Monday, 29 April 2013

New Rumours Don't Do The Next-Gen Xbox Any Favours...

I know I'm a good 4 days late with this article but bare with me. For some reason I didn't realise about this new information until now!
It seems weird that I'm writing a blog about someone else's blog however this is probably due to the fact that, unlike veteran blogger Paul Thurrott, I'm not really in a position of knowledge like he is to be able to make these next-gen Xbox claims. 

Thurrott recently wrote an article on his site regarding new information about the upcoming Xbox console.

So first of all Thurrott notes that there is not going to be an entertainment only model of the next Xbox. Apparently Microsoft were planning there to be two versions of the console, one that offers simple app and entertainment functionality but does not play games, and a full, more expensive version that does play games.

I don't have much of an opinion on this to be honest. I originally thought that an entertainment only Xbox was a pretty shit idea as it isn't exactly the first device you'd think to go to if you wanted basic app features available to you on your TV. Smart TVs have that covered in a much more basic and simple form. Games consoles should stick to games.

Thurrott also confirms what everyone's (*cough* except Adam Orth *cough*) dreading, that the next Xbox is always online. If you saw my article about the Adam Orth and the always connected Xbox controversy then you'll know I'm not a fan of this. I don't actually think anyone is. 

I totally believe Thurrott when he says that it will always need an internet connection to work and I actually said myself in one of my articles that it was obviously going to be always-on given the high amount of consistent rumours regarding it as well as Microsoft's lack of information on the subject.

I'm really disappointed (although not surprised) that it doesn't appear that Microsoft has listened to people when they say they don't want an always online Xbox console. I'm positive this could be the biggest blow that the upcoming console could face and might even do more damage than the mighty MS expected. Oh well, whatever bad comes from this I honestly think Microsoft deserves.

Backwards compatibility is pretty important to a lot of gamers as it means you can either sell your current console to gain money to buy the new one while still being able to play your old games or simply reduce the room your consoles take up because you won't need as many. 
Unfortunately there were already tons of rumours suggesting the upcoming Xbox is not backwards compatible and Thurrott, while not confirming this 100% says he believes it will not offer this feature. However he also believes that Microsoft is going to release a third-generation Xbox 360 at a much cheaper price. This could be to simply offer people a cheap, easy way of still being able to play Xbox 360 games or it might be to extend the life of the console given it is still selling well. Either way I too do not personally think that the next Xbox will offer 360 game compatibility.

When it comes to price Thurrott says that there will be two pricing options for the console. One option will be $299 upfront while having to pay $10 a month for two years for Xbox Live. The other option is $499 with no strings attached (although you'll still have to pay for Xbox Live yourself, which poses the question of whether or not this no strings attached option is really the best value here).

November is the suggested release date too.

There's not much left to cover really and it's not all that interesting so I'll get it out the way quickly.

Thurrott says that the next Xbox will run on or be based off of the core Windows 8 (or maybe 8.1 by the time it is released) OS. 

This isn't that surprising as Microsoft has been trying to make all their products one with each other for a while and the Xbox 360 has always been a bit in-between; running off of its own unique system rather than an OS that is also recognised and used by other MS products.

Thurrott confirms that the next Xbox will also use Blu-ray.

As for the name of it, Thurrott reinforces the belief that it may simply be called 'Xbox'. This, I'd just like to mention, is a pretty crap name.

OK so with all that info quickly out the way I'm not really sure where I stand regarding my opinion of it all.

Obviously you can tell I don't like the whole always-on thing. We already discussed that. However there is little information here that actually did make me feel excited. In fact all of it made me feel more concerned regarding the future of the console series.

A lack of backwards compatibility bums me out, although it isn't the biggest deal as I would be happy to keep my 360 myself. That said it's always nice to have everything fit into one package. 

Price wise it doesn't seem as economically friendly as everyone originally thought (or is it only me who thought that it was going to be cheaper?). The two payment options seem fair, however I question how good value the $499 version is compared to the $299 one that comes with a compulsory payment plan of $10 a month for 2 years. 

Working out the mathematics (assuming the price of XBL will remain the same) shows us that the $299 payment plan option will cost $539 overall at the end of the two years, while the $499 version will cost a whopping $619 overall if you include two years worth of Xbox Live costing $60 a year like it does now. This is not anywhere near as good value as the first option so either this information is wrong or MS has gone a bit weird with the pricing. Usually it is the payment plan options that cost more.

Running a basic version of Windows is something, as I said before, I expected. It's not a big deal to me and to be honest I don't think it will be full of loads more features. I think the actual cosmetic look and design of it will be the main difference as we'll likely be saying goodbye to the dashboard or at least the dashboard how it is now.

The release date, which Thurrott suggests is early November, is also not that surprising and it likely means that popular games like Call Of Duty and FIFA will get both 360 and next-gen Xbox releases within a short period of each other, if not at the same time. 

Overall I'm not that hyped for anything next-gen at the moment if I'm honest, although I am interested in what Microsoft will reveal in the Xbox event at the end of May. On the whole I'm probably more psyched for the PS4 is anything.

I think one of the top comments on the IGN article that covered the information that I did here summed it all up well. It read:

"Remember when console gaming used to be simple?" 

Oh yeah, those were the days.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Mesmerising

I went to a circus yesterday (yes I know what you're thinking but it was actually good) with my sister and her boyfriend and while it wasn't outstanding (there were a few screw ups here and there) it reminded me how awesome natural entertainment is. No movie screen, just you and the audience and some people using their own personal skills and abilities to entertain you.

One thing I forgot about circuses, though, is the high amount of female driven acts they have. The last time I went to a circus I was very young and didn't really pay much attention to any of the performances that didn't involve action and danger, however this time around I was focussing on everything.

One act that took me by surprise was a female contortionist. For the first part of her act she managed to spin 5 or so hula hoops consistently around her body. It was pretty amazing. The hoops had special LED lights built into them and when the lights went out it looked absolutely stunning. Very mesmerising. After this she then managed to contort her body around while balancing on some poles so her head was literally on her bum.

While this may sound extremely disturbing, it was actually really, again, mesmerising. All you could hear was the soft music playing and see this very beautiful girl doing all these smooth, albeit kind of creepy, moves. It was all very smooth and oddly seductive, but not in a derogatory way - it was very purposefully done. Compared to the often fast paced nature of the other acts, this was extremely quiet, thought provoking and just very dreamy. Even if the two hour show had just been filled up with her doing her thing I still would've gone. It was truly very mesmerising.

The Magic Of The Metro (And Why I Can't Wait To Return To It)

Metro: Last Light is released on the 17th of May (only a few weeks away) and it is easily one of my most anticipated games of 2013. The reason for my complete excitement for the upcoming horror/shooter is simply due to my total love of the first Metro game.

Metro 2033 was an incredible game. Not every well-known critic thought so, but to me it was sublime. It is easily one of the most in depth and well built horror first-person shooters I've ever played.

