Category Archives: Video Games

SWG – Good Night Sweet Prince

Yesterday saw the final nail in the coffin of SOE’s much-maligned MMO behemoth that was Star Wars Galaxies. It’s fair to say that this game had a chequered history. From the promise of its launch and the sandbox nature through to the themepark style levelling game it eventually became. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game that has been so polarising and from someone that played it from Beta 3 right through to after the crippling infection of the NGE I’d like to think my veteran status has afforded me the kudos to be able to comment on it and be taken seriously.

Merekk and Isa

No other game, and I really mean no other game, has come close to the tools that SWG gave you to make the world your own. Initially there were no levels, you still had to kill things to gain experience but that experience allowed you to buy skills in one of the best skill systems I have had the pleasure of enjoying in an MMO. You could dramatically change your character at any time. I mastered a large number of them myself, I’ve been a Commando, Ranger, Scout, Marksmen, Weaponsmith, Pikeman, Rifleman, Carbineer, Smuggler, Teras Kasi Artist, Swordsmen as well as the Pilot professions that came in with Jump to Lightspeed.

More important than all of those aspects of the game though, was the community. While currently I am waist-deep in The Old Republic alongside some of those people who I left behind in SWG the community that was forged in those early days is still the finest I’ve been fortunate enough to role-play with. Miss Isa’belita Yveshi, as seen in the screenshot above, is still someone who I have contact with almost daily, even though we are separated by a rather large body of water. You can see us enjoying the setting of the Tatooine suns on the roof of the Guild Hall I used as a domicile.

Housing and city building in this game was amazing, the planets were large and afforded guilds sufficiently motivated enough with opportunity to carve out a slice of Star Wars for themselves.

The Last Ditch

The screenshot above shows the infamous Last Ditch, the cantina at the heart of the city of Malador, named for the guild I was in during my days playing. In the background you can just about make out the mansion of Lythas Vex in the back left, criminal mastermind and also a really nice bloke from the south coast. I have many fond memories of events that took place in that cantina and the people who frequented it. Our city was the hub of what we did, late nights were spent getting everyone together and playing out our own little version of the Star Wars saga.

Sadly, when WoW arrived the storm that it created panicked SOE, at least from my point of view. They rapidly (and unexpectedly) changed the game that we all loved into something that attempted to copy the WoW-effect and, rather unsurprisingly, it failed. SWG had a lot of potential, it was a really great game, sure there were bugs, flavour of the month classes dominated PvP and the game needed horrific power to even run, but we loved it all the same. When the game changed to a levelling system and the unique combat systems had been overwritten, we not only lost the diversity of the huge number of classes, we also lost the heart of what made SWG SWG.

I had planned on being online for the finale. However, I went into the game on Tuesday night, loading into Tatooine still gives me goose bumps as I hear the majestic score play out until you are loaded into the game itself. I went and checked out my home one last time, drove around a bit to see the sights but the magic has gone. The planets are a mess of random buildings, the people I had such great times with are absent, the game I loved is a lobotomised shadow of its former glory. While its demise can be viewed much as watching the slow decline of a beloved family member, the fact it has now been put out of its misery is fitting. While there will always be a special part of my life that I look back on with a great and heartfelt fondness, now the game is gone there is a closure there. People change and move on, SWG has finally been given the merciful deathblow some of us wish had come a lot earlier.

The only thing left for me to do is to say thank you SWG, thank you for the memories of amazing people, amazing experiences and being one of the few times when we can say; the Internet makes things better and can change lives for the good.

While you may be gone, you will not be forgotten!

Batman Arkham City – First Impressions

Since my PC died a few weeks ago my xbox has been having a bit of a renaissance.  After speaking to some friends I acquired my own copy of Space Marine and have really enjoyed it.  But that’s not important now as I’m looking at the latest Batman game Arkham City.

I was a fan of the previous game, Arkham Asylum.  It had action, mystery and was very characterful environment.  Well Arkham City was released the other day I very dutifully bought my copy and have since spent a few hours jumping from roof tops with my underpants on the outside of my trousers.  So what are my first impressions?

If you liked the Asylum then I’m sure you’ll enjoy City.  It has everything that Asylum game plus more.  You have the action, the Riddler’s puzzles, the predator aspect of hunting down bad guys from the shadows.  You also have the options of upgrades as you get more experience.  With new gear and skills available.

The extras include things like playing as Catwoman in some of the missions.  She’s not as powerful as the Bat, but she is a hell of a lot faster.

