NCAA Football 13 Review

I moan about games being produced annually,  on a fairly consistent basis. Obviously, there is not much you can do with sports franchises, as leave it one year, and your game is already out of date, with the latest set of licensing and the influx of new players. However, that shouldn’t be enough to warrant a $60 or a £40 purchase every year. If a developer wants me to keep coming back every year, they have to show they have put in the time and effort, that would warrant the investment. Is NCAA Football 13 worth it? Not Really.

Starting off with the main aspect off the game, which is Dynasty mode. The game has already added a fair few layers to the mode this year, so any improvements made this year were obviously not going to be revolutionary. However, there are quite a few nice additions that add even further depth, to a franchise mode which in my opinion, was already superior to its sister franchise, Madden. Dynamic Ratings have finally been introduced, meaning as your team progresses or declines up the BCS ladder, certain ratings will be impacted by that change. There is a set of circumstances, in which each rating can be altered over time, and is a nice little feature, to motivate you to keep going with your dynasty.  On top of that, the recruiting has been made much slicker, with the new-scouting system which works very effectively as a new enhancement for the mode whilst the actual pitches themselves have finally been altered, now enabling you to choose which topics you wish to pursue with a certain prospect. As I said, there was never going to be anything revolutionary with dynasty this year, but all of these new features go a long way, in enhancing the college football experience.

Heisman Mode is the only completely new game mode for NCAA Football, this year and it’s relatively lacklustre. The idea behind it, being that you get to take control of previous heisman winners with whichever team you wanted.. That is literally it. It is a poor attempt by EA to extract some more money from their consumers (yes you have to pay for some of the Heisman “challenges”). My advice? Go find your old NCAA games, and actually PLAY WITH THE PLAYERS ON THAT GAME. There is literally no difference, apart from the obvious gameplay improvements that have transcended over time. Seriously, don’t bother with this.

As with every year, NCAA Football 13 brings with it a host of new presentation improvements. Yeah you get the odd new mascot or whatever, but the main feature this year, links in with the dynasty mode. Now, the game utilises broadcaster Rece Davis to bring studio updates, whilst you are playing your game. That is not the end of it either, as the ESPN ticker will be a prominent feature in the bottom of your television screen, as it constantly gives updates on any upsets or ‘priority games’ that are currently occurring at the same time as your game. On paper, it is a really cool idea in creating an even more immersive experience but unfortunately, the execution isn’t fantastic. The studio updates lack content, and the ESPN ticker at the bottom of the screen, is quite frankly, a distraction. If this can be improved for NCAA Football 14 however, then this is definitely a worthwhile feature to have implemented in the game. But for now? Fairly poor execution hinders the overall experience, rather than enhancing it.

But no matter how well done the previously referenced aspects of the game this year are, it is ultimately gameplay that will be the defining  factor in determining whether or not NCAA Football 13 is worth the money. The new improvements this year, are the inclusion of 20+ new passing trajectories, ensuring superman linebackers will no longer be swatting the ball whenever you try and pass over the middle, and a read-and-react mechanic, which ensures defenders and recievers alike, must be making eye contact with the ball before making a play. Both are fundamentally sound ideas, and both are executed fairly efficiently but where the features falter, is unfortunately, by making these improvements the balance of the game has been fairly dramatically changed. The offensive side of the ball, is simply, far too easy now with defenders biting far too easily on play action and pump fakes, meaning the deep ball is always far too easy to complete.  In one game, my QB had 10-30 completed passes for over 400 yards, that is how much the balance of the game has been distorted.

Overall, this is still a fairly solid outing by the NCAA franchise. You can tell, they have put in the effort with numerous new enhances, which in principal should be fantastic. Unfortunately, the execution lacks, meaning the overall experience is slightly tainted. Still, if you have never played an NCAA game before, go and buy it, it’s definitley worth your money. As for returning players from NCAA 12? Well, if your willing to spend the money on some admittedly fantastic improvements to the recruiting mechanic and new rosters, then go for it. My advice? Don’t bother.

Game Modes – Dynasty is improved with the new recruiting system but Road to Glory sees very little improvement. As for Heisman Mode? Don’t Bother. 7.5/10

Gameplay – Markedly worse than last years iteration, with the offensive side of the ball being far too easy. 7/10

Presentation – The game has made some fantastic additions, unfortunately the execution in some instances, lets it down. 8/10

Total Value – Some nice improvements, but not enough to warrant the price tag. 6.5/10

OVERALL – 7.3

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Spec Ops: The Line Review

‘The Line’ may borrow the title ‘Spec Ops’ but when looking at its predecessors, they bear no semblance of similarity, and that’s a good thing. ‘

The Line’ is a third-person shooter set in post-catastrophe Dubai. You play as Captain Walker, the man sent in along with an elite delta force team, to aid the ‘evacuation’. Obviously, things aren’t going to be that simple. As the game progresses, you and your squad are going to be placed under increasingly desperate circumstances. Choices such as having to decide which man hanging from a bridge to kill, may not have a direct impact on the end of the game, but it does go a long way in defining your character and his squad-mates. Lugo, a soldier who at the start of the game, is your typical fun-loving guy, becomes more and more serious as the story develops. Conflicts on the battlefield, lead to conflicts between squad-mates and the overall tone of the game is directly impacted by the severity of the circumstances your squad is placed under.

This is not your typical third-person shooter. If your a fan of Michael Bay-esque games like Call of Duty, this probably isn’t for you. In Spec Ops, the narrative takes precedence, and what you are presented with, is a wonderfully told story.