While the first Metro game was based on the book of the same name (Metro 2033) by Dmitry Glukhovsky, this second installment takes its own route and has a totally different plot to the any of the other Metro books. However this is no reason to lose confidence in how good it may be; Glukhovsky himself is helping 4A Games develop a really immersive and story driven experience.

There are many reasons I can't wait to return to the Metro. The first game nailed so many things, however it also failed in some areas too, so Last Light will have to work its ass off to ensure it tightens up the screws.

One of the biggest draws of Metro 2033 was its sensationally well-realised and developed setting. The Metro stations that you visit during the story are safe havens that you feel lucky to be in. They are alive, full of people selling and buying things or just chatting and hanging about. However everyone is on the same plate. There are dark and dangerous Metro tunnels out there and an even more dangerous outside world. 

There was an incredibly well developed sense of dread that you felt before leaving one of these little town areas. You knew you'd have to leave pretty soon, but when the time came you'd be hit with this surge of anticipation at what would come at you next. What was lurking around this corning and what monsters and humans were out for your blood?

Some of Metro 2033's finest moments were simply when you were wandering around the tunnels with one of your AI companions, chatting a bit but always on high alert. the characters were actually really well done, although the player's character, Artyom, was a little meh due to him never speaking during gameplay.

Speaking of gameplay, it wasn't, arguably, Metro's strongest point. I actually liked the gunplay more than most people I've spoken to or read that have played the game. While it was very papery and not very meaty the variety in guns and the whole different ammo thing made it feel really intense and deep. I loved the detail that was put into the weapons too. The first SMG that you're given is pretty naf to be honest when it comes to killing anything, however it looks awesome, and the reload animation - as stupid as it may sound - was fantastic.

Actually, when you first receive your pistol and SMG, they're pretty shit guns, but you feel somehow safe, like you're clutching onto some holy item or something. This is something that the game unfortunately lost a little bit towards the end of the story. In the final 3rd of the game you became quite powerful, which not only felt unrealistic but also made it easier. I really wanted it to stay intensely difficult and scary throughout, with no gun really proving to be that good at taking down monsters. 

Anyway, back to the overall gameplay.

There are some key good and bad points to Metro 2033's gameplay. I already listed the guns and variety as pros, however there as some clear cons too. Before we get into these, however, I want to note just how awesome the atmosphere was.

Wandering through tunnels, old trains - or whatever they're called in Russia (or do they just call them trains?), going outside into the bleak world that was never ending; no matter what you were doing, the atmosphere was always in tact and scary as hell. And even when it wasn't as scary, like when you were in those safe havens, it still felt totally immersive because the quality and level of detail never faltered.

I also adored how realistic 4A tried to make it feel. OK, Artyom may not speak, but every gameplay feature felt realistic. Like when you view objectives and you pull up, in real time, your little note board thing and light a lighter in order to see it better. This was totally brilliant. The objective system wasn't simply hitting the pause button or holding Select or something; it was an actual gameplay feature that was implemented like you/Artyom were actually using a real in game tool. 
Then you had the gas mask, which while it was, at times, admittedly a little annoying it was also fantastic. This, and every other gameplay feature, including the varying bullets, made it feel so much more realistic and immersive and unlike any game I've played.

Like I said, Metro's gameplay was still lacking, though. Despite looking awesome, weapons didn't feel meaty or strong. They felt weak. 

The AI was hit and miss, with the monsters acting like goons half the time and the humans being sometimes intelligent as hell and other times stupid as fuck.

Then you have the stealth. Now I applaud 4A for trying to spice things up and keep the whole 'realism' thing going by allowing you to sneak your way through tricky situations, however they do need to realise that to be able to actually use this stealth feature, it has to, uh, work first.

Stealth in Metro 2033 is near impossible. Unless you want to sneak past two, maybe 3, enemies, then you are screwed. You can turn out lanterns, walk in the shadows, silently kill guards without other enemies seeing - you can use every stealth tool that is available to you to the utter max and you will still be spotted and shot where you stand.

It was almost like 4A had given you the tools to do it, but in keeping with the realistic nature of the game they didn't really input any way of getting through situations. Like the guard patrols; they are almost always unpredictable, which is fine, however they never seemed to actually allow you to tackle them well. Like this guard may be alone, but chances are he has another guy looking at him, and you can't kill THAT guy because he's got another guy watching HIS back and then that guard has someone standing 20 feet away keeping an eye on both of them. There was no way to take someone out without other people knowing within, at most, a minute. 

The entire stealth system was a flop, meaning every human encounter was a fight, which didn't do wonders to the pacing and the overall enjoyment, as fighting the human bad guys was a little meh to be honest. I mean, I know the guard is wearing armour but how the fuck can he still take two shotgun shots to the head and survive? HOW?

Then you had the issue of confusion, which is less gameplay and more technical.

Metro 2033 was confusing as hell. It had little to no explanation of anything, really, and the way of finding objectives was, well, a bit crap. The arrow on your little note board that was supposed to point you in the direction of your current objective always seemed to lead me somewhere and then say "Haha got you. Now turn around and go the other way motherfucker".
It was annoying to say the least.

The currency system, while awesome when you knew how it worked, was a total pain in the ass. There were two types of ammo for guns: shitty ammo that is made out of rubbish and does minimal damage and good military ammo that is rare and does more damage and can also be used to buy goods at shops. As you can see, the idea is there, but the execution was pretty odd. In the game you were simply told as much as I just told you about it. That is OK. I mean, it's not THAT complicated, right? RIGHT? No.

The concept is good and understandable but if you want to buy something with these good bullets then all hell breaks loose. There was, like, practically no difference between the bullets and what they looked like or what guns they were for or ammo type they were. When I first played it I ended up blindly spending my cash on God knows what and wasting ammo. It was incredibly hard to understand.

And that wasn't the only thing lacking a proper tutorial. The whole gas mask thing, while, again, a good idea, wasn't implemented or explained perfectly. If you haven't played it already take note of this: FILTERS ARE ESSENTIAL. This is something that wasn't made clear in the game. It explained little how the gas mask system worked and I ended up going out into the world with few filters and dying again, and again, and again, and again, and again and you get the picture. In the end I had to start from the beginning of the story again.

However in a way I remember all of Metro 2033's flaws as being some of its most awesome parts. The fact I had to work my ass off and made a dozen mistakes in order to understand how everything worked made it feel harder. Indeed, in not becoming completely familiar with the game from the very start, it felt like the entire game was as much a learning experience as it was a fun time and it never once felt 'boring' or 'old'.

There aren't many things I actually want to see in Metro: Last Light. All I want, or hope, is that they haven't dumbed it down, it is longer and harder, it has fixed stealth and gameplay and Artyom becomes a slightly more interesting main character. The rest is up to the devs. I really hope that Last Light can recreate the incredible magic that 2033 had and the awesome way it made me feel.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

How To Keep Your Android Tablet/Phone Fast

Please note that this article may be subject to major updates including new content and tips being included in the very near future. 

