With series 8 of Doctor Who all wrapped up, where can (and should) the relentless time traveller go next? The past? The future? Gallifrey? Despite the rapid wrap-up we got in Death in Heaven The Doctor has left us with many unanswered questions.
Grand promises were made in Deep Breath, such as doing something about all those mistakes, and yet here we are without many of them fulfilled. The question of whether The Doctor is a good man was sort of answered with a loud and excitable ‘no’, but where’s Gallifrey? Where’s Missy now (since she clearly didn’t die, what do you take us for)?
The quest for Gallifrey has to feature in series 9, it was such a fundamental part of the 50th Anniversary Special and we’ve barely heard a whisper about it since. Can we expect to see Timelords return in force next series? Perhaps there would be some crimes to answer for? There have certainly been some interesting Timelord storylines in the classic series at least, and only a flutter of them so far in new Who.
Imagine the costume possibilities at the very least. The elaborate headdresses and colour were the inspiration for the Timelord language as it appears in new Who, so it would be nice to see some of that in context.
To seek out new life and new civilisations
There’s no doubt The Master will return in some form. The portrayal this series was short and sweet, and left us wanting more. The story of an unseen evil has recurred in the modern series a few times, as far back as the 2005 series, so perhaps it’s time to be a bit more overt with it all. We’ve been flirting with Missy for series 8, let her take us on a merry dance through series 9.
What other monsters could The Doctor encounter though? A few of the old favourites have had one too many outings recently (Cybermen in the finale were hardly necessary, at least they were part of the story in Dark Water), so perhaps there are other classic monsters they could bring back, but really we want something new, something you couldn’t do 50 years ago, something exciting and most of all – not terrible CGI. Seriously, The Mill, you’re good, but you can do better with some of these things, there’s a pretty lifelike penguin in the John Lewis ad for goodness sake!
Anywhere, anywhen, anyhow…
As for time periods, the Victorian era has been getting a bit worn lately as well, there’s plenty of other exciting times and places in history we could explore. What about going right back to primitive Earth? Could be interesting, if not done cringeworthingly badly, so perhaps the Tudors would be more fun? Or revolutionary France? Just because Assassin’s Creed has been there doesn’t mean it’s off limits.
The future is always endless and expansive of course, perhaps visiting some more planets is a bit optimistic – even on Doctor Who‘s budget – but we’d settle for some more alien locations than just ‘London with a few trees in it’, and don’t think you can get away with another industrial-type space station or ship either, we’re wise to that now. Space itself is interesting enough in reality, surely there’s some things out there which we could draw in, a comet is a bit obvious, and Kill The Moon sort of went there, but perhaps an asteroid field or something could work, so long as you can avoid Millenium Falcon-killing creatures of course.
Not all fun and games
The biggest journey really is The Doctor himself. It sort of felt like he was in the passenger seat at times this series, and fair enough you could say it’s his first season. But Tennant was there fighting with a sword in his first episode, no one could suggest he didn’t take charge of that particular situation, but Capaldi’s Doctor seems to have stumbled to his feet in the presence of an increasingly demanding companion who in many ways seems to have outgrown him, and others just wishes for the good old days of Smith’s Doctor.
Tonally, the show had a bit of a reset with this series, and it could do with some of the fun of the Tenth (and even Eleventh) Doctor to spice things up a bit. Even grumpy old Nine had his moments (“Just this once Rose, everybody lives!”) This is not a criticism of Capaldi though, who has worn the role on his sleeve and convincingly, he just needs to be given more meaty drama to get to grips with, in a situation not where he is swooping in and saving the day perhaps, since we know The Doctor doesn’t think of himself that way, now less so than ever, but making those difficult decisions, selflessly, when no one else could.
In all the show is as strong now as it has been at any point through the Moffat era, and really whether you are enjoying things depends on whether you like his style or not. If you gave series 7 a miss because it was all getting a bit silly and unnecessarily complicated, then reconsider for 8. The standalone episodes made a big difference to how watchable the show is, particularly out of order or in chunks, and there’s a lot to like about Capaldi even if Clara rubs you up the wrong way. The future for Doctor Who now depends on whether the show can continue to innovate and reinvent itself as readily as its titular hero, and from past experience we can at least say it’s possible.
