Category Archives: Video Games

Farewell XBox 360, Hello PS4!


Continuing on from last week’s console blurb I finally got around to getting a PS4. I’ve had my Xbox 360 for many years, and in retrospect I’ve been very happy with it and it’s been an amazing social gaming platform.

Unfortunately or fortunately depending whether you care I’ve never been much of a fanboy so my progression wasn’t directly on to the Xbone despite my excellent experiences with all things X related. I simply looked around at the early adopters – out of all my old Xbox gaming buddies only one has got an Xbone. The rest seem to have gone to PS4. So if I am to maintain my gaming buddies it seemed like the natural progression. It seems the only selling point of the Xbone at the moment is Titanfall, but I suck at those types of games so no personal loss there.

I’m happy with my decision, at least until Gears Of War 4 comes out!

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Consoles versus PC – The Mass Debate


video-gamesHere’s a debate which has been raging for, well, not very long compared with say the history of cutlery, but it is relevant to those of a nerd persuasion ie everyone on the floating citadel.

Back in the mists of time this debate spilled across the playgrounds of the country albeit in a different guise. Back then PCs were crap and consoles weren’t much better. Kids would trade punches and fight real battles to defend the honour of the Sinclair Spectrum against the mere suggestion that the Commodore 64 was a better machine (it was and anyone who says otherwise deserves a slap).

Skip a few years and the rock throwing was between the Nintendo kids and Sega kids. The Atari ST owners looked on smugly, whilst the kids with the Commodore Amigas knew that they were the top of the pile. But any machine was a lot of pocket money and if Santa Claus was dumb enough to bring you anything but an Amiga then you knew you had to justify your choice; that you had an ST for its better midi output which was about the only reason to get one. Cue lots of kids trying to pretend to know what that actually meant in reality.

Moving on to current times and everything is a billion times better than previously. Go back and play a game from yesteryear just to see how bad things were. I installed a C64 emulator the other day to revisit some old classics. It was awful. Gaming now is great. No doubt we’ll look back in ten years from our matrix style immersion tanks and laugh, but for now we are in a golden age.

Significantly, there are no real losers in today’s market. You can buy any up to date gaming platform and get some great games. Sure there are market leaders and some shaky outliers, but its all generally quality stuff.

Fights from the past do remain however to some extent, this time over the decision to play PCs or console games. Notice how I said play. Unlike in the past where gaming was an expensive niche hobby, most serious gamers will own both as relative prices are lower and the technology has more value in terms of use ability.

There are pros and cons to the whole PC versus console decision. A lot of it rides on game availability, the sheer number for the PC gives it a massive edge. Also the types of game, MMOs being a popular format and not widely played on consoles. Personally however I have not played much on my PC all year, choosing instead to spend my game time on consoles. For me currently its the ease of use that wins it, being able to switch on and get stuck in with mates without having to patch this or reconfigure that or upgrade this component to play. Having kids means my game times are few and far between and I want to get the most out of them.

No doubt most people will disagree as PC gamers can be such snobs!

EVE Online: Retirement


quafeEVE Online is very boring but pretty interactive screensaver from Iceland. Wait, no, let me quantify that. 90% of EVE Online is a very boring but pretty interactive screensaver from Iceland.

Unfortunately the vast majority of people never see past this 90% mark and simply get stuck in some of the most woefully awful and repetitive PvE ever encountered in an MMO. Some of the lucky or possibly unlucky people in this group at least get to join a terrible player run hisec corporation and get to sample the paint drying levels of excitement of shooting red crosses and rocks as part of a team. Add in an extremely steep learning curve and a noob experience that basically chucks you in at the deep end and it is easy to see why subscriptions to this game have never been stellar.

The other 10% of EVE Online is some of the greatest and superlative experiences in current sandbox MMOs. The Real EVE that most people never find is a wild west of diplomacy, shifting allegiances, teamwork and meta-gaming unlike anything else. Throw in some epic, and I mean epic, spaceship wars with palpable universal effects and it is also easy to see why subscription levels have remained consistent despite the game being well into it’s eleventh year.

It is this 10% that I have found myself in for the last two years. In a motley crew of wormhole mercenaries, flying and making a living in the most hostile regions of space the game has to offer. The fights were brutal and you were always in danger, but the rewards were huge. Personally I made enough in game currency not only to assemble a veritable armada of battleships and combat vessels, and buy a dreadnought, but I did all this whilst funding two accounts with in game currency. Fight hard, risk it all, play for free.

All good things come to an end, and after participating in some very punishing grudge wars I decided to leave the wormhole life behind me and retire. Retire in a way that only seasoned billionaire capsuleer should, and join the entity known as Red Versus Blue.

Red Versus Blue is one of the biggest organisations in game. Essentially it is two groups, Red Federation and Blue Republic at constant war with one another over some piece of fluff in the alliance info I have never bothered to read. You get in your ship, you fly out of the station and get straight into a fight. You eventually explode only to repeat the cycle all over again until you decide to go watch TV. Except when fleet status is condition purple*, no-one in their right mind would watch TV then!

If you are a capsuleer of means then this can be a good, non-committal way to play the game. I think every capsuleer should do a stint in this organisation just to learn that bigger spaceships aren’t always better and actually the ten seconds before your spaceship explodes provides some of the best fun the game has to offer. No matter what you do in EVE Online, eventually some git (normally in a Tornado) is going to blow you up and the earlier you get used to this fact and start dealing with it the quicker you will abandon the dull drudgery of PvE and actually go out there to start making things explode for yourself.

* think of what colors make purple if you aren’t nerdy enough to get the reference, you may need to ask a friend if you are unfortunate enough to be colorblind.

