Category Archives: Games

Review: Legacy of the Beast

Iron Maiden’s well publicised RPG now available on the Apps Store and Google Play has been well promoted by the band during their latest world tour supporting “The Book of Souls”. The game draws inspiration from all the bands previous albums and combines the music and artwork that fans have come to love with the tried formula of a turn based RPG. As you might expect the gameplay isn’t anything unique for mobile RPGs with a simple levelling system and well throughout skill trees combined with a plethora of in app purchases. This was never going to be the draw of “Legacy of the Beast” as it has been a game designed for hard-core fans who would recognise every reference from the bands back catalogue.

The game is well conceived to take advantage of Maiden’s mascot Eddie as you must play through a series of worlds from the Ailing Kingdom (The Wicker Man), The Kingdom of the Sands (Powerslave) and The Underworld (Number of the Beast) in order to recover the pieces of Eddie’s soul. Playing through each world unlocks another portion of Eddie’s soul and an aspect of the mascot to add to your playable characters which are interchangeable during play to capitalise on  their unique abilities.

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Beyond the inspiration for each world it’s not surprising that the developers have managed to squeeze in as many references to the bands body of work wherever possible. The newest album features strongly in the games mechanics as the book of souls which you collect early in the tutorial phrase allows you to utilise soul shards in order to summon creatures to help Eddie as he fight his way an army of cultist. However, the others are all their somewhere in different ways like the equitable items called talismans (The Final Frontier) the ever present guide called “The Clairvoyant” (Seventh Son of the Seventh Son) or a line of dialogue.

The result is a real blast for any Maiden fan as you can’t help prove your knowledge of the band by picking up all the little nodes to individual tracks. A soundtrack of some of the bands greatest hits is just the icing on the cake but is the element that obviously has pulled everything else together.

XB1 Games with Gold Review: Thief

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Recently I have started downloading a few more of Xbox One’s games with gold freebies as it’s a good way to play some titles that you may have considered buying at one stage. It’s also given me a chance to play a couple of different types of games that I wouldn’t normally go for. “Thief” is a perfect example as the game relies heaverly on stealth rather than the fast paced action or RPG that I normally play. As a result it can feel a bit slow but the stealth mechanics work well and provide a strategic element to gameplay as you need to make decisions about how you achieve each goal.

Read Brett’s review over at crowded brain for a more detailed look at ‘Thief’ as his thoughts echo my own. Personally I found the controls the biggest drawback as even after playing for several hours they don’t feel natural. His point about the enviorment and the ability to climb some objects but not others is also frustrating. Overall I think ‘Thief’ is a good place to start if you want more out of your membership as it  has a unique style of gameplay that is worth checking out.

Jono

10 best journeys to a galaxy far, far away

Considering The Force Awakens is still dominating the box office I thought I might do a countdown of my top 10 games that took us into a galaxy far, far away. Just a quick disclaimer as a console gamer there is only one PC game on the list and I haven’t played anything that predates the N64, so if one of your favourites doesn’t appear don’t hold it against me but would love your opinion in the comments.

10.Shadow of the Empire – N64 (1997)

I’m not going to argue that Shadow is a perfectly produced game but it had a really good bases as it allowed players to take on a unique character that shared traits with one of the favourite hero form the films without having a predetermined outcome. In addition, it was possibly the first Star Wars game which combined different modes of game play whether it’s plying on foot as Dash Render or piloting the Outrider. The opening stage is definitely a highlight and while most players find it drops away the longer you play it definitely opened up possibilities for the future.

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9.Republic Commandos – PC/Xbox (2005)

A unique chapter in Star Wars gaming as players take command of an elite band of clones rather than the usual role of a hero. This first person shooter developed using the Unreal engine has obvious similarities with other squad based games like Gears of War released a year later, as players can be revived by squad mates and issue commands. Therefor it’s no surprise the fast paced action left players wanting more and the only real drawback was the short length of the campaign and multiplayer.

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8.The Force Unleashed – PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii (2008)

Excellent graphics, a good storyline and a well voiced protagonist helped this game establish itself as one of the best sellers for 2008. However, The Force Unleashed was well hyped before its release and the repetitive method of game play combined with the absence of multiplayer disappointed some fans. Never being much of an online gamer this was never that much of a drawback and I just try to change up my own tactics to keep it interesting, after all where else can you electrify your lightsaber before thronging it.force_unleashed_1a-1920x1200

7.Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga – Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC (2007)

Combining one of the most successful toys and Star Wars started something as the Lego series has since expanded to including Indiana Jones, Batman, Harry Potter and The Avengers. These games allow players to jump into well-known story lines and regularly change amongst their favourite characters while experience a fun easy to learn method f game play. Star Wars was able to capitalise on this combination due to its wide fan base and the desire to play through the events of the films for less serious gamers. Lego Star Wars might not be anything special on game play but all the sequel means that it has definitely had an impact.

