I was wrong about Star Wars Battlefront II

The reason is better than you think…

So, here’s a quick fact for you: I’ve played EA’s Star Wars Battlefront (2015) for over 280 hours. 280 HOURS. Nope, I can’t believe that either, and I refuse to let it cloud my judgement with whether the game was actually any good or not. It wasn’t. But, I did love it.

I’m allowed to say that because now that I’ve checked my Xbox profile and statistics, I have evidence. After my lifetime spent playing the bare-bones, lack-luster, but stunning-looking Star Wars Battlefront I can admit that it wasn’t a fine moment in gaming history. Quite the opposite. In fact, it goes to show how heartless a game can really be. As I write this, I have the haunting sounds of bad Han Solo and Luke Skywalker impressions circling my thoughts. Ugh.

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Classes make a well-received return

No, it definitely wasn’t the action-packed callback to the original we had all been hoping for, but here we are in the summer of 17, already hyped up for the sequel. It looks good though, right? It’s not just me? All eras, space combat, Darth Maul, Rey, Classes, customisation, Darth Maul, point system, Rey, land vehicles for both armies, Darth Maul, Rey, REY. You can’t say that criticism has been received and not acted on.

This is the game the fans (that includes me!) had been dreaming of from the first teaser in 2013. I was wrong about the sequel in my last post because I didn’t think they’d include the latest era, or the original trilogy, actually. The announcements at E3 blew me away, and I just cannot wait any longer to play as Rey, Kylo Ren, Maul, Jango and Grievous (they better bloody be in it…). No excuses now EA, you’ve opened the Star Wars floodgates onto Battlefront, so now it’s time to deliver.

Abandoning the season pass has already tipped the public in favour of the sequel, and it’s a nice gesture. It feels like an apology for the first one’s embarrassment, and so it should be, but don’t let that distract you from what EA plans on doing next to make an extra buck off loyal Star Wars fans… loot crates. Dum, dum, dum.

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Uh-oh

So far, in a galaxy far, far away, Battlefront II’s promotional material has been emphasising (like a sore thumb) the significance of Star Cards, cringe. I’d have to place a bet on EA going all-in on this money-making-model which has worked so well in previous games (Overwatch, Call of Duty, Battlefield, Injustice).

It’s not great, but I’m honestly ok with it. They’ve already said that the crates can be earned through in-game progress too, including the more advanced tiers of loot crates. Looks like I’ll be battling it out again for another couple hundred hours for those special legendary powers (yay).

Ignore what people have been saying about Battlefront II going pay-to-win, such as TotalBiscuit (I still respect the guy), because it’s nothing new. Battlefront and Battlefield already have pay-to-win packs, but I’d definitely agree that it’s not a great culture for games.

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We’re getting a single-player campaign! The force is strong with this one

It’s like cinemas. You buy a ticket to watch a film, the cinema has paid the rights to show that film, so now the two cancel each other out. In order to make a profit, the cinema sells you expensive extras, such as popcorn, slushies and exceptionally fair-priced pick-and-mix sweets. Now that all future downloadable content packs for Battlefront II are free, EA have to sell extras (loot crates) to fill the gap.

Ok, I’m not very good at analogies, but I tried to explain it. I worked in a cinema, alright…

I guess we’ll see when Star Wars Battlefront II releases on 17 November if it makes up for the hole in our hearts, and the 40GB of disappointment on my Xbox One.

 

Alexander Jones

P.S. I have recently written a piece about DLC and season pass culture, packed with sources and case studies, that I’m hoping to share with you real soon!

Game Hype: Star Wars Battlefront 2

Like it or not, Star Wars Battlefront 2 is coming.

On April 15th, at the Star Wars Celebration, we will get our first look.

Plenty of gamers shared disgruntled moans and cries of disbelief when they discovered how bare EA’s reboot was when it originally released in 2015. Being the wild card that I am I will openly admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the game. Dedicating over 100 hours of gameplay time and £40 for a season pass, I found myself hooked. But, even in my position as a blind sheep I can still see the countless flaws of EA’s Battlefront.

So, rather than asking the question of how Battlefront 2 can improve, I ask WILL it improve?

Have the big, bad cyborg bosses, sitting in their sky-high towers absorbing power from the sun and money from other blind sheep, allowed developers to implement their original creative ideas? The first thing that springs to mind for any Star Wars Battlefront hopeful is ‘SINGLE-PLAYER CAMPAIGN’, or ‘SPACE BATTLES’. Neither of which were present in the 2015 game. No wonder fans were upset, these were massive gameplay elements of the first games.

