News, News And More News!

Hello folks,

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Sorry about that. I’ve been much busier than I anticipated (this week I’ve been sorting out clothes for a wedding!) and thus, quite a lot has happened since my last ‘proper’ post! Now I’ll do my best to update you on what’s been going on lately, but to prevent this piece from becoming a super long essay on my life, today I’ll just focus on the most important news, starting with…

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition Beta

So the Beta is finished, and I’m sad about that. However, I must admit I wasn’t overly enamored with it initially, for several reasons. But before I go into that, let me summarize my past experiences with the Gears of War series. Only a few details, I promise. It’s relevant to the beta, honest.

Gears of War: The original Gears came out in November 2006. Loved the campaign (best out of the three) but never played the multiplayer. The Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is a remaster of this game, and this game alone (this is an important fact, as I’ll explain shortly).

Gears of War 2: First game I played on Xbox Live, and will always be special because of the experiences I shared with people I’m still friends with today (long-term followers will be aware of the trips I took to visit them while I was in the UK). In game terms, the campaign was good and the multiplayer, though flawed, was one I loved (for aforementioned experiences). Compared to Gears 1, there was improvements in several areas including movement (quicker, slicker) and the shotgun (more on that soon).

Gears of War 3: As I still play Gears 3 on a regular basis (I was on it the day before the beta was released), I can say conclusively that Gears 3 is my favourite Gears. The campaign isn’t the best (story was well written but the missions were a little tedious) but the multiplayer is probably the most rounded, balanced experience to date (still flawed, but far superior to its predecessors). Movement is far better than Gears 2, weapons are better and more varied (though it does have the retro lancer, an abomination which can ruin a fun match very easily), and there are far less connection issues than those I endured on the original Gears games. As I say, my favourite Gears multiplayer experience.

Gears of War Judgment: Ha, I’m not talking about Judgment. The campaign was interesting, but the multiplayer was largely terrible. It is so negatively different from the rest of the series, there is no point in even using it as a comparison. I’m only mentioning it so you know I didn’t just forget about it.

Ahem. So there’s my background. What didn’t I like about the beta?

Well, as I said above, the beta is part of a remastered Gears of War, and thus remains faithful to the original Gears. Except for a few added features, it is essentially Gears of War on the Xbox One. This meant there were several things I wasn’t used to. Some of these features I could accept (sniper downing enemies, not being able to crawl while down, torque bow locking onto enemies) but there were others I hated. The biggest adjustment was the shotgun.

Now, the Gears of War franchise is as big as it is because of the shotgun. While Call of Duty and Halo are generally more orientated around rifles (I don’t have a problem with that, by the way; I’m not one of the elitist snobs you find on the Gears forum who thinks Gears of War 1 is the holy grail and everything else is garbage), Gears of War is about close combat shotgun fights. Over the course of the series, the Gnasher shotgun has evolved, and in my opinion, improved from its humble beginnings. One of the biggest changes from the original is how it fires. In Gears 2, 3 and Judgment, it fires from the barrel. In Gears 1 however, it fires from the centre of the screen. How is this different? Well, if you play the sequels, the shotgun spread lands where you’d expect it to. In Gears 1, you have to aim slightly above and to the right in order to hit the same spot. So if you want to kill your opponent, instead of looking at them directly, you need to look slightly to their left. Yeah…I think that’s right. Does that make sense?

My point to this? Well it means that there was a slight difference to how the shotgun fires in the beta, which was both illogical (barrel fire makes more sense, hence why it was in every other game) and somewhat difficult to get used to. Making this adjustment even harder is the fact that Gears of War 1 is almost completely orientated around the Gnasher. While you can adopt a rifle game in Gears 2 and 3 (I consider myself proficient with both shotgun and rifle, and so my play style varies from map to map) and succeed, Gears 1 is more or less shotgun only. Therefore, I found it very frustrating to play the beta because the strongest gun in the game doesn’t work the way I’m used to (it is also very boring to me to only play one way). In other words, I died a lot.