The gameplay itself, isn’t the most enjoyable. It uses tried and tested methods, that are possibly ten years out of date with a fairly clunky cover system, that can be infuriating at times. But there are aspects which extract some pleasure. The one gameplay feature that seperates Spec Ops from it’s counter-parts, is the use of the environment. Destructible environments are prevalent, with the sand itself playing a major role. If you see a group of enemies underneath a roof covered in sand, you can shoot at that roof, so that the sand engulfs your enemies. The sand itself, also adds unpredictability to the gameplay, as at any point, during the campaign, your mission may be halted by an inadvertent sandstorm. This completely changes the dynamic of the gameplay, as soldiers become silhouettes and your vision is distorted.

Along with that, your squad members WILL ACTUALLY KILL PEOPLE! Yes it is pretty unbelievable that this is a plus point in a next-gen title, but still to this day, I play far too many games where your squad members do essentially nothing on the battlefield. But in Spec Ops, you are able to order your squad members to take out certain targets, it may not be on the level of Operation Flashpoint, but it still provides a different perspective on the battlefield.

The AI itself, can be quite challenging, but gameplay feels stagnant and repetitive. The main ‘boss’ on every mission will be the same ‘heavy’ that takes about twice as many bullets to kill. You do get the odd variation, with enemies running at you, knife in hand, providing you with a different type of enemy to worry about, but essentially, every single Spec Ops mission consists of the same formula; Soldiers, tons of grenades, heavies and Turrets. That’s it. But as I referred to earlier, if your playing Spec Ops, it’s not going to be because of the gameplay.

As for the multiplayer, I think limited would be the best way to define it, with four fairly standard game modes, that whilst enjoyable, don’t really do much to enhance the game’s lasting appeal. If that wasn’t bad enough, people seem to have already deserted the servers, as it is virtually impossible to find a game with more than 4 people online at once… That’s a problem.

Overall, this a fantastic game. The gameplay? Average at best. The Multiplayer? Virtually, non-existent. But the story, the story is what sets this game apart. This is, as compelling a narrative as I have ever played in a video game, and with multiple endings, you can decide the way you want YOUR character to end the game. Spec Ops: The Line, is worth the wait.

Story 10/10

Gameplay 7/10

Presentation 9.5/10

Total Value 7/10

OVERALL : 8.5

E3 2012 Review Part 2 – Awards

I have already given my insight into the Press Conferences of E3 2012, now it’s time for me to review the stuff that really matters, the games.

One thing I will make clear, Best Xbox 360 game or Best PS3 game has to be an exclusive to that console. If I am just ranking the best game available on that console, am I not just giving you a preview to what I perceive to be my best of show award? I have seen this tons during Gaming Awards, and to me it is completely pointless.

So rant over, let’s get this started.

Best Action/Adventure Game

Winner: Assassins Creed III

Other Nominees

Dishonored

The Last Of Us

Tomb Raider

Hitman: Absolution

God of War: Ascension

Summary: This game is fantastic, I think everybody already knew that, but I don’t think anybody was expecting the quality that was displayed at E3. Yes we were treated to not only one new level, but  two, and I can’t even decide which one I love more. At the ubisoft press conference we watched the more conventional assassins creed level (if you can refer to anything in assassins creed as conventional) as Connor swings and climbs through 19th century forests, kills deers and stabs people with bayonets! Whilst in the Sony press conference, Connor took on the role as the captain of a ship as he partakes in all out sea-warfare! To summarise, Assassins Creed 3 looks amazing.

Best New IP

Winner: Watch Dogs

Other Nominees

The Last of Us

Beyond

Dishonored

Sleeping Dogs

Summary: E3 is all about the surprises. Sure it is fantastic to see games we have already seen that look amazing, such as Last of Us, but the thing that really gets us gamers going, is an announcement that comes completely out of nowhere. And that was the case with Watch Dogs. We don’t know a lot up to this point, but what we do know is that you control a hacker that has control over an entire cities electronics. It’s an open-world game, and has graphics that had people questioning whether this was really a current-gen game. Yes, the most likely scenario is that, that was played on a high-level PC, but you can’t deny that the game looks stunning, and I’m excited to see more of it.

Best First-Person Shooter

Winner: Far Cry 3

Other Nominees

Call Of Duty Black Ops II

Halo 4

Metro: Last Light

Medal Of Honor: Warfighter

Summary: It takes a lot for me to get excited about First-Person shooters these days, because quite simply, there are too many of them. So for a game to impress me, it had to showcase something unique, something that can re-energize a franchise or a new IP (which I think to this point is very unlikely). Call Of Duty has tried that with the new ‘Strike Force’ missions ensuring that there is branching story-lines in which you can actually fail! Yes I hate the Call of Duty franchise but I respect the bold new direction. Halo 4, well it has new bad guys and it’s made by a new developer so I might enjoy that but ultimately, Halo’s success was founded by Bungie and I’m not sure If I can trust a new developer to follow-up on that success. Medal Of Honor looks good, but I’m not willing to get my hopes up after the disaster of a first game.

So this came down to two equally fantastic looking games in Far Cry 3 and Metro: Last light, both of which have a tone that defines their game, which is completely unheard of in first-person shooters this decade (half-life aside). So why Far Cry? Well for starters, it’s an open-world game, the gameplay looks fantastic and most importantly the story line looks completely different, with an antagonist who is actually a well-defined character??!??! Say It Aint so. For years, we have been fed the same crappy Michael Bay-esque shooters, Far Cry 3 promises a change, and I am completely OK with that.

Best Third-Person Shooter

Winner: The Last Of Us

Other Nominees

Dead Space 3

Gears Of War: Judgement

Splinter Cell: Blacklist

Transformers: Fall Of Cybertron

Summary: Yeah I sort of cheated with this category. Unfortunately the third-person shooter category has almost entirely disappeared, with developers instead choosing to enter into the already over-inflated market that is first-person shooters. Sure we still get the typical run and gun third-person shooter in titles such as Gears Of War: Judgement but at this point, I don’t want another Gears. You Know, It would just be nice to, I don’t know… See a new IP for once. But as it stands, The Last of Us is played through the third-person perspective and you can shoot, so I see know problem with rewarding this fantastic game, with another award.

