BONUS CONTENT: Looking Back at Fallout 3 (PC, PS3, XBOX 360)

“War, War Never Changes”


War may never change but the Fallout series sure does. Fallout 3 was the game that revolutionised the series and set up the archetype for the series to follow. The first of many Fallout game to be developed by Bethesda, by taking their formula that made The Elder Scrolls games a success and incorporating it into the Fallout series really modernised the series. This was done in order to streamline the gameplay to bring the game to consoles. Bethesda however kept concepts from the original series such as a focus on non-linear gameplay, black comedy and depravity such as cannibalism & slavery. Although they decided to not include moments that break the 4th wall in order to not shatter the illusion that the game world was real.

Although it does matter how good the story was, how streamline the gameplay was, how immersive the environment was. Reality come crashing down on you as soon as the game freezes and requires you to restart the console. This was my experience with the game. It was a fantastic game but was ruined by having so many bugs that even it’s bugs had bugs. One of the most memorable was one that made everyone’s heads disappear leaving only their hair, eyes and teeth. The image haunts me to this day.

I never played any of the previous Fallout games before Fallout 3, I have since but 3 still as my favourite of the series. I find that without the nostalgia effect the first 2 Fallout’s and Tactics haven’t aged well and feel dated. This really hampered my ability to really loose myself in the games. Fallout 3 & New Vegas on the other hand is one that I still go back and play. I originally bought it on PS3 at release and later bought the Game of the Year edition on Steam so that I could go back to it without needing to find & break out my PS3.

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BONUS CONTENT: Looking Back at Final Fantasy X (PC, PS2, PS3, PS4, PSVITA, SWITCH, XBOX ONE)

With the release of the new Final Fantasy XVI trailer I can’t help but think about the series as a whole as well as my favourites of the series. I struggle to pick which is my favourite, that would be like picking a favourite child. I would never be happy carving a hierarchy into stone, solemnly decreeing that this is the definitive order and so shall it be for all time. I would probably make my list out of water as like water my opinions are fluid, constantly shifting from outside influences. Sure some titles will remain in familiar territory. Using the Premier League as a metaphor, FFXIII will always fall around the back of the pack and fight against relegation, FFXV despite soiling it’s underpants in the final third does enough to hover around mid-table with the likes of FFV, FFXII & FFIX, although the latter 2 do make it high enough now and again that they could qualify for the Europa League and the top spot is usually fought over by FFVII, FFVIII & todays subject matter FFX.

Final Fantasy X tells the story of Tidus (whom I always pronounced as Tie-dus, it was years later when I watched a making of documentary that it was pronounced Tee-dus), a young blitzball player from the large city of Zanarkand. His home is attacked by the gargantuan being known as Sin. After the attack, Tidus finds himself lost hundreds of miles from home. A chance encounter with the summoner Yuna and her guardians finds Tidus a way home.

The game really made you invest in and bond with the characters which makes the stories twist and the end that much more heart wrenching. As previously mentioned the world was also full, vibrant and rich, oozing with culture and lore. This is even before I mention blitzball which I spent more time playing than I care to remember. I would have loved blitzball to have been release as a FIFA-like spin off. Graphically too, FFX was a huge step up from the previous console generation and truly showed off the capabilities of the PS2 at the time.

Final Fantasy X may be a game that fights for the top spot but that doesn’t mean that it is without it’s flaws. It was the first Final Fantasy to ditch the world map for a series of smaller locations which made the world feel small and far too linear, not to the extent that XIII did but it was still an unwelcome change to the series. Also the sphere grid levelling system meant that because everyone can learn every skill & ability each character looses their unique feel in battle later in the game, with Overdrives and Yuna’s summon ability the only unique abilities left. This is not to mention some of the cringe worthy dialogue (The laughing scene in particular).

From the outset you can tell that Final Fantasy X is a very different breed from the Final Fantasy games that came before it. The use of voice overs, mo-cap & skeletal animation & 3D backgrounds being the most noticeable. This huge evolutionary leap is due in part to the series’ jump from the Playstation to the Playstation 2. The massive increase in hardware capability gave Square that unrestricted creative freedom to take the series away from the tried and tested Final Fantasy model. Although this does mean a few classic flavours of the series get left out in the cold, this however is the price of progress and whether you like it or not it’s happening. I brought up this same point in my Final Fantasy XIII review all those years ago and although I am for the evolution of the series and it’s modernising to introduce new players to the franchise I still yearn for some of the classic characteristics to come creeping back in, mainly a full explore-able world. We’ve not had one of them since FFIX. Imagine if Final Fantasy XVI comes with a modern fully rendered 3d world to get lost in, full of secret locations and optional cities and towns? If it does I think I will genuinely loose my shit.

