Sunday, 16 December 2012

Tom and Me - Part Five: Yeehaw, Jester's dead!


When the news broke that the Tom Clancy name was being put to a flight game for consoles, I envisioned a game that brought the authenticity and some of the complexity of a PC flight sim to consoles.

 
Well, that didn’t happen. The first HAWX game was a decent enough game, but too arcadey for the Clancy brand. And there was also no sense of speed, even when flying low.
There were good points though. The controls worked well, graphics were good and the satellite imaging in particular was well received. There was also a nice cross-over with Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2. In one mission during the latter, you call in an airstrike. In HAWX, you play as the jets providing cover for the Ghosts and delivering that strike. An inspired idea that nicely tied things together.
 
Nevertheless, the game overall was just a bit flat, so it was to the surprise of everyone when a sequel was announced. Again, we had a cross-over with Ghost Recon – this time the long delayed Ghost Recon Future Soldier. But the gap between the two games was so long that any semblance of them existing in the same universe was lost.

 
HAWX 2 added take off and landings and upped the action. But we were still lacking any sense of flying Mach 2 with our hair on fire.
 
HAWX should have been a great series, but was sadly lacking and I doubt we will see any further entries.

 *   *   *
  
So where next for the Tom Clancy brand? Ghost Recon Future Soldier was well-received and I expect we’ll see more. Rainbow Six Patriots is on the way, though I it may now be a next-gen title. But first up on the list is Splinter Cell Blacklist. And I for one, cannot wait.
 
But will we see any new additions to the Clancy franchise in the future. Well now that Ubisoft has bought the rights to slap his name on anything we could well see “Tom Clancy’s Crash Bandicoot” or “Tom Clancy’s Smash Court Tennis”, but hopefully they’ll show a little restraint and stick to flashbangs, night-vision, sneaking around and snapping necks.




Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Games Workshop Meadowhall

Some things are just meant to be there. No matter what. Woolworths should have had its place forever on our high streets. Michael Jackson wasn’t meant to die.
 
I had no particular love for Woolworths, but that didn’t matter. If something is there long enough, it becomes a feature, however subtle, in your life. Take it away and a part of yourself is taken away too.
Apply this to something you love and the void is all the greater – perhaps never to be filled.
 
The Meadowhall branch of Games Workshop is closing. If you’ve taken time out to read this, that sentence just slapped you round the face, even if you already knew. Read it again. Bam! A punch to the gut.
Some Corporate Suit - sat in a leather swivel-chair someplace in an oak-panelled office surrounded by motivational posters and projection graphs - has just kicked your heart out into the street.
 
Even your normal every day punter who has never set foot in the store would say – “damn, that’s a real shame”. If they have spent enough time in Meadowhall, just walking past something every few weeks, it becomes a feature in their lives, if it’s there long enough.
 
And boy has it been there long enough. Meadowhall has been open for 22 years. The Games Workshop store – 20.
 
Twenty years. People have grown up there, for Christ’s sake!
 
It’s not like it’s a normal shop either is it. This isn’t Marks and Spencers. How many shops can you go and just hang out? How often do you go into HMV and the staff know you by name? Maybe in some little back street, privately owned, dusty book shop you might find something similar , but on the highstreet? In a massive shopping centre? No. It happens in just one place. And it’s been happening in a corner of Meadowhall for twenty years.
 
But things move on. Times they are a-changin’.
 
I was worried about Games Workshop in 2008 when the economy collapsed like a house of cards. Leisure companies everywhere began to struggle. I feared people would spend more time paying bills and making ends meet, than playing with toy soldiers. I purposefully tried to support the Meadowhall store specifically. Even when in another city, visiting a different branch, I’d think  - “no I’ll buy that extra Dreadnought at Meadowhall. I’ll get the next Heresy novel at my store.” Now I wonder if I could’ve done more.
But then it seemed liked I shouldn’t have worried - Games Workshop as a company has continued to perform and surprise in the face of economic uncertainty.
 
But the good times couldn’t last forever. They never can.
Some stores are reducing their opening hours. Some stores are closing. Sadly, it was Meadowhall’s time.
 