Truth 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 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
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.
You’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
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
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
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’
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
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.
There’s only weeks to go before the biggest head-to-head of the year as Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s Playstation 4 go on sale to the masses. Ahead of all that excitement, indulge in some first impressions on what Xbox One has to offer after a special preview event.
There’s no getting away from the fact that Xbox One is a big machine. Designed to be the hub of your living room, it’s size is reminiscent of the original behemoth which its grandfather was back in 2001.
This isn’t a drawback, providing you have the space, and Microsoft clearly seem to have compensated (possibly over-compensated) on cooling, which proved to be such an issue for the Xbox 360.
Power is something which is quite subjective, and in this regard, there’s no denying the One lags behind the Playstation 4 on paper and, as it turns out, in practice.
The debate is bringing the internet to its knees as we speak, so no need to recount it here. Briefly – the One is running games at less that 1080p native resolution, while the PS4 apparently manages it without too much bother. Suffice to say people are unhappy about that.
In reality, when you are engaging with these games, you are not going to notice the difference unless you immediately go from one to the other, and for many the gaming experience goes far further than just how pretty the game looks.
That said, Microsoft has a mountain to climb to fulfil its claims about what the machine can deliver in terms of using the cloud and being truly future-proof for the next 10 years.
Although the basic design of the controller remains from the 360 era, there are a number of changes, updates and innovations within the new controller which push it to the next level.
Rumbles in the triggers are the most obvious change, but the subtlety of how responsive and precise the controller feels is probably the most important long-term improvement.
The balance of the controller remains virtually the same and the lack of battery bulge on the back gives you more space to stretch your fingers.
Jumping out to the guide with the Xbox logo is now more swift, with the screen zooming out to reveal a Windows 8-esque start screen. The start and home buttons have changed too, but it’s difficult to say how significant these adjustments will be until you are living day-to-day with the console because of one very big elephant in the room…
In fact, Kinect is no longer the black sheep for Xbox gamers, since it seems this time around the technology is going to live up the expectations set a few years ago when Project Natal was first announced.
So far we haven’t managed to get our hand on (well, actually NOT on) Kinect 2.0, but the various demos shown off so far definitely seem like more than smoke and mirrors.
The greatest change will be the interface. For some, this new Kinect is their first experience of the technology at all, since before it was dismissed as “foolish arm-flailing”. Now it’s in the box, there’s (almost) no getting away from it, and it definitely seems like the gesture control and even more so the voice control will be very popular.
Diving into the first-party and exclusive launch line-up for these games doesn’t feel Earth-shattering. These games are pretty, in fact in Forza 5‘s case they are astounding, but the gameplay is familiar.
The increase in scale possible with the technology is there, but it’s difficult to appreciate until the developers have begun to get their head around the technology properly. Of course the scope of these games is impressive, but also fairly safe.
Dead Rising 3 (admittedly in demo form) offers only a wall of zombies to keep players occupied. All individually animated and reasonably independent in terms of behaviour and reactions, though zombie mentality in general is more like a mob in any case.
These are all positives, but where the game is already showing itself up is with various animation and spacial awareness issues. For example there only seems to be one ‘finishing’ move with each weapon and the transition between play and these is abrupt.
Equally irritating is that when main character Nick is wielding a park bench, poised and ready to decapitate a would-be brain-muncher, you move around to get a better position and find the bench happily passes through a nearby lamppost.
Auto-aim for lobbing such items is also not quite in tune with the camera, rarely seeming to aim towards the zombie or group you are trying to exact wicked vengeance on.
Forza 5 looks great and handles beautifully, but is it breaking the mould and pushing the envelope as a racing game? No. Things like in-depth car customisation (beyond selecting a colour) or fine tuning of settings as you might expect in real cars – admittedly insanely expensive ones.
Of course these sorts of features may be added later or show themselves when the game comes out, but the point is – these games are the flagship titles for the console, they should be trying something different.
With Ryse: Son Of Rome Microsoft at least have an experience you can’t get anywhere else at the moment. Looks wise it looks solid, especially the particle and fire effects, but the gameplay isn’t as fluid as you would expect when you are controlling a highly skilled warrior.
