Tag Archives: gaming

A Long Rant About A Game I Used To Love

“This year is going to be different,” I told myself. “This year I’m going to set some challenging yet attainable New Years Resolutions and actually stick to them. No excuses, no delays…just doing what I want to achieve, and what I can achieve.”

Well, so much for that, eh? I blame my wisdom tooth. It was extracted on the 20th Feb and between the initial pain (bad), the dry socket (worse, much worse), and the subsequent removal of the emergency dressing (not so painful, but the horrible aftertaste lasted forever), it took over three weeks to recover. Doesn’t explain the time before the surgery, nor the period between recovery and now…but hey, I’ve been busy working, and playing Gears, and watching Supernatural, all super important tasks (Supernatural especially, for a special reason I’ll announce eventually – perhaps next month when I discuss my other TV obsession), so when did I even have the time?

Yep…totally justifiable delays. Besides, I can just change the goal posts, and say by January, I meant 20th March (when better to restart than the one month anniversary of losing my tooth?). Boom Nailed it.

Ahem.

So today’s post (or this month’s post, if I am to stick to my plan), is about gaming. And how, despite my efforts to become a professional Gears of War 4 player, I am, in many ways, falling out of love with my favorite pastime.

I should preface this by saying, my attitude towards gaming could and should (I hope) change in a matter of hours when Mass Effect Andromeda comes out. I’m expecting it to be awesome, and if it is, then everything in the world is great again and I’ll be super happy. Hours* away, guys! I’m seriously hyped right now. I can’t even stand it!

And yet, reality grounds me. As much as I love the Mass Effect series, the potential greatness of Andromeda will not change the fact that I’ve been largely unimpressed by the recent standard of mainstream games, and my general apathy to new games means I view even this upcoming launch with apprehension.

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t good games on the market, nor am I saying the industry as a whole is regressing, just that the games I’ve bought in the past couple of years have disappointed me. Gears of War 4 aside (a game that is also far from perfect; were it not for the competitive scene I’d probably have stopped bothering with it), I haven’t loved a new game for a long time. In fact, on the Xbox One, I’d say there’s only been two games that have really drawn me in – Dragon Age Inquisition and Sunset Overdrive. Everything else I’ve played has either immediately or gradually pushed me away.

Annoyingly, I can’t really explain why I feel this way. Perhaps it is inevitable now that I’m working, my time is more valuable so I have to become more selective over games. By necessity, my standards are much higher than when I was a feckless teen with time to kill. It would make sense. The games I criticize the most (more on that shortly) are supremely popular games. Millions of people enjoy them, and I feel like an older version of me would be included in those millions. Therefore, it must be me.

But then again, is having higher standards my fault? My problem, sure, but when my biggest issues aren’t to do with superficial issues like the graphics, but core features of the game, such as the plot or character development, I think I’m right to be critical. True, in the past, I could have bypassed a ‘meh’ story to play a game (looking at you, Army of Two sequels), but when a game is attempting to motivate me with a powerful narrative, and that narrative is fundamentally flawed, I can’t be blamed for losing interest. Nor can I be blamed for voicing my disapproval at such a poorly written/devised game, a point which brings me to the worst offender on my personal hate list…Fallout 4.

Now, I will preface this by saying I never completed Fallout 4 and it’s been a long time since I played it. However, I did commit over 50 hours before reaching my breaking point, and I have in spoken at length to a fellow gamer who did complete Fallout 4 yet agreed with my criticisms, so I think I’m on solid ground here. If you disagree, please tell me why. If you haven’t played Fallout 4 but want to read on anyway, be warned that there are some SPOILERS ahead. And if you have no interest in Fallout 4, or gaming in general, I apologize, as this blog post probably isn’t for you. Unless you really enjoy a good story, then you should read on regardless so you can comprehend my anger.

Urgh, Fallout 4. So much promise. If you were around me prior to the game’s release, you would have known how giddily eager I was to play. Once it came out, that’s all I did. I was immediately encapsulated with the world, even more so than I was with Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas. It was my biggest obsession for weeks. It wasn’t perfect, there were flaws, but I loved it…until those cracks in the game’s foundation became too big to ignore. Despite my best efforts to use my mind canon to fix them (mind canon is like Sherlock Holmes’ mind palace, just it only revolves around making my experience within a game make sense), the damage was done. Fallout 4 no longer appealed to me. I stopped playing completely. And though there are aspects of it I still think of fondly, I don’t think I’ll ever reload my save. Quite the damning statement, no?

