I filled up my Xbox One's hard drive last month.
Sure, I arguably receive more games than the average console owner in my line of work, but less than a year after launch I'm being forced to delete entire games from my hard drive just to play and review new ones, requiring me to then re-install them down the line if I ever fancy a quick impulse play. Forza 5 swerved off the track, Ryse fell on its sword and I'm still struggling to keep on top of things.
And soon Halo: The Master Chief Collection wants to guzzle up another 60GB or so... followed by a 20GB patch. I'm sorry, but this situation has gotten entirely out of control and we're only a year into the current generation. Put the important debate about frame rates and resolutions on hold for a moment, because we might have bigger problems on the console front.
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After falling down a hole in last week's Hunger Games video, this week it's all about Sky Wars -- a game mode where everyone starts on their own little floating island and fights to become the last person standing.
True to form, the first thing I go and do is fall in a hole. Great.
I've discovered that I desperately need practice in terms of the basics when it comes to Minecraft, and that it always helps to have a crafting guide open on a second screen. This week's efforts are riddled with failure, but we also have our first taste of victory, and I follow Deadpool around demand that he gives me his skin.
It's all rather surreal.Click here to read more...
Back in 1999, gamers banded together to demand an end to the accusation by mainstream media that violent video games were in some ways to blame for that decade's school shootings. Fifteen years on, just last week, and a woman due to give a speech at a university cancels the event in light of security measures implemented to prevent threat of a "Montreal Massacre" style attack. Her crime? Making feminist videos critiquing video games.
In the past week, the New York Times ran a front page story that put Sarkeesian's cancellation of her university talk due to a "massacre" threat in the same sentence as movement known as Gamergate. The Washington Post, and The Guardian weighed on it too. Sarkeesian appeared in Rolling Stone and Newsweek following the pulled event, her name in the ascendancy once more, largely thanks to the same anonymous abusers who would see her silenced. The mainstream media saw a woman who talks about sexism in games being hounded by anonymous sexist trolls online, and #Gamergate creator Adam Baldwin questioning her abuse and belittling her experiences in since-deleted Tweets. The mainstream media made a broad connection and had themselves a field day. Deja vu.
I'm fed up with all of this. I'm fed up of having a pastime and an identity that I treasure and believe in dragged through the mud because people would rather sling abuse and trade insults and invent "sides" and cling to a social media construct rather than engage in meaningful communication. This all started with a break-up made public and (unfounded) allegations of a developer sleeping with a journalist for positive coverage, and it has developed into a nebulous movement that has attracted all sorts -- from criminals to anonymous trolls, from disgruntled gamers determined to strike back against a press that has seemingly abandoned them to right-wing opportunists with a passing interest in games and a greater interest in scandal, from lifelong gamers protective of their sub-cultural identity to moderates who have tried to steer the conversation around to real talk about representation and ethical standards and how we all need to take a long hard look at ourselves.Click here to read more...
Long-time readers will know I have a soft spot for the Warcraft franchise, especially World of Warcraft. As a day-one player who has experienced everything the game has offered, including the Mists of Pandaria expansion, I’ve seen it go through a fair few changes. New races being added, enhanced weather and lighting systems being introduced, a new class thrown into the mix, talent points being redesigned, and a constant stream of rebalancing for everything involved, That said, some things have stayed the same in the face of change. New abilities would continue to crowd up toolbars, the rise of damage and health numbers for players and NPCs alike spiralling up exponentially, and the models for the playable races becoming more and more dated as the years went by. With the upcoming expansion Warlords of Draenor approaching, Blizzard saw it as an opportunity to fix these things, and so with patch 6.0.2 being unleashed last week I returned to the MMO behemoth for the first time in nine months. It was time to see if the game that sent the genre mainstream still had the ability to pull in new punters and veterans alike.
I’ll tell you one thing though – WildStar’s combat and traversal systems have spoiled me rotten compared to WoW's seemingly archaic mechanics, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
The inclusion of the Worgen, Goblin and Pandaren made it quite clear that the original race models needed an update. The blocky, expressionless and (in the case of humans) hairlipped choices on offer just didn’t blend with the rest of the updated visuals of the game. Thankfully, after years of waiting the update has arrived – except for Blood Elves, who will have to wait a little while longer to be made more beautiful. If I’m honest, I really shouldn’t be impressed by the new visuals and animations considering what the competition has produced elsewhere in the genre, but I really am.
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Welcome back to Click To Play , the new-old regular series that takes a look at a new browser-based curio each week to further the fine art of procrastination. We accept absolutely no responsibility if you get caught at work/school/uni gloriously wasting time on the games listed here when you should be working.
This week: Assembots
Assembots is basically what you'd get if you crossed robots with Lemmings.
