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, March 28, 2011

Review: MotoGP 10/11

Capcom and Monumentals' latest offering in the MotoGP franchise is upon us. The imaginatively titled MotoGP 10/11 comes roaring into view with promises of giving us a true depiction of the hi-octane world of bike racing, with added thrills and, in my case at least, a whole lot of spills. But does the game deliver and stand atop the podium drenched in champagne or does it crash on the first corner and slide to a gravelly death? Lets find out.

I'll start by saying this was a whole new experience for me and, to be fair, I was worried about the transition from the relative safety of the four wheeled racing world to the downright precarious two wheeled one. Thankfully my fears were dampened slightly upon firing the game up and being greeted with the old faithful difficulty settings screen. The options range from a setting for those who have never graced a racer before upto to the elite MotoGP veterans out there. Each difficulty level will set your racing assists accordingly, all of which can then be gradually removed as you progress and become more at home upon your racing machine.

So, I opted for one difficulty level up from Beginner, donned my shiny new leathers, strapped on the helmet and hit the track.....literally. In my experience you can generally tell when a game developer has managed to pull off the simulation aspect of a racing game by how much time you spend during your first few races trying to get back onto the track and true to form for the first twenty minutes it felt like I was playing MotoGP off-road. The handling on the bikes certainly takes some getting to grips with, easing on the front brakes (right trigger) on the approach to corners then tweaking the manoeuvre with subtle nudges on the rear brakes (x button) for example took some getting used to, as did leaning into and out of the sweeping bends and vicious hairpins along the track, but it's a great credit to Monumental just how quickly this all becomes second nature and before long I was riding like I was born for the job. Well, I at least had a lower proportion of gravel and sand in my diet.

Graphically MotoGP 10/11 is solid, sure, there's nothing here that's going to make your jaw drop but all the bikes and riders look nicely realistic, the trackside scenery, when you can break concentration long enough to take any of it in is pleasant enough, a ferris wheel here, a grandstand there. There's also a choice of weather conditions, namely sunny or raining, okay not a vast choice there but the latter certainly looks effective as you rip along the track through clouds of spray thrown up by other riders. One area though that this game truly excels is in giving the player the feel of true speed across the tarmac. When you open the throttle on a long straight the combination of camera vibration, blur and sound is utterly stunning! You could be forgiven for checking your teeth for bugs after experiencing it for the first time.

Audio-wise the game really packs a punch. Each of the different classes of bike sound brutally realistic, a cacophony of whines and growls ring out through the speakers as they eat up the track and when you've twenty five of them hurtling through the race it's a wonderfully immersive experience. This incredible marriage of speed and sound combine beautifully to get the players adrenaline pumping.

In terms of game modes on offer all the usual suspects of the racing genre are present. Chances are that most of your time will be spent in career mode. Here you start life as a lowly unknown newcomer to the bike racing world. You get to pick your team name, bike and colours before kicking off in the 125cc class. The aim is to gradually progress from 125cc up through the Moto2 league until reaching the dizzying heights of the MotoGP bikes. This is achieved by winning races and building reputation. Reputation increases via acts like slipstreaming and riding clean sections to completing little in-race challenges. For example you'll sometimes be given an opposing rider to try and intimidate, a few little nudges as you go side to side usually does the trick and enhances your own rep. A co-op partner can dive in to join your racing team via split screen at any point on the journey from zero to hero which is a nice feature, it's just a shame it's not possible online. Another very enjoyable side of career mode is the management. Between races you can spend a little time hiring and firing staff such as PR people to improve your finances and bring in sponsorship and engineers who can be set to work upgrading various aspects of your racing machine. It all adds that little bit more depth to proceedings and sets career mode apart from the others on offer here.

World championship is basically career mode minus the management side, also all the bikes and riders are unlocked from the off with this one. Time Trial does exactly as you'd expect by challenging you to rack up some seriously quick runs around the various tracks and make yourself famous for five minutes on the online leaderboards. We have challenge mode which harks back to a bygone age of motorbike racers as a clock continually counts down as you race from checkpoint to checkpoint. Lastly we have the online racing. Upto twenty players in a game is a mouthwatering prospect but unfortunately at the time of writing the most i've been in a game with is six, although i'm very pleased to report the whole experience was entirely free from lag and even with the reduced number of competitors it still held a nice air of tension and gave me a whole lot of fun.

The game isn't without it's flaws of course, at times collisions with AI riders will send you sprawling across the tarmac like a rag doll while they'll nonchalantly speed away as though they've just swatted a fly from their visor, there's a slight feel of rubberbanding as well which detracts a little from the overall sim appearance the game gives off and be sure to turn down the music volume, that'll begin to grate after approximately 4.2 seconds believe me

So all in all MotoGP 10/11 has opened my eyes to a new realm of adrenaline fuelled, edge of the seat racing. As far as bike racers go it's surely got to be at the top of the tree and I'd even go as far as to say it can comfortably compete within the racing genre as a whole, there's just so much enjoyment within this game, the career and online modes provide the much needed longevity while single player and challenge modes take care of the quick fix.

If you're already a fan of the MotoGP franchise then chances are this latest title has already found a home within your games collection but if you're new to the bike racing world and unsure about whether to gamble on Monumentals' latest creation then I'd strongly urge you to take the plunge, this is a game that leaves the player smiling, thrilled, completely on edge and thirsting for more and that's exactly how it should be after a MotoGP session.

*Reviewed on Xbox 360

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Megabits of news: weekly roundup

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


Gaming gadgets galore
March has seen the launch of the most important gaming gadgets of the year, according to experts quoted in MCV. The Xperia Play, iPad 2 and Nintendo's 3DS are expected to be the must-have gadgets of 2011.