So, what was wrong? Well, as I indicated earlier, the story was fundamentally broken, and only got progressively worse. How so? Well, let me break it down for you!

Issue 1: Story contradicts gameplay

First, a rough plot summary: after a nuclear war is initiated, you enter the safety of a vault with your partner and son, only to see your love shot and your son kidnapped while you drift into cryogenic sleep. You then wake up some undetermined time later with one goal: find your son. Pretty straightforward, right?

*sighs*

Now, I should explain that Fallout is a game series known for exploration. Fallout 4 is no different. You are encouraged to wander the radioactive wasteland, create settlements for other survivors, and kill every hostile force that dares to attack you in future Boston. This type of gameplay is what Bethesda arguably does best. However, this ideology downright conflicts with the premise of Fallout 4.

Admittedly, I’m not a parent so I could be wrong here, but I imagine if my baby was taken from me, I would spend every waking second searching for him. I wouldn’t be helping strangers unnecessarily, clearing out old buildings or helping the minutemen retake back their HQ. No, I would be entirely mission-orientated, an approach which is the complete opposite to how you’re supposed to play a Fallout game.

For someone who obsesses like I do, this contradiction is bloody horrible. I spent many fun hours going after side quests and building settlements, yet I could never displace the thought that I shouldn’t be doing this, I should be looking for my son. I tried to use my mind canon to explain why I was spending an insane amount of time building a junk wall around my primitive looking Sanctuary, but was largely unsuccessful in my efforts.

So, why didn’t I just do the story? Well, as I said, that would have been super boring and would mean ignoring Fallout 4’s greatest features. Besides, when I tried to get into finding my son, I ran into another problem…

Issue 2: The main story starts badly, doesn’t improve much

Another bit of background: after escaping the vault, you head back home and on the way, you save some settlers (or something like that, I forget). In this group is Mama Murphy, an old hag who happens to be a psychic. You give her some drugs, and she tells you to go to Diamond City, as that’s where your son was taken to first. Begin your quest!
Uh, no. No. Get out. I don’t care what gaming universe you are in, using a damn psychic to kick start your search is a load of crap. There is no bypassing her stupid prediction either – Mama Murphy literally initiates the bloody plot. It made me so angry, especially as Diamond City is the biggest settlement in the Commonwealth, and they could have done literally anything else (I know I’m overusing literally here, but that’s how utterly stupid this concept was) to get you to go there. You could have found a random dude and said “hey, I’m looking for my son, any ideas?” and after you shot him in the gut for trying to steal your stuff, he would have told you “never saw him, but he was probably taken to Diamond City because that’s pretty much the only place that isn’t filled with death, desperation and creepy dudes like me.”

Urgh.

Sadly, the story doesn’t get much better. You meet an investigator and track the man who took your son in a highly improbable way (I know dogs are great and all, but I don’t believe for a second even the best sniffer dog could follow a vague trail for miles, especially when a decent amount of time has passed since the dude went), and then…more things happen. I’m not entirely sure when I stopped caring, but it didn’t take long for the main story to mean nothing to me. I blame Mama Murphy for putting me on the wrong path. Well, the right path but you know what I mean.

To be fair, it isn’t all her fault. Another part of the problem is the dialogue tree. For Fallout 4, Bethesda took a Mass Effect approach to dialogue, giving their character a voice instead of block text at the bottom of the screen. I would generally approve of this, but it was too simplistic in Fallout 4. I could never ask the questions I wanted to ask, questions I feel I may have been given as an option if the protagonist was silent. And when I’m not given the option to ask questions, nor am I given the answers to these fairly obvious yet unspoken questions, I begin to ask myself questions instead, such as “why am I still bothering with this?”

The biggest example of wasted potential is the key plot to the story. Early on you are introduced to the idea of the Institute, a shady group that are suspected of replacing people with synthetic lookalikes. Their motives are unknown, but everybody is incredibly paranoid/scared of synthetics taking over. And even though I can’t ask an ousted synth some logical questions about how he exists (you go over some of it briefly, but nothing much in detail), I loved this angle. You can’t beat a good body snatching mystery!

