The modern day video game has come a long way since the times of strolling you way through a very scripted,¬†linear¬†story. One of the features that most games seem to have these days is choice. Choice in video games is a interesting thing, you could be a hero of the people, you could be a nob head, the best thing about it is that it’s¬†entirely up to you. But what does it mean if you love to be an evil nob head in a game? Does it mean you are some kind of psycho who loves to chop of limbs and beat up old ladies? Does it mean you take great¬†pleasure in seeing other people suffer? Or is it something as simple as that’s the way you like to have fun and express yourself in a game? I like to think of myself as a reasonably reserved person and this¬†normally is the way my character comes across in games. Don’t get me wrong, if some dude with an AK-47 starts having a pop at me I wouldn’t think twice about blowing his face off. But when it comes down to choice I always seem to end up being the good guy. Funny, isn’t it? How some random guy in Skyrim could ask me to¬†travel half way across the map to get his petty soul-gem that he can’t be bothered to go and get himself and I feel terrible about saying no. I’m¬†everybody’s bitch Skyrim. This is also the reason that for me ¬†Fable 3’s final choice is one of the hardest¬†decisions anyone has ever had to make in a game. The first choice ends up with everybody loving you but they inevitably¬†all die. The second choice, everybody hates your guts but they all get to live and you save the world. ¬†Oh, the humanity.

But if you don’t like being an evil nob head in games, does that mean you are generally a nice person? Shouldn’t we take advantage of the¬†opportunity to be evil knowing that there’ll be no¬†repercussions in the real world? Maybe it’s the feeling of being loved by¬†everyone that pushes me to do good deeds. When a random¬†passer bye knows your name and congratulates you on being amazing it always makes me smile. On the other hand, When I displease someone who I’m desperately trying to please I feel like a complete failure.¬†When Ulfric Stormcloak shouted at me and told me how I’d let him and the rest of Skyrim down, I felt about as useful as a pizza fork. Obviously it depends on the type of game you are playing. If you slap overlord in your disk tray then be prepared to wreak havoc on poor, innocent souls just trying to get by in life. Equally the same can be said for prototype. But if you truly get to decide the fate of an innocent NPC, would you feel better about helping them or face-palming them? What do the choices ¬†we make say about us really? Does it say anything at all, or are we just having fun?

Sorry, Ulfic. I’ll try harder next time.

Multiplayer games these days are pretty¬†limited on choice and even more so on¬†whether of not you are¬†labelled a nob head. It seems to me that all you have to do to piss someone off is kill them. But isn’t that what¬†everyone¬†is trying to do? The amount of times I’ve played Gears 3 and¬†received a teasy message off some guy I was¬†innocently whooping up is¬†ridiculous. “You suck, Retro lancers are for fags”. I didn’t make the damn gun! I love a bit of healthy¬†competition as much as the next guy but other people seem to think that giving someone loads of abuse is part of the package.

So when you play a game that has huge consequences to choices you make, are you the kind of person who relishes in the love and respect of those around you? Or do you crave fear, carnage and dismemberment?

Let me know @JimSickStee

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Greatest Gaming Theme Songs.

Posted: November 27, 2011 in Games

Games have always had an interesting¬†variety of music. From Sonic to Mario, Pac-man to Tetris. Music has always been an important part of the overall¬†experience and¬†the theme music from these great titles will stick with us forever. However, brilliant as it all was back in the day they wouldn’t hold up very well¬†against¬†what’s on offer today. Some of the greatest music in entertainment can be in found today’s huge selection of games, and although background music is incredibly important, it’s the theme song that sticks with us. Especially if it’s used in the right way. Here’s three examples of moments in games where I’ve been¬†completely emerged into the world, thanks¬†largely to the clever use of the games theme song.

The Halo series took music to a whole new level.

Halo 3.

It’s true what the voice-over guy said on the new Halo anniversary trailer, “ten years ago Halo changed the way we play video games.” ¬†What he didn’t mention was that it also changed the way we listen to video games. Starting off slow with a slightly¬†religious sounding chant and ending up with tribal style drums and singing, all backed up by members of the¬†Chicago¬†orchestra, the Halo theme song really gives you the¬†sense¬†that the ring world of Halo is an¬†extremely¬†ancient place with hundreds of years of secrets waiting¬†beneath the surface.