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6.The Old Republic – PC (2011)

The only exclusive PC game on my list grab my attention due to its console origins is an MMORPG based 3500 years before the films. On release it became the fastest growing MMORPG but after the initial surge it had trouble keeping subscribers and has since introduced a free-to-play option.

The game play draws heavily from its predecessors and distinguishes itself from other MMORPG’s through the introduction of companion system. These companions are linked to your chosen class which also offer a range of different builds to explore. The scale of the Star Wars universe has never been bigger and this is definitely a must for serious fans

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5.Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy  – PC, Mac, Xbox (2003)

Jedi Academy like its predecessor Jedi Outcast combines first person and third person shooters with elements of RPG’s by allowing gamers to customise their characters’ force powers. Academy’s main advantage is the story allows players to jump straight into combat with a lightsaber this allows players to develop their fighting technique and customise their lightsaber later on. In addiction the game brought an enhanced multiplayer which allowed players to take on each other using Xbox live. The drawback for me was the replay value of the campaign as the limited customisation did nothing to change the story or levels. Even so Jedi Academy ranks as one of my favourite due to partly to it’s application of force powers, being able to push storm troopers off a ledge never gets old. Jedi Academy is now available along with all its predecessors in the Jedi Knight series on steam so if you haven’t had the pleasure I suggest you check it out.

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4.Knights of the Old Republic: Sith Lords – PC, Mac, Xbox (2004)

Obsidian’s follow up to Bioware’s original lived up to fans expectations as it maintained the same game play while making an effort to expand and introduce new characters. In every way it feels like a sequel as some of our favourite characters like HK-47 return and the storyline links back to Revan and the Mandalorian Wars yet it does this in a way that is approachable for new comers. The game maintains the party, combat and levelling systems from its predecessor but does add some welcome tweaks such as the character’s ability to influence your companions. This evolves into your ability to change their alignment and their physical appearance and will also open up the opportunity to train several of your companions to use the force. Combined with the additional prestige classes this gives a sense that the player is able to take the next step beyond the original.

Like the original the storyline offers great replay value with a plethora of side quests each with multiple outcomes and several core decisions that can affect the progression of the main story. As expected with a sequel it expands our knowledge of the Star Wars universe by taking us to some new places while revisiting some familiar planets that have been left scared by the events of the original. My only real criticism of the Sith Lords is that perhaps more could have been invested into the graphics as they are not a massive leap forward but this has never stopped me playing on my Xbox 360.

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3.Star Wars Rogue Squadron – N64, PC (1998)

Back on my N64 Rogue Squadron was up there with Goldeneye as one of my favourite games. The arcade style action game allows players to pilot different rebel craft through 16 levels to fulfil different objectives and is set alongside the original trilogy. Using passwords or attaining medals on all the levels also gives players access to bonus levels from the movies including the Death Star run and special crafts like the Millennium Falcon. These elements combined to make Rogue Squadron an enjoyable and accessible simulation of aerial combated without focusing on it. Recently playing Battlefront on my Xbox One has remained me a little of Rogue Squadron but it lacks the mission objectives to keep me interested for long periods.

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2.Battlefront 2 – PC, Xbox, PS2 (2005)

A sequel that surpassed the original and has inspired the latest large scale console game in the franchise. Gameplay is based around third person combat with a collection of different playable classes available and a range of power ups based on in-game performance. Into this framework the game adds vehicles including full scale space battles and playable heroes awarded for meeting unspecified objectives. If this wasn’t enough Battlefront 2 includes the four major armies from the prequel and original trilogies which introduces players to a larger range of classes and different vehicles.

This last point contributes to what separates and raises Battlefront 2 above the more recent incarnation as it offers 2 different solo/co-op styles of play beyond multiplayer. Initially campaign offers players the ability to fight through the entire saga and develop their skills. It was the Galaxy mode which really impressed players and has probably been the biggest disappointment with the new version as players could choose an army and take over the galaxy one plant at a time. All this combined for a great experience with excellent replay value that appealed to hard-core Star Wars fans and was accessible to all levels of gamers.

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1. Knights of the Old Republic – Xbox, PC, Mac (2003)

This should not come as any surprise as the 2004 Game of the Year not only took Star Wars games to a new level but redefined RPG’S. Since the success of Knights of the Old Republic BioWare have continued to use the same companion, decision and dialogue system with a few developments in the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series. It was these elements along with a high level of customisation which has given all these titles their replay value.

