My week with Destiny | Review | Gaming

DestinyTruth be told, I haven’t played enough of Destiny to give it a traditional review. Not just because it is a game with a lot of different elements, but because the best experience of the game is the one you make yourself. Much like I imagine is the appeal of Skyrim, your memorable moments in Destiny are just as likely to be pottering about on the surface of the Moon as they are tackling a tricky Strike mission (the Raids, at the time of writing, are still to come).

The best is yet to come

Destiny
Competitive multiplayer in The Crucible is a nice addition, but nothing to write home about.

Destiny is definitely a game, that much we can be sure, a computer game even (or video game, if you want to be all American about it…), but past that it can fall into half a dozen specific genres of game – FPS, RPG, MMO…the acronyms go on and on.

The other thing we can definitely say is that it is good fun. Even those who take exception to the fact that the story is light touch generally concede that the gameplay has some fun bits in it – however short-lived or repetitive they turn out to be, and there’s potential for a lot more from a title which is supposedly designed as a franchise to be expanded over the next decade.

The game I find easiest to compare Destiny to is Sega Dreamcast classic Phantasy Star Online (no, not Final Fantasy, different thing, trust me). Comparing the two games, the amount of content available is a massive step forward, particularly considering PSO required a hunter’s licence to play (about £5 a month) and initially was around when internet speeds were cripplingly limited by modern standards – it’s a surprise the game ran at all.

Fast forward to the world of Destiny and persistent online play is a completely different kettle of fish, but that said it is still a kettle and they are still fish at the end of the day. Failure to ‘get over’ the fact that this game is being made Bungie’s way and no one else’s is essential. That’s not to say that they won’t respond to player feedback – they already have in many areas, such as the questionable voice acting from Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage – but changes which are made will be to improve the experience for the gamer rather than change things fundamentally.

The aforementioned Raids for example, an ultra-hard game mode which is only unlocked once you have finished basic ranking and got some snazzy gear, requires a party of six friends to complete and that will always be the case. There is matchmaking in Strikes, the Raid’s younger brother, but we are definitely expecting something altogether more complex from Raids, a bit of depth to missions, which at present tend to involve a lot of killing things and waiting for Dinklage to scan and/or hack things.

We need a hero

Perhaps not legend, but your character is at least your own
Perhaps not legend, but your character is at least your own

The central excitement of the game might come from frolicking about with others, but it’s the gear and levelling up which will keep you coming back for more. Although the initial level cap is a mere 20, light even by PSO standards, levelling continues above that by acquiring ‘motes of light’ which are derived from equipping rare items and other general looting, which forces you to play the game very differently, and, according to Bungie, it’s where the game really begins.

As I sit on the cusp of level 20, with all the excitement just around the corner, I still don’t feel like I’ve really got to the bottom of what the game is all about. I’ve still got a planet to visit (Mars), but otherwise the areas themselves are discovered, and explored to varying degrees. There are three (or so) alien races, who have various different monsters and creatures up their sleeve (or robots in the case of the Vex), and three classes to choose from (with two subclasses each) and three races to play as within that.

Of course, for the sake of the (admittedly vague and fairly limited) story, you ARE human. My Awoken Male Warlock (race, gender and class respectively) seemed to get very confused when the story led him to visit the Awoken Queen and he had lots of questions such as ‘Where do they come from?’, which you would expect he might know…

Regardless the prospect of replaying as a different class at least is appealing, since different classes and subclasses (which can be changed at any time) do have a different playstyle.

The game certainly isn’t for everyone, however much Bungie would like it to be, and for every soaring climax of the fantastic soundtrack there’s a niggle that crops up, but it doesn’t stop it being a thoroughly enjoyable with lots to do and discover. Become legend? Perhaps not, but, at the very least, it’s memorable.

James Michael Parry

Five reasons to get back into Doctor Who | Opinion | Television

Doctor Who series 8You’ll have heard that Doctor Who is back, that there’s a new guy holding the sonic screwdriver and scampering about in the TARDIS, but perhaps you haven’t managed to watch any of the new episodes just yet. “He’s a bit old,” you might say. “I liked David Tennant for a while but then the stories got all angsty and romantically awkward…”

As a big fan myself, I can admit that the series has its ups and downs, just like anything on TV (except some of the top quality shows on Netflix which are near flawless), but whether you enjoy Doctor Who or not comes down to one thing – suspension of disbelief.