I was recently given a new tablet as a very late birthday present after my old tablet broke. This new tablet is a Nexus 7 and my first concern has been ensuring that the Quad-Core Tegra 3 processor remains lightening fast for as long as possible. 

I thought I'd write up on some of the simplest, but also best, ways to make sure your tablet (or phone) stays fast and smooth too. Enjoy!
Dealing With Google Currents


If you are finding that your tablet (especially the Nexus 7) or phone is suffering slow downs and lag, then you might want to try dealing with Google Currents. 

The app is well known to cause stuttering and lag on the Nexus 7, however some other mobile devices can also have this issue too, especially after the Android 4.2.2 update.

There are two ways to deal with Currents, one of which reduces lag and one that pretty much gets rid of all of it.


Way 1:

1) Go onto the Google Currents App.
2) Go into App settings. This can be accessed by tapping the android menu button (3 dots together).
3) Uncheck the Enable Background Sync option.
4) Restart your device.

After this the lag should be much reduced, however if you are still having problems with it simply go ahead with Way number 2 and disable the Currents app completely. Simply go into the App section on Settings, select Currents and click Disable. Agree to all the little boxes that come up notifying you that the app will basically uninstall and then it will go ahead and remove it from the device. If you want it back at all just go into the Play Store, go onto the Currents app and click 'Enable'. 

After disabling all lag should be gone. 


Avoid Side Loading Apps, Movies, Music etc.


I know that one of the awesome things about Android is the ability to side load apps, however this isn't actually good for your device. While saving yourself a few pounds/dollars for a game or app, or downloading some music or TV programmes and movies through the Torrent app you can get might seem like one of the highlights of your Android device, you do all this at your device's performance expense.

Side loading media is one of the easiest ways to clog up your device and make it slower. Downloading all your shit through Google Play or Amazon or an actual registered service is always smoother because these services are designed for your tablet/phone. When you download from the internet you are downloading from something that is simply compatible with your device, no actually built for it. There are tons of reasons that side loading content is far from good for your device.

If you simply want to download a couple of apps here and there then knock yourself out, but if you intend to go to town on the whole side loading business, then do so at your own risk. Android may offer you this ability, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it is good to use it.

Manage Your Widgets


This is yet another piece of advice that is no doubt going to cause upset to any Android users reading, however luckily it isn't actually that big of a deal.

Widgets. They're one of the unique things that Android offers that Apple doesn't. And people love them. Unfortunately widgets also have a dark side; they clog up your home screens and slow your device down when navigating the UI. 

Just like having a Live Wallpaper slows your device down (this is common knowledge so I didn't think I'd mention it in its own section) widgets also tend to clog up your device too.

Having all of your home screens filled to the brim with widgets won't always make your device too laggy or slow, however it won't make it buttery smooth either. Widgets aren't a big deal, however if you really want to ensure navigating the UI is smooth and easy, then I wouldn't go to town on the Widgets. Just have a couple on each screen and you'll be fine.

Avoid Apps With Push Ads


Everyone knows and generally agrees that ads are a pain. They interrupt your favourite TV programmes, force you to watch them before even the shortest of Youtube videos and take over websites to the point where you don't even know if what you are clicking is an ad or an actual part of the website itself.

However ads on Android are probably the biggest bum. While having them pop up during a game is irritating enough, push ads are beyond infuriating, especially as - and this is really relevant if you download a lot of apps - it can be hard to identify exactly WHAT app is supporting these damn ads.

Avoiding apps that support push ads is really essential in making sure your device stays speedy because push ads slow down your Android tablet/phone like crazy.

In case you are unsure about what push ads are exactly then let me bring you up to speed.

Push ads are basically ads that force their way onto your device. Instead of appearing ONLY when you are in the app itself, they appear randomly as notifications in your notifications bar, they can appear as bookmarks in your browser and they can even become actual shortcuts on your Android's home screen.

While the latter two can be dealt with by simply deleting them, the first form of push ad - the one that appears as a notification - is constant and can only be stopped by actually uninstalling the app itself.

Push ads are just horrible, horrible things and they can ruin good apps. A lot of the time they are used in apps that you will not access as much. So unlike a game, which you will likely start up and play more frequently, apps that support push ads are often ones that are less often used, like an internet signal booster or a type of widget app. Because you don't use these as much, the developers will not get anywhere near the amount of money from in app ads that they would if they had developed an app that you would actually directly use more. So they put in push ads instead, which infiltrate your device and cause you to rip your hair out in frustration. However the developers are still smiling because they're getting their money.

Anyway, if you want to keep your device, especially the UI, as smooth as possible as well as avoid the total infuriting-ness that is notification ads, then avoid, at all costs, push ad apps.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that Google Play has some rules regarding this form of advertising, these are either ignored or sneakily got around, and it can be hard to identify if an app is actually going to spam you with ads or not. Some tell you if they will, others do not.

Best way to avoid push ad apps is to simply read, very carefully, the description of the app before downloading. Also, try not to download too many apps all at once otherwise you might lose track of them and not realise which one is ad-ing you to death.

Another tip is to avoid fake and/or stupid apps. Things like 'internet boosters' and 'performance improvers' and silly apps like 'fart noises' tend to be the most common push ad culprits, so keep your wits about you and download sensibly.

Remember To Clear Your Cache


Pretty basic step this but one worth noting. If you find your device is stuttering a bit or something then go into Settings and Storage and clear your device's cache. This will likely fix any issues you are having with particular apps too, especially the browser.

Avoid Custom Firmwares & Dodgy Shit


Rooting your device is fine. In fact rooting, if anything, actually improves your device's performance. However in my experience custom firmwares and special 'device altering' downloads are to be avoided. Having downloaded custom firmwares and updates on my first tablet I found out that while they can often make your device do cool things, they can also screw you over.

Custom firmwares do little except clog up your device and damage it. My advice is root your device and then download things compatible with your root, however don't just download custom firmwares and shit like that because otherwise you will pay the price.

Keep On Top Of Your Active & Running Apps & Services


If you want to ensure your device stays consistently smooth all the time, them make sure you close apps and stop services if you are not using them. Don't let the amount of active apps you have build up and make sure you close any you are not using. 

If you want to really control what apps and services are using up processing power go into Settings and then Apps and swipe along to Running. This will give you a clear view of almost all the apps and services that your device is running and how much memory and power they're using up. Select ones you are not using or want to stop and tap Stop. Sometimes a little message will appear telling you that if you stop the app/service then it or other apps/services relating to it may misbehave or stop functioning, however this is not a big deal and you can ignore it and go ahead and stop the app/service. Most of the time this message only appears when you try to stop apps/services that relate to widgets as they are always active on your home screen so they can't technically ever be stopped from running.

I hope this little tips guide helped you out and maybe resolved some issues you were having too. If you have anything, anything at all, to add, then do so in the comments! Peace.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

24 Series 8 Opinion

Contains key plot spoilers for 24


Despite being a couple of years late, I finally finished series 8 of 24 a couple of days ago.