Frustratingly, it doesn’t go anywhere. Even when you finally meet the Institute leader, the reasoning for their actions is never explored. You don’t get any answers as to why they are doing what they are doing. Or if you do, it happens after I hit my quitting threshold. After being told that I would learn the truth and promptly learning nothing despite completing at least 3 or 4 biggish quests for them, I gave up on the game. Sorry, but LOST, though I love it, took away all my goodwill towards never-ending mysteries. You need to give me some answers or I’ll find something better to do.

Now, this complaint is probably more of a story writing issue, or lack thereof, than it is about having a speaking protagonist (who should theoretically pull me deeper into the game…so much for that), but I do think the emotive yet uninformative dialogue tree hindered my enjoyment/understanding of the game. It wouldn’t, however, have helped with the biggest problem Fallout 4 has, which is…

Issue 3: There is no villain, and thus there is no point.

Fallout 4 tries to replicate the success of Fallout New Vegas by giving you factions to fight alongside. You have the Minutemen (a group that you lead, yet do every irrelevant task for because evidently nobody else can be bothered), the Railroad (who want to save the synths, and make you do irrelevant side quests despite being the only person who can achieve their goals), the Brotherhood of Steel (they want to take down the Institute by making you do everything), and the Institute.

Unlike Fallout New Vegas though, none of this really matters. There is no motive to care. The Institute, the apparent bad guys in the game, fail to really drive their evilness to you. As I indicated before, it isn’t explained. Are they even bad? I have absolutely no clue. I suspect Bethesda did this purposely so you could pick a side without being a bad person. Not everything is black or white in their world, and by leaving the story open and grey, the team you choose is effectively your interpretation of who you think is best. A neat concept but ambiguity is a detriment when the factions in Fallout 4 have no depth. Having checked the wiki page, it appears the end goal of the game is picking a side to destroy the others. Therefore, the worst response you can incite in your gamer is complete indifference to all your factions, because without the drive to pick a side, there is no reason for them to finish your bloody game. So they’ll stop playing.

And that’s what I did.

Annoyingly, explaining the Institute’s motives, even if showed them to be despicable human beings, wouldn’t have fixed the issue. Having an inherently evil group would have been great, obviously, and it would have helped me to pick a side. Not necessarily against them either – maybe I’m cool with being on the villains side. But the keystone of this issue is that, regardless of motivation, I need to make a choice. Bethesda had to force my hand and they never did. I got deep into the story without annoying a single one of the four factions, despite deliberately acting against two of them. The game was so determined to ensure I still had a choice, it actually showed me there was no consequences to my actions, and thus no point to playing.

How bad was it? Well, I intentionally screwed up two major Institute missions, categorically picking the other side, and yet they still wanted me to be their leader. What the hell?! In contrast, Fallout New Vegas provided a choice early on the game and I decided to shoot up one faction. From that point, I was their enemy. Even if I wanted to be their friend, I couldn’t, and that was awesome because it showed there was some meaning to my actions. Even if it screws my game up, I need consequences. Otherwise, what’s the point?

*deep breath*

BONUS NON-STORY ISSUE: The game never ends.

Fallout 4 boasted that even when the story is complete, you can continue to explore the wasteland. This isn’t a good idea. Games, even though we don’t want them to have one sometimes, need an ending. Yes, if you want to attempt to create the best settlement in the world, you should be able to do that. However, extending the runtime of the game by giving me the same side quest over and over again only causes me to hate you, Bethesda. It proves everything I do is meaningless (and I already know that, I don’t need the game to shove it in my face, thanks very much) because there is no consequence to my actions and nothing changes. Telling me to help the same settlement repeatedly, despite the fact I put fifty turrets around a junk wall that physically stops intruders, doesn’t tell me the game lives on, it tells me I’m stupid for still paying it.

Stories, even shoddy ones, need an ending, because there is no satisfaction or resolution without one. That’s why I’ll always pick Dragon Age over Skyrim, Mass Effect over Fallout. The fact that the Bioware games end with you wanting more is a damn sight more appealing than constantly clearing out the same cave or saving the same dopey settlers from ghouls for eternity. I’m not having it, Bethesda. I see through your bullshit. Preston Garvey, you can take your “settlement needs your help” crap elsewhere. I’m done.