I won’t try to see the reason in it. I felt for sure that it was a stronger store and better placed than Sheffield’s. I don’t see the wisdom in opening a new store in Rotherham because the town is like 28 Days Later. And there’s nowhere to sodding park. But what do I know? I’ll never be the man in the swivel-chair.
 
I’m thankful that it was there at all. I’m thankful for the friends I’ve made and I’ll do my best to keep in touch, get together and play some games – Still supporting GW Meadowhall, even when it’s a Starbucks.
 
Meadowhall’s Games Workshop is a small, perfect little corner of the world. Somewhere to go when your other half is queuing outside Hollisters. Somewhere to talk, gather, spend money on silly things that only mean anything to a select few. Something that’s meant to be there. No matter what.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Tom and Me - Part Four: It's the end of the world as we know it

In early 2008 a viral marketing campaign began on the Internet, teasing information about a new Tom Clancy game. It suggested widespread destruction, a global conflict that would encompass all arms of the Clancy brand.
 
Excited didn’t quite cover it.
 
And so, in November 2008, Tom Clancy’s EndWar was released – a real-time strategy game where you took a God’s eye view of the battlefield, commanding your troops in World War III being fought between Russia, the United States and a unified European alliance.

The problem with RTS games on consoles is the controls. They are primarily designed for point and click PC gaming and while games such as Command and Conquer and Halo Wars have a had a good go at adapting controls for the gamepad, it has still been a little awkward.
 
EndWar’s answer is a stroke of genius. Almost the entire game can be controlled through voice commands. “Unit 1, attack Hostile 5!”; “Deploy gunships!”; “Unit 2, secure Alpha!” These are the sounds of Tom Clancy’s EndWar and it all works brilliantly. Not only are the controls effective, but the use of voice is also incredibly immersive, making you feel like the commanding officer overseeing his forces.

Unfortunately, sales-wise, EndWar didn’t perform and we’re unlikely to get a sequel. Indeed, its story has since been written out of canon by HAWX and Ghost Recon Future Soldier. But EndWar will remain as a great example of innovation and how real-time strategy can be achieved on console.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

NHL 13



It all began with EA Sports Double Header on the Sega Megadrive. EA Hockey and John Madden Football in one package that set the ball rolling on a 20 year journey across 4 consoles and, for me at least, eleven NHL games.
 
NHLPA 93 followed and while it didn’t have the official teams, it did have all the players and it also refined some of the gaming mechanics of the first game. 

Despite my love for it, I didn’t get another NHL game until NHL 2000 on the Sony PlayStation. I played this to death – working through five consecutive seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes. I rebought the game recently and it is so fast and arcadey it’s untrue! Still fun though.

NHL 2004 was the next one I bought on the PS2 and it was superb. Playing it now, it is too fast and too focussed on the big hits, but at the time we couldn’t imagine ice hockey games getting any better than this. Which is why I didn’t get another until the Xbox 360 came along and NHL 07 was unleashed on the world with the all-new Skill Stick. 

The Skill Stick allows you to control the player’s skates with the left stick and the hockey stick with the right. By the time you got the hang of it, it was evident there was no going back. Ice hockey videogaming had changed forever. THIS was the way to play. 
  
NHL 08 refined the Skill Stick controls and we still look back on it fondly – though it has to be said it was particularly easy to score. NHL 09 went the other way and was super hard to score, but a year later, NHL 10 found a happy medium between the two.
 
Since then, with NHL 11 and 12, the series has been treading water. Both are great games, but the changes have been minimal and it felt like we had hit the ceiling on what they can do with the series on the current consoles.
 
Then this happened:

 
NHL 13, for me, is the best in the series. The new True Performance skating engine creates realistic momentum affecting the players movement and turning circles in relation to their speed and the True Broadcast camera gives a superb presentation just like watching it on TV.
 
There are refinements across the board that have just come together to create a perfect simulation of the sport. Sure, there are a few slider adjustments you’ll want to make and if you’re using the True Broadcast camera then it’s a shame the fight cam is still in first person. The commentary – while improved – is still not up the same street as the 2K series of sports games, but these are just small niggles.
 
