Archive for March, 2010

Game Room for Xbox & Games for Windows Live

Microsoft are throwing gamerscore at you to spend time in your Game Room

Game Room has launched today on both Xbox Live and Games for Windows Live. The idea is you fill your virtual ‘Game Room’ with oldskool arcades, reminisce the arcade era, invite your friends over to play together (online), set challenges and have fun like it was the 80’s, but from the comfort of your actual real world game room/basement/office.

So no stepping in chewing gum or wasting coin after coin of your pocket money? Wrong, apart from the not stepping in chewing gum bit. Yes you still have to pay, for each arcade, and to be honest, nearly 20 years on, these games are just not as fun as they used to be. In fact its hard to remember why these games were fun back then, I guess we are so spoilt with today’s photo realistic graphics and rag-doll physics that we forget how far things have moved on.

You can try before you buy of course, a quick demo on a few of the titles available at today’s launch and boredom struck me. These games are just too basic. So I began to wander around my arcade and started adding themes and placing decor, which I should add, nets you some free gamescore. Further boredom struck, so I decided to fire up Game Room on the PC and the Xbox simultaneously for some side by side PC vs Xbox comparisons. Check out my YouTube Video below.

The first thing I was impressed with was the fact that across both platforms, my Game Room was identical. No separate settings or achievements list for each platform like most games that appear on both PC and Xbox (Fallout 3, Dirt 2 etc). Microsoft have made Game Room appear as one across both platforms, allowing seemless jumping from console to PC, and I’m guessing this is part of their 3 screens moto, no doubt with Windows Phone 7 Series having similar compatibility, eventually.

I also noticed how much crisper and smoother Game Room was on the PC. With anti aliasing switched on, and a higher resolution over the Xbox, my Game Room looked and felt better on PC. Of course there are no such options to play with on the Xbox 360 version, the default resolution felt quite low, much lower than the 1080 my Xbox was set too. Loading times are pretty similar but the PC does have a slight advantage as expected. I also noticed some slight jerks on the Xbox when moving from arcade to arcade especially heavily active arcades. I know there have been teething problems with this launch, which might also explain why 2 achievements I gained have not been saved to my account, strange?

Overall Game Room is a bit of a let down, despite Microsoft’s efforts on pulling together a cool idea which is really well implemented, especially the cross platform part. The problem is the games are just not fun, that’s not Microsoft’s fault, but the games are what we go into our Game Rooms for and now, in 2010, we have grown to expect so much more, so much so that some basic 2d sprites just dont cut it anymore.

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BioShock 2 Multiplayer Review – Spliced up fun

I cannot hide, the evidence shows I actually play BioShock 2 multiplayer

What a shock. BioShock 2 multiplayer is actually good fun. I normally wouldn’t even try the multiplayer on a title so ground in single player roots, but as I’m an achievement whore the lure of some quick gamerscore quickly drew me in.

After finishing the brief single player game, which is nothing to write home about, I quickly scanned the achievement list and realised a good chunk are gained from racking up some easy multiplayer time. I remember reading reviews thinking who will play that, BioShock multiplayer, bah! Hours later, I’ve managed to reach Rank 10, and play a match on EVERY map. Sad, no, because BioShock 2 multiplayer is actually great. Ok it is laggy as hell, the frame rate seems to be low no matter what graphic settings you choose (despite the single player running perfectly smooth) and the fov feels like 75? But despite this, I kept at it and I must admit I’m slightly addicted (spliced up?).

I think its the Call of Duty style killstreak, trials and loadout array that keeps me playing, or maybe the games for windows live achievements? Heck I’m trying to find an excuse but the truth is freezing enemies with one hand whilst you line up some headshots with your pistol on the other hand is just pure entertainment.

And then there’s the big daddy mode. The big daddy suit makes Quad Damage feel like bringing a knife to a gun fight. Randomly a big daddy suit will appear in the battlefield with a player wide notification, this is when you search like mad and find the glowing gold goodness. Once suited up, you gain all the benefits of the big daddy, lots and lots of armour and a really powerful rivet gun, with a secondary grenade launcher. You can walk around stomping the ground (just press jump to take out splicers nearby) or fire the rapid and powerful rivet gun at swarms of splicers racking up huge killstreaks. Everyone does seem to want to take you down when your the big daddy (I wonder why?) but for the minute or so you wear this suit its a great experience.

My favourite mode though is Capture the Sister, your basic Capture the flag style game mode but with a twist, a lovable little sister has to be protected or captured. This results in hilarious sprints across the weird and wonderful world of Rapture with a little sister hoisted on your back, whilst being attacked by strangely outfitted, pyjama clad and lunatic spliced up men and women shouting outrageous swear words whilst simultaneously photographing dead bodies for research bonus mid fight. Something you cannot resist stopping to do despite knowing someone is bound to attack you from around the next corner.

