Wednesday, 23 January 2013

2013 Game Preview

So the 2013 gaming calendar was kicked off last week with the release of DMC, the Devil May Cry reboot, and it has received some very good reviews.

But what else do we have to look forward to this year? Here are just a few of the titles heading our way:

Tomb Raider - also receiving the reboot treatment and this is looking really good. Square Enix, who seem to get into hot water on a weekly basis over ill-advised advertising or comments, have just about gotten over the whole rapeyness debacle of this new Lara Croft story and are now busy confusing the Internet with their multiplayer reveal. Nevertheless, this game is looking ace.

Gears of War: Judgment goes the prequel root and gives Baird his ti me Iin the spotlight. More Gears is never a bad thing.

Watch Dogs is supposedly releasing on current-gen consoles, but the graphics and ambition of this suggest it could be a game that straddles the old and new consoles. This is looking very impressive. Check out the video below:

Bioshock Infinite has been the subject of a few delays, but each trailer continues to excite. The world created here looks set to match Rapture and more besides.

Star Wars 1313 is surely a next-generation title. For those wanting a more adult game set in the Star Wars universe, this looks like the one you've been waiting for.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist is looking to combine the new of Conviction with the old school moves snd gameplay of the older titles in the series. This is at the very top of my list of most anticipated, but the latest news is we're going to have to wait until August. Here's the latest trailer:

Crysis 3 is on the way, ready to razzle and dazzle us with the Cry Engine 3 graphics. Personally, I thought the second game fell a little flat, but we'll see how this turns out.

GRID 2 is finally coming, allegedly some time in the summer. The first game brilliantly combined a realistic driving mechanic with fun racing that had a real meaty impact. This should be great.

What? They're still making Army of Two games? They shouldn't have made the first one for crying out loud! Nevertheless, if rubbish games is your thing, watch out for Army Of Two: The Devil's Cartel.

Speaking of still making games - Call of Juarez is due its 4th game in 2013, believe it or not. I quite liked the first game, but never thought it would grow into a full blown franchise. Choosing to go back to the Old West after the ill-received The Cartel, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is due in Spring.

Aliens Colonial Marines seems like it has been in devlopment longer than Alan Wake, but it is almost upon us and if it captures the feel of Aliens as the trailers seem to suggest, this should be a brilliantly terrifying experience.

Also possibly/maybe coming in 2013/in our lifetimes:

Dark Souls 2
Dead Island: Riptide
Remember Me
Dragon Age 3: Inquisition
Dead Space 3 Metro: Last Light
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2
South Park: The Stick of Truth
Lost Planet 3 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct
Rainbow Six: Patriots
Thief 4

With the exception of Splinter Cell, there are no games with a confirmed release date later than April, which suggests the new Xbox and PlayStation are on the verge of announcements with possible releases at the end of the year. Watch this space.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

JD's Gaming Awards 2012

Best Graphics
This would have gone to the ever-gorgeous Assassin’s Creed, had I not bought Medal of Honor Warfighter at the last minute. Despite the reviews for it being all over the place, there’s no denying the Frostbite 2 engine is spectacularly good.
Best Gameplay
Car chases, martial arts, leaping from one vehicle onto the back of another, gunfights, all done smoothly, fluidly with maximum fun and no frustration – this one goes to Sleeping Dogs.
Best Sound
The Frostbite 2 engine isn’t all about the graphics. The sounds it produces, even on normal TV speakers, is nothing short of amazing. Turn the volume up, this goes to Medal of Honor Warfighter.
Best Music
As stirring as ever and suiting the action perfectly, the winner of the Best Music Award is Mass Effect 3.
Best Story
With its twists and turns, harrowing set pieces and a story that stays with you long after the console is switched off, Spec Ops: The Line makes you wonder why more books aren’t made into games.
Best Voice Acting
All the actors involved in Spec Ops: The Line did a great job at getting across the hell the characters are going through.
Most Innovative
Sharing the award for most innovative are XCOM: Enemy Unknown for bringing a superb strategy game to us console knuckle-draggers and to Ghost Recon Future Soldier for its superb “camera” work, innovative co-op integration with the single player and for bringing the stealth shooter bang up to date.
Best Local Multiplayer
With AI improved enough to be able to add bots to almost any game mode, get 4 player split screen on and Call of Duty: Black Ops II wins this hands down.
Best Online Multiplayer
With so many game modes to choose from, an impressive level of customisation, new loadouts and a general all round awesomeness, Halo 4 takes it.
Best Dashboard app / feature
There is an ever-growing selection of apps available on the Xbox now and Internet Explorer has finally arrived, scooping this award for its clear, well presented interface, simple navigation and great use of Xbox SmartGlass.
Special Mention
I’ve added this “Special Mention” because sometimes there are games that aren’t winning any of the official awards, but still deserve their time in the spotlight. In 2012, there were two that fit that billing. Dishonored – one of the year’s best games, with brilliant gameplay and a fantastic environment; and NHL 13, the best simulation of the sport we’ve seen yet – EA still pulling it out of the bag after all these years.
Best Game
There have been some great games this year, but for its varied and fun gameplay, great story and cast of characters, my best game of 2012 is Sleeping Dogs.

