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So I last made a post on here over a year ago and I thought it was time to take it up again, so here we go, an attempt at a review of From Dust! Lets do this.

From Dust is an adventure/simulation game from designed by Eric Chahi who made some games I’ve heard of but never played. This first caught my eye on an episode of Inside Gaming where they briefly mentioned it and I was instantly hooked in. So I followed it’s release date until it appeared for pre-order on steam, happy days! Release day rolls around and I log in to install it but tragedy strikes when I realise the release has been pushed back 3 weeks to make way for the console releases. This is probably the only REAL bad thing I have to say about From Dust, this game is AMAZING.

Lets start with the gameplay. You are ‘The Breath’, effectively the hand of god, and your goal is to help this tribe of villagers found villages to allow them to control the elements and follow the footsteps of their ancient ancestors to find their memories and a promised land. You do this through the manipulation of earth, water, and lava in order to alter the landscape to create paths through obstacles or protect villages from disaster. The latter of these is perhaps the most entertaining part of the game. You can find yourself altering the pathways of streams of lava and water to create elaborate streams that guide these forces of nature away from villages, however the dynamic and evolving environment frequently thwarts these attempts. One example I can think of is a level halfway through the game where I diverted a water spring to protect a village from a nearby volcano, however the result of this was the wall of rock formed by the cooling lava diverted the water stream straight into another village, washing it into the sea. Did I care? No, I just sat there thinking ‘holy crap, that was awesome’. There are some minor control issues on the PC, with The Breath being very much a console orientated being, the camera is moved by moving your cursor around and centres on it, requiring smoothing of the camera movement, resulting in some awkward moments where it takes a few moments for you to correctly aim your giant ball of lava which will occasionally cause some frustration.

It helps that the game looks fantastic, volcanoes form mountains which teem with life, streams carve paths through the earth, forming all the river features you learnt about in primary school. And all this unites for form amazing looking landscapes in which you become thoroughly invested. I found myself playing a level for far longer than I needed to simply to see how the landscape would change if I diverted a stream through some hills or built a wall of rock at the bottom of a lava flow.

The result of me trying to create a lake through blocking a river.

The only problem I had with the game was it was a little too easy, that is, up until the penultimate level. I completed each challenge without having to restart or spending too much time, up until the final level, where it took me around 10 goes to even figure out how to last more than 10 minutes. However, the game rewards you significantly for this final effort by allowing you to “make the world in your image”, giving you the power to create land, spawn lava flows and water springs, and do whatever you want with a blank slate. Trust me, experiment, press every button it says you can to see what you can make, I’ve already spent as much time on this level as I did on the rest of the game.

There is some extra play time to be had in the challenge mode too.

All in all, this is a damn good game. It’s a little short and the control issues can be infuriating, but for £11 I had a damn good few hours and would recommend it to anyone. It’s really refreshing to play a game which doesn’t involve explosions, no matter how much I love explosions.


I don’t really have the time or energy to talk about anything in detail so here’s a couple of brief reviews to keep things going.

The Dillinger Escape Plan – Option Paralysis

Current top picture on Dillinger's

Dillinger’s new album is yet another extension of their recent foray into the realms of melody and I must say they’re getting better at it. Since ‘Miss Machine’ they’ve been experimenting with various different musical elements from dark progressive moments to elements seeming to take influence from some of the more standard ‘metalcore’ themes of modern metal. However they still manage to keep their sound distinct from anything else out there.

Tracks such as Widower are a perfect example of this. Being heavily piano based and much slower than many of the other songs on the album, Dillinger turn it into a pivotal point of the album, stepping away from the faster, more manic songs of the first half, and introducing harmonized vocals, massive synthesized sections, and a more emotional feel to the music. The song is then lead into a heavy breakdown reminding us what the band are about before crashing down into an epic finish.

Though as an album Option Paralysis is not as strong as Calculating Infinity or Miss Machine, it feels like a much more well thought out and coherent musical experience. Dillinger’s new drummer hasn’t let them down at all either.

Garden State (2004)

One of my favourite films of all time I first saw Garden State in the cinema when it first came out purely because my friend and I had heard it was written by, directed by, and starring Zach Braff. I enjoyed it but ultimately forgot about it until I came across it in my second year of uni and sat down to watch it on my own with a couple of beers to take my mind of exams. It was then that it suddenly clicked for me and became amazing.