However, none of these titles would have been successful without a great storyline, characters and an expanded universe to explore and this is where KOTOR delivers with spades. The overriding storyline of Darth Revan, Malak and the star forge is compelling with Empire style twists. The side quests allow players to explore some of the more well-known planets and aspects of the Star Wars universe while introduce new lore or building characters. The final piece of the puzzle is characters and while Carth can become a little tedious or Juhani & Jolee appear stereotypical the game delivers entertainment in the form of HK-47 and Canderous while Bastila Shan providing an unusual level of development for a companion. If you haven’t played KOTOR before it is a must for any hard-core RPG gamer or Star Wars fan and regardless of the dating graphics, it’s still one hell of a game.

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Would love to hear some of your views and hits of gaming nostalgia so don’t be afraid to comment.

Jono

 

 

Retro – Review: Halo 3

The final instalment of the original story arc was always going to have to be something special and it delivered. Personally I have found memories of the games release in 2007 as a friend and I hooked the Xbox 360 up to my dad’s projector and surround sound system. The hours of gaming that followed as we ran through the campaign on heroic always comes to mind any time I play the game. So what made Halo 3 almost the perfect shooter…

Game play

Like Halo 2 the major format of game play remains largely unchanged from the original but adds a couple of new elements. The inclusion of “support weapons” made it easier to take down large groups of Brutes or vehicles. Extra firepower comes at a price as caring the two handed weapons prevents you from using grenades and slows movement. Limited ammo in “support weapons” means that you can’t hang on to them forever which prevents the game from getting easy.

The other major addition to overall game play was the introduction of deployable equipment which includes grave lifts, energy drains and different shields among other things. These items can be picked up and swapped like weapons depending on your tactics. This new feature is helpful in campaign but really comes into its own during multiplayer due to the faster pace. While some equipment is clearly more useful then others it does provide players with more opportunity to change their strategy which for me has always been important to the success of Halo.

Multiplayer

Along with the general game play additions Halo 3 introduced a couple of new multiplayer features which allowed it to capitalise on the strength of Halo 2. The most revolutionary element of the game is the introduction of Forge a personalised multiplayer map system which allows players to change the location of vehicles, weapons and items. Historically I haven’t been a massive online gamer and have only briefly tested this out but I can definitely see its appeal.  Considering this It’s not surprising that 343 have promised to add Forge to Halo 5 with an update.

Personally, my favourite multiplayer option has always been cooperative normally on a split screen. Halo 3 unlike most games didn’t ignore this method of gaming as it introduced online cooperative for the first time and to capitalise on players’ competitive nature this included a points rank system. This feature provided a lot of potential which is set to be recognised in Halo 5 as players all had original characters; Master Chief, The Arbiter and two elites. Unfortunately, in Halo 3 game play is the same for all characters which is where Halo 5 will take the next step.

Storyline & Setting

The main campaign starts from where Halo 2 unceremoniously left fans hanging and picks up the story with Truth’s forces occupying part of earth. The first part of the game sees the Chief hook up with some old friends to regroup before moving to attack. At first it’s a bit odd playing through Halo without Cortana’s usual commentary but we are constantly reminded of her presence due to some quick flashes.

Despite your best efforts the Chief can’t stop Truth from reaching the Ark but before he can follow the The Flood crash High Charity into the remains of the city. Thankfully this gives the Chief the opportunity to keep a promise and save Cortana before traveling through the portal to stop Truth and The Flood.

Unlike Halo 2 the campaign is hugely satisfying as it incorporates customary Halo twists where the Chief finds himself temporally allied with different enemies and more importantly an ending. The storyline even works on character development with the forming of a friendship of sorts with the Arbiter and a clear progression of the relationship between Cortana and the Chief which becomes central to Halo 4. In the main storyline Halo 3 even gives homage to the original which gets the nostalgia really flowing and is a real payoff for diehard fans.

Overall

Halo 3 is the most complete game in the series as it continues to develop game play in small ways while retaining the formula that has made the series a success. In addition, it builds on the strengths of Halo 2 while clearly making an effort to improve open it’s weakness through a well developed central storyline. If this is the way the world ends, I’m cool with it.

Game play: 9.5

Multiplayer: 9

Storyline: 10

Overall: 9.5/10

Jono

Retro-Review: Halo 2

After the success of Halo it was only a matter of time before Microsoft and Bungie released a sequel. The wait was infuriating! Catching glimpses and news in gaming mags just made me more impatient. Thankfully with a 2004 release it wasn’t really that long and boy did it deliver. Before getting stuck in it’s worth noting that a sequel is unusual in shooters as most successfully franchises like Call of Duty don’t have any continuing storyline which is more often seen in action RPG’s like Mass Effect, making Halo a unique oddity.

Game play:

Unsurprisingly Halo 2 was never going to deviate too far from the “golden trinity” of it’s predecessor but it did make a few noticeable improvements to the formula. Most notably was the addition of dual wielding at the expense of grenades and mêlée attacks. Like the two weapon restrictions introduced with Halo: Combat Evolved this meant that players had to think strategically about there load out based on enemies and terrain. My personal favourite combination has always been the plasma rifle and SMG which helps bring down shields while also having a good balance of ammo. Duel wield was the most obvious omissions from the original so it was a really welcomed addition and unsurprisingly has become a mainstay of the franchise since.