In NHL 13 you have to fight for every goal. Every lost turnover is a desperate occurrence and every goal a punch-the-air moment.
 
I’ve been saying this for 20 years, but they’ll surely never beat this year’s. Never.

Until NHL 14 of course.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Move

I know, I know. These blog updates are getting further and further apart. But any of you who have been keeping up with me on Twitter will know things have been a bit busy of late. Samantha and I have now moved into a flat together and things are going well.
 
My head is full of stuff I wouldn’t normally have to think about – bills, contracts, direct debits, cleaning, cooking, have I switched the oven off – the list goes on. But I’ve started to relax. We still have a list of things to work on and a few more things to get, but generally speaking, it’s fine.
 
Rather selfishly, one of my main concerns going into living together was how my own time and hobbies would be affected. I foolishly thought that it would be the end of everything. I’d no longer be going out with friends, playing video games or painting toy soldiers. Comicbooks! Throw them out!
 
And of course, none of that has happened. There are adjustments to be made and you’ve got to make sure all the really important things are out of the way first, but there’s still plenty of time to live the life you enjoy and have always led. In the first week I’ve put in a good 5+ hours of gaming, been to the cinema with a mate, prepped a model for painting and even had a game of Dreadfleet with Samantha. All without annoying her. Except when she thought I was cheating at Dreadfleet, (She did go onto win though, so everything was fine).
 
So, all is right with the world.
 
I still have to get the Internet installed and then acquire a laptop so I’ll be able to get back on the blogging. Until then, bear with me, there’s more to come – as soon as the bed is made and the kitchen floor is swept.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Games Day 2012

There are really only three reasons I don't mind getting up at 5am: Christmas Day, to catch a plane abroad and Games Day.


Games Day has become one of my favourite days of the year and this year's was my fifth.
Meeting up with the Meadowhall crew at 6am, we were picked up by the coach and arrived in record time at the LG Arena, Birmingham.


We may have had another hour to wait for the powers that be to let us in, but we were at the front of the queue.

Like some kind of ninja, my friend Tim (whom I had crossed paths with on Twitter and met previously at a Forge World event), made his way from the back of the queue to where I was. We passed the next hour talking about our plans for the day, what we were going to buy and hoped to see and also about how to juggle the hobby whilst living with long-suffering girlfriends.

(I encourage you to follow Tim on Twitter here, and check out his blog warllama40k.blogspot.co.uk, where he has written a 3-part round-up of this year's event).

As the barriers lifted, we headed straight for the Forge World stands. After the diabolicle queues at last year's event, GW had moved the sales stands into the massive Hall 1. While there was still room to make the Forge World area bigger, it was still a far better system than we've seen previously.

My mind was focussed on getting the Games Day model. While I knew they would have plenty to go around, I didn't want to risk not getting one. This year's model - taken from the cover of 2nd Edition Warhammer 40,000 - is just the defining image of Warhammer from my childhood.

I secured the model as I joined the Forge World queue. It was here Tim and I got seperated in our bid to secure Book I of Forge World's Horus Heresy series. Neither of us were disappointed, though we would have to lug a heavy book around with us all day.

From here I took a walk around The Pavilion, taking in the great gaming tables and art competitions.


Moving through to the LG Arena I made a point to speak to Phill Kelly about how wonderful I thought Dreadfleet was. We had a brief discussion about the scenario types and then I went on my way as his table was crowded all day with people wanting to discuss the new Chaos Space Marines Codex.

I had a stroll around the Licensed Games area, the Golden Demon cabinets and took in the Armies on Parade. Here are a few pictures.


After lunch, I went back to the sales area and picked up my next Horus Heresy novel - Tales of Heresy - before checking out the ForgeWorld area and this fantastic set up depicting the battle for Istvaan III:


It was here I met up with Tim again and we shared a few thoughts on the day.

Afterwards, I made my way to the front of the stage ready for the Golden Demon and competition winners. And some amazing models there were too.

So what have we learned?