Garden State isn’t your standard ‘feel good’ film, the story focusses around Andrew Largeman as he comes home for the first time in 10 years to go to his mothers funeral. However in doing so he leaves the many drugs he has been prescribed for his ‘mental condition’ since he was 10 at home and decides, with a doctors permission, to explore the possibility of living a normal life. In the process he meets Sam, a pretty weird girl with an even weirder family, and the story kicks off from there.

One of the pivotal scenes

The best thing about the film, or so I have found, is how the multiple story lines and character backgrounds merge together to allow the story and character progression to continue seamlessly, ultimately coming together at the end to be generally awesome.

Split Second

Split Second is awesome. That’s pretty much all you can really say about it.

A racing game which allows you to trigger events which destroy the environment and alter the track in order  to wreck your opponents. Yeah. Explosions. Woop.


The best thing about this game by far is not just that it’s on the PC but that you can play split screen using the keyboard. This has lead to a number of hours of sitting uncomfortably, far too close to the screen, looking like absolute nerds, but having a LOT of fun with it.

Not much more you can really say about it.

Not the most in depth set of reviews here but I’m currently running on pure exam tension right now. In 9 days I will have finished my degree.

Hopefully I’ll have more time to continue this blog after I finish.

I remember all my experiences with Half-Life 2. Borrowing £5 from my friend so I could buy the PC Gamer special edition with the uber early preview of it, then again for the review issue a couple of years later. I must have read each of those more times than people have this blog (which tbh isn’t that hard). Then release day, and being only 15 at the time I didn’t have enough money to buy it. Sucks to be me. Christmas comes round and we’re staying up near Scotland with family when lo and behold, my Grandma has been tipped off by my parents and bought it for me for christmas! So a week later when we  get back home I put the DVD into my PC to find out that we DON’T ACTUALLY HAVE A DVD DRIVE in it. A week of moaning later and my dad turns up with one which I install into the computer and away we go. After waiting several hours for our dial up modem to update steam, unlock half life, and update half life, I start to play. A week later a resounding “HOLY FUCKING SHIT” was heard around the house as I completed the game for the first time.

Dog battling a strider in Episode 2

A year later I had completed Half-Life 2 far more times than I care to count, encompassing each of the difficulty levels, and most recently in my exam procrastination sessions over the last week I have just once again completed the whole series so far.

Half-Life 2 to me defines the genre of fps. It is perfection, polished to a sparkly sheen. And yet it is much more than that as well, it is one of the most involving stories ever to grace the fps, no the pc gaming platform. Over the years this has been the topic of much discussion and an argument both for and against the storytelling ability of games. As the mute hero Gordon Freeman you are placed into a world with no understanding of what has gone on and are provided with little explanation even as the game progresses, with the storytelling appearing to take a backseat to the explosions and shooting. Yet why did I feel the need to swear so loudly at the ending? Because somewhere along the way, valve have sneaked in a story that sucked me in without me even realising.

So what was it? The groundbreaking facial animations betraying the characters emotions despite their brave personas? The little snippets of information gleaned from Dr Breens announcements about the combine administration, or the newspaper clippings and photographs in the Black Mesa East lab accompanied by Eli Vance’s brief descriptions of each? To be honest, I can’t really say. Many of the elements of the game which provoke these reactions aren’t even that obvious, and come in the form of the scenery. A boarded up house with a hole in the wall and Combine patrol outside is filled with mattresses and portable cooking equipment tells the tale of people who have tried to escape. The desolate and ruined Nova Prospekt filled with massive combine prisons and technology. The citadel boaring  almost as deep into the ground as it extends above it, why? These unmentioned and seemingly unimportant details are what brings the storytelling ability of Half-Life 2 to the level of modern ‘pioneers’ of the gaming storytelling uprising. And don’t forget G-man, appearing throughout the game, observing, and in some cases potentially assisting, your progress.

It's even creepier when you know the story

This is taken even further in the sequals. Episode One adds new dimensions to the characters. Barney goes from being the clean cut hero soldier, to beaten up and desperate, taking all the help he can get. Alyx too reveals a more fragile side, no longer able to constantly be the strong and unflinching character she is initially portrayed to be in the face of the Stalkers.

