Remember Me reviewed

Capcom's game has many memorable moments!

7.1 Surround Sound for the masses

Want cinematic sound quality? Then Mad Catz 720+ may be for you

DayZ: a new approach to survival horror

DayZ, a mod for Arma 2, is unlike any other horror game that came before

Best of the worst bad habits in gaming

Megabits of Gaming takes a look at five of its favourite gaming characters who have bad or slightly seedy habits.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Molyneux mulls over the gaming greats

Old favourite, and gaming guru, Peter Molyneux was wheeled out last week to address the great and the good for the BAFTA lecture in London, UK. I'm a big fan and was on the brink of grabbing a ticket but couldn't make it in the end... thankfully, the guys over at the Guardian Games Blog have very kindly printed a transcript of his speech (click for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3).

I've loved pretty much all of his creations at Bullfrog
and Lionhead, from land-shifting God game Populous through to Theme Park, the absolutely awesome Syndicate and more recently Fable II (Black & White wasn't much good, mind).

Anyways, it's great to see that he took a few moments to give a well-deserved nod to some landmark titles that broke new ground and shifted the boundaries of game design...

Dune II (1992) - the RTS from Westwood Studios sapped hours of my life. Without it we wouldn't have seen the likes of Command & Conquer. Good choice, Molyneux!

Super Mario (1985) - Nintendo's classic platformer. Still brings back fond memories. Alex Kidd and Sonic have a lot to thank Mario for. Still good for a few hours gaming some two decades later.

Tomb Raider (1996) - having a buxom female character as the protagonist was certainly a shift in the gaming world and Lara Croft went on to become a gaming icon - and the dream girl of many a young lad. Sad but true.

World of Warcraft (2004) - one of the biggest online games ever, with a huge cult following. It's even in the Guinness Book of Records for being the most popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). Many gamers have been treated for World of Warcraft addiction!

Halo (2001) - still one of the main selling points of Microsoft's Xbox consoles, with countless sequels and spin-offs. Any game with Halo in the title is sure to sell well.

(Photo credit: FT Techfeed)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Left 4 Dead 2 - demo tomorrow, new trailer now

Not long to wait now... according to Digital Spy, the demo for Left 4 Dead 2 is going to be available tomorrow.

"Valve has confirmed that any PC gamers who pre-ordered Left 4 Dead 2 will be able to access a playable demo of the game on Steam tomorrow.

For the people who have not pre-ordered the highly anticipated first-person-shooter, the demo will be opened up to everyone a week later.

Xbox Live Gold members will get access to the taster on November 3, with Silver members having to wait until November 10."

The full game should be out mid-November. In the meantime, here's another video teaser to keep you going!!!

(Photo credit: Miyaoka Hitchcock)

Borderlands is here...without the hard cel

Without almost any fanfare whatsoever,
first person shooter Borderlands snuck its way onto the shop shelves the other day. A few months ago this game was heralded as one of the hottest prospects for game of the year... but with Forza 3 and Unchartered 2 making their heavily-hyped appearance at the same time, and pre-orders for Modern Warfare 2 coming in thick and fast, you could almost be forgiven for forgetting about Gearbox's latest effort.

I must admit that some of my enthusiasm had waned a little for this. I'd been tempted by all those screenshots a little while back and been positively salivating at the prospect of four player co-op, numerous online modes, a healthy quota of weaponary, and the customisable characters and vehicles... Sadly - but all too inevitably - it just can't compete with the other big releases right now.

Saying that though, I could have told you before it achieved a pretty decent score on review aggregating website Metacritic that it was going to be well received!

How could I possibly know that you ask?? Simple. Cel-shading...

Borderlands showcases the much-loved graphical style that almost without exception seems to be warmly received by gamers. Cel-shading really makes a game stand out from the crowd, with the graphics rendered in such a way as to make them look almost cartoonlike - an interactive comic book if you will.

Remember PaRappa The Rapper way back in the day? Kick, punch, it's all in the mind... this was the forerunner to the dance mat revolution, and today's flood of Guitar Hero-type games.

And how about Jet Set Radio Future - the 2002 Xbox sequel to the Dreamcast's Jet Set Radio?

or the fantastic looking XIII? How on earth did this never get a sequel?