Best Fighting Game

Winner: Injustice: Gods Among Us

Other Nominees

Dead or Alive 5

Persona 4 Arena

Playstation All Stars: Battle Royale

Summary: The creators of Mortal Kombat, bring us a new DC Fighting franchise, Injustice: Gods Among Us. The tone of the game feels fantastic, interactive environments play a key role and transitions that see you hop between levels ensure that I am very excited about a game in a genre that feels slightly light right now. But Injustice: Gods Among us? Count me in.

Best Sports Game

Winner: Madden NFL 13

Other Nominees

Fifa 13

NBA 2K13

NHL 13

Summary: Ever since 2k lost the license for football games, standards have slipped. Mostly down to a lack of effort and features being fleshed out with a ton of gimmicks have meant that the ‘Madden’ football franchise has completely stagnated. But Finally EA have listened to their fan base, and have put in the effort worthy of an NFL game. A new Physics engine, that the game has desperately needed has been introduced and an all new career mode which introduces computer trading, an in-game story engine with a virtual twitter feed, draft coverage from Trey Wingo and much more which I don’t have time to cover. To surmise, Franchise Mode, Superstar Mode and Online Franchise have all been joined into one, meaning all of these new enhancements will be available in all three versions of the game. Yes, finally Online Franchise will actually be worth investing time in. My only critique? EA screwing up their press conference and deciding to focus on the ‘Social’ aspects of Madden rather than these admittedly cool features that would impress even the Hardcore gamer. All in all, well done EA.

Best Driving Game

Winner: Need For Speed: Most Wanted

Other Nominees

LBP Karting

Forza Horizon

Formula 1 2012

Best Playstation Vita Game

Winner: Assassins Creed: Liberation

Other Nominees

Little Big Planet

Playstation All Stars: Battle Royale

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time

Summary: We haven’t witnessed much gameplay yet, but it’s an Assassins Creed game… On the Playstation Vita. What more needs to be said?

Best Nintendo 3DS Game

Winner: New Super Mario Brothers 2

Other Nominees

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow — Mirror Of Fate

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance

Summary: As disappointed as I was with the Nintendo press conference, there were admittedly some very good titles that were showcased, and that is none more evident than with the New Super Mario Brothers game. Yes the major Platforming title is back, and is better than ever. I can’t wait.

Best Nintendo Wii U Game

Winner: Pikmin 3

Other Nominees

ZombiU

Rayman Legends

New Super Mario Bros U

Assassins Creed III

Batman Arkham City

Summary: To avoid another Nintendo related rant, I’m going to pass on this one. All I will say is Pikmin 3 was one of the only bright spots in a terrible, TERRIBLE press conference.

Best PC Game

Winner: Watch Dogs

Other Nominees

Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard

Metro: Last Light

Splinter Cell: Blacklist

Sim City

Summary: 2011 saw a return to prominence for PC gaming. With Skyrim taking home game of the year and a ton of other RPG’s being released, legitimacy was brought back to the PC. Unfortunately things don’t look quite as rosy for the end of 2012, but there are still a ton of quality games. I have run out of things to say about Watch Dogs now, because it has simply one so many awards. What I will say is, that gameplay footage at the ubisoft press conference was either on the PC or it’s a next-gen title.. I know which is more likely, and it once again emphasises the disparity between graphics on the PC and the other Consoles. I honestly can’t fathom why more people don’t utilise their PC for gaming. Better controls, better graphics and cheaper prices are surely all good things? But that debate is for another day, Congrats Watch Dogs, you look amazing.

Best Xbox 360 Game

Winner: Splinter Cell: Blacklist

Other Nominees

Halo 4

Gears Of War: Judgement

Forza: Horizon

Summary: I have trashed Microsoft consistently this past week, and it’s for good reason. The fact a driving game has made a list of four nominations emphasises that. Yes this is another year where first-party has been completely abandoned by Microsoft, and even though most award sites would mask this by nominating tons of third-party games, to make Microsoft look good, I’m here to do right by the gamers! This list epitomizes just how poorly Microsoft has managed their first party. Splinter cell: Blacklist admittedly looks like an impressive new direction for the franchise, but it isn’t the sort of game that should be winning ‘Best of E3’ awards.

Best Playstation 3 Game

Winner: The Last Of Us

Other Nominees

Beyond

God Of War: Ascension

Dust 514

Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time

Summary: Now we’re talking. I was sceptical about another triple A title entering into the over-saturated post-apocalyptic genre, but now I realise I am a fool. This is naughty dog, they’re not going to give us a poorly done game. The game to this point looks crisp and perfectly executed as you would expect from a Naughty dog title, and also has a completely different tone from that of Uncharted. The game is much more violent, you are in desperation mode, you don’t 200 rounds of bullets that you can Spray with your AK-47. This is about survival, every bullet counts and that makes for some fantastic game play dynamics. Game of the Year contender? It sure looks like it.

Best Of Show

Winner:  Assassins Creed 3

Summary: I was going to go with Watch Dogs for this award, but there is a difference between Best Surprise and Best of Show, and I hadn’t seen the latest seven minute demo which is simply mind-blowing. The Assassins franchise has certainly diminished these past few years with iterations like Revelations and Brother being  referred to as Assassins Creed 2.5 rather than a fully fledged sequel, it has even been labelled as “Ubisoft’s Call Of Duty”. But with Assasssins Creed 3, I think we can put that argument to rest.

