The Problem With Call of Duty

I recently bought Call of Duty: Ghosts despite my assertions that it was just the same as Black Ops 2, which was the same as Modern Warfare 3.  I argued that nothing had changed and that it was just more of the same.  The reason why I bought it was because the Prestige Edition was selling at £60 and I wanted the camera.  It turns out that I was right, mostly.

One complaint was that was too many guns that were all too similar.  That’s been changed so there are few weapons this time around.  This is a good change, even if it means I don’t get my favourite.  It does mean that each weapon is different, even if it’s marginally more so.

What hasn’t changed is that everything isn’t quite good enough.  Movement speed isn’t quite fast enough, aiming isn’t quite fast enough, reloading isn’t just that iny bit too slow, reaction to being hit is just that little bit too much, and so on.

This would be where perks are a solution, but they’re not.  Instead of making the game better and more enjoyable, they turn it into a compromise.  You can either sprint a reasonable distance or you can walk fast enough, you can aim faster or react less to being shot while aiming.  They don’t make things better, they just make things more reasonable, and only for a few things.  Running faster is fine but you’ll still aim slower than is ok.

Titanfall, which was often called ‘CoD with robots’ by haters, by comparison is faster, more fluid, more fun.  Movement speed is great, aiming is fast, combat is exciting, and the weapon selection, while minimal, doesn’t detract from the game.  Call of Duty just feels slow.

It’s like they know what people want things to be and then deliberately slow it down by 10% or so adding perks to counteract this but only allowing the problem to be fixed in limited ways.  If it was just that little bit faster it would be a lot better, but it’s not, and I don’t think this will ever be fixed.

That said, I do like the Ghosts campaign and the new multiplayer modes.  I also like the DLC integration.  It’s just that when I play I want to feel awesome, not like I’m wearing lead gloves and boots.

Some Sad News

Over the last however long I’ve been reviewing books, one publisher has stood like a shining beacon of hope.  I haven’t read a single book from them that I haven’t loved, which is saying something seeing as I have read so many of their books.  It is with heavy heart that I pass on the news that this publisher, Strange Chemistry, is no more.  As a big fan of their books, I’m saddened to see that a book I’m really looking forward to has been cancelled, along with all other forthcoming books.  I don’t know what this means for all current books that have been published already, or what this means for the authors that were signed and given contracts, though I am quietly hoping for the best.  The authors I have spoken to have all been really nice so I want them to do well.  It’s not just a selfish thing in that I want to read what they have to write, it’s more to do with the fact that they are doing something I want to do, and to have this happen must be devastating for them.

The closure of Strange Chemistry is no one’s fault.  It’s just a sad fact that it didn’t perform as well as was hoped.  Angry Robot, of which Strange Chemistry is an imprint, is still doing well, so it’s not all doom and gloom.  With all this uncertainty floating around, I wish the authors all the best and I hope that they find a light at the end of the tunnel, and also that the light isn’t just a train.

Read the official statement here: http://strangechemistrybooks.com/2014/06/20/news-about-strange-chemistry/

And now I think I’ll buy as many of their books that I haven’t got, if only to support the authors because they deserve all the support they can get.

Why I like Forza Horizon

There was a time when, to me, racing was all about Gran Tourismo.  Gran Tourismo 2 was the first racing game I ever bought and I loved it.  I loved buying cars and I loved upgrding them and racing them.  It was also a beautiful game to look at, though it probably doesn’t hold up these days.  Gran Tourismo 4 sparked a bit of a photographer in me, and I enjoyed the photography aspects of the game.  It was nice to take pictures of my cars and share them with the world.

That was before I get my Xbox 360 and Forza Motorsports 3.  It was the prettiest game I had played to that point and the whole experience blew me away.  The menus were a lot cleaner than Grant Tourismo, finding cars was a lot easier in most ways, and I could upload my pictures direct to the internet.  I preordered Forza Motorsport 4 without hesitation and. again, I was floored.  Somehow they had made it look even better and the pictures were even bigger, and just wow.

When I bought Forza Horizon, I knew two things.  I knew it was a Forza game and I knew it was open road.  That it was a Forza game was probably enough to hook me into it, and that it was open road sealed the deal.  From this I knew it was look good and that I would like the handling of the cars.  The open road aspect with the day/night cycle drew me in as I love night racing.  What I got was more than I had hoped for.

I’m a gamer who enjoys just wandering some times.  I like Skyrim because I can wander around, and I like Minecraft for the same reason.  I like the Forza Motorsport games because I like driving the cars but sometimes I just want to drive.  Forza Horizon let me do that.  I could drive around this open world and explore.  With this game, the pictures I could take were breathtaking because I wasn’t limited to track environments.  I could find a beautiful view and take a picture of an expensive car looking out over it.