BioShock 2 single player was a bit of a let down, it felt like BioShock but with very little change. The first BioShock was award winning when it first came out, but in 2010 it just feels like the same game. But this time around you have this witty multiplayer mode to keep you occupied and exploring Rapture for a while longer. Will it revolutionize professional multiplayer gaming? No, but it will make you smile, and that is what makes BioShock 2 multiplayer worthy of your time.

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Mass Effect 2 Review – and Miranda Sex Scene

Finished ME2, 32.1 hours later and I

I’ve never really been a fan of role playing games (RPG’s). My first experience was an old Final Fantasy back in the 1990’s and I just didn’t get it. It wasn’t until Fallout 3 that I fell in love with the genre albeit an RPG/Shooter hybrid. Wanting more of the same, one game kept popping up in my search, Mass Effect. Winning countless Game of the Year awards on Xbox 360, but not arriving on PC until way into 2008, I waited patiently. I even waited until it was available on Steam, as putting a DVD in a drive feels so 1990’s, besides, my gaming box doesn’t even have an optical drive.

I wish I didn’t wait. Mass Effect combines science fiction, first person shooter and RPG elements, all rolled into a cinematic epic movie like experience that you control, what more could you ask for? Playing it is like watching Battlestar Galactica, Aliens, Star Trek and every other Sci-Fi made, all rolled into one where YOU control the plot and the action. So when Mass Effect 2 came up for pre-order on Steam I was eager to continue the saga. And what a saga.

Mass Effect 2 continues where you left off in the first Mass Effect, so if you’ve not played the game I would highly recommend you either watch IGN’s hilarious recap below, or play it, then watch the recap!

After importing my save game from Mass Effect (luckily I had this saved) I was thrown into an epic opening scene. Mass Effect 2 feels like a movie from the start, and when you do take control the action is much more fluid and fun than the first game. I only played Mass Effect through once, despite hearing about the multiple different stories that I did not see on my play through, I wanted to experience one story throughout so that the choices I did make in the heat of battle were meaningful and final. Saving and reloading to see every bit of the game was never an option for me, and I continued this rule throughout Mass Effect 2. This intensifies every choice in the game, leaving the relationships you make with each character at the risk of being broken at any time, giving meaning to every action as it would in real life.

From early on its clear to see the combat has been greatly improved. As a soldier class, you can just take control as though it was an ordinary FPS (apart from the slight third person view which takes a short while to get use to). I pretty much played through the first Mass Effect with just guns, and began episode 2 the same. But as I progressed I began to appreciate the biotic powers of my team mates. I also added my favorite biotic power ‘Slam‘ to my own character until I could walk around with Miranda lifting swarms of enemies out of my path in a synchronized way that made me feel like Yoda from Star Wars. Replaying this game as an Adept class with nothing but biotic powers is tempting, but I don’t want to ruin the story that I’ve already experienced, and of course the next episode Mass Effect 3.

What makes Mass Effect 2 such a good title apart from the insane combat, is the characters. Recruiting team members, creating new relationships and bumping into old friends all of which have distinct personalities, sub story lines and actual depth and meaning is the key to this titles success, and of course the females. Without sounding like a desperate male, my first chance to find Ashley (my love interest from the first game) was hot on my list of things to do. But this soon becomes of little importance, once you get to know Miranda.

Miranda, voiced and modeled by the equally hot real life Yvonne Strahovski is the star of Mass Effect 2. It felt like the majority of the game I spent with her at my side, fighting, talking, gaining her loyalty and of course flirting like mad to reach the inevitable sex scene below (spoiler alert). Apart from her obvious curves, Miranda has, well great curves. She also has a great history, it’s a typical Sci-Fi story which you will no doubt find out if you attempt to seduce her and take her on the mission in search of her sister. All the characters, not just the females have something to offer, although some I just had no interest in (like Jack) and others I couldn’t get enough of (like Samara). Spending time on the team members individual missions, uncovering their past, gaining their loyalty and perks and forming bonds in Mass Effect 2 is very rewarding.  These bonds you work so hard on then feel totally threatened in battle as you are making leadership choices and viewing events that risk the lives of all your team members. Never before in a game have I felt so much connection and worry for an NPC (mainly Miranda and the Asari chick), the risk of losing someone you’ve spent so much time and effort with really makes this game shine.

Of course my Mass Effect story is totally different to the next gamers, each choice and reaction in game can spawn a huge number of story lines. If you choose, your love interest can be any character. Take your pick from the selection of weird and wonderful aliens or humans, females or males, or just run around blowing things up and ignore the cheap chat up lines and sex scenes altogether. Either way I can guarantee some connections with at least a few characters, and some that you just will just ignore or enjoy sending to their deaths. However you choose to play Mass Effect 2, you are going to have a colossal adventure in space, and at the end you will be left gagging for the next episode. For once you will be thankful for trilogies.

9.5/10 An epic cinematic masterpiece.

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