And the city?  Wow!  It’s a massive map, and I mean huge.  There are major buildings for you to enter, plenty of rooftops to jump off and loads of bad guys to beat up.  Most of the major bad guys are there; Joker, Bane, Penguin, Freeze etc etc.  In some ways it’s a little overwhelming.  You have the main mission which involves Hugo Strange, but there are loads of mini/side missions such as rescuing political prisoners, hunting down an assassin, destroying the remaining Titan toxin, plus lots more.  I’m a particular fan of Zasz’s (spelt wrong I know) mini-mission where you have to hunt the phones ans trace his calls.  It’s very easy to get distracted by also these extras and this is probably the only thing that poke holes in with this game, and even then this isn’t a real criticism, it’s just hard to decide which missions to give priority to.  Oh and to fully appreciate the story you may have to buy Asylum as some of the story lines carry on from it.

Overall a fantastic game if you like a good mix of action, adventure, puzzle solving and just moving around a fantastic environment.

The Sun Never Sets on the Galactic Empire – Goodbye SWG

Except of course, that it did!

Long before the floating citadel sprung into being and a long time before I met any of the fine people who I call my friends here I was a spotty young nerd enjoying his first forays onto the Internet. Back at the turn of the century the Internet was a very different place, blogs were virtually unheard of and BB forums were everything. There was no twitter, no facebook and no World of Warcraft even the LOLcat had yet to rear its feline head. Everquest was the big MMO of the day and Ultima Online was promising a successor. MMOs weren’t the dime a dozen they are today.

It was in this environment that yours truly heard news that there was going to be a new MMO and it was going to be themed around Star Wars, my favourite movies of all time. I signed up on the Sony forums when they were first around and saturated myself in the community. This was a game type I’d not really encountered before, my online activities had been limited to say the least.

To start with there was very little information to go with, lots of posts came up with things that people wanted to see and any release of information was lapped up. Early frameworks of guilds started up and I ended up in one that had a pretty awesome story based around Dark Jedi. I got to meet a load of people and play various online games through this guild before it split into two factions, one side to play Star Wars Galaxies and the other to play WoW which was in development at the same time. I can’t say this split was entirely amicable and it was probably my first taste of Internet drama.

However, I did get to beta test SWG before it was released and a few of us living in the UK even got a friend from the states to mail us copies of the game from over there so we could start playing straight away rather than waiting for the European release. It was around this time that I went into hospital for some minor day surgery. I came out and was consigned to bed to heal up, luckily (or unluckily depending on your viewpoint) this meant that I spent the summer lying on my side playing SWG on my computer.

I played the game for around 3 years solid from the point it was released and met the coolest bunch of people I have ever met online, some of whom I am still in contact with, one of whom also has been there through quite a profound change in my life. I stayed in the guild Malador throughout that time as was the co-leader, I took it upon myself to be the one to try to arrange weekly events that we could bring people too. As this was an MMORPG we actually bothered with the RP side of that and it was great. The sandbox nature of the game lent itself brilliantly to this kind of thing. I have fond memories of running across the deserts of Tatooine to get places. This was also one of the only MMOs to have player housing and it was brilliant. I remember us placing the first buildings in our “city” and watching the server crash after we had done it so we had to do it again. I remember moving that city to a better location (the picture at the top is my own personal Guild Hall that I lived in when I stopped playing). I remember cantina parties when Player Cities were introduced, I remember going to hunt Mandalorians as a New Year’s event with members of many other guilds from the roleplay community (which I organised). I remember spending countless hours just enjoying the game, sitting around chatting and not actually doing a lot, but not having the pressures of daily quests or rep grinds.

SWG truly was a visionary game, sure it took some liberties with the timeline and eventually the Combat Upgrade and the New Game Experience completely destroyed what it had originally been. But, for all its faults I cannot say that I have ever had a more satisfactory gaming experience than those years spent living on Tatooine among some really fun people.

So, why am I waxing all nostalgic? Well, SOE will be pulling the plug on the old gal this December. The Old Republic is on its way and apparently the licensing for SWG had run its course. I’ve not paid attention to SWG for a number of years, after all, it’s not the same game I played all those years ago. However, the fond memories I have from my time there are just as dear to me as those experiences I’ve had out in the real world, primarily due to the folks I was playing with. SWG was a game built on a community that enjoyed interacting. Sure it wasn’t always smooth sailing, there was a certain amount of drama that happened, however, as some people came and went the faithful core rode things out and stuck together. It was brilliant and so I am sad to see that something that has formed so many cherished memories, even though it is only a game, will be no more.