Good old Wikipedia has handily listed a few others too - but these three are the cel-shaded titles that have cemented themselves into my gaming memories. Question is, will Borderlands be joining them? I reckon so!

(Photo credit: Psycho Al)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Head2Head FINAL

...So here it is. The Megabits of Gaming Head2Head contest ends here.

The aim when we started this all those months ago was to pit some of the greatest-ever games - spanning several decades and genres - against one another (gaming Top Trumps, if you like).

After much discussion and deliberation, literally hundreds of classic titles were whittled down to the final 16.

Completely at random, we held a series of face offs and they fought it out against five key criteria - originality, longevity, graphics, sound FX and replayability. Only the best would make it
through to the next round.

The 16 were:
Grand Theft Auto IV, Tetris, Fallout 3, Call of Duty 4, Sonic the Hedgehog, Syndicate Wars, Halo, Football Manager 2009, Gears of War, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, Gran Turismo, Streetfighter 2, Metal Gear Solid, Fifa 09, Medieval II: Total War, Fantasy World Dizzy.

There were some surprises... and some disagreements... but now we're left with the final two.

Which is the Megabits greatest game - Grand Theft Auto IV or Call of Duty 4? There can only be one winner...

Let us know your thoughts...

See also:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Red Faction: Guerrilla (or Crackdown 1.5) is a blast

Is it me or is Red Faction: Guerrilla more than a little reminiscent of old favourite, Crackdown?!? Bear with me here...

Swap the bustling metropolis of the latter for a dusty brown, debris strewn Martian landscape... and you've got a sandbox game that takes you on a journey of mass destruction, armed with all manner of big guns, to take down the bad guys and make the world a safer place!

And to top it off, it seems to be narrated by the same fella!

It was his serious tone that spewed from my speakers last night when I realized I'd been playing Red Faction for several hours and had quite lost all sense of time.

There's something huuuuugely satisfying about smashing the hell out of stuff and that's exactly what you're tasked to do in your bid to rid the world of that nasty lot that go by the name of the EDF (Earth Defence Force).

This game is all about blowing stuff up - whether it's with explosives, powerful laser cannons or your trusty old hammer (!). The real selling point is the rather nifty Geomod 2.0 physics engine that makes you consider exactly how you're going to wreak destruction. Before long, you'll be frequently asking yourself "should I place a bomb or two on these walls over here, or knock down the foundations over there to make the building collapse?". Inspired!

By completing various tasks, you weaken the EDF's hold on a region, which eventually results in them scarpering for pastures new. Equally fun though is the fact you've got to raise morale in each area - achieved by ripping down propaganda signs or wrecking your enemy's properties.

I've been roaming the sandy landscape for a couple of nights now and have so far only ventured into four of the six districts. From what I've seen to date, I can understand the criticisms levelled at the game for the uninspiring graphics, weak story and linear mission design... but it's done little to dampen my enjoyment. You get to blow stuff up after all!!!

Anyway, I'd best get back to it - I've just worked out how I'm going to destroy a bridge! At least it's keeping me busy while I wait for the true Crackdown sequel...

(Photo credit: THQInsider)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Has interactive gaming gone mad?!?

Remember the NES controller? It sort of resembled a flat brick with buttons on it... hardly comfortable to hold, and yet who would have guessed that all these years later Nintendo would revert to a rectangular controller after a series of more ergonomically-pleasing designs (SNES, N64, Gamecube)?

Of course, the main difference between the 1983 controller and the new Wii remote is that it's used in a completely different way.

Going - but not yet gone - are the days of sitting down in an armchair (one fairly close to the
console, so that the controller cable reaches!). These days it's more common to be gaming on your feet with no wires and no thumb ache.

Nintendo has warmly embraced the wireless, interacti
ve concept with its popular Wii and handheld DS. Sony and Microsoft have not sat back, controllers in hand, to wait and see how Nintendo fares, but have also leapt in to release fun - but perhaps tacky peripherals, such as plastic guitars, drums, microphones, dance mats etc... to help make gaming more fun.

But why has this all come about suddenly? I think it's partly because the technology now lets them do such things, and partly to promote a healthy lifestyle. You're now not necessarily a lazy slob if you play video games all day, especially if Wii Fit is your thing!