I was a little put off by it when it first began because everything was so different. All the characters were mixed up and the story had changed so much. However as it went on I began to really, really, really enjoy it. Like, really enjoy it.

Series 7 sucked in my opinion. I mean it was slow, bland, dragged out, and it was as if the creators thought that simply putting the awesome twist that is Tony into the mix would be an instant win formular. But it really wasn't.

Series 8 was not slow or boring or even dragged out. In fact it was really well organised. The main threat of the nuclear rods was resolved earlier than I thought, which I liked. It wasn't over long and unrealistic. Then after that Jack, of course, goes awol.

The twists were also great. I did not see Dana being a mole coming at all. I thought she might have been dodgy when the series first started (you're always eyeing people up and trying to see who the next mole is going to be at the beginning, right?!) however after her issue with that Jason creep I thought that was her story done and dusted. Then she just turns round and kills that fucking annoying as hell parole officer and gives the terrorists a call. Nice.

Thing that made me laugh about the whole Dana mole thing is how much of a shit mole she was. I mean she spent half the series not even IN CTU.

24 has always done a great job of involving politics in a realistic way without making it too complicated or boring, and series 8 was no exception. Towards the end I just wanted President Taylor to die to be hoenst. She was useless and had totally lost her mind. I mean, you had your own daughter arrested but won't do the right thing when it comes to you and your country's issues?

When Charles Logan came into it I was so pleased. He is easily one of my favourite 24 characters ever, even if he is evil. He just appeared out the blue and began being a total badass and just blackmailing the Russians. That said, his intentions were not the, uh, best I guess. I mean hee almost had Jack killed and took over stupid Pres. Taylor's mind. 

I really liked Pres. Hassan too. It's just as shame he got his head mangled.

One of the key things that made me love the series so much is the simple fact that it was so interesting and entertaining all the time. The side plots were good. The characters were awesome. The main plot was great. Everything was brilliantly paced too.

I didn't see half the twists coming either which was nice.

My 3 other favourite things about this series have to be these:

1: Freddie Prinz Jr.

2: The first proper torture scene for a while.

3: The final 3rd.

Freddie Prinz Jr. was just awesome. Played one of the best characters in the entire series and I'm glad he didn't die.

Then of course you have the torture scene. I was really disappointed that there was minimal torture in series 7, and admittedly there wasn't much in this season either, except this one part where Jack totally owns some Russian assassin prick (not saying Russians are pricks, just saying this guy was). 

First he just rips his stomach area apart with pliers or whatever they were, then he blow torches him and beats him and totally messes him up. The guy didn't talk, though, so Jack had to literally rip his stomach out to retrieve the phone sim card the guy swallowed. 

And then there is the overall final 3rd. Poor Jack just can't have anything, can he? His wife is murdered, then his daughter avoids him for years, then his next love interest is taken away from him and permanently brain damaged, then tons of his friends die, Tony turns out to be a traitor, then his next love interest is shot by a sniper and then he ends up having to abandon his granddaughter and daughter. No wonder he was hell bent on revenge.

So the final third is mostly him trying (and succeeding) to kill all those involved in killing Renee and reveal the conspiracy Pres. Taylor is hiding. It is so damn intense and Jack totally Liam Neeson's everyone's ass. The way he goes after Logan in that juggernaut outfit is just awesome.

To be honest the only thing I didn't like was that Jack survived. It seemed that he had reached the stage where dying was the only thing left for him to do and at the end I'm surprised he actually had the will and motivation to go on despite that fact that the rest of his days would be lived out with the constant threat of him and the rest of his family being murdered and/or tortured.

Overall I actually really enjoyed the series. It was a good finale. I'm surprised it got so many mediocre reviews but I guess when you compare it to the likes of series 3, 4 and 5 it seems pretty naf.

I kinda wish they'd do another season now, but this time kill Jack off. Poor guy's got practically nothing left to live for.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Having My Work Copied

One thing I was expressly told about blogging before I took it up was: 

'You are GOING to have your work copied. That is just the way it is.'

And it's true. I received an e-mail recently from someone notifying me that my Understanding Bioshock Infinite's Ending - Ending Explanation article had been used in a Bioshock Infinite guide without either my permission or with proper credit and recognition given to me in the guide. 

I don't mind my content being used, but ASK first. And name me as the author of it (because, well, I am) and link my blog and the original article in it too.

After I found out about this I got a bit paranoid, started searching Google with quotes from my most popular articles in the hope of catching some people in the act of using my content without my permission. 

Like I said, it's not that I'm a control freak; people can use my stuff, but only if they ask and give me proper credit in the article. 

I did find some other people using my Bioshock Ending Explanation article too. One of these was a website that listed me as the author of the work and provided a link back to the original article, which I appreciated, however again; no one even bothered to ask. 

And I am not a hard guy to reach. My e-mail, Twitter and Facebook is everywhere that I am. It's on IGN, Paperblog, Gamesbeat, my blog. Everywhere. If you get my content from somewhere where I posted it myself, then there is going to be a way to contact me too, so there isn't any excuse for not sending me an e-mail or tweet or something.

I encountered this one complete lame-o who had literally copied my ending explanation WORD FOR FUCKING WORD. And he took aaaallllllllllll the credit. So I dropped him a comment (he did not have an available e-mail) and am awaiting a response. And if he does nothing? Ima copyright his ass. I'd also like to let everyone who is considering copying my shiz that I am also protected by Paperblog. So take that bitches!

Anyway. Just a short blog, but one worth mentioning. I'd really appreciate it if you send me a tweet or e-mail if you find any of my work has been copied by someone. Thaaaaaaaaaaanks! 

Peace.

Friday, 19 April 2013

What I Want From FIFA 14

Note: I tried to write this in a serious, mature, tone, however even just writing about the problems with FIFA made me filled with rage to the point where it turned more into a rant than anything else. Expect a LOT of language...

FIFA 14 was announced a day or so ago along with some of the new features it will include. However despite how seemingly awesome all of this new info was, I just couldn't get excited over it. I couldn't work out why and then it hit me:
I am very much torn between loving and hating FIFA 13 because it is a completely issue ridden product, and for all the new things that FIFA 14 seems to be offering I just couldn't get excited because how do we know it isn't going to be a problem filled mess like its predecessor? We all expected FIFA 13 to kick ass, and it did in some ways, however it was also a shambles in other ways too. All I want is EA to pull themselves together and produce a good football game. Not glitch or issue filled; just a good game. That's all I want. I want to be able to buy and play FIFA 14 and review it with confidence. But I can't. Not until they fix they massive problems that FIFA 13 first had. I mean, look at that game. They're already talking about the next instalment and they haven't even fixed the previous one yet. Jesus fucking Christ EA, and you wonder why you were voted worst company if America? 

Anyway, let's take a look at what I want from FIFA 14. 

No More Scripting Or Momentum 


The long running argument of whether or not FIFA online is scripted and has a built in momentum system that basically dictates how matches play out is an uncertain one.