Letting yourself be absorbed into that world is crucial to enjoying it, as you have to remember that this is a children’s show after all, aimed first and foremost at 10-12 year old boys (though probably any youngsters are in the cross-hairs these days).

So, without further ado, This Is Entertainment presents five reasons you should boot up BBC iPlayer (or, in fact, most of your favourite on-demand streaming services) and begin your time travel adventure once again.

The companion isn’t just a damsel in distress

Jenna Coleman has really brought her companion's character forward this series
Jenna Coleman has really brought her companion’s character forward this series

Ever since Doctor Who came back in 2005, the companions have been the audience’s window to the Whoniverse more than ever before, meaning, more often than not if you don’t like the companion, you don’t like the show.

Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald, who is the current hanger-on, has managed to really add depth to her character this series. Gone is the slightly painful and teenagery love angle and Clara is finally a force to be reckoned with, standing up for herself, getting out of trouble without the Doctor needing to swoop in and even telling the Doctor off when he gets a bit over-excited, like a hyperactive dog getting a tap on the nose with a copy of The Sunday Times.

There’s still a lot more developing which can be done, and the seeds of a new romantic entanglement have already been sewn, but the early signs look good, and at least a little more believable than they were before. Plus the fact that her everywoman identity isn’t central to the plot this series helps take some of the pressure off as well.

The Daleks are scarier than ever

Outstanding retro poster from designer Stuart Manning (Radio Times)
Outstanding retro poster from designer Stuart Manning (Radio Times)

OK OK, so some people find Daleks scary, others don’t, and certainly this series isn’t out to change your mind if you’re dead set against it, but Episode 2 story Into The Dalek is a really interesting take on ‘a Dalek episiode’ which effectively calls back to the end of 2005 series 1 – the fact that the Doctor would make a good Dalek.

For all our relating to the companion in the show, we really all aspire to be the Doctor himself, meaning any suggestion that he might not be a good man makes us feel uneasy. It’s times like that that the show uses its emotional resonance to its fullest effect however, making us question the morality of our hero.

Already this series the Doctor has dealt some hefty emotional blows to Clara and even abandoned her in a helpless situation – this is not something you’d expect from a hero.

In meeting broken Dalek ‘Rusty’, the Doctor’s tendency to want to fix and control everything around him gets the better of him and, inevitably, it costs lives. The Dalek voice, provided by show veteran Nicolas Briggs, is definitely silly, but nonetheless still menacing, particularly when the things he says really hammer home how dark the Doctor really is.

Someone remembered that fun is fun

The TARDIS takes an arrow in Robot of Sherwood
The TARDIS takes an arrow in Robot of Sherwood

Heavy storylines are all well and good, but some of the most memorable moments in the past few years have been comedy-based rather than drama, such as Matt Smith and David Tennant’s screwdriver standoff (complete with Doctor inspecting glasses) or Smith attempting to fend off the Daleks with a jammy doger.

This series might have been described as more dark, which it probably is, but there also seems to be an injection of much needed fun into proceedings after some heavy storylines at the end of Matt Smith’s run.

Robot of Sherwood portrays this most outwardly, but each episode so far has built in a strong element of comedy, much of which comes from Capaldi himself – swordfighting with a spoon is probably my favourite idea so far.

Of course it isn’t all about comedy, but when you’re sitting down with the family on a Saturday night for some entertainment you want something which is fun and you don’t necessarily wangt to have to pay attention to every tiny detail to get it, which leads neatly on to…

You don’t need to watch every episode to ‘get it’

The new titles are a bit different but they grow on you
The new titles are a bit different but they grow on you

In series 6 and 7 things got a bit complicated, let’s be honest. Series 5’s cracks in the wall (which admittedly reappeared later) were a fairly consistent thread running through that series, and another great example of Steven Moffat taking something everyday from his children’s childhood (i.e. a crack on the wall) and making it something to be really afraid of, a formula Moffat returns to for Listen.

