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.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Gamerscore Challenge: The Second Month

Regrettably, since the last Gamerscore Challenge update has turned its toes up, apparently due to a lack of support from Microsoft and increased competition from rival sites who engage in a fair bit of datamining in the process. You used to see gamercards absolutely everywhere, which is a testament to quality and appeal of the service that Mygamercard provided. Anyway, we’ll have to find a new way of displaying our progress on here, but thanks for all your hard work MGC.

Since the last update, I’ve gained 2105G. At first glance that might look like the initial cracking pace of around 1000 points per fortnight has continued, but a closer inspection reveals a worrying trend. The first 2000 or thereabouts came from just six games, two of which were incredibly short XBLA freebies. By comparison, this latest 2105G came from no fewer than 12 full size games. The search for points is becoming more wide-ranging and is demanding a greater investment of time. It breaks down like this:

Brutal Legend: 385G
You already know the drawback to this game - it’s a Heavy Metal inspired free roaming sword and sorcery adventure and a real time strategy game in one. You notice I say ‘in one’ rather than ‘combined’. Despite Double Fine’s best efforts the two parts don’t really combine, and simply sit uneasily alongside each other. They’re both pretty good, but you can’t help but feel if the effort that had been spread across both had been poured into one, it would have been brilliant. Still, I quite enjoy listening to Motorhead and smacking goats with an axe, so I’ll throw up the horns for Brutal Legend as a game, but as a source of gamerscore it demands a lot of time for very few points.

Bayonetta: 30G
I absolutely do not understand the adoration this pile of old tosh receives. Shameless pandering to chronic masturbators, ‘spank me Vicar’ dialogue that aims for arch but only manages camp, and tedious cutscenes that are visually incoherent and far, far too long. I binned it pretty swiftly, but even the limited time I played for was far too irritating for the 30G to be worth it.

Gears of War: 120G
Well, it’s Gears isn’t? Until it becomes legal to throw bricks and spiders at Katie Price, there probably isn’t a purer combination of violence, dumbness and fun. Well worth the time, although the bulk of the game’s points are in multiplayer, so I expect the gamerscore to dry up quickly.

Bioshock 2: 730G
Like its predecessor, Bioshock 2 delivers a constant drip of low level points, with some very sizeable chunks being dished out in the late stages of the game as well. It’s a five star game in its own right, but for the purposes of the Gamerscore Challenge it’s pure gold: well over a hundred points per hour of gameplay.

Conan: 500G
It may just be a low rent God of War clone, but for an uber-nerd like me, Cimmeria’s wandering son has far, far greater appeal for me than Kratos could ever manage. The game itself feels a little last-gen, and the gameplay is three-button simple and very enjoyable. Sadly, all the fun of the early levels is tainted by the atrocious design and bugginess of the last level. It’s all invisible walls and boss battles that substitute cheap shots and grind for genuine challenge. As a source of Gamerscore, 500 points for seven hours isn’t bad, but it’s a game that looks like it will dole out far more than it actually does, so ultimately it disappoints.

Fallout: New Vegas: 10G
It’s far too early to comment really, but it does feel good to be back in that irradiated slice of 1950s Americana. As a source of points I’m sure it will stink, as it demands a massive investment of time.

Borderlands: 20G
I’ve been playing this in co-op on and off for six months now, and have loved it. Have to say, there aren’t many points left in it, and even though it’s great fun, I’m bored of it after all this time.

Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit: 95G
I can’t honestly say I like driving games much, but I’ll give this one a fair shake before the inevitable abandonment. As far as Gamerscore goes, I left a multiplayer race running whilst I answered the phone, and half an hour later I had 25G. Technically, that’s not a bad return, but it’s hardly a selling point, is it?

Just Cause: 85G
Just Cause 2 was cracking fun, but its predecessor lacks the gameplay fluidity, and I suspect a little further exploration will reveal that it lacks the ‘splodey bonkersness as well. Still, I fired it up, drove around recklessly for ten minutes, and I had 85G.

Assassins Creed 2: 20G
I drop in and out of AC2. I don’t enjoy it enough to dedicate myself to it, but I enjoy it too much to just abandon it. Given that each mission pays 20 or 30G and don’t take long to complete, this could turn out to be one of the better payers in the list, if I ever get off my backside and finish it.

Nail’d: 80G
Another driving game that probably won’t hold my attention for more than a day or two. Still, it dished out 80G in an hour and 13 minutes, which isn’t bad. Were I not a little OCD and playing vertically (through the first round of each tournament) rather than horizontally (a tournament at a time, end to end) I’d probably have picked up a few points for tournament completion as well.

Fallout: 20G
I’ve already had nearly 1000G out of Fallout before this year’s challenge started. Between the four unfinished quests and the possibility of picking up a few odds and sods here and there, I reckon I can dig another 100G or so out of this.

There you have it: twice as many games and three times as much effort to get roughly the same amount of points. It’s only going to get worse too, as Bojeeva attempts a little sabotage by lending out DVD box sets and notoriously time-consuming, low return games like Oblivion and Fallout.

VIDEO: Quake III with Simpsons overhaul

Megabits has some fond memories of id Software's 1999 classic shooter Quake III but we've only just come across this great map while trawling You Tube.

Bored of the drab old graphics? Fancy something a bit more colourful and upbeat? Then what about taking on the role of Bart and fragging the locals in Springfield... Quake III gets a Simpsons overhaul. Fantastic.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Megabits of news: weekly roundup

Megabits of Gaming trawls the web for the tastiest morsels of news, so you don't have to...

Kinect kit unleashed
The success of Kinect and the impressive number of hacks that have already emerged has seen Microsoft announce the release of a software development tool. The BBC says this will allow developers to tap into the hardware and take the technology beyond gaming.

Gears of War 3 release date revealed
The next installment of Gears of War is due to hit our screens on 20 September! Besides the campaign, there will be a four-player co-op mode and five on five multiplayer. adds: "Developer Epic Games is also adding a new Beast mode, in which you control the Locust Hordes as they attack a human outpost – an inversion of the series' excellent Horde mode."

Command & Conquer to return?
Rock, Paper, Shotgun has revealed that EA is planning a reboot of its Command & Conquer series. Looks like the new game is destined for the PC.