I have a few days left of the free time SOE gave me after their servers got hacked so I’m planning on popping in and having a last look around, check out my house (which you could decorate by the way) and maybe grab some last screenshots before it all vanishes.

While I am looking forward to TOR and all that it offers I am sad that we haven’t seen another game come out that does as much as SWG did, it had its flaws for sure, but there was so much potential there. If some of the changes had been rolled back and undone I can imagine there still being that community I remember. Some of them are still there, but there are characters long departed that I can’t imagine it being the same without.

So long SWG, you’ll always be a part of my past and a hope for what we can see in the future. I hope to see you one last time before the end!

Operation Flashpoint: Red River – Released in North America (XBOX 360)

Red River came out in Europe back in April to largely indifferent cries of meh, and rapidly started filling bargain bins everywhere. Today sees it’s release stateside.

Carabus and I have been playing the swearathon that is Red River for a few weeks now, and I can quite happily say that it the best of the Flashpoint games so far. I’m not sure what game most reviewers were playing for it to get such lacklustre ratings, but essentially it is a very polished addition to the franchise.

These games have always worked best as co-op games, so if you are a fan of the Flashpoint series and have some friends; ignore the ratings and get yourself a copy ricky-tick.


Rift – Two Weeks On

I posted a few weeks back that I’d let my WoW subscription expire (not missing that at all btw) and had picked up Rift just before the founders subscription offer ran out.

My original post was really my first impressions and this is very much a highly polished MMO considering its age, however, in the ensuing time things have not all gone as well as they could. I spent around a week not being able to play at all, not good when you have a free month to try things out and are looking as to whether to subscribe, or even worse, encourage your friends to join you! However, this has now been resolved, largely through my own troubleshooting efforts. There are numerous people reporting connectivity issues, I was able to log in but would get disconnected in 30 secs to 2 minutes, nothing would load in the world and it was impossible to do anything.

I even rebuilt my computer to get around this issue and the only thing that eventually worked for me was to use the “Run as Administrator” option from the shortcut menu. I still get pretty hefty lag in Sanctum and well attended rifts but it is way better than before and I can actually play now. There are some lag spikes now and then but I can forgive a game this much as I know the forums are awash with complaints regarding this so I hope Trion are looking into it.

After playing through all the Callings there are I’ve settled on my Rogue. I picked Assassin, Nightblade and Blade Dancer as my first 3 souls and am enjoying it so far. Last night I hit level 16 and bought myself my first mount, a nice chocolate-brown horse. This really opens up the map and I like the fact that you are not restricted in when you buy your starting mount, the only obstacle is the money it takes to do it. You get tempted early on in Silverwood by seeing the horses but there are some sweeter mounts available in Sanctum with the faster ones becoming available at level 40 and 50.

Another level and I’ll be high enough to try the first dungeon too, I have done some quests to unlock further souls although you can’t swap them out with the initial three you choose. I have purchased another Role which will allow me to pick more souls and effectively have a second talent spec. Last night I earned my Marksman, Rift Stalker, Ranger and Bard souls. This now allows me the option for another DPS spec or speccing for tanking. I think I am going to finish gathering all my Callings souls before making a decision but being able to Tank or DPS should provide some interesting changes of pace. My quest log is brimming with stuff to do and as I complete them I am also collecting crafting materials.

Up until recently I was in pretty much fully crafted gear, OK I outgrew it reasonably quickly but it was nice that the stuff I was making was useful and I see people in their own crafted gear, at least around my level, not sure how it gets at higher levels.

Currently I am certainly not as hardcore with this game as I was with World of Warcraft but then I reckon that is a good thing. I haven’t yet thrown myself into a guild and am having a lot of fun just running around questing and doing things with Rifts as they appear.

Even despite the frustrations I had with the game stopping working for a while I’m happy with what I’m doing at the moment. A lot of the territory I am covering is familiar enough to WoW that you don’t feel lost within a new world, but there is enough there that is different to keep having stuff you want to do. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing how things pan out as I continue to level and being in a new world for the first time in a while is certainly refreshing. I’ll just need to keep myself honest as I have a lot of painting that needs doing too…

Rift – First (and a half) Impressions

The King is dead, long live the King! With only a few days left of my WoW subscription I’ve pretty much abandoned it, I’d created a new Mage on another server to take a break from Argent Dawn for a bit and see if a fresh start would revitalise me. Needless to say with 85 levels ahead of me and a clear understanding of the end game I couldn’t really find the will to go on. I’ve bought every single expansion they’ve released and played them all through and I finish now with a level 85, an 83 and an 82 with two alts in their 40’s and a smattering in the twenties. I think I’ve seen enough of WoW and even with the different character classes that there are everything else is a little stale. I’ve done so much with my Shaman that replicating the achievements on other characters is a chore in and of itself and I don’t really want to do that.