Persona 5 (PS3, PS4)

Now this really is an out of date one. Given that the game was released 1) Jointly for the PS3 and PS4 2) Over 3 years ago worldwide 3) Even longer that that in Japan & 4) We’ve seen a re-vamped version released in Persona 5 Royal since then. However, it’s what I’ve been putting my time into recently so you all get to hear about it. I take you now to the Metaverse, It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s lorded over by people with their own agenda. Who can save us but a group of High School students and their cat aka The Phantom Thieves.

I for one do enjoy JRPG’s (at least the ones that make it this far west), although I must confess I haven’t really played many outside of the larger franchises (basically anything made by Square-Enix). I had heard of the Persona series before this but never actually played one until now. I saw it on sale on the Playstation Store, took a leap and I am glad that I did. Despite how much of a slog the game felt at times I was truly driven by the story and the asthetics.

The game centres around the mute, unnamed, leader of the gang refereed to as ‘Joker’. After being put on probation for a crime he didn’t commit, he’s shipped off to Tokyo to live with a family friend, he enrols in Shujin Academy and whilst there he discovers the Metaverse, the ability to user Persona’s (a manifestation of a persons personality, granting them power in the Metaverse) and the people who use the Metaverse for their own selfish gain. It’s up to Joker and his Scooby Gang to right the wrongs of these evil doers and bring them to justice.

The game is very much split into 2 parts and as the game progresses you jump between the two. In the real world the game is a life-sim, where you go to school, hang out with friends, go shopping etc. It is here where you’ll be spending most of your time, gathering information on bad guys in order to gain entrance into their Palaces (their own little corners of the Metaverse). The sections in the Metaverse are where the action happens and where you fight the bad guys. Like any JRPG worth it’s weight in salt it’s purely turn-based combat. The combat itself is fairly balanced, each character has their set elemental strengths and weaknesses and with a good mixture of elemental enemies in each palace without excessive grinding it’s never a complete “walk in the park”. However Joker’s ability to switch Personas means that if you have a good mixture of different elements and enough items to keep replenishing his SP then battles can become quite one sided.

I really enjoyed the art and aesthetics of the game, despite being released for the last console generation the anime art style prevents it from feeling old, in fact there were a few times I forgot this. Warning, don’t mistake the cute anime style to mean that it’s a kids game. The casual swearing, hyper-sexuality of some of the characters and the literal penis monsters will tell you it’s not (yes you read correctly, there are literal penis monsters). The soundtrack too has a kind of cult classic vibe to it, I find it hard to put into a category but if forced I’d say “Soul” but I’m not happy doing so. It’s very memorable and almost makes everyday life seems cool.

Now for my final thought. My main gripe with the game has to be the length of it. Now don’t get me wrong, I like length in a game as much as the next person so long as the gaps are not padded out with papier mache. I must have easily put 100+ hrs into the game before I beat the final boss but I recon that with a good editor that could easily have been halved. Also whilst I’m at it, the number of times I’ve been going through a story phase only for it to abruptly stop at days end so I can tuck Joker into beddie bies really annoyed me, needlessly breaking the flow of the game. Then again I supposed if did that it would technically be classed as a visual novel rather than a game. Still despite that I put in the hours needed to reach the end because I was genuinely interested and wanted to keep going until the end.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown (PC, PS3, XBOX 360)

I find myself these days playing video games less and less, this is probably due to me not having a lot of money and being bored on what games I already have, hence why all my reviews are on games that have been around longer than the Crab Nebula… Anyway. This time around aliens have invaded Earth and it’s up to the nations of the world to camber together and create the XCOM initiative. Earth’s first and last line of defence.So here we go, XCOM Enemy Unknown.

I was originally going to play Metal Gear Rising because it was free to PSPlus users, and since I’m a PSPlus user it made sense to download it. The problem was it would take some time to download, therefore I decided to play something else in the mean time. This game was kicking around because again it was free to PSPlus users so I thought I’d give it a go. I remembered hearing it was quite good so decided at long last to give it a go, and you know what? I’m glad I did. I found myself staying up until the small hours of the evening engrossed in the workings of my squad and my base.

XCOM starts in the near future at the start of a global alien invasion, you are a nameless, faceless commander type in charge of XCOM, a massive international effort to protect the earth from alien threat. It’s up to you to not only manage the troops in battle, but also take charge of base management, research and development, engineering, finance, caring for the troops etc. It sounds like a lot but as long as you don’t do anything too stupid a lot of it manages itself. Just make sure not to spend your money and resources too frivolously and you’ll do fine.