The reason 6 and particularly 7 with its ill-advised mid-series break struggled is because there were too many long-running plot threads and the audience couldn’t quite keep their head around what was going on. The beginning of 7 part 2 is the biggest example of that in that it’s a struggle to remember why our heroes are on the run, let alone why they are in random different parts of America.

The stories for this series are far more self-contained, and so it makes the show far easier to dip in and out of. Obviously you should already be religiously tuning in to every episode, but if you’ve made it this far down then you either are already and are just enjoying my ramblings, or you like the show enough to be engaged with it but it can occasionally have problems holding your attention.

Already in the series we have had an introduction, a dark episode and a light episode, plus there’s been the customary introduction of a figure from history – although this time around it is the (possibly) fictional Robin Hood. There’s plenty of scope to delve deeper into the characters as the series goes on, but so far the balance between action and reflection has been spot on.

Peter Capaldi is just fantastic

Capaldi wrote fan scripts and letters to the show as a child, and his passion and love for the show shines through
Capaldi wrote fan scripts and letters to the show as a child, and his passion and love for the show shines through

For series 8, a new doctor provides a clean slate. Personally I have a lot of love for Matt Smith (as if you needed to ask) but Peter Capaldi brings the gravitas which not only comes with age – a fact which is played on nicely in the show – but also just his manner in the part. Capaldi’s long-term love affair with the show itself is well documented, and the passion he has for the role is already showing through strongly after only a couple of episodes.

The first episode is always a rag-tag of different emotions and feelings as the Doctor as a character finds his feed after changing every cell in his body by regenerating (sounds painful…). The initial quips – “Who invented this room?! It doesn’t make any sense; it’s only got a bed in it!” – give way to a realisation that The Doctor isn’t sure who he is, setting the tone of self-discovery for this series and leading to a line of comparisons between The Doctor and other characters.

Capaldi sells this instantly, unashamedly calling out things as silly or ridiculous, just as the audience might when faces with the sort of fantastical which is bread and butter for The Doctor. Due to his love of the show, Capaldi fits into both the stylish costume and mannerisms of his doctor quickly, making the character equal parts likeable, mad and dangerous.

There’s always the next story to look to with Doctor Who, but the series has made a strong start (not least for wisely self-containing the introduction in a near feature-length opener) and stands to get better and better as it continues. Here’s hoping the payoff at the end matches our collective anticipation.

James Michael Parry

The IK Prize : After Dark – An interactive experience of a life time | Opinion | Culture

After dark

In a guest post, art student Alicia Bedden reflects on a new way of experiencing art, using the power of technology…and robots…

As a designer we’re always trying to find new ways to interact with our audiences, finding that key aspect that will keep people interested and want to tell other people about their experience, that excitement. There is a constant sense of thriving for designers to create that experience.

A great example of this state of mind as a designer, is an art installation where the audience is guided around by ‘angels’ and forced to walk at a certain pace, such as Robert Wilsons ‘Walking’. An installation like this, allowed the audience to travel around without any of their belongings to worry about, giving them a chance to actually concentrate and delve into their surroundings. (Look it up, it will make you wish you were there like I did.) It’s a constant thought in my mind as a designer, what is it that the audience want to take from the experience? Do they actually know what they want? It’s what you get taught by your University tutors to think about.

With all this in mind, a recent event at the Tate Britain was one of those events, that as a designer you ‘squee’ over, wishing you’d thought of that. ‘After Dark’, the winning project in the 2014 IK Prize was revealed at the Tate Britain. Where the concept of robots taking over was no longer a theory but a reality. They let four robots lose around at night, letting people on the internet, from all-over the world, control them. Sounds pretty cool right? I know.

The robots are equipped with lights, a camera, sensors and motors allowing them to sneak through the galleries in the dark. An onboard computer streams their vision through the internet in real-time and responds to commands.” – Tate Britain

After Dark

The idea of it just makes me tingle. Imagine being the one controlling one of the robots, remotely driving it around the museum at night, where all you can see on your screen is what’s caught in the lights of your robot, maybe even catching a glimpse of another robot whizzing past in another room. It’s that sense of curiosity, exploration and excitement that attracts me to the idea. Here watch this video, let it excite you even more. (Watch the making of video).