If you thought this was good however, you’ve seen nothing until you’ve seen Episode Two. This is where the ambient storytelling through scenery and snippets of information that Valve had previously adopted takes a back seat in favour of a more structured and compelling approach, with the first third of the game being a race to help the Vortigaunts save the life of a mortally wounded Alyx. Not only this but the game even adds more layers to the original Half Life, taking the passing references made in HL2 and creating whole plotlines around the events, ranging from massive revelations, to a certain microwaveable casserole. The fact that you are accompanied by Alyx for the majority of Episodes One and Two also provides Valve with an easy route to the emotional strings of gamers, as well as making the segments of the game where you are left to perform tasks alone much more tense.

Enough with the story though, this is an FPS, there’s GAMEPLAY to be had! And none of the HL2 games fail to impress here. The scripted combat scenes equal the storytelling scenes in terms of orchestration and effect, offering some truly epic moments, especially when Dog is involved. The enemies are varied and each provide a different challenge. Fighting the combine can be fast paced and adrenalin fuelled but encounters with headcrab zombies require a more persistent approach and some clever conservation of ammo, especially in Ravenholm. However this is all mixed up with the involvement of the antlions which first provide a jumpy, twitchy, test of your reactions but later become the most deadly weapon in your arsenal. The attack on Nova Prospekt with the antlions is probably my favourite section of the whole game.

This mix of scripted action with straight combat only improves through the episodes, with episode 2 making some quite drastic changes to the game in terms of appearance and playability. The constant polishing of the source engine by Valve means that episode 2 looks old but by no means outdated, with some truly epic visuals dotted throughout the game. Every time I play I still find myself amazed by the character models, with their incredibly well designed facial expressions and actions. Combined with the brilliantly talented voice acting this provokes a really strong emotional reaction to the twists and turns of the story. I am seriously looking forward to episode 3.

Combine soldiers battling antlions in Nova Prospekt

The only thing that has disappointed me with the Half Life 2 series has been the range of weaponry. The original Half Life offered out an impressive spread of various standard and futuristic weapons, with the add-ons only expanding on these. Half Life 2 on the other hand has a stripped down and basic selection which in some ways suits the games style, but it does feel somewhat lacking when you realise you have every weapon the game has to offer about half way through.

If I had to, I would say episode 2 is the strongest of the series, being the newest and released 3 after HL2 Valve have had a lot of time to perfect their formula, and I can only see it getting better. If you haven’t played this series, then you are seriously missing out.

Here’s a machinima music video I came across not long after playing HL2 for the first time.

That’s right! The showdown! The classic (well, classic enough) “play your music” game Audiosurf, vs the brand new Beat Hazard. Which is better? You’re about to find out!

I’ll start off talking about Audiosurf. Released a couple of years ago this was the first game (that I was aware of) to rave reviews, with a Metacritic score of 88. Coinciding with the rise of ‘casual’ gaming, yet including increased difficulty levels and modes that only those with the fastest reactions can beat, Audiosurf was immensely popular, and with good reason. The gameplay is fast, frantic, and flashy (YES! I finally used alliteration in a review!) and will have you sitting hunched over your keyboard for hours trying to get the gold medal and a high score, it certainly did me. The general idea is race down a track generated based on the pacing, volume, and intensity of your music collecting bricks which correspond loosely to the tune. “Hotter” colour bricks reward the most points with “cooler” colours being more common but less rewarding. In order to score you have to collect a column or row of 3 bricks of an identical colour, the more adjacent bricks, the higher the score. A pretty simple concept yet one that is strangely addictive. The addition of a 2 player co-op mode made this accessible to my friends as well, as it meant they could join in and we could have competitions.

An interesting feature is the different game modes available. You can choose to play as one of several classes, ranging from one which turns all bricks into grey or coloured, only rewarding you for collecting coloured bricks and having to grey ones fill up and get in the way of your columns. Or eraser, allowing you to remove specific colours from your columns in order to allow you to create connections. These vary in difficulty and usefulness, but it is fun to explore the different gameplay methods involved in these.

However the real gem in the mix is the online score tables. If you create an account, Audiosurf logs your score in a worldwide rankings table. Not only that but it uses the mp3 ID tag to include the name of the band and song, in order to create rankings for each and every song that anyone plays. Soon you find yourself not playing to beat your own top score, but to beat that of ‘mrcool666’ and take the number 1 place on your favourite song. When you do reach #1 Audiosurf then alerts you if anyone takes your crown, allowing you to get back in there and try again. Sadly all my #1 spots were taken months ago but it’s satisfying while you have them.

