Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Review for Game-Debate: Fort Zombie

Fort Zombie is without a doubt, the worst computer game I’ve ever had the misfortune to play. The controls are awful, it looks terrible, there is almost no sound and it crashes for no apparent reason. It’s so frustrating to play that the concept of a real zombie munching on your brain actually sounds more enjoyable than this rotting corpse of a game...Wait. You’re still here? Really? If the above hasn’t already been enough to put you off Fort Zombie forever, you’ll definitely not want to spend £7.95 on it once you’ve read this.

I’m never one to judge a book by its cover, or a game by its title screen, but I had a bad feeling about this one when I booted up Fort Zombie for the first time. Can you say 2D cardboard cut outs? It honestly looks like something that was knocked up using Photoshop in the space of about 2 minutes. And would you believe it, it all goes downhill from there.

Fort Zombie looks terrible. There are games from the start of the decade that look better than this. The whole world is blocky with a tremendously bad amount of pop-up and the character (also blocky) animation is shockingly bad. If you need any more convincing as to how bad this game looks just look at the screenshots. Do it now. I’ll even make this the end of the paragraph so you can easily come back to where you left off. That is if you haven’t gouged out your own eyeballs after having a look.

See, I told you I’d wait for you and I’m glad to see you still have full use of your vision. Of course games aren’t all about looks but you can’t ignore how ugly this one looks and there’s probably road kill out there that’s more atheistically pleasing than Fort Zombie. Unfortunately the game play is just as terrible as the graphics. You play the role of a chap called Ben Riley, who for some reason decided the best way to survive the zombie apocalypse is to head in to the town of Piety, Indiana and hold up in a fortress. If zombies did start walking the streets I would try and get out of a city personally. Anyway, your first task is to find your fortress and clear it out which is where I discovered many of the problems with Fort Zombie.

The controls are awful. Ben Riley cannot shoot straight, or even move while shooting. If you want to shoot a zombie you have to stand still or run away. Try shooting and you’ll soon discover Ben Riley has trouble targeting a zombie that’s two feet in front of him. If you want to move away from the zombie for a better shot you can’t just step backwards, no that’d be far too easy. Ben can’t walk backwards, he can only turnaround which then involves trying to sort out the awful camera while you try to take aim. It’s probably a good thing you can merely walk away from most zombies, that is when Ben isn’t too exhausted. That cigarette he’s smoking is obviously bad for him because walking a few hundred metres will drain Ben’s stamina so much he’ll have to stop and take a breather – easy prey for zombies ay? It’s a ridiculous aspect of the game. Fear not though, the zombies are so stupid that if you merely walk round a corner they’ll forget about you. The A.I. is just that bad. That’s not just for your enemies by the way. I often found my allies’ path finding techniques laughable. Apparently walking around a car is too hard for them, just another of the many, many things that make Fort Zombie a terrible experience.

Let’s move away from the undead and onto the fort. The main task of the game is find supplies and survivors in order to defend your fort from mass zombie invasions over the course of a 12 day period. Every day you choose ‘missions’ that involve you going to an area of the town in order to find food, supplies or other survivors. These missions are generated randomly so if you really want to play this rubbish more than once the opportunity is there – that is if you can get into a mission. What do I mean? It’ll tell you. Fort Zombie regularly crashed when choosing missions so instead of seeing Piety I ended up looking at my desktop. (At least it’s easier on the eyes than this abomination)

When missions actually loaded they were repetitive affairs. Walk over there, shoot or avoid the undead and look for items. Looking for things involves pushing F and watching your character try to ‘find’ boxes and cabinets. Even if these are quite obviously in front of your face you still need to ‘look’ for them which takes about 5 seconds. Why? It’s completely pointless and just one more irritating thing about this game.

To conclude, Fort Zombie looks awful, plays terribly and is so full of bugs it really isn’t worth the £7.95 asking price. Here are some suggestions as to more enjoyable ways to spend your money:

  • Buy a set of knives and repeatedly jab them into your legs.
  • Spend it all down the pub! You’ll want to forget this review no doubt.
  • If you really want some cheap zombie action (steady...) use the money to buy the excellent Plants vs. Zombies

Yeah, do that last one! But whatever you do, don’t buy Fort Zombie. Ever.

2/10

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Monday, 14 December 2009

Game-Debate Review: Divinity II - Ego Draconis

If I were to tell you this review is about a dragon based RPG, it’s more than likely you’ll think of the massively publicised Dragon Age: Origins. Now while, DAO is certainly an excellent game it’s been somewhat hogging the limelight.