Another benefit of interactive gaming is the social aspect; call your mates and
invite them round for a night in of fun and laughter! I've had many good times with friends when a dance mat, pair of microphones or the Buzz controllers have been attached to the PS3, and exhausting times after realising that I'm not a very good boxer with Wii Sports.

Do we need all these extra things to enjoy gaming though? Maybe they do bring the family closer together, or provid
e entertainment and stimulation in retirement homes, but they are also expensive, bulky and sometimes plain dangerous (even if you don't hurt yourself by falling off a snowboard simulator, your TV may at least get broken by a rogue Wii remote - it has happened!).

Interactive gaming addicts are simply people who try to bring the fun of the arcade into their home, and it can work brilliantly if you have the space and the co
mpany - it's a little boring (or just plain embarrassing) playing these games on your own.

Here are some of the extra peripherals you can get for your consoles to liven them up a bit:
  • Gaming chairs: For those who still like to sit down whilst playing, you can now get seats which rock, have inbuilt speakers, vibrate when the controller does etc... to help you get that more arcade feeling for your games, particularly racing games!
  • Steering wheels: ...talking of racing games, don't you think you need a steering wheel rather than a normal remote? Smaller than a real car's steering wheel, these things have been around quite a while. They are self-explanatory, but some have extra features such as gear levers and pedals.
  • Dance mats: Another one which has been around quite a while already. Typically these are foldable versions of the stages you get in arcades and they take up a lot of floor space, especially if you've got two out for a dance-off! For the more serious dancing gamer, you can buy proper stages and for the lazy dancer you can get finger dance mats.
  • Microphones: Some games like SingStar and Lips require you to actually sing, so microphones are compulsory. A good night of karaoke is often a laugh, especially if no one is particularly good! However it is this peripheral that is most likely to make your neighbours complain (or ask to join in).
  • Buzzers: Some games like the Buzz series are based on a gameshow concept and require you to be contestants answering the questions with your buzzer. Another favourite for when you have all your friends round, and potentially educational too.
  • Sports equipment: The Wii has a lot of sports games which can be played with its ordinary remote, or you can go that step further with things like golf clubs, baseball bats, fishing rods and tennis racquets!
  • Light guns: A great shoot 'em up is even more fun with a gun shaped controller that can be fired in the direction of the screen.
  • Musical instruments: Even if you are no virtuoso on the guitar, pick up a small plastic representation of one and try to strum and hold down the "strings" in time with the music for games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. The latter can also give you and your friends a chance to see if you're any good at the drums.
  • Fitness products: Perhaps in an attempt to lose some pounds in our overweight nation, fitness games have taken off in a big way. The Wii Fit's balance board is a popular peripheral for health conscious gamers.
  • Fighting equipment: Why stop at guns, when you can have nunchucks and lightsabres to help you fight for your cause too?
  • Touch screen technology: This is particularly used in handheld devices. The Nintendo DS makes good use of its touch sensitive screen, as do a lot of mobile phones and MP3 players. Buttons may one day be a thing of the past.
  • Headsets: These are most popular for online gameplay so that you can taunt or exhort your rival/team mate in an online game. A keyboard may also be standard equipment for the online gamer.

So, OK, how many of these do you own? Are they worth the money you spent on them? Is interactive gaming the only gaming of the future?

If so, what about the titles that are meant to be single-player games where you actually sit down and work your way through the levels in the traditional sense? I dread to think how you'd make Lemmings interactive...

(Photo credits: jamie_hladky, Jonathan_W, DavidDMuir, advertisingelyse, rmen)

Zombie clowns - hell yeah!

You may have noticed a common theme running through this blog of late? Zombies.

They're are all over the place right now, springing up as bonus levels hither and thither (Call of Duty and so on). And I'm loving it. There's something truly enjoyable about blowing the heads off the undead or lopping off the odd limb. They're dead afterall so there's no need to feel guilty!

I just can't get enough of Left 4 Dead - it's kept me glued to the screen for weeks now. I've run through the campaigns and versus levels countless times, trying all manner of new strategies and techniques - most of which result in me losing my team mates and being devoured by the hungry hordes!

Therefore, it is with great excitement that last night I found out a little more about its much-anticipated sequel.