The graphics when it came out were pretty impressive too, with all sorts of trippy colours, flashing lights, and crazy patterns flying around, though you’re often too busy staring intently at the track to notice.

All in all this has been a fun game to play, with the added satisfaction of worldwide leader tables giving you that extra reason that keeps you playing slightly longer than you would.

Beat Hazard is a new game by developer Cold Beam Games and takes a new angle on the music influenced game genre. Instead of speeding up and increasing the difficulty as the music gets more intense, Beat Hazard increases your power along with the number of enemies, thus intensifying the action in time to the music. The idea of the game is similar to the classic arcade game (who’s name I can’t remember) where you fly around in 2D space destroying and avoiding anything that flies into your field of view. Getting used to this game is easy, and getting good at it doesn’t take much more than an hour of playing, I myself moved from normal difficulty to hardcore having completed 4 or 5 songs. One problem that I have come across with the gameplay however, is you have to choose your songs carefully. Whereas in Audiosurf, a slow section of a song corresponds to a slow uphill moment and brief respite, a slow section of a song in Beat Hazard reduces your weapon to a pea shooter and makes it almost impossible to take on some of the larger baddies, especially the bosses.

The boss weapons include 2 types of homing missile which, though easy enough to deal with during intense moments of music, are impossible to shoot down during quiet sections, and you find yourself attempting to run away from them while the boss continues to fire more. The other two boss weapons include indestructible bombs which follow a simple path, and a beam type thing which, if you misjudge your movements, will kill you instantly. I feel the latter of the two is slightly overpowered, as you have very little warning to get out of the way, especially when you’re in the midst of explosions and can’t see the pre-firing markings. However this does make the game more challenging, usually in a good way. The survival game mode offers an even more challenging experience, rather than building up the numbers of enemies throughout the song it pits you against a full armada straight away and has you survive for as long as possible, continuing onto the next song on the list when each one is finished. This can be infuriating to start with, but once you start hitting the 10 minute mark you realise ‘hey, i’m listening to my favourite album AND blowing stuff up in bright colours! What more could I want?’.

And this is one the main gameplay aspects of Beat Hazard which gives it a one up on Audiosurf, you can actually lose. Audiosurf has no failure mechanism, sure on the very hardest difficulty, if you fill up a column it tells you you may as well quit as you won’t get a high score, but you technically cannot fail. Whereas Beat Hazard gives you 2-3 lives and throws you in at the deep end, challenging you to survive through the song, and though it gives you a score whether you finish or not, it marks the song as incomplete and a percentage to tell you how far you got, just to remind you to keep playing. On top of this, your play feels like you are in control, even during the more intense moments, and you are able to keep up with the action. Whereas in Audiosurf you are in a constant state of ‘aaaahhh holy crap wtf!’. That made a difference.

The graphics are pretty spectacular. Though they are rather simple in design, with ‘hey lets make things flash and explode and be bright colours’ seeming to be the main theme. During intense moments you find yourself spinning around in a manic craze while the whole screen lights up in all sorts of flashing lights and colours.

Beat Hazard also has a ranking system, though it is based generally on mode rather than individual songs. And this can be slightly off-putting. I had a look at the longest survival time yesterday, and it is over 2 hours, compared to my measly 13 minutes. The same can be said for high scores. And there is no way of playing multiplayer either, meaning Audiosurf’s (limited) capacity for multiplayer gives it a one up on Beat Hazard once again.

So which is better? It’s hard to say. Looking at it now, I would have to say Beat Hazard, purely for the control you feel over where each game is going. Along with it’s improved graphics it is an extremely fun game to play, which is something that I can’t necessarily say about Audiosurf any more. Sure I played it  a huge amount when I got it, but that was a case of high score syndrome, playing simply to beat the score of one of my mates or some random person who had also played my favourite song. Beat Hazard has an advantage in that it has 2 years on Audiosurf, not only in terms of graphical improvements and all that crap, but in that I’ve only just started playing it and am yet to become bored by it.

Either way, Beat Hazard is currently £5 on steam so I would recommend you go and buy that and Audiosurf and see for yourself which is better.

I’ll add pictures to this post when I have time, I’ve been writing in breaks between revision sessions and dissertation missions. The dissertation is finished now though! Huzzah!

Today I completed Assassins Creed II and I have to say, I’m very impressed by it.