The theme song is implemented into the gameplay very often through the Halo series but there’s only one moment for me that 343 industries are going to have very hard time surpassing. The final stage of the game is similar to that of Halo: Combat Evolved, though¬†instead of trying to escape an exploding ship, you’re¬†trying to escape an exploding planet. Epic. As you drive your Warthog at high speeds jumping off ramps over¬†devastating¬†explosions, avoid falling towers and watch in horror as roads and bridges¬†collapse around you¬†revealing perilous drops, all complemented by the¬†incredible theme music, this really is one best uses of Halo’s theme song and over all, one of my favourite moments in the Halo series.

Shooter of the year? I think so.

Gears of War 3.

I’ve always thought of Gears of war’s theme song as the imperial march of video games. It’s just got that powerful, military feel to it. The song isn’t really used at all during gameplay moments of Gears, it’s used more for the cinematic side of things during cut scenes. Which is why it’s that much more effective when it’s used at the end of the Gears 3 campaign during a gameplay section. It’s been over fifteen years since Marcus has seen his Father, that whole time he was¬†believed¬†to be dead, you find out towards the¬†beginning¬†of the game that he’s still alive and you fight your way through the levels trying to get to him. It’s the last mission, you find yourself at the top of a huge, skyscraper of a building, the elevator doors open, there’s twenty maybe thirty angry locust between you and the reunion you’ve been fighting for since the beginning. Cue the theme music and you’ve got most heart pumping fight of the game. The¬†difference that song makes whilst actually playing is so inspiring, it’s enough to bring a tear to your eye. It honestly makes you think ” we’ve got this far, nothing can stop us now.”¬†This is a perfect example of how a theme song can¬†completely¬†change¬†how a game feels, because¬†technically you’re doing the same thing you’ve been doing for the last ten hours, slap the¬†theme song on it and it’s like having mash instead of roasties, they’re still potatoes, they just taste¬†different.

If you didn't know there's dragons in Skyrim...............there's dragons in Skyrim.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

If you haven’t played Skyrim yet then you’ve probably heard of it. If you haven’t heard of it then you have no¬†business reading this blog, go on, get out! The music of Skrim captures the world beautifully, soft harps are played as you ¬†wonder through the forest chasing¬†butterfly’s,¬†¬†drums are beaten as you run for your life from giant, man eating spiders. There’s always a piece of music in there ¬†that seems to capture the moment, especially when¬†facing dragons. You can always tell if a dragon is near even before you see it. It may be the flapping of it’s heavy wings tearing through the air, it may be the¬†ferocious sound of it’s roar (similar to¬†Jurassic¬†park’s T-Rex), it may be that the ground around you starts to shake as it lands somewhere close by, or it could be that Skyrim’s epic theme song kicks in¬†which is only triggered when a dragon has you in it’s sights and moves in for the kill. Once the music starts and you are going toe to toe with with one of these mystical beasts, you can get truly lost in this game. You see it often in movies,¬†¬† a protagonist reaching the end of his journey and trying to over come his greatest enemy. In Skyrim this happens every time you face a dragon and I can honestly say that each time is always more exciting than the last thanks¬†largely¬†to the to way the theme song makes each battle feel like you’ve reached the ultimate climax only to move on, find another dragon and do it all over again. It really is one of the most powerful theme songs in gaming history and one that really creates a dramatic and pulse racing battle between man and beast. Go and have a listen on youtube, or better yet, buy Skyrim. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Skyrim or MW3?