Gameplay wise, it’s your standard turn based strategy game, you move your troops, the aliens move theirs until someone has no troops left. Each troop type has their own special abilities and traits, Snipers fire from long range, Assault troops get up close and personal, Support troops heal the wounded and Heavy troops blow shit up. As you play your troops grow and get stronger (if they survive that is) unlocking more perks. Meaning later on when the aliens show they really mean business and send their elite soldiers you can still have a fighting chance. It’s also up to you to keep the different international bodies happy by deploying satellites above them to detect enemy spaceships, or complete missions within their borders. If not they will pull their support from the XCOM initiative and you’ll lose their funding.

One point I do need to mention that both goes for and against XCOM is the randomness of the missions, especially that of the UFO missions, which is the main way to collect the alien alloy which is needed for a lot of the later armours and weapons. It can be in game weeks between aliens invade areas where you have satellite uplinks. Therefore if you blow all your alloy on developing your base, you’ll end up sitting around twiddling your thumbs for the next week waiting for a ship to turn up and knowing you it’ll land somewhere with a low threat level and force some country like France to leave the XCOM initiative, but I digress. In it’s favour though it does mean that each game is different in the fine detail. Sure the story never changes but how you get from the beginning to the end is sure to be different.

Another mild annoyance I have with the game is with the difficulty curve. Especially for first time players. The difficulty ramps up over time rather than how much effort the play puts into the war. At the beginning the game the aliens are pretty much sending out the kids on work experience and over time they send out more aliens each more powerful than the last. So if they start sending out their berserker and you haven’t researched laser weapons yet you are in for a world of hurt. Which is why I’d recommend getting laser weapons as soon as they become available. I’d also recommend levelling up many soldiers rather than take out the same 6 over and over. I say this because later in the game it is near impossible to train recruits due to the difficulty of the enemies. Equipping them with the best weapons and ammo may help but it does seam that the enemies know which of my squad and instantly seeks them out. Maybe they can sense inexperience, I don’t know. On a similar note I thank god for the ability to save at almost any time. The amount of times I made one false move and ended up losing my best men was beyond measure.

Now my final thought. I started writing this review months ago, but never got around to finishing it because I was too busy playing it. I enjoyed it from start to finish and all moments in between. I must get for anyone especially those with a PSPlus subscription because you’ll be getting a great game for a ridiculous price.

The Last of Us (PS3)

Thank you, Thank you. Yes it’s good to be back. I know it has been a very very long while since I did one of these (discounting Tomb Raider because I started that before my hiatus). I’ve been busy moving house and getting a dog and such, but please don’t think that it makes me unprofessional (a shout out to any potential employers as much of a long shot as it may be). This time I’m reviewing my favourite game of 2013. The reason it’s my favourite is probably due to the fact I didn’t play Grand Theft Auto V or Bioshock Infinite. Without further or do, The Last of Us.

The Last of Us starts before the outbreak. A young girl named Sarah wakes to find her farther Joel missing, he then appears barking like a madman and proclaims that they have to go. Her Uncle and his brother Tommy appears in a car and they proceed to escape the town. Car crashes, Sarah is shot and killed then the story skips ahead 20 years, to present day where a grumpy, middle aged Joel is working with a woman called Tess as smugglers in the militarised safe zone of Boston. During an operation Joel and Tess finds Marlene the leader of the terrorist group The Fireflies. She tasks Joel and Tess to smuggle a teenage girl Ellie out of the city and thus the story begins.

Lets get one thing straight right now. The Last of Us may have been my game of the year but it still falls short of the other holders of that title (Far Cry 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim & Heavy Rain). It does have a number of issues, my biggest one must be the lack of immersion. I just couldn’t get sucked into it. I’d stick it on, play for an hour or so and then find something else I’d rather do. I really wanted it to be one of those games I’d start playing at 7pm and find myself still playing it at 11am in the morning… 3 days later.

As regular readers will be aware I do like a good story well told, but to make a good game it’s got to be seamless with the gameplay, neither sacrificing one for the other. Sadly in the case of The Last of Us, it only get 2 out of 3 of these right. The story is very good and it’s told well (if a bit choppy at times), unfortunately it’s gameplay is the turd in the custard. Now I’m not the best person at playing video games but I like to think since I’ve been playing games for roughly 20 years I’d like to think that I’m defiantly above average. With that in mind, the amount of times I died because as I was sneaking up on an infected* only for it to miraculously know I was there and lunge with it’s unblock-able kill move, it’s controller snappingly frustrating. Ammo can be plentiful if you insist on resorting to melee or stealth and like the continual look of the loading screen, or fairly scares if your name is Nathan Drake. It gets easier the further into the game you get and the more guns and upgrades you have at hand.

