My Game of the Month – January: Judge Dredd: Dredd vs Death

This is a funny one. So you know those Steam sales that come about occasionally? Well yeah, I saw this little gem in one of those glistening tiles of discount and I just had to pick it up. I checked the reviews and such before committing to the purchase, although for less than £2 I couldn’t really complain no matter how potentially awful it could be.

I’m not very knowledgeable about the world of Judge Dredd, I have only watched the 2012 film adaptation of the comics and thoroughly enjoyed it. I haven’t explored the world of Judge Dredd comics so I wasn’t prepared to see the weird and strange entities that are portrayed within the game. Bizarre things such as huge, blob-like people who very closely resemble the unhealthy inhabitants in Wall-E, vampires, zombies, ghosts and so much more. I didn’t realise there were so many fantasy elements to the Dredd’s world. This never comes across in the 2012 film – which focuses on the massive-scaled apartment blocks and the harshness of the living in the proposed gritty world. I assume that these unexpected events derive from its comic book roots instead. I must say, it does spark an interest in maybe reading some of these comics, after the film I wanted to explore more of the same world, especially outside of the very same 200 storey apartment block. The game opens up another opportunity to follow Dredd’s adventures in Mega City One, and it’s dark, gritty, bloody and most importantly full of justice ready to be served.

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The several missions I carried out saw me dispatching naked vampires in the futuristic street, fighting and arresting gangs of punks in rainy dockyards, clearing a super-market mall of zombies and finally frantically running through some crazy laboratory. It’s pretty diverse in terms of what happens, gameplay-wise it’s pretty samey. There’s a few different guns but you only really need to use the pistol – which offers different firing types. The enemies provide a change of pace, some shoot you, some slash you and others walk slowly towards with utmost determination for your brains. It’s a fun arcade experience.

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I haven’t had the chance to complete this game but I’ve had enough hands-on gameplay to experience the fun and dark world that the almost celebrity Judge Dredd lives in. I say that he’s like a celebrity, because everyone seems to know who you are. I assume that Judge Dredd is similar to how Duke Nukem is celebrated in his world – except this only applies from other Judges, because everyone else seems to be a criminal. Many admire you and even more despise you. To my amusement you can arrest every single NPC (except Judges, vampires and zombies obviously). This is fairly hilarious and makes you feel unbelievably omnipotent, comically so.  I couldn’t help myself wrapping handcuffs on every silly looking person I could find, it was just too funny. Just taking a stroll on the street? 5 years imprisonment! Talking to your friends? More like conspiring against the Judges! 15 years!

Sometimes being the coolest Judge in Mega City One gets to you…

Alexander Jones

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My Game of the Month – December: Star Wars: Battlefront (EA)

 

I’m a bit late writing this post due to pesty essays and dissertation stress (not actual writing). Again this game wasn’t released in December, but I played a crazy amount of it and therefore that’s why Battlefront makes my Game of The Month!

As a pretty dedicated Star Wars fan the announcement that Star Wars Battlefront was making a return via ‘next-gen’ consoles made me pretty damn ecstatic. The original Star Wars Battlefront games were basically my gaming childhood (as well the occasional Pokemon game). Yeah being a Jedi or Sith is cool, but don’t lie, the ability to play as a ground soldier in this massive universe was so much cooler. Luke who? More like Gary the stormtrooper or Simon the legendary sniper battle droid. Didn’t hear about those characters in the films now did you? Exactly. Not only was one of my favourite game franchises coming back but it was also being developed by the perfect team that is Dice. Dice!? The same guys that make those awesome Battlefield games that I love? I couldn’t ask for a better scenario. Well things began to get pretty bumpy down the road with news that the game would lack a tonne of content, but in truth, it didn’t hinder my experience all that much. The complaints rooted from announcements that the game wouldn’t feature elements of gameplay from the originals such as space battles, galactic conquest, campaign of any kind, the clone wars, vehicle spawns and numerous planets. Not much then. I sympathise with these complaints, I too loved these aspects of the originals. However, I understand that this is Battlefront EA. Not Pandemic. I knew from the beginning that this game was likely to be quite different from the first ones, but maybe not to the same extent that it was. I was a little disappointed that the clone wars wasn’t included, but amongst my overwhelming joy that Battlefront was returning at all felt like a Jedi mind-trick convincing me that this was the best thing ever. 2015 couldn’t have been any greater, Fallout and Star Wars were back and that’s pretty outstanding.