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The second major addition was the ability to hijack enemy vehicles. Not only did this open up a new range of tactics in campaign to deal with wraths but it was also a great feature for multiplayer. I no longer even need a shotgun to take out a ghost, I’ll just kill them with their own. One other element here that probably goes unnoticed is the increased vulnerability of vehicles especially the Scorpion which meant that players needed to act quickly to preserve their asset rather then laughing at the army of Ghosts providing a futile light show.

Of course Halo 2 also introduces new enemies, weapons  and vehicles all of which have an impact on overall game play. Whether it is the Semi Automatic Battle Rifle or the Carbine the introduction of these mid-ranged weapons definitely had an impact on my load out. I always try to have at least one since they compensate for the rarity of a Sniper Rifle and are easier to use in close quarters. At the same time what might initially seem like just an expansion of the Covenant and a means of adding variety to game play, the introduction of the Brutes, ended up being a key plot point that impacts the rest of the saga.

Multiplayer:

This is where Halo 2 really distinguishes  itself from the original as it introduces online multiplayer via Xbox Live for the first time. Hardly the first online shooter experience one of the games largest developments was the revolutionised playlist method of match making. This combined with a skill matching system meant players could quickly find games and weren’t put off by long wait times. Matches themselves used a variety of regular formats like slayer, king of the Hill and capture the flag but online play adds that little extra difficulty as you can’t see your opponents screen. This coupled with the style of Halo’s game play meant that matches are often very intense especially on smaller maps with grenades flying everywhere. Considering this I’m not surprised that Halo 2 remained the most popular game on Xbox live until the release of Gears of War in 2006.

Storyline & Setting:

A sequel was always going to challenge developers to build on the original while trying to broaden the Halo universe in a way that engaged fans. Towards this end the game introduces us to the Arbiter, the Covenant commander embarrassed by the Master Chief’s destruction of halo. These alternating missions does make it easy to include more detail about the Covenant’s hierarchy and beliefs which are central to the overall plot as it explains their fascination with the rings. Playing as the Arbiter is jarring at first as the first stage seems to jump backwards from the Master Chiefs defence of earth.

This improves once the Covenant fleet arrives at the newly discovered Halo ring just in time to witnesses  the Master Chief’s defeat of the Prophet Regret. ‘The Library’ in Halo 2 brings back a few memories but the overall design demonstrates that developers have learnt from the original as the stage is far less repetitive and offers more variety of game play. Experiencing the conflict from both sides does raise an interesting problem, what happens when the two protagonists meet?

Like the original, Halo 2 solves the problem by tipping the Halo universe on its head. The introduction of the Gravemind refutes any previously held beliefs about the Flood as a simply unintelligent parasite and is the catalyst for a temporary alliance. Stemming from this and the Prophets betrayal the outbreak of civil war between the Elites and the rest of the Covenant sets up the games climax and the progression of the plot for Halo 3.

Unfortunately, these plot twists does mean the campaign has an unfinished cliff-hanger which left me really unsatisfied the first time I clocked it on heroic back in 2004. Combined with the length this made me just wanting more. Not necessarily a bad strategy for developers already working on the a third title but it does noticeable detract from the overall experience especially when back then I was primarily a solo gamer.

Final thoughts

A quick mention goes to the audio team which also didn’t rest on their achievements as the addition of electric guitar to the main theme worked wonders. Anytime the action is a bout to kick up a notch the heavier theme kicks into gear and helps getting the adrenaline pumping. In fact since Halo 2 the iconic riff always comes to mind when I think of the Halo series rather then the earlier version.

Halo 2 delivers everything I expect from a sequel with improved game play and a broadening of the Halo universe. Additionally, Bungie showed their willingness to continue to innovative with the introduction of online multiplayer which has become the centre piece of the Halo franchise since. The only real criticism I have of Halo 2 is the length and conclusion of the campaign but after a few years and the ability to jump straight into Halo 3 I’ve gotten over the sour taste.

Game play: 9.5/10

Multiplayer:  9.5/10

Campaign: 8/10

Overall: 9/10

Check out my look at Halo: Combat Evolved or stay tuned over the next few days for my take on Halo 3.

Cheers,

Jono.

Retro – Review: Halo – Combat Evolved

Less than 10 days out from the release of Halo 5: Guardians I thought it was the perfect time to look back on each chapter of the Master Chief’s journey so far, starting with the game that started it all way back in 2001. Back then after a Nintendo 64 I was tossing up between a PS2 or jumping on board Microsoft’s new Xbox. Not invested in any PlayStation titles due to my previous experience with the N64 Halo was one thing that helped me reach a decision, one I have never regretted. This is all easy to say but what has made Halo, one of the most successful franchises in gaming and allowed it to revolutionise the first person shooter?