Child Of Eden videos emerge
CVG has shown off five gameplay videos of upcoming Kinect title Child Of Eden from Tetsuya Mizuguchi who was behind the classic Rez. Lots of shooting, plenty of colourful explosions and thumping music suggest this is going to be great a great addition for the motion controller.

New gaming TV channel coming soon
Are you a UK gamer who misses the days of TV video game shows like GamesMaster and Bad Influence? Well, MCV says fear not - a new games channel is launching in March!

Violence and video games - part two

Too close to home?

Sports games’ primary premise is to represent their real-world counterpart with meticulous authenticity. The closer it is to recreating the actual experience, technically at least, it’s regarded as a positive result. That’s fine, because sports titles are essentially simulations and no one could possibly get offended by a videogame of the beautiful game (bar perhaps the odd disgruntled feminist if Andy Gray is recalled for commentary duties in FIFA 2012).

War is different. War is harrowing and horrific. A fantasy conflict where we can massacre hundreds of “Russian dog” terrorists is fine - no problem. As soon as the battle ventures a little closer to home however, the knives come out and the fires of controversy have well and truly been stoked.

Atomic Games’ recently cancelled Six Days in Fallujah and EA’s Medal Of Honor (concerned with the Iraq and Afghan conflicts respectively) reboot have been the latest games to be based on real-world scenarios, and consequentially, to feel the media wrath.

The general consensus from opposing parties is that as the events depicted in each game are either very recent (in Six Days’ case the US/Iraqi/British offensive of Fallujah in late 2004) or currently in progress, and as such are inappropriate material for videogames to depict. Countless films have been made chronicling the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, none of which to my knowledge have sparked the degree of controversy as the two games in question. Again, this raises questions about the perception of videogames having not reached a status of acceptability (or perceived maturity) on par with other forms of media. Whilst films on the subject are generally viewed as portraying a raw depiction of the conflict, videogames on the other hand, are accused of glorifying it.

In both games cases it essentially boiled down to a war (no pun intended) of words between the developers and the game’s critics. Statements that lauded the games as gritty, harrowing experiences representing the horrors and psychological traumas of warfare, were countered with claims of bad taste, poor judgement and accusations of trivialization.

Despite the controversy, ill-informed claims, and even the British Defence Secretary Liam Fox calling for a ban on Medal Of Honor, the game did see the light of day (albeit to a rather lukewarm reception). However, After publisher Konami pulled out of the Six Days in Fallujah project - presumably due to the negative furore surrounding the game- it seems to be pretty much dead in the water.

Whether Six Days really did portray “what it’s really like to be in a war” remains to be seen (not to mention highly unlikely; the horrors of war obviously cannot be experienced from the comfort of our own living rooms), but budding armchair soldiers are no closer to transporting themselves to Fallujah 2004. EA had the power and financial clout to at least fend off Medal Of Honor’s critics, but without a big name publisher who’s willing to contend with the controversy behind Six Days, it’s doubtful that it will ever make it out of boot camp. Of course, whether the game would have actually been any good or not we may never know, and now is rather a redundant question to ask anyhow..

Perhaps in five years time we’ll see a slew of Afghanistan or Iraq war based games without such a level of opposition, when ( meant in the most respectful way possible) water has passed under the bridge. For now at least it remains a highly sensitive area that videogames are deemed as an unfit medium to portray. THQ’s upcoming shooter Homefront, based on a future war with North Korea, is fine. World War 2 conflicts aren't problematic due to historical context. Even Call Of Duty 4’s thinly disguised take on middle-eastern warfare managed to escape relatively unscathed.

However, openly basing your game on recent or on-going real world conflicts remains highly contentious, as well as potentially dangerous for publishers and developers who don’t have the power and stability to counter a media/public backlash.

Violence and motion control: a step too far?

With the occasional exception, motion controls are associated with casual gaming. Shiny, happy party sessions, family get-togethers (apparently) and general light-hearted entertainment. As of yet, motion controls have predominantly opted out of attempting to appeal to the hardcore (and cynical) audience, and thus, the more violent content associated with that gaming demographic.

However, there will inevitably become a time when motion control gaming attempts to bridge that gap effectively. But can they implement such controls in a gritty, dark and violent game without trivialising the content itself, and if so, what are the boundaries?

Manhunt 2 on the Wii was a recent and rare example of the merger between the very violent and the casual, that personally speaking, did feel a little unsettling to play. Replicating knife stabs with the Wiimote just seemed too far detracted from what games should essentially be - entertaining - and instead felt all too lurid. The fact that Manhunt 2 was generally a poor game anyway is perhaps beside the point, but it cemented the notion that violence and motion controls were a crass combination.

That was two and a half years ago. Since then we’ve seen Move and Kinect make an impact, and bar a sub-standard fighting title here and there, their respective game libraries have heavily leant towards the casual end of the spectrum. That is not to say that motion control gaming has to accommodate for violent titles. But, unless the gaming giants want the casual and hardcore audiences to largely remain mutually exclusive then there has to be meeting point.

However, it’s understandable as to why developers may be a little tentative. Although Manhunt 2 didn’t exactly do itself any favours with its mediocrity, it did do it’s best at mirroring the protagonist's in-game actions with your real life movements. The question is, was it too real? Did it cross a line between fantasy and realism, and subsequently went beyond the realms of acceptability?

If motion control gaming is about your own physical movements being effectively mirrored on screen, then in that respect surely Manhunt 2 could be deemed a success. It certainly wasn’t subtle - mimicking a frenzied stabbing - but at least it was effective in conveying the action.

The point is though, surely motion controls simply aren’t a subtle way of playing, and subsequently an instance of in-game violence is going to have to be semi-re-enacted via your gestures. It’s that blur of the aforementioned line between fantasy and realism that maybe takes videogames out of their comfort zone and further away from simply being ‘harmless fun'. I’m in no way suggesting that (citing Manhunt 2 again) mimicking a stabbing with a Wiimote will make you want to attack people in such a way, but it’s an uncomfortable step from simple button presses to a physical representation of an undeniably horrific act.

Another problem - especially with Kinect - is that the hardcore, and thus the more violent games, have such a vast array of actions that it would be incredibly difficult for motion controls to fully cover their spectrum of movement (check out Bojeeva’s article on the FPS genre in that respect). Violent actions or not, could a GTA game be fully integrated into a motion control scheme? It’s doubtful.