*deep breath*

And that’s Fallout 4. A game that I once loved but ended up hating. Weak story, unchallenging gameplay (started fun, but got too easy) and infuriating bugs with my settlements just made it unenjoyable and unplayable. Maybe Fallout 5 will be better, eh?

*checks word count*

Boy, this got out of hand. I was going to also hate on Destiny, Grand Theft Auto 5, and Halo 5, but guess they’ll have to wait for another day. Sorry. My anger and disappointment at Fallout 4 ran deeper than I thought.

On the plus side, in less than two hours I can start playing Mass Effect Andromeda. Hopefully it’ll be everything I ever wanted. If not…well, shit.

Alex

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*I wanted to post this blog post before Andromeda’s release, but because I’m an idiot, I didn’t start it until 5pm, 6 hours before release. And because I refuse to delay publication until a later date, this is effectively a first draft copy I’m sharing with you all. So, if the writing is poor in places (highly likely), or I waffle on too much (already know that one from the word count), I apologize. I promise I’ll edit next month’s post before publishing (if I don’t forget about it or get sidetracked) which will also be a more positive piece, as I’ll be talking about my new favorite show of all time, and of course, our big Supernatural news!

Until then,

Alex

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Nothing But Fallout 4…Until Monday.

Howdy folks,

How’s everyone? Things have been pretty good here; I start work on Monday (after being informed earlier this week that the background check would take until 4th December, I then received a call yesterday letting me know that it was done), we have new furniture to make the first floor of our apartment a hospitable area (I’m typing this up on the recliner sofa right now), Vanna has been exploring her artsy side, and I have, rather predictably, become addicted to Fallout 4.

We all saw it coming. To say my life for the past week and a half has been food, sleep and Fallout 4 is no exaggeration. In many ways, even eating and sleeping haven’t been that important to me (reduced appetite, irregular and erratic sleep patterns) since the 10th. Tis rather shameful; I can’t tell how many hours I’ve spent gaming in the past nine days, nor am I willing to say the times I’ve gone to bed this week. All I will disclose is that I’ve already played roughly the same amount of time on Fallout 4 as I did on its two predecessors (which were completed over a few months)…and that I have climbed into bed with the sun shining in my eyes on more than occasion (never a good sign, especially not when it is November). So yeah…addicted is probably the right word to use. Going to be rough changing my schedule for Monday, isn’t it? Urgh.

Thankfully I have a very understanding wife who hasn’t complained once about my current obsession, even when I try to engage her in conversations about the settlements I have saved (the fact she can use my laptop – which is so rarely out of my hands – has probably made my overexcitement easier to handle). Of course we’ve still had “couple” time; last week we went to Zorbaz (a great bar/restaurant ruined by their decision to replace every single use of ‘s’ – only one of the most common letters in the English language – with a fricking ‘z’, a choice which gives me an aneurysm every time I try to read the menu…honestly, it is the worst thing ever), and we always make sure to eat and watch television together too. We’ve actually gone through a few Netflix shows* in recent weeks, despite my Fallout 4 cravings and Vanna’s hectic work schedule. Regardless, I appreciate her for being so forgiving about my many hours up in the attic. Sadly it appears that my binging going to end before I am ready to move on. How am I going to cope?!

*sigh*

You may think I’m being dramatic – to an extent I am – but there is a level of seriousness to that asterixed (tis a word!) sigh. I have become attached to Fallout 4, and it will be tricky for me to not play it. Why? Well because Fallout 4 is a fantastic games, even better than I expected it would be. I’m enjoying it a great deal, and there are a lot of things I love about it. The new settlement feature is addictive, the Boston Commonwealth is a rich and diverse wasteland, and the combat is challenging yet satisfying. The only thing I can’t praise is the story…as I’ve barely started it (told you building settlements was fun). As a consequence, I feel like I can only give a brief impression of the game so far, despite the many hours I’ve already racked up. What can I say? It’s an impressive game.

Having said that, I can’t say Fallout 4 is perfect. There are some flaws; the opening story is weak in some aspects, doing anything other than the main campaign gives me a disconnected feeling**, the settlements sometime glitch and cause me problems (I wasted over an hour last night trying to figure out where people had gone), the dialogue, though a step in the right direction, is somewhat simplistic and flawed, and the lack of a manual*** to help with all the new features is bloody frustrating. I’m still in agreement with the 9+/10 reviews so far, but I’m not going to worship it as the best game ever just yet.