The swordwork – although slightly overusing slo-mo – looks stylish but is overly simplified to either horizontal or vertical swipes and the control scheme despite being simple is difficult to pick up on a first try.
Try to use any more exotic weapons at your peril. Spears and siege weapons tempt you with their shininess (and often necessity in order to progress, at least in the multiplayer mode we played), but then proceed to not be picked up, not fired and not aimed where you thought they should be. Not to mention they are far too slow to be effective on anything but very long range targets which you couldn’t take out any other way.
Returning brawler Killer Instinct has all the style and production value you would expect but very little rudimentary logic in its control scheme (where on Earth is block?!), which makes it a frustrating challenge for first-time fighter fans.
In all it’s third-party titles like Battlefield 4 which over the spectacle that you might hope for from the launch of a console, which is why it’s a shame the hotly-anticipated exclusive Titanfall won’t drop until next year.
Always online, then not, Kinect compulsory, then not. The One currently sits in an easy place as we approach what should be its shining moment.
Most consumers will be oblivious to the to-ings and fro-ings, getting the download from their local GAME staff member on the day, but for those well-invested in the brand, it’s been an uneasy few months.
The extremity both of the u-turns (perceived or literal) and the PR cock-ups from MS execs which often followed, has severely tested the fanbase, leading some to jump ship and many more to reconsider where they had placed their faith.
In the coming weeks and months the vision which MS tried to explain back in May will begin to come to life. How true it will stay to what was originally conceived remains to be seen.
There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the One’s chances though, despite all the uncertainty.
The features originally talked about and then canned could well return. The quality and fidelity of both games and graphics will improve, and already they are looking pretty tasty – even if they aren’t blowing your socks off.
Most significant of all of course, is the service which binds everything together – Xbox Live. Microsoft have an opportunity to push the community aspect of what they have created over the past decade.
Friends lists expand and include Twitter-like followers, more interconnected play over different devices and better access to friends than ever before.
It’s almost a shame that cross-generational gameplay isn’t possible, even if it was on something simple like Bomberman or Uno, because there could be an opportunity to tap into the browser/tablet games market through Live itself that way.
Once multiplayer numbers are beefed up and the community divided into like-minded individuals so that the hardcore competitive people can play together while the more groovy laid-back types can take their time with things, for example, there is the makings of a truly powerful web of people.
On top of that there is the potential of ‘the cloud’, but it all seems t0o intangible and vague at the moment to get a real sense of how that could shake things up.
In all, there are a lot of reasons to be excited about this console, but another, smaller number to be cautious about.
What’s key to remember though, is that it is early days, there is a lot of potential out there and even if the Playstation 4 does ‘win’ the war – i.e. get more players, more power and more games – it won’t take away from the fact that there are still some excellent experiences which are going to be only on Xbox One.
Besides if you wanted everything, with all its bells and whistles shining like the sun, then you would have switched to a gaming PC by now anyway.
Many words have been written about the ‘blockbuster’ games of the so-called seventh generation of home games consoles, but, as we move into a brave new world in November, what will their legacy be?
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 boasted the biggest launch day sales figure in history (now more than likely claimed by GTAV) and Skyrim undoubtedly boasted the most hours spent by borderline-obsessed gamers indulging their fantasy lives, but some games made a more definitive impact (for me, anyway).
The titles below are the ones which made a significant impact for me on either Wii, PS3 or Xbox 360. (Sorry Wii U owners, but the real party is still to come, and also since I never owned a PS3, apologies in advance).
Resident Evil 4 (Wii)
Undoubtedly the most suitable and effective port of a game I have ever come across, Resi 4 had it all. There was a great, likeable protagonist, admittedly not the sort of guy you might want to go for a drink with, and an intriguing mysterious action/adventure (not survival horror) coupled with a drop of Japanese insanity to keep things interesting.
Whether it was the obsessive upgrading of my weapons – you never know when you might need an extra shotgun shell – or the cripplingly simple puzzles which I still couldn’t complete, there was fun to be had around every corner here, and on the Wii it took things a step further in terms of control and immersion.
Of course this wasn’t the arcade-machine-in-your-house that was Umbrella Chronicles, which was excellent, but flawed, but somehow there was something terrifying about the fact that you can’t move your character properly. It just added to the experience.