I’ve done a small amount of painting this week, now the lighter nights are coming in I expect to ramp this up and try to finally get some more finished pieces, it would be really nice to have a fully painted game of something at some point. I have some more Dark Eldar to collect to finish my army off but other than that there isn’t a lot of stuff I see coming in the future for me to buy, therefore painting what I do have should be more of a priority.

However, all that is really just a preamble to what you know I’m going to be talking about. The reason the title adds a half to my otherwise first impression of new MMO Rift is because I did get a short amount of time in the beta. I never actually left the starting zone of the Defiants which is where I spent a lot of my time trying out the different callings. I liked what I saw but decided not to take the plunge when the game came out, especially with WoW still being very much on my radar and my personal history of what happens when I have two MMOs running at the same time. I picked up the game on Wednesday for a couple of reasons, one of them obviously being that I really enjoy MMOs and wanted something fresh and new after WoW. Second was that the founder’s subscription discount expired at the end of March, £20 for three months play I find quite attractive and is around £5 cheaper than WoW and you of course get your free month. Third was that the game has been out for a month now and therefore all the hype is dying down, the bandwagon jumpers will be going back to WoW and the server populations should start to stabilise.

For me at least, it seems like the ideal time to make the jump. All the signs so far have pointed to Rift being a real win for the MMO sector, its release was possibly the most polished and bug free ever in the market space, certainly a plus point that isn’t lost on me after seeing a lot of MMOs on Day 1 just fail to deliver any real playable experience. Waiting for a little bit has served me really well here as I’ve been able to watch things develop before taking the plunge.

Last night was the first night I got to properly sit down and have a blast through. I created a character on both side of the Guardian/Defiant divide however, after watching the intro videos for the factions I found that I was identifying more with the story of the Guardians and therefore I have created one character for each of the four callings (Warrior, Rogue, Mage, Cleric) on the Guardian side.

One of the major mechanics that makes Rift stand out from other MMOs is the Soul system that the classes work off. Each Calling has eight Souls associated with it and each of those souls has different abilities that you start off with. As you level up you earn points that can be put into the Souls, kind of like Talent Trees in WoW, the more points you spend in a tree the more abilities you unlock. What makes things stand out is that you can have three Souls active at any one time, combining the abilities of all three Souls to improve your character. Each of these combinations is called a Role and you are allowed yo purchase up to 4 Roles so you can radically alter your play style within your Calling.

You’ll also find that your callings are not in the traditional sense of the typical MMO class system. For instance, the Riftstalker Soul from the Rogue calling is actually a Defensive Soul, meaning that it is set up for Tanking, you have the Bard which is a Support Soul for buffing you and your group. You can have a pet class Soul and be like a traditional Hunter was in WoW and the synergy between the Souls is really impressive. So far on my Rogue I’ve used my points to not only buff my base damage I’ve put points into my other Souls in order to boost the damage of my Finishing Moves as well as improve my chances of hitting.

I really like this system and look forward to seeing what combinations I can come up with, you do tend to see some similar abilities in the various Souls and I cut out the ones that do the least damage compared to others, this does mean that I swap skills in and out of my rotation as they level up.

One of the other stand out features are the Rifts after which the game derives its name. For lack of a better description these are tears that appear randomly around the world. I am currently in Silverwood and have encountered Life, Death and Fire Rifts (each Rift is based on a particular elemental force). These rifts spawn bad guys and as they get left along will spawn bigger and nastier critters until the players group together and seal it. Each of the rifts have different mechanics for the various stages of a rift which keeps things interesting and as soon as you enter a rift you can join a public group so you can see all the other players and work with them.

I spent the latter part of my session last night doing nothing but Rifts and it’s similar to the public quest system implemented in Warhammer Online. You earn loot by contributing to the sealing of a rift but nothing you couldn’t do without if you chose not to take part. You can tell what kind of Rift you are facing before getting there due to the colour palette and graphical effects surrounding it.