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Let’s dive right into this thing then. Already playing the open beta before the release I had a fair idea of what to expect from the new game. It didn’t disappoint. This game looks gorgeous, it has to be my best looking game on the Xbox One, Metal Gear probably gets a close second on this. I read the promotional material about the design teams going to the same locations that the films were based on and this definitely reflected into the final product. Hoth LOOKS like Hoth. Tatooine LOOKS like Tatooine. These planets feel real, Hoth makes you cold, Tatooine feels baren yet inhabited with life and Endor, well Endor is the best. Literally, Endor is the most impressive world to be in, it’s lush and alive and most of all, feels pretty damn believable. Ewoks run around their silly wooden platforms (which make for amazing multi-leveled combat), Lizards crawl up trees, and weird space snakes slither in and out of burrows. The attention to detail is impressive, most impressive. Seeing as most first-person competitive shooters offer pretty dull and static maps, Battlefront is fresh. The only problem I have with the immersion is with the sometimes wonky voice acting of the heroes and villains. This has been brought up several times by other reviewers, I have less of a problem with it than most, but it can break the immersion somewhat. Luckily Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett and Boba Fett) continues to be awesome and voices Boba Fett in the game, so that’s one original voice. The worst is probably Vader and Han’s voices. Besides that, the aesthetics of this game are pretty breathtaking.

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Next we have gameplay. Put simply it’s a ‘dumbed’ down version of Battlefield, or so you’ll be told by the internet. I’d partly agree. The gameplay has definitely had a more arcade-like overhaul and I think this may be a move towards a more casual gamer. This is Star Wars (now owned by Disney) and I think that with the anticipation of Episode 7 EA decided to target this game at everybody. It’s a game that is easily accessible, just pick up a controller and join in so to speak (if only there was a split-screen online experience. Shame). The guns arguably feel pretty samey, they are after all all laser guns that go pew pew. There’s only so many ways a blaster can shoot, and I feel that these guns are closely representative of those from the films which is great aesthetically. It just doesn’t translate that well from a gameplay perspective. That said, these guns thankfully all feel punchy, especially the targeting rifles, they provide some powerful firepower. The standard blasters you receive from the get-go (the E11 and A280) are pretty well rounded on their own however, which creates this feeling that there’s no real need to purchase any of the other blasters on offer. That said, it’s nice to change the fire-rate every now and again. As well as your primary blaster you have access to ‘star cards’, which are equivalent to Battlefield tools with usage limited to a cooling down system. I like this form of playing, it is inevitably arcade-like but it’s different enough from the average shooter that I’m ok with it. These ‘star cards’ offer you abilities such as the Jetpack, thermal detonator and other helpful tools like the ion torpedo. As well as these ‘star cards’ you have traits which reward you with special abilities from kill-streaks, and power-ups found on the battlefield which provide more effective abilities, such as the smart-rocket launcher (great against AT-STs) and bubble-shield to protect yourself and teammates from oncoming blaster fire. Among these power-ups you will also find the occasional vehicle pick-up or hero pick-up. These pick-ups will place you in varying vehicles (including the AT-ATs but with a limited timer) and the hero pick-ups let you pick from three heroes or villains depending on which side you are on. Of course the hero pick-up is the most thrilling of the lot and you will almost definitely see several teammates racing towards the pick-up to play as their favourite character. It’s undeniably fun playing as one of these comically over-powered figures on the battlefield wiping out as many enemies as you can before finally being overwhelmed by the entire team. And you will become a high-priority target pretty quickly. It’s unique and a great aspect of the game, if you’re able to reach the pick-ups before some Jetpack idiot snatches it right before your eyes (TIP: always be that Jetpack idiot).

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Yes this game is definitely an online-orientated game. The single-player and co-operative aspects are dismal. If you’re looking at this game without an online subscription don’t even bother, there is literally 3 hours of gameplay there if you push the boundaries. I myself have played these sections repeatedly to obtain 100% completion but once I’ve completed master difficulty I’m out of there. Chewie hit it! But seriously, don’t buy this game if you don’t plan on playing online.

Sure, there are loads of things missing from this game that were present in the Pandemic games of the same title, but this is a new generation of Star Wars. This is EA Star Wars. With all the advantages and disadvantages that come with it. I will happily accept the fact that this game may be a little over-priced for the content that is available, but without this, there’d be nothing. And I know which situation I’d rather be in. Give me a beautiful looking, over-priced but fun Star Wars game over nothing at all.