New Year's Resolutions

The last New Year’s Resolution I stuck to was to start a new hobby. 5 years later, I’m still playing with toy soldiers.
This year, I’ve thought of a few that are easily achievable, but a little different from my usual new year aims.
Write more letters. Well, really it should be “write letters” as I don’t write any at the minute. It’s a dying art and I want to revive it in my little corner of the world. So I’m going to write to some friends who have moved away. After I’ve run out of friends, I might just write letters of complaint to people and get free stuff sent to me.
Lose my phone. No, not really. Not LITERALLY lose it. I mean don’t be such a slave to it. As much as feel bad when I miss a call or don’t get back to a message straight away, I’m fed up of having it with me all the time, even when I’m at home. It should be left on the side and I’ll get back to any messages or Twitter updates when I get to them.
Get everything I own – Games Workshop-wise – painted and finished. Everything, before I buy anything else. Any fellow hobbyests reading this will be rolling with laughing at this statement.
And finally – Ride a horse.
I’ve wanted to do this for a while, so I will endeavor to get it done in 2013. I’m not just going to climb over a farmer’s fence and jump on a horse, I’m going to, I don’t know, buy a horse riding lesson or something.
So that’s it. Feel free to share your own in the comments below or on Twitter. I’ll update you on these come January 2014.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Christmas 2012

Having moved out of my home that I shared with my mum and dad and into a flat with my fiancĂ©e, Christmas this year was always going to feel a little different. I was faced with the conundrum of where to have Christmas dinner. Thankfully my m9um said we should go to her on Boxing Day and Samantha’s mum’s for Christmas Day. Sorted.
Since moving in together I had been looking forward to Christmas morning, just the two of us exchanging gifts and it all went how I’d imagined. We then got ready and went to my Mum and Dad’s for breakfast. My mum had made eggs benedict and it was delicious.
We exchanged more presents then went to Samantha’s mum’s. The food was great and a good time was had by all, but I couldn’t help feeling a little sad that this was the first Christmas dinner I’d ever had away from home.
But Boxing Day cheered me up for sure with cold turkey and home-made chips. Thanks Mum.
All in all, Christmas 2012 was a good one. I felt a bit more grown-up, what with the new flat and all – and it still isn’t a coat that sits comfortably on my shoulders yet. But hey, at 31, it damn well should.
2013 may well be my most grown-up year yet.

2012 - My Year in Games

As I’m not a games journalist who gets showered with free games, this breakdown of my gaming of 2012 is of course confined to the titles that I myself have bought and played. So there are some notable exceptions that you would ordinarily expect to see in rundown of 2012’s highlights. Forza Horizon did well, but I’ve never liked the franchise so I didn’t bother. And I haven’t gotten around to getting Far Cry 3 yet, despite it causing a stir at the end of the year.
So, without further ado, here is my 2012 in games:
I bought two games in January, neither of which were new releases. Both Kinect Sports Season Two and PowerUp Heroes were released in 2011 and are great Kinect titles. Kinect Sports 1 and 2 are must haves if you own Kinect and PowerUp Heroes, while simple, is an affective and fun fighting game.
Still no boxed games as I turned to XBLA for Alan Wake’s American Nightmare and I Am Alive. The former is a fun addition to the franchise, if a little repetitive, but I Am Alive is a frustrating mess that looked promising to begin with, but ultimately did little to prevent me deleting it to make room for more Battlefield 3 updates.

