Category Archives: Tech

The 10 Best Console Games of the Last Generation (Part Two)

With a damn fine console generation (almost) behind us, now’s a perfect time to look back at the very best the last few years had to offer. Last time out I looked at the best games to reach multiple pieces of hardware, so now it’s time to approach the best exclusives each machine has to offer. Let’s get to it!

Playstation 3

The Last of Us

The fact that The Last of Us has swept the majority of the industry’s game of the year awards for 2013 speaks volumes more about the game’s quality than I ever could. Naughty Dog, creators of Uncharted and Jak and Daxter previously, have hit gold again with this thoughtful and atmospheric action game.

Both beautiful and harrowing all at once, the post-apocalyptic world the player inhabits is so believable it’s hard to not get caught up in the drama. The developers are also brave enough to not give the player an army’s worth of artillery to work with, instead making ammunition barely scavengable and forcing players to think or even run during encounters.

The best motion and voice capture in the business, the best graphics on the system, the best music and sound (or often lack thereof). It all adds to the best presentation of a game this gen. Add a stellar story, smart gunplay and a surprisingly brilliant multiplayer mode, and you have one of the best overall games this gen. A sign of where games can go.

Uncharted 3

If The Last of Us is Playstation’s ‘The Godfather’ in terms of mature storytelling, then Uncharted is James Bond. It’s all about making the player feel like a badass; killing the bad guy, jumping away from the explosion, and getting the girl.

The same compliments I gave the Last of Us regarding performance capture and general presentation apply here, but with a blockbuster summer movie shine. Many people prefer Uncharted 2 over 3, but the last in the trilogy is just as good in my books, with a killer story twist or two and a more fully fleshed out multiplayer suite. Unrivaled.

Xbox 360

Halo: Reach

Purists will go for Halo 3, but Reach is the technical peak of a franchise that has had the most fun multiplayer shooting of the generation. Most Halo games are still running with huge online fanbases, and the online scene allows for casual noobs to have just as much fun as the veteran elite.

The single player is good, too. Maybe not quite as good as other Halos, or certainly not other games on this list, but it is especially fun playing co-op with a friend. Of particular note is the diverse array of weapons at your disposal, and how great vehicle play seamlessly merges into the traditional FPS set-up. The Spartans have defined Xbox gaming for a reason.

Gears of War

Second only to Halo in terms of popularity, but actually slightly more popular critically, is the third-person gore-fest Gears of War. Its sequels have improved on the multiplayer front, but the first Gears has the best and most exciting single player campaign of the series. Alone or in co-op its a bromance filled thrill ride; it’s obnoxious, it’s over-the-top and it revels in it’s own absurdity.

Wii

Super Mario Galaxy 2

Magical is the best way to describe Mario Galaxy, a game that takes you back to the wonder and unbound joy of gaming as a youngster. Galaxy 2 perfected the formula laid out in its predecessor, with some ‘world’s’ being simple enough for everyone to enjoy, but gaining all the hidden stars in every level takes real old-school skill.

It’s certainly the best looking game on the Wii, and the typical Mario style has held up well. The plumber’s adventure stands out this time, though, thanks to the awesome outer-space setting. Players can run 360 degrees around small ‘planets’, each with their own gravity, and it’s incredible to shoot yourself through space from one planetoid to the next in-game.

Like most Mario’s, great power-ups, fun enemy types and a general sense of creativity make this platformer just plain better than its contemporaries. It’s also one Wii game that doesn’t force you to needlessly waggle the Wiimote at the screen constantly. There’s an awful lot of trash on Nintendo’s super popular system, but Galaxy 2 is a star in the sky of cheap cash-ins.

So there we have it, the 10 games you owe it to yourself to play from the last generation! There’s an awful lot of shooters on the list, and I don’t even really consider myself a shooter fan! But the popularity of the genre and abundance of shooters released this generation obviously played a part in them becoming some of the best experiences available.

So what do you guys think of my choices? What would you change? Let me know in the comments below!

Advertisements

The 10 Best Console Games of the Last Generation (Part One)

The previous console generation was full of ups and downs, but here at the start of 2014, we can look back on three machines with healthy, quality catalogues of software.

So if you’ve just recently picked up one of the ‘old’ consoles, or whether your library simply consists of the dull old Call of Duty, FIFA and GTA trio, here you’ll find the 10 BEST games your money can buy.