There are in fact other recent RPG releases, recent RPG releases that have dragon themes and this is where Divinity II – Ego Draconis comes in. Produced by independent Belgian studio Larian (Now say you can’t name a famous Belgian), Ego Draconis is the latest in their series of Divinity titles. However, new players need not fret because you can be totally unfamiliar with the previous games and still appreciate Divinity II as the highly enjoyable title it is.

You play the role of a newly trained Dragon Slayer in the fantastic looking fantasy world of Rivellon and the game starts with you creating your character. You choose the basics like sex, looks, class and starting stats. While this isn’t revolutionary, it does nonetheless give you the feeling that it’s your story rather than that of a pre-determinedcharacter.

Once you’ve decided on your looks and stats you have the opportunity to choose a class - warrior, ranger, priest or mage – and the choice will further boost your characters stats in some capacity. For example, choosing mage will increase your intelligence which will in turn boost your magic spells. As you level up it’s completely up to you how to distribute your skills which again, allows you to feel as if it really is yourcharacter developing in a way that isn’t too different from Fallout 3.

Once out of the training academy quests are the name of the game and you’ll play through a lot them. Many of these are optional side quests but without completing them you’ll find Divinity II gets very tough, very quickly. I learned this after my level 2 character failed the first boss encounter horribly. This problem was encountered throughout much of Divinity II, especially during the first half of the game. Without completing side quests and level grinding you’ll find it impossible to push on through the story missions because groups of enemies that are just a couple of levels above your character will absolutely slaughter you. However, roam around Broken Valley and its dungeons for long enough and you’ll get there eventually. (On an interesting side-note, enemies don’t respawn. Once you clear an area they’re gone for good.) The combat itself is a somewhat hack and slash affair but is fun nonetheless. It’s your characters special skills that make combat really enjoyable and these are assigned through hotkeys making it easy enough to dispatch of goblins, the undead, bandits and a variety of other clich├ęd Tolkienesque fantasy villains.

Yes, Divinity II is full of fantasy characters that could be straight out of Lord of The Rings or Dungeons and Dragons, but much of the game is tongue in cheek in a very charming way. You can’t help but smile when talking to the NPC’s who all have regional accents from throughout the UK. Of course, as inLord of the Rings , there are loads of “ooh ar” accents representing the West Country, but you’ll also find scouse soldiers, Irish boatmen, and my personal favourite, a Welsh weapon smith and his wife...apparently from Dudley. There is a real charm to the voice work of the NPC’s which certainly makes up for your characters lack of speech. Yes, you select a voice when creating them but this is mainly just used for quips during battle. When in conversation you select your responses from a text menu. Or you can choose to read minds...

Yes, as a Dragon Slayer you have the option to read minds while in conversation with NPC’s. This is paid for by sacrificing experience points. (These are easily earned back after defeating a few enemies) Sometimes mind reading will give you massive insights into completing a mission, extra skill points or a variety of other bonuses. Sometimes you’ll just end up seeing what the NPC had for lunch. Generally you’ll know if mind reading will end up being useful because the thoughts with the most benefit cost the most experience points to access. It’s a nice touch that certainly gives Divinity II a unique gameplay element in the world of RPG’s.

Now for the big one and what is possibly the most unique selling point of Divinity II – the ability to play as a dragon. You’ll have to work for it though because this ability is only unlocked around the half way point of the story. (I won’t say why exactly the slayer becomes the dragon, that would spoil the story) In dragon form you can quickly travel across maps and access areas that would be impossible to reach on foot. Of course your dragon will be involved in mid air battles with a hot key system identical to the one for the ground. However, if you’re planning on taking your dragon form transform enemies on the ground to mere piles of ashes you’ll be disappointed – while playing as a dragon you can’t target enemies on the ground, nor can you even see them. Occasionally I would transform back into human form only to find myself surrounded by foes and quickly killed. Frustrating but nothing a quick reload can’t help with. It’s not only when in dragon form that you’ll find yourself getting frustrated moving around Rivellon. Waypoints are provided for the main quests but that luxury doesn’t accompany the side quests. There were a few occasions where I needed to level grind but couldn’t actually find where I needed to go without exploring every nook and cranny of the map. Not that I don’t like exploring – I do – but sometimes I just felt the game would be more enjoyable if you were directed towards the locations when you take on side-quests.