“The robot and your hands just become an extension of your mind, that’s how technology ‘aught to be.” Colonel Chris Hadfield, the first person to navigate the robots, from his home in Toronto. Such an interesting concept don’t you think?

The robots themselves are just an extension of you, letting you be the one exploring the gallery, going where you want to go, seeing things you want to discover. Actually getting the chance to test the robots, seeing how they moved, made me realize that after I while I did forget I was remotely controlling this robot. I was being enveloped by the experience, my movements are the robots, the robot and me are exploring as one. Sounds crazy? Maybe, but unless you were one of the few that got the chance to control them, you’ve missed out on an experience of a life time I can tell you. Being in a room filled with other people all excited to test these robots, I knew that the idea was a success before it had even begun.

The design of the robots give you the freedom to explore as though you were there yourself, they move at walking pace, with the ability to look up and down, with the lights being their eyes of sorts. The only main difference being the height, as these lil’ fellas are 1200mm tall, unlike the average height of a person which is roughly 1500mm. Even though they look like a distant cousin of the Disney’s Wall-E, these are truly spectacular pieces of technology.

It excites me to imagine all the possibilities that this technology and interaction with the audience, can do to future events such as this. According to Jane Burton, Creative Director, “its not for commercial gain, we’re trying to bring art to an ever wider audience.” That’s all we ever want to do, right? Explore the world further?

Alicia Bedden

Five things you should already know about Gamescom | Opinion | Gaming

Gamescom 2014By now you may have heard that a European games conference took place this week, but if you haven’t had time to catch up on everything, here are the key facts.

1) Microsoft finally ‘beat’ Sony

Xbox One Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Edition
The 1TB hard drive with this custom console will be the draw for those who to shop digitally

They love to say it isn’t a competition and pat each other on the back (well…Microsoft have paid a few compliments to Sony this year at least…), but really it’s war.

As we approach a year since the latest battle between Sony and Microsoft began – sorry Nintendo, you’re benched – competition is fierce as each console has hit its stride.

MS began their conference strongly with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, including a custom Xbox One console (above), which interestingly is missing Kinect, alluding to one of the many things about where Xbox One is now which differ from day one.

The last few months may have seemed to be backtracking, and they are, but they are also offering a slew of new and exclusive games both in the rest of 2014 and beyond, while Sony’s initial momentum, and impressive initial sales numbers, appear to be slowing.

Exclusive PS4 title Hellblade, from Ninja Theory, is one game which has been announced which isn't as 'indie-ish'
Exclusive PS4 title Hellblade, from Ninja Theory, is one game which has been announced which isn’t as ‘indie-ish’

It’s not quite the tortoise and the hare, a LOT of people have and are buying a PS4, but there’s increasing feeling that the console hasn’t perhaps leapt the industry forward as much as it could have, focusing on power (as usual) rather than innovation.

That could change when Morpheus, Sony’s answer to the imagination-grabbing Oculus Rift, properly launches, but for now the company is focusing on its game streaming service: Playstation Now, as well as system updates and indie games.

The lack of triple-A franchises shown off prompted many to award the win to MS, who, by comparison, filled their presentation to the brim with exclusives and as usual got the multiplatform games out of the way quickly so they could show only exclusive games for the rest of the show.

2) Exclusives = arguments

Rise of the Tomb Raider
Lara Croft’s latest outing is proving to be the latest argument-bait online

Slightly controversially, Rise of the Tomb Raider (above) was announced as Xbox One exclusive, though unsurprisingly only for a limited time, and there was plenty from the big MS exclusives: Sunset OverdriveForza Horizon 2 and Halo: The Master Chief Collection.

The mention of Tomb Raider itself was fairly quick and painless, but it’s been the subject of a lot of internet debate since the event, with some PS gamers feeling scorned for being ‘denied access’ to a franchise they have put time into.

The first game in the series famously made the first PlayStation (while destroying perceptions female protagonists in games for a decade), so you can sort of understand why people are miffed, but are so much anger and tears really justified?

The debate calls back to discussions around the Destiny Beta, which had three extra days on Playstation, not to mention the final game having timed-exclusive DLC.

With Bungie having worked with MS for so long on the  Halo series, it seemed to some entitled people that they deserve to play Bungie’s games forever more, as if they aren’t a business.