If you haven’t seen the seven minute demo I have just previously referred to, then go and watch it here http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2012-assassins-creed/732212 like.. right now. These awards can wait. I had already seen the actual gameplay, but I had completely overlooked some of the things that the developer later pointed out with the commentary. The new combat system and new parkour animations were fairly obvious additions but it was the minor subtleties that I had missed out on. Uneven terrain, dramatically improved AI and running assassinations (just to name a few) were all things I overlooked in the original video. This game looks simply fantastic, it has game of the year written all over it and I would just like to take to say Thank you Ubisoft. You single-handedly saved E3.

E3 2012 Review Part 1 – Grading The Press Conferences

The Electronic Entertainment Expo was certainly slightly more subdued than previous iterations, a lack of surprises assured us of that. But there was still a ton of high quality games on show, most of which have either been pushed back to Q1 of 2013, or Q1 of 2013 was in facttheir original release date, meaning 2013 already looks stacked. So for the big five press conferences to deliver a great presentation, it would ultimately be the software that defined their success.

Microsoft

I actually left this press conference slightly more hopeful than last years disasters, however that is still not an awful lot of praise because well… last years was a disaster. But at least this year Microsoft moved away from feeding dozens of awful Kinect games down our  throats. We may still have been provided with half an hour of ‘entertainment’ packages and social experiences with announcements such as smart glass which albeit did look very impressive, but for the most part, the distinct focus was on games.

Now the only reason I still did not come away impressed with this press conference, was because of the games that we were shown. I don’t need to see another Forza, at this point I don’t even want another Gears of War. A re-occurring feature throughout the entire software announcements from the Microsoft press conference were the announcement of sequels. Despite the fact that bungie said they would not be developing any more Halo Games, microsoft still found a way to release a Halo 4. Luckily for Microsoft, the third party titles saved them. Tomb Raider, as expected, looked fantastic and they can always rely on Call of Duty to give them a spark. I like the direction that this new Call of Duty is taking, unfortunately, Treyarch neglected to show us that new direction with the strike force missions, choosing instead to go with the ‘same-old’ alternative, in your typical, linear Call of Duty Mission.

I admit that the new Halo looked great, as did the new Splinter Cell but if there is one thing that this press conference emphasised, its that Microsoft (at least for this console cycle) has abandoned the first party titles. Choosing instead to release the tried and tested formula of succesful franchises such as Halo and Gears, hoping that they can produce similar success to previous iterations. It’s not great for us gamers, but Microsoft know what they are doing and it is probably a strategy that works most effectively for them. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to be taken account in their grade.

Grade: C-

Electronic Arts

Unfortunately, EA suffered the same fate as Microsoft. Choosing to announce new sequels rather than new IP’s, and those new sequels did not look all that impressive. Dead Space 3 has seemingly taken a completely different direction, a direction I am not sure fits the franchise. I don’t think we need co-op in Dead Space, but we are getting it. It also seems that Dead Space is going to take the Resident Evil route, choosing to focus more on the action genre rather than the horror, and we know how well that worked out for Capcom.

Now the Sports Titles, which are lets face it, a prominent feature of Electronic Arts, did seem to breed new life. Madden announced a new physics engine which promises to be one of the most revolutionary gameplay features in all of the sports titles. But unfortunately, they decided to focus more on Madden ‘Social’, and didn’t focus at all on titles such as the critically acclaimed NHL series which has been a great success for EA.

Grade: D-

Ubisoft

I will repeat what I said earlier, GAMES is what was going to win E3 this year. And whilst EA and Microsoft took a different direction, GAMES is what we got with Ubisoft. Yes, our enjoyment was slightly hampered by those painful Hosts, but overall, the content was most definitely there. We have to start with what appears to be the shock of E3 in ‘Watch Dogs’. A completely new IP that has you take control of a hacker who has control over all electronics in the city. A new IP this late in the console cycle even had some people questioning whether this was a next gen title, that’s how good this game looks.

Then we had Assassins Creed 3, which despite being a sequel, looks completely stunning. Before E3 we had only been granted a trailer of Ubisoft’s latest title, but with a solid 10minutes of gameplay footage, we certainly know what this game is about now. Yuy play as Connor Kenway a man drawn into the fight after his home is attacked by colonists. Throughout the duration of the 30 year time span of the game, Connor will encounter various historical figures including George Washington and Benjamin franklin, but the intentions and reasoning for these encounters is unclear at this point. So there is two games that look fantastic.

Combine those two marquee titles, with Far Cry 3, which looked stunning as it opened the conference and wii u titles rayman and Zombiu ensured that the content of Ubisoft’s conference was stacked full of games. The only downside really was the ten minutes designated to an esports title, and the poor hosting but overall, a very strong showing from Ubisoft, who in the past have been the embarrassment of E3.

Grade: A

Sony

Unlike Microsoft, Sony showed that they were still all about the gamer. The show opened with a new IP, as Quantic Dream unveiled their latest Project Beyond, which looked visually stunning however with the four minutes of footage that we were shown, there was no real indication as to how the gameplay mechanics will fit in, into the new title. And Sony also closed with a new IP, as we were provided with our first glimpse of gameplay from Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. Let me just make something perfectly clear, this is completely different from Uncharted. Sure it might ultimately utilise similar gameplay mechanics, the tone, visuals and story are completely different. The game is brutal, you will see Joel kill someone from repeated blows with the but of gun, it is after all necessary when you only have 6 bullets in your gun. And that limited ammo also enhances the experience, as it ensures that every bullet you use HAS to matter. Trust me, it is very unlikely you will be spraying bullets with an AK-47 in this title. Everything you do feels like it has consequences, and even with this early look at the game, it has game of the year written all over it.

The content in the middle of those two IP’s wasn’t too bad either. We got some fantastic looking third-party titles with Far Cry 3 co-op and stunning new gameplay from Assassins Creed III as you play as the captain of a ship.