I managed to get my Rogue up to level 11 before heading for bed. Unlike my other forays into fantasy based MMOs I have mostly Human characters. Each faction has three race options, one of them on both sides is Human, Mathosian for the Guardians and Eth for the Defiants. Then you have High Elves and Dwarfs to round out the Guardians and Kelari (think dark elves and you’re not far off) and Bahmi (big burly purple dudes) for the Defiants. Everything bar my Cleric is Mathosian with a High Elf finishing things off. I normally plumb for the otherworldly races to aid my escapism in these games but this time around I really like the look of the Human races. Gone are the cartoony and stylised graphics of WoW and now we have a world that is really stunning to look at. Going in afresh means I am exploring things anew for the first time in a while.

True, the core mechanics are very similar to WoW but this just makes it easily accessible to those people looking for something that is familiar but different enough to satisfy them and so far Rift is doing this for me. The Soul system is going to be really interesting to explore as I level and the whole world is easier to get into as it feels more real. I’ve got a busy weekend coming up but I am looking forward to getting some more time to explore Rift and what it holds.

I may have taken my time in choosing whether or not to dive in but now that I have I am very glad I did.

6 Inch Move Reviews – Dragon Age Origins

Recently I’ve been experiencing a lot of problems with my home PC. I’ve had hard disk partition losses within the last 12 months that caused me to spend a day (with friends thankfully) trying to recover all my data (that I now backup weekly to an external drive). This meant I had to rebuild my machine and damaged some of my saved games. Also, since Christmas my Internet has not been stable, after planning on casually raiding with this patch and trying to keep up with content not being able to play because of crippling lag kind of destroyed my desire to play. Hence my WoW time went to none and I decided to finally try to finish Dragon Age. I’d created a few characters here and there and even had a mage that had done two out of three of the main quests, but I decided to start from scratch with a new toon in a starting area that I hadn’t done yet.

So, enter Theron (not pictured, that’s an Ogre), a Dalish Elf Warrior with a penchant for Archery. I finally finished the game on Sunday evening after well over 20 hours of play. I may or not disclose spoilers in the following prose so you have been warned.

Firstly, let’s start with my impressions after having finished the game; Mass Effect is a better game! There, I know there is a lot of love for Dragon Age and it may be that I am kind of jaded by the traditional format of Bioware games – start character, 4 areas for starting missions that expand later, but this is my honest impression of the game. Bioware are simply the best in the business at building worlds and Ferelden is no exception. The world of Dragon Age is as real and deep as any other I’ve played through and the attention to detail is brilliant as always. There is nothing wrong with the back story at all it’s well crafted and as you go through you come across interesting people and places and carve out your path through them. I like the removal of the Paragon/Renegade display so you don’t necessarily know what effect your conversation choices are going to have on your party members until you’ve picked them and you definitely can’t please all of the people all of the time.

You also encounter some pretty challenging combats and getting through an event despite being hugely outnumbered is very gratifying if you pull it off but you will also die a lot in this game. The scope of character creation lets you know just what kind of game you are getting into where leaving your mark in the communities you live in and pass through is all part and parcel of the game. You can have a pretty dramatic impact on the land and its peoples. This is one of the things I love about Bioware games as you do impact the land in true heroic fashion and this is obviously traditional RPG territory of you being the hero. You get prompts on what you’re doing, you go do it and pick up side-quests along the way and depending on your actions and who you take in your party you can improve your relations with those characters. These relationships can have unexpected outcomes that play out in the game too with consequences on the main storyline.

However, I don’t really want to discuss the story as that if what the gameplay itself should do, tell you the story. What I want to do is tell you of my experiences with the game. I thought that Mass Effect as better because the story was more solid, this is purely a personal opinion (I’ve prepared my anti-flame blanket already) though. I felt engaged by ME1 and 2 on a level that I didn’t in DA. The game pace felt incredibly long-winded, the maps are pretty on rails as they are in ME and the environments can be truly breathtaking but my goodness me things take an age. Whether I just had the wrong party combination or the wrong skill sets I don’t know but every combat takes a long time and all you have to do is make one mistake and you’ll be loading your save and trying again (I took to saving my game after every single combat).

By the time I had finished the main four quests I’d taken to pretty much ignoring the side quests, I wanted to see the story play out and after spending hours in the Deep Roads of Orzammar I was getting a little bored. Some of the boss fights are more like raid encounters in terms or the length they take to complete but the deathblow animations of the more elite monsters are amazing and do add a wow factor. The story itself twists and turns and there is a simply amazing number of ways in which certain situations can go depending on the actions of you and your party, there are moral ambiguities as well as more black and white choices to be had, you can even change the behaviour of some of your party depending on your conversations with them.