Assassins creed 2 cover

Most of my views on the original AC were the same as those expressed by almost everyone that played it; too repetitive, the story was silly, the cutscenes and death monologues boring, and the combat a bit dull, and I think Ubisoft have improved on every aspect of that.

Lets talk about the story first. AC II picks up where the original left off, with Desmond locked up in the Templars (or whatever the corporation was called) and within the first few minutes you’re breaking out. Soon enough you’re back in the animus and into the memories of Ezio Auditore in 14 century Italy. Though I felt at several points the story seemed pointless and often padded out with unnecessary missions and details, it was put together much better than the original, with everything eventually coming together towards the final mission. Because of the seemingly padded out story, however, I did find myself getting frustrated. Every time I came close to what I thought was the end, something happened to add another level or another plot twist. In some ways this is a good story telling device, showing you your goal before taking it away in order to keep you interested, keep your eyes on the prize, but I felt it detracted from the experience. Though AC was repetitive, the fact that you had a clear objective, assassinate 9 (was it 9? it’s been a while since I played it) important figures in order to reach your nemesis and regain your honour, and the story was wound around that. However, when I reached the ending it all felt worth it. A disappointing final showdown but the final cutscene followed by the little bit in the credits really sealed the story.

The gameplay has been improved somewhat as well, though many features have lost something in the transition. I felt that the combat and free-running, though much more varied, were much less flowing. I often found myself feeling detached from the awesome rooftop chases or simply getting from A to B due to the sketchyness of the direction sensitivity and difficult in limiting your jumps. More often than not I found myself jumping to my death when all I wanted to do was jump to the next rooftop or ledge, either by jumping in a completely unintended direction or through Ezio simply jumping as far as he can when all I want him to do is hop down. However, towards the end of the game I found myself working around this, following the flow of the rooftops much better, and better judging where I need to aim myself in order to land on that small flagpole, and in many ways this made the game feel much fuller. Through my own improvement at playing the game it felt as if it was part of Ezio’s journey towards becoming a fully fledged assassin. The combat however, still remained disjointed and slow.

New assassinations utilise Ezio's ability to scale buildings and jump from roof to roof

I may be wrongly remembering the combat of the original, but I felt that, despite the new options with disarming opponents and extra assassination techniques, I spent even more time standing around waiting for people to attack me so I could counter and do some damage. Speaking of assassinations, the new techniques did eventually lead to some entertaining kills and tense moments of sneaking, but they too felt disjointed. The unresponsiveness of them meant that often I’d be running towards an archer hoping to jump on him and make the kill only to find myself running in circles waving my arms about like an idiot. Or I’d be hoping to take out two guards in one go in order to avoid being seen, only for Ezio to grab the one right in plain view of the other. The gun, rather than feeling as cool as it looked in the trailers, felt like a cheat and I ended up only using it for situations where I couldn’t be bothered to figure out a way of sneaking past guards. Despite all this though, there were many ‘epic’ battles and assassinations which satiated my blood lust for the day.

An example of one of the cool looking battles.

Other aspects of the game have been improved too, the voice acting, graphics, and music have all been improved upon. And the extras are pretty good too. Having  completed the game I’m finding myself wanting to play more to find all the ‘glyphs’ and unlock ‘the truth’ if only to find out what it is. I often found myself distracted from missions in order to run off in search of the codex pages, which paid off in the end as you have to find any you haven’t already found in order to progress eventually.

One side quest that I did get annoyed about, but only through my own failings, was the armour of Altair. I managed to unlock it before the final mission, and equipped it, but then before leaving to go to Rome, I went to the armourer to buy the Sword of Altair and found myself figuring I might as well buy everything, including all the other swords and armour. Though I remembered to get the sword from the villa armoury, I forgot to get the armour, as I’d ended up equipping the armour I’d bought without realising, and went off to Rome wearing a mixture of leather and metal, meaning I had almost half the health I’d had before. However this proved only to be detrimental to the aesthetics of the final levels and I got through it without any extra trouble.

The inclusion of extra characters was a welcome addition too. Ezios friendship with Leonardo Da Vinci, and his relationships with the people he meets along the way and how they develop were a nice break from the killing.

All in all, Assassins Creed II is a fun game. Though I wouldn’t recommend going off and buying it new, I reckon it would make a nice second hand or sale purchase.