There’s no doubt that there’s a problem for developers in that regard. Can hardcore content be tastefully and efficiently implemented into a motion control game, and can it offer an experience that a standard version could not?

Maybe the answer lies in a title which is solely developed for motion control and therefore isn’t a clumsy port from the original console version. Manhunt 2 was ugly, granted, but you’d like to think that the potential for hardcore motion control gaming has a lot more to offer than that.

~ If you missed part one, find it here

Dashbored - consoles should stick to gaming

Our games consoles have evolved. No longer content with spending their existence performing the task we all bought them for - running our video games - they wanted more.

They craved our undivided attention, want to watch a movie? 'I'll do that!' bit of music? 'Me me me!!' Our console can now perform the tasks of a variety of devices all on it's own. It's become the 'Daddy' of the entertainment centre and it's managed it without resorting to violence.

Not so long ago this new found desire to give us gamers more landed on our dashboards. In came MSN Messenger, LastFM, Facebook, Twitter, Zune Videos, Zune Music and Sky Player, gatecrashing our gaming lives and turning our heads with their promises of an even more fulfilling console experience. I'll openly admit as someone that has regularly used most of these dashboard newcomers away from my console, I was excited...
That excitement was soon replaced by my old friend disappointment.

But how could I be disappointed with these attempts to transform my beige console into something altogether more colourful? Well, here's the problem. With the exception of Sky Player all these new apps are far superior on the old PC. Facebook & Twitter look like Lite versions of their bigger PC brothers , LastFM is choked by any real lack of scope on console and I stopped signing into Messenger after around a week of frustrating controller typed conversations.

'Take 5 seconds saying what you want on laptop?'

'Now you can take 5 minutes misspelling it on console.'

I had high hopes for this new chapter in the book of gaming, truth be known I still do, it's just that so far I've been left cold. If a console wants to dominate my spare time with activities other than feeding my passion for video games it needs a new angle, something fresh, something that isn't an infinitely more fulfilling experience on a PC, in fact something that has never been seen on monitor before.

What feature could herald this new dawn in console interactivity? I'll be damned if I know, I'm just a writer trying to put some form to the ramblings in my head, but until the light bulb sparks in the think tank at Microsoft and delivers I think I'll stick to using my games machine to do the unthinkable.....and just play games.

(Photo credits:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Review: Vanquish

It’s not often you’re faced with a game that features a chain-smoking protagonist and plenty of gratuitous upskirt camera shots but Vanquish combines the two with aplomb. It’s refreshing in a world that demands excessive political correctness that Shinji Mikami - the brains behind the acclaimed Resident Evil series – has been able to get away with such things and create this fantastic title; a game that is not only massively entertaining but one that enhances existing elements of the traditional third person shooter genre. SEGA and Platinum Games’ latest sci-fi epic is a must-buy game.

So what do you get for your money? Robots. Big, bad-ass robots. The biggest bad guys since Lost Planet 2. And guns, lots of guns. And explosions. Oh, and a plot that’s as daft as it gets.

Population growth has gone haywire and the planet is bursting at the seams with the population now in excess of 10bn. Resources are dwindling. The canny US government thus decided to enter the final frontier and set up some funky solar-harvesting space station in the stratosphere. Unfortunately, the Russian government is overthrown and replaced by an extremist group ominously called the Order of the Russian Star - which is intent of taking some of that solar goodness for itself. Cue an attack on aforementioned space station, the launch of devastating energy waves that raze parts of the US to the ground and the dawn of yet another war between the old enemies.

Clearly, the US government isn't going to take this lying down and responds to the threat by sending hardened war veteran, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Burns (no, not Scotland's favourite son!), and his crack team of marines skyward to go and sort things out. But they're not alone - oh, no, they've got lovable rogue and our overall good guy Sam Gideon along for the ride. And he’s wearing a funky robot suit.

Sam isn't your typical former-American football player turned hero, Sam's a chain-smoking researcher from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) - and he doesn't like Russians. In fact, he likes nothing better than to don his rather high tech armour suit (or Augmented Reaction Suit - ARS) and dive, boost and blast his way through their ranks without a care in the world. As you may have gathered, he’s got a pretty great “ARS”; the integrated jet packs allowing him to scoot about the place at speed for a limited time, while the suit is also capable of scanning nearby firearms and morphing into them to give Sam huge amounts of firepower. As an aside to despatching those pesky Russian Star guys, Sam also has to rescue missing scientist Professor Candide - helped by the short skirt-wearing Elena.

And so the scene is set. It’s not surprising that the story is pretty woolly – or that the stars of the game are caricatures. Afterall, Platinum Games’ deal with Sony has already brought us the likes of Bayonetta and MadWorld – so these guys have got form.

But ignore the stupidity and the machismo and you’ll discover an amazing title that takes the benchmark set by the acclaimed Gears of War and racks it up a notch.
The ARS is a device that’s used very well by the developers; not only does the shiny utility suit help you dart about the place to avoid incoming fire or duck into cover, it also acts as a last gasp shield – providing a brief period of protection should you receive too much damage. This sees the action slow to Matrix-style bullet time, allowing you to take evasive action and recuperate.

Graphically, it’s all very impressive. The environments are colourful and sprawling, and don’t degrade when a lot is happening onscreen or when using your super-fast jet packs. Aurally, it’s equally strong – with decent voice acting and suitably raspy weapon sounds.

The AI is decent too and the range of enemies offers plenty of variety, requiring players to adjust their tactics, fighting style and weapons accordingly. Besides the red footsoldier robots that succumb easily to a well-placed headshot and the smaller ball-like machines that roll about and then pound you with gun fire, there are plenty of tougher adversaries too. Not so long after starting your quest you’ll face the massive Argus robot – a four-legged beasty that soaks up your gunfire before transforming into its taller two-legged guise. It’s an absolute behemoth but seeing it explode after numerous attempts proves hugely rewarding and drives you on.

As you may have gathered, this game is a firm favourite – it is, however, woefully short, coming in at around 7-8 hours even on the hardest setting; those among you who opt for Casual difficulty will complete the game in half that. However, I doubt whether there’s much of a replayability factor beyond the separate challenge missions and mopping up any left over achievements. One of these is awarded for making it through the game without dying once – an achievement that may prove elusive to this reviewer seeing as I died a staggering 74 times on the first level alone (your kills, deaths and mission time is shown at the end of each mission).