A quick mention must go to the superb soundtrack that’s featured throughout the game. The storyline on the other hand isn’t particularly strong with its basic stop the evil fella theme. That said Divinity 2 is excellent fun and you won’t really be thinking of the story as you hack and slash your way through foes and complete quests. Larian studios have produced a good game here, and while some will say it’s your typical fantasy adventure, its tongue in cheek humour and the ability to play as a dragon certainly offer you something different. It’s also a massive game with a completion time of at least 25 to 30 hours when you throw in the many, many side quests which really demonstrates that Larian can mix it with the big boys. Add to this that many of the quests have multiple outcomes and there’s massive scope for replaying the game. Divinity II – Ego Draconis is an enjoyable romp and is definitely worth playing if you want a different take on the RPG genre. The hack and slash nature ofcombat also makes it an ideal first foray into the world of RPG’s if you’re unfamiliar with the genre. Divinity 2 does have some minor problems but it’s definitely worth parting with your precious gold coins for this magical experience. Get goblin bashing!

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Game-Debate News: Borderlands DLC now on PC

Gearbox Software have now made the first Borderlands downloadable content pack available to PC gamers. Previously The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned was only available on the console versions of their RPG co-op shooter.

The additional content revolves around the afore mentioned Dr. Ned and trying to track down his undead creations in a new area the DLC adds to the game - Jacobs Cove. You can buy The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned directly from the Gearbox Software Store here for $9.99 - which works out as just over £6.

You can discuss Borderlands here or alternatively discuss The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned here.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Game-Debate News: UK Government set to reject developer tax breaks


Video games developers won't be receiving government support. That's according to The Guardian who report that Chancellor Alistair Darling is set to reject tax breaks for developers in today's Pre-Budget Report.

The UK games industry has produced worldwide hits like the Grand Theft Auto games and the Tomb Raider series but is facing fierce competition from other countries such as Canada and North Korea who are using their government subsidies to lure British developers overseas.

The games sector contributes more to the economy than UK film - which does get subsidised - but it unfortunately appears the government will be rejecting recommendations for a "cultural tax break" in the Digital Britain report.

The UK games industry had been ranked third largest in the world for decades - behind only the USA and Japan - but it's estimated the UK is now only ranked fifth behind Canada and South Korea.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Game-Debate News: Gamers' Voice Meeting Next Week

Gamers' Voice, the pressure group founded following Keith Vaz's negative comments about gaming in The Daily Mail, will be holding its first meeting next week.

Tom Watson MP, the founder of the group, has organised a meeting inside the House of Commons starting at 18:30 on December 9th.

The aim is to "discuss what people want from the group and how we can get it moving"

Anyone can attend but Mr Watson says the meeting room can only hold 50 people.

If you want to go, you can sign up and get the details here.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Game-Debate News: Modern Warfare 2 Cheats Banned

2,500 cheating players have been banned from Modern Warfare 2 servers. Replying to a comment on Twitter, Infinity Ward's Robert Bowling says:

"Top men are on it. In fact, the Steam ban hammer is coming down on about 2,500 confirmed #MW2 cheaters on PC today."

The cheating ban comes on the same day the UK games charts review Modern Warfare 2 still reigns supreme.

You can discuss Modern Warfare 2 here, or alternatively if Mr Bowling's words have put you in the mood for Indiana Jones you can discuss Lego: Indiana Jones 2 here.

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Review for Game-Debate: FIFA Manager 2010

Being asked to review FIFA Manager 2010 by the GD Overlords was almost going back to the future for me. You see, dear reader, back in the olden days when wheels were square and reviewing games involved walking five miles and back in the freezing rain, I wrote my first article for Game-Debate on FIFA Manager 09. My review wasn’t as favourable as I had hoped but the game showed promise and was great to cut my journalistic teeth on. So I was keen to see what improvements 2010 edition had in store for me.

FIFA Manager 10 is the latest installment of the EA Sports management series in which you manage a football club of your choosing. Inevitably I’ll make comparisons with the most successful sports management game on the market right now, Football Manager 2010.