Most of you will no doubt have seen the news about
the new levels and special infected - there was a story about them on this very blog a few days ago... and the campaign titles - Dead Center, Dark Carnival, Swamp Fever, Hard Rain and Parish - sound varied and suitably sinister!

But thanks to the fantastic website that is Console Monster, the list of achievements suggests that there's going to be plenty of fun to be had when it's released on November 17!

Quite how I'm going to kill a Tank with a baseball bat or a frying pan (!) beats me!! I can't even beat one now after chucking a molotov at its head and filling it full of shotgun shells!!!! I know one thing though... I'm going to give it a damn good try!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Review: Championship Manager 2010

Just 18 days to go. Or 410 hours, 30 minutes, 40 seconds... 39 seconds... 38 seconds... Football Manager is almost here! Hoorah.

I'd tried to ease the pain of waiting by investing 1p (on top of a £2.50 handling charge) for the latest edition of Championship Manager on the PC a few weeks back... but it did little to satisfy my hunger for Sport Interactive's next iteration.

I'd like to emphasise that I entered into this transaction with a completely open mind -
it's no secret that I'm an FM fan an
d I defected from Championship Manger a few years ago - but I really wanted to like it. Alas, it was rotten. I can't quite explain why it didn't work for me; it just didn't feel right. On paper, it seems to match Football Manager and it's certainly undergone a very welcome facelift. But it didn't get off to a good start.

After all the hassle regarding the actual purchase of the damn thing (servers were down, websites were kaputt, payment methods were playing up and the support team was pitiful), I couldn't actually get the game to load!

After reinstalling it several times, the main menu magically appeared and I chose my team and picked my leagues.
The layout was fairly logical, with all options, menus and toolbars easy to navigate.

I can't complain about it's appearance; the game's skin was attractive and "shiny", while the various team and tactics screens making the best of what are effectively funky-looking Excel spreadsheets!

I liked the look of the scouting screens - a nice departure from the usual
drop down menus. Here you pick a countries from which you wish to pluck talent from and designate how much cash you're willing to plough into the recruitment process. Then you just sit back and wait, as new blood from each region pops onto your screen for you to sign.

The actual 3D match engine is a marked improvement on previous versions of Championship Manager too. Matchday comes and you can see your players run ab
out the place, with every kick of the ball accompanied by a reassuring "whack" sound. It's frustrating that the data menus flash onto your screen every time there's a break in play though.

Loading times are still excruciating and it often took me an entire evening to play just a couple of matches. Ultimately, there's plenty to see and do - but none of it is particularly enjoyable and it still lags behind Football Manager in terms of depth and realism.

As I say, I
bought this for a miserly £2.51 thanks to a much vaunted marketing initiative. I'm pretty pleased with the purchase but would have been disappointed if I were asked to spend the full price of around £30 that the retailers are now demanding.

There's clearly no longer such a chasm between the two titles - more like a fairly sizable trench... But for me, I'd recommend you save your cash and wait to sign the world class management sim that is Football Manager in a matter of weeks!

(Photo credit:
Stevec77, Wha'ppen)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Handhelds that the nation gripped - Game Boy vs PSP

Over the last few years technology has been getting bigger and better but paradoxically smaller.

Mobile phones are now a fraction of the size they once were, laptops are now closer to palmtops, and respectable games consoles are not confined to a space under the TV.

Most gamers own at least one standard console from a big name brand such as Microsoft, Nintendo or Sony - such as the Xbox 360, Wii or PS3, respectively - but it is also cool to own games which can be played on the move. Years ago this was a ridiculous concept given that consoles were so big, but the first true success in the handheld market was arguably Nintendo's Game Boy, first released in 1989.

The console seemed to be ubiquitous in my youth and its success was marked by the fact that it kept being re-released and updated. The original grey brick-like console was replaced in 1996 with a smaller, more colourful edition: the Game Boy Pocket. Two years later it took off again when the screen was made full colour (Game Boy Color), and the graphics were enhanced for the Game Boy Advance (2001) and Game Boy Advance SP (2003). Finally the series came to a close with the Game Boy Micro in 2005.

Sixteen years of gameplay is not to be sniffed at! Nintendo must have been doing something right if it held onto a console for so long and its consumers similarly held onto it wherever they went.