The stealth engine as mentioned before can be overly sensitive, meaning enemies can pick up a sparrow fart from 5 miles away or the complete polar opposite and not notice a rhino charging through a china shop from which they’re purchasing a rather lovely vase. Some middle ground would be nice. This is just one of many examples of issues I’ve had with the gameplay, all of which effects the pacing of the story causing it to stop and start, stop and start constantly, which in turn effects how I feel about the story, which then has effect on my overall view of the game. A couple of tweeks to let the gameplay flow a bit more would have changed The Last of Us from a fairly good game to a rather excellent game.

Now for my final thought. Despite all the nasty stuff I said about The Last of Us, I have given it my “Game of the Year” badge over titles such as Papers Please, Tomb Raider, God of War Ascension, Remember Me, Metal Gear Rising & DMC. Sure had I played Bioshock Infinite, Grand Theft Auto V, Assassins Creed IV, Batman Arkham Origins, Saints Row IV, Beyond Two Souls, Total War: Rome II or Company of Heroes 2 I’d have given it to one of them, but the bottom line is this. Out of the 3 games I played last year that I’d recommend, The Last of Us I would recommend the most (the other 2 out of interest are Papers Please & Tomb Raider).

Finally because it’s a new year like last year I’ll share the game I am looking forward to the most this year. The nominees are as follows:

  • Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
  • South Park: The Stick of Truth
  • Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
  • InFamous: Second Son
  • The Elder Scrolls Online
  • Destiny
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition
  • Thief
  • The Walking Dead: Season Two
  • Watch Dogs

And the winner is:

Watch Dogs
Every trailer and every piece of game play footage I see gets me that little bit more excited each time. Graphically it looks amazing, it’s gameplay look smooth and seamless but most of all, it’s something new and something relevant to our modern way of life. That’s all for now and have a wonderful 2014.
* In this scenario, the infected does not refer to zombies but are human husks made from a mutated form of the ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungi which is known for infecting insects using their spores and take over their nervous functions.

Tomb Raider (PC, PS3, XBOX 360)

Today I find myself yet again sitting behind my desk with nothing to do. So instead of the usual (watch QI) I’ve decided to do something a little bit more constructive. I’ve decided to go on an adventure. Searching for the lost kingdom of the Yamatai on a remote island deep inside the Dragons Triangle far off the coast of Japan. It’s here I must learn to survive if I’m to ever find my way home. I am Lara Croft and I am a survivor… I’m not really, I’m actually overweight and jobless. Anyway, here’s Tomb Raider.

The opening sequence begins with Lara and the rest of the Scooby Gang sailing towards the lost kingdom of Yamatai, which just happens to be located within the Dragon’s Triangle, a dangerous no go area for all things maritime. This scares the jinkies out of some of the crew, but not Lara, no. She’s out to prove herself as a real archaeologist like her farther before her. Naturally as to be expected, shit goes down, the ship gets ripped in two and Lara and the rest of the Village People are stranded and looking for a way home.

I’ve enjoyed the Tomb Raider series since the beginning but given the fall in standards throughout the series it was defiantly due an over-haul sooner rather than later. So when I heard that a reboot was on the way I was really looking forward to it. When the first trailers and game footage was released at E3 in 2012 I was even more so. Then I got a copy, played it, put it down to sleep now and again, then completed it and thought to myself “For a reboot they really haven’t changed a lot”. The story still had the stain of the weird and wacky like all Tomb Raiders before it. Which is a shame because it starts off so well. Trapped on a remote island, good, island is a home to a psychopathic cult, understandable, psychopaths believe that the storms surrounding the island are caused by a goddess’s vengeful soul, far-fetched but as long as they aren’t right about any of th… oh, they are right? Dam, and I was hoping the series had before serious.

Tomb Raider is a good example of why you shouldn’t get excited about a game based on it’s trailers alone. For example, the trailers would have you believe that the game had a whole island to play around on, nope, you explore less than a third of the island even then it’s just linear interconnected corridors with the odd larger area to roam around. Also if the trailers were to be believed there would be survival mechanic in which you must find time to eat, sleep, drink and heal like Metal Gear Solid except without all the snakes. Again, you’d be wrong, there’s one moment at the beginning where you must hunt deer and make a fire in a tutorial esque fashion and after that it’s never seen again. It’s as if the game suddenly caught a bout of amnesia, came to next to a copy of Uncharted and continued like that was the norm. Now, I like the Uncharted series, but I like Uncharted being Uncharted, not Tomb Raider being Uncharted. The jumpy explory bits expected from a Tomb Raider game are as good as it’s ever been but when the actiony shooty bits start you might as well be playing Uncharted if Nathan Drake was a British, student girl on a gap year gone horribly wrong.