EA Sports claim all of the improvements they’ve made this year are based on requests made by FIFA 09 players and I was delighted to see one major change within minutes of starting the game. You have the option to turn your manager’s private life off! Last time around balancing a personal life was an extremely frustrating part of what was supposed to be a football management game. Of course, it allows you to actually spend your virtual pay-packet, but spending time with your boss or improving your golf skills felt pointless- it's not supposed to be a people management game! If that’s what you want, play Sims 3. I had more fun with FIFA 10 than I did with FIFA 09 because I didn’t have to worry about other virtual people, other than my players. Who needs a virtual girlfriend when you can spend time with an entire virtual footy team, ay?

Ordering the players about is what you’ll spend most of your time doing, in theory anyway. There are all the standard management sim activities to be had here; buying and selling players, hiring and firing coaches, taking care of training and laying down match day tactics are all areas you’ll be heavily involved with. Signing players and hiring staff is simple enough, a lot simpler than in Football Manager. On the other hand, organising training is more complicated, and I found this aspect of FIFA 10 confusing and ultimately disappointing. No matter how many times I saved my players training regimes a few days later the game would change the training regime to something else. This was frustrating to say the least, especially when I was trying to raise my players’ perennially low energy levels. Unfortunately neither the online manual nor the in-game help menus seemed to explain how to improve this which ultimately went on to affect my team’s performance during matches.

Controlling what happens on the pitch is the ultimate task in FIFA Manager 10 and the tactical choices on offer are once again very impressive. You’ re not restricted to placing your players in defined positions on the pitch so if you want to play that ultra-experimental 1-4-5 formation you really can (although you best have a superb goalkeeper for that!) When it comes to playing games the 3D match mode is massively superior to the text version, though it isn’t without its flaws. My players made some very, very strange decisions during matches. I opted to control the mighty Cardiff City in The Championship, however FIFA 10 seemed to believe that because they weren’t in the Premier League they should struggle to string two passes together, or run the wrong way down the pitch when in possession. This occasionally clumsy AI can be frustrating and I must admit I did find myself shouting “What are you doing?! “ at my monitor on a number of occasions. When your players do the right thing, like thumping Plymouth Argyle 4-0, it’s very satisfying... if you can ignore the somewhat repetitive commentary provided by the strange pairing of Andy Gray and Clive Tyldesley (Was Martin Tyler unavailable?) and the somewhat generic looking players. But they’re much better to look at than text or indeed 2D blobs, and a management sim isn't going to have the superb look of FIFA 2010 on a console is it? Well, not yet anyway.

FIFA Manager lacks flexibility when it comes to altering tactics during matches. Yes, I said the pre-match tactical options are excellent, and they are, but the process of making changes during a match is overcomplicated. Positions and line-ups are under different menus and it took me until my eighth match to actually discover where the tab I needed to swap player positions round was. The level of control over in-match changes is lower than I’d like; in each area of decision-making there are only four or five different levels which can make the experience feel rigid compared to its main competitor, where you can alter everything from closing down to passing on a sliding scale. This may only be a small gripe but it does leave FIFA Manager feeling less authentic than Football Manager.

EA has introduced an online mode this year for those looking to test their management skills against other players. It’s designed so you can play through a season with up to three other people in a period of less than four hours. However, online mode is restricted to text only management so if you want the joy of watching you footballer minions running around in 3D mode against other “real“ teams you will be disappointed. The text mode can be difficult to follow for newer players so you might only want to consider this if you really want to put in some time and then go out and beat your friends. Or strangers.

If you buy FIFA Manager 10 you’ll spend most of your time playing offline which is certainly more enjoyable than the new online mode and definitely a massive improvement on last year’s offering – mainly because it gives the option to turn off private life, Allowing you to focus on the football. The 3D match mode is an improvement, despite the occasionally strange actions of your players, and the pre-match formation choices are excellent. It’s just a shame the same flexibility isn’t available during matches.

When I reviewed FIFA Manager 2009 I compared it to Spurs: it needed a Harry Redknapp type revolution to lead its charge up the table. FIFA Manager 2010 is certainly not relegation material this year, far from it. Just like Spurs it’s nipping at the heels of the traditional leaders, but it’s not quite ready to join them at the top. If EA keep the improvements coming – and if the FIFA 09 rolling update model is used they will – there’s no reason why FIFA shouldn’t be a serious challenger in the future. For now, it’s a mostly enjoyable experience, so if you fancy a change from Football Manager, give FIFA Manager 10 a go.

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Game-Debate News: Modern Warfare 2 DLC Confirmed

It may have only been out for two weeks, but downloadable content for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has already been confirmed for next year.