Alexander Jones

Bonus video I uploaded to Youtube: 

My Game of the Month – November: Fallout 4

It’s probably bad that I’m about to say this, but this choice was going to be pretty obvious wasn’t it? Yes, the biggest month of gaming has fallen upon us and we as gamers, are blessed with an unholy amount of games that we can’t afford to buy all at once (that’s what Christmas is for!). So many great games such as Rise of The Tomb Raider, Star Wars Battlefront, Halo 5 (last month) and of course FALLOUT 4. Not going to lie, this choice was actually nearly reconsidered for reasons I will discuss down below.

So Fallout 4 is a real, physical thing I can touch, hold, hug and caress in my very real small hands. It feels good. Only been waiting like seven years for this title to be released, no biggy. From the get-go this game had me all teary-eyed and buried in nostalgia. No, not from the 50’s lifestyle, I’m not that ancient, but from the Fallout logo and iconic power armour. It made shivers run down my spine pressing ‘new game’ on the title screen with the epic soundtrack playing in the background.

Now for the character creation, do I try and make my character look like me or look like a complete badass raider killer? I attempted to make IT look like me but it went adrift halfway through and came out looking like some pretty unrecognisable face that in no way resembled me at all. The tools for character creation are getting better and better with every new game, but I seem to be getting progressively worse at it. I have made some monstrosities in the past, trust me.

Finally, after many, many alterations to my THING, I proceed into the game. Beautiful. Simply beautiful. The graphics aren’t the same level as other current-gen games but it’s still a major improvement over New Vegas and Fallout 3’s old engine. I was worried about the new introduction of a voiced character in a game where you’re meant to forge your own path and stories, but it felt pretty good. There were some annoying parts of the game though that would give you an option in the dialogue that sounded friendly but you’re character would say it in a completely different tone which often sounded rude or aggressive when I was trying to be nice. This happened an annoyingly high number of times. Another complaint about the dialogue is that it’s hard to tell which options would expand on the topic of discussion and which ones would move the conversation forward. In the past games it was pretty distinguishable which texts were for finding out more info and which ones pushed things forward, but not in this one. The responses left me feeling restricted and uneasy about missing any extra Fallout lore.

The combat has been significantly improved however. Gun combat in the previous games felt pretty lackluster, and relied heavily on the use of V.A.T.S to actually hit anything. This title feels more like a first-person shooter game now with much improved gun mechanics and animations. It doesn’t feel as smooth as Halo or Battlefield but it’s getting there. I haven’t got much experience with the melee weapons in the game but from what I’ve witnessed they seem to mirror Skyrim’s swordplay. Which leads to me to the addition of finisher animations. At first they are very cool, I love beautifully animated finisher moves, but these also get old pretty quickly as they seem to frequently repeat the same few. Skyrim (even before the update for more) had more finisher moves in the base game. I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t more, but then again I haven’t focused on melee combat. Maybe next playthrough.

The story is a very interesting topic of discussion. First-off there are multiple endings. Much like New Vegas, there are several factions in the Commonwealth that mostly dislike and hate each other. It’s your job to determine what happens to each one, bringing them together or destroying whole factions. For my main questline I joined the Brotherhood of Steel, who since the reign of Elder Lyons, have turned into a bunch of racist nazis. They don’t seem to like anyone but themselves and would sacrifice anything to rid the earth of mutants, synths and ghouls. Nobody likes them anyway but the new Elder Maxim acts like a child who won’t listen or accept anyone else’s opinion. I honestly only followed through with their story-line because of all the tech they use which is cool. The ending left a sour taste in my mouth. At first I thought it was because I had rushed through it, but that’s not valid because I had put 40 hours into it before completing the final quests. The ending simply felt wrong, unfinished and generic. The final cut scene of your character felt as though it could apply to any ending ever, it wasn’t personal to my path. To be truthful, I preferred New Vegas’ ending, at least I felt like I actually did something.

Overall, Fallout 4 has more positives than negatives, making it a very fun game initially. It’s a great RPG, I’m just not sure that everything meets the standards or expectations. I will dedicate plenty of hours into this game it’s guaranteed, hopefully on my second play-through the ending I choose then feels better than mine, because it was not satisfying in the slightest.