Games Workshop learned from last year's sales stand mistakes and improved matters immensely.

The quality of the painting on display both in Golden Demon and Armies on Parade continues to rise. Truly impressive.

And it was also apparent that Warhammer 40,000 is the main selling point for GW right now. Granted, Forge World were releasing Horus Heresy and the new Chaos marines were being shown - so it was bound to be very 40k focused. But I still though there could have been more from Warhammer Fantasy and The Lord of the Rings. I didn't mind myself, as I only play 40K - so far! - but if that was the otherway round, I'd have felt a little bit left out.

But all in all, this was another great GamesDay. Bring on next year's!





Saturday, 22 September 2012

Blog Update

When I started this blog my posts and updates were frequent. Often several in a week. Then it calmed down and settled into a one a week update.

The past fortnight, however, there hasn't been one. First off - the explanation. I've been pretty busy in my spare time sorting the move into a flat with my fiancee.Yes, it's time to make that first grown up step. I've fought it for too long.

I expect the next month or so will continue to be busy, but fear not, there are blog posts still planned.

Coming soon:

Tom and Me: Part 4
NHL 13
Games Day 2012

And also, I thought I'd do a few blogs about the flat and the move. As much as this blog has stuck to my hobbies, it would be wrong to ignore something as momentous as moving out of the home you've lived in forever and heading out to fend for yourself.

So, have faith, stay tuned. There's more to come from JD's Blog.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Canis Wolfborn: A Photo Diary


Sometime ago on Facebook, I made this Photo Diary of the painting of Canis Wolfborn for my Space Wolves army. I decided I'd convert it into a blog post to share with you. Bare in mind that this was before Finecast and the new paint range.   



The model comes in about 7 pieces. After cleaning it up and removing all of the unsavoury bits you get with metal models, I super glued it all together. There were a few gaps here and there which I filled with putty - known in the business as "Green Stuff".

The face is always the focal point of a model, so I started that first. After undercoating the model with Chaos Black spray, I gave the face a coat of Tallarn Flesh foundation, followed by a wash of Ogryn Flesh, to provide shadow in the recesses.

Leaving the original colour in the recesses, I painted the rest of the face with Dwarf Flesh, then painted the raised areas with a mixture of Dwarf Flesh and Bleached Bone. I then added Skull White to that mixture and further highlighted.

The eyes: Painting them to make the character look to one side is both easier to paint than trying to centre the eyes and also adds to the expression.

The hair was first painted with Scorched Brown. I then highlighted it with Vermin Brown before another highlight of a 1:1 mix of Vermin Brown and Vomit Brown.
I then added Fortress Grey to this mix for a few highlights around the beard etc. He is several centuries old after all!


I basecoated the wolf's fur with Khemri Brown Foundation.

Fur - Chaos black at the top - drybrushing further down. Bleached bone thicker at the bottom, drybrushing upwards. Then Skull White drybrushed from the bottom up. Highlighted with Fortress Grey and Skull White on the black.
Then it was all given a wash of Devlan Mud.
I'll write about the detailing on the face when it's finished.



 

The eye has been painted and further highlights to the tongue and teeth.

The armour has been painted with a 1:1 mix of Space Wolves Grey and Shadow Grey. The cape and fists were painted with Mechrite Red Foundation.

Any skulls or bones were first painted with Vomit Brown, followed by Bleached Bone. Then a wash of Gryphonne Sepia. Then highlighted with Bleached Bone and finally Skull White.

The gold on the armour etc, was painted first with a 3:1 mix of Shining Gold and Bestial Brown. It was then highlighted with Shining Gold before being given a wash of Ogryn Flesh. The final highlights are Burnished Gold, followed by a 1:1 mix of Burnished Gold and Mithril Silver.


With the model just about finished, it was time for the base. I marked out where I wanted the model to stand and then covered the base in sand.

After undercoating the base with Chaos Black spray, I gave it two coats of Graveyard Earth, followed by a drybrushing of Vomit Brown. Then a lighter drybrushing with Bleached Bone.

I then stuck the model to the base and sprayed it all with Purity Seal to protect it.