In this regard Dragon Age is on a par if not ahead of Mass Effect, you do feel a lot closer to your party members and you can see events evolving around you rather than you going through things choosing the simple good/evil option. You can be a lot more involved in shaping the future of Ferelden. However, as the bulk of the game revolves around combat missions the quality doesn’t carry over. It is more like a single player MMO, fighting through continuous hordes of the same kinds of bad guys to reach one a bit tougher than the others before getting towards a final boss. I liked the stories tied to the main quest lines, they were varied and you have a large range of choices for how things go even within that questline, there are choices within choices to make and these will influence the final outcome of the game. It’s not as simple as pick a love interest to go for, pick good or evil and go for it.

It is worth a play through though, the hardest part is the huge number of starting character options that you think you’ll want to play it through again and again, especially when you consider how things can go dependant on your choices. However, I was kind of glad when it did end. I’d finished and was glad to have done it but do not have much inclination to do it again, that might have something to do with the various false starts I’d had. It’s not a bad game by any means but I think the brilliant storytelling and character interaction is let down by the combat sections and I know that there are many people who rave about the combat in DA. For me though, loved the story, not so much fun with the combat and I loved the combat in Mass Effect and both KOTOR games.

It is a huge game, far too much to be explored by just one play through, I have in fact started a Human Noble (female this time rather than my male) and am using the cheats to alter my image, I am therefore playing through at the moment looking like a Desire Demon, much more entertaining watching the conversation options with a Succubus standing there. However, similar to how I am with WoW, knowing the starting zones and their length really means I am not inclined to spend the time doing it all over again.

I did reload one of my saves before the final mission and replayed the Morrigan “romance” as the Desire Demon too, I have screenshots too lol.

Overall I’d give it a 4 out of 5. I’m not sure about getting the next one to be honest but I know that once Mass Effect 3 drops I will pick it up without delay. I’ve got 2 more characters to run through that game with before the next episode hits so, while I love me some fantasy, when it comes to Bioware I’m strictly in the sci-fi camp.

Electronic Arts (EA) Online Server Woes

True to form, 6InchMove proudly brings you the news several months after it has already happened!

Regularly reading spambots to these pages will be aware that Carabus and myself often like to relax by blowing stuff up over Xbox Live. Every once in a while we invest in game and play to our hearts content, usually in co-op whilst having a good chat (about tough bloke stuff obviously, we are nothing like a bunch of old women).

After hunting around for some appropriate Lord Of The Rings themed games we came across a title called ‘Lord of The Rings: Conquest’. Reviews were not particularily favourable, except where online mode was concerned. It seemed the real fun with this game was playing with your buddies. So we went out, and each bought a copy.

It was not long before we found out that EA no longer run any online servers for this game. A game which isn’t even 2 years old! In fact, further study reveals that they pulled the servers after only 14 months! They claim that this is because few people play the game online. Now I’m no computer genius but surely it can’t be that hard to set up some kind of dynamic servers that host whatever games customers want to play?

So anyway, the 6InchMove citadel now contains two copies of a game with very little promise. Personally I am disappointed, and a tad wary about buying online EA games again.

All was not lost however, as instead we played Eidos’s excellent multiplayer ‘Battlestations: Midway’. Carabus being the shortest snugly fitted into the Japanese role, and proceeded to rewrite history by destroying my entire US fleet. To be fair though, I doubt Chester Nimitz was running things whilst watching TV and having a chat with his wife!

Note to EA: This game is nearly FOUR years old AND has had a sequel yet can still be played over Xbox Live. Hooray for good customer relations!

Six Of The Greatest Computer and Video Games Ever

Ever since I could hold a dial contoller and make the lines go up and down on a pong machine I’ve been playing computer games. Not that that qualifies me at all to make any kind of judgement upon what makes a good game or not, it simply shows that I’m getting old and still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

So anyway spambots, I have been thinking long and deeply about some of what I consider the best of gaming… EVER!!! Obviously as I write this in the middle of October 2010 it may not be valid for very long… Indeed I might well have changed my mind by tomorrow, but here goes:

6) Mass Effect 2 – This game truly is a work of genius. Just about the only adventure game I’ve ever played where I actually gave a stuff about what NPCs had to say. I must have sat through hours of dialogue and not got bored, wore out the continue button, fell asleep or went off in search of food once. Remarkable. In addition, I don’t think I got lost in game either, saving literally tonnes of virtual shoe leather. Good adventures? This is how it’s done!

