The State of Play – Taboo Releases

Black Ops 3

Why do I feel dirty and slightly embarrassed about next week’s release of Black Ops 3? The thing is, I’m genuinely more excited about it than Fallout 4 which releases a few days later.

Treyarch’s latest behemoth in the COD franchise is surely going to be weighing down Santa’s sack this Christmas, yet why do I whisper its name in hushed tones to friends and work colleagues as if it’s taboo? I feel like a teenager quietly telling a friend about a porno mag he’s found in a bush.

Certain gamers and video game journalists have become sniffy at the series, many dismissing it as a money making machine and nothing more. Sure, the two most recent offerings of Ghosts and Advanced Warfare were nothing spectacular, but they were still great fun to play online and provided thousands of gamers with hours of head shot goodness. Most buy COD simply for the multiplayer, the campaign comes second. There is nothing wrong with this as multiplayer is where COD has it nailed. It’s become synonymous with online gaming – the image of a player in a darkened room, headset on, shouting obscenities at his TV as he’s blasted with a noob tube from across the map. Indeed, the decision to sell Black Ops 3 on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 as multiplayer only was met with mild outrage in the more snobbish corners of the gaming press, but the general gaming community as a whole simply muttered a “meh” and realised it wasn’t a big deal, no fewer copies will be sold. It’s the multiplayer people come for, and Activision know this.

For what it’s worth, Black Ops 3 looks like it’s going to be the best in the series for years, but that’s not the point. The point is that people are having fun in a series that is confident in what it is. Activision don’t want Treyarch reinventing the wheel, they are simply asking them to give the fans what they want.

For me, after a busy year that has seen me play some seriously heavy games; The Witcher, MGS V, Bloodborne etc. I can honestly say that the last thing I want to do right now is dive head first into Fallout 4.

I want something fast, dirty and satisfying. And Black Ops 3 looks just the ticket.

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Review – Star Wars Battlefront Beta

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Oh dear, the Force isn’t too strong with this one.

The Star Wars Battlefront Beta has been out for two days now and unfortunately it’s failed to blow my Chewbacca patterned socks off.

Let’s start with the positives – this game looks fantastic. From the moment I jumped into the first of the beta’s two game modes – Drop Zone – I was taken aback by the gorgeous graphics, textures and landscape. There were burning X-Wings scattered around along with smoking Tie Fighters and I spent minutes staring above and beyond at the beautifully detailed backgrounds. Couple this with the wonderful music and you honestly feel like you’ve walked into one of the films themselves. It really is a faithful homage to the series.

Then it’s down to business. Drop Zone has you and your team (either Rebels or Imperials) taking control of pods that are dropped around the map whilst fending off your opposite number. Highest number of pods at the end of the round wins. Bing bang bosh, nice and simple.

When you first spot an enemy however, the problems with the gunplay soon become apparent. There is no function to aim down sights in this game. The developer explained that this was due to wanting to make the game as authentic as possible so shooting from the hip is what we have to put up with. It’s an old school mechanic that I don’t like as it feels disconnected, unrealistic and inaccurate. Some of the weapons have sights on so you can zoom in for the kill, however it leaves you feeling exposed and blinkered. The weapons themselves are the biggest problem I found. The blasters are shit. I’m sure there will be plenty of better weapons to unlock on the way but I wish they’d included them in the beta as it’s the biggest turn off for me. It takes a good 5 shots to kill an enemy and the fire rate is horrendous on these things. If you are firing at a sprinting enemy and are zoomed in, forget about it, you ain’t getting a kill. By the time he’s been hit 3 times he will be behind cover where his shield will regenerate within seconds. I found myself using the Cycler Rifle (an unlock-able perk, or “card” weapon) and just waiting for it to become usable again after each shot instead of the blasters. That’s how badly I wanted a normal, decent weapon. The hit detection is also poor and the weapons as a whole feel like they lack “weight”.

The other online mode is Walker Assault where you are freezing your knackers off on Hoth and are either destroying the Rebel scum as Imperials, or stopping the Imperial attack as the Rebels. On first play this mode is quite confusing as to what is going on, especially if you are playing as the Rebels. There’s a lot to do and it relies heavily on teamwork and cohesion, this was absent in the beta as everyone was running around like headless chickens and blasting anything in sight. If you’re lucky enough to be spawned on the the Imperial team then happy days, you can relax as the mode is so unbalanced that you WILL be winning the round.

Walker Assault gives you the opportunity to pilot vehicles though, which is one of the things I was most looking forward to. Yet soon after picking up the Tie Fighter icon on the map to take control, my excitement soon turned to despair. I can’t believe how clunky the vehicles feel to pilot. Forget trying to shoot anything, your main preoccupation is trying to keep the aircraft in the air without it lurching into the ground or nearby mountainside.

Playing as Luke Skywalker or Vader is a cool touch, but the novelty soon wears off after a few matches. Don’t forget that there is no campaign with the full version of the game – this is pretty much it. Of course there are other modes but I can’t help but feel like a well made campaign would have added so much and complimented the package as a whole.

The entire purpose of the developer making the beta available is to gather feedback and make adjustments here and there before next month’s release. Unfortunately, I think the problems with the game are at an extent that it would need quite a large overhaul in order to make it anywhere near the level fans expect it to be. To drop £50 on what is essentially an average shooter with no campaign seems like a bit of a rip-off if I’m honest. Especially when you consider that Treyarch are releasing the latest in their Black Ops juggernaut of a series days before.

Disappointing.

Review – Super Meat Boy

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“Jump you bastard!”

This phrase has been the soundtrack to my living room for the last couple of days. Yet there is no anger or exasperation felt when shouting it at my TV for the trillionth time. Quite the opposite, it’s joyful and wonderful.

The game causing these outbursts is of course Team Meat’s Super Meat Boy, which has just been released in the Playstation Store. Everything that can be said about this game has already been said, I just thought I’d share a few of my views on this wonderful little game.

I, like many people, remember watching Indie Game: The Movie and becoming infatuated with these two blokes building this seemingly impossible, never-ending project. I wanted to play this mythical game there and then. Being a Playstation owner I missed out back then, my chance has finally come however.

From the retro intro and level select screen you know you’re in for a treat. This game is a labour of love, there’s no other way to say it. Meat Boy’s controls are fluid and precise and coming from a platforming background they felt instinctive. Glorious. A simple two button layout is all that’s needed. Using R1 to dash is a revelation.

The level design is utterly splendid. Every jump, buzz saw and pitfall are accurately placed in order to test your reflexes and cunning. You get into a certain momentum when playing so that when you watch back the end of level replay you feel like a complete beast.

Be prepared to die as you will be dying a lot in this game, but the near instant restart is brilliant in the way it feeds the addiction and doesn’t put you off your rhythm. You’ll be going back to earlier levels in order to ace it fully – to appease the OCD demon inside you – but that adds to the fun.

A catchy soundtrack tops off what is one of the most refreshing gaming experiences I have had in a long time. The game is a masterpiece and deserves its status as a legend of indie gaming.

And that is all I have to say about that.