Perhaps the Game Boy Micro was a bit of an anticlimax, not being backwardly compatible and unable to use a GBA cable link, but even then the series came to a natural end as the Nintendo DS was there to supersede it and sell like hotcakes. Truly it seems that Nintendo has won the handheld war before it's even been fought!

So what about the competition? Microsoft has not engaged in this battle but its successes can be counted elsewhere, particularly in the fact that the vast majority of homes own a Microsoft PC.

Sony, on the other hand - the other current video game giant - attempted to go handheld with the PocketStation in 1999 but it was not released outside of Japan and served more as a glorified memory card with extra features than a serious stand-alone games console. It flopped before it had a chance to take off. All this changed with the much-anticipated release of Sony's first true handheld console, the PlayStation Portable (PSP), in 2004.

So is the PSP this era's answer to the Nintendo Game Boy? Well, ultimately sales are what govern a console's overall success. During its 16-year reign, the various Game Boy consoles shifted just over 200 million units. The PlayStation Portable, while only five years old, has so far sold almost 56 million units.

In theory it should be the games that dictate whether a console is successful or not. Tetris and the Pokemon series reeled in Game Boy's fans, but does the PSP have an iconic game? Apparently not. Still, besides games, there are a host of other factors one normally takes into consideration before purchasing a handheld console. These include: cost, appearance, games catalogue, playability, sound, screen, power, multiplayer options, extra features, backward compatibility, and name!

The last one, name, sprang to mind because of something I remember Jonathan Ross saying many years ago: how he didn't like the idea of owning a Game Boy because it sounded childish. He argued that if Sony released the "Game Man" like it had the "walkman", perhaps it would sway him to buy one. I feel this must surely be his own insecurities kicking in though, much like people who only read Harry Potter if it has the "adult cover". I still play on my Game Boy Color from time to time, even though I'm a 21 year old woman!

But seriously now, let's look at how the Game Boy and PSP fare when some of the above factors are taken into consideration.

  • Sound The PSP would win this hands down if we didn't take the generation gap into consideration. The Game Boy's sound effects and music were not only good at the time, but are still fairly respectable now. The only real problem with the mono sound of a Game Boy is that you can't have people speaking or very realistic sound effects. The PSP, with its ability to play movies, obviously needs a much richer sound.
  • Screen This is a more interesting factor, as screen size and definition are not necessarily hindered by available technology. True, you could count the pixels on a GB screen if you wanted as you could actually make them out, but in my opinion the PSP is a winner for several reasons. Firstly the screen size is bigger. It might seem obvious, but you'll get more on a screen if there's more of it! The quality is fantastic and you could easily believe you are looking at a small widescreen TV. Another criticism of playing on a Game Boy is that it has no backlight. You either have to attach one or depend on good lighting wherever you are. The problem was solved with a Japan-only release of the Game Boy called "Game Boy Light", but it didn't go overseas because it was believed that Western gamers were more concerned with getting colour screens. A bit of both would have been nice, though! Even now, when playing my GBC, I find that the screen is too pale sometimes, especially when the batteries are dying, but plugging it in causes irritating lines and dark areas on the screen!
  • Power It's great to have a console that you can take around with you, but only if it lasts the journey! What is the attraction of a really powerful console which sucks your batteries dry in 10 minutes? I am very much a plug-in-where-possible person meaning my laptop is always connected to the mains when I'm using it and my handhelds are similarly best played near a socket. There is nothing more frustrating than completing a really tricky bit of a game just to find the battery goes flat before you find a save point! But surely plugged in handhelds defeat the point. A really good console may be more attractive, but all those extra features you're not using may still be sapping your power. I've found both the GBC and PSP have a reasonable battery life, and I'm glad we've left the days of putting 4 AA batteries (or more!) into a console. It doesn't half make it heavy!
  • Multiplayer Half the point of video games is the social aspect. Beating the computer loses its appeal pretty quickly in a lot of cases but how well suited were the handhelds for multiplayer action? The Game Boy consoles could be linked either by an infrared sensor, or a link cable. I didn't make much use of the former as I had no games which were compatible with it. The PSP has the benefits of the WiFi generation and so multiplayer gaming is less of a hassle.
  • Extra features Games were what games consoles were for, one upon a time. Now consoles and handheld systems alike are better described as "entertainment systems", and some even go beyond entertainment. The only notable bonus features of the Game Boy were its camera and printer peripherals. The PSP boasts its ability to play UMDs (meaning you can watch films and programmes if they've been released in this format), WiFi and downloadable material, and you can add your own music or videos.