What Forza Horizon did was to add freedom to a game I loved.  It said ‘here, take a car, any car, and go and enjoy it’.  The racing was more arcade-y than Forza Motorsport 4, but that was ok.  I enjoyed it.  It still had everything that made Forza Motorsport 4 good but it also felt new.  It didn’t seem like it was trying to be Forza Motorsport 4, rather it took cues from it and put its own stamp on things.

Forza Horizon 2 has been announced and I will be preordering it.  The Forza Horizon experience based on the Forza Motorsport 5 tech and set in Europe?  That’s just exciting, especially as the screenshots have puddles and wet roads.  As I look forward to this new game, it’s nice to look back and think about how much I enjoyed the first one.  Even if I was just cruising around the map without doing anything, I was having fun.

 

(Please note: it is only the Xbox One version that is based on Forza Motorsport 5, the Xbox 360 version is based on Forza Horizon)

Exciting Minecraft News, or ‘Why I Like Minecraft a Lot More’

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Not that long ago I wrote a blog post about Why I Love Minecraft in which I talk about what makes Minecraft so good.  It’s a good read and it has screenshots I’ve taken myself rather than found on the internet.  One of the reasons I took the plunge now rather than wait for the Xbox One version is because my Xbox 360 saves will transfer over to the new console, and this includes PS3 to PS4 as well.  One thing I didn’t know was the release date, and it has now been announced as August this year.  It’s still vague but it’s no more than three whole months away now, so my excitement can start ramping up for it.

What’s also exciting is that Xbox 360 and PS3 owners will get a huge discount on the Xbox One and PS4 versions respectively, playing $4.99 each instead of the usual $19.99 for new players.  This applies to the download versions for both and the disk based version on the Xbox 360, with Mojang working with Sony to offer the same deal for owners of the PS3 disk version.  To me, this is a great move and other companies should follow by example.  I know that a few games had trade in offers where players traded in their old versions and paid £10 for the new one, but it was trade in only.  With this I get two copies, one on each of my consoles, so I can still play if one console fails.

Playstation owners will be pleased to know that there’s a new PS3 and Vita version that will allow crossplay between the two consoles.  Now you can take your PS3 creations on the go and edit them wherever you want.  I really like this idea as I would play a portable version of Minecraft.  The only thing stopping me is that the only ones so far are for phones and tablets, and I don’t like the idea of obscuring half the screen with my thumbs and dealing with unreliable controls.  Another bonus is that buying it on either the PS3 or the Vita will let you play it on the other.

For the full details on these new editions of Minecraft, check out the official Mojang blog: https://mojang.com/2014/05/minecraft-on-xbox-one-ps4-and-ps-vita-soon/

Why I love Minecraft

So, Minecraft.  I didn’t understand what it was and what makes it so good until I picked up a copy for myself.  I’d seen a few videos, like the Outside Xbox team’s Pictionary series, a Hardcore survival playthrough by Flabaliki, and also his ‘Simmers play Minecraft’ series with two other Simmers.  It was all interesting to watch and I find myself rooting for Flabaliki in his Hardcore survival series.  What made me change my mind was the news that, somehow, saves made on the Xbox 360 will carry over to the Xbox One version.  The same is true for the PS3 and PS4 versions but I don’t have either console so it’s a bit moot to me, though this is also good news.  I also had a large number of GAME loyalty points saved up and it’s £12.99 for a physical copy of the game.  With more than enough points to pay for it, my loyalty has effectively bought me Minecraft.  All I had to do was wait for it to arrive.  Before I actually begin, I would like to mention that all the pictures are actual screenshots that I have taken in the game.  This is what I’m doing with it.

First things first, I made a new world, choosing to have a bonus chest.  This chest has a few tools and other useful things.  In my case it was jungle tree saplings, a stone axe, and cocoa beans.  This is an optional chest but I thought it’d be good to have it.  It turned out to be very useful as the nearest naturally occuring cocoa beans were on the other side of the map.  After spawning, the first thing that everyone needs to do is build a shelter.  It doesn’t have to be big, it just has to protect you and everything you own.  Not dieing is more important than anything else here, and then it’s tools, and then it’s a fancy place to live.  Mine started out as blob three block by four and three high.  It had a crafting table for tools and a space for me to stand.  I found lots of sheep so I made a bed.  Then I got some furnaces, some chests, and I found food.

My simple mud hut with a few crops.

My simple mud hut with a few crops.