A tweet by Infinity Ward's Robert Bowling says "DLC is planned fir the wonderfully vague timeframe of Spring. I'll let you know when we know when it'll be done."

Yes, that is fir not for... but nonetheless players are already wildly speculating about what the DLC will contain.

You can discuss Modern Warfare 2 and give us your opinions on the proposed DLC here.

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Friday, 20 November 2009

Game-Debate News: Dragon Age: Origins Additional Content Revealed

Bioware have revealed new Dragon Age: Origins content will available 'this holiday season.' (That's over Christmas for us Brits)

The DOA website says "Your memories of the battle of Ostagar will haunt you for years to come. It laid waste to your order and claimed the lives of many great men and women."

"Now, there are rumours that a fellow survivor of the battle has escaped from captivity and is seeking the Grey Wardens' help. The time has come for the Grey Wardens to make their return to Ostagar and exact their revenge upon the darkspawn"

You'll be able to take on new enemies in the Battlefields of Ostagar, reclaim the lost arms and armour of a king and get a second chance to add dog to your party.

The add on will cost just 400 Bioware points. Bargain.

You can discuss Dragon Age: Origins here.

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Game-Debate News: Is DLC Already Lined Up For Left 4 Dead 2?

Left 4 Dead 2 doesn't even arrive in the UK until tomorrow but there is already speculation that Valve are working on new downloadable content.

This website features the Midnight Riders, a band that features in the game, and is accompanied by the text 'coming soon'

It's not likely to be publicity for Left 4 Dead 2's release because the zombie shooting gore-fest is already out in the United States.

No doubt we'll find out what it is when Valve are ready.

You can discuss L4D2 here

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Review for Game-Debate: Borderlands

Even before it was released, Borderlands was one of the most discussed games here at Game-Debate. Arguments, which may or may not have been started by yours truly, took place in which someone (i.e. me) suggested it could just be a Fallout 3 clone. Here I will concede that this wasn’t correct but I wasn’t incorrect either! (Here, I’m subscribing to the man’s school of not being wrong.) As an action-RPG Borderlands does share similarities which Fallout 3 and other games in the genre with open world gameplay, plenty of quests, levelling up and a lot of killing things on the way. While, for the most part it isn’t revolutionary, Borderlands is still a very enjoyable experience that doesn’t take itself too seriously with an array of comic style characters.

Comic book is certainly the key phrase here with Borderlands carrying a distinct and very impressive visual style. The cell-shading does give you the impressive of playing in a comic – a very violent comic but a comic nonetheless! With the colour pallet on offer it’s a shame the world of Pandora can occasionally be dull to look at because there’s only so many things that can be done to make a barren rocky landscape look interesting. Thankfully you’re not on Pandora for a sight-seeing tour and the action packed game play means you won’t often be staring at the scenery. So what are you doing down there anyway?

You play as one of four fortune hunters who are on the planet of Pandora looking for the various loot and riches on offer. Upon your arrival a ‘Guardian Angel’ informs you that you’ve been chosen to unlock The Vault (Alas, this type of vault doesn’t include Liam Neeson as your dad) You therefore set off on the various missions and side quests available while you work towards this goal. Like almost every RPG that’s ever existed these quests begin with simple tasks such as ‘talk to this person’ or ‘collect/kill these things’ before adding ‘make this work’ and the traditional ‘Kill X.’ To be honest, the quests can feel very repetitive and there isn’t much of a story to hold them together but the combat and weapons are pleasing enough to hold everything together.

Before accepting a quest, Borderlands will tell you if it’s difficultly is Trivial through to Impossible depending on your characters level at the time – a nice touch that means you won’t go charging into unwinnable situations...unless you want to get killed. That said, it doesn’t really matter if you do end up getting killed because you’ll respawn at a nearby ‘Nu-U’ machine minutes away from where you died. (Would you kindly notice how this is very similar to Bioshock’s vita-chambers)

However, if you can survive there’s actually something to be said for accepting missions that are listed as ‘Tough’ or ‘Hard’ because the better the enemies you take down, the better the loot they drop is... and that means better weapons. The shear variety of guns on offer is one of Borderlands best features. Of course the there’s your usual array of weapons like pistols, machine guns and sniper rifles but the variety doesn’t end there, oh no! Not a single gun I picked up during my time on Pandora was the same as one I’d used previously. You’ll find yourself eagerly looting foes and opening containers in an effort to find better weapons which do more damage, have a higher accuracy or even cause elemental damage. Each one is a joy to use but what really makes the combat stand out is four possible protagonists and their special abilities.