I addressed these issues in a blog post ages ago, and I still stand by my point; that this is EA’s Battlefront. This is NOT a sequel. This series doesn’t want to remaster an already popular game, but reimagine it, using the original material as a base to build from. So we have large-scale battles, beautiful and large maps, intense firefights. We are missing huge characteristics of the first series; such as classes, single-player and competitive online game modes like Galactic Conquest, space battles, different eras, etc. but doesn’t this emphasise the point? We will all relish the memories of our first Battlefront victory, but time’s changed, let’s enjoy what we have (a gorgeous looking Star Wars game) and hope that classic features make a return in Battlefront 2.

Yes, Battlefront 2. What can we expect to see, come April 15th? Well, I have a few ideas that I anticipate and really want to see make it into the sequel. 

Firstly, I don’t think that we’ll see Kylo Ren or Rey having a clash. Episode 8 will be coming out around the same time as Battlefront 2, before the holidays, and I can’t see how a Battlefront could work on two films without the final chapter. Arguably, they could add Episode 9 as DLC, but it would have to release two years after the game’s release. It just wouldn’t make sense. Also, there’s the issue of how much content would they be able to use from Episode 8 to avoid spoiling the film? The new era of Star Wars is just too complicated to touch at the moment.

Which is why I think the Clone Wars is perfect for the sequel. The lore is there, the films are done, ignore the questionable scripts and focus on those battles. It’s going to happen at some point, and I think that time is now. Imagine the battle of Genosis recreated in DICE’s stunning Frostbite engine. Even in the case of the battle of Naboo and the unbearable Gungans – it’ll look amazing. Battlefront 2015 played it safe. They went with the original trilogy and pulled on people’s heartstrings with lifelike images of Hoth and Endor. Battlefront 2 opens up more risk and creative freedom. They know what the fans want, and they have the resources to pull it off.

A single-player campaign has been confirmed by sources across the web, but space battles are still in question. I assume that EA have heard the complaints even if they weren’t listening for it. So, I expect to see these painfully regurgitated outcries sought to. It would be fairly dumb not to, wouldn’t you think?

Again, I expect another £40 on top of the £40 cost of the base game for the season pass, it’s just EA’s way. Battlefield 1 had the same model, and it’s sad to see it become commonplace, especially at such a high price. Compared to other season passes that retail at £20 (Witcher 3 for example), it’s not difficult to question its actual worth. Unfortunately for me this is a Star Wars game, and I’m more than likely to spend the £40 for a handful of extra hero characters (Jango and Grievous better not be DLC!).

Let’s see the Battlefront we deserve on the 15th. For goodness sake, give the people space battles!*

Alexander Jones

*Disclaimer: I don’t care much for the space battles, I’d rather be on the ground. But, hey-ho, FOR THE PEOPLE! 

 

I’m a journalist?

An update!

Hey everyone, long time no speak.

I haven’t updated this blog in a very long time, so I thought I’d share what I’ve been doing in the meantime.

Firstly, it’s probably worthy to note that I’ve been completing my magazine journalism MA at Cardiff University. So far, so good. I feel like I’ve already learned more than I did during my BA – but, this course is much more practical, so that’s probably why.

I spent my time before Christmas writing articles for Alt Cardiff , learning of new writing techniques and multimedia capabilities. My feature-length article for example, was a good demonstration of the range of multimedia I could produce. This feature article, regarding animal testing in Cardiff, went on to receive my highest mark (a first-class) last semester. I was pretty chuffed!

Another project I’ve been working on is Missing Pixels, a site aimed at welcoming all gamers. It was created for a digital project assignment but I think I might carry on contributing to it anyway. Feel free to join the community if you’d like!

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The week after we broke up for Christmas, I found myself in one of the UK’s largest magazine publishers: Haymarket.

Spending my nights a minute away in the hotel across the road, I was lucky enough to spend a week working with Stuff Magazine. Stuff Magazine deals with gadgets, tech, gaming; basically all the things I love. It was an inspiring work experience that made me feel confident in finding a place within the field. I am grateful to the Stuff team for having me on board, especially Rob Leedham, who got in touch and started it all.

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That’s a very brief rundown of what I’ve been up to from September to December. Now, with the new semester, I hope to continue this progress in finally becoming an official NCTJ journalist. With more experience lined up for the Easter holidays, and hopefully some freelance opportunities, I think the next couple of months are going to be very exciting!

When I’m not being a journalist, I spend my days cleaning bowling alleys and shooting children with laser guns at Superbowl. Oh, the joys of paying your student debt…

 

Alexander Jones

 

For more information about me, check out my LinkedIn profile!