Ok, so I stole some of the crops from the nearby village, but villagers creep me out so I don’t feel bad about it.  It was good to have my own food and I could stop killing animals for it, which is nice.  I don’t know why but I feel bad for killing animals in Minecraft, just like real life.  Life in Minecraft isn’t easy though, and creepers are responsible for much trouble and strife.

Creepers blew up my house once, and other things too.

Creepers blew up my house once, and other things too.

Still, I persevered and I eventually had a nice farm full of crops and animals.  I didn’t have any pigs as I can’t get anything from pigs without killing them.  Cows, sheep, and chickens, all produce something useful so I have a few of them in case I need something.  As for crops, I have carrots, wheat, potatoes, sugar cane, pumpkins, melons, and cocoa beans.  As far as I know that’s every single crop type in Minecraft.  In terms of food and survival, I have everything I need.  I also tamed some wolves and I’m going to look for a pet cat at some point.

This is my farm.  Chickens and melons were added later and the cocoa beans are behind me.

This is my farm. Chickens and melons were added later and the cocoa beans are behind me.

But none of this explains why I love Minecraft, except that it does in a way.  Minecraft is all about freedom and doing what you want, whatever that is.  For me, I’m going to build an obsidian house so creepers can’t blow it up.  I’m going to make obsidian enclosures for my animals and my food so that creepers can’t blow things up and let my animals escape (again).  I just want to farm and explore and tame ocelots and have a little horde of cats and tend my farm.  The great thing about Minecraft is that I can do all that.  I can build a castle if I want, but I’d be just as happy with an obsidian chalet bungalow (like a normal bungalow but with bedrooms in the loft space).  The great thing is that if this isn’t what you want to do then you don’t have to do it.  I create my own path as everyone is just as free to create their own path too.

I have a pumpkin on my head, because I can.

I have a pumpkin on my head, because I can.

There are a lot of games out there that I really like, but there’s nothing like Minecraft.  It is now my go to game for when I want to play something but I don’t feel like playing anything violent or competitive.  In my world I do what I want, when I want, and I love it.

Children’s Games and Target Audiences

In recent years I’ve been reading a large number of books aimed at the Young Adult or YA audience.  I find them to be just as complex, just as well written, and just as good as books aimed at adults.  The difference between YA and adult is the characters, largely.  With adult books the characters are adults and with YA books the characters are young adults.  In terms of the actual writing there isn’t much to differentiate them.  You won’t find heapings of sex and violence in YA, but that’s just fine by me.  I have plenty of adult books with that in and I’m not looking for more.  When it comes to video games, though, things are a little different.

I still play games regardless of the target audience, and this includes games that some would consider to be children’s games, like the Lego games, the Keflings games, and so on.  The difference is more obvious here than it is with books, with controls and gameplay being easier, the graphics being bolder and with brighter colours, and generally aimed at keeping a young person entertained.  They still have one key feature in common though, and that’s fun.  I know that everyone has a different idea of what fun is in a video game and everyone has different tastes, but for me that’s pretty broad.  I’ll play any game as long as I enjoy it.  Right now I’m enjoying Titanfall, but the majority of games that I’ve enjoyed enough to want to get 100% completion on were the Lego games.

It might seem odd that I’m talking about this out of nowhere, but I saw a tweet that really annoyed me.  Firstly, OXM tweeted this:

And someone replied with this:

It annoys me on two counts. The first is the assumption that just because the games are aimed at a younger audience they’re not proper games. I haven’t played Viva Pinata before but from the OXM article it seems to be quite complex. I’d argue that it’s more complex than maybe Call of Duty where you just run around and kill anyone that’s not on your side. Even if it is ‘just’ a game for children it’s still a proper game and it encourages more thought and planning than how to get the longest kill streak ever.

The second reason is that it dismisses the game as ‘kiddie crap’. I’d bet a lot of money on him never actually having played the game before judging it as kiddie crap. Personally, I always try something before I criticise it. I’ve never read 50 Shades of Grey so I’m not going to comment on it, but I have read Huck Finn and I’m in a better position to say why I think it’s bad, or at least why I don’t like it. But to disregard a game as kiddie crap just because of the target audience? That just smacks of wilful ignorance.

Finally, I think it’s coming to a point where a lot of gamers who grew up with gaming are starting their own families. My brother, who is two years older than me, has two young boys. They’re not old enough for games and they might not be interested, but I know plenty of parents who have older kids who are into games. By writing about Viva Pinata they’re bringing it back into the public eye and maybe there are parents out there looking for a game to enjoy with their kids, parents who overlooked it when it came out. By encouraging these games we’re encouraging a new generation of gamers, and that can only be a good thing.