So while the PSP may appear to be superior to the Game Boy, that is to be expected as times have moved on. However the PSP is not selling nearly as well as the Game Boy did. Why? Perhaps because the competition is greater. People would rather have the fun interactive Nintendo DSi than a new PSPgo where all your games need to be downloaded again.

Games consoles are perhaps a dying breed now, since entertainment systems have taken over, and I think the competition Sony should be watching closely is not necessarily handheld champion Nintendo, but the ever-more-popular Microsoft rival, Apple... Watch this space!

(Photo credits: Thorsten Thees, Swiss James, Marco Gomes, Dan Taylor, MNgilen)

Left 4 Dead 2 - new mode is a gas

Scavenge Mode looks like a welcome addition to upcoming zombiefest Left 4 dead 2, due out mid-November. Frankly, I can't wait!

Judging from this video footage, it's great to see that Valve hasn't drifted far from the original in terms of graphics and sounds; it manages to keep that creepy atmosphere and the sense of panic!

The new mode throws the four main characte
rs into the action, pitting their wits against four infected in a race against time. Each team has to find gas canisters strewn about the map and - depending on which side you're on - refuel a thirsty generator or destroy them.

The more game modes, the better I say - especially after the ridiculously short campaign and lack of maps in the original.

Here's a glance at one of the new special infected that we're gonna come up against too, the aptly-named Jockey!

Check out mystrsangel's other videos to see a selection of the new weapons available, including the katana!

(Photo credit: Pentadact)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Review: FIFA 10

I'm so weak willed. No sooner had the latest annual FIFA update hit the shelves, I was handing over my hard earned cash to grab a copy.

In much the same vein as last year, I'd convinced myself that I wasn't remotely interested in EA's cash cow - typically consisting of a squad data update and little else. I had barely raised an eyebrow when Wayne Rooney appeared on my television screen to advertise FIFA 10 a few weeks ago, or when the animated hoardings at the Champions League football matches flashed and scrolled to tout the upcoming release.

But, as usual, when launch day comes, I cave in and completely disregard any misgivings.

So what are my thoughts? From the box art - bearing a couple of high profile footballers - to the intro screen and upbeat soundtrack, little appears to have changed from last year's effort... at first glance anyway.

After only a few button clicks I found myself in the familiar surroundings of the arena - effectively a loading screen where you take control of a player and hone your skills. It's a gr
eat way to wile away the moments between matches. Tactics can be customized, and set pieces practiced.

EA has clearly spent a lot of time tweaking the graphics in recent months and the whole thing appears sharp and glossy-looking. Thanks to the official FIFA license, all players, team strips and, in some cases, stadia are lovingly recreated to add to that sense of immersion. In most cases, the players are stunningly accurate - unfortunate for Manchester City's newly-acquired Carlos Tevez perhaps, but good news for the rest of us!

Should you so desire, EA also offers those with access to a PC the option of importing a couple of mugshots, which can be modeled and downloaded to the Xbox/PS3... allowing you to actually appear in the game, taking the mantle of a star striker or creative midfielder. A bit of an ordeal having to upload and tweak the images perhaps, but a really nice touch nonetheless.

Ultimately, it all looks very good indeed. Combined with brilliant (albeit slightly repetitive) commentary from Martin Tyler and Andy Gray, you could be forgiven for thinking - for a few brief moments - that you're actually watching a real footy match! Hats off to EA for a great looking match engine too. Player movement is realistic and the ball bobbles about the place and bounces off the referee with annoying regularity.

The introduction of 360 degree ball control is fantastic, allowing every blade of grass to be traversed with ease. It really does add to the game, making intelligent runs, through-balls and crosses seem like second nature.

It's generally accepted that FIFA 09 finally smashed the final nail in the coffin of arch rival Pro Evolution Soccer. Pro Evo has never really cut the mustard on the latest c
rop of gaming machines, while FIFA has never failed to hit the target - particularly with its online play.

My first few hours were therefore spent playing
against like-minded people from across the globe on Xbox Live. A nice touch this year is that you're quickly matched with players of a similar standard, which means that even me - with my limited ball skills - has at least some chance of victory.

