? Waiting a few days for the PS4? Laughing about the very idea of owning a console since your PC puts both to shame? Loving the Wii U? Or waiting, perhaps, until the smoke clears to make a truly informed decision? Since I'll be getting my Xbox One at the same time as everyone else, then starting on coverage, feel free to tell us about your first impressions and what you make of the launch titles! We're all in the same boat.

In the spirit of sharing, I pre-ordered an Xbox One and it's currently on its way. Here's what we all make of the PS4, both positive and negative.

Your turn!

Wii U Christmas Buyer's Guide

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Deals
Tags:
Nintendo, Wii U

Wii U Christmas Buyer's Guide

Nintendo's console hasn't had a great year, in the most generous sense of the phrase. Overlooked by third-party developers, suffering from confused marketing and going long periods without quality software, many gamers have written the Wii U off completely.

Which is a shame, because it actually deserves a second look. Exclusively offering some of the best games of 2013 across all platforms, providing local multiplayer shenanigans, boasting a fantastic controller and costing much less than the competition, the Wii U deserves to have a very merry Christmas indeed.

What we need, therefore, is a buyer's guide to lead us through these uncertain times and the cheapest prices. Like this one right here. Note that we'll be covering the basics and essentials, so the full Wii U hardware review is on hand if you want to know more.

Wii U Christmas Buyer's Guide

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PlayStation Vita Christmas Buyer's Guide

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Deals
Tags:
Playstation Vita, PS Vita, Sony

PlayStation Vita Christmas Buyer's Guide

The PlayStation Vita is a pocket powerhouse, a device capable of replicating the home console games you know and love while out and about, boasting graphics you'd scarcely believe on a gorgeous OLED screen. Though Sony have failed to match the wealth of games available on 3DS, the Vita does offer some seriously impressive big hitters - while staunch indie support and compatibility with downloaded PSOne and PSP games provide a surprisingly strong back catalogue even for niche connoisseurs.

The Vita also offers a massive range of input methods, from a capacitive touchscreen to a rear-mounted trackpad, cameras and gyroscope... though in practice the second thumbstick is by far its most important feature. In addition, a handful of useful apps make it a surprisingly practical piece of kit, while its voice chat functionality is PS4-ready.

Now that UK retailers have decided to drop the price down to eminently affordable levels, there's rarely been a better time to pick one up. But when it comes to navigating the cheapest Vita prices, its two models, memory cards and essential games, there's a lot to consider. Luckily we've got you covered with a buyer's guide that's got the basics locked down.

PlayStation Vita Christmas Buyer's Guide

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Xbox One Launch Patch Can Be Installed by "Emergency Offline Update" [UPDATE: Or Not]

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
News
Tags:
Microsoft, Xbox One

Xbox One Launch Patch Can Be Installed by "Emergency Offline Update" [UPDATE: Or Not]

Break In Case Of Emergency

There's one day to go until the Xbox One launches and the next console generation officially starts here in the UK. Well, after everyone downloads the great big day-one patch, that is. Your new console will effectively just be the world's largest paperweight until you've pulled down nearly 2GB of data, so naturally, getting it will be your first port of call. Everyone's first port of call.

As a precautionary measure, Microsoft has made the update available to pre-download on PC, meaning that it can then be installed by USB. Then called it the "emergency offline update" just to freak us all out. Details below.

UPDATE: Microsoft has taken the site offline, stating that too many people were pre-downloading what was only intended to be an emergency measure. It's never too late for one last U-turn, eh?

Click here to read more...

Pre-Order Bravely Default On 3DS For £29.99 From Grainger Games

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Deals
Tags:
3DS Games, JRPG, Square Enix

Pre-Order Bravely Default On 3DS For £29.99 From Grainger Games

Bravely Default pre-order | Grainger Games | £29.99 (save £2 vs ShopTo)
Price Comparison

This localised JRPG is arriving in the UK this December, packing a raft of improvements, dual English/Japanese audio and a huge amount of content. Grainger Games will part with a pre-order for £29.99, the cheapest price around. You'll save £2 compared to ShopTo, and about a fiver versus practically everyone else.

Thanks to Karuma @ HUKD!