The game was described as telling the story of how Lara changed from a young naive child to a battle hardened, stone cold killer. Bless the game because you can tell it’s trying to humanise Lara but fails in it’s consistency. For example when she first kills a deer, she’s crying and is apologising to it. Or when she kills her first person after her attempted “rape” she’s crying, in distress and mentally and physically exhausted, feeling hopeless and overwhelmed by the situation she’s in. At this point you think “wow, this is a pretty dark, serious Lara”. Seconds later however, she capping crazy psychopaths like it’s going out of fashion. At that point all seriousness is lost and the series falls back into old habits again.

Now for my final thought. Tomb Raider really does suffer from a lack of ambition. It starts off very well by characterising what a good reboot should be. It’s new but has a sense of familiarity to it. Sadly though this drive isn’t continued throughout the game, it’s lost after the first half an hour, becoming less like a new spirit child and more like the old one in new pyjamas. The set for a serious, darker Tomb Raider is lost in favour for the same old song and dance from years gone by. Not that it was a bad game, in it’s own merits it’s one of the stronger games of the series but it had the potential to be so much more than it is. And on that bombshell it’s time for me to end, thank you very much for reading, Goodnight. *Then plays Jessica by The Allman Brothers*

Dishonored (PC, PS3 ,360)

Today I find myself yet again sitting behind my desk with nothing to do. So instead of the usual (watch Game of Thrones) I’ve decided to do something a little bit more constructive. Instead I decided to go to the steam-punk, industrial city of Dunwall. A city full to the brim of plague, rats and general nasty things. So everyone strap yourselves in and keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times. Here’s Dishonored.

Dishonored centres around Corvo Attano bodyguard to the Empress Jessamine and her daughter Emily. Upon his arrival back in Dunwall after a diplomatic mission away the Empress is assassinated and her daughter kidnapped. Corvo is framed for the crime and is sentenced to death. Just before his execution he manages to escape, with help from the rebellion who oppose to the rule of the new Regent Hiram Burrows (who masterminded the coup against the Empress). Soon after meeting the Loyalists, The Outsider (Some supernatural entity) visits Corvo granting him the use of his magic. Armed with his new powers and the resources of the Loyalists, Corvo now has the means to exact his revenge on those who framed him and rescue Emily.

The story flows like a river of bricks, being delivered in splutters at a time. With any kind of game like this there a plot twist at the end, but only those who have either spent much of their life living under a rock or were born yesterday will find it shocking. Most players will be on to it before Corvo has a chance to clean off his blade. I’m not saying that that story is participially bad, it’s just shallower than anything else Bethesda has put there name to. The game itself is short and isn’t really made much longer by the few optional missions. Although you can make it longer by playing the game twice, once to get the good ending, then again to get the evil ending.

The gameplay however is nothing short of fun. The game flows really well with smooth transitions between parkcour roof running, blinking across roof tops and finally jumping off a building to plant Corvo’s sword into the skull of an unaware guard. As I mentioned in my Awards of 2012 section, I enjoyed how fluid the gameplay felt. I also mentioned that there was a smaller number of techniques available. To explain what I meant I need to remind you of the first few shorts from the developers, they made a not of a few different ways to kill stuff. They went through about 4 or 5 and told us there was a whole lot more, turns out they were lying through there teeth’s. There only really a handful of ways to go around taking the life of those who see to bring you to justice. Not that that’s what’s upsetting me, I just don’t like being lied to, especially when it comes to me spending my own money.

One thing that it defiantly worth mentioning is the artistic merit of the game. With it’s unique character design and industrial steam-punk Victorian London overlay, it is a very pretty game. It just saddens me that the characters themselves seem so generic and lifeless, almost robotic. It just undermines the work of the graphic designers when boring characters are placed into such artistic surroundings. It would be much like gathering a bunch of hill billies and asking them to staff the Ritz.

Now for my final thought. Dishonored is a game I did enjoy playing, as you have read it was far from perfect, in fact it was no where near perfect. What it did get right however were the basics of how to make a fun game. It had the fluidity so transactions between each aspect of gameplay meaning that the gameplay didn’t jerk or suddenly stop. It was one smooth continual roller-coaster ride. This in itself is enough to warrant at least an recommendation, in short it’s not perfect, it’s fun and you should check it out. Even if it did spell it’s name wrong.