Of course, my opinion might change once I’ve completed Fallout 4. I’m sure there are a lot of surprises still in store. Who knows what I’ll think when I’ve finished the campaign? Maybe the good will be better, or the bad will be worse. Perhaps I’ll share a more in-depth analysis once I’ve reached that point. For now though, I just wanted to provide a brief summary of my thoughts so far, which essentially boils down to Fallout 4 being a very, very good, arguably amazing game, with some minor issues. There! Now I can go back to playing rather than writing, and you can rest easy knowing I haven’t wasted away in my chair.

Right then. I guess that’s it for the moment. Unless you, uh, want to hear about my settlements?!

…you don’t? Oh. Well then. I’ll be back next week for a job/ Fallout 4 update (providing I have the time…should probably sleep and eat between my working and gaming).

Take care,

Alex

P.S. If I’ve made any grammatical errors, I apologize. WordPress has changed the format and I can’t find the little check button which usually flags up my biggest mistakes.

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*After finishing season 2 of The 100 (very good, a definite recommend), we watched Happy Valley (grim but good), before then moving onto iZombie (name aside, a surprisingly good show). No promises – I’ve made that error in the past – but I’ll try to talk about these and more sometime in the future.

** This is hard to explain as I probably sound insane, but I tend to obsess about my actions within expansive games, and have to logically reason out everything I do. Essentially if my character has this huge, super important mission, and needs to get from A to B, I need to mentally explain why I’ve decided to detour to C, D, E, and F first. This happened a little bit during the Mass Effect trilogy (I guess I found this urge easier to pacify with those games), and was bad in Fallout 3 (even though my side-tracking happened after I completed the campaign!) but is especially problematic now I’m playing Fallout 4 (given the context of the plot, it seems wrong to do anything other than search for Shaun). I don’t want to go into too much detail right now as I think this could make for a good blog post, but yeah…my own brain is causing problems with my immersion in the story. Grr.

*** Embarrassingly, after complaining non-stop about having to figure out the settlement builder by myself, I’ve discovered there is a little help page in the pause menu. Ooops. I still think the system could do with improvement (especially with assigning settlers to different tasks) but my criticism has wavered now I realize the answer, or at least something of an answer, was staring me in the face this whole time.

Halloween & Beyond

Howdy folks,

First things first, I want to offer a quick apology for the lack of updates recently. Granted this isn’t really my fault; the reason I haven’t brought you up to date with my situation is because nothing has happened since my last post. October hasn’t been a bad month, but it has been a frustrating time for me, in more ways than one.

So what am I waiting for? Well…

New Job

Oh boy. Who would have thought sorting out background checks for a job would be this difficult? It’s been three weeks since I was offered the job, yet I’m still waiting for confirmation. The complications largely arise from my international status, which is causing problems for the people working to get my information processed. I don’t blame them for the delay – this is a new experience for all parties involved – but I really didn’t expect it to be so time-consuming.  Hopefully it’ll be finished up soon because I’m keen to start working again. It’s been a while since I last had a ‘proper’ job, and I’m looking forward to getting back into it. It’ll make our life immeasurably better, for reasons I will explain once everything is confirmed. Until then it’s a waiting game.

*sigh*

Gaming!

Speaking of waiting and games (see what I did there?), it feels like each day speeds by yet November 10th* only gets further and further away (I’m not going to tell you the significance of that day because you should just know it!). This past month has been painstakingly slowly. I’ve tried to fill the void with other games but so far my attempts have been unsuccessful. Gears of War: Ultimate Edition was a false dawn (gave up on that within a month), Thief was too clunky, Mass Effect was a brief fling following my game writing (didn’t get the second job either; not too disappointed however, it is just something I need to work on), The Walking Dead was enjoyable but ultimately a story not a game, and FIFA 16, which had taken up most of my gaming time, doesn’t really work as a long term solution (I prefer to pick it up from time to time).  It’s been a rough time, I tell ya.