To maximise your enjoyment, we’d definitely recommend tackling this on Hard the first time round – after an initially steep learning curve while learning your suit’s abilities, you’ll soon master the controls and be sliding and shooting with ease.

This is a fantastic title – and, even better, it’s now available in most stores for an absolute pittance. Highly recommended. Just can’t wait for a sequel!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Why Kinect is not ready for an FPS

For those of you who harboured excitement and anticipation for the next slew of releases for Kinect on the Xbox and suggested that it truly would replace the conventional controller, think again... For now, at least, the premise that hardcore gamers will soon be enjoying the likes of First Person Shooters like Call of Duty through the motion controller is simply laughable.

If a recent playthough of Hudson Soft's dire Sports Island Freedom (AKA Deca Sports Freedom) is anything to go by, such lofty aspirations are nothing more than a distant pipedream. For the record, had we done a review of the game, it would have achieved our "Avoid It" rating!

To date, my experience with Kinect titles has been largely positive. Sure, there's been occasional lag or the camera failing to pick up movement but overall, I've been very impressed by the new technology. What's more, I've really enjoyed bounding about the place to play games as diverse as Dance Central, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and Kinect Sports.

When Sports Island emerged I must confess I was quite excited by the prospect. Granted, it's been subject to plenty of mixed reviews but I was pleased to see a little bit more imagination over some of the other Kinect releases. This was a game that would introduce people to the delights of kendo, archery, figure skating and snowboarding - a game that could show off the scope of Kinect's capabilities, and appeal not only to casual players but the more dedicated among us.
Alas, it wasn't to be. So much so that I couldn't even muster the enthusiasm to mop up the easy achievements for Megabits' ongoing Gamerscore Challenge!

The motion tracking was lame, the menus and control system were abysmal and the mini games proved to be absolutely no fun whatsoever - alone or when playing alongside another unfortunate soul. But one of the "events", in particular, highlighted that Kinect just isn't ready for the FPS genre - not by a long shot (or a headshot, for that matter)!
This sad fact was best illustrated by the paintball minigame, which on paper sounds absolutely fantastic. A decent-sized arena, guns, two teams - a winning formula. Shame then that the controls are so convoluted and your actions somehow get lost by the time they're interpreted onscreen.

A small box is displayed showing the position of your feet and to move, you simply step/lean in the desired direction, raising your hand to shoot. It's simple. Sadly, it just doesn't work and I was soon urging the countdown timer to expire. I know it's early days but Kinect just doesn't seem compatible with the requirements of today's shooters. I seriously question if it ever will be. Here are a few very good reasons why FPS games are not ready to get an outing on Kinect just yet:

Space restrictions
As illustrated while "playing" paintball, it's nigh on impossible to stay within that infernal movement box. In all the excitement, too often you find yourself jumping this way and that, leaving the view of your little black camera - while your onscreen persona remains completely stationary and becomes cannon fodder for the opposing team. Kinect's biggest flaw remains its space limitations.

Reaction times
The very nature of a frenetic FPS such as Call of Duty is that you need to move and react quickly. You can't hang around when bullets are whizzing past your head or a frag grenade has landed at your feet. You need to be constantly on the move - which is pretty tricky when you've got to remember to stay inside that box (
clearly, there's going to be a point where you'll run out of energy playing this through Kinect anyway). Then there's always going to be a certain degree of lag with Kinect too, meaning that your movements won't always translate into the actions you'd expect - hugely frustrating for a shooter!

No freakin' buttons
Without buttons, how do you fire or change your weapon? Throwing grenades will be pretty easy but how could I signal that I want to change my pistol for a FAMAS. How do I zoom my sniper rifle or reload? Sure, you could raise your arm, extend your fingers (if Kinect could detect them) to form like a faux gun and shout "bang, bang" to the microphone but that doesn't really make you look very cool and frankly, makes the serious issue of killing bad guys a bit of a joke. If only one weapon were available, perhaps this wouldn't be an issue... but the armoury in Black Ops was huge.

Go prone - WTH!?
Need to stay out of sight from that sniper up ahead. Want to go prone or crouch? Really? Games such as EA Sports Active 2 have, at least, proven that Kinect can detect you on the floor but it's hugely impractical to dive for cover or stay crouching for sustained periods, isn't it? What's more, Sport Active 2 also proved that floorwork doesn't produce the most accurate results. Whether Kinect could detect you accurately if it were mounted atop the television, on the wall behind or beneath the screen may mean varied results too.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Violence and video games - part one

Violence and videogames: just hearing the two within the same sentence is enough to aggrieve the medium’s defenders and rile up its critics in equal measure. From constructive commentary to ill-informed scaremongering, we’re never too far away from an opinion being aired, be it the harbingers of doom and gloom or the voice of reason.

Whether we’re nodding in agreement or are adamantly against these assessments on the subject, the evidence is plain to see - videogames do revel in violence. Since the first pixelated laser beam emerged from a solitary spaceship’s cannon, to Bulletstorm’s ‘Kill with Skill’ mantra, violence - both fantastical and graphic - has always been a pertinent theme in games.

As long term gamers, the vast majority of us can vouch for our own mental stability despite playing violent titles for many years. We haven’t been moulded into homicidal maniacs no matter how ardently Jack Thompson claims that we have, and contrary to popular opinion in the right wing media (yes, you Fox News/The Daily Mail etc…), videogames are not responsible for all of the world’s ills. However, with regards to the manner that Thompson, Carol Lieberman et al blindly rush to scapegoat games for society’s downfall, it’s important for us to avoid sweeping generalisations and adopting an equally stubborn stance on the subject.

It’s easy, and indeed is the natural response for us to leap to videogames’ defence at the slightest hint of criticism. However, there are important points to consider here, despite the irritating and sensationalised nature of much of the non-gaming media’s reporting of the matter.

First and foremost age-ratings are there for an obvious reason. BBFC and PEGI classifications don’t adorn game boxes for aesthetic effect. No matter how liberal we are, most of us will agree that young children shouldn’t play very violent videogames. This prevention, of course, lies with parental responsibility. A game like Dead Space 2 is clearly intended for mature audiences, and a parent that disregards the classification advice and allows a child to play it must fully accept responsibility for them having access to such (potentially damaging) content.