I added snow effect and dead grass to the base.

The finished model.











Monday, 3 September 2012

Tom and Me - Part Three: I Am Sam


So it was while I was happily playing away on Ghost Recon on my new PC that I heard about Splinter Cell creating waves over on the Xbox.
 
I managed to get a hold of a copy of the PC version through a friend and really enjoyed it. The true Splinter Cell obsession didn’t start right away though. In fact, Pandora Tomorrow came and went and I didn’t even check it out.
 
But then something happened. I was round at a mate’s house when he decided to draw the curtains and turn out the light. This would have been somewhat worrying if he hadn’t then booted up the Xbox, tuned up the volume and proceeded to show me Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. And I was blown away. It looked amazing and this was truly the way it should be played.
 
By this time, I had bought myself a PS2 and so the next day I went out and bought Chaos Theory. And then the obsession started. There I was in my front room, curtains drawn and a small sound system doing its best to vibrate the walls – playing Chaos Theory over and over. Hours spent in the dark. Superb.
 
I went on to buy Pandora Tomorrow both for the PS2 and the Gameboy Advance. I got Chaos Theory again for the Xbox (once I’d got the 360), the mobile phone and the DS (a terrible version!).
 
When Double Agent was released for the 360, I also bought the Xbox and PS2 versions! I have to say, as good as the 360 one is, the story is told much better in the 6th gen version and if you’re a fan, you should check it out.
 
 
Then all when quiet for a while. I moved on to other games and there was no sign of a new Splinter Cell. Not until 2007 when we were greeted with this:

 
A hobo Sam Fisher. The gameplay video for Splinter Cell Conviction was interesting. A new take on the franchise. A bold step in a new direction. But then it disappeared. There were delays and rumours that the game had been scrapped. Thankfully, this was only partly true.
 
Splinter Cell Conviction remergedat E3 2009 with a whole new look that put the hobo to shame. With the Mark and Execute and Last Known Position features, Sam Fisher was made into a predator, slick and efficient. When the game was finally released in April 2010 - Brilliant story-telling, amazing gameplay and a superb co-op campaign to boot ensured that Splinter Cell Conviction rose to the top of my Xbox 360 titles and became one of my favourite games of all time.
 
And it looks like the sequel – Splinter Cell: Blacklist could well do the same. I’ll leave you with these demo videos, showing two different approaches to the same mission. Enjoy.



Sunday, 26 August 2012

Warhammer Painting Progress - Part I


Yesterday morning I was sorting out my paints and generally clearing out a drawer when I came across a packet with "Forge World" emblazoned across the top. It took me a few seconds to realise what it was - A Space Wolf Venerable Dreadnought I'd bought from a Forge World day at Warhammer World a few months ago. I'd completely forgotten about it. If this isn't a sign that I buy too much hobby stuff, I don't know what is.

And then the very same day the new Warhammer 40,000 box set was revealed with some stunning Dark Angel and Chaos Space Marine models. Obviously, I have to get it.

But let's get a handle on things here. I need to get on top of the painting. Get stuff done and finished before moving onto something else.

So I thought I'd list what I still have unpainted as a means of motivation and keeping myself and others who might read this blog up to date on my progress. So here goes:

Ultramarines:
  • 5 Tactical marines
  • A Devestator Squad
  • 3 bikers
Space Wolves:
  • A Venerable Dreadnought (which I still need to buy the arms for)..
Eldar:
  • Striking Scorpians
  • 5 Dire Avengers
  • Swooping Hawks (Going to buy some Finecast ones of these to replace my metal ones)
  • Harlequins
  • Avatar of Khaine
Dark Eldar:

  • Lelith Hesperax
Scenery:
  • Finish Basilica
  • Two Bastions
  • Quad guns etc
Dreadfleet:
  • Grimnir's Thunder
  • Flaming Scimitar
  • Seadrake
  • Skabrus
  • Treasure tokens
  • All auxiliaries
  • Navigation rod, wind gauge etc.
Other:
  •   Karazov on the Throne of Judgment.
Wow. I've depressed myself now. A lot of work ahead.