Borderlands 2 (PC, PS3, XBOX 360)

Today I find myself again sitting behind my desk with nothing to do. So instead of the usual (boot up Skyrim and kick me some dragon arse) I’ve decided to do something a little bit more constructive. Instead I decided to return to Pandora, not the one with the blue tentacled alien things, the one full of guns, bandits and things destined to kill you. Along for the ride are my Vault Hunter chums. If you haven’t guessed what it is yet you obviously didn’t read the title, for everyone else it’s Borderlands 2.

After the events of the first borderlands where we learnt that the Vault that the last guys had spent so much time and effort trying to find turned out to be full of nothing but hentai tentacle rape, we are told that apparently there is a bigger and better Vault somewhere in Pandora (not the one with the blue tentacled alien things). Normally that would be enough for sequel material these days, but Gear Box have higher aspirations than that. The opening of Vault v1.0 trigger some sort of global change of the laws of chemistry and a new element Eridium is created, it assumingly being very rare and powerful because it brings forth the epic Hyperion corporation ran by their charismatic leader Relatively Good Looking Jack. You start the game as one of 4 “new” Vault Hunters (I used inverted commas because the characters are more or less cut and paste of the characters from the first game) who’s job it is to stop Jack. The why however alludes me. My best guess is that it’s just something to do whilst visiting Pandora (not the one with the blue tentacled alien things), God knows there’s bugger all else to do.

Lets get one thing straight right off the bat. Although I did have moments of fun, I am not going to say it was a good game. Much like any Steven Seagal film… you know the rest (which from this point onwards shall be known as the Seagal Principle). I found most missions to be tedious and boring, go here, shoot this, pick it up, give it to me, repeat. Whilst I’m on the subject of problems the game has, there is a horrible balancing problem with the characters. I had a house-mate of mine play Co-op with me, he was the commando, I was the ninja. All he had to do was place a turret in the middle of the room and look on as bullets and missiles fly in the direction of anything that didn’t send him a Christmas card in the last 4 years. The ninja in comparison… turns invisible for 5 seconds. Because this gave me near to no advantage at killing anything more than a midget in close quarters I decided to specialise in using sniper rifles, when I did this I was so far away from the action by the time everyone was dead and I joined the group all the good loot was gone (that probably says more about my room mate than anything else). At this point I told him to piss off and played on my own. A better idea along the same lines would have been, slightly longer time, super speed, a bigger melee damage multiplier and most importantly NOT TO TURN VISIBLE AGAIN AFTER ONE SWING OF MY SWORD. Run around hacking bandits in half, a better idea… Moving on.

You know what I miss? The original Borderlands. No, not Borderlands one, the original concept for Borderlands. The one shown in the original teaser trailers (For those interested, it can be found here). A darker more Fallout-esque experience. If my memory serves me well I remember during the development of Borderlands, they announced that there would be various locations for key places on Pandora (not the one with the blue tentacled alien things) to be. Meaning the game world would be completely different each time you played it. Maybe it was dropped because it was too greater task. Shame. Instead the only unique USP of Borderlands is the “Role-Playing-Shooter” tag (Which means it’s a half-arsed shooter with half-arse RPG elements) and the huge number of guns.The first containing 3.5 million different varieties, The second close to 18 million. Seriously? Why so many guns, I can only use one at a time and equip 4 onto my person at any one time. Then again thinking about it, for each unique weapon there are 49 other copies (1 for each level requirement). Meaning the number of unique weapons is much less, but still a hell of a lot. Personally, it just seems like a lot of work for very little gain, the chances of finding the best gun for you in a single game is so small it’s not worth thinking about.

One thing that does set this game apart from is the fact that it has a antagonist. Aesthetically Pleasing Jack, owner of the Hyperion corporation. Apparently he’s after Iridium because a) It’s valuable and b) It can be used to open Vault v2.01. He’s eccentric, charismatic, egotistical and power hungry. The perfect antagonist. It was a toss up between him and Vaas for Character of the Year. The reason I went with Vaas in the was because Vaas didn’t own the company that would revive his enemies when they died. I get that he’s meant to be eccentric, but that’s a bit much, we’re on the same level as needlessly complicated ways to kill Bond here.