There’s the soldier who can deploy a turret, the sniper who can use his pet bird to cause havoc with opponents, the tank who pounds enemies with his fists and the siren who is essentially the mage who can use elements to damage opponents. Whatever character you choose to play as you’ll have plenty of customisation options when it comes to adding skills as you level up and it’s a joy to see these in action – especially when it comes to co-op mode which is where Borderlands really shines.

Ploughing through bandits and skags (the main creatures you’ll encounter on Pandora...arguably far too often) is fun on its own but can get lonely and feel somewhat slow paced. It’s much, much more enjoyable when you’re playing the game with a full party of four. Yes, the enemies get tougher but working together is great fun. In theory, it’s actually possible to play through the entire campaign with the same four players. However, the flexible nature of Borderlands means you’ll be able to drop in and drop out of multiplayer missions whenever takes your fancy. Nonetheless, Multiplayer isn’t without a couple of minor issues. Firstly, just finding a game to join can be frustrating and it often took two or three attempts to successfully start playing online. Secondly, I was playing with two players around the same level as my character when someone with a much higher level joined which meant all of the missions available to them became available to me thus robbing me of the satisfaction of exploring and finding missions myself. This can be avoided through declining offers of multiple missions in the options but I didn’t know this at the time so please keep this in mind if you want to play online! You must at least try playing Borderlands, not only because it’s outrageous fun but there are some quests that feel like they have been designed for cooperative play.

If you are a Billy no mates who finds yourself needing to grind levels to make missions simpler it actually isn’t too difficult because the A.I of your enemies is absolutely terrible. The bandits you face will rarely take cover and don’t work well in groups. Ploughing them all down is satisfying enough but it does occasionally feel like shooting fish in a barrel and even boss battles can feel a bit too simple. The enemies do get a lot tougher and a lot smarter when you reach Borderlands last few missions but the game would be that little bit better if there were a larger variety of enemies during the first three quarters of the story. One final point about the end of the game – don’t worry I’m not giving anything away! Completing the final story mission was a massive anti-climax. You can continue to play on after this but the ‘ending’ was disappointing and open ended. Cynics could argue it doesn’t so much leave the door open for a Borderlands 2, but knocks an entire wall through for it! Or opens a portal...

The gameplay might be somewhat simple at times but nonetheless Borderlands is great fun, especially when you play it with friends. The quests may be dull but at the end of the day Borderlands isn’t about them. It’s about the weapons, the fantastic cell-shaded visual design and the massive amounts of fun that can be had playing it with friends. I still say it shares similarities with Fallout 3 but the two also have their differences. If you want to make moral decisions as part of a fantastic story then stick to Fallout 3. However, if you want cartoon style madness, excellent weapons and fun playing with up to three other people then Borderlands is the Action-RPG for you. A must for anyone who enjoys co-op shooters.

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Game-Debate News: MW2 Smashes UK Sales Record

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has broken sales records by selling 1.23 million copies on the first day of its release - almost double that of the previous record holder Grand Theft Auto IV.

Activision have predicted CoD could sell 3 million copies in the UK before Christmas with 10 million copies being sold worldwide.

The media hype and the price war between retailers have perhaps helped add to the first 24 hours sales figures.

Some analysts have predicted MW2 could sell 11.7 million across the world in its first week - just short of the 12 million units the game was expected to sell during the whole October to December quarter.

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Live Review for Gobshout: The Rifles at The Coronet Theatre, London 23/10/09

This was The Rifles homecoming gig I suppose. A performance in a packed out London Coronet Theatre to signal the end of the bands UK tour before they headed across the channel for series of European gigs. So when the venue's speakers started to play Down South to signal the band was about to appear it was rather appropriate. They casually wandered onstage and after Joel Stoker greeted the audience with "Alright London" the band launched their set with Local Boy with the crowd joining as soon as the song reached the chorus.

Local Boy was the first of a string of tracks from The Rifles 2006 debut album No Love Lost with One Night Stand and She's Got Standards coming next. The latter was played especially well and the crowed obviously enjoyed it... if you can judge that by the amount of plastic glasses being thrown about and this continued through Repeated Offender, with the crowd once again singing along to a track that was played with excellence.