Speaking of buying it, there’s been a lot of fuss about the fact that you have to stay connected to the internet in order to play and save your games. To be honest, most of the fuss has come from the hacking community and people who download their games illegally, but I can see both sides of the argument. This effectively cuts the game off from anyone who has a dodgy internet connection or no internet at all. I also understand that despite all this anti piracy protection, the crackers have already developed a work around by simply creating a program which creates a server simulation and redirects all traffic from the game to that, allowing you to save your games to your computer and play the game with or without an internet connection, and only after a month or so delay. Pointless really. I have a lot of opinions on piracy which I won’t go into here, in many cases I support it, as with the huge number of games coming out nowadays it is impossible to afford to play all the ones you want to, especially for a student like me. However piracy is slowly beginning to drive developers away from the PC, meaning big titles that I’ve been looking forward to, such as Alan Wake, have abandoned the PC in favour of consoles. It also prevents smaller developers from making games for the PC as they can’t afford for people to not buy their games. However, I believe the best anti-piracy policy is to include a decent multiplayer with the game. Look at Modern Warfare 2 and Bad Company 2. My opinions extend to music too, but I won’t go into this any more.

Glad I managed to get this review done today, especially having just made a post saying that I wouldn’t do any for a few days. Just shows what playing a good game can do for the soul.

Also I laughed like an idiot at this bit.

I’ve been playing Command and Conquer 4 over the last couple of days  and I have to say, as a fan of the C&C franchise, I’m disappointed.

C&C 1995 - Westwood studios knew what they were doing

I’ve never really been one for online strategy games (except at lan parties or with friends) so the single player is my main focus and 4 levels in I find myself confused and disappointed. I know EA wanted to go for a new take on the strategy game, and have been trying to change C&C since they got it, but I still haven’t played one better than the first. Admittedly the first was too hard, and considering I must’ve been younger than 10 when I first played it I never really got anywhere. I’ve actually been meaning to find a copy of it to try and complete. But to be constantly lowering the difficulty level and shortening the campaign just means the game feels like it has nothing to it.

Looks cool. Nice ideas. Lacks scale or personality.

Take the Company of Heroes series as an example. The single player was extremely challenging, with diverse missions with varying objectives and victory conditions, ranging from hilltop defences, to rushes through enemy territory, and even a stealth mission. Each one had you feeling like you were putting your all into completing each mission, while still making it easy enough to get through.

CoH - The intensity of battles really gets your heart pumping

A more recent strategy game that I also enjoyed thoroughly is Men of War. The Russian campaign was especially good. Though the voice acting was bad, and the story lacking, the gameplay was extremely involving. Especially the missions with limited forces. I remember one particular one where you start off with one guy who’s been left behind. You help some resistance fighters defeat a german patrol and you’re joined by the 10 of them. You then have this force and this force only to attack the german defences in the area. A computer controlled band of resistance fighters does assist you, but they do little more than keep the germans occupied on one flank. It’s left to you to flank round the german machine guns and attack the town hall. The only way in being the heavily guarded front door. During the flanking manouver, all but 4 of my people got killed when one soldier spotted them taking cover behind a low wall. The remaining 4 managed to take cover ready to flank. Now this is where it got good. One of the resistance fighters happened to be carrying some dynamite. I got him to steal a german light machine gun, and sneak round to the back of the town hall. Placed the dynamite at several places on the back wall before detonating it and mowing down around 10 people that became exposed. This prompted many of the other german forces in the area to come running, right into the line of fire of my remaining 3 people, who managed to keep them at bay while the one guy got back behind friendly lines.

Mixes impersonal large scale battles with missions that make you care about the individual soldier. Fully destructible terrain allows clever tactics.

The mission ends with you rescuing some prisoners, and attempting to escape the town before it is overrun by german reinforcements, not an easy task. However I managed to keep those 4 people, along with the rescued prisoners, alive for the rest of the mission, completing the majority of it with them, making me really care about keeping them alive. Either way it just shows how the undercomplicating games can be detrimental to their fun. This mission took me almost an hour and a half to complete, and it was only around the 5th in the game. Now considering I completed the first 4 missions of C&C 4 in about 30 minutes, I think that says something about what is happening to the franchise.

Either way, I’m going to attempt to continue playing C&C4 for a while to give it a chance, simply because I want to know what happens at the end of the series, but I don’t hold high hopes.