Now for my final thought. I’m not going to recommend nor will I condemn Borderlands 2, because chances are you’ve already played it, completed it and decided for yourself if it was worth it or not. I personally find it’s wacky, gun-hoe, stop-start, action gameplay a bit shallow and pointless, there’s just nothing in it bar a few witty retorts to keep me interested. I’ve got a lot more interesting games on my desk including Far Cry 3, Spec Ops: The Line, hell I’d even say Silent Hill Downpour is more interesting than this, yet I’ve spent more time playing Borderlands 2 than any of the other. I keep asking myself why I keep playing this and not any of the others. Maybe it’s because my inability to leave something incomplete… Yeah, that’ll do.

Assassins Creed III (PC, PS3, XBOX 360)

A lot has happened since the last time I metaphorically picked up my pen and wrote another rant about one thing or another. Although I doubt you want to hear about what’s been happening in my life over the past few months so for those of you who are interested here is what I thought of Assassins Creed III.

What can I say about the story behind Assassins Creed 3? In short Desmond and the Scooby gang are still searching for a way to prevent the end of all life. To do this Desmond must relive the genetic memories of his colonial ancestor Connor Kenway (or Ratohnhake:ton to his friends) to reveal the resting place of an amulet that unlocks some way to save everyone… presumably. Connor’s story revolves mostly around killing people linked to the Templars and witness significant moments in America’s war for independence.
On the subject I didn’t really like Connor all that much. He doesn’t really have the presence that Ezio or Altair had. Connor, despite looking pretty bad ass with bow and tomahawk in hand, he is more or less all bark and no bite. He also has no real reason to join the Assassins other than the fact that it was convenient for Desmond. Without revealing too much he essentially has a vision of the Assassins logo as was told to go forth from his village and seek this symbol. He finds Achilles over the next ridge who teaches Connor about the Templars and Assassins and his training begins. I still prefer him over Desmond mind, especially after what he does at the end.
Lets get to the marrow of the game now shall we. The killing of things… which is surprisingly vacant in this chapter of the series. There are a selection of dudes that Connor must kill because they burnt down his village. The fact that they all happen to be Templars is fairly convenient as well, so is the fact that most of them are Loyalists too. Instead as previously mentioned Connor must find his way to significant moments of American history and do his part to make sure things happen so the people fighting for freedom win (since that seems to be what being an assassin is all about it seems, not the murdering of people). such as the Boston Tea Party or Paul Revere’s Ride. The whole game feels like an interactive learning guide to the American Revolution. Far gone are the days of the original Assassins Creed where murder and the preparation for murder were the Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato of the BLT that was Assassins Creed. Assassins Creed II had the best assassinate to dicking about ratio. Brotherhood added one or two pieces to dick about with, Revelations even more so and now with Assassins Creed 3 it seems all that’s left is the dicking about.
Assassins Creed 3 does have a lot to side quests to do if you ever get bored of the main story arc, which I did on a decent number of occasional. In fact I would start every sequence seeking out all of the side missions just so I did something other than play through the story. Most of them involve finding skilled individuals to occupy Connors homestead, leading to the ability to craft objects and trade them across the frontier. As tedious as it sounds I did enjoy learning all about the residence, all there little back stories and how they came about moving to town. Also doing this allows you to craft the best weapons in the game as well as gain upgrades such as increased shot capacity or a larger quiver. The rest are made up of the usual motley crew. Assassinate this guy, deliver these letters, liberate this part of town etc.

All this is only half the battle. For once I did actually play the multi-player mode for Assassins Creed 3… and I enjoyed it. The hunting and assassinating of other players was stressful at times but it kept me entertained enough to see myself level up into the 20’s. It’s frustrating at  times but in my experience all multi-player modes are like that, at least all the ones I’ve played have been. It can be difficult when first starting, especially against other of higher rank with better equipment and perks, but one factor I like to point out which I was impressed with was that there were perks that were activated if you weren’t doing so well, to make easier for you to get a kill or not to be killed. Just a little thing I liked when starting out as a bit of a noob.

Overall I did enjoy Assassins Creed 3. Although it doesn’t hold a torch to Assassins Creed 2 and the games that followed it. Assassins Creed 3 is too sporadic. It’s nice that it has variety and substance, but without direction and guidance it’s easy to feel lost which ruins a games flow. The series defiantly peaked at Assassins Creed 2, since then the games have been getting more cluttered with each gimmick each game adds. It’s gotten to the point now that the game has lost the direction of the original. Assassins Creed was all about assassins assassinating for the creed. Now there’s no creed and assassins are few and far between. Then again, the name “Piss About and Do Bugger All 3” wouldn’t make much sense with out the previous “Piss About and Do Bugger All”, “Piss About and Do Bugger All 2”, “Piss About and Do Bugger All Brotherhood” and “Piss About and Do Bugger All Revelations”