Each stage sees you attempting to guide a certain number of robots from one factory to the next and, just like the eponymous heroes of Lemmings, your mechanical chums in this will simply trundle forwards until you give them a new instruction or they hit a wall. The game eases you into things with a smattering of commands available from a horizontal array at the bottom of the screen, and to begin with you'll dig through dirt walls and platforms, climb walls, and turn into stationary pillars that can be used to activate switches and prevent robots from hurling themselves off of cliffs. You'll only have a limited number of these commands, however, so it's important to think carefully before applying them to a robot -- you simple click the command (or use the hotkeys) and then click the robot you want to apply it to.
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With one short month to go before Far Cry 4 lands, we take a decisive look at all the available evidence, including our very own hands-on sessions, to make the case that we could be looking at a Game of the Year contender here. So dive into this week’s Sunday Seven: Why Far Cry 4 is Set to Own 2014.
You wouldn’t think it to look at them, but the honey badgers are arguably the most vicious creatures in Kyrat. Hunting missions will make a return, but using fire or explosions to kill animals will result in damaged pelts that are worth less cash and possibly not be as useful for crafting. Looks like we’ll have to avoid using rocket launchers and mines on the monochrome missile-like bastards then. Other animals that want to eat your eyes include wolves, rhinos, leopards, eagles, cave bears and much more. Come at me, nature!Click here to read more...
We've been getting stuck into the long-awaited Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel this week, so take break and check out our Opening Scenes video and Top Ten survival guide. Elsewhere in the features Carl has been playing with some new ships in Star Citizen and even took them out for a race or two. Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham has rocketed up our most wanted lists thanks to Jon's recent hands-on report and interview, ensuring it's a perfect title for you and the little ones, although we all know that's just an excuse. Matt's Interactive Narrative series continues this week with a look at sports games and he also chats with the team behind Company of Heroes: Ardennes Assault before getting a hands-on for himself too. Our weekly guide to next week's releases is up too, including links to our past coverage and the cheapest prices on the leading formats. There's even more packed into the features section and you can find all the links below.
In the reviews Matt's been blown away by the mighty Bayonetta 2 on the Wii U, but had his buzz mildly dampened by the surprisingly awful F1 2014. Jon's been reviewing his usual selection of questionable Japanese material again in the stacked forms of Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus and Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed. He also reviewed the really rather boobless, but excellent Defense Grid 2.Click here to read more...
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is out today in the UK, and our full review will be going live very soon. It's a fun and famililar burst of shooting and looting, meaning that our Borderlands 2 survival guide is still packed with plenty of relevant tips, but the low-gravity setting, ace bouncy combat, new enemies and brand new characters mean that even Vault Hunting veterans can potentially be caught unawares.
Never fear, because I'm here with a few useful, practical and sometimes completely esoteric survival tips that are as spoiler-free as humanely possible! Ten, in fact, though I don't really see much point in ordering them this time.
Double-jumping is all the rage these days. Taking a look back at the platformers of yesteryear, Titanfall did the business and now everyone else is falling over themselves to follow suit.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, however, takes a totally unique approach to double-jumping. In a low-grav situation, you'll gain extra height if you hit the button without touching the stick, but holding a direction turns it into a powerful lateral boost instead (depending on your momentum at the time). You'll need a few hours to fully get used to it, as the additional altitude can be used to pour devastating firepower down on foes or engage aerial foes in the air.
Conversely, the boost provides a major speed increase, the ability to circle strafe in the air or the extra oomph you need to make it to a distant platform. Or even pulling back from a botched jump and ensuring you return to the platform rather than falling into the abyss. Practice makes perfect.Click here to read more...
I'm quite excited for Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault. I must admit that I'm more of an offline player than an online one, having had my backside handed to me on numerous occasions, but that's what this expansion is all about. Just like Western Front Armies, Ardennes Assault will be a standalone slice of strategic action, but one that eschews the linearity of COH 2's campaign for something a little more dynamic.
My preview for Ardennes Assault went live yesterday, and here's what I had to say about my time with the game in my closing paragraph:
The bottom line is that Ardennes Assault finally brings the feeling of grand strategy and broader tactical thinking to bear on a game that has been renowned for tactical gameplay on a smaller, more individual scale. Company of Heroes has long been a series that is all about making the best with what you have, realising the importance of different individual units and the ways in which they can complement one another. Now, added to that formula, there's more of an opportunity to be a true armchair general, as well as a major on the field. It looks like it truly present the best of both worlds, and that's very exciting indeed.