 

What is REAL? – Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and The Real World

I am the real me. Are you sure that you are the REAL you?

This writing is taken from an article I wrote for Cardiff’s student magazine Quench. I hope you like this small piece I wrote, I find it incredibly interesting exploring the new possibilities  given to us by new technologies. Written before the release of the Occulus, this article may seem a bit out-dated now, but I thought it was decent enough to share on here. So go on, read my nonsense, you know you want to…

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Technology has come a long way over the span of under 50 years, it’s hard to imagine what crazy new perspective on life we will witness next. Virtual reality and augmented reality used to be concepts in sci-fi films and comics, but here we are in 2015 with these amazing pieces of tech just around the corner. People have reacted in some pretty amusing ways, such as waving their arms around aimlessly and sometimes falling over from nausea. I guess it can only be good sign if people are fooled into thinking there are giant dinosaurs roaring in their face, or even an anime-like woman lying in bed next to you, staring into your soul…yeah that’s a thing. Creeps. So yeah, technology continues to be used for the greatest and most bizarre of things, but how does it hold up? Is it any good or is it just another expensive gimmick that we’ll all be fooled into buying?

Unsurprisingly, VR isn’t so new a thing as you’d believe it to be. Attempts at creating a virtual reality to shelter ourselves from the harshness of real life problems began before 1950 in the form of the View-Master. 1950!? Are you mad Alex? People didn’t even have colour back in those days! I know, it’s crazy, but it’s true. Although VR was more of a concept than an actual thing you could use back then. Enough about history though, we live in the now so let’s talk about the now. From a gaming perspective we are lucky enough to witness the development of three major VR and AR headsets. There’s the Oculus Rift, Sony VR (Project Morpheus) and Microsoft’s interesting augmented reality headset HoloLens. The Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus are slated for a 2016 release, however the HoloLens will sadly only be available as a development kit in 2016 and costing $3000, which is almost ten times the price of the other two kits.

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Calming or creepy?

It would appear that virtual reality is closer than we think, with both Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus offering the sensation of being shot in the face on Call of Duty in less than a year for approximately $350. These two pieces of tech can be compared with each other quite fairly as they both aim to achieve the same goal, whereas Microsoft’s HoloLens is on a different level all together. So which is better between the Oculus and Morpheus? Firstly it is important to note that these devices are limited (as of this moment) to what platforms they can actually operate on. Sony’s Project Morpheus is obviously targeted towards the PlayStation side of gaming and despite Oculus’ partnership with Microsoft, the Rift is solely made for PC gaming. If you don’t own a PlayStation you can cancel out Project Morpheus pretty much straight away. The fact that the Oculus Rift focuses entirely on PC gaming comes with its advantages and disadvantages. For example, the PC market for indie games is continuously increasing in size and quality. Games that allow for VR headsets to be used are growing and are only going to get better with time. Another upside to Oculus Rift is its compatibility with other motion devices for PC, such as the Virtuix Omni which allows the player to control character movement. It may take some time making sure everything works in sync, but when it does, it looks incredible. The major downside to the PC-only take on things is that if you want to run an Oculus Rift, you’re more than likely going to need a very powerful computer to maximise your experience. VR without 60fps or a high enough resolution will limit your fun levels to average, so you might have to invest even more of your student loan into your PC rig.

Project Morpheus on the other hand will provide less hassle in terms of configuration and setup due to its exclusivity to the PlayStation platform. As mentioned before with the Oculus, the Morpheus cannot be synchronised with as many VR tools as the PC alternative can, but instead will work perfectly with PlayStation’s Move and Dualshock 4. The simplicity of out-of-the-box VR will be a significant factor for many in buying the Morpheus headset, personally this is the ideal option that I would go for. If you’re more into the complex, micro adjustments and configurations then I’d suggest the Oculus Rift. Don’t mistake the Rift as something overly complex however. Apart from the possible need to upgrade some hardware and update certain drivers, the Oculus Rift is just as easy to use as any other VR headset.

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So many lights!

Finally we have Microsoft’s HoloLens. I’ve separated the HoloLens on its own because augmented reality is NOT the same as virtual reality. It’s that straight forward. At this current time there hasn’t really been any hands-on experience with the HoloLens just a couple of showcases and demos. The overall impression is hugely positive, watching Minecraft become part of the living room or a video player follow you around your house so you never miss a second is truly incredible. I believe that HoloLens is demonstrating a massive step forward in technology that will eventually be available for gamers and the everyday consumer. Although at the very steep price tag that it currently holds, that scenario may take some time. There can’t be much said in comparison with the other pieces of tech until the developers kit is released some time in 2016.