Gameplay

In the late 90’s the first person shooter was dominated by Rare’s Goldeneye and Perfect Dark with an overflowing bag of weapons with multiple firing modes, duel wield and different level objectives. Halo was a departure from this formula as for the first time it introduced a two weapon cap on players which means you had to think about your load out, ammo and the terrain. The addition of grenades and mêlée attacks without holstering your weapon enhanced the speed of combat making it more intense than other shooters at the time. This combination, Bungie’s “golden trilogy” is a large part of Halo’s success as it added strategy to the well-established run and gun experience.

Halo never just relied on the traditional FPS format however as after the first stage the straightforward “The Pillar of Autumn” players are quickly introduced to more open environments with a range of more complex objectives. Once the Chief crashes on the ring the game takes on a whole new life with the addition of a range of vehicles from Warthogs to Banshee’s. Not only does this continue to add diversity to the campaign but vehicles have become a key element of the multiplayer experience. I will never forget taking out a guy in a Scorpion with a shotgun and then repeating it with his brother in a Ghost, priceless.

This diversity is definitely a highlight of the first part of the game whether it’s the covert start to “The Truth and Reconciliation” or the playful beach combing of the “The Silent Cartographer” the game just draws players in with the combination of elements. Unfortunately, the only criticism I have is that some of the later maps just can’t keep this up and become a little to repetitive. In part this is because you are in fact back tracking at times through the same environment while fighting the Flood. Even so Halo’s game play developed a winning formula which has now redefined the way gamers approach first person shooters since the old Rare days.

Storyline & Setting

Being the first entrant into the Halo universe the game needed to introduce gamers to the Covenant, the UNSC and their ongoing conflict without trying to bore us with long explanations. The opening sequence with Captain Keyes does this really well as we know that humanity is at war against a more advanced Alien species and the ship you are on has been trying to escape. Aside from this you are introduced to Cortana and set out to kill some Covenant while trying to escape the besieged Pillar of Autumn.

During game play Cortana is actually able to build your knowledge of the Halo universe whether it is through intercepted Covenant communications about the ring, an analysis of the artificial weather or simply warning the Chief of incoming ‘Hunters’. This is extremely well-done as Cortana’s dialog works within the context of the game to assist the Chief yet teachers the player almost subconsciously to be able to recognise different types of enemies or build their knowledge of the wider backstory. It is through this ongoing communication that we first learn that Halo holds some form of religious significance for the Covenant as this is never mentioned in any of the games cinematics which like the opening tell you enough while avoiding explorations by focusing on the development of plot.

It doesn’t take long before the universe you thought you were getting to know gets thrown upside down with introduction of the Flood. Quickly you find yourself trying to work out this new enemy without Cortana who is temporarily replaced by 343 Guilty Spark thanks to a well-planned series of events that find you a companion who is in a position to give the same style of hints about this new enemy. Lesser games and even poor quality movies would just say that Cortana has hacked a console to find the information rather than providing 343 Guilty Spark to fulfil the role in “The Library”. The monitors betrayal and the revelation of Halo’s true purpose is the final twist that sets up the games conclusion as you fight your way through the Flood, Covenant and the installations drones to destroy the ring.

The main plot is engaging and has always been successful at drawing gamers in to the Halo universe but it is the cultures and history it alludes to that has allowed the franchise to build over the next decade. A mention of the destruction of Reach has grown into its own game and numerous books while the Forerunners are currently being explored in the latest additions to the Master Chiefs story. All of this is ultimately the result of the world presented to us in this original master piece.

Audio

Normally, I wouldn’t comment on the sound of a game as while it is perhaps the most important element that allows gamers to leave their living room and become engrossed in another world it is never usually that memorable. Again this is where Halo is unique like the James Bond theme or the opening to TV shows the score is cemented in our minds and can conjure memories of playing the game. I cannot think of another game with a similar effect and its testament to the strength of the composition to inspire a sense of wonder.

Since 2001 Halo has rightly been recognised as one of the greatest games ever made as it revolutionised the genre and gave fans such a rich world to explore. It is definitely responsible for the success of the original Xbox and Microsoft’s continued presence in the console business. Personally, what still sets Halo apart for me is the well-crafted and non-predictable storyline which is something absence from most shooters.

Gameplay 9/10

Storyline 10/10

Audio 9/10

Overall 9.5/10

Check back in a few days as I take a look at Halo 2,

Jono

Believe the Hype: Star Wars Battlefront

The gaming news of the week has been the release of the Star Wars Battlefront Beta and the opportunity for Star Wars geeks like me to jump in to our favourite galaxy far, far away before the November 17.  Despite a busy week I managed to squeeze in a quick half hour or so to test it out, so here are my first impressions.