The band threw in some new tracks after these golden oldies which went down rather well but of course no one knew the words! A sombre sing along accompanied Peace and Quiet. The 'quiet' section of the set continued with History from this years album, The Great Escape before the pace picked up with raw renditions of Hometown Blues and Sometimes which were very much appreciated by the crowd if the action at the front of the venue was anything to go by. The excitement just increased when the thumping bass line of The Great Escape's opening track Science Violence was played and the crowd enthusiastically clapped along to Toe Rag

These were only the highlights and The Rifles played a long set - I counted twenty songs - however my scrawled notes unfortunately mean I can't dissect every single one! With the amount of crowed surfing that was occurring during the encore its evident the fans were very satisfied with what they were seeing. It was a good gig in a venue that wasn't small enough to be intimate but not big enough to have no atmosphere. The only issue with the Coronet Theatre was the drinks prices! £4.50 for a pint of Fosters? Really?

Of course, enough of the fans were drunk enough on the music to care about this, a fine home coming gig for The Rifles. Here's hoping their third album gives them the accreditation they deserve.

(Originally written for Gobshout)

Game-Debate News: GTA IV DLC coming to PC?

The Lost & Damned, the currently Xbox 360 exclusive additional content for Grand Theft Auto IV will be available to PC gamers if speculation is to be believed.

According to fans on the GTA Forums the latest patch (v.1.0.0.4) not only fixes some bugs but also includes achievements for The Lost & Damned.

Microsoft paid Rockstar, the guys behind GTA, around $50 million for the exclusive 360 content. However, releasing the content on PC would still allow Microsoft to ignore rivals Sony and the PS3.

Currently, there has been no official word from either Microsoft or Rockstar.

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Game-Debate News - Call of Duty: Retailers at War

Today's release of Modern Warfare 2 has sparked a price battle between several major retailers. The latest in the Call of Duty series has a RRP of £54.99, but look in the right places and gamers can pick it up for less than half of that.

£26 is all you'll pay if you buy MW2 from Sainsburys. That is, if you can actually find a copy of it in store. Both of my local stores are completely out of stock.

It costs £32 (on consoles) if you buy it from Amazon. This may be £6 more than Sainsburys but at least it's in stock and it still comes in at £22.99 under the RRP.

Play.com, GAME and Gamestation are all selling it for £44.99 on consoles or £34.99 on PC.

Surely this price war can only be a good thing for gamers who have long felt they are being ripped off when it comes to prices.

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Game-Debate News: MPs Pro-Games Group Gains Over 6000 Members

A Facebook group set up in response to anti-gaming remarks made by Keith Vaz MP has reached over 6000 members in just one day. Labour MP Tom Watson founded Gamers' Voice "to discuss how UK video gamers can find their voice in newspapers and government."

The group aims to be more than just a flash in the plan. Replying to a comment on Twitter, Gamers' Voice said: " (the) intention from the start was to make real force for change not just Facebook group that fades away after few weeks"

Both the Facebook group and Twitter pages are urging members to get other games involved with the intention of starting a pressure group to give gamers some government influence.

The row over video game violence began with comments made my Keith Vaz in The Daily Mail about Modern Warfare 2.

The game was released today and is expected to break all sales records and is favourite to be the Christmas number 1.

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Monday, 9 November 2009

Game-Debate News: MPs At War Over MW2

An MP has started a group in an attempt to stop other politicians 'Beating up on gaming.' Labour's Tom Watson set up the group within hours of Keith Vaz's comments in The Daily Mail

The former Minister for Digital Engagement has set up Gamers' Voice on Facebook with the intention of founding a gaming pressure group. Mr Watson states:

"Are you sick of UK newspapers and (my fellow) politicians beating up on gaming? So am I. The truth is, UK gamers need their own pressure group. I want to help you start one up.

I don't know how it should work yet but please register your interest if you agree that gamers need their voice hear in the corridors of power.

And if you have any ideas, please post them to the wall"

He also adds "This group is unashamedly pro-video games. We aim to discuss how UK video gamers can find their voice in newspapers and government."

At the time of writing the group has over 650 members and counting. (100 extra people joined while this article was being written!)

Tom Watson himself doesn't approve of the controversial content in Modern Warfare 2 but points out the violence is no different to that in films or books and says as long as there is a well policed classification system there isn't really an issue.

Modern Warfare 2 is released tomorrow.

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Game-Debate News: MP to Question Modern Warfare 2 Violence

Labour MP Keith Vaz has vowed to raise concerns about Modern Warfare 2's controversial terrorist mission in parliament.