SSX made a welcome return and it is a good game, albeit one with less of a difficult curve and more a difficulty wall that you slam face first into about half way through the single player.
Mass Effect 3 was next and while I haven’t finished it yet, this series continues to impress. In my view – the Xbox 360’s greatest trilogy.
I also bought a FIFA game in March 2012. And I’m not a football fan. But then FIFA Street isn’t really football is it, more a bunch of people playing heads and volleys.
And in an effort to stir some enthusiasm in me for Modern Warfare 3, I bought the first DLC collection. It didn’t work.
Alpha Protocol is an old RPG espionage effort from Sega that I picked up for a fiver. When it was in development, they made out you could play as a suave Bond type or a hard as nails Jack Bauer, but ultimately this game turned out to be a complete turd. Absolutely dreadful with a complete prick for a main character.
April also saw the release of Trials Evolution on XBLA. The sequel to Trials HD, this delivers more thrills and spills in a game that will leave you foaming at the mouth in frustration and yet still pressing that back button to restart the course.

Ghost Recon Future Soldier finally arrived and proved that good things really do come to those who wait. A brilliant game that went straight into my list of favourites.
With Battlefield 3 taking up all my multiplayer time, I opted for Premium membership, which ensured me all the DLC, 2 week’s ahead of the hoi-palloi and a bunch of other extras to boot. 4000 MSP but worth it.
A real surprise in June was Spec Ops: The Line. Based on Joseph Conrad’s book Heart of Darkness, this third person shooter delivered a harrowing experience I’m still having nightmares about. You’ll be able to pick this up on the cheap and I recommend it if you fancy a shooter with a difference.
The summer drought really kicked in in July, with no games, but August saw the release of Madden NFL 13, which I bought, obviously, because I am an EA slave who just hands over money while drooling onto the counter.
But then Sleeping Dogs landed -  Square Enix saving it from True Crime cancellation by Activision – and rocked the worlds of everyone who played it. A martial arts Grand Theft Auto that, I’m not afraid to say, did everything better than GTA have done it. How do you like them apples?

NHL 13 was released and I duly handed over 40 quid, expecting a carbon copy of the last three games. What I got was the best entry in the series so far. I kid you not. The gameplay and presentation are top notch with every goal fought for and every lost possession a disaster.
This month saw the released of Assassin’s Creed III, but it would be my Birthday in November when I would finally get my hands on it. And it was…….good. But not the great I was expecting. It’s quite buggy and the long list of frustrations started in AC II are just carried over to this one with a few more added for good measure. I really enjoyed the setting though and the graphics as ever, are fantastic.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown brought the old Amiga strategy game up to date and a gripping experience to consoles. While not to everyone’s taste and with a steep difficulty curve, XCOM proved a hit with gamers and critics.
As did Dishonored – a brilliant stealth game with a wonderfully realised game world in 19th century London-inspired Dunwall. Rich with detail, Dunwall is a place to lose hours in. A fantastic gaming experience.

Halo 4 was the first entry in the series from 343 since Bungie left the franchise behind. And boy did 343 step up to the plate. Cracking sound and music, the best visuals of the series so far and smooth gameplay against some well designed enemies. Add that to the most emotionally charged Halo story yet, and this is one of the games of the year.
November, as ever saw another Call of Duty release – this time Treyarch’s Black Ops II. The campaign is a little disappointing, but the multiplayer is better than MW3 with Treyarch trying their best to innovate in franchise that is rapidly growing stale. Has the Call of Duty bubble burst?
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed wasn’t a sequel I was expecting, despite the fine quality of the original, but this is great fun with loads to unlock if you can get past the harder difficulty settings.
Hitman: Absolution was my last purchase of the year and so far is…..ok. I can see why people love it, but I’ve never got on with this series and that has only continued with this entry. I think it is more linear than people make out and incredibly frustrating. I will endeavour to finish this one though.
And so we look to the games of 2013. Watch out for a preview blog entry soon.