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)

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Are Achievments Good For Gaming?

Back in the day, achieving something in a game generally meant finishing it or at least defeating a particularly tough end of level boss. For example, when I was a mere whipper snapper spending a few hours in order to defeat Doctor Robotnik multiple times to complete Sonic the Hedgehog was an achievement. During my teenage years, getting to the end of every Playstation and Playstation 2 Final Fantasy game and unlocking all of the special items was an achievement. Of course, I told my friends I had found – for example – Cloud Strife’s Ultima Weapon or defeated Emerald Weapon but that would be the end of the matter. Nowadays, thanks to the wonders of the internet, your friends can observe all of your achievements (or trophies if you’re a PS3 owner) almost as soon as you’ve achieved them. But are some achievements too simple to obtain to deserve the title? Are some too specific and therefore taking something away from the joy of gaming? Or can they add to games? Let’s investigate.

Fallout 3, recently crowned ultimate game of the year at the Golden Joysticks, and one of the most in depth and open ended games of recent years. There are achievements, arguably deserved ones for getting past each story specific mission in the game with a big one at the very end. But the first two achievements the player receives are for getting the Pip-Boy 3000 and taking the G.O.A.T. Now, these are story specific parts of the game yes but it doesn’t exactly take skill to get to this point in the safety of Vault 101. The player is therefore arguably getting rewarded for doing absolutely nothing! Grand Theft Auto IV is an even worse offender when it comes to an easy achievement. The player merely has to watch the opening cut-scene in order to be rewarded with ‘Off The Boat’ If achievements are supposed to reward skill then the ones mentioned above certainly don’t involve much skill from the player at all.

Achievements can also be too specific with Team Fortress 2 demonstrating this particular issue. The Medic achievement ‘Consultant’ is rewarded to the player for healing 10,000 points of their teammate’s health in one life. Now, unless the player and their team mates have God like Team Fortress abilities it’s extremely unlikely the player will achieve this in the general run of play. A player trying to secure this achievement is therefore going to be playing selfishly and going against the team nature of the game. Sure, they’ll heal their team mates but it’s unlikely they’ll venture far from their own spawn point or help with attacks. This is only one example, but there are other ‘selfish’ achievements in Team Fortress 2. However, on the other side of the coin there are various achievements that can only be obtained while working as a team and to be fair, most of the games achievements will eventually be awarded to the player during the ‘natural’ run of play if they are good at the game.

One area in which achievements are arguably good for gaming is that they do increase the longevity of games. Fallout 3 offers achievements to the player for having bad, neutral or good Karma at levels eight, fourteen and twenty – and thirty if Broken Steel is installed. So if the player really wants to be rewarded with all of these they’ll play the game three times and will have to play it in a different way to have the desired Karma. Grand Theft Auto 4 contains achievements for completing various side missions and even offers them for completing certain tasks in multiplayer. The cynic could argue that players shouldn’t have to be rewarded with a little achievement icon for completing a side mission, but if it encourages players to get more out of their games and try new things then what’s the problem?

So are achievements good for gaming? Well, they easily allow the player to show their friends what they’ve accomplished within a game – even if some of these are so simple they don’t actually involve any skill. The achievements themselves aren’t damaging gaming – aside from a few specific examples in multiplayer games – so why not have them in games. They may even encourage players to try new things and extend a titles longevity. And if there’s anything we like in games it’s more bang for our buck. We like you game achievements, you are welcome here!