Posted: November 6, 2011 in Games

In just a few days time MW3 will hit store shelves and people will be¬†piling up like lemmings to get their copy. Call of duty is one of the most well known franchises in video game history, but is it time they quit while they’re ahead? Or will they stick to the same old copy and paste routine until their devoted fans clock on to their sly and¬†dastardly ways? In all honesty I used to love CoD, It was the most intense and realistic shooter I had played. I can still remember the¬†exhilarating feeling I got from crawling through the grass with Captain Price in our¬†ghillie suits, while surrounded by a brigade of soldiers and tanks!¬†But¬†somewhere along the lines they’ve lost touch with the realism and turned the beloved shooter into just another FPS riddled with more carnage and¬†mayhem than a¬†bad¬†Michael Bay movie. These days most of the die hard CoD fans only play the game for one reason, the multi-player. ¬†CoD multi-player is fast, fluid and a lot of fun and what they do, they do well. Now though, it just seems to be getting old. Yes it was fun when it first came out but has the game really changed that much since MW1? No. Spawn, get a kill, die. Rinse and repeat. I’m sure the game will be worth a play at some point but I’m in no rush. ¬†In six months time Call of Duty Future Warfare or Space Warfare or some kind of warfare will be out and I’ll pick this up Pre-owned for a tenner, which is a gutting thought for the chap in America who just purchased a leaked copy of the game for a whopping $1725. Muppet.

Is MW3 the game for you?

Just three days after the release of Activision’s 8 hour long shooter, Bethesda’s 300+ hour¬†behemoth of a game,¬† The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is unleased to wreak havoc upon our social lives. Yes, that’s right, Bethesda game studios have confirmed that with the main quest, the side quests and enough exploration to turn Bear Grylls into a hermit, that Skyrim will have well over 300+ hours of glorious gameplay.

Gonna slay me some dragons.

If you are unfamiliar with the series, the Elder Scrolls games are first person-action-adventure¬†RPGs¬†known for giving the player complete freedom to play as they see fit. If you want to spend you time hunting deer in the woods, you can. If you want to raid¬†dungeons and tombs, you can. If you want to take part in drinking game at the local pub, you can. maybe you want become a thief or a murderer? You can if that’s what floats your boat.¬†In Skyrim’s main quest you are Dragonborn, A dragon slayer apointed by the Gods to fend of the threat of¬†Alduin, the Nordic god of destruction. Taking the form of a gigantic dragon, Alduin is prophesied to consume the world with his servants, the Jills (a race of black dragons). Set two hundred years after the previous Elder Scrolls game (Oblivion) players will be able to explore the vast world of Skyrim, from the blizzard engulfed mountain tops to lush, green forests, there’s thousands of secrets to uncover and hundreds of hours of gameplay to enjoy, it’s hard to turn a blind eye to the¬†fascinating world that is Skyrim. This game is looking so amazing that it could¬†in fact¬†be enough to cure my wife’s locust head popping addiction. Bless her.

Skyrim comes out 11-11-11

Will you part with £40 for some  mediocre, military mayhem?

Or some dragon slaying, dungeon raiding exploration?

7 Updates to Battlefield 3

Posted: November 4, 2011 in Games

Dice has just¬†rolled out an update that fixes a few¬†issues on Battlefield 3’s multiplayer. Here’s the list as seen on their blog.

1) QUICK MATCH FUNCTIONALITY
Status:
 Improved! Try it out and leave your feedback on the Battlelog forums

Since we rolled out the server patch yesterday, we have seen a big increase in quick match functionality on consoles. You should now be able to join a quick match the majority of times without any issues.

However, please make sure to check that you are matched against servers in your own region by following this guide for the console server browser. If not, this could potentially have a negative impact on lag and rubber banding. We will keep working on improving the quick match stability and reliability further.

2) JOINING SQUADS AND STAYING THERE
Status:
 Fix pending in the very near future

Some people have experienced difficulties joining and staying in squads on console. We have identified the cause of this problem and will hopefully have a fix ready to roll out very soon. You should then be able to stay together in your squad throughout the game. Please follow this guide for how to create and join squads prior to starting a match, which is the quickest and most reliable way to make sure you play with the right people in the right game. We will return tomorrow with an update on when this fix is live.

3) HARDCORE SERVER AVAILABILITY
Status:
 Improved! Try it out and leave your feedback on the Battlelog forums

We know you love your hardcore mode. We have identified and eliminated the problem that made our hardcore servers disappear after being live for a set period of time. You should now find plenty of Hardcore servers to join.