When I've finished the Blood Claws I'm working on at the minute, I'm going to go back to Dreadfleet. And we'll just see how we go from there.

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Top 5

 

 Fellow list-lovers.

The words of a friend of mine from a piece he wrote a while ago:

"....every list has to be preceded with a disclaimer that the list is only valid for the period of your life up until now. you cannot claim that x will definitely be your favourite film of all time ever. that just cheapens the value of the list.
I'm looking forwards to day when the man visits me on my deathbed with the reel-to-reel to record my definitive lists. Be prepared."

Brilliantly put.

I want to address something that I’ve been experiencing over the past year or so. I’m finding it easier to make definitive lists.

For as long as we’ve been doing Top 5s and Top 10s, it’s always been quite scatological, determined by your mood and experiences at the time. The lists have come with an unspoken caveat that this is transient. In the moment. Likely to change.

But recently I have found that I can more easily slot a song choice into a list and say – that’s it.
 
With films, I’ve never been able to answer the question – “What’s your favourite film?” We’ve always had to categorise. Top 5 Action, Horror, Romance, Comedies and so on. But I was watching Casablanca sometime last year (something I do every couple of months) and as I half-mimed along with the words coming out of the TV, I was struck with a thought: This is it. This is my one. Casablanca is my one. My favourite, my be-all-and-end-all.

You might argue that I was just in the moment and enjoying the film to the point that all others felt inferior. But the thought has stayed with me. Casablanca stands firm. My number one, with a bullet.

How did this happen? Why is it that I can now say that Elvis Presley’s “American Trilogy” and “If I Can Dream” are in my Top 10 songs along with “All My Loving” by The Beatles and, dare I say it, my FAVOURITE song, “One Fine Day” by The Chiffons?

Is anyone else experiencing this? And what does it mean?

I fear it has something to do with age. Have we reached the point for the first time, where we have seen enough films, read enough books, listened to enough songs to be able to make more informed and concrete decisions?

What is going on?

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Musical Moments in Movies

I wrote this article as a note on Facebook a few years ago. Thought I'd share it here - My ten favourite musical moments in film. The rule is – they must be songs and not scores, and no musicals. (In no particular order).....

1.) The end of Jerry McGuire when Bob Dylan’s "Shelter from the Storm" plays over Jerry, Dorothy and Ray’s walk through the park.

2.) Another Cameron Crowe movie: Vanilla Sky. David Aimes removes the mask and heads drunkenly into the night in search of Sophia as REM’s "Sweetness Follows" kicks in.

3.) Dazed & Confused. "Tuesday’s Gone" by Lynyrd Skynyrd serenades the party as it winds down. The empty cup, over the tap of the empty keg just the perfect image.

4.) "Just Like Honey" by The Jesus and Mary Chain, growing in strength as Bob and Charlotte part ways in Lost In Translation.

5.) The long tracking shot into the Copacabana club in Goodfellas is probably the most perfect shot in cinema. Made all the more so with "Then He Kissed Me" by The Crystals.

6.) Singing "Falling Slowly", Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova fall in love before your eyes in Once.

7.) Edith Piaf singing "Tu Es Partout" as the troops wait for their finest and, for many of them, final hour in Saving Private Ryan.

8.) Fight Club. The Pixies. "Where is my Mind?" = Possibly the best ending to a film ever.

9.) Creedence Clearwater Revival’s "Fortunate Son" greets the arrival of Forrest Gump into Vietnam.

10.) Jim Carrey in Yes Man, urging a guy off the ledge with "Third Eye Blind’s" Jumper.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Mean Machines Sega


Inspired by @warllama40k's video reviews of White Dwarf magazines, I dug out this old copy of Mean Machines Sega and made a video of my own. 

Here it is, devided into two parts. The quality is a bit rubbish, but ne'mind.




Sunday, 5 August 2012

Tom and Me - Part Two: Believe in Ghosts



While everyone moved onto the PS2, I was left behind. It would be some time before I would get one myself, but in the meantime, we upgraded our computer.