Ok, so it’s Easter Sunday and I’m too lazy to think of something to review so instead I recorded an hours gaming session on Bad Company 2 and made a little video of it in an attempt to demonstrate the epicness. Sadly the server I was on happened to be playing a couple of the least epic maps so not much happened, but I made the video anyway. I tried to use as many different classes as possible to give an idea of different ways of playing. Assault is generally run in and shoot people and rely on support to keep you alive. Medic hangs back with the heavy machine gun laying down covering fire and reviving any downed team mates. Engineer can repair or destroy vehicles and isn’t really good for much else. Recon I use either for close combat and using C4 to destroy vehicles, lay traps, or blow through walls. Or you can use it for long distance sniping (which I’m terrible at as you will see) and calling in mortar strikes. While I was at it though I did have one of those epic high scoring games I mentioned.

Pins include 'Avenger', medic pin, lmg efficiency, kill assist, combat efficiency, elite combat efficiency. lol.

Hope it’s good. I might do one based around the Conquest mode later seeing as I probably won’t be making a post tomorrow.

According to my in game awards I’ve BC2 for over 24 hours, which I think is more than enough time to be able to review it properly (thought it’s nothing compared to the 80+ hours I’ve clocked on Modern Warfare 2).

Having never owned any of the Battlefield games before this one I’ve only ever really played them at friends houses for brief ‘hey have a look at this game, it’s cool’ sort of moments. Or for the occasional player vs bots demo a la 2042. However, Bad Company caught my eye, and when Bad Company 2 was announced I felt I should give it a shot. So I bought it and almost regretted it.

Buying the game from gave me access to the beta which I naturally downloaded as soon as I could and began to play. The first thing that struck me was the huge difference between BC2 and MW2, they’re at complete opposite ends of the spectrum. The often slow paced, lone warrior play of MW2 is replaced with explosive (literally) , extremely faced paced play which rewards team work.  However this change in pacing, coupled with the different gameplay mechanics, meant that it was quite difficult to get the hang of having played nothing by MW2 form months. This resulted in a lot of dying and lost matches. I think in the week or so I had the beta I ended up with a k/d of about 0.2 and a w/l of 0.5 and this almost completely put me off the prospect of playing this game when it came out.

However, on release day when the game arrived I played through the single player (which I will talk about later) and that night logged onto the multiplayer. Only to find that the EA servers had fucked it because of the high load and no-one could log on.

So two days later I tried again and succeeded in getting into a game. And after a couple of teething games I was on a roll. A 6 win streak and a k/d of 2 and I thought I was godly. However after leaving the server to go to labs and logging into a new one when I came back I found it to be a whole different story, not winning a single round or getting a single k/d above 1. It seems this is the general story of Bad Company 2, massive high scoring games coupled with horrific soul crushing games that make you wonder why you play. Since I’ve got better at the game the high scores are higher and the low scores aren’t too bad, but you can still always tell which games are bad. So why is this? Well, it’s the confusing mixture between team emphasis, and people looking simply to increase their k/d and run off alone. You really have to pay attention to the rest of your team to get anywhere; for example, if you notice a lot of people are assault, then go medic to provide support and keep your team alive. Or if you have to take a particular objective, become recon in order to spot enemies from afar with a scope while attempting to pick them off, or equip a shotgun and go in to place motion sensors to highlight enemy positions or C4 to open up new ways into an objective behind the enemy’s defences. Obviously it’s not that simple, but if you work as a team you get shit done. However if your team is full of ‘lone warriors’ running off into the frontlines alone and getting killed then chances are you’re going to get pwned, the same stands for if everyone decides to be a sniper and sits back trying to get that all important headshot. This latter example is something you see all too often, the number of times I’ve joined a squad only to find that all of them are sitting on a ridge at the back of the map trying (and failing) to snipe along with half the team resulting in getting no-where. And what happens in these situations is the players attempting some kind of team work just get pissed off and change teams, resulting in all the good players being on one team, and all the noobs being on another. As infuriating as this can be (the teams stay the same each round with no randomisation so you end up with the good team just winning game after game with the noobs learning nothing) when you find that golden server full of people that know what they’re doing you can get some extremely epic games going.