 

Alexander Jones

My Game of the Month – October: SOMA

Technically this game came out in September. Technically this is my blog, so my rules. Technically I was still playing this game in October so there you have it!

I’m going to apologise in advance by saying that a few chunks of this blog post will be ripped from my review of the game that will feature in November’s issue of Quench (Cardiff University magazine). Still, all my original writing so don’t worry about that, I’m not a plagiarist!

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I love a good horror game, and you know what, SOMA has got to be at the top of the charts for horror this Halloween. Albeit a relatively slow start the game really escalates and intensifies the more you play, spiraling into some crazy fast-pased game of cat and mouse with horrific undead scientists and giant fish (not kidding). The atmosphere is perfectly created, it really makes you feel lonely in the eerie quietness of the ocean or the long, cold metallic corridors only accompanied by the odd flicker of a broken door switch or the lovely howl of an abomination. A pretty to-the-point summary that I wrote for the review feels right to put here:

“From the creators of the infamous Amnesia series and Penumbra games, Frictional Games have created yet again another quality first-person horror game. The same people who made you terrified of water monsters have placed you in the middle of the ocean, kind of funny that isn’t it? Instead of crawling through castle dungeons and stinky morgues, in SOMA you have an entirely different world to survive. This one consists of flickering light, Alien-esque corridors and the pitch black abyss of the ocean.  It feels surprisingly fresh; although many people are likely to compare SOMA to the Bioshock series, these are very different games. We can all agree that Bioshock was more action than horror, SOMA is all horror with a hint of puzzle solving.”

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 Yeah I quoted myself. I went there. Again, I won’t spoil the story on this post simply because that’s what makes this bitter adventure so sweet. Reaching the finale is a breathtakingly fresh dystopian vision of a future humanity. The whole game makes you step back for a moment to think about the value of life. In this underwater world where robots think they’re humans and man-eating piranha-like fish devour anything not protected by lights, is it worth it still fighting to survive?

For an epic adventure containing chilling atmospheric set-pieces, intense cat and mouse chases (where you cower for your life) and a brilliant thought-provoking story line give SOMA a go. You won’t be disappointed trust me.

If you want to read my full review for the game pick up a copy of Quench if you’re in and around Cardiff, otherwise head over to: http://cardiffstudentmedia.co.uk/quench/ where it’ll be posted for next months issue.

Alexander Jones

My Game of the Month – September: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

For someone who hasn’t invested in the Metal Gear series at all, I’m impressed that the works of Konami and Kojima were able to convince me to get this very impressive game. As a teen I had always heard of Metal Gear but it never appealed to me, maybe it was the complicated story line or the fact that your character had a crazy beard, I wasn’t sure (I was probably jealous of his strong beard game). But anyway, I ended up playing the very similar, less bizarre Splinter Cell games. To be honest though, I never truly understood what they were all about either, I’m sure if I played them all now I might just understand. Now that I’m an adult, I feel strong enough to approach Metal Gear, which I have realised whilst playing The Phantom Pain doesn’t matter because it turns out nothing makes sense anyway. Good job Kojima you madman.

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The main story is very serious, you deal with nuclear weapons, massacres and body mutilation it’s actually quite depressing, however the game is still able to slip in a fair number of silly elements which I know for a fact is a continuing theme throughout the series. If you’re into that then this latest installment want disappoint, want to send sheep or hedgehogs flying into the air using fultons? You can do that. Want to force your horse to defecate on the spot? You can do that. Want to beat up your Mother Base staff to raise their morale? You can do it. In The Phantom Pain everything is possible, almost. That’s one of the big positives for me with this game, I love sandbox environments and you have that. You can approach most missions however you’d like, you can choose from a range of buddies (who all have their own unique skills), your equipment, character, vehicle, everything. You can literally go in sneaky without any alarms or you could go in guns blazing, it’s up to you. Personally, I prefer the stealthy option, until I do something stupid and trigger an alarm, then I go loud. I usually die when that happens anyway.

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I haven’t finished the game as of yet but it still makes my Game of The Month for that very reason, there’s a lot of content here, you can get at least 40 hours gameplay for the average gamer. As a newbie to the Metal Gear universe I must say I’m very impressed and enticed to play more. I totally recommend this game to anyone who loves stealth games or even if you’re looking for something different from the generic shooter, you should give this a go.

Alexander Jones