Mass Effect 3 (PC, PS3, XBOX 360)

Yes, I know it’s been 3 months since my last rant but in my defence I spent that time getting a new computer, doing exams and generally not giving a shit. Now though I’m bored so I’ve decided to finish off this rant which I started writing 2 months ago. So to christen the new hardware, the finale of Shepard’s tale of conquest and heroism. In 2157, humanity discovered that it was not alone in the universe. Thirty years later, they found a peaceful place among dozens of galactic species. But this idyllic future is overshadowed by a dark past: Reapers, a sentient race of machines responsible for cleansing the galaxy of all organic life every 50,000 years, are about to return.The leaders of the galaxy are paralysed by indecision, unable to accept the legend of the Reapers as fact. But one soldier has seen the legend come to life.

And now the fate of the galaxy depends on Shepard …

The story begins with our first visit to Earth. Shepard after being discharged from the Alliance Navy is asked for help as the Reapers come to the galaxy to kill off all organic life. Suddenly the Reapers show up on their doorstep and shit goes down. Shepard makes a hasty retreat to unite the galaxy against the machine overlords. You’d think with the eradication of life in the galaxy as a consequence of failure, people would be more eager to provide their support. I suppose it just shows the ignorance and stubbornness of other species, dam aliens.

The first thing I want to mention is that the game is Origin exclusive. It’s crap yes I know and not just because of the spyware, ban friendly admins and complete lack of legal liability (because that isn’t reason enough). It just isn’t as good as Steam, Valve have a good system going with their absolutely amazing sales, major support for indy developers and competitive prices. Origin as I’m aware doesn’t have sales, stocks EA exclusive games and the prices are a rip-off at best. Sadly though EA are a bunch of selfish robbing bastards so as long as we want to play EA games, we sadly have to keep getting cock slapped by them.

Anyway, now the game. The game-play is pretty much that of Mass Effect 2, there are a few new tidbits for example Shepard can do a heavy melee attack by holding down the melee attack button which comes in very handy. Another new feature of the game is the weapon system. There is a good number of weapons available all of which are split into 5 types of weapon Pistol, Sub Machine Gun, Sniper Rifle, Shotgun and Assault Rifle. Each has about 4-5 different weapons and can be upgraded as and when you see fit. The customisation of weapons is one of few areas where Mass Effect 3 surpasses it’s previous instalments. The new hardware also gave me a chance to play the game in 3D. 1 word, DON’T. Aiming is a bitch, shadows are flickery and some items aren’t even where they should be, for example a shinning light appears both to the left and right of where it should be. Out of interest I replayed the 2nd one in 3D to see how they compared. It turns out that Mass Effect 2 had none of these problems… Why!?

I noticed a fair number of inconsistencies and rough edges through the game. One that annoyed me the most was just how many times wire frames of one object will pass through another. Who ever was in charge of QC at Bioware for this game, I hope they were shot out of a canon into the sun, or at least got a stern telling off. Another inconsistency I noticed was with that of the whole romancing of characters. In the end I ended up having a relationship with a character that died earlier in the game. That is a big whoops if I ever saw one and no amount of bull shit is going to wash that down (e.g. “It was a memory of Shepard’s” or “She was revived through Lazarus Project 2.0”).The game can just feel rough at times, as if it could of spent a little longer in development just to sand it down to a smooth finish. Sadly though EA is not interested in quality, just numbers like $200million.

If you remember back to it’s original launch, Mass Effect 3 was getting a lot of bad press for it’s ending. A lot of harsh things were said about it. I personally wasn’t enraged by the ending like most people, I was just disappointed. The original endings did not explain what actually happens at the end. Although the extended cut adds a prologue to each ending, I feel it’s too little too late. When Bioware stated that Mass Effect 3 was going to have multiple endings I expected your choices throughout all 3 games to contribute to which ending you get. How wrong I was, turns out at the end Shepard is put into a room with 3 choices in front of him, each choice giving you a different ending. This means every decision you make throughout the game makes no difference to the ending. Talk about falling at the last hurdle.

Now for my final thought. Mass Effect 3 feels like a game that was made just to satisfy the fans. Many of the elements feel half arsed like no-one really cared whether the game was going to be good or not. As if Bioware just wanted to end the series and be done with it, thinking “Mass Effect 2 has been sitting above our heads for a while now and demands for the 3rd instalment have been increasing. Lets just get it over with, that way no-ones going to yell at us for not doing it”. Kind of like Metal Gear Solid 4… and what I’m doing now.