The first game I bought was Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon. Combining the tactical gameplay of Rainbow Six with more open warfare, this game – along with its two excellent expansions 
Desert Siege and Island Thunder – made a big impression.


I bought Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm on the PS2 sometime later and while it wasn’t up to the same standards as the PC games, it entertained, largely due to the headset that came with the game, allowing you to issue orders to your squad with voice commands.

Now the PlayStation 2 might have been selling bucket loads around this time, but it was the Xbox that was gaining ground as the most powerful console on the market. That is no excuse, however, for the difference in quality between Ghost Recon 2 on the Xbox and the version over on the PS2. The latter was pretty terrible. It did, however, introduce Captain Scott Mitchell and a third-person perspective to the series.


For the PS2 at least, we were back to first-person for Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, but that was eclipsed entirely by the same game on the new Xbox 360. It is difficult to quantify how important GRAW was to the 360. When the console was released we had PGR3 and Call of Duty 2 among a few others. They played and looked well, but it wasn’t the big step up we were all expecting. Then Advanced Warfighter came along and blew us away. Stunning graphics and terrific gameplay which – aside from a few glitches and a lot of screen tear – still holds up even now. GRAW set the ball rolling for the Xbox 360 in a big way.


Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 didn’t make any huge leaps, but it refined the mechanics of the previous game and was a joy to play.

Then everything went silent. Ghost Recon Future Soldier was set for a 2009 release, but was pushed back to 2010. It would be delayed twice more until it finally released in May 2012. Thankfully, it was worth the wait.


With brilliant stealth gameplay mechanics and graphically sharing some similarities with EA's Frostbite 2 engine, Ghost Recon Future Soldier came along at the perfect time for all those looking for a Call of Duty alternative.

The game garnered positive reviews and sold well, proving the market is still there for Tom Clancy flavoured gunplay.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Warhammer: My First Game of 6th Edition 40K

Last weekend I brought the grim darkness of the far future to my dining table for my first game of Warhammer 40,000 6th edition.
 
I wanted to keep things simple and let the new rules emerge naturally over the course of the game. So it was Eldar vs Space Wolves, 600 points in the Battleforce Recon mission.
 
It being a relatively small battlefield, the Farseer moved in close enough in his first turn to use one of the new psychic powers. “Puppet Master”, from the Telepathy discipline allows a psyker to take control of a target and make a shooting attack with it. It is also a "Focussed Witchfire" ability which means that if the psychic test is passed with a total of 5 or less, the Psyker can choose which member of the target unit he takes control of. In this instance, the Eldar Farseer commanded the plasma gun-toting marine to fire on his comrades, killing one.
 
It was a great start to the game and things were only going to get better. The Rangers fired on the Wolf Lord and Blood Claw pack from their high vantage point in the Basilica. They would have wounded the Lord twice (him being the closest model, had it not being for the “Look Out, Sir!” attempt by one of the young  marines. When a wound is allocated to one of your characters and there is another model from the same unit within 6", you are allowed a "Look Out, Sir!" attempt. On the roll of a 4+ you can take the wound on another model instead.


In the Space Wolf turn the Wolf Lord set off up the field and thanks to the new charge distance rolls, managed to get in close combat with the Eldar War Walker on his first turn! The new Overwatch rule allows the unit being charged to fire on the enemy in an attempt to slow the advance. Representing the desperate nature of this volley, the unit can only fire using Ballistic Skill 1. On this occasion, the Wolf Lord made it through unscathed and ploughed into the walker. This was also my first game with the Space Wolves and knowing the Wolf Lord had an oath to keep and a Saga to add to, I charged him in without fear of the consequences. While his wolf companion was killed, the Lord came out triumphant and set his sights on the Eldar Farseer. 
 
Characters can now issue challenges to a unit in close combat, to face an enemy character one-on-one and it was my intention for the Wolf Lord to issue such a challenge to the Farseer. 
Sadly, the challenge never happened as the Wolf Lord was brought down by mass shuriken catapult fire from the Dire Avengers using the Exarch’s Bladestorm power. 
 