As for me, I’ll keep playing what I want to play and I’ll have fun doing too. At the end of the day, the most important question is do you have fun? If you do, stop caring about what others think and enjoy life. Maybe one day you’ll have kids or nephews or nieces and you’ll be able to say ‘well, this game is good, you should try it’.

[Blog] Xbox One Vs PS4

It has recently been announced that the Xbox One is being reduced in price to £399.99 in the UK, and there will also be a Titanfall bundle which will include a free copy of Titanfall. Predictably, Xbox One haters were soon busy hating away at the console and fanboys on both sides started waging war against each other over trivial little details and ignoring the big picture of gaming. To me, the big picture of gaming isn’t to do with the RAM speeds which are measured in thousandths of a second or whether all the games are true 1080 HD. To me, it’s all about the games. SO let’s compare the games.

The Xbox One exclusives, as provided by wikipedia:

Crimson Dragon
D4
Dead Rising 3
Fable Legends
Fighter Within
Forza Motorsport 5
Untitled Gears of War game
Untitled Halo game
Killer Instinct
Killer Instinct Classic
Kinect Sports Rivals
Powerstar Golf
Quantum Break
Ryse: Son of Rome
Sunset Overdrive
Xbox Fitness

The PS4 Exclusives from the same source:

Backgammon Blitz
Basement Crawl
Driveclub
Earth Defence Force
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
The Idolmaster (working title)
Infamous: Second Son
Joysound Dive 2
Killzone Shadow Fall
Knack
Lily Bergamo
Mobile Suit Gundam (working title)
N++
Nikoli no Puzzle 4: Sudoku
The Order: 1886
SCE Santa Monica Studio
Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive
Pool Nation Extreme/FX
Pure Pool
Ready to Run
Resogun
Rime
Shadow of the Beast
Tottemo E Mahjong Plus
Uncharted 4
Velocity 2X

Considering that my choice of games console is dependant on the games that available and not the actual console or company, I have highlighted the games that interest me most. These are only the exclusive games that aren’t playable on anything else. Some of the ‘exclusive’ games are available on other platforms, games like Titanfalls on the Xbox One and Xbox 360, and Final Fantasy XIV on the PC and PS4.  Because these are just games that I am interested I am well aware that other people are more interested in other games and less interested in these one.  This is just personal opinion.

For me, I’m a big fan of Forza, Halo, Fable, and Gears of War.  These are franchises that I love and will continue to play for a long time.  Having these on the next gen consoles is a big draw for me, especially as Forza 5 is making big steps in terms of AI and what that means with their ‘drivatar’ system that learns player behaviour and mimics it so it’s almost like playing against the real person.  Quantum Break and Sunset Overdrive are the only two new franchises I’m interested in on the Xbox One.  Quantum Break is largely unknown to me, but I think I understand the basics and what I understand of it sounds awesome.  The same with Sunset Overdrive, which seems to be an open world urban environment with some kind of zombie or something and it’s got lots of free running and stuff.  It’s got lots of bright colours and an amazing aesthetic, which I love.  To many games are dark and gritty, which gets boring after a while.

On the PS4 side, well, the list is short.  Driveclub seems to be the only racing game on the PS4 so far, which seems odd as GT6 came out on the PS3 after the PS4 was released.  Had it come out on the PS4 then that would have been of more interest.  Then there’s the Mobile Suit Gundam game, and I’m a sucker for mechs so that’s on the list.  Next is the new IP that is The Order: 1886.  It’s an alternate history game set in London of the time with what looks like steampunk weapons or something along those lines.  It looks and sounds original, and I like originality in games.

Between the two of them, there might be more exclusives on the PS4 but that doesn’t mean anything when the Xbox One has more exclusives that I’m interested in.  That, and that alone, is why I’m going with the Xbox One.  I know there was all the DRM crap that talked about when it was first announced, but all that has gone, and Kinect is not an NSA spying device either.  I don’t even plan on plugging my Kinect in to be honest, and that’s mostly because I have nowhere to put it and it probably wouldn’t work with my set up.  People may whinge and rant about performance and differences in graphcis that I won’t notice anyway, but I’m not interested in that.  If that’s your thing then good for you.  I just want a console that has the most games I want to play, and that happens to be the Xbox One.  If your reasons for choosing the PS4 is the same and that it has more games you want than the Xbox One, good for you!  People have different tastes and it’s a great reason to choose a console.

Either way, whether you’re an Xbox One player or a PS4 player, all that matters is that you have fun and enjoy using your console.