For the sake of fairness and clarity I’ve chosen 5 multiplatform games, 2 each for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, and even a Wii game. Yes, a Wii game is one of the best of the generation. Just trust me on this one. So without further a do, lets start with the best games you can buy on multiple platforms from the last 8 years:

Multiplatform

Bioshock

Undoubtedly my game of the generation, Bioshock is absolutely unmissable. A first-person shooter that actually has brains behind it, Bioshock intertwines story, character, place and gameplay like VERY few other games manage. It doesn’t rely on stopping the game and showing a cutscene to move the plot on like other, simpler games would. The story is told through the players actions – you yourself make meaningful choices in the games narrative, such as whether to kill ‘innocent’ children in order to become more powerful.

The shooting is tight, with varied and fun weapons and powers, and its downright scary to boot. And more than enough has already been said about Bioshock’s iconic world of Rapture. A masterpiece.

Portal 2

Portal 2 is hard. Like really hard. Both mentally challenging and an exercise for quick FPS reactions, Portal 2 can have you either scratching your head or screaming at the TV (in the best way possible).

Players are tasked with simply placing two portals, one you enter in to and another you exit out of, to get to the exit of a room. It seems simple at first, using most gamer’s innate knowledge of how to play a shooter to disguise the fact that it’s really a unique puzzle game; but the difficulty quickly ramps as momentum, moving targets and a number of new abilities begin to layer in. Sprinkle on a fine, genuinely laugh out loud story and some of the best voice acting ever, and you’ve got yourself one of the best games in years.

Dead Space

Dead Space is terrifying. I’ve yet to see any film that has scared me even half as much as this video game equivalent of Alien. It’s honestly hugely unsettling. If that doesn’t put you off, buy this game.

It’s tense, the weapons and space-suit powers are great fun, and it will definitely stay in your dreams (read: nightmares) for a long time after you’ve finished playing. Dead Space 2 is equally as great, but slightly tones down the horror and turns up the action, meaning the first Dead Space is the purer piece of work. Don’t be a scaredy-cat and play this game.

The Orange Box

The Orange Box is actually a collection of 3 games and two add-ons, making this the best value game on the list. The meat of the collection comes in the form of a game some people call the greatest of all time, Half-Life 2, and its two additional ‘episodes’ that continue the story. But I actually prefer the two quirkier pieces of the package.

Team Fortress 2 is a class-based online-only FPS, which may sound intimidating, but it’s fun all the way. The great selection of classes, welcoming online community and fun visual style make the game a blast even if you’re always getting your arse kicked.

And rounding out the Box is the original Portal – much shorter than its full-blown big brother of a sequel at about 4/5 hours – but perhaps even more of a memorable experience. It was truly unique for its time, and once you play it you’ll realise why so many immitators have copied its design and aesthetic since. Its fun, funny, challenging and has a great twist half way through that no-one saw coming. Wonderfully rounds out a fantastic collection.

Borderlands 2

Borderlands is another first-person shooter, but it’s vastly different to most on the market. Firstly, it’s meant to be played with friends (up to 4) and is a much better game with some mates round. It really differentiates itself, though, through its mix on FPS and RPG gameplay.

You’re never trapped into choosing a traditional ‘mission’. Rather, you talk to the hilarious and wacky characters on a huge open-world map to gain ‘quests’. You complete these quests at your leisure, all the while collecting delicious loot from your fallen enemies. Collecting these guns and gold is a dangerously addictive pursuit,  but the incredible arsenal you can obtain is more than worth it.

You also gain XP as you go to upgrade yourself in all sorts of ways – from gaining awesome new powers (like rocket turrets, flying robots and killer birds to aid you) to stat-boosts and new types of shields and grenades. It all comes together fantastically and the DLC available is some of the best in class, so try and pick up the ‘Game of the Year’ edition, as most of the extras are included. A brilliant art style, off-the-wall humour, and fun shooting make this a keeper.

So with the best multiplatform games sorted, come back soon for the best console exclusive games! In the mean time, what are your favourite games of the last gen? Let me know in the comments!

Lightning Strikes Thrice; Returning to Happier Times.