I once found myself yelling "KABOOM!" as I blew up a pile of C4 under a passing jeep

However, teamwork or not, the sheer scale of some of the battles can make getting anywhere pretty strenuous. A full 32 player game of Rush with equal teams can often feel like real slog and can often be rather time consuming, considering I’ve seen games come down to the last spawn ticket at every mcom base. If you’re in the right mood though you can really get into the action and you will see some amazing sights; quad bikes leaping over hills and coming flying through the blast of an exploding tank while attack helicopters strafe it with missiles only for the driver to leap off at the last minute letting the quad career off into a friendly tank before detonating the C4 charges he’d placed on it, obliterating the tank and its occupants. Epic.

Exciting stuff

I could recount many tales of awesome battles and moments, but that would be boring and nerdy so I won’t. Instead I’ll briefly mention the single player. Well, brief is the word really. I felt MW2 was short, completing it in one 7 hour sitting on the the second hardest difficulty, but BC2, though similar in length, felt much more so. There just wasn’t much to it. One minute you’re being introduced to the story, the next you’re fighting through a ruined city to catch the bad guy. DICE have taken a leaf out of Infinity Wards book and brought up the action a bit more, with less of the long, slow, drawn out single player levels that I experienced in the time I spent playing the first bad company game, with very little down time and plenty of exciting sequences. However they don’t seem quite as refined as those of MW2, with scripted events often seeming to go wrong or not quite fitting with the action. I often didn’t even notice certain important in game events as I was looking the other way. Or more often the cut from in game action to cut scene just jolts you out of any immersion in the storyline. There are even a couple of MW2 rip offs at certain points in the game.

Reading back over this it sounds like I’ve spent a lot of time complaining this game, but there must be something there if I’ve spent over a day playing this and still come back to it before any other game I own. If you like your multiplayer experience tactical, fast paced, challenging, and full of awesome visuals then this is the game for you!

So, I’ve decided to start writing a blog. I’ve always thought it would be a good, fun idea but never really got round to it. However, I recently played a couple of mods for Half-Life 2 by Dr. Dan Pinchbeck for part of a research project at the university of Portsmouth having read an interview about his project: thechineseroom at The Escapist, and wanted to share my thoughts on them. I played through Dear Esther yesterday evening and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.

To start with I should probably mention that this game contains very little of what many people would say are standard game mechanics. There are no enemies to kill, no obvious goals to follow, no puzzles or real driving force to make you continue playing, yet somehow I felt compelled to persevere. You start off alone on this misty, dark, island with no idea why you’re there or what to do, so you walk, and as you do you’re treated to fragmented excerpts from letters written by the lead character.

The atmosphere of the island is spine chilling. Not only do you have the eerie and occasionally aggressive narration for company, but the music is truly something. The mournful piano playing of the first scene instantly invokes the feeling of isolation and loneliness of the island but at certain sections, and often timed with the more sinister moments of narration, it takes on a tone that brought up the hairs on the back of my neck. The opening ‘Dear Esther, the gulls do not land here anymore’ setting the tone for the rest of the narration, with increasingly dark and disturbing thoughts being vocalised as the game progresses. The focus of the narration on previous inhabitants of the island and their lonely deaths is a constant morbid hint of your own fate. If this wasn’t enough, the island is littered with drawings of various scientific images and circuits, along with huge painted words.

"The gulls do not land here anymore"

Like I said before, having completed this game in under an hour I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I feel there is probably more to see and will most likely play it again this week.

Having completed that I went on to play the second game (that I know of) by thechineseroom, Korsakovia. I haven’t completed this yet so won’t fully review it here but I haven’t been this afraid to continue playing a game since Dead Space. It follows a similar narration form as Dear Esther, and you are treated once again to the voice of your character, this time accompanied by Dr. Greyson. The exchanges between these two are often extremely nerve jangling, often being the reason for most of what scared me.

Unlike Dear Esther, Korsakovia includes enemies and the player can be killed. However what sets this apart from other horror games is the powerlessness of the player to fight them. The speed at which they move coupled with the gut wrenching scream as they do means that as you run through the dark corridors your heart is constantly racing as you pray that you haven’t made a wrong turning. Then you get away and take a look around, at which point you find yourself wishing the weird smoke monsters were still chasing you to give you something to take your mind off the darkness.

Now don’t get me wrong, both these games got my adrenalin pumping and have been the first things to come to mind when I turn my light off at night, but they are not your standard horror games. They are a new breed, and a welcome one. I missed many of the early horror greats such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill, but from what I have seen of them they do something more than just make you jump. Thechineseroom are onto something here, they’ve really tapped in to what makes people scared, lets hope they stick with it!