The subject of what ‘exclusive’ really means as a term is already blurred as it is, expect further musings on the topic before the end of the year.

3) Watching pirated films is easy

Halo Channel
The Halo Channel is one way MS is bringing its video and gaming content together

A feature which wasn’t present during MS’s conference but did come out during the week was the fact that they are increasing the number of video formats which the Xbox One can play, opening up people’s ripped DVD and Blu-ray collections to be played using the device.

If you’ve downloaded them from the internet (legal or otherwise – for shame!) then you’ll be able to enjoy them from the comfort of your sofa without awkwardly balancing a laptop on top of you or scrambling for the right HDMI cable to plug it into the TV.

Since Xbox was always intended to be the ‘hub’ of the living room this enhancement makes sense, and is supposedly in response to players’ feedback, plus there’s plenty more system updates coming to the One monthly, unlike Sony who have only managed a handful of steps forward with their software.

4) You can’t escape Assassin’s Creed

It's easy to forget that PS3 and Xbox 360 games can still look really good
It’s easy to forget that PS3 and Xbox 360 games can still look really good

Not one, but two games, and lots and lots of trailers now plague the internet in the wake of Gamescom, giving both current and past gen gamers something to brutally kill people in with their hands.

The franchise appears to be drifting apart, not unlike the fancy pirate-y ships which serve as a key mechanic in new announcement: Assassin’s Creed Rogue.

Unity, which was announced ahead of E3 earlier in the year, ditches the nautical side completely and focuses instead on co-op play as it’s key USP.

At a total of seven main titles and a handful of handheld and other games, the franchise is reaching the stage where it is at risk of growing stale if it stands still and so it makes sense to pursue to different styles (and largely different markets) with these two games.

Due to its popularity, it isn’t a series which is likely to fade away any time soon.

5) Online multiplayer isn’t going away, but neither is single player

Come September, become Legend (lag permitting...)
Come September, become Legend (lag permitting…)

There’s lots of games coming out in the next year, shocker I know, but people seem to be coming down on one side of the proverbial playstyle fence or the other at the moment.

The fear is that as MMO games begin to gain momentum on consoles, developers won’t spend time developing ‘proper’ single player games.

It’s understandable, since more players mean more money, and we know publishers in particular like money, but is it going to happen? No, no it won’t.

No matter how social you are as a gamer, there’s always times when people feel like being on their own, and gaming has always been one of the safest havens when you are in that mood and because of that passion, single player will continue to be an important part of console experiences for a long while yet.

The recreation of New York has some creative licence but is packed with detail
The recreation of New York has some creative licence but is packed with detail

Even if Destiny and The Division are a commercially success, they will never match the renown of something like Skyrim as it has to many stories which people can share and talk about, for Destiny these experiences will be few and far between.

Different people like different things, and gaming now is more diverse than it ever has been, plus technology and innovation has made the escapism you can reach when you are absorbed by an amazing game is second to none.

James Michael Parry

Guardians of the Galaxy | Review | Film

image

The one thing most people seem to know about Guardians of the Galaxy is that it has a talking raccoon in it. After two hours of interstellar fun and games I can officially confirm that yes, there is indeed a talking raccoon in it. If you needed more than a semi live-action, feature length version of 1980s cartoon The Raccoons then you’ll be happy to hear that Guardians has a lot more to offer.

Guardians of the Galaxy poster

First of all the style of the film is definitely lighthearted, a clear and obvious departure from some of the superhero flicks of late – more similar to the likes of Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim vs The World – which makes for a refreshing watch without worrying about which character is going to turn out to be evil later on. In fact the plot is remarkably simple, almost to a fault, but serves as a device to bring this band of misfits together. Any film which begins with the main character dancing under a huge, glowing version of its logo knows exactly what it is.

All fun and games

You can't help but have fun with Peter Quill (Chris Pratt)
You can’t help but have fun with Peter Quill (Chris Pratt)

Self awareness is, in fact, one of the film’s strongest points, often throwing in 1980s pop culture references which remain just as well-known today almost to make a point. Our hero Peter Quill (The Lego Movie’s Chris Pratt), known as Starlord…by only himself, is a notable thief who gets caught up in something bigger – imagine a more childish Han Solo and you’re almost there. His inevitable incarceration calls him to join forces with his former enemies and so the games begin.