It is not the fault of the games industry if a child gets their hands on a title that is obviously not aimed at such a young age range, but rather, lax parenting. A responsible parent will monitor what games their child has access to, and what is and isn’t appropriate for them to play should be made perfectly clear by the guidelines in place.

Gratuitous violence
The degree of violence in a game is certainly not representative of its overall quality. Some of the most critically acclaimed videogames are incredibly violent (GTA IV/ God of War etc), yet they do not solely rely on its inclusion. Such games do not adhere to the mantra of “mindless violence”. They have other entirely more meaningful and praise worthy attributes beyond the shock and gore effect - or violence for violence’s sake. If buckets of blood and the size of the body-count somehow equated to commendation, then something like the Splatterhouse remake would be considered peerless. As it is however, it tries to deviate attention from its mediocre gameplay by going overboard with reams of claret and severed limbs.

You’d like to think that the majority of gamers are astute enough to not base their choice of titles entirely on how violent they are, but you certainly couldn’t discount the possibility that a number of us do so.

The point is, that when games are gratuitously violent and mediocre or worse , it simply plays into the hands of your Jack Thompson brand of anti-videogame crusader who constantly seek to devalue them. Games can be immersive, engaging, stimulating, enriching and diverse experiences, and yes, violent too. However, when they are shallow, repetitive, banal and violent, we can find very little to say in defence.

That said, you’d struggle to find an otherwise decent game that was overtly worsened by the inclusion of excessive violence. If a game is poor, it is invariably due to the fact that the core mechanics/gameplay elements are sub-par, not because the developers have decided to ramp up the blood levels. In other words, predominantly, a game is fundamentally bad regardless of violence and gore, but said violence comes across as gratuitous because there are no other redeeming features to reinforce its inclusion.

Can the same be said of quality titles though? Whilst arguably violent content in a game doesn’t necessarily make it worse, can it in fact make a good game even better? Surely if they watered down GTA IV or God of War 3 the overall experience would noticeably suffer as a result. Violence is an integral part of each game’s makeup (though not the be all and end all of it), as they are both centred around inevitably bloody scenarios.

Arguably the developers haven’t set out with the primary thought of making a violent game (unlike Splatterhouse for example). They’ve identified settings that will provide exciting and entertaining experiences (ascending criminal ladder of a modern day America and the mythic brutality of Ancient Greece), and violence happens to be a prevalent theme within them.

The counter argument would be that these settings have been highlighted because they are violent and therefore there is entertaining content to be built around that, rather then vica versa. As touched on however, there is still a point to it. There are vast cultural and historical backgrounds regarding such settings, which play host to the scenarios in each game, rather than simply being told to “go and massacre everyone for the sake of it“. For example, although Kratos’ main drive is bloodthirsty revenge, God Of War taps into Greek Mythology, an incredibly deep and rich source material which is still highly relevant to modern day storytelling.

As brutal as they can undoubtedly be, the quality of each game’s (GTA/GOW series’) overall experience speaks volumes that simplistic, mindless bloodshed couldn’t hope to duplicate. So, can an excellent game still be needlessly gratuitous in its violence? A debateable question, and maybe one that Bulletstorm will answer upon release later this month.

Why do violent games receive more criticism than films?
Or perhaps another way to put it would be, are games simply a substitute scapegoat for films? Of course cinema has had its fair share of condemnation over the years, and prior to that they were telling us that comic books would be the catalyst for society’s downfall. Is it that because videogames are a relatively young, emergent medium, and as such are not fully understood by areas of the conservative media, that they’re an easy target? In other words, a case of ‘fear what you don’t understand’?

Film has long been widely considered to be an artistic medium, along with literature, art and music, yet video games - although a prevalent force in popular culture - are yet to be regarded as such on a mass scale.

To many outsiders, games are still seen as a mind-numbing waste of time with little or no redeeming features to warrant their popularity. Cinema for example is an even more passive engagement than playing games; you’re essentially (although mentally engaged) just staring at a screen. Yet for many critics, games are by far the more demonised pass time despite being fully interactive.

When it comes to violence however, it’s this interactivity that videogames provide which the anti-game brigade uses against them. It’s as if a few button presses or a squeeze of the right trigger will train us to be ruthless, cold hearted killers. For the vast majority of us level headed people, the violent acts we carry out in games will never, ever cross over into our real lives. We are stable enough to understand the difference between fantasy videogame violence and real world atrocities, in the same way that we wouldn’t rush out and attempt to replicate a violent scene from a film, regardless if one is a more interactive form of entertainment.

Of course there are very occasional exceptions where already unstable individuals are especially susceptible if exposed to violent media, and could potentially act in response. This doesn’t mean that the sole blame for an act of violence should be directed at one particular factor (films/games etc..), but a wider context should be considered (upbringing, environment, mental illness etc..). Violent media may well contribute to an already volatile personality, but I’m confident that no-one has played a violent game and suddenly, without prior reason or influence, been inspired to re-enact or mimic its content.

Violence plays a huge role in what we choose to play, read or watch, but it seems that the unfamiliar and misunderstood medium will always take the brunt of the blame from those seeking to point the finger. As games make the slow transition from simply a popular form of entertainment towards the more artistic end of the spectrum (as cinema has over time), we may well see a shift in blame to something new and emergent. That said, the ignorant but impassioned likes of Jack Thompson don’t seem like ending their ‘crusade’ against games any time in the near future.

~ Part two to follow next week

Megabits of news: weekly roundup

Megabits of Gaming trawls the web for the tastiest morsels of news, so you don't have to...

OXM keeps quiet on secret game
Official Xbox Magazine has been forced to delay revealing the name of the secret title that's making a big comeback on the console. Readers had been teased in the latest issue that they would find out next month about “one of the best games ever made” being “reborn” on the console. MCV says speculation is rife over what the game is - but fan favourite Syndicate is rumoured.

Plenty of life in the PS3 PS4 for a while
Sony is not, repeat not, even thinking about developing its next PlayStation console... at least not yet. According to Kotaku, the PS4 is very much on the backburner as the company still believes its current flagship machine has plenty of life in it yet.