4) LAG AND RUBBER BANDING
Status:
 Fix just rolled out. We are positive this will improve the situation. Help us verify by playing Caspian Border and Tehran Highway on Conquest!

Some users are experiencing lag and rubber banding, mostly tied to Conquest mode on Tehran Highway and Caspian Border. This was due to a bug in the network code that has been identified and eliminated in today’s console server patch, resulting in a big improvement in these cases. For PC, this issue was improved in an earlier server patch.

However, please make sure to check that you are matched against servers in your own region by following this guide for the console server browser. If not, this could potentially have a negative impact on lag and rubber banding. We will keep working on improving the quick match stability and reliability further.

5) DEFAULT REGION SETTING IN SERVER BROWSER
Status: 
Fix pending in the very near future

Some players, mostly in the US, may have had their default region setting in the server browser set to Europe, which would lead to unnecessary lag and rubber banding. This would incorrectly also affect your quick match attempts. This will be fixed shortly. You can still manually use the server browser and set the desired server region to any region you want.

You might also want to follow this guide for how to best take advantage of the features in the console server browser. That way, you have total control over what game mode and map to join, and on what server.

6) GAME STABILITY
Status:
 Greatly improved! Leave your feedback on the Battlelog forums

In today’s server patch, we also made numerous fixes to the overall game stability, including the elimination of two of the most frequent game crashed we have seen reports on. You should see an increase in game stability from now on.

7) ORIGIN INSTALLATION AND AUTHENTICATION ISSUES
Status:
 Fix pending in the very near future

Since the launch of Battlefield 3, Origin have implemented a host of improvements and will continue to do so as long as gamers are playing Battlefield 3. The next Origin update is scheduled for early November and includes a number of critical updates that will fix most of the problems that people have experienced. For the latest updates, answers, and support from the Origin Team, please visit the Origin Help Center.

The Origin Team will continue to appreciate any and all feedback and will address it as quickly as possible. Please go to the Origin Help Center for support directly relating to Origin.

Once again, thanks for playing, and thanks for sharing your feedback with us at DICE and EA. Let us know how you are enjoying the game now that the fixes mentioned in this blog post have rolled out or will roll out in the near future. We are passionate about supporting all our games for a very long time, including Battlefield 3. This is just the start.

 

If you have any feedback at all, please visit Battlelog and let us know what you think in the forums available there.

For support, head to our Battlefield 3 Help Center, where you can see the answer to the most frequent questions and live chat with our game advisors.

Karl Magnus Troedsson

General Manager, DICE

Gears of War 3 gets free DLC.

Posted: November 4, 2011 in Games

Epic has announced that a brand new free DLC pack for Gears of War 3 will be arriving later this month.

The Versus Booster Map Pack¬†¬†adds five new maps to the public matchmaking list — two from the original¬†Gears of War¬†(Swamp and Clocktower) and three from the recently-released Horde Command pack¬†(Azura, Rustlung and Blood Drive).

Some of you may remember ‘Swamp’ as ‘Bullet Marsh’ which was part of a DLC pack for the first Gears. The map was a figure-eight shaped area with dark muddy swamps on the lower part and¬†slightly lit roads and huts above.

Players that have already purchased the Horde Command Pack¬†will retain exclusive access to the pack’s fortification upgrades, additional characters and weapon skins.

One more downloadable pack is in the works for an end-of-the-year release. Raam’s Shadow¬†will be available for purchase December 13, the last pack offered before the new year, with more expected in 2012.

The Versus Booster Map Pack will be available for download November 24.

Batman,Gears 3 and DLC.