You could call the guardians the ‘B squad’ Avengers, but that would be selling them short as in fact they are very far removed from the power, might and glory of superhero status, rather doing the right thing even though no one expects anything of them in the first place – just the opposite in fact. Groot, notable for being a giant humanoid tree, has a delightfully sweet demeanour and this plays well against Rocket the Raccoons wise-cracking (courtesy Bradley Cooper).

Zoe Saldana, who plays token female character Gamora, is perhaps the most disappointing of the quintet, not showing the sort of variety we have seen from her as Uhura but retaining the childish female stereotype aspects in places, admittedly used to great effect at one point in particular.

The final character of the group is Drax, played by former wrestler Dave Bautista, who at first comes across as a one-note brute, but is soon gifted with some excellent one-liners in his own right.

More than just a pretty (furry) face

The space battles in the film almost take you by surprise
The space battles in the film almost take you by surprise

The visual effects are stunning in the sense that you barely notice them. There are few moments where you feel your eyes adjusting into ‘visual effects mode’, instead they are slipped in to the story and action sequences naturally. Particularly the look and feel of CGI characters Groot and Rocket, of which the latter really gets top marks for fur effects.

There is a certain beauty to the use of music in the film, all of which comes from a mix tape given to Starlord when he began his journey across the stars, and as such has not only an 80s vibe (something which follows through the whole film) but a consistency, keeping the film grounded and relatable while out-of-this-world madness and excitement happen on screen.

Small but perfectly formed

The ties to the existing Marvel films are passing at the most
The ties to the existing Marvel films are passing at the most

As a Marvel film, certain expectations have been built up over the past few years as its film universe has grown, but this film proudly stands alone with only a passing connection to the events of other films. In a way that’s the most refreshing thing about watching it – being able to enjoy the experience without thinking about the impact it will have on something else.

So, it might not be a perfect film, but it is the most entertaining and fulfilling cinema experience of the year so far, and suitable for all ages…for the most part anyway. Guardians is exciting, funny and just easy to watch, something has been lost in the convoluted cross-pollination of Marvel films and this title reminds us why we liked them in the first place – they are damn good fun.

Rating: 5/5

James Michael Parry

How To Train Your Dragon 2 | Review | Film

How to Train Your Dragon 2Everyone would like a pet dragon. Generalisations be damned – you know you would. Like all pets though, there is an element of danger that they could act out, or bite you, or – to a somewhat lesser extent – burn you to a crisp with fiery breath.

You’d think with a film called How to Train Your Dragon, once the titular dragon is tamed you’d be done and dusted, but no. As we all know, after all the hard work you’ve put into sorting stuff out, something else will come along to mess it up.

Back in black

Creating a map of the world is cool, but...the idea basically disappears after the first ten minutes
Creating a map of the world is cool, but…the idea basically disappears after the first ten minutes

So, five years have passed and Hiccup is back (still with a silly name, but well-voiced by Jay Baruchel) exploring the world and creating a map of it – for no apparent reason, in fact this particular task screams of a plot device purely because it doesn’t really come up again at all.

Evil people being evil, one of them, named Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou), fancies having his own dragon army and ‘freeing’ the world from the fear and destruction of dragons, by scaring and destroying things with dragons, particularly the peaceful and tranquil little island that is Berk.

OK, OK, so far, so obvious right? Well, similar to a lot of animated films, the story isn’t the important thing – it’s the characters and if you have fun with them. This is an adventure clearly made for children first and foremost, but adults can enjoy the ride as well.

All in the family

Hiccup's mum and dad are reunited in the film, and immediately you know it'll end badly
Hiccup’s mum and dad are reunited in the film, and immediately you know it’ll end badly

Gerrard Butler’s Chief of the island Stoic, which is an equally silly name but does at least offer a good pun at one point, is particularly engaging and you care about the fate of Berk – just as you did in the first film.

This sequel largely avoids falling into a trap of jumping into an awkward teenagey romance (perhaps they’re saving it for part three…) and focuses on family, particularly Hiccup’s relationship with his parents, which is where Cate Blanchett comes in as Hiccup’s mother, who was long thought dead.