By the time you got to Resi 5 the magic had worn off, and the novelty of not fighting zombies but gunning down people infected by parasites unfortunately couldn’t sustain it through.
Guitar Hero III (360/PS3/Wii)
As much as its predecessor pushed the envelope over the first in the series, it was this game which really made its mark and told the world was here to stay (well, for a bit…).
The inclusion of rock icons such as Slash for the first time attempted to bring an element of narrative to proceedings, with mixed success, and shook off the legacy of Harmonix, the first game’s developer.
Like many Guitar Hero titles, the tracklist was key to the game’s success, boasting classics such as Pearl Jam’s Even Flow, Cliffs of Dover by Eric Johnson and, most memorably, Through The Fire and Flames by Dragonforce – a fiendishly hard track unlocked at the end of the game during the closing credits.
There might not have been a huge jump forward from Guitar Hero II, but the style and execution was more polished, consistent, and fun.
The coop or head-to-head battles made for some entertaining late night entertainment, especially when arriving home at 2.00am at university, and there is the added benefit of being exposed to some excellent music from a variety of bands and years.
Rock Band 3 (360/PS3/Wii)
Of course, by the time Rock Band 3 came along, the music game was on its last legs, but this title is as close to entertainment perfection as I think any game has ever been.
The addition of downloadable tracks, which began with the first game, reached a peak in this title as new songs were added every single week since launch for years after the game first came out. Plus there was the chance for content creators to share out their own music on the service, and often get more exposure than they ever could have any other way.
The implementation of the keyboard could have been smoother, but it was still fantastic, and opened up the possibility of you actually learning keyboard through a console, something for which I’m sure Rocksmith is most grateful.
The title gave the most diverse range of songs to date and became a classic party game overnight.
The notes runway, developed by Harmonix for the first Guitar Hero, reached its peak with every song playing out its own way – even including space for some improvisation.
The instruments were slightly hit and miss compared to rival title Guitar Hero: World Tour, but the travel version of the game’s cumbersome drum kit quickly made the entire package more accessible.
This game defined multi-instrument gaming to an extent that it has never been bettered since. Some might argue that it was the final nail in the coffin of the music game era, but to finish with an encore like this? Not too shabby.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (360/PS3/Wii)
Probably the most influential game on this list. It spawned an entire generation of modern military shooters, many of which carrying the COD moniker, and the twitchy-action and gritty fast-paced style of the game was aped just as often as the gameplay.
The nuclear destruction of the protagonist mid-campaign, a tragedy the player could do nothing to escape, was one of the most dramatic moments in video game history. To take such a bold step was something which, unfortunately they weren’t able to live up to in subsequent iterations.
The execution of the gameplay is undeniably one of the most well-produced of the generation, and still holds up well today. Campaign mission ‘All Ghillied Up’, a flashback featuring the player taking control of series regular Captain Price on a stealthy sniper assignment, remains one of the most tense and memorable missions for a first-person shooter.
Although the multiplayer wasn’t for everyone, it undeniably set the standard with its level design and perks system, even pushing the envelope in terms of Downloadable Content, something build upon significantly in later games.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (360/PS3)
What Modern Warfare did for shooters in general, Bad Company 2 did for vehicle combat.
Battlefield has always been about team play and the epic scale of war, and this title created a feeling of immersion within vehicles which I had never experienced before.
Not that it was the height of realism, but the map design and balance of different vehicles made it an incredibly compelling multiplayer experience. Flying vehicles were tricky, and arguably are still a little fiddly even now, but definitely good fun.
More impressive than the gameplay aspects though, where what developers DICE did with their new engine, Frostbite 2, which offered destruction even more impressive than that seen in Red Faction: Guerilla.
Buildings and scenery crumbled under the might of tank shells, with wood splintering, concrete disintegrating and the ground developing huge holes.
On top of that you add some of the most entertaining game modes out there for online multiplayer and you had a fantastic game. The only thing which pushed it that little bit further was the DLC expansion, Vietnam.
More than just DLC, the addition added new maps, vehicles and weapons to completely change the tone of the game within its own digital playground. Most importantly of all, it pushed the fun factor up to 11.