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Now THIS is cool

The VR and AR scene for gaming and in general is shaping up to being one of the hottest topics of 2016 and it makes me overwhelmingly excited. Clearly both VR sets are shaping up quite nicely and both have good points and bad, but the simple method of deduction is: do you own a PlayStation? Yes? Then get the Morpheus. No? Get the Rift. If you want to hold out a little longer for something a bit different and have the cash to spend then go for the HoloLens. I doubt I’ll be able to afford any of these devices until I win the lottery or starve myself for a year, but at least I know it’ll all be worth it in the end.

 

Alexander Jones

 

*Thanks for reading this. If you think that I can make any improvements or you’d like to offer any advice on my writing style feel free to do so! I appreciate it all. 

 

My Game of the Month – February: Far Cry 4

Far Cry 4 is full of problems. Many, many problems that you, the gamer, have to suffer through in order to call yourself a ‘real’ gamer and sleep peacefully at night. These said problems exist in the game world and in the real world. Far Cry 4 is in no way the perfect game, quite far from it, but it makes my game of the month.

You may wonder why I’d pick a game that isn’t “the best thing ever” – well the truth is, it’s the only thing I’ve been playing alongside Star Wars Battlefront (I’m still hooked. I think I’m addicted, seriously send help). With the recent release of Far Cry Primal, I thought I’d try and blow the dust off my copy of Far Cry 4 and actually complete the darn thing. I’d like to say that I consider myself a completionist, but my backlog of incomplete games would only contradict that statement. Instead it would seem that I only truly complete a game if a) I love the game or b) it’s easy to do so. Call me a dirty casual. Go on I dare ya’.

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So why does Far Cry 4 exist? Well that’s a good question. If I was to give a personal answer I’d say Far Cry 4 leap-frogs off the back of Far Cry 3. The third installment was positively received by the masses (especially after 2, which… well nobody liked 2), the story, the gameplay, everything seemed a huge improvement and made for a largely enjoyable game. This amazing package is what makes Far Cry 4 similarly great, but also acts as its major downfall. People who know me in person would understand my issue with the Call of Duty series and its onslaught of repetition. Well now I’m worried for Far Cry. With Primal making its debut this month all I’ve seen so far from trailers and gameplay videos is Far Cry 3 rehashed into 4 rehashed into Primal. If you placed all three games into a blender you’d receive the exact same mush in which you started off with. It’s beginning to become difficult to tell these games apart. Take Assassin’s Creed for example, another series published by Ubisoft. If you haven’t been living under a rock you may have noticed a consensus of disappointment and boredom from the Assassin’s Creed fanbase. This is hugely due to the lack of creativity and simple recycling of money-making formulas. Remember when the devs attempted to change gameplay aspects in order to improve the next game? No? You were born in the naughties? Well I’m glad you’re here, might actually expand your library of games beyond Fifa and COD. But this is my problem. Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed are great games, can’t deny it really, but it’s turning into a case of using the same old phone just changing the case every year and calling it new (bit like the iPhone then really). Far Cry 4 (and Primal) are at the roots the same game as Far Cry 3, they play the same, the animations and missions are the same, however there’s a glossy new skin covering it called Kyrat or stone-age Europe.

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Rant over. So what makes Far Cry 4 good? Well most things actually. It’s pretty damn fun for a starter. Although some missions can be overwhelmingly difficult and punishing, the shooting and fire-play (literal fire) is super punchy and feels so good. Bad guys can soak up some bullets but still drop with the well-placed headshot. It’s satisfying and makes even the driest of missions entertaining. Alongside the solid shooting you have the ability to mess around with a decent sandbox environment. The amount of ways that you can tackle a single outpost is impressive. You could sneak in, taking out each guard silently or you could go berserk, riding an elephant firing off your MG and lobbing flaming molotovs into crowds of people shouting “I am the King of the Fire Elephants!” for example. You can’t do that in most games, but most games aren’t Far Cry. It’s a real shame that most things that you experience in 4 are blatantly ripped straight from 3. The Shangri-La segments follow 3’s hallucinations, the brick factory sequence was an attempt to recreate the thrill of 3’s cannabis burning mission (accompanied by Skrillex’s Burn Dem – it was amazing). They’re good but taste the same, I was really hoping 4 would push above and beyond. But hey-ho, it’s all-round good fun if you’re looking for more drug-intoxicated, animal-littered, psycho-maniac mayhem Far Cry 4 is here.

Once I finish 4 I will invest in Primal and see where that takes me (probably on the same journey just with less soap and edible food)

Alexander Jones