One of the most touching moments in the film is when she is reunited with Stoic, which really adds some emotional depth for the characters, particularly for those in the audience who can relate to an estranged parent.

Stand by for action

The Luke Skywalker parallel is really emphasised by Hiccup's flame lightsaber
The Luke Skywalker parallel is really emphasised by Hiccup’s flame lightsaber

Visually the film looks stunning in it’s cartoony glory, but these days that is really a necessity – there’s no excuse for hair which doesn’t move properly – but in this case the details are really nicely done, on the dragons as well as the humans.

Your life probably won’t be changed by this film, but what you will enjoy is an adventure which doesn’t fall into the trap of cliché too often, and has plenty of jokes thrown in casually without labouring the point or leaving too long to force them down the audiences throats.

It’s simply a fun film, and, really, what more do you need from a summer family outing?

Rating: 4/5

James Michael Parry

Why co-op gaming is the way forward | Opinion | Gaming

EvolveI’ve never been much of a single player gamer. For as long as I’ve been gaming I’ve always enjoyed the comfort and security of having a buddy around to revive you when you inadvertently fall of a ledge or get caught on some clutter strewn across the floor of a level – designed to add richness to the setting but in fact amounting to another thing to navigate your character around.

Never has the value of having human co-op players on side been more clearly spelled out than when playing Left 4 Dead, a game which had a single player campaign in name only since even playing alone saw three AI teammates join you as you try to survive the zombie apocalypse.

Being Human

Left 4 Dead 2
Going it alone in Left 4 Dead (or its sequel, pictured) is a speedy shortcut to Dead City.

Add in human players instead and, providing they are half decent, the balance of the game changes entirely and is far more entertaining. Original developer Turtle Rock (not Valve as I had first thought, who merely published the first and developed the second) have kept this point of difference in their new game Evolve.

The game is based around an asymmetrical multiplayer mode which pits four hunters against a monster. The monster begins fairly weak and must snack on local wildlife to evolve (ahhhh now you’re getting it) to become a force strong enough to take down the hunters one by one.

At the same time the hunters must try to find and take out the monster, and if they don’t kill it before it reaches its stage three of evolution, an all-out fight begins to either destroy or protect the power generator for that particular area.

Getting it together

With hundreds of players milling around in Destiny it would be hard to shut yourself off, and other players are part of your experience.
With hundreds of players milling around in Destiny it would be hard to shut yourself off, and other players are part of your experience.

What does this have to do with co-op I hear you ask? Well granted, for the monster there isn’t a lot of co-op to be had, but it would be a completely different game against AI rather than humans, since it is all about reading the opposing team, tricking one hunter into saving another so you can take them down too, for example.

On the hunters’ team, good communication and cooperation are vital to survival. It’s a game where you rely on your team just as much as in Left 4 Dead, except there’s no escape – you have to face this monster – and it’s a far more sophisticated predator than the likes of the Tank.

In the old days you’d need to get three (well four, really) friends around to complete your team for a game like this, and sofa and TV space are a precious commodity. These days co-op is far easier, with Xbox Live (and other services which I’m less familiar with…) connecting players across the world in seconds, and with minimal lag even at low connection speeds.

When faced with such a wide range of possibilities as that – even in a single multiplayer map with single character choices (of which there are in fact multiple, even for the monster) – it’s difficult to imagine a single player experience matching up to it.

In your own little world

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Many have lost hundreds of hours to Skyrim, an entirely single player experience, but will they lose more to the Elder Scrolls Online?

That said, there are many who find escapism, solace and relaxation in single player, and I absolutely understand that. That experience will never disappear from games, but you only need to look at the biggest releases due for the rest of 2014 to see some clear signs of where console gaming is going – Destiny being a particularly high profile example.

The fact is that people are more easily connected than ever before, so it’s no wonder they want to share their favourite past time, but let’s hope the experiences we are presented with in co-op gaming going forward are well thought out, feature rich and diverse, and not just a clone of the main character bolted on to the campaign for the sake of it.

James Michael Parry

Film, Music, Gaming, Technology and Cyberculture

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