The Eldar went on to win the game 7-6 and the greater number and variety of ways you can now score points is a great addition to 40K. Not only do you get points for destroyed units and capturing objectives, but also being the first to destroy an enemy unit (First Blood), kill the opposing player’s Warlord (Slay the Warlord) and by having a unit in the enemy's deployment at the end of the game (Linebreaker).
 
My first game of 6th edition Warhammer 40,000 was a fast and viscious affair and I can’t wait to try out the new rules in a bigger game.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Where do you draw The Line?

To say the games industry is dominated by shooters is an understatement. With the likes of Halo, Gears of War, Battlefield and Call of Duty selling hand over fist year on year, you could be forgiven for wanting something a little different. It may be surprising then, that I’m selling you another one. But bear with me.
 
On the face of things, Spec Ops: The Line is your basic third person military shooter. It looks well, plays fine, has decent squad mechanics. So far so what, right?
 
Where it differs from the pack is its themes and story and the way that story unfolds. This is one of the most gruelling games you’re likely to play and I don’t mean that it’s frustrating in any way. I mean that by the end you will have been put through an emotional wringer. Your family and friends will question the vacant stare in your eyes while those who have been there nod knowingly with a glance of shared sympathy, shame and regret.
 
Spec Ops: The Line is inspired by Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”, the same book on which Apocalypse Now is based and centres around a three man squad of soldiers sent into Dubai after a series of city-destroying sandstorms. Your character – Walker  – and his squad of Delta operatives are tasked with finding the US Army rescue party sent into evacuate the city and who have since fallen off the grid – the leader of which appears to now rule over the ruins of Dubai as some cult-like figure.
 

It all starts out normally enough with great visuals and natural interaction between the squad members. But it soon descends into darker territory. The game throws various moral choices your way and your actions begin to take their toll. Your squad mates will start to bicker amongst themselves and question your orders and you’ll be questioning yourself before this is through. One sequence has you raining deadly white phosphorous down on an area full of enemy combatants. As the cloud disappears, most other games would have had your squad high-fiving each other as the screen cuts to the next chapter. In Spec Ops, you have to walk through the aftermath of what you just did – soldiers burning and screaming for mercy at your feet.
 
It’s strong stuff and it’s a game that will remain with you long after you switch off the console. It reminds you how compelling games can be and it makes you wonder why more books aren’t adapted into videogames.
 
If you’d prefer your shooters with less gung-ho and more brains, Spec Ops: The Line comes highly recommended. I’ve been there. The nurse says I’m ok to talk about it now.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Warhammer - My Next Project

As any hobbiest will tell you, a wargamer’s thoughts are never far from his next project. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve lost interest in your current one, it’s just that Games Workshop have a tendency to keep passing shiny new models under our noses to tempt us and our wallets.
 
This is the reason I still have unpainted Eldar and Space Marines.
 
With the finish line in sight on my Space Wolves, my thoughts have turned to what’s next. Yes I want to get those Eldar and Space Marines finished and also get the last four Dreadfleet vessels done, but I can’t help thinking about something new.

The new Allies options available in the new edition of Warhammer 40,000 is a brilliant way into a new army – allowing you to paint up a couple of units and try them out with one of your existing forces.
Now, I’ve always fancied making a Sisters of Battle army. I love the whole nuns with guns thing they have going on. I do think, however, they haven’t been given the same level of care by Games Workshop as their more popular armies. This isn’t reflected in the models, of course. They have some brilliant ones, but their Codex update was just two issues of White Dwarf, not a proper book release. And their models are still metal, seemingly only available in blister packs from the GW website. No Finecast, no spanking new releases.
 
It’s because of this that I’ve changed my initial idea. Instead of building on the one unit of Battle Sisters and Saint Celestine I’ve painted, I’ve decided to use them as allies instead. Initially, I’ll be using them with my Ultramarines, but in the long term, I’d like to do a Grey Knights army with whom Celestine and co. will march into battle.

But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Space Wolves aren’t finished yet and the Eldar have been pestering me to finish them for years. Keep an eye on my Geek’s Corner page for more pictures to be uploaded soon.