And the nominees are... BAFTA reveals all
It's only a few weeks until the BAFTA Video Games Awards and the nominations have been announced. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is up for seven awards, Call of Duty: Black Ops and Heavy Rain have six apiece. Mass Effect 2 comes in just behind with five!

Dead Space 2 sales strong... but is another on the way?
It's not long been released, but there are already suggestions that Dead Space 2 won't be the final outing for Isaac! CVG says that EA CEO John Riccitiello commented this week that sales in the series would "start to explode with the arrivial of Dead Space 3"... The second game in the series has already seen double the sales of the original.

Dead Island announcement causes a stir
There aren't enough games featuring zombies, are there? So it's great to see the announcement of Dead Island from Deep Silver. The trailer has already caused some controversy says There will be bucketloads of gore, says Gamingbolt, as "hordes of different festering zombies await players around every corner while they embark on a variety of thrilling missions through the holiday resort". A FPS combined with RPG elements... and zombies? Bring it on!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Smurf controversy raises age questions again

Not so long ago, Megabits mentioned in its Out of iTouch when it comes to modern techarticle about how easy it is to get financially caught out via the free Capcom Smurf’s Village Apple app for the iTouch and iPhone.

Today, this story has also been covered by Kotaku - Is Apple A Little Upset With Capcom? - and POCKET - Apple calls in Capcom over Smurfs' Village IAP controversy.

The articles highlight the need for Apple to tighten its iTunes log in, as the current 15 minutes default isn’t short enough, and is allowing a number of children to unknowingly notch up a list of purchases while playing the free app. I know from my own experience just how risky this can be!!!

Here at Megabits we can fully understand the need to hone in on the current iTunes log in. However, does this open up a wider issue of how old a child should be to be to be allowed to play on an iTunes app – or any game for that matter? The old debate over age restrictions raises it’s ugly head once again…

(Photo credit: Vik Nanda)

Monday, February 14, 2011

VIDEO: History of the First Person Shooter

From Maze War (1973) through Doom (1993) and Far Cry (2004), this video captures the essence of what makes FPS games great - frantic fist-pumping death and destruction.

It's perhaps no surprise that some of the best-selling titles today are shooters - and with the increased emphasis on online play, there's never been a better time to turn your attention to the genre.

Afterall, after a hard day's work, what better way to unwind than to grab your plasma rifle and get a few headshots before bed?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Megabits of news: weekly roundup

Megabits of Gaming trawls the web for the tastiest morsels of news, so you don't have to...

Bulletstorm takes a bashing
Talk about sensationalism… Fox News has leapt on the game-bashing bandwagon and questioned whether upcoming EA shooter Bulletstorm is the “Worst Video Game in the World”. According to psychologist Carol Lieberman, games are bad news: “The increase in rapes can be attributed in large part to the playing out of [sexual] scenes in video games,” she said. Adding to her comments, another source said that Bulletstorm’s explicit language and violence could cause significant damage if younger kids were to experience it! It’s since emerged that the journalists chose not to make the argument as balanced as they might.

Back to the wastelands of Pandora
According to VG247, Gearbox Software CEO Randy Pitchford has confirmed Borderlands 2 - the sequel to the vastly underrated 2009 RPG shooter - is in development. Great news for us fans of scavenging!

3DS launch games announced
Nintendo’s much anticipated 3D version of its handheld console is out next month but the gaming giant has revealed the 13 titles available at launch. There’s something for everyone’s tastes – in all their 3D glory: Pilotwings Resort, Nintendogs, The Sims 3, Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, PES 2011, Super Street Fighter IV, Ridge Racer, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, Super Monkey Ball, Samurai Warriors: Chronicles, Asphalt, and Rayman.

Out with the old in with the new
Turns out die hard retro gamers are pretty keen to get hold of the latest consoles too. According to a survey by Retro Gamer magazine, some 85% of its readers own current gen machines. “All three current gen systems allow gamers to play classic games from yesteryear,” said Retro Gamer editor Darran Jones.

RIP DJ Hero, Guitar Hero and True Crime
C&VG reports that Activision said this week that it has decided to cancel this year’s update of DJ Hero, along with best-selling series Guitar Hero and True Crime: Hong Kong. A decline in music game sales was blamed on the Hero games being canned.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

First Look: Fight Night Champion

I’ll start with a disclosure: I’m an enormous boxing fan and I loved Fight Night Round 4 so much it was my game of 2009.

As you can imagine, I’ve really been looking forward to Fight Night Champion. Granted, I didn’t really care about the addition of extra blood and gore, which I assumed was just a sop to the MMA crowd, but the addition of a story mode really appealed: I’ve played through the legacy mode of Fight Night Round 4 several times, and my head is always writing my boxer’s biography as I do, so the idea of seeing what sort of story someone else would tell about my fighter had a natural appeal.

Ok, I was aware that there was going to be a tweak to the punch control, but between my love of the existing game and my curiosity about the new mode, I didn’t really give it much thought. Well, I’ve since downloaded the demo and played a match as all four fighters and I’ve never been quite so disappointed by a game. I’ve had one of those moments where I think that if gaming’s going to do this to me, I might just sell my Xbox and buy a Monopoly board.

Now there’s an obvious caveat here, which is that I’m forming my opinion from the demo rather than the full game. Nevertheless, I have two major complaints here, one that comes from the gamer part of me, and the other from the boxing fan. The first of them is to do with the new Total Punch Control system which is clearly a design choice rather than something due to be fixed between demo and release. I’m not alone in whinging about this, so I’ll get it out of the way first.

As a boxing fan, I loved the way the old Total Punch Control mimicked the difficulty of getting off certain shots. Jabs and crosses are comparatively easy to throw, hooks require slightly more precise timing, uppercuts require precision movements and timing, and adding all your leverage to turn your shot into a haymaker is the most difficult of all. As an admittedly sweatless, blood and brain-damage free mirror to real boxing, Fight Night Round Four got it just right. In fact, I’ve even heard ex-World Champions talk about deliberately throwing their uppercuts at an opponent’s chest rather than chin: the thinking being that it’s possible to adjust mid-throw to land on the chin if the odds look good, but that the chances of the odds looking good are slim enough that it’s better to set out with the intention of getting a body blow in the bank.

If you’re still awake after that bit of boxing apocrypha you’ve probably discerned my point-the fact that the old Total Punch Control made certain shots trickier to pull off was part of what made the game so good.