Left 4 Dead 2 (360)
In terms of multiplayer re-playability, there’s little which stands in the way of L4D2.
Although the game came out a little close to its predecessor for comfort, it managed to bring most of that game along with it through a number of DLC updates (which, admittedly, took some time).
The AI is what really impresses me about this game, as each of the special infected act differently and never fail to catch you out, no matter how many times you have played a particular level.
The feeling of panic as the horde rush mindlessly towards you far outstrips that of your average horror game. The sheer number of infected is overwhelming, not perhaps in the way as they are in Dead Rising, but because of their speed and relentless nature you quickly find yourself flailing wildly to escape.
The AI director, who silently changes the game behind the scenes to make a different experience each time, acts as an evil torturer at times, gifting the odd health pack before hitting back with a world-ending Tank.
Being a Valve game, the attention to detail is excellent and the level design is second to none – every time you play a game you find a different aspect jumps out at you (not literally, mostly).
It might have taken some time to become the game it is today, but that’s Valve, and there’s no doubt that it is the crowning glory of asymmetrical multiplayer.
Grand Theft Auto IV (360/PS3)
It might be the fifth iteration which is grabbing all the headlines for its billions of sales, but it’s the fourth instalment which really put the franchise on the map.
After swinging between realism and caricature for years with various games on the PS2, Rockstar decided to go all-out with the vast expansion of its world.
Comedy clubs you could visit, bowling, drinking, and a plethora of other sights were on show in what was the biggest and most detailed parody of New York City that has ever been created.
From the ‘GetALife’ building to the Statue of Happiness, the parody is flawless, mocking American culture at every turn. All to the effortless soundtrack of the Liberty City radio stations, which take things even further.
While the gameplay might not be the best aspect, in fact many aspects such as driving or combat are done far better by even similar games released around the same time, but it’s the overall convincing nature of the game’s world which makes the title truly compelling.
The story wasn’t anything ground breaking, but it fitted in with the game’s world well, offering insights into the life of Niko Bellic. How the player chose to make that character act is another story.
Mass Effect (360)
Mass Effect undeniably has the greatest story of any game I have ever played. Not least because it’s a story I wrote (sort of).
As the first chapter in the most exciting and varied piece of interactive story-telling in history, Mass Effect claims the crown over other RPGs (or, later, ‘action RPGs’) by making the player the centre of that universe so completely that they believe it has been created just for them.
The decisions you make throughout the story continue to shape the universe for years afterwards, cutting out entire characters from the subsequent games or changing alliances between races.
The controversy of the ending was inevitable with so much scope, but I believe that, all things considered, developers BioWare did well.
It’s one thing to create characters people love and care about, it’s another thing to feel like you really know them, love them, miss them when they are gone.
Garrus remains one of my favourite characters of all time, in any media, purely because of the journey he has joined my version of Shepard on. The emotional investment with this franchise, for me, is something which I haven’t experienced since Star Wars.
In the end, it is the experiences we have all had with these games, more than the games themselves, which will ‘define the generation’.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration or a grandiose statement to make to suggest that this is the most variety we will ever see in any generation of gaming ever.
The difference between the games which began it, like Perfect Dark Zero, and ended it, the likes of Watch Dogs and plenty more still on the horizon, is vast. The one thing which they do have in common, is the player, and for me, this next chapter of gaming remains just as interesting and exciting because of the new types of experience it will inevitably bring.
So there you have it, my not-quite-top-ten. Which games would you choose?
It might be the Microsoft fanboy in me, but following the announcement of Xbox One, the company’s next generation games console, I found myself eager to get my hands on one.
The big reveal
First things first, Tuesday’s grand unveiling of the Xbox One could have gone more smoothly for Microsoft. With the gaming up in arms about the lack of games shown and in many ways the show raising more questions than it answers, the company have catching up to do at E3 to make themselves, and how their shiny new product actually works, crystal clear.
Despite the less than Oscar-winning presentation, one thing is clear – the Xbox One does far more than just play games. This is no surprise of course, the Xbox 360 has been moving to dominate the home entertainment sector for years, with countless partnerships with sports brands like ESPN and, in the UK, TV through Sky.