The only disappointment from the conference was the announcement of Wonderbooks. I wouldn’t even have minded it being in the conference, as I can appreciate that even though it doesn’t adhere to me, it does suit a certain demographic however, the fact that they dedicated a good 15 minutes on this title was completely unnecessary. That was more than any other game on show. But overall, a good showing by Sony who continued to focus on the games. The fact I almost completely forgot about the new God of War title, highlights just how many first-party title they had on show, even with it being this late in the console cycle.

Grade: B+

Nintendo

Oh boy, I’m just going to go out and say it, this was the worst conference of the lot, and it was also, conveniently, the most important press conference of the lot with Nintendo being the only conference where new hardware was to be the focus. Yes, if Nintendo wanted to have a successful conference, then the WiiU would have to impress. Unfortunately, it didn’t. It’s not even the software lineup that detracted from the conference. Pikmin looked fantastic, as did the new Luigi’s mansion title but the whole conference just felt wooden. The presentation was poor, and despite being promised 23 new titles by Reggie at the start of the conference, I can imagine that most of those were featured in the minute-long montages. There just wasn’t enough. Where was the new Zelda for the launch of a new console? Even a new metroid? Sorry Nintendo, you screwed this up. You didn’t even give us a release date or a price point that may atleast get us slightly optimistic.

Grade: F

E3 2012 Preview Part 1 – Top 10 Most Anticipated Games

It’s hard to preview a gaming convention when most of the fun stuff, is stuff that you were not expecting. We can make predictions about new consoles or the release of Half Life 3, but us gamers are only satisfied when we get an announcement that comes completely out of nowhere, and shocks the industry. So when I preview my Top 10 anticipated games, these are not necessarily my favourite ten games at E3, some of them, for instance Far Cry, we have already seen enough footage for me to know, that this game could be special. No, these are games we have only seen announcements or trailers about, and now it is now time for those developers to take the next step and figuratively ‘shock’ us by releasing a fresh perspective on the game that we have not seen before, and that is crucial in the transformation of these games from ‘anticipated’ to an actual success.

I will also be looking back on this preview, with my post-e3 analysis of the event. Some developers will leave us disappointed and go the ‘wet your appetite’ route and just release another trailer, some will go overboard and we will receive 30+ minutes of gameplay shoved down our throats, which isn’t a bad thing, if everything they show feels fresh and adds a different dimension to the game, and there will be some that, get the balance just right.

All ten games on this list are potentially fantastic, but where they lie within these three categories, will have a major impact on the publics opinion of their games. E3 is possibly the biggest marketing exploit developers have at their disposal, E3 signifies the culmination of the last few years of production, E3 is the time when companies discover whether everything has been worthwhile, E3 is the time, to ascertain, that your game is a big deal.

10. Metal Gear Solid: Revengeance

I am pretty sure this game is going to suck, and that is emphasised by its new, and sucky title ‘Revengeance’. Seriously, who came up with that one? Anywho, this game has been surrounded by controversy. And whilst we were certainly salivating after the original reveal of Metal Gear Solid: Rising, the impeding cancellation was spared by a new title and new developers. Now, what we’re left with is what appears to be a hack and slash action game and has essentially destroyed all the hype for this once, potentially fantastic game. At E3, Kojima and friends are going to need to produce something remarkable for me to get hyped for this game, but that is essentially why this has ended up on the list. Kojima has a brilliant history, and if there was ever a time he needed to be brilliant, it was now. Don’t let us down!

9. The Last Guardian

‘The Last Guardian’ has been a mainstay upon ‘Most Anticipated Games’ lists for a few years now, but unfortunately ever since we were presented with that stunning trailer at E3 two years ago, detailing the journey of a little boy and his giant dog, we have seen nothing. Is this game finished? With the exit of Fumito Ueda from Sony, it certainly looks that way, but for the simple reason that, two years ago, I saw one of the greatest trailers I have seen and for the simple fact that there has been no categorical cancellation of this game up to this point, I refuse to remove it from this list altogether. It is going to show up this year dammit!

8. Halo 4

I have never been totally infatuated by the Halo series like most gamers, but there is no disputing the success that Bungie acclaimed. Now, that same series is back with another trilogy, developed by 343 Industries? Huh. Now the developer does consist of former Bungie developers, along with Pandemic and Gearbox but will they be able to form a game that at least satisfies the gamers that have such high expectations, after what Bungie provided them with the first trilogy? I’m not sure. And that is the reason why this is on my ‘Most Anticipated Games of E3 2012’ list. I don’t expect this version to replicate the heights that Bungie strived for,  but  Microsoft needs this to be a success, especially given the lack of first-party exclusives in Microsoft’s software lineup, and I cannot wait to see the direction in which 343 decide to take with the series. Will they continue with the same sandbox experience that Bungie perfected? Or will they take the bold route, and try to establish their own legacy? I can only speculate, but this is undoubtedly one of the biggest stories going into E3, and I can’t wait to find out the answer.

7. Resident Evil 6

Disappointed by Resident Evil 5? Yep, me too. And if there is one thing I am assured about this time, it is that I am not prepared to get sucked in from a fantastic trailer like I was with Resident Evil 6’s predecessor. But this is a Resident Evil game, the trailer WAS fantastic (oh boy, I’m doing it again) and I would by lying if I wasn’t at least remotely excited to see what Capcom has in store for us, in this latest addition to this Resident evil franchise. Resident Evil 5 at times was very enjoyable, but it certainly felt like they had removed the one consistent element that had been prevalent in all of its previous iterations, the horror. With RE6’s first trailer, it appears they have addressed that concerns, as it looks to have returned to its foundations, utilising sheer terror whilst still maintaining the action element from Resident Evil 5. This could be fantastic, lets hope the gameplay lives up to the hype that it certainly garnered, from the initial trailer.