5) Modern Warfare 2 – The second sequel on our list proves the point that video games are utterly unlike videos. For those of you who are 20 years old or less a video is an archaic device used to store films and movies. They were big plastic bulky things, and if you were posh you could put them in covers that made them look like books from the side. Anyway, most movie sequels are about flogging the dead horse in a vain attempt to cash in. Game sequles are about taking a game and making it better. MW2 happens to be just about the greatest FPS game, technically and especially playability wise. Single player – great, multiplayer – amazing, co-operative – a right laugh. Yes PC owners whinge that it doesn’t have LAN support. It’s best played on a console where the playing fields are level and victory cannot be bought at your local PC component store.

4) Grand Theft Auto 4 – I know a guy from eastern europe who happens to be called Niko. He also looks like the protagonist of this great game. Fortunately he has never tried to carjack me or rob a bank. I did pay him to help paint my house and assemble a bathroom though, and I would say that maybe he’d be wise to keep his options open for a career in crime. Regardless, GTA4 is amazing. The attention to detail is fantastic. Even if breaking the law is not your thing you can spend hours watching the TV, going to shows and surfing the internet in game. It’s seriously hilarious. The game proper though is a great high quality adventure into the seedy underworld of Liberty City, with enough freedom to keep you playing for days. It’s the jewel in the crown of Rockstar Games, but also recommended are the similar Grand Theft Cowboy (Red Dead Redemption) and Grand Theft School (Bully).

3) Gears Of War 2 – Want a game with sex drugs and rock n’ roll? Pfff… that’s for wimps! Get up close and personal with one of the most brutal and excitng games you’ll ever play! Once you’ve hacked, slashed, blasted and sawed your way through an excellent single player or co-op campaign, you then have the further fun of brilliant multiplayer options. Gears of War 2 has a serious ace which will keep you hacking, slashing, blasting and sawing for years to come. What? Two words – Horde Mode.

2) Bayonetta – What the heck is this doing at number two? I’ll tell you what, it’s a veritable feast of awesome. Everything about this game is absolutely stunning and I’d say that even if the main character was a fat bloke called Dave who walks around with his wang out. Visually it’s incredible, aurally it’s amazing and it all glues together with such seamless effortlessness and flow to produce the ultimate beat ’em up. Give typewriters to an infinite number of monkeys and eventually they’ll produce the full works of Shakespeare. Give computers and hallucinogenic drugs to an infinite number of programmers and I don’t think they’d come close to producing something this crazily amazing.

1) World Of Warcraft – The greatest game ever made. Seriously. Hmm, I am beginning to doubt my own sanity. But just look at it, Warcrack is so immersive that it’s very hard to find a regular player who hasn’t had some kind of addiction to the game. It’s phenomenal once you get into it, all you need is a PC with GameBoy type specifications and a smattering of social skills and you are off into this crazy world of adventure which can and literally will suck your life away. The repercussions of Warcrack will become apparent in a few years as a generation comes of age lacking in qualifications and suntans, having squandered the best years of their lives holed away in basements doing the safety dance and grinding their Hodir rep. Good? – definitely. Addictive? – dangerously!

Things Not On This List:

1) Old games – Populous was great. Notice the WAS. Resident Evil was incredible. Again notice the WAS. They’ve all been redone, a million times better on far superior hardware. Only a true masochist or someone living at the bottom of a swamp would think that Elite is still the best space opera game ever. Groundbreaking, yes, the best game ever to grace the BBC Micro, sure. Possibly the best game on the planet by a long way on it’s release. Take off your rose tinted spectacles, play it on an emulator and see how it pales in comparison to games you can even get on your mobile phone.

2) Nintendo – Run by plumbers? Never played any of their games in any serious measure (well not since they refused to add blood to Mortal Kombat on the SNES, a bit like doing a wrestling game without the spandex). I do own a Wii, which is revolutionary in terms of game controllers but its a kind of fun thing for social gatherings. I don’t rush home from work to get in a round of Wii Sports Golf. Oh yeah, Goldeneye 64 was the best game of it’s day, but see ‘1) Old Games’.

3) Any Other MMO – Warcraft is far more popular. Admit it, you invested 3 months in levelling a toon in a game people only play when the WoW servers run maintenance.

4) Sonic The Hedgehog – Haha not a chance you spikey freak!