What is clear from the announcement event straight away is that Microsoft haven’t finished telling their story, and Tuesday’s show clearly wasn’t aimed at us (by which I mean geeky, hardcore gamer-type people).
Specifications shared so far are a clear step up from the 360, most notably the 8gb of RAM to keep lots going on at once.
There was a lot made of the fact that the eight core processor runs its two operating systems simultaneously, making it quick and easy to switch between the two, but I can’t see it being an every day feature, just as snap mode on PC isn’t at the moment.
With Kinect 2.0 included as standard with all consoles though, it will be something which won’t be as forced as it will just be another gameplay feature rather than something which needs shouting about. Imagining the occasional squad voice command or casual gesture to flick through menus lazily makes me think of a few instances where I might make use of it.
The controller remains much the same as the 360’s, which is a very attractive prospect. I’ve never got along with the Playstation’s Duel Shock design, I’ve found it uncomfortable and awkward, and the addition of a touch-screen in the version 4 model doesn’t go far to change that.
Added sensitivity to rumble control could prove to be great for adding immersion and atmosphere to games, particularly tense moments in horror titles, and the supposed 40 innovations which are included under the hood are sure to make sure the controller has the responsiveness to keep up with the pace of modern titles.
In terms of the other companies’ offerings, you might ask why I’m already so sure Microsoft deserve my money rather than Nintendo or Sony.
The simple answer is that they have all made money out of me in the past, and the difference between them most of the time is attitude. Sony are a solid company and make good products, but in terms of gaming they have never had iconic games or characters which I have really latched onto.
Nintendo have iconic characters in droves but have become something of a caricature of themselves. Not that a bit of Mario now and again isn’t good fun, but having grown up with it (endless secondary school lunchtimes lost to link-cabled fun on Game Boy Advance) it’s something I tend to prefer to just look back on with fond memories.
Microsoft have stuck to their guns in the past, and continue to do so with radical changes in the latest Windows release such as taking away people’s Start Menus (another thing which doesn’t really bother me).
With their consoles this proves to be no different, and the Xbox One appears to crap in more random and potentially unnecessary features than a Swiss Army knife. The reason I’m un-phased by this though is that I have started to get to grips with some of the multimedia functionality on the 360, and I believe it’s something which is set to grow.
Browsing a web page might still be a bit cumbersome without a keyboard to type in pesky web addresses, but the integration with Windows and Kinect should make the experience much easier than before and therefore less of a pain when you try to do something and then give up and decide to do it in half the time on your phone.
Smartglass returns too, and will most likely play more of an integral role in the machine than its trial run on 360, and there have been a lot of bold claims from Microsoft such as “lag-free” and “instantly”, which despite the obvious exaggeration suggest these sorts of basic interactions will be handled more quickly and easily before.
The unanswered questions
It’s fair to say that the games focus the company are insisting the console has, which is ‘simply the best gaming console we’ve ever made’, still needs to be justified at E3.
Microsoft have given themselves a mountain to climb in terms of not addressing the countless pre-announcement rumours: always online, pre-owned and backwards compatibility to name the big three.
Luckily, the hard work done from numerous games journalists across the world has forced a little more information and clarity, but in terms of making it easy for the consumer they haven’t got off on the best foot.
For me, I can think of only one or two titles I’ve bought pre-owned this year and what secret plan Microsoft has in store at E3 for pre-owned will probably involve a fee of sort, but if it goes to supporting the people who spent the time making the game rather than flagging high street retailers who capitalise on high profit margins with inconsistent trade-in prices, it can’t be too bad.
Like many devices, the Xbox One may well work without the internet, but really the integration with ‘the Cloud’ among other things means that you will want to keep it plugged in all the time anyway to make sure everything is up to date.
As for backwards compatibility, this has been clearly confirmed as not possible due to the differences in architecture, but really how often do you play old games on a new console anyway?
The vast majority of the launch presentation may have oversold the TV aspects of things, but it will still be games which drive the console along, and already there are some attractive reasons to get in early to the party in the form of Battlefield 4 and Xbox exclusives aplenty.
Being late to the party with the 360, this time I’m reserving my place at the start of the queue.
Of course, you can fully expect to find me eating these words after E3, be sure to pop back then for a, hopefully, fully formed impression of what the console has to offer.