6. Hitman: Absolution

The game would be higher on the list, were it not for the fact that we have seen a lot more of this game than the others on this list, except Bioshock. But because of how excited I am for this game, and for its sheer potential, I had to find a spot for the game on this list. The Hitman franchise is one of the few remaining which are defined by the choices that you, the gamer make. And whilst previous versions in Hitman: Contracts and Hitman: Blood Money, provided little in terms of quality, pre-dominantly relying on Hitman 2’s success, Hitman: Absolution looks set to give the series a revival with a bold new art direction and gameplay enhancements such as “instinct mode” which allows 47 to predict the route in which his enemy takes. It is a fresh, exciting direction for a series that has somewhat stagnated over the years, so lets hope E3 can further enhance that excitement with some fantastic gameplay footage.

5. Bioshock Infinite

Much like with Hitman:Absolution, I am not entirely sure there is a lot left that Irrational Games can showcase that will enhance my excitement for this game. But that doesn’t mean I’m saying I don’t want more gameplay, because I’m sure anything they do show will be enthralling and will serve as a nice reminder about how fantastic this game looks set to become. Unfortunately, the delay of the game into 2013 has inevitably been greeted with disappointment but we all know, that with developers such as Irrational, if there is a delay, we know it is necessary to ensure it matches the expectations that this game has garnered.

And with that delay, it is uncertain whether Bioshock will even appear at E3, but if it does, I am sure it will deliver. Bioshock 2 was certainly a fantastic game, but with the lack of involvement from key figures in the development of the game, it failed to meet the expectations set by the original. With all original members now returning, and a new art direction that makes this version of Bioshock, the best looking game from the series to date, Bioshock Infinite looks set to fill the void, perhaps even surpassing the original (which is one of my favourite current-gen games to date). Yes, I am that excited for this game.

4. Tomb Raider

To avoid making comparisons between every game and Hitman: Absolution, I will just say that the Lara Croft franchise, (much like Hitman: Absolution) has certainly stagnated over the past few years. But with the latest re-make, Tomb Raider looks set to provide fresh impetus into a franchise that certainly needs a revival.

With the reboot, we follow a 21-year-old Lara Croft, who is yet to embark on all the adventures that will follow her. And with that, it has enabled the developers to portray a much more reserved Lara Croft who lacks the self-confidence of previous/future iterations. From what we have seen so far, in terms of Gameplay, It’s fantastically realised and I can’t wait to see how that characterisation is reflected in any of the new gameplay footage that we are provided with at E3.

3. The Last Of Us

When it was announced, it was completely unexpected, but as hard as it is for us to comprehend, Naughty Dog are developing a new IP, that attempts to finally rectify all of the horrifying attempts at the survival genre. Yes it is fantastic, and props to Naughty Dog for developing a completely new franchise (or at least, I’m assuming it will be a franchise), this late into the current-gen cycle. All we have been provided with so far are two fantastic trailers which on first impressions may appear to be made utilising CGI, are actually completely in-engine. At the moment, the fact this is made by naughty dog, is enough to get me excited about this game for now, but now it is time to build on that excitement and give the fans something tangible, that can make these final fourth months of waiting, that bit more bearable. The game looks wonderful, now its time for some gameplay Naughty Dog! And I can’t imagine a scenario, in which E3 won’t be the place where Naughty Dog follow-up those demands.

2. Assassin’s Creed III

An assassins creed game set during the American Revolution? YES PLEASE! In the final installment of the “trilogy”, the first trailer for the upcoming Assassins Creed III has certainly wet my appetite, whilst also raising a lot of questions. What is the context surrounding you battling during the American Revolution? Which side you be fighting on? Or do you hate both sides equally? Already details have emerged regarding the premise of the game, you play Connor Kenway a man drawn into the fight after his home is attacked by colonists. Throughout the duration of the 30 year time span of the game, Connor will encounter various historical figures including George Washington and Benjamin franklin, but the intentions and reasoning for these encounters is unclear at this point. So some information, but not a lot. The new melee system and parkour style which are a huge component of the series, were also given a clear indication as to what their future entails, as judging by the trailer, you will be able to climb, jump and hop between trees as you look to find cover.

It is a very exciting premise, and it will certainly be a refreshing change from Ezio who to some extent, out-stayed his welcome. Assassins Creed II was a massive improvement on the first version, but now it is time to take that next step. E3 should go a long way, in showing what that next step it. I can’t wait.

1. Grand Theft Auto V

Could any other game really top this list? Most Top 10 lists are undoubtedly controversial and very rarely satisfy every demographic but if there was ever a consensus for the most-hyped game currently in production, that would surely have to be the 15th installment in Rockstar’s critically acclaimed Grand theft auto series, right? And with the announcement of Grand Theft Auto V we were presented with what was in my opinion, the best trailer of 2011. A return to San Andreas looks on the cards, with numerous references and hints to Los Santos within the trailer, but that’s not where the locale ends. This has been described by Rockstar themselves as “the largest and the most ambitious game Rockstar has yet created” with the premise appearing to focus in some form or another, on the recession with numerous contrasting sequences between the rich and the poor.  Workers still on the fields are sprayed with crops, houses are being put up for sale, the poor line the streets begging for money, whilst people live the high life, playing golf (which appears to be a playable mini game) and whatever else rich people do. This game looks to have a distinct message, and with potential returning characters from previous San Andreas games in CJ and Tommy Vercetti, this  latest Grand Theft Auto, looks set to be the biggest yet.

GTA defines everything that I meant, when describing the criteria for this list. A fantastic first trailer, with no footage since, and it is a Rockstar game. Those three factors, make this my most anticipated game of E3 2012, and we aren’t even guaranteed that Rockstar will be attending! So I guess it also provides the ‘Shock factor’ when it shows up at E3 now. I just hope I haven’t jinxed it. Ok Ok, you can blame me if Rockstar don’t show up at E3 now and inevitably push the release date back to 2015 :( But until then, I am happy in declaring Grand Theft Auto V, my most anticipated game of E3 2012 (not 15).