6 Inch Move Review – Mass Effect 2 – Beware of Spoilers

Over the weekend I managed to complete the exceptional Mass Effect 2. As friends can attest I am quite a fickle gamer and therefore if I actually finish the single player campaign of any game it is heralded with fireworks and other celebratory effects. It is this singular fact alone that shows how remarkable the original Mass Effect was when I went through it three times! Once I had finished that game I was super-excited for the sequel, already knowing that this was going to be a trilogy. Of course, shortly before the release of Mass Effect 2 my Xbox took a dump and red-ringed while I was playing Fable 2 (I finished it eventually after getting a new Xbox 8 months later). Once the new Xbox was here I wasted no time in buying Mass Effect 2, it had also massively dropped in price by the time I picked it up too, every cloud…

After having imported my Paragon Shephard from the first game I fired things up, I knew a few bits and pieces from having watched the trailers but in the main the storyline was unknown to me. I loaded up the game, saw the Normandy get decked, enjoyed the awesome moment of walking out of a burning ship into the noiselessness of space and then the moments with Cerberus. Now that I have completed the game I have to say that I am very happy with the experience, I like how it integrated the choices I had made in the previous game and the fact that you come across your old team members really was a series of joyful reunions. You can tell a lot about a game if you actually engaged with and identified with the characters, books are more normally the medium for this to happen but it is great to see video games with this much detail lavished upon them where you feel a genuine connection far beyond the code and pixels.

I enjoyed spending my time recruiting and talking to my team, the old and the new alike. I performed every single loyalty mission and did every single sidequest that came up before doing the final mission. Unfortunately I haven’t got anything other than the autosaves after completing the game so I need to go through the final boss fight again and make sure to save this time as I played around a bit after the final curtain. I want to make sure I have the save in the right place when Mass Effect 3 comes around so I can import again.

Throughout the game the storytelling is fantastic, if you are playing this game for the combat side of things I believe you’ve got the wrong game. Bioware’s real strength comes from creating a believable world in which you can live through the actions of your party. I have loved Mass Effect’s world since the opening mission on Eden Prime in the first game. It was nice to see some old enemies from new perspectives in the sequel too. Of course there are the Bioware staple options of pursuing romance within the game (though no lady on lady action as was possible in the first game) but the campaign plays out beautifully. Nothing takes forever to do, in some cases the missions even feel too short, I remember things taking much longer in the original but this really is a minor criticism about a game that is executed so wonderfully. Everytime I landed for a mission it was a real decision to choose who was coming with me, there is a lot of diversity in the characters and they have some pretty useful abilities so depending on what you expect to face on a mission can have an impact on what you want to take along. I did tend to default to the same people with slight variations but overall I took more of the different team members in this one than I ever did in Mass Effect 1 where I took Tali and Liara on pretty much every mission once I had recruited them.

I like the addition of the Paragon and Renegade action triggers, I’m on my second play through to see how the Renegade ends up different and am enjoying being a badass for a change, although personally I find it easier to identify with an altruistic character, rather than one that is horribly self-centred. Sometimes things aren’t all that clear though as when I have chosen options that seem the most Paragon like I accumulate some Renegade points alongside the big hauls of Paragon from within the same conversation. I was very pleased to survive the final mission and not lose a single team member from any of the assignments I gave them, I imagine that will have an impact on the final game.

One thing that did frustrate me was the fact that your old romantic relationships have been completely closed off. While meeting Liara for the first time (the romance I pursued with my ME1 Paragon Shephard) there isn’t much you can do, what with Liara being focussed on kicking the Shadow Broker’s ass. Sure the story picks up two years later but you’d have thought that a relationship would last a bit longer but this is purely down to personal perception and I am not in charge of the characters nor how Asari deal with the death of a lover considering their longevity.

Everything is nicely setup for the final chapter of the game, I’ll be picking it up on release providing this Xbox is more compliant that its predecessor. What I am also hoping is that Mass Effect avoids the horrible fate that seems to afflict some game worlds these days of being transferred into the MMO market. I love Mass Effect and the story, however, porting it online where you’d have a veritable horde of Shephard wannabes I don’t think would work, at least not for me as a consumer. I’d like to see that Mass Effect stays as a single player RPG title, luckily Bioware are very good at these kinds of games and while The Old Republic is taking KOTOR into the MMO market I hope that we don’t end up with their sci-fi magnum opus going the same way. I love the experiences I’ve had so far and look forward to finishing the series and closing off a wonderful gaming journey.

Mass Effect 2 – 5/5 as far as I am concerned. Brilliant!