And what do we have now? A new Total Punch Control that simply assigns each blow to a direction on the stick. No looping arcs of the thumb to be mirrored on the screen if you get it right, just a simple flick in a given direction. It’s less like a fighting game and more like one of those tedious turn-based JRPGs where you simply choose which moves you think will work best and see how they play out.

Worst of all, it takes the game away from the stylists, those who like to play with a certain fluency, who like to work behind a jab, dancing an intricate stutter-step, circling away from those big right hands as they probe the guard, slip some wicked shots in under the ribs, dragging the guard down and setting up a clean, clinical finish. It gives it instead to the haymaker spammers, the meatheads who throw nothing but RB-modified hooks and gigglingly yell ‘Hadouken’ into their microphone as they do so. That’s not a pretty picture is it?

My second complaint is the biggy, the potential game-destroyer for me, and it’s one that I’m desperately hoping is going to be fixed before release, although given the size of the problem and the proximity of the on-sale date, I’m doubtful.

In Fight Night Round Four the dimensions of the fighters, the way their bodies were animated, and the game’s underlying physics engine came together to create a perfect storm of boxing variety: every possible combination of fighters opened up a different tactical can of worms based on their respective hand and foot speed, height and reach. You had to figure out what worked not for a given fighter, but for a given fighter against a given opponent. As the old boxing adage goes, styles make fights. (On the subject of which, I’m sorry to all those XBL Mike Tyson’s who lost incredibly long and boring matches to my perpetually jabbing and retreating Roy Jones Jr, but hey, it’s your own fault for being so obvious.)

In Fight Night Champion, this beautiful merger of physics, geometry and animation appears to have turned its toes up. Check out Ali vs Tyson. Ali, a 6ft 3in stylist with an 80inch reach, fast hands and jab that struck out like a cobra, long and straight. Tyson, 5ft 10in at best if you believe his publicist, which no one does, 71in reach, best known for his short, devastating hooks. In Fight Night Round 4 a match up between these two fighters would be an exhilarating display of contrasting styles. In Fight Night Champion, Ali throws butt ugly ‘chicken-wing’ jabs with a range that can barely be distinguished from Tyson’s hooks, let alone representing the 9inch reach differential between them. The result is that Tyson fights like Tyson, but Ali doesn’t fight like Ali. In fact, he fights like Tyson. Another sop to the power-punchers over the stylists.
There are other minor niggles. The desaturated colours and film grain make Fight Night Champion look like a grindhouse movie for no apparent reason, and the corner game that made you work to balance power, resilience and durability seems to be gone as well. From the demo it’s hard to see what’s actually left in the game.

Despite all of this, I’m still actually looking forward to Fight Night Champion. I’m enough of an optimist to think that the full game will be infinitely more polished and nuanced than the demo, and enough of a boxing fan to buy the game regardless. But where the £40 I spent on Fight Night Round Four were among the best I’ve ever spent on gaming, I suspect the outlay on Champion will leave me feeling stung.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Megabits column: Assassin's Creed Brotherhood

A few months ago, Megabits of Gaming was asked to contribute a monthly column in Charged Middle East – a leading Dubai-based gadgets and games magazine that provides news, reviews and features on the latest home and consumer electronics.

Each month, Megabits takes a look at a new release in a gaming franchise and considers how its evolved over the years and what makes it great!

Here’s the latest of the articles from the February 2011 issue. For more about the magazine, check out its Facebook page after the jump.

Stealthily climbing up the Christmas sales charts; Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood was a surprise contender to sneak into the coveted number one spot. Had it not been for the perennially-successful FIFA series or the ridiculously popular Call of Duty: Black Ops, our parkour-loving protagonist may well have triumphed.

Described by many as Assassin’s Creed 2.5, the third game in the series since 2007 is a shining example of what happens when developers actually listen to the consumer. The feedback after the much-hyped launch of the first in the series was mixed to say the least.

Adopting the role of master assassin Altair during the Third Crusade in 1191 AD, we were promised an exciting new free-roaming world that would combine the coolest elements from classic titles such as Thief: The Dark Project (1998), Hitman: Codename 47 (2000) and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2003). Its environments were unique; any building or mountain could be scaled, any obstacle overcome (except water, which caused our hero to drown even when it barely covered his boots)… However, for some reason it just wasn’t that much fun.

The premise ticked all the right boxes: a memory-based time traveling storyline, a free-running hero, unrivalled graphics and, most importantly, the ability to assassinate targets in a variety of gruesome ways.

Sadly, there was very little substance to the game and you’d find yourself roaming about aimlessly between each repetitive mission. At first this wasn’t too bad as you soaked up the atmosphere of 12th century Jerusalem but the appeal quickly wore a little thin.

Few would have expected the subsequent games to be any better, but they couldn’t have been more wrong. The sequel once again put you in control of a robed killer, just as happy to scale a tall building as to leap from the top. This time round, however, your playground was 15th century Italy and your missions were seen through the eyes of Ezio, a decent sort who had to quickly learn the art of stealth and assassination following the brutal murder of his father and brothers. By honing your skills as you progressed through the missions, you learned how best to dispatch your enemies and retrieve those all important treasures and trinkets.

Forgive the slightly convoluted story and you would quickly become engrossed by the new environments of Florence, Tuscany and Venice - vast, living, breathing cities. Besides the actual gameplay, the cut scenes and voice acting were a marked improvement on the original too.

The fighting elements had also been much improved and somehow, the multitude of button presses and combinations required to get Ezio about the place didn’t seem half as complicated as during Altair’s outing.

So to Brotherhood, and the story picks up where Assassin’s Creed II ended - our suave protagonist Ezio making a welcome return, funky cape and hidden knives included. This time it’s off to the city of Roma - offering plenty of new towers to climb and loads of lovely vistas to gawp at.

Granted, it’s more of the same, but every element of the title is an improvement on its predecessors. Ezio can now call upon his titular “Brotherhood” to help out too, recruiting and dispatching fellow assassins to get some assistance should he find himself in trouble.

As a final nail in Altair’s coffin, the new online multiplayer options add a whole new dimension – you joining likeminded killers in a race to track down your prey before meeting your own untimely demise. Inspired.