I started well, winning 2-0, 3-2 and 1-0, picking up all manner of achievements along the way. I really liked this game; it looked great, sounded excellent and was tough, but eminently winnable.

My gusto was short-lived, however, as a 5-0 and 8-1 defeat quickly followed (although it was raining quite heavily on both occasions!?).

And therein lies my annoyance with FIFA and the online community. Only a few hours after the launch, my Xbox Live competitors had rapidly developed their skills, leaving me in their wake. To progress in this game - like many sports titles - you really need to invest a hell of a lot of time into learning every facet of the controls, strategies and techniques...

I couldn't even redeem myself by playing the large 10-player team matches - as my (lack of) skills were quickly highlighted.

Any attempt over the past few days to recapture my early form has been woefully inadequate and I've found myself crawling, tail between my legs, back to the offline matches.

Fortunately, this didn't prove a disappointment. EA has kept the Be A Pro option from last year and improved the Manager Mode, which is as engrossing as ever. While it will never live up to the realism of Football Manager on the PC, it certainly adds longevity and there's plenty to see and do.

There is really very little to shock or surprise the die-hard fans of the series; it builds on last year's release and manages to better it in many ways. In terms of how it looks and feels, FIFA 10 is definitely an improvement, and unless Pro Evolution Soccer pulls something out of the bag, FIFA is going to retain its crown as THE football game of the year.

Even if you own last year's edition, this is definitely worth a punt.

(Picture credit: EA)

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Golden era of gaming: Sega Megadrive-Part II

Did you know that since making his first appearance on the Sega Megadrive in 1991, Sonic the Hedgehog has gone on to star in over 90 games? The spiky little guy has made an appearance on the Xbox, Dreamcast, Saturn, Game Gear, PC - and even several of Nintendo's consoles - but he's never been able to match the quality of his debut on the little black 16-Bit box all those years ago!

Maxxpower2000 has painstakingly captured every single game released on the console - bringing back many happy memories.

Here, however, are the remaining five of my most cherished titles.

(Photo credit: o_o)

Not too well known but undoubtedly, one of the greatest strategy games ever, Herzog Zwei had attracted a cult following over the years. I came across this one entirely by accident. Similar in style to Dune II, you had to race about the place to develop a base and spawn an awesome array of weapons. Split screen multiplayer was ace.

Quackshot, starring Donald Duck, was a worthy successor to Mickey Mouse's Castle of Illusion - both gorgeous looking, colourful and fun. Disney's friendly little fellas were perfectly captured on Sega's machine. A great game.

Spy thriller, Rolling Thunder 2, took you on a side-scrolling multi platform journey. Combining James Bond and Shinobi, it looked pretty impressive back then and boasted a great mutliplayer option. Walk along, shoot a few agents, leap up to the balcony above and kill a few more. A simplistic but fun formula.

Desert Strike
was amazing when it came out in 1992 and remained at the top of the charts for ages. Plotwise, it was remarkably similar to a real-life Gulf War conflict... defeat a crazed dictator blah, blah, blah... the first of its kind, EA's masterpiece was brilliant!

Battle Squadron wasn't a particularly well-known game but became one of my most played cartridges. Similar to all those other vertically scrolling shooters (1942, Flying Shark, Banshee etc), it was full of space ships, awesome guns and explosions. Co-op was excellent... it was damn hard though.

Well there we have it... Sega's Megadrive in all its glory.

Have I forgotten any other greats? Leave a comment...

Friday, October 02, 2009

Head2Head: Final draw

So here they are, the creme de la creme of gaming: Grand Theft Auto IV and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - the two titles with more accolades than any others in recent years - have stormed into the final faceoff of the Megabits of Gaming's inaugural Head2Head contest.

Reaching this stage was not because of favouritism or bias, but was based on a fair assessment of each game's attributes and whether they excelled in our five criteria: originality, longevity, graphics, sound effects and replayability.

They've both had some tough matchups along the way... GTA fought its way past Fallout 3, Tetris and finally, Syndicate Wars. Call of Duty, meanwhile, emerged victorious over Football Manager 2009, Medieval II: Total War and Streetfighter II.

The final will soon take place on this very blog... stay tuned!

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