Fortunately I’ve just discovered Assassin’s Creed Unity (it came with my Xbox One along with Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag; I jumped forward because I haven’t completed Assassin’s Creed III and Unity isn’t tied into the main story like Black Flag) so I’ve started playing that this week. It doesn’t quite satisfy my bloodlust (my mistake was not giving my 360 a go, as Halo 4 or Gears of War 3 probably would have helped with this…now I can’t go back, as I’ve given the console to a friend for a couple of weeks) but it should keep me entertained while I wait for the 10th.

Halloween!

One distraction from my gaming and job woes is tomorrow’s Halloween adventure! Vanna and I are heading up to Bemidji again for the weekend, where hopefully we will have a…spooktacular time (sigh).  I’m not entirely sure what is on the agenda for Saturday night, but I will bring my camera to document what I can. I actually have a proper costume this year! It is shop bought (If I’m going to dress up, I want it to be something unique and clever**. But at the same time, I’m too lazy to be creative…hence why I didn’t really bother doing anything last year) BUT I’m happy with it. What am I going to be? Find out next week!
Have a happy Halloween everyone!

Alex

 

 

 

*Fallout 4′s release date. If you didn’t already know that, shame on you.

**I did have a great idea for a costume this year, but due to time constraints, it will have to wait until next Halloween as I’ll need more than a week to put it together. I’d tell you what I thought up, but I don’t want to ruin the, uh, surprise. Also, if I forget to do it or it looks bad, you won’t know that I’ve failed.

Temporary Blog Closure, Sponsored By Gears Of War

Even More Photography On The Citadel

Hey folks,

This is just a quick announcement to let you know that I’m still alive (just really busy…well, kinda busy, mostly forgetful) and I haven’t forgotten about you guys and the blog. However, an update on my life (there’s trips to talk about, food, films etc) is going to be delayed at least another week because…

This morning my wonderful wife surprised me... This morning my wonderful wife surprised me…

...with this amazingly good headset! Good thing too, because... …with this amazingly good headset! Good thing too, because…

...the Gears of War beta was announced yesterday at E3... …the Gears of War beta was announced yesterday at E3…

...and I need to play it! Today, tomorrow, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, every hour until it has gone! …and I need to play it! Today, tomorrow, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, every hour until it has gone!

So I have no time for anything else. Sorry.

Speak to you soon! (possibly)

Alex

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Big Day Tomorrow…(And An Even Bigger Day Monday)

Howdy folks.

First, a quick apology about the lack of posts this week. No real reason for it, I must admit. Mostly I’ll be working hard at my book, which has taken up a lot of my time. Making real progress though, so that’s good. Otherwise, there just hasn’t been much going on! The weather has been poor, so I haven’t gone anywhere, and there’s been no good photo opportunities either. Bummer, right?

Anyway, moving on and I’ve had a busy day today. Not only have I spent hours and hours replaying Dragon Age: Origins (very important work…and another reason I haven’t blogged lately…ahem), I have also had Sunday’s big trip to prepare for.

Oh yes. I’d like to say I’ve gotten over my nerves but I haven’t. I get anxious every time I think about it. As I said in the other blog, I’m confident but I can’t help but worry about, well…everything. Checking the letter, it says I could be there for two, possibly three hours. What’s going to happen in that time?! Already stressing out. Thankfully my dad will be with me for moral support. He probably won’t say anything, but it’ll be good to have him with.

Other than trying to keep calm, there isn’t much to do except wait. My overnight bag is packed, my file has the necessary additions (like my birth certificate, which I almost forgot) and I’ve gone through it all with Vanna via Skype so I know exactly what I’ve got with me to help support our case. The only thing we don’t have is a map, but I think we should be able to figure it out considering it is ten minutes away from where I got my medical, and the hotel is only a few minutes away from there. I can always google street-view it too.

So, what’s the plan? Well, the train leaves Durham early tomorrow morning. We’ll get there mid-afternoon, providing there’s no delays. At that point we’ll check into the hotel, and maybe after that go for a walk around London. I’m pleased to report that the forecast is positive (sunshine, no rain) during out time there, which is certainly encouraging. And my camera is already in my bag, so if we do have a wander, I’ll be able to take some photographs. There is a possibility we may go to Chelsea’s ground (Stamford Bridge), which I’ve never seen before (in person). Obviously going to the Bridge would be very exciting for me, even if it was just for a wander around the ground (as opposed to going on a tour). Whether we actually do that…I’m not sure at this point. But wherever we go, you’ll see the pictures Tuesday or Wednesday.