As well as going hands-on with the game, I also had the opportunity to sit down with campaign designer, Mitch Lagran, to have a chat about the changes that Relic have made and the ambitions that the studio has going forwards.Check out the interview after the jump >>
It's always a good sign when a preview event starts wrapping up and the first thing you think is 'Nooooo, please let me take this game with me'. It was nice to place the latest standalone expansion pack for Company of Heroes 2 in context, with our gaggle of assembled European writers given a tour of the Bastogne barracks -- the operational heart of the Allied war effort during the Battle of the Bulge -- before checking out the game inspired by that bloody piece of history.
Inspired is certainly the word, as Relic have used the events of the battle to bookend this particular experience. Essentially, Ardennes Assault gives players the freedom to plan out their own military machinations in the region by way of a 'meta map'. If The Western Front Armies provided a multiplayer introduction to this newly explored theatre of war and the factions involved, the Ardennes Assault pack is the singleplayer counterpoint -- an expansion that zooms in on three individual companies and their commanding officers, struggling to take control of a region filled with constantly shifting German divisions. The idea is clear -- to present a relatively open ended canvas, framed by history, upon which we armchair generals might paint our personal tactical masterpieces.
Our two-hour session with the game consisted of playing the same mission multiple times. Set not far from Bastogne in the town of Houffalize, the skirmish in which we were involved saw us trying to join up with an allied column to the north, cutting through German-controlled territory, overrunning the enemy's artillery stations, and co-opting the massive guns for our own purposes. By focussing in on this single mission (there will be 18 in total we're told -- seven rather broad encounters and eleven more scripted scenarios) several times over, we were able to see how the different companies performed, and how the map changed depending upon what stage of the campaign we were at when we took the plunge.Click here to read more...
In this week's episode of Game Night, Carl and Jon try their luck at surviving Dungeon Of The Endless, the current Early Access project from Amplitude Studios. Part RPG, part roguelike, part 4X strategy, and all parts punishing, see how this genre-mash-up is shaping up whilst the duo flee in fear from huge hordes of enemies.
Be sure to check out Jon's hands-on impressions of Dungeon of the Endless here.
People tell me that cutting-edge graphical tech is absolutely crucial for attaining that most hallowed of made-up buzzwords: immersion. I understand that point of view and the logic behind it, but also contend that it's complete and total bollocks.
See, for the last few weeks I've been compulsively glued to a primitive early alpha that uses the bare minimum to ground you in an evocative lonely Sci-Fi universe, by making your computer monitor look like a different computer monitor.
Duskers casts you as a astronaut castaway in the depths of space, running out of rations and going half-mad from isolation, desperately eking out the last of your days by salvaging any usable supplies from derelict space hulks. You'll use your precious supplies just to travel between them, meaning that you have to find food or die of starvation, but in a unique twist you'll never personally leave your ship.
Without a viable space suit, you'll instead rely on a handful of remote-controlled drones that become your only means of exploring the wrecks, your eyes, ears and hands, and also your only friends in an otherwise hostile and empty universe. As such, both you and the astronaut stare at the same arcane control interface -- your computer monitor and keyboard -- connecting and immersing you in the game world in a unique and deeply chilling way.
After all, your drones aren't alone out there... and without them you're as good as dead.Click here to read more...
John Carmack once said the following about story in video games: "Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It's expected to be there, but it's not that important."
Of course, games have come to encompass a wider array of virtual interactive experiences since he uttered those words, and quite frankly there's never been a better time to be a gamer no matter what you prioritise. Whichever floats your proverbial boat the most -- be it graphics, sound design, responsive and taut mechanics, dynamic content, player agency, expansive world, free-roaming play, expertly-crafted rollercoasters of action and emotion, a well-told story -- whatever your gaming poison, chances are there something damn fine out there for you.
Carmack's words ring hollow for me as a gamer, but from a development standpoint I think it's important to note that a good story or excellent narrative framing is a tool to be leveraged in pursuit of a good game just like mindblowing aesthetics, inventive art design, and other considerations. A point that we (Jon especially) have often made on this site is to include the elements that best suit your game. A focus on storytelling is not something to be shoehorned into a game. A poor story or clunkily-worked narrative elements can frequently be worse than not having it in there at all.
There are a handful of genres to which narrative design still seems somewhat alien. We hear it all the time when it comes to sports titles, fighting games, racing and driving games -- "this game doesn't need a story". But it rather depends on what you're looking for, to be honest. No game needs bad writing or poorly thought out features or modes, but in certain circumstances, narrative framing at least can serve to elevate a game over its peers. Continuing along that line of thinking, this week's video takes a look at the NBA 2K series, as well as games like Forza Horizon and, surprise, Defense Grid 2.Click here to read more...
Following on from our video earlier today, we continue our look at the current build of Star Citizen's Arena Commander by checking out the racing mode. Carl attempts to put the pedal to the metal by taking the Origin Jumpworks 350R for a spin in the recently unlocked gametype, gawping at the floating prefabs and trying not to crash, before seeing how he fairs in an online race against other players. The results are... messy. Don't take my word for it - give it a watch and see for yourself.