Is it scripted? Does it have momentum in it? In my experience only Ultimate Team suffers from this issue, not other modes like Seasons. 

My proof? Well like everyone else I don't have any solid evidence. However I know, I just KNOW, from personal experience, that there is something up with FUT. Sometimes I boss. I own the opposition. Sometimes it is all my own doing; I literally just dominate them. Other times I win, but I don't know how. I only got 6 shots on target yet scored 3 goals. OK, no biggie, but how come they owned me with 13 shots on target and got 1 goal? 

I played someone the other day and got 11 shots on target yet scored only 1 goal. They got 3 shots on target and scored 4 goals. Yes, they got more goals than the amount of shots that were actually on target. 

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Yeah anyway, so you see what I'm saying there. This has nothing to do with chemistry or players either. Like I just pointed out; you can dominate but still fail, how? How does this work EA? How?

I can tell when something isn't right in a game too. It might be that the ball always rebounds into the opponents feet and never mine. That my AI defenders formation is a total mess. My strikers hobble about and don't move or make runs properly. My players can't pass to save their stupid non existent animated lives and my goalkeeper starts acting like Julio Cesar. 
Any consistent FIFA player can tell when a match if not right from a mile off. 

What's more, as I said before, none of this is relevant in other online modes, only FUT.

How can I win and dominate almost every game I play in seasons and constantly play well with no 'off matches', yet all this changes when I play FUT? I don't get it. It's not like all the players that play Seasons are shit and all FUT players are pros. Something is seriously wrong here and whether it is simply scripting or momentum or both, it NEEDS to be stopped. EA, pulls yourselves together and fix it; NOW. People actually use real money in FUT and ripping them off is not cool. Not even in the fucking slightest. FIFA 14 should not contain any form of scripting or momentum. Got it? 

Stop With The Glitchy Gameplay

It's 1-1 in the 90th minute in an intense FUT match that decides whether you get relegated or stay in your current division. You've just found out there is only 1 minute of added time. You pass the ball to one of your midfielders and begin to counter-attack. This. Is. It. This is the deciding moment. You do a few step overs and get past one of the opponent's players. You pass to one of your strikers. Try to turn but get blocked and pass it back out to your midfielder with the intent of doing a slick one-two and passing it back to your striker as he makes a run. However as he makes the run, and you pass the ball to him, he goes flying through the air after bundling into one of your opponent's defenders and lies face down on the floor. The ball rolls slowly out of play for a goalkick and the whistle blows. It's over. You are getting relegated. All because of some stupid fucking gameplay fucking glitch shitty thing that totally fucked you the fuck over like a motherfucker.

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCKKKKKK.

Glitches in gameplay are constant in FIFA 13. So fucking constant. And you know what? They all started after they implemented that dumb fucking body recognition shit or whatever that makes players look better and move in a more realistic way. What they didn't mention it also does, when they put it in the game, is it makes your players as light as a feather and stupid as a fucking stupid thing and trip over opponents, fall over randomly, bundle into each other and go flying through the air ALL FOR NO FUCKING REASON ALL THE FUCKING TIME.

This is it. Everyone's sick of it, including me. We're sick of it EA. Implement your fucking realistic body system but FIX IT FIRST. No more glitches, OK? No more fucking tripping over randomly, OK? No more falling over opponents when trying to make a run, OK? No more bundling into each other like a couple of sexually manic rabbits, OK? No more, just, fucking people over, OK? OK? OKAY? 
If FIFA 14 is still as glitchy as FIFA 13 in the gameplay department then I am going to personally e-mail you a billion times until you apologise to all people who bought the fucking game. FIX. IT. 

Servers That Work


EA you are worth over a billion dollars. Now stop masturbating to and with that money and use it to make your servers, uh, how should I put it? WORK BECAUSE THEY'RE FUCKING PIECES OF SHIT AT THE MOMENT AND THEY DESERVE TO BE DESTROYED WITH A NUCLEAR BOMB SO POWERFUL IT ALSO HAPPENS TO DESTROY ALL THE EA OFFICES.

In FIFA 14 I expect: no more DNFs because your piece of shit servers disconnected me. No more random disconnects for fuck all reason. No more random lag that disrupts the entire game and is no ones fault but your own. No more FUT auction crashes and shit because your servers are too shit to handle all that data. And no more matching bronze fucking teams with in-form Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar and Falcao filled teams, OK? Seriously, are you taking the piss? Are you literally taking a piss all over your customers? I think so. Yes, I am saying you are pissing on your customers. Don't start shitting on them too by not fixing it in FIFA 14.

Lastly...

I WANT TO BE ABLE TO PLAY THE FUCKING GAME WHEN I BUY IT!

Career mode crashes and freezes when using normal teams. Career mode crashes and freezes when using creation centre teams. Career mode crashes and freezes when you try to navigate the menus. FUT crashes and freezes. Seasons crashes and freezes. Freezes and crashes during gameplay. Freezes and crashes ga-fucking-lore.

As you can probably tell, FIFA contains a LOT of crashes and freezes. But not just occasional. Oh noooo. We're talking game breaking. Like, people couldn't use career mode  for ages due to freezes. I still can't use my creation centre teams in career mode either as they haven't fixed that. They haven't fixed a lot of things. In fact, the game was unplayable in some ways for months after release until they finally, and successfully, patched it. It is still kind of broken too. 

When I buy a game, I expect to be able to use it in every way it CAN be used. If you're offering a career mode then make sure it fucking works. As I mentioned earlier; EA are worth millions upon millions of dollars, yet budget developers making budget games make them more consistent than EA make their own? How does that work? It's not rocket science EA: make sure people can use their games upon release. 

I expect to be able to use FIFA 14 when I buy it, however I admit that I am far from sure that I will be able to. EA needs to make sure that FIFA 14 is free of crashes and glitches. Otherwise why buy it in the first place if you can't even play it?

Pitching To Devs - The Future Of Games?

You may admire my people drawing skills.

We all have awesome video game ideas right? We all dream of awesome games that could revive the FPS genre completely and rival Bioshock. We all wish we had the power to create epic RPGs or sensationally innovative games that gain world wide acclaim. We all want to be able to put our own brilliantly thought up stories into video games and let people play them. We all have those ideas that make us think, 'YES! This. Is. Perfect. Why hasn't it been done before?'. 

The problem is that unless you are studying to become, or know in person, a video game designer or developer, those ideas will never become a reality. 

I was reading an article on game development recently, and one of the things that was said in it to do with game ideas was this:

"If you have an idea for a game or you want a game made, the only way that is ever going to become a reality is if you do it yourself."

I think we all know that these awesome game ideas we have are never going to go anywhere, and indeed I bet many of them may be technically impossible and totally outlandish, however ideas are still ideas and a good idea will always be exactly that; a good idea.

Just like any other gamer I have my own thoughts and plans about what could make a really, really, really good game. Hell, I was daydreaming the other day when I had an awesome idea on how the Silent Hill series could be revived. Obviously I'm not alone in my want to recreate the series and bring it back to what it was, and I am certainly far from the only person who actually thought up a way to do it, however what point is there to all of these awesome ideas if they are never valid?