If you haven’t been excited by Battlefront it’s time to believe the hype. Game play follows a similar style to the Battlefront 2 one the original Xbox and PS2 with a few new features and a welcome upgrade in graphics. The biggest change is the first person format which is now standard except for hero’s. Moving away from the third person game play makes it harder for players to see their surroundings and makes online multiplayer more intense as blaster fire rapidly comes from everywhere. This is obvious playing walker assault with the 20/20 format of this iconic moment in the Star Wars universe becoming a rush of adrenaline with enemies closing in quick it takes a few goes to really get the hang of it. Despite my first few deaths coming in quick succession the intensity of the experience had me ready to spend hours building my skills, if only I had the time.

The beta also provides access to a sample of the games survival mode based on everyone’s favourite dust bowl, Tatooine. As you can see from clip below it’s a pretty simple format with enemies coming in waves in increasing difficulty. Limited in the beta to 6 waves the full version will test gamers with 15 waves of enemies which I can’t even fathom at the moment because while the first wave was pretty easy by wave six your fighting an AT-ST and a squad of Stormtroopers. Along with single player, survival can be played in co-op but only having tested it out briefly by myself I’m not sure how well the difficulty scales if at all to accommodate the second player which is something l’ll test out in more detail with the full version. This little clip below gives me the opportunity to talk about one of the other major developments, the addition of power ups. Including portable shields, vehicle torrents, jet packs or a variety of hand held weapons like grenade launchers it definitely makes the game more interesting as not only does it change the way you take on enemies but especially in multiplayer games it will be a race to the little blue emblems. There’s more to talk about but this is just a taste of what Battlefront has to offer so I’m not going into to much detail.

Overall I’ve definitely seen enough to pick my copy up on the 17th of November which to be honest was already the case when it was announced due to my experience with Battlefront 2 and my obsession with Star Wars. Even so from my experience I think Battlefront will actually appeal to people who aren’t necessary fans of the film due to the intensity of the Game play especially in multiplayer. Make sure to check back in November for my full review.

May the force be with you,

Jono.

E3: Best of the rest

It’s been a few weeks since E3 but as promised here is my best of the rest, a closer look at some of the PS4, WiiU and cross – platform games announced  at this years expo. A quick disclaimer this list is based on my personal interest in gaming so will not see any sport titles making the cut. With out any further delay …

Final Fantasy VII Re-make

Platform: First on PS4

Release Date: Late 2016/2017

One of the headlines from Sony’s conference which grabbed a lot of attention. This full re-make of the iconic role-playing game first released in 1997 is still in the early stages but has fans excited. Information is vague but what we know is the game will feature new content to expand on the original however the inclusion of any new characters has been officially ruled out. Additionally, developers have not eliminated the possibility of expanding release beyond the PS4 but for now it’s all just speculation. This is defiantly one to keep track of over the next year or so.

Horizon Zero Dawn

Platform: PS4

Release Date: 2016

This Action RPG was my favourite exclusive from Sony, thanks to the stunning looking scenery, style of gameplay and a unique world. Horizon Zero Dawn see’s players take control of Aloy in a post – apocalyptic world fighting against  collection of monsters including robotic dinosaurs using a variety of weapons including a wicked looking bow. The clips from E3 and additional material from Sony also suggest some type of crafting system which has become a hallmark of a quality RPG.

No Man’s Sky

Platform: PS4 & Windows PC

Release Date: TBA

An open universe science fiction exploration game which promise to deliver an experience on a whole new scale. Players are introduced to a previously undiscovered universe to explore. The E3 demo gives us some idea of individual gameplay with resource gathering, interaction with alien species and space exploration key features. We still don’t have any ideas about any overriding story arc but it’s definitely a game I’ll be following during it’s continued development. Thankfully it’s coming to windows the same time as it lands on the PS4 so I’m not going to miss out.

Have a look at IGN’s exclusive look at No Man’s Sky this month.

Street Fighter 5

Platform: PS4 and Windows PC

Release Date: Early 2016

The next chapter of this icon arcade fighting franchise promise more of the same classic gameplay with a couple of new additions. Namely the inclusion of the ‘V-Gauge’ which allows players to use a variety of unique character techniques and skills like temporary power-ups or reversals. Street Fighter is always going to be a known quantity and fans of the series like myself can only be satisfied by this newest version.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Platform: PS4

Release Date: Early 2016

The fourth and final instalment of the Nathan Drake story finds the series protagonist is forced out of retirement for his most trying challenge yet. Gameplay follows the same third person shooter style of action adventure which fans of the series have come to enjoy. Not having played any of the previous titles before I can say the clip below does make me a little jealous as gameplay is varied and combines different elements in a fluid experience.