If you missed it earlier, be sure to check out our video which takes a look at the roster of ships currently available in Arena Commander.
For Star Citizen, the last seven days have been rather eventful. CitizenCon took place over the weekend with fans getting a first look at some of the ships being made, and the planetside module was shown publicly for the first time. On top of this, multiple stretch goals have been reached as recently as last night (yep, we're up to an eye-watering $58 million now.)
Of course, not everyone could make it over to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the project's existence, so the folks at Cloud Imperium opened up all the currently-flyable ships to all backers of Star Citizen for seven days. So Carl, who has only flown the Anvil Aerospace Hornet up until now, wasn't going to miss an opportunity to sample the other flyable craft in the game. Heading into the Vanduul Swarm mode, Carl recorded his experiences with three of the available ships - the RSI Aurora LX, the Origin Jumpworks M50, and the Origin Jumpworks 300i.
If you haven't already, be sure to check out our previous videos to see the Hornet fighter in action, and stay tuned to the site as we'll be showing off the final ship not featured here - the Origin Jumpworks 350R - in a video that focuses on the racing mode of Arena Commander.
LEGO Batman 3 promises to go "Beyond Gotham," but TT Games are thinking bigger. Sure, the Justice League's bid to stop Braniac from abducting major cities takes our heroes around the world and even outside Earth's atmosphere, but at its core this is nothing less than a love letter to DC's entire sprawling universe. It's an attempt to cram in characters from throughout the most obscure parts of the canon, comics, Elseworld stories, the films and everything in between; from the snarling antihero we know today to Adam West's legendary 1960's romp.
And Batcow. And The Condiment King. And Mister Mxyzptlk. And... Kevin Smith?!
It's a veritable DC fan's dream crossover, but fans of the LEGO series can also expect some new gameplay features, enjoyable stud-collecting adventures and the gentle yet anarchic humour you'd expect from the Manchester-based studio.Click here to read more...
It's all in the name. LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham takes us beyond the iconic city on a quest to save the entire world, drawing on a massive pool of characters from every part of the DC universe, fan favourites and Elseworld stories.
I recently sat down with TT Games producer Matt Ellison to discuss how they approached development, what new features to expect and how LEGO Batman 3 promises to be a DC superfan's dream crossover. Not to mention a blast for aficionados of Adam West: the one true Batman.
In my opinion. Watch it all above, including what Ellison other classic franchise TT Games would love to give the LEGO treatment if they could get hold of the license.
NBA 2K15 is finally here, and it's good. I mean really good. Visual Concepts have tweaked a fair few things in this latest instalment of the World's Best Sport Game Series, and one of the nifty new features is the ability to scan in your face for MyPlayer.
Check out my efforts in the quest for facial perfection in the video above.
I won't lie, I didn't hold out much hope that this would be any good. EA Sports' Game Face is utterly dreadful. Aside from it being a slow, clunky, often unworkable piece of crap, when it does have the decency to work, my Game Face creations all came out looking like someone had stuffed several slapped arses into a blender and then given the remains to Picasso.Click here to read more...
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is out this week, and the review embargo is up. But we're not quite ready to drop the verdict of Gearbox and 2K Australia's latest just yet. Our review will be along later this week, but in the interim, here's a little look at the game's opening scenes.
Definitely check out Carl's interview with the devs too.
Minecraft is a game that passed me by completely. It's a sad reality of life as a games critic -- the minute you're finished with a game for review, you're onto the next one. There's always something new to cover, whether that's a title that's just dropped through the letter box, or an Early Access project that's just started an initial alpha run, or a new demo or browser game or interview to be done.
I don't say this to complain at all, I love what I do. But it illustrates that the current situation I find myself in is very different to that of my formative years when I could wallow in a single game for months upon end. Indeed, such activity was often a requirement because of financial concerns. These days you struggle to make time for simply soaking in a game world.
So Minecraft passed me by, covered in far greater detail by a burgeoning YouTube market, expanded into classrooms and other places of learning. It became the gaming equivalent of dancing or skating competitive reality shows -- adored by the masses, but something I'd failed to get into, only occasionally stopping to watch the odd humorous video on YouTube.
Better late than never, as they say. Every Monday, I'll be teaming up with my Minecraft guru Calvin (formerly of GodisaGeek) to investigate a new corner of the Minecraft experience over on my personal channel, and you can find a new episode here at 5PM at the top of each week.
To kick things off, we check out The Hunger Games, and it quickly becomes readily apparent that neither of us are particularly proficient survivors.Click here to read more...