There are tons of reasons why the gaming industry would benefit from more consumer or gamer involvement. Developers often know what they are doing and they know their field of work far better than any normal gamer, however it's these thoughts, these plans, these ideas that may be the future of the game development industry. 

Look around at the amount of games released and how many of them are actually innovative and good. You won't find all that many. For the amount of titles that are released every month, only one or two, usually, are of a high standard. Over the last 5 or so years, the supply of innovation has been running a bit dry. I remember when this gen started and awesome title after awesome title was released. It didn't matter that the graphics weren't as good as they are now; they were awesome, new, interesting, games.  These days the amount of games that are released that meet that criteria is limited.

In truth you can't blame developers. Devs aren't magicians. They aren't superhuman. There may be a lot of them but you can't rely on that many people to create constantly brilliant and unique games.

This is where we, the gaming community, come in.

All of this can change. Devs just need to be open to gamers' ideas and plans for video game titles. Yes there are plenty of crazy and unfeasible ideas out there that will likely never be turned into a real game, however there are plenty of fantastic, realistic ones too.

Consumers know what they want and especially if you've played A LOT of good and bad titles, you know what often works and doesn't work. Just because we don't have the ability to make games ourselves doesn't make our opinions are invalid. I've talked to a lot of gamers who have had incredible plans for different games and I actually spoke to a guy running a Kickstarter campaign who told me that he was lucky to have taken various courses in game development so he could actually get to the stage or possibly making his dream game ideas come true. 

For years devs have listened to the gaming community. They've taken on board criticism and feedback and made appropriate changes to their current or upcoming titles in order to satisfy customers. If they can take the time to sort through message boards and forums and e-mails then why can't there be a scheme set up to allow for the community to actually get their own ideas across to devs and, who knows, end up having that idea become a reality?

So far the only possibly killer response to this is copyright issues. Indeed, loads of people have had this very same thought as me and have even tried to set up things online to help with it, however the issue that stops it ever becoming a real thing is the problem of copyright. 

I'm far from a copyright expert however I do know the possibility of devs using a gamers idea to create a game is one confusing copyright mess. Who owns the rights to the idea? Will the devs have to pay out a decided fee to the person who came up with it? What rights, exactly, do the devs and the other person have regarding the material made? Is the other person actually applicable to receive a cut from the profits? These, and more, are all things to consider and while I bet many people would happily give up any rights to the idea they have as well as any money they could make from it just to ensure the game actually gets made in some form or another, it isn't as easy as that. There are legal problems here that stop this being resolved outside of the law. You can't simply give a developer your word that you don't want any money or any affiliation with the idea and get on with it without a proper contract being written up or official talks held because unless it is resolved within the eyes of the law then you could turn around 4 years later when the game is released and ask for your cut of the profits that you have an actual legal obligation to all because no previous official, lawful, arrangement was made stating that this could never happen and sorting it all out.

This is why there needs to be an online scheme that already has you and the developer's rights laid out. A website that when you sign up and submit an idea, the terms and conditions you agree to automatically control who has what right over the idea and possible future product and profits. To submit an idea, you have to hand over all rights of it to the devs. Obviously it is far from as simple as that (nothing ever is) however you get where I'm coming from.

In the end I can't provide some answer to all the complications surrounding the whole thing, however I do know that there needs to be a way to pitch to devs an idea for a game. And not just in the form of forums or message boards; I mean proper pitches. In fact, by only allowing proper pitches to be accepted, this could reduce the amount of spam and generally poor ideas that are sent in. 


One of these 'proper pitches' could consist of a well constructed e-mail listing your game ideas (including gameplay and story notes too) just like you do when pitching an article to an editor. 

In fact, although comparing video game idea pitching to online article pitching is a bit odd, it is also similar. You have an idea for a gaming article? Can you write properly? Can you construct it properly? Can you, basically, produce a good article? Then e-mail your pitch to a gaming editor at a website. Sure, it may get rejected, but you can try and try and try again until you succeed. And it's the same with game pitches. If you mean business you won't mind having to write out a long, hefty, e-mail and pitch in order to get your thoughts turned into realities. 

The games industry is struggling in many ways and a lack of innovative, unique titles is one of these issues. But this is something that can be addressed, perhaps in a more unusual way than people were expecting, sure, but a way that can include everyone and really allow for all the awesome ideas and plans that gamers have to be turned into real life experiences. We, consumers, may not have the brain power to make games ourselves, but that doesn't mean we can't think game ups. In fact; just because devs CAN make games, doesn't necessarily mean that they have the best ideas. If we all combine, then this could be the future of game development.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

RPG & Difficulty Addiction

I apologise for the awful art, above. I was tired and wanted to publish this article but my mind was fuzzled after so much writing and I could not make a proper piece of art. So yeah... sorry...

My preference for video games over the last few years had always been First Person-Shooters. In fact, ever since I played Call Of Duty 3 on the Xbox 360 I had fallen in love with the genre. However after Call Of Duty took (in my opinion anyway) a turn for the worse in 2010 when Activision released Black Ops, I began losing interest in the series on a whole. I still hold previous entries into the franchise very close to my heart and some of my best gaming memories are of playing World at War and Call Of Duty 2: Big Red One of the PS2; however after the series became far more arcadey and lacking in any sort of innovation, I drifted away from it.

I tried Battlefield too, however while there was nothing wrong with Bad Company 2 or BF3, I was simply not getting the satisfaction from playing FPS games anymore. I still love First Person-Shooters and I am constantly on the look out for gems like Bioshock Infinite, Far Cry 3, Metro 2033 and a ton of others, however when it comes to generic war shooters like CoD and BF; I'm just not into them that much anymore.

Unfortunately awesome FPS games are released every blue moon, and not ever month. After I stopped playing CoD and BF online I began searching for a new game series I could consistently play. I found FIFA, however the series has been going downhill since FIFA 11 and I'm starting to get bored with that too.

Over the last year and a half I've been experimenting. When I ran my old game website Classic Gamer, I reviewed a good few games and I loved it, however at the end of the day I would always go back to playing CoD online or something. When I finish playing and reviewing a game now, what do I go back too? Most of the time I simply revert to playing FIFA however I do not anywhere near play it as consistently as I did Call Of Duty and most of the time I find myself searching online for some new games to play. 

There are 3 things I look for in a game:

  • Story
  • Gameplay
  • Enjoyment 

The last one may seem fairly obvious, however even if a game has both of the first two requirements, if I do not enjoy it there is simply no point to me playing it.

Due to me having no game that I could constantly fall back on and play whenever I was not wrapped up in a new game, I decided to try out some ones I may not have given a shot before. 
I still haven't found 1 or 2 particular games I can rely on to play online, or something, all the time, however I have found a genre filled with hidden gems. Games that you can lose yourself in for days, weeks even - maybe even months. These aren't games with 6 hours campaigns that you then play online. These are epic RPGs. Games that are all about the story, the enjoyment, the gameplay, the epicness and generally just the constant involvement.