 

Fifa 12 Euro 2012 DLC Review – Is it Worth it?

Typically when I’m reviewing a video game sequel or an annual series, I’ll give a rating not only based on the quality of the product but also on how many enhancements have been made from the previous iteration. It’s why games like Call of duty will receive low scores from me, they’re all undoubtedly fun but the extent to which improvements have been made is limited. I simply find it hard to justify the $60 price tag on a game with some new ‘tweaks’. This was essentially the problem with the Fifa series’ World cup and European championships editions which were practically the same game, with slight improvements to presentation, gameplay and graphics.

So when it was announced that the Euro 2012 edition would not be released as a stand-alone copy, with EA finally acknowledging it as DLC, with a price tag of $20 to support that claim, It’s fair to say I was pleasantly surprised. So imagine my disappointment when I was presented with a game in which it was just as hard to justify the $20 price.

Yes the game is a disappointment. One of the major allures of the FIFA franchise  for the past 5 or 6 years has been its complete licensing, that is not the case in this version. Only major nations have fully licensed kits, teams don’t have real names, there are no options to select your 23 man squad that compete in the tournament and oh yeah.. you would think there would be an edit option, allowing you to edit the players names.. that’s not the case either, no happy medium, you’re simply stuck with the crap that you’ve been given.

The game modes have also been restricted, as qualifying has been removed along with the ability to play as every team in the tournament which was one of the better features of the world cup game. As for Online, well.. there isn’t any. No tournaments, no online European championships like there was for the world cup game, you only get head to head games which you can essentially play in the original Fifa 12 version, you’re better off setting up a tournament on the original fifa with the international teams as it serves the same purpose. Ultimately, there is simply no value in paying $20 for this.

And if you were hoping gameplay improvements would help legitimize the game, then unfortunately you will once more be let down. There are essentially no improvements except slightly improved shooting and I would argue that gameplay has actually declined with it feeling slower and clunkier than the original game.

For once, I thought EA were rewarding their loyal fan base but yet again they have managed to turn it into a money-making scam, essentially removing any trace of the FIFA series that we have come to know and love. FIFA was the one EA sports franchise that we could rely on to provide consistent and valuable improvements with each passing year, and now that reputation has been tarnished with this poor excuse for a DLC.

Gameplay – Still fun but really no major improvements. 7/10

Presentation – Yeah you get a bit of confetti before the game, but there’s no licencing and every game appears to take place during the night. 3/10

Total Value – A game that charges you $20 for a worse version than the one you already own? 3/10

OVERALL : 4/10

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La Noire Review

Before I start discussing La Noire, as this is my first review on the site, I thought I’d give you a brief outline of how this blog is going to work. Unfortunately I only currently own a PC and a PS3 due to financial problems, so for now I won’t be able to review any of the xbox exclusives and let’s face it.. there would be hardly any for me to review anyway. Don’t distress though microsoft fans, due to the piss poor E3 (my impressions will be coming soon), in terms of First-party exclusives, the majority of the games i’ll be reviewing will be Third Party games anyway.  So don’t leave just yet. Anyway that’s enough about the future, the reason I’m here is to review LA Noire, so here it is, my first review for this blog, and hopefully there will be a lot, lot more..

So, LA Noire, what better first review to have than a game that could possibly re-define the games industry as we know it. Yes, I’m talking about the all new MotionScan technology that has been developed by Team Bondi. This piece of kit makes use of full-time actors, detecting everything on the face from a single flinch to an eye flicker. However it is JUST the face, whilst the characters display a full range of emotion, and you really do feel every bit of anger or sorrow etched on Cole Phelp’s face, there is still a sense that the head is detached from the rest of the body. The contrast between the fluid, precise face animations and the stiffness of the rest of the body is apparent, nevertheless the technology is still very cool, and hopefully provides the basis for 360 motion scan technology in the future.

So how does it affect the gameplay? Yes it looks great, but does it actually enhance the experience? The answer is simply, yes. The core of this game revolves around interrogations, new cases mean new clues and when a suspect is identified, it’s your job to extract information out of them. The gameplay mechanic is pretty simple, you select a question from your notebook based on the evidence you’ve already collected, the suspect answers, and the motion technology enables you to make a judgement on whether or not you think he/she is lying. If you think the suspect has suddenly become twitchy or is avoiding eye contact, you can claim they’re lying, the game will then give you a list of all the evidence you’ve acquired from the case so far, and you have to select a piece of evidence you believe backs up your claim. Be prepared to be frustrated however, selecting an answer that may seem relevant, may not be the answer the game was looking for, which sets off an infuriating cut scene where the suspect berates you for the accusations.

The concept is brilliant, and the technology makes every single interview and every single person feel different but the concept is never truly realized. You’ll find yourself always selecting the doubt button, even when you think they’re lying, simply because you’re scared you may select the wrong piece of evidence. Sometimes the doubt mechanic comes across as more aggressive than selecting lie, and perhaps if there is an LA Noire 2, the developers could make the difference between the three selections a bit more blatant.

Unfortunately, the word that sums up the rest of the gameplay experience is, ‘repetitive’.  You’ll find the game goes through the same sequence of events in practically every case. You start off by investigating the crime scenes, you’ll then determine a suspect and a list of evidence from this. The suspect will then run away before you can interview him, instigating a chase scene in which you will eventually track him down. You then interrogate the suspect, and so on… It is all very repetitive, I understand and acknowledge what Team Bondi are trying to achieve, this is an adult experience, you will never play a game like it, and I understand the point of this game was not to have 20 man gun fights in the street during every mission, but the lack of variety in the gameplay detracts from the overall experience. When the odd action sequence does come along however, it is brilliant. Everything feels meaningful in LA Noire, when you finally crack a case and track down the suspect, just to have to fight through 10 bodyguards and eventually put a bullet in his chest, you feel everything a real detective would do, dejected. The amount of time you’ve invested in solving it, just for it to culminate in one simple bullet shot, feels depressing and these range of emotions you feel are evident throughout the game, and is exactly what makes LA Noire such a magnificent experience.