Posted: October 26, 2011 in Games

I’ve always been a huge fan of DLC, more is never a bad thing. Or is it? DLC¬†normally¬†consists of new maps for¬†multi-player, new characters, new weapons or even new story content. Most of the time a game will be released and a few months down the line DLC will be announced and we’re all kept happy for a little while longer with some shiny new content for our favourite games. Now it seems game developers are getting lazy and just cutting things from the game and releasing that as DLC. For¬†instance, the silverback in Gears 3 has rockets in the story mode, how hard is it really to keep that ability in horde mode? No? What’s that? Make people pay extra for it? Even the ones who paid ¬£100 for the Epic edition? Yep. Brilliant. I’ve¬†recently been severely pissed off by Batman: Arkham city. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. I’d probably go as far as to say that it’s my game of the year. The thing that pissed me off though is the fact that I purchased the collectors edition for ¬£60, I¬†received a statue of Batman, a code for a challenge map, the dark knight returns skin, a cartoon similar to Halo legends, the Batman soundtrack, an¬†art book and¬†of course the game itself.¬†¬†Now, I didn’t even get a case! They just shoved the game it the back of the art book. The soundtrack isn’t a CD, it’s a piece of paper with a code on it. The challenge map is awesome though, it takes place in the the iceberg lounge where you come up against never ending waves of bad guy for Batman to beat to bloody pulp.

Robin is such a bender.

Robin. Robin is the little bender that’s pissed me off and here’s why. Buying the most expensive version of the game and not getting a code¬†for a character who has his own maps and achievements that are already on the game is¬†beyond frustrating, especially when my brother paid the normal price for the game and gets to play as Robin whilst I get to stroll around as an old, fat Batman! Here’s the kicker, I now have to wait until the 21st of November before parting with 560 Microsoft Points to use Robin and earn my chievos. Anyway, that’s enough of me rambling on about Batman. The point is that this is starting to happen with an awful lot of quality games and it’s getting old really fast. The next Gears 3 DLC has been announced however, and it sounds very promising.

RAAM’s back. See? His back.

The DLC consists of a three hour long¬†campaign¬†which is set soon after E-day. Gamers will play as Zeta Squad, which includes Michael Barrick from the Gears of War graphic novels, Minh Young Kim from Gears of War, Tai Kaliso from Gears of War 2 and new character Alicia Valera. General RAAM, the final boss of the original Gears of War, will also be playable.¬†RAAM’s Shadow will be available on December 13th for 1,200 Microsoft Points. It will be free to anyone who purchased a Gears of War 3¬†season pass.

By now most of you will have seen the¬†game-play demo of Aliens: Colonial marines. If you haven’t, you can take a peek here. http://youtu.be/rBIpUEjFFHA

So far it’s looking pretty good, although, so was Duke Nukem Forever. It seems that Gearbox software have a way of sucking us in with their trailers and demos, only to disappoint with the final product. That said, the game could still come out on top. From what we’ve seen in the trailers, the game looks very¬†similar to¬†James Cameron’s Aliens, even thought it’s actually set shortly after the events of alien3.

Even the loader will be making an appearance.

Fans of the franchise will be pleased to know that the iconic Pulse rifles, the chilling scenery of¬†LV-426 and the heart stopping sound of the motion tracker are all there. Speaking of the motion tracker, this game seems to¬†implement it much more¬†interestingly then that of Aliens vs Predator. Rather than constantly have the tracker in the corner of your screen like a radar or a map, to see it you have to¬†manually switch between the motion tracker and your gun, similar to Doom when you would be switching between your gun and your flashlight. This sounds like it could create some really intense moments. Especially when playing with friends. One of you holding the motion tracker whilst trying to direct your pals in the direction of the ever nearing blip, and they’re shouting at you “where, I can’t see it!” Then boom, you’re all dead.¬†¬†Awesome.

"God, I hope it's just a hamster."

The four player co-operative¬†campaign will more than likely be the highlight of Aliens: Colonial marines, we’ve¬†already seen this ¬†year how this feature can make an average game into a great game with Dead island, so it’s¬†definitely a welcome edition

Aliens has inspired some of video games¬†greatest characters and weapons such as Halo’s¬†Sergeant Johnson who is dangerously close to being Sergeant Apone’s clone and the assault rifle, which is basically the Pulse rifle. The fact Aliens: Colonial marines is based around this film means that it has a lot to live up to.

This game has been a long time coming ¬†(just like the Duke) and is set to be on store shelves sometime next year. It’s¬†defiantly looking good but still seems to be lacking the polish that a game this long in the making should have.

Are you excited about Aliens: Colonial marines? Or will you let this one pass you by?

Jim.