As for Monday, it’ll be an early start. Appointment at nine, and we’ll want to be there thirty minutes beforehand. It won’t be a long walk from the hotel to the embassy, but I’m not going to take any chances; we will probably leave the hotel shortly after eight that morning. Get to the embassy, have the interview and leave (hopefully in a jubilant mood). Not sure when the train home is (my dad has the tickets) but it’ll be late evening by the time we get back. I’ll let you know how it goes on Tuesday.

Right then, I should go. Dragon Age is calling me…

Wish me (us) luck!

Alex

Halo 4: My Love For Halo Has Returned

Even the non-gamers among you must have heard of Halo and its sequels (or prequels, or spin offs). It is the biggest gaming franchise out there, as far as I’m concerned, and the legacy Halo has created since Halo: Combat Evolved arrived on the original Xbox in 2001 is unrivaled. I don’t think even Call of Duty, despite generating a higher number of sales (though the Call of Duty numbers are over a longer period of time on more consoles), can boast the love that Halo has.  If it wasn’t for Halo, Xbox, and Xbox Live, wouldn’t have been anywhere near as successful. It really is a phenomenon.

Okay, that is enough of that. Halo’s credentials isn’t really the point I’m trying to make. Let’s just say you’ve heard of it, and leave it at that.

Anyway, I have played Halo since the very beginning. Some of my favourite memories from my early teens involve Halo. I can remember staying up late to complete the campaign on legendary difficulty, and all those times I invited my friends over to play Halo’s multiplayer for hours. Like many, I had a lot of fun with Halo.

Halo 2 wasn’t much different. The campaign was less impressive, but I still spent two days playing through it on a tiny screen because my television was broken. I couldn’t give you an exact size but if you think of a small netbook you probably wouldn’t be far off. But I persevered and completed Halo 2 despite the fact I had to inches away to see anything. Then, when my television was fixed, I did it all again with my friends.

Things started to change when Halo 3 arrived. By this point I’d moved house (into the place we left just before Christmas), and my time on the Xbox had diminished somewhat as I’d left my friends behind. The Xbox, to me, was all about playing split screen with your mates. Xbox Live never appealed to me, and it was only a few years later when I started playing Gears of War 2 did I even consider getting it. Nevertheless, I did complete Halo 3 on numerous occasions and I would say, in the time before Mass Effect, it was one of my favourite games.

Now I’m not going to share the entire story of Halo but I’ll give you a quick run through. The Halo trilogy (the three I’ve listed above) follow the Master Chief (the guy in the suit who you probably will recognise from T.V, shops, teenager’s bedrooms…) as he tries to stop the Covenant (an alien race hellbent on eradicating the humans who oppose them) from activating the Halo ring worlds. These Halos contain a parasitic life form known as the Flood, and you end up fighting them throughout the trilogy as they try to, you know, kill everything in sight. And that’s pretty much it. If you want a more accurate and detailed summation, Halo’s wiki page will do a much better job of it than I’ve done. Essentially though, all you need to know is that the Halo trilogy follows the Master Chief and the A.I Cortana.

Halo 3 was supposed to be the end of the Master Chief storyline, so Microsoft initiated a load of other Halo projects. We had Halo Wars, Halo ODST, Halo Reach and even a special anniversary edition of Halo: Combat Evolved, which I played through around Christmas. The other three games in that sentence, however, have never interested me and as a consequence, I’ve never bought them, nor asked for them.

The reason behind this is the fact they are spinoffs, and thus do not play any part in the main storyline. Though I enjoyed the multiplayer aspect of Halo with my friends back in the day of the old Xbox, I was never interested in playing Halo online and I refused to pay full price for a noticeably short campaign (which ODST was especially guilty of). As a result, Halo faded into my childhood while I began to rage at people on Gears of War. Halo 3 was the end.

Then Halo 4 came out, and the Master Chief returned. Suddenly my interest was piqued. A second trilogy, picking up from where the first ended? A return to the days of old, my brain thought.  Let me have it!

Well, not straight away. I wasn’t that bothered. But I got it for Christmas, and I had completed it by the end of the following week.