Last year I began playing Skyrim. Late, I know, but I was never a big RPG fan before so I didn't feel the need - or want - to play Skyrim the moment it was released. 

I borrowed it off of a friend actually and it is without doubt the longest I have ever 'borrowed' a game for and the longest I have ever actually played and used a borrowed game.

The reason I always avoided RPGs was because they intimidated me. They were big, expansive, often, or at least seemingly, confusing games that looked difficult as hell. While some RPGs are like this, Skyrim wasn't.

It took a few hours to get into the swing of it, however after I got going I couldn't stop. I have never been so addicted to a game. I literally got up in the morning and tried to put off playing it for as long as possible before caving in and finally starting it up again and continuing where I left off. When I was playing it, I was in constant ecstasy; bliss. It was like being on heroin. I couldn't stop playing it because if I did, all that would happen is I would crave my next fix constantly. I needed to play it to be happy. 

I know hardcore RPG fans are gonna go ahead and be like 'But Skyrim isn't even a proper RPG, it's more like an action-adventure game and blah blah blah blah blah blah blah...' and all that nonsense. Sure it wasn't as hardcore as other Elder Scrolls games. Yes it needed more dialogue choices and meaningful choices in general. Yes there are other RPGs out there that excel in both those areas far more than Skyrim does. But you know what Skyrim DOES do? 

Well first of all it has the most brilliantly realised and in depth RPG game world I've ever been in. Everything about it was outstanding. The towns, the people, the creatures, the places, the cliffs, the sights to see; all of it. What's more the amount of places to explore is incredible. I'd be on my way to a destination and come across a dungeon or some place that could be explored and completed. I needed to get to my destination yet I could not resist going into this other place simply to explore and see what I could see. At the end of it I would come out borderline over encumbered and have to fast travel all the way back to another village so I could sell all of my goods. Then I could make my way to my original objective.

Second of all it has a sensational amount of possibilities. Become a werewolf, a vampire, a monster slayer, a thief a this a that and another this or that. You can learn more about magic or weapons and armour if you want. This is YOUR game, YOUR life; you do with it what you want with it. You don't even have to complete the main story.

Third of all it has the best stealing and looting system of any game I've played. No other RPG makes stealing and looting as enjoyable as it is in Skyrim. When I was thieving I felt like a total badass, like a real thief. When I broke into a locked chest I could not wait to see what was inside. No other game made me actually excited every single time there was a chance to loot. You never knew what you would find. An incredible staff of amazing power? An awesome mega enchanted axe? Some sort of mysterious potion? The options are endless. Looting is honestly one of my favourite parts of the game.

Fourthly, while other games like The Witcher 2 did have awesome side quests, Skyrim had so many, all interesting an fun to do, that it really isn't beaten by any other game here. I had only completed 5% of the main story line by the time I had accumulated about a billion side quests to do. While this may drive people with OCD mad, I loved it. Although I did find it overwhelming at times, it without doubt has some of the most consistently interesting and awesome side quests and stories of any game. Especially where guilds are concerned.

The fifth thing that makes Skyrim so downright incredible is the balance. The balance between difficulty and enjoyment, depth and confusion and ease of use, the entire game is sensationally well balanced. The combat may not be the ultimate best and you won't die like you do in Dark Souls, but the balance between how hard the game is and how fun it is is almost perfect. The varied weapons and the enchantments and magic you can use constantly keep it varied and fun. The depth of the features like armour and item making as well as enchanting is there, however it isn't ever confusing or hard to follow.

The game may not be the most hardcore RPG ever made, however it balances everything in an almost perfect way, and the world it creates is so well realised and vast, expansive and mysterious it will draw you in and never let you go. I've never spent so long with an RPG. I'd played for way over 60 hours before I'd even reached a twentieth of the way into the main plot, and I wasn't missing out on anything one bit. Not continuing with the main story does not hold you back; you are constantly free to do what you wish with the time you spend in the game.

It's one of the few games, if not the only game, that I can actually look back at and recall my life in it. I remember playing it in real life, sure, but I also remember different parts of the game and things that happened within the it with my character; I remember going from weak and rubbish fighter to ultimate badass warrior; I remember the time when I became a werewolf, when I was ambushed by skeletons, when I went underground and battled undead creature, killed my first dragon, completed this side quest, that side quest; I remember everything. The game implants its very own memories inside your mind. When you play Skyrim you have a life within the game. It's a phenomenal experience.

After I played Skyrim iI moved onto The Witcher 2, a game I have recently started replaying. I was really, really excited for TW2 and when I finally played it I was not disappointed.

I had enjoyed Skyrim for months and I was worried my next RPG outing, or fix if you like, would not compare. Fortunately I realised that most RPGs - even the ones that are not of the highest quality - are almost always their own game.

Dragons Dogma, although far from perfect, offers its own unique RPG experience, as does the likes of Kingdoms Of Amalur Reckoning. This is part of what makes the RPG genre so damn awesome.

A lot of my interest in FPS games was lost because they became, on the whole, boring. If the genre were to get revived I would love it once again, however only unique games like Bioshock, Metro and Far Cry 3 are really interesting to me these days. They're gems really. However they are rare gems. I don't want you to think that I no longer enjoy FPS games, it is simply that there isn't anything in the FPS genre to actually enjoy. Not most of the time anyway.

The RPG genre is never dull. Almost all of the game entries it receives are unique and awesome in their own way. The Witcher 2 wasn't as amazing as Skyrim (in truth, no game can recreate the awesome memories I have of playing it) however it was absolutely stunning.

The first thing about it I noticed was the difficulty. It is a hard game and I had to start it on easy just to get a feel for it. However, and this is a feature ALL games should include, I was able to change the difficulty to medium and then hard the more I played it in the options menu. The thing I absolutely love about The Witcher 2 is its story, characters, gameplay and the intense world it creates. Skyrim's biggest fault was its lack of interesting main story line. I never felt that taken in by it, and the lack of a talking main character didn't help this. In fact side stories like the Thieves' Guild were more interesting.

The Witcher 2 drew me in with its mature and confusing political tale. The characters were well realised, likeable and some of the best in an RPG if I'm honest. The world was dark and intense and is probably one of the few RPG settings that actually felt properly connected and always aware. The game never treated you like a child. Every aspect of the it that you look at is mature and implemented almost perfectly.

The gameplay was hard, but remains one of my favourite aspects of the game. The sword-play felt meaty and dangerous. Battles were intense, especially when playing on harder difficulties. Most of all though; it was FUN. I never felt bored or annoyed by it and how hard it was.

It never told you where to go either. The map system was meh and you were often left to your own devices when it came to finding your way around or even navigating the inventory system. However given that the game lasted at least 35 hours (way more if you do more quests and explore), there was plenty of time to work all of the hard stuff out.

I want to talk more about difficulty though, and how essential it is to RPGs in particular. However to properly do this we have to talk about a different game. The infamously hard Dark Souls.