Another huge drawback to the beta was the movement. Gears 1 feels so much slower than 2 and 3. You can’t wallbounce (um…if you don’t know what that is, just go with it) as easily, and you generally can’t manoeuvre anywhere near as efficiently. Consequently, both my accuracy and ability to evade are nowhere near as good as they are in Gears 3. I don’t like that.

Those were the main problems I had, though I could go on. I didn’t like the way grenades are thrown, the slow lobby and matchmaking times, or the fact that hammerburst (my weapon, my baby) is a pick up weapon either. I also had issues with muting (someone I muted in-game would be heard back in the lobby, so I’d have to unmute and mute again…and then do that again once the next match had started) and teleportation, but I’m reasonably confident that those issues will be resolved in the main game. Still, that knowledge didn’t exactly help with my beta experience…*sigh*…I was easily irritated this past week, ladies and gentleman.

HOWEVER, despite these big game-breaking problems, I did actually begin to like the beta. It took some persistence, but eventually I got used to the shotgun (I pretended to shoulder bump the other team) and the movement. I’m not perfect, but I’m better than I was. And in some ways, I think the challenge made my kills more satisfying. Yeah…it was pretty enjoyable by the end. Will I love it and play it as much as Gears 2, or 3? Probably not. But will it be a fun stopgap while I wait for Gears of War 4 to arrive? Most definitely. Replaying the campaign will be awesome, and I think I’ll be able to have fun on the multiplayer too. Roll on August 25th!

Okay, this section went on far longer than I intended. What was supposed to be a concise and brief point became a sloppy review. Oh man. Sorry about that. My bad.

Ahem. So what’s next?

My visa was approved…I’m now an official resident of the USA!

Oh yeah, I probably should have led with this, right? After all, gaining residency was the biggest obstacle between me and my new life, and now it has been approved! That, my friends, is HUGE!

Of course we still have a way to go, but this is a big step forward. I can start working on my driver’s license (I suppose I should start working on my reversing skills) and we now have the option to move home. Getting a job is obviously the priority, so those two factors will be very helpful. Otherwise it is just a relief knowing that I haven’t been denied, and that there is no deportation on the horizon. In terms of my long-term life in America, it is now just a matter of waiting and/or paperwork. Woo!

Kitten is…nice?

This is the most surprising news I have. It has been two weeks and I still don’t believe it is real. Our little Anya the kitten, the savage who rips at our furniture and keeps us up at night, has actually been supremely well-behaved! I know! Dare I say she’s like a normal cat? We didn’t even dream we’d ever have a lovely cat in our lives. Never.

What’s changed? We don’t know. We have our theories, of course. The main one is that this is the longest we’ve been settled (we’ve been in this house for a few years now, and nobody has abruptly left or moved in since my return last July) so maybe Anya has finally accepted we’re family (going to suck when we do move) and decided to be nice about it. Or it could be something else. We don’t know what prompted this transformation, but we are certainly glad it’s happened!

Now, you may think I’m joking (and to some degree I am) but this is more exciting to us than my visa approval! Seriously…Anya is lovely now. She meows calmly when she wants something, she waits patiently if she doesn’t get it straight away, she seeks our affection regularly and often sleeps with us, she comes to our hand when it is offered for petting (something she has never done before), she doesn’t attack me for no reason, she doesn’t keep Vanna awake every night, and she’s stopped begging for food (or at least doesn’t whine like she used to). She’s like a new cat!

So those are the biggest adjustments in my life. What happens from here? Well, nothing too drastic yet. Wait for the residency card, start making steps towards a license, look for work, continue writing, save up for games (I did watch most of E3, and I’ll share my thoughts on that sometime in the future. All you need to know now is Fallout 4, Gears Ultimate Edition, Fallout 4, Gears of War 4, and Fallout 4) and, of course, enjoy the company of my reborn kitten.

Speak to you later,

Alex

P.S. Oh, as demonstrated above, I actually tweet now (and not just blog posts…I talk about Anya too!). Follow me at @phlegethon92. Say something to me!

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