And it was really good. Even though Halo 4  had a relatively short campaign (I prefer games such as Mass Effect and Fallout that take over 30 hours to complete, whereas Halo and the like are usually done in half that), I was impressed. Halo 4 is definitely up there with my favourites. Better than Halo 3, I would say, and probably not far off Halo 1. Considering it was more of a stop-gap between 3 and 5 than a standalone game, they did a real good job at the storyline, and more importantly, the relationship between the Master Chief and Cortana. Though Cortana is a machine, and the Master Chief is a mostly silent protagonist, they form a strong bond through the series and it is only in Halo 4 do we truly realize that. It’s a fascinating game, and I really enjoyed playing it.

Halo 4’s campaign, however, isn’t the reason for this post (I’m getting to my point now, I promise) because, as I have said before in my rather long introduction, what made Halo stand out was the multiplayer experience. I can still remember the fun I had playing it with my friends. Even though I like the campaign, you couldn’t beat four guys sitting in a room trying to kill each other for hours on end. There was cursing, laughing and plenty of unique moments that only we would laugh at. So, if I wanted to recreate those happy days, I would have to get past my reluctance, and go online.

And yesterday I did. And it was so much fun. I was only on for a few hours but it was probably the best time I’ve had on Xbox Live for months. Not only have I found myself getting involved in Halo again, I also found my love of online gaming returning too.

You see, though I do love Gears of War 3, it is limited. You see, Gears is a challenging game online (as all third person shooters are, especially in comparison to first person shooters like Halo and COD), which is both a good thing and a bad thing. I like that it is a slow paced, tactical game, and I have to think about what I’m doing, but it does mean my enjoyment depends heavily on how well I’m performing on the night. It is all about stats; how many games you win, how good is your kill death ratio etc. I can’t really relax when I’m playing Gears.

Then I tried Halo 4, and everything was so different. I didn’t care about winning, losing or doing well. None of that mattered: instead the focus was purely entertainment. And I really did enjoy myself. There was no pressure or any real intensity to it, which was a refreshing change from Gears. No abuse, nothing. I just shot the bad guys and tried to level up. Easy.

And, because my friends all bought Halo 4 the other day, we can now all play it together (prior to that, I would go on Halo 4 solo to do some missions) so I can only see it getting better from here. After failing for years to find an alternative game for when we didn’t feel like playing Gears of War, we might have finally discovered the solution.

Halo 4, ladies and gentlemen. Split screen multiplayer may be dying, but the enjoyment it created lives on.

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Side note 1: Apologies for the length of this post. I really didn’t intend for it to be this long. I was only going to say how Halo 4 has reinvigorated my passion for Xbox Live again, only to write a different title that encouraged me to talk about Halo for several (several means eight, right?) paragraphs first. So why didn’t I just change the title? Good question. And I don’t know the answer. Hmm. Well…sometimes I don’t think and end up doing things the hard way. Leave me alone!

Side note 2: If you were expecting pictures of me with my new haircut, I’m afraid you are going to be disappointed for at least another week. I wasn’t well this morning and didn’t go. Sorry about that. I know you are disappointed.  I’ll aim for next Saturday. Put down your pitchforks and torches, you will get your pictures soon enough. I’m talking to you there, Vanna. As for the rest of you? I’m sure you’ll cope.

 

 

 

Crysis 3 Beta Available To Play Now (Link To Eject Disk)

Today, Crytek has launched the public beta to Crysis 3 on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. Available to all players with an internet connection, the beta includes the game mode Hunter, whereby two Nanosuited players have to murder 10 grunts before time runs out.

If this sounds too hard, don’t worry: in addition to having a futuristic bow at your disposal, every grunt you kill will then respawn on your team. Expect plenty of stealthing in Hunter though, as both the Nanosuit troopers and the grunts they’re stalking try to avoid alerting the other as they maneuver around the map. With the timer forcing players into action, Hunter is all about who makes the first mistake.

If cloak and dagger tactics aren’t your thing, however, don’t be disheartened. There is a second game mode available in the beta, called Crash Site.  Those of you who played Crysis 2 will be familiar with Crash Site, but if you are new to the franchise, Crash Site involves several objectives that you have to claim before the enemy team does. To help your quest for victory, you’ll have guns, powers (including the Rip And Throw ability, which lets you rip off parts of the environment to either hit somebody or hide behind) and the Pinger, an alien tank on legs.

Read the rest of the article (and watch a video) at Eject Disk.

Cheers,

Alex