So, I’ve already spoken about my heartwarming experience at my recent trip to see Lightning Returns at the Troxy Theatre (courtesy of IGN) in my main blog feed, but how was the actual game? I’m glad you asked…

I sat down for my first demo, on a Xbox 360, in what I presume is a very early portion of the game. After completing a simple tutorial, I’m struck by one thing – there is a LOT happening on screen. I play a tonne of videogames, and I’m certainly no stranger to complex RPGs, but I really struggled to keep up here. It’s not that there was a huge amount actually going on, but I had to keep up with two health bars, the new equivalent of a ‘stagger’ bar, a special meter, and THREE seperate energy gauges. On top of that, these energy gauges are essential, deplete with every attack, and constantly recharge.

That complaint aside, it was actually quite an exciting, action-orientated system – its what Final Fantasy XIII wanted to be. It’s still tactical and strategic, but hack-and-slashy enough to attract ‘casual fans’.

I ran through this fairly simple section, defeated a small boss, and ended the demo. Good enough. The real meat of gameplay, however, came in the second demo.

Now on a Playstation 3, I was really let out in an open, non-linear expanse of the world, reminiscent of XIII’s Gran Pulse. I decided to tackle the main story missions, whilst my friend explored any available side quests. Haters of XIII’s ’20 hours of corridoors’ will be pleased to know there is a lot more choice and variety in this respect.

There were fetch quests in which we had to collect flowers from the area, ask people in the small towns for information, gather medicine for an injured Chocobo and more; all in conjuction with the main story missions. This freedom is sure to go down a treat with more traditional RPG players. And the mini-boss in these story missions was devilishly hard, far more so than most run of the mill bosses I remember facing in the last few ‘FFs’.

The art style and graphics on the other hand are exactly what players of XIII and XIII-2 would expect, complete with some overly quirky characters that dont necessarily translate well to Western audiences. The music, of course, is of the same high standard of all FF titles.

Overall I was left feeling optimistic after my time with the game, but I didn’t expect much else, being a seemingly rare fan of the previous two ‘XIII’s’. But even if you wern’t a fan of the last few entries into the classic Square Enix series, there’s plenty different in Lightning Returns to change your mind, and return fans to happier times.

How my passion and my Vita found new life

Two weeks ago I had the honour of attending an invite-only event in London’s Troxy Theatre, previewing the upcoming videogame ‘Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII’. It was an immaculately constructed event, as is the norm when at a gathering arranged by internet giant IGN. If you want my opinion on the game, here’s the place to go –http://www.ign.com/blogs/k-swizzle. Because as great as the event was, something happened totally unrelated to the game on show that really stuck with me, and reaffirmed to me why I love being part of the videogame community.

I arrived at the theatre just before 7pm, my old friend and plus-one Alex with me, and was warmly greeted by the outrageously good looking staff. We were shepherded to our seats, and as we were a little late (thanks London Underground), slipped into seats at the back. We enjoyed the presentation, soaked up the following Q&A, applauded to show our appreciation, and excitedly moved to the demonstration area. After a few minutes of playing through a tutorial, something struck me – where the Hell was my Playstation Vita?! For those who don’t know, that’s basically a £200 portable gaming console, otherwise known as a geek’s wet dream.

Ofcourse, during the presentation, it had somehow slipped out of my pocket. I shot up from my beanbag seat, ran through the demo area back into the theatre, and felt my heart sink as I saw the empty space in and around the chair I was in minutes before. Of course it was taken, I was in a building with 200 gamers, and left the newest handheld console ripe for the taking. With three of the previous Final Fantasy games already installed on it! Someone hit the jackpot.

With absolutely no hope it would help, I asked the security and staff around the building if they saw or had been handed anything. Nothing. Dejected, I sat back down, my beanbag suddenly feeling a lot less comfortable. This is London after all, it wouldn’t have surprised me if I was mugged for the Vita on my way to the theatre, so I had no lingering hope it would miraculously reappear. But this is where I hugely underestimated my gaming peers.

5 minutes later, mindlessly clicking through the same demo I was so excited about just a quarter-hour previously, I felt a tap on my shoulder. One of the stewards I had asked for help was stood behind me: “It was you who had lost the Playstation, right?”

Delighted. The rest of the story is trivial, I was taken to the bar, handed the Vita, checked it was mine, thanked everyone and sat back down, but once again invigorated and ready to play.

I didn’t know who handed that Vita in, and I would never find out, but I did find out something I had forgotten in recent times. Not all ‘hardcore’ gamers are internet trolls who spew vitriol at you for supporting the ‘wrong’ console. Some, most even, are people just like me, who want to find escapism in these rich virtual words and socialise in the real communities that form around them. And most importantly, we wouldn’t do a thing to take any of that away from a fellow gamer.