Sea of Thieves

Platform: Xbox One & Windows PC

Release Date: 2016

Growing up I was always a fan of the Monkey Island games due to their swashbuckling adventures, gameplay elements and Guybrush Threepwood’s comedic timing. As a result I always look at any new pirate themed game with interest and am generally disappointed as they often lack the same light-hearted approach that I enjoyed growing up instead focusing more on gritty realism. Straight away with Sea of Thieves its obvious that Rare is not going down this over done route and will likely be a bit more playful then games like Assassins Creed: Black Flag. That being said Sea of Thieves still raises a lot of questions regarding first – person melee combat and the presence of a story within the MMO format which I feel is a must for any open world game. This article from Godis A Geek goes through a couple of other features that I’ll be looking for over next year before I make up my mind.

ReCore

Platform: Xbox One

Release Date Q2 2016

Another Xbox One exclusive with limited gameplay details but it does have a unique concept in the presence of robot companions who have their own consciousness that can be transferred into different bodies through their blue core’s. The trailer also suggests that Joule, the game’s protagonist,will have access to a variety of weapons and abilities to use in combat. ReCore has some experienced developers on board in Marc Pacini and Keiji Inafune so the expectation is high. We will just have to wait and see if they deliver.

Star Fox Zero

Platform: Nintendo WiiU

Release Date: Q4 2015

Out of all Nintendo’s announcements this is the one that grab my attention and for the first time actually made me think about getting a WiiU out of nostalgia. Star Fox 64 was an old favourite of mine back in the day so the look and feel of the latest chapter immediately brought back memories, especially with the return of the old gang, Felco, Slippy and Peppy. The main difference between Star Fox Zero and it’s predecessor is the addition of the game pad which allows `players to see a cockpit view alongside the traditional rolling screen. Still not sure if it’s enough to convince me to pick up another console but who knows if the price is right.

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate

Platform: PS4, Xbox One and Windows

Release Date: October 23 2015

I’m glade to see Ubisoft are mixing things up a little with introduction of a female protagonist. Hopefully this acts to vary the gameplay as players are able to switch between the twins, Jacob and Evie. My main criticism of the franchise has been the repetitive experience which has not really changed since the first game despite the addition of era specific elements like pirate ships. The supposedly faster combat and other changes show that Ubisoft might be listening to fans but we will have to wait and see. I’m looking forward to this one partly because of the era as a scholar of Dickens I have an image of Victorian London and couldn’t give up any chance to explore this world.

I know there are other games that could have easily made this list but as I have said before games are very subjective and these are the ones that have caught my eye. Feel free to let me know what has got you excited from E3.

Jono

E3: My Games Wishlist

E3 2015 is done and dusted so I thought I’d look more in-depth at the games that really caught my attention and those I personally can’t wait to get my hands on.

Halo 5 guardians

Platform: Xbox One

Release Date: 27/10/15

A new Halo is always a big deal for the Xbox community and the first instalment on the new console will be expected to boast overall console sales just like the past. The small snippets of the story line have got fans like myself sitting on edge, is the Master Chief a traitor, is Spartan Locke friend or foe and the inclusion of Buck voiced by Nathan Fillion from ODST is a welcomed addition. At E3 we were given a glimpse of the campaign that diverges a little from the traditional formula as it seems more like ODST and Reach with two teams of Spartans led by Locke and the Master Chief made for drop in & out coop play. In addition 343 industries gave us Warzone a new 24 player multiplayer mode combining elements of PvP and PvE where two teams compete with the added fun of AI opponents in a crazy overload of Halo awesomeness. Suddenly the 27 of October seems so far away.

Forza motorsport 6

Platform: Xbox One

Release date: 15/9/15

Recently I have really got into playing Forza 5 as it has outstanding graphics and is perfect for gaming when you have time constraints. The 6th instalment promises much of the same running in 1080p it looks stunning and with an extensive list of 450 cars it’s perfect for car enthusiasts. However, the main development is the addition of meaningful racing conditions, this goes beyond the basic visual effect and includes real world experience as rain doesn’t just look pretty but actually make the track slippery and effects your handling. A subtle inclusion but one that will make it just that little more challenging for seasoned racers.

Fable Legends

Platform: Xbox One and Windows

Release date: 2015

This free to play cooperative title has been promoted before at Microsoft events as it demonstrates the capabilities of Windows 10’s cross-platform gaming as PC and Xbox users can play alongside each other. Legends offers gamers a different experience than previous titles as players can choose between the traditional hero game play without the exploration alongside possibly up to 3 friends or as the villain who plans the obstacles faced by our band of heroes like a strategy game. It seems like an interesting combination of different game styles and I’m looking forward to testing it out later this year.