Few games manage to evolve as quickly and effectively as the Assassin’s Creed series – particularly bearing in mind that this all taken place in a single console generation. Ubisoft has achieved something exceptional with its relatively nascent IP; if nothing else, it has proved that the customer IS always right.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

VIDEO: The (very) brief history of gaming

Gaming is arguably one of the fastest moving markets in the world - with millions of us likeminded addicts sitting at home each day fragging, strafing and pwning. Who would have thought that just a few decades ago this was all completely unfathomable and people had to do things like read or go out with friends? Pah.

Check out this homage to the history of gaming - cleverly put together by a group of German design students. Clearly, there are a few omissions but it still provides a good idea of how quickly our favourite past time has evolved...

History of Gaming from Florian Smolka on Vimeo.

Monday, February 07, 2011

10 games that MUST be remade for Kinect

Much to the surprise of some in the Megabits team, the little green light at the front of my Kinect camera continues to shine like a lighthouse in a sea of underused peripherals. It seems that plenty of you out there share my enthusiasm for the gadget too, judging by the sales boost that helped to line Microsoft's pockets this yuletide.

From the voice control to the Tom Cruise-like waving of arms to navigate the menus, using it rather than a conventional controller still feels a little alien and takes some getting used to - but you can't help but be impressed by the technology.
Having waded through some of the launch titles - with a day or two of recovery between plays because of tired and achy limbs - I've been largely impressed with the initial efforts. Granted, there's plenty of rubbish out there too - the so-called shovelware that Nintendo's Wii is notorious for - but the support is certainly there to prevent Kinect becoming an expensive flop.

Looking ahead, there are some exciting prospects in the pipeline and Kinect's lineup is fairly promising - particularly horror game Rise of Nightmares and the psychedelic awesomeness that is Child of Eden. But Megabits has also had a bit of a brainstorm and come up with some classic titles that deserve a reboot - and, most importantly, would be perfectly suited to this motion control phenomenon...

Black & White - Not for the first time, Peter Molyneux and Lionhead promised great things with the release of the original Black & White in 2001 and with its sequel four years later. Unfortunately, despite the great concept, it never really lived up to expectations. Who wouldn't want to become a God, care for a population and manipulate a giant beast to ward off attackers? Complicated mouse gestures were required to master each of these skills - so wouldn't motion control be a great alternative? Apparently, a wired glove peripheral could be used with some patches of the game rather than a mouse... but wired addons are now so last decade.

Tetris - Ah, the puzzle game with the catchy/annoying (*delete as appropriate) Russian tunes that made Nintendo's GameBoy the must have gadget of 1989. Wouldn't a simple arm movement or hand waft picked up by Kinect be the perfect way of conrolling the plummeting blocks? Want to speed things up, then gesture downwards and make them fall more quickly. Only downside - given the game's addictiveness - it that a lengthy session could cause severe muscle ache for the following few days. Still, it would be worth it, right?

Dune II - Before Command & Conquer, there was Dune II - and it's well overdue a comeback! The 1992 rendition of David Lynch's movie/Frank Herbert's novel, this was among the first real time strategy games and is still held in high regard by fans of the genre. Choose a faction - Ordos, Atreides and Harkonnen (the latter was, by far, my favourite - maybe it was their evil red colouring?) - build a base, harvest spice and see off your enemies. Wouldn't it be great to become commander of your forces through motion control provided by Kinect? It would certainly help make you feel much more powerful and important than you used to when gripping your sweaty mouse after an extensive gaming session. Just watch out for the sandworms!

Lemmings - I think I read that this is one of, if not the, most ported game of all time - making an appearance on nearly every home computer and console imaginable. So what harm could one more outing be? If you remember the classic puzzler, you didn't actually control the little green haired fellas but you determined their fate. Couldn't you see gamers selecting certain critters and performing various moves to get them to block, float and build their way out of trouble? Alternatively, if things go badly wrong, just slam your hands on your head and shake your booty to make them all explode!

Arkanoid - the simple paddle game from the eighties would be a great addition to everyone's collection. The concept is proven in motion control thanks to all those tennis and table tennis mini games already available (see Kinect Sports!) but throw in guns, growing paddles, multiballs and even a two player co-op option and this could be a hit?

Cannon Fodder - Besides Sensible World of Soccer, this remains one of Sensible Software's greatest ever releases and I maintain it would be great to see it on current gen consoles using gesticulation rather than mouse control. Form a whole new bond with your elite squad of big-headed squaddies as you lob grenades by flinging your arms about and motion to your armies... War has never been so much fun.

Road Rash - Stop chortling at this suggestion and think for a moment... Classic biking game Road Rash would be perfect for Kinect. You could pull up a chair and movement could be controlled simply by leaning into each bend. Tilting forward to see you accelerate, and back could perfom a wheelie, for example, or reign in your speed? And when you get close enough to a rival, a quick punching movement or shove could send them to the tarmac. There had been rumours that Road Rash was going to make a well-deserved comeback... Kinect could be the perfect vehicle for this racing classic.

The Movies - yet another Lionhead game makes this list... The Movies was the 2005 brainchild of Molyneux, putting you in charge of a new film studio and giving you the power to make those key decisions that determined whether a script would turn into a Hollywood blockbuster. Not only would the ability to control scenes using Kinect be rather cool - but the potential of casting your friends' avatars and sharing your completed movies over Xbox Live would be fantastic.

Parappa the Rapper - Kick! Punch! It's all in the mind... okay, okay, I know this is a Sony game so the liklihood of it being ported to Microsoft's funky new hardware is fairly slim but wouldn't it be fantastic? Even in Kinect's short life so far, there have been a heap of rhythm dance games released of varying quality. Bringing one of the original games of the genre back to life would be perfect for motion control; the button combos replaced by sweeping arm movements and sudden kicks.

Populous - One of my favourite God games of all time despite it being one of the first, Populous kept me glued to the screen for hours. The sounds of a heartbeat heightened the atmosphere, while the awe-inspiring ability to raise and lower the ground, build and improve settlements and create powerful knights to raise merry hell kept that atmosphere tense. I imagine the simple controls could be easily transferred to Kinect - drawing your arm higher could create a mountain or pointing to an area could send your minions off to war. And don't even get me started on bringing the classic Powermonger back... or Mega Lo Mania...