Kerbal Space Program: The Eagle Has Landed


d1uEBThis particular Kerbal Space Program has been running for just over a week and has already seen a remarkable reduction in average life expectancy of kerbal test pilots, astronauts, scientists and engineers. Previous “test flights” have stranded at least four kerbals on the moon, one in lunar orbit in a spacesuit and one in an elliptical orbit around the inner planets. Not to mention many an exploding rocket, parachute failure and crash landings.

It is with much kerbalish pride that we can report that we have finally and successfully designed, built and flown a space rocket to land three kerbals on the surface of the moon; and most importantly brought them back to Kerbin completely not dead. From that achievement we quickly stepped up the challenge level and using the same technology and rocket design managed to achieve the same on Kerbal’s second and much smaller moon, Minmus.

Next then, we will try to open the doors to constructing a space station, only as a stepping stone to the other planets. All shall be in awe of our fledgling space empire!

Warhammer 40000: Chaos Gate: The Revival!


chaosgateThe rose tintedness of nostalgia!

I used to own this venerable PC game many years ago and remember it fondly. Since then I have changed computers and operating systems many times and it’s never worked properly since. The crash occurrence which plagued this game was in retrospect pretty funny; if any chaos cultists got close enough to shoot you with their laser pistols the game would immediately crash to desktop. Given that most levels contained more cultists than you had ammo this made game continuity pretty tricky.

I was digging through some old CDs and came across the Chaos Gate disc. I installed it, installed the patches and guess what? It freaking runs on Windows 7! The only change required was to run it in Windows 95 compatibility mode.

It’s still the tense, suspenseful game of all those years ago. It could be described as the tactical section of the original XCOM Enemy Unknown/UFO Defense set in the world of Warhammer 40k with a linear RPG campaign element. Obviously the graphics are blocky by today’s standards but still functional. The soundtrack is still pretty great, with plenty of monk-esque chanting tunes to lead your Ultramarines into battle with the forces of Chaos. If you can get your hands on this game it’s well worth checking out for fans of the genre.

World Of Tanks


World-of-Tanks-Game-Girl-300x187If like me you excel at getting pwned by twelve year old noobs in first person shooting games then you might like World of Tanks. For this, my dear googlespider, is a first person shooter where the twitch reflexes of a black belt ninja mantis are not required.

The premise, albeit incredibly unrealistic the military buffs lament, is you and your fellow slow-reflexed companions command various second world war tanks as actually seen on the history channel. You team up for all the regular game types you see on other more Redbull fuelled type first person shooters. All in tanks. You then earn experience and credits blowing each other up and capturing bases to spend on ammo, repairs, new tanks, equipment and crew.

Tank models are numerous, with the major second world war armoured warfare nations represented. British, German, Soviet, French and American are all represented with massive tech trees and zillions of tanks to unlock for each. There are five basic tank types which all lend their own individual playstyles, so if zooming around in a light tank spying on people has always been your dream then go for it. If sitting around as a sniper getting cramp is more your thing then go tank destroyer.

Each nation has various models represented; so medium tanks include legendary vehicles such as the T-34, M4 Sherman, Panzer IV and the not so legendary M3 Grant and Matilda. In addition each tank has it’s own upgrades available and it all seems pretty historical if you like that sort of thing.

Fear not, for I know what you are thinking. No, you won’t have to fight a King Tiger in your pea-shooter armed Vickers Mark 1. Matches are balanced by tank ratings so puny early war tanks tend to fight against each other while leaving the big boys to slug it out elsewhere. This is actually quite a good thing as it means you can take your wimpy tank and just have fun without the feeling that you have to grind your way into something competitive.

Presentation and graphics are good, with some good gameplay mechanics. The tank types in the game complement each other well and often the winning team is the one that synergises the best rather than the one with the biggest guns. Team play is really where this game excels. Although I’ve not tried it I can imagine that getting on teamspeak with your buddies and dishing out a good old 1944 style whooping would be great.

Overall, I think this is a great game to pick up and play for a few minutes or even hours. Oh, and one other thing… did I mention that if you are pretty casual about it then IT’S FREE TO PLAY?!?

XCOM Enemy Unknown


Are remakes ever any good?

XCOM Enemy Unknown was a big game back in the nineties. It is widely regarded by those of a rose spectacled disposition to be one of the greatest games ever made. Essentially the game sees you taking your team of Vanilla Ice clones in beige boilersuits saving the world from hordes of marauding aliens. It was mainly turned based full of RPG elements with great levels of tension and excitement and unlike anything else we’d ever seen before. I certainly remember playing it a lot.

Recently a remake was released. Could it ever match up? Having played it a bit I can categorically state that it is a fantastic reworking of a classic game. Basically, it’s the same game with all the boring bits taken out. Boring bits in the greatest game ever? Great as the original was, it could drag a little bit. The maps were huge, your squads could be large and the turn based nature meant your Vanillas could move a few steps every five minutes. Trying to find a lone sectoid hiding in a wardrobe somewhere in downtown Tokyo for the fifth time in a week under these circumstances could be pretty dull. Bear in mind that you would always have to be tactical because any one of the thousand wardrobes could spell permadeath for your nurtured mini Ices if not handled correctly.

The remake sees the maps and squads being smaller, which means quicker into the action and more focus on squad tactics. The arbitrary time unit has been replaced by a move and then shoot action type sequence meaning it plays a bit like a squad based tabletop skirmish wargame. Troop levelling up now gives special feats, and with specific classes of characters every member plays an important role increasing interdependence.

Obviously the graphics are much improved, the interface is slicker and the out of action sequences are now less micro-managerial. The flat-tops and hi-tops are gone; but heck you can’t have everything!