Fable Legends hands on

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Platform: First on Xbox

Release date: 10/11/15

Crystal dynamics sequel to their 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider promises a lot with different combat options and more opportunity for discovery. Learning from the feedback after the previous title developers have incorporate a new ability for Lara to use her environment to create weapons and make choices as to how she will engage combatants. Most notably this includes the ability to avoid lethal engagements using items as distractions and finding other methods to take down the enemy. In addition crystal dynamics have stated their aim to make Lara the most realistic and humanised character in gaming by focus on the emotional impact of decisions and the storyline. We shall have to wait until November 10th to see if Rise of the Tomb Raider delivers.

Gears of War ultimate edition and Gears 4

Platform: Xbox One

Release date: 25/8/15 and holidays 2016

The other Xbox franchise also had its time at E3 with two announcements. Gears of War Ultimate Edition was unveiled and its more than just a remastered HD version of the 2006 original but more of a full rebuild. The Coalition has gone back to basics with new motion capture and animation to help bring the game into the next era of gaming. Beyond this the remake incorporates new game elements from more recent titles in the series including an enhanced  multiplayer. Even thinking about it gives me a pang of nostalgia.

Gears 4 the first game in the franchise since Microsoft took over the rights shows more of what we expect, chainsaws, weird creatures and a post apocalyptic setting. Still scarce on details all we really know about Gears 4 is that the gameplay looks similar to the other titles in the series. It’s still far away but any new chance to saw through your enemies can’t easily be passed up.

Rare Replay

Platform: Xbox  One

Release date: 4/8/15

This collection of 30 classic Rare games is a steal for the $30 price tag. Many of the games pre-date my  gaming experience  but classic 64 titles like Banjo Kazooie, the sequel Banjo Tooie and Perfect Dark are enough for me to jump on board. Adding  some Xbox 360 up dates to those series alongside a host of other games to explore for the first time and I’m counting the hours of game play. The only disappointments are the absence of GoldenEye and Diddy Kong Racing due to legal restrictions. Click here to see the full list.

Star Wars: Battlefront

Platform: Xbox One, PS4 and PC

Release Date:

A self professed Star Wars tragic I have been looking forward to this one since Battlefront 2 was released years ago. One of my absolute favourite Star Wars games because it allows players to jump into the epic battle and key events of the films like no other game. Gameplay follows the same basic format as the earlier titles in that it is primarily a third person shooter with different class options and you need to complete a series of objectives in order for your side of the Star Wars conflict to gain victory. It doesn’t look like there are any real changes to this basic formula but the new Battlefront takes advantage of the next generation consoles through new game modes and refinement. Personally I can’t think of a better way to get in the spirit before the release of The Force Awakens.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

Platform: Xbox One, PS4 and PC

Release Date: Q4 2016

Details are still scarce about the new Mass Effect but we learnt at E3 that the game is set outside the milky way in the Andromeda galaxy long after the events of Mass Effect 3. This means that developers have the freedom to imagine a new host of planets and new alien species without being restricted by the previous games. Despite this scope for innovation its clear that this next chapter will maintain most of the elements we have come to expect of the series as the game will still follow a human protagonist leading a team made up of different specialists. Beyond this we also know that Mass Effect Andromeda will use the Frostbite 3 game engine behind Dragon Age Inquisition which promises a rich experience. I’m very excited about this one as I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing through the previous titles multiple times, I’m just shattered its such a long wait.

Check back later as I preview the best of the rest from E3

Cheers

Jono

The way to Ryse

Since Ryse: Son of Rome has been on the Xbox One from day one this is not going to be a full review rather a few observations which could have taken the game to the next level. Don’t get me wrong Ryse has excellent graphics and decent game play with a well thought  model for combat, however despite the best efforts to keep this varied it does get repetitive. Even so it is well worth getting especially for the $29 I picked it up from JB Hi Fi for in January as it is engaging and easy to  jump straight in.

My major criticism of the game is the blatant and unforgivable historical inaccuracies starting with the inclusion of the Colosseum despite the games setting during the reign of Nero. The Flavian Amphitheater as it is called was commissioned under Nero’s success Vespasian and completed by his sons during what is called the Flavian dynasty.  It was an obvious attempt to work to the average persons preconception of Ancient Rome, however the success of HBO’s ROME demonstrates that this isn’t necessary.  Other inaccuracies include the over simplification of military structure where a Centurion who commands 80 men out of 5000 would have direct and regular access to the legion commander, not to mention the idea that a general’s son would every be a traditional legionary.

These are just a couple of examples but perhaps something slightly more relevant would be the story line.  Considering the richness of Roman history it is amazing that the developers tried to create some fanciful notion of a British threat to the heart of the Empire when they could have just tapped into real events. Endless civil wars and large scale conflicts with Carthage would have made a good place to start.

Ryse could have been a great opportunity to immerse gamers into the world of Ancient Rome and perhaps would have worked better as an action RPG. Imagine the possibilities of playing through the civil war as Marcus Agrippa and experiencing the end of the Republic from next to Augustus as the Imperial era began.

6.5/10