Speaking to that bastion of totally impartial and non-outrageous journalism The Daily Mail, Vaz said

"I am absolutely shocked by the level of violence in this game and am particularly concerned about how realistic the game itself looks."

He plans to raise the subject in Parliament today.

The player has the option to kill civilians while infiltrating a terrorist group. However, the segment isn't mandatory and the player is able to skip forward if they want to.

Modern Warfare 2 - which carries an 18 certificate - is released tomorrow.

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Review for Game-Debate: Shattered Horizon

Shattered Horizon truly revolutionises the First Person Shooter. This is rather appropriate given players who master it will find themselves revolving rather often. Confused? Lets explain.

So Futuremark have produced a multiplayer only FPS. So far so un-revolutionary right? WRONG! Shattered Horizon is played entirely in outer space - well, between Earth and a half exploded moon - and therefore the whole experience takes place in zero gravity and this significantly changes many elements of the game play. And not just by adding jet packs...

In order to understand why Shattered Horizon is set in a zero gravity environment, or space if you like your definitions simple, it seems apt to divulge the games background story. 40 years in the future man mining the moon and making large wads of cash. All was going well until the largest mining accident in history. It almost ripped the moon apart throwing billions of tonnes of moon rock into the earths orbit. This was called ‘The Arc’ because...well it’s shape basically. Two factions emerged: The International Space Agency (ISA) – the scientists and astronauts on the International Space Agency given the task of apprehending those responsible for the blast – the Moon Mining Corporative (MMC) who see ISA as a threat to their existence. Thus the two sides are drawn into combat amongst the debris high amongst the earth.

There are three basic game modes which are fairly similar to other FPS titles. There's 'Battle' in which two teams attempt to capture every control point on the map while holding onto their own. 'Assault' involves two rounds where the opposing sides must take turns attacking and defending control points - it's similar to Battle except once a point has been taken by the enemy it can't be recaptured. Meanwhile, 'Skirmish' is the standard Team Deathmatch mode. Well...as far as Shattered Horizon is standard shooter anyway. (Here’s a hint: It isn’t a standard shooter)

The zero gravity combat adds a whole new dimension to the genre. In every other multiplayer shooter most of the action will take place on a single level plain. Sure there are hills, walls and buildings to be climbed upon but if the player is familiar with the game they'll expect opposing players to use them. However, zero gravity (and the rocket packs used to move) means you can be attacked from anywhere at any time - including directly above or below. So threats truly do come from every angle and you have to be very, very aware as you move yourself around the maps. Thankfully the HUD indentifies opposing players with brackets once you've spotted them. That is if you spot them... it's all too easy to get ambushed from above or below on the four maps.

Yes, Shattered Horizon only has four different maps and the various space debris like rocks, bits of space station, containers and other ‘scenery’ can leave the levels feeling rather generic. This is somewhat surprising given the high end system specs required to run the game. On the plus side, the backgrounds are stunning. It’s all too easy for to get distracted by the beauty of the Earth, Moon and Sun....then get shot. The 360 degree nature the of the combat means you’re always on your toes and won’t get bored of the four maps (That’s four for now by the way, Futuremark say more will be added in the future and at no extra cost) Currently there’s only one type of gun – and a three types of grenade – but given the effects of zero gravity it’s a wise move. The game is tough enough to play without having to worry about being ambushed by a foe with a rocket launcher and blown to smithereens.

Yes, Shattered Horizon is certainly a tough cookie. The controls take awhile to get familiarised with and the general learning curve is very steep. Not only does the player have to move forward, back and side to side, they have to master moving vertically, rolling and latching onto surfaces. It's a lot to take in. However, after some practice the player will be jumping from cover to cover with ease. The F key usefully allows the player to latch onto any surface on the map. Yeah, that’s right anything at all. It just adds to the need for the player to be extremely aware because who knows what's hiding in the shadows around the corner. Or the other side of that moon debris.

The addition of zero gravity marks Shattered Horizon as a radical departure from every other FPS.* It may be tough to master but £14.99 is an excellent price for what is truly a revolutionary experience. This may not be for everyone – casual shooter fans may not enjoy how difficult it is to learn – but Shattered Horizon has considered a must buy for any FPS veteran who wants to experience something truly ground-breaking.

*The Xen levels of Half Life don’t count. They are low level gravity, not zero level!

(Originally written for Game-Debate)