The story in the game revolves around main protagonist, Cole Phelps. A war veteran, that was awarded a silver star for bravery during the Battle of Okinawa in World War 2. You start off in patrol, and as cases are solved, you will eventually find yourself climbing up the policing ladder, going through the homicide, vice and arson department. Whilst the game appears to let you make decisions, the overall experience is pretty linear. If you miss a clue, it doesn’t mean you’ll fail the case, the game will simply give you an extra clue to get back on track. It’s pretty much impossible to fail a case, and the only time a game over screen appears is during a failed action sequence. The overall progression of your character will not be the result of the decisions you’ve made either.. No matter, how well you have done, you will always get a promotion once you have finished the specified amount of missions. This is not a game like Heavy rain or mass effect where the decisions you make are going to affect the outcome, it simply delays it instead.

I won’t go into the plot details too much, but whilst the main storyline is clearly Cole as a detective back in 1940′s Los Angeles, we are also given a sequence of flashbacks that run throughout the game, giving us a little back story from his time in the war, and whilst it doesn’t appear relevant at the start, all of these flashbacks do in fact correlate to the endgame. Another plot device is the newspaper articles that are scattered across the map. There are 13 in total and each time a new article is discovered, you’re provided with a cut scene which give extra detail to the background of your final case. All of these little plot devices are there to provide build up to the final mission of the game, which in the end.. is a bit of a letdown.

1940′s Los Angeles has never looked so good in a video game. The game contains roughly 20 real life monuments from Los Angeles, all of which have been re-created to perfection. Whether it be the tar pits or the LA County museum or even the small inclusions such as the Hollywoodland sign, with the events of La Noire taking place 2 years before the last 4 letters were removed. These tiny nuances are incorporated throughout the game, and it really does bring the world to life. However despite this perfectly re-created world, there isn’t an awful lot to do. You may think it’s a sandbox experience but really, it might as well be an action adventure game. Apart from the main storyline, the only things you can really do within the city are collecting cars, exploring the monuments and responding to dispatch calls. Which are, in there own way pretty fun, but it doesn’t do enough for me to become fully engrossed in the city.

Overall, this game hits and misses on so many levels. There are some moments, which are pure brilliance, the motion technology is revolutionary and the city is as wonderfully crafted as anything I’ve seen in gaming. These moments however are countered with moments of pure frustration, but this is way more than just a tech demo. On this generation of platforms, this is an experience that only Heavy rain can rival and yet I come away from it, looking back, wondering what could have been.

Story 8/10

Gameplay 7.5/10

Presentation 9.5/10

Total Value 8/10

OVERALL : 8.2

What is the Sportswrangler?

First Off – No this blog has nothing to do with my infatuation of Brett Favre’s jeans. To wrangle, is to debate and that is exactly what I intend to do on this site, instigate debates. This isn’t your typical blog, I’m not simply going to recycle views from other sites, I’m opinionated, out-spoken and hopefully quite refreshing, and  you may not agree with everything I have to say,  but then where where would be the fun if you did? This isn’t a blog that’s simply going to provide incoherent ramblings, my opinions no matter how wrong you perceive them to be, will always be justified and no matter what judgements you form from my articles, one thing I would hope to have achieved over time  is to have earned your respect.

I’m an aspiring journalist whose passions lie within writing, sports, television and video games, so here we are, with me combining all of those passions into one succinct blog.

So after that small introduction, it’s time to look at my vision for this blog over the next few months.

Sports – As this blog progresses, you will learn that my articles aren’t restricted to simply one sport, you’ll be hearing a whole lot from me regarding anything to do with Football, Basketball, Soccer, Baseball, Hockey, Tennis, Formula 1, Golf  etc etc. So looking ahead, The NBA regular season is reaching its climax, so I’ll be giving my views on all of the major storylines on the craziness that is the NBA playoffs, expect insight on hot topics such as Lebron, the Knicks and Dwight Howard. And whilst the NBA season is heating up, the soccer season is drawing to a close, so expect to be reading a lot of recaps and previews for the upcoming season. The football season is also about to begin. So I’ll be providng my opinions on the key storylines from the off-season and previewing which teams I expect to be the major contenders in the 2012-2013 season. That’s just a brief outline, so expect to be hearing a lot more from me regarding major sporting topics very soon :)

Television – Unfortunately, whilst there is always some form of sport going on, the summer signifies the end of practically all television. So whilst I will be providing regular reviews on Game of thrones, for the most part expect a lot of “Season In Reviews” on shows such as Justified, Homeland, Fringe, Breaking Bad and  Boardwalk Empire but that’s not all. I’ll also be covering already ended shows, so expect to see my opinions on the Lost series finale surfacing very shortly.

Video Games – Summer is a big period for gaming. Whilst most games surface in the fall, it is a chance for most developers to showcase new software (and sometimes hardware) at gaming conventions such as E3 so I’ll be supplying my thoughts on all of the new games that are announced over the coming months.

So that’s just a brief outline of what to expect over the next few months, obviously when we get into the fall, you’ll be seeing regular television and gaming reviews but for now you’ll just have to make do with recaps, previews and the NBA :)

You can also follow me on twitter @sportswrangler or email me at sportswrangler@hotmail.com if you require any information regarding the blog or simply if you want to extract some opinions from me.

 

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