After I finished The Witcher 2 I went a bit dead on the RPG front. I played Catherine, which I was blown away by and remains one of my favourite games of this generation. Then I played Far Cry 3, which is actually worth mentioning more on.

FC3 implemented its own RPG like features, although it never really committed to being a full on Role-Playing experience. However it was my game of the year 2012 and the fact it was so open and did include some of those RPG features is partly what I loved so much about it. If it had been more scripted and less free I certainly would have liked it less.

In fact, the less scripted nature of first person games like FC3, Bioshock Infinite, Metro 2033, Dishonoured etc. is what makes me love them so much. Sure I loved CoD, and I still adore the older Call of Duty games, however since playing more free-form FPS games like the ones I just listed made me realise just how scripted and bland war shooters can be. Yes I do like scripted games like Gears Of War and Uncharted and Halo, however unlike CoD or Battlefield, these also succeed in being unique, and either story driven or offering some of the best combat gameplay around. They're just, well, not bland or genric.

Before and after Far Cry 3 was released, wave after wave of new games were released as well and I wasn't able to spend much time playing other titles that I wanted to. Because the time in between game release was so short (especially in March this year) I resorted to playing FIFA most of the time (which did NOT do much to help my stress levels. Just sayin') in-between game releases.

After the wave of games ended, however, and I had re-played Bioshock Infinite at least 3 times and stopped obsessing over it, I took a look at the next game release I was anticipating (Metro: Last Light, which is released in May) and then decided to purchase some games I wanted to play to keep me going until then. Two of these games were Dark Souls and Deadly Premonition. I have not yet played the latter, however when I do I will be doing an article on it.

I really wanted to play Dark Souls because it looked so unique. Sure it was hard, but it wasn't just a 'hard' game. The difficulty seemed to fit the setting and story. It seemed like the type of game that when you finish it you will feel like you have been on a massive, memorable and generally incredible journey.

Well I haven't finished it, but I can already tell you it is amazing. If it stays as good throughout the entire game as it is at the moment then it could easily be one my favourite games of this gen.

The thing I absolutely adore about DS is it is simple, yet extremely deep. The setting is dull and bleak; dangerous and yet stunning. The characters you meet are either dead, dying, insane, creepy or (rarely) friendly.

The story is basic and not properly explained yet it doesn't need to be. Your character is silent, but he should be. It actually fits in this game that the main character doesn't speak. He doesn't need to. Words need to be used only occasionally.

The beauty of the journey is that it is hard, maybe even impossible for some gamers, however you are driven on by your constant desire to complete the quest, see it through till the end, see what you face next and conquer it. You're alone. All by yourself. No human NPCs are with you. But they don't need to be. You have something far better, far more useful and comforting. You have other real life players helping you, guiding you, with you. As you go through game you will see the outline of other real life players of the game who were where you were as well. You will see them running about, sometimes fighting or climbing ladders. You can touch bloodstains to replay the death of another person who was in your position too. But, most of all, you can read messages left by other adventurers. Messages informing you that enemies lie in wait, or that you need to run, or wishing you luck, or maybe giving you advice on how to kill an upcoming boss.


When you purchase the required item you too can leave notes behind and rate other peoples ones. It gives you this ultimate feeling of togetherness that, even if the game is being played way after its release, sticks with you. Sure the people who left these messages already finished (or gave up on) the game, but their own experience is carved into it and they are always there, helping you. You're all in it together.

None of this would be necessary if the game wasn't so hard and this is what makes Dark Souls one of the best RPGs I've ever played.

DS made me realise something. Difficulty is KEY. If an RPG isn't hard or doesn't offer a challenge then you are going to blast through it, get bored and not remember it as an epic adventure all because it didn't pose a challenge. Just like in The Witcher 2 (although on a more extreme level here) every time I died in Dark Souls I didn't get mad. I never got angry. No matter how many times I was sent back to the last campfire I'd rested at only to have to face all the enemies I had just killed again only to, likely, die, again, I never, not once, got mad or even swore at the game.

When I passed through an area, when I defeated a big bad guy or a boss, when I completed something, when I reached the next campfire, when that message popped up on my screen saying 'YOU DEFEATED' I felt epic. I felt good. I felt happy. I felt like I had just gone on an adventure. And you know what? I. Had. Prevailed. It was hard. Me and my main character guy; we died a hell of a lot. We struggled. We shook our head at times. We tried and we tried and we tried again. And. We. Did. It.

Some games can be hard as hell and suck balls, but when an RPG or Far Cry 3 or Bisohock does it, it is good. At the end of it all you look back and you remember how hard and epic it was. It makes you really appreciate and remember the game for days to come.

Difficulty, whether in Dark Souls, The Witcher or Bioshock, is essential. Games like Gears of War or Uncharted or Call Of Duty don't, for me at least, need to be incredibly hard because they are too scripted; at the end of Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, after completing it on veteran, I didn't even feel remotely how I did after defeating the first boss on Dark Souls. Admittedly some games are built for difficulty, and some games aren't. Games that are epic journeys, like DS, like The Witcher and like Catherine, they need to be hard.

When I finished Catherine, despite feeling depressed as hell, I felt really fulfilled. In fact, if it weren't for the excruciatingly hard difficulty, I wouldn't have loved it as much. I dreaded leaving that Cafe and going into those nightmares, but I loved every damn second of it. I loved how hard it was. I loved that I died over and over tying to get to the top of the tower so I could see what the next questions were and then continue the story. Actually, and this is pretty irrelevant, but the soundtrack in Catherine was perfect to the point where the actual levels themselves wouldn't have been as good if it weren't for the music that played during them.

Anyway; I'll just say this: not every game NEEDS to be hard as hell, but some games, especially RPGs, NEED to be hard. If they're not you will struggle to really enjoy it or remember it like you would have done had it offered more of a challenge.

Going back to Dark Souls and what is so amazing about it; the thing that completes DS utter brilliance is the fact it is all game. It is all about the gameplay. It's all about being, first and foremost; a game. No constant, flashy, cutscenes. No story or character focus. No trying to be a movie. It's just you and the game and the world it exists in. You and your amour. You and your sword. You and the enemy. You and this epic journey. The game felt like an old arcade game. It's like Bubble Bobble. Forget an in-depth story for a second, forget flashy visuals: in Bubble Bobble it's just you and the game. And it's the same in DS. It forgets all else and is simply a game.

Unlike before when I would simply have put CoD or FIFA in the disc tray when I was bored or had completed a game; these days when I finish a title I sometimes replay some in my collection and wait until the next release or I look up games to play, particularly RPGs. There's something about Role-Playing Games that I have come to love over the past year. They're rarely boring. They're rarely bland. They're almost always interesting. They're almost always fun. And most of all: you can almost always spend absolutely hours playing them. Just what I need to see me through until Metro: Last Light is released. They're the heroin of video games.

Prepare To Die? More like: Prepare To Have No Life For The Next 4 Weeks.