3DS Buyer's Guide
In case you hadn't heard, Nintendo's 3DS hit the shelves this week.... Kotaku has pulled together this rather handy 3DS buyer's guide.

Resident Evil revived

Along with news of plans to rerelease Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil: Code Veronica, there are now rumours that a Canadian developer has been approached to develop an entirely new addition to the series - Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City.

Road Rash, Magic Carpet, Syndicate still possible...

EA has confirmed that it has not forgotten about its classic IPs and that there is always potential for a comeback for some of these top titles, says CVG. Fingers crossed for Syndicate.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Clanlife: Your clan needs you

You’d be hard pressed in this modern age of online gaming to get through an evening of play without at some point running into a clan. They’re bloody everywhere and come in all manner of shapes and sizes. No matter what your preferences are when it comes to getting busy online there’ll be a clan with your name on it. We’ve got clans for the ultra serious, clans for the aged and decrepit, all girl clans, all male clans, region based clans, under 18s clans, CoD clans, Gears clans, Killzone clans. In fact, you name it and chances are it’s covered. If I were to see a forum ad tomorrow wanting members for a ‘no console clan’ for everyone without a gaming machine I honestly wouldn’t bat an eyelid.

The clan scene has grown beyond all recognition, from little acorns and all that, and the clan oak now casts it’s shadow over a huge portion of the online gaming universe. But what’s the draw of becoming a footsoldier in the ranks of one of these gaming tribes? Well, where to start. How about you want to expand your friends list with a bunch of like-minded gamers? Clans can offer that. Maybe you want a friendlier environment in which to practice your headshots than the one generally served up to you by PSN and Xbox LIVE when you join random matches? Clans can offer that too. Perhaps you have a real longing for some genuine teamwork, to be in a game where when you glance back your team-mates haven’t gone AWOL on some Rambo-esque mission of their own leaving you outnumbered, outgunned and out of luck? Yep, clans can also offer that. In fact, if you let them, a clan can completely change your gaming life; like a drug you’ll become intoxicated by it, the teamwork, the banter and the rich array of characters you’ll stumble upon will open up previously unexplored avenues of gaming to you. In some ways clan life has parallels with the real world but instead of heading down to the pub to meet your mates and share the banter and laughter over a few cold ones you set up in your favourite chair and head online to meet your gaming mates and share the banter and laughter over a few cold ones - with the added bonus of being able to shoot them if they annoy you, cyber bullets of course.


So does life in a gaming clan appeal? Maybe you’re already enjoying it’s trials and rewards and have found your home, where you now sit feet up, fire crackling and an AK47 across your lap ready to fight side by side with your clan brothers and sisters come the call to arms. If indeed you are actively seeking out a new place to call home, be patient... don’t dive headlong into the potentially shark infested waters of the first clan you come across or the first to come to you; the brochure may say 5 star accommodation but when you end up in the manger with the donkey, don’t say you weren’t warned.

To get the most out of being a clan member it’s vital that you fit the clan and the clan fit you. Some clans, particularly newly formed ones will take anyone and everyone under their wings in an initial bid to boost numbers, a tactic I myself embraced during the first few weeks after the birth of my old, now defunct, clan. It’s a tactic that can see problems arising in next to no time and for a variety of reasons. Believe me it’s not a pleasant place to find yourself. Instead, if you’re planning to pop your clan cherry and enlist, seek out the more established groups out there. Clans that hold fair play and respecting the opposition in high regard are good starting points. Most have a short trial period these days, perfect for showing them what just what an all round good egg you are and discovering that they’re the right fit for you also.

If clan is the all encompassing name that embraces these groups of online soldiers that come together to wage war on each other, then they can also be broken down into sub-categories.
We have the ‘winning is everything’ type of clan, ultra serious, ultra competitive and out for blood. Generally setting out their stall on one of the major gaming ladders sites in an attempt to conquer all and become known worldwide as a slick, precise and deadly team to face. Teamwork and communication tend to be key with these clans and new members generally have to prove they can hold their own before being considered for a place among the ranks.

Then there are the clans who live by the ‘fun comes first’ motto; usually larger in number than their elite counterparts and also considerably more inebriated - or was that just my clan. The pre-requisite for induction into their numbers is attitude. Enjoying the in-clan banter and getting involved within the forums are will stand you in good stead. But don’t be fooled, these guys are no push overs in matches, they just laugh a lot more and don’t care too much about results. Chances are you’ll also find a wider range of ages within the more casual clans. There are so many clans out there that it won’t take long to find the one that suits your style.


Thinking about starting your own attempt at world domination? Well be prepared, it’s a big job, in fact at times it’ll almost feel like mission impossible. My own experience was like a cross between running a global corporation and being in an 18-month long episode of EastEnders; there were highs and there were lows, friendships were formed, fallouts were mediated, battles were won and a whole lot more were lost but ultimately it was a thoroughly rewarding experience right up to the point when the wheels eventually fell off and we ground to a juddering halt. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the guys and girls who run successful and well established clans and if you want to be counted among their numbers then go for it. Build slowly, build respect among your peers and have fun with it, it’s hard work but it can reap great rewards. In the words of Field of Dreams, ‘if you build it, they will come'.

For me although the clan side of my gaming has taken a back seat in the last couple of years I am still a proud member of the Project Echelon clan/community, and i’ll admit I haven’t been the ideal member of late being so inactive I’m almost comatose but, if any budding new clans are looking for the perfect blueprint of how clans should run you could do a lot worse than following the Echelon way. Over the years they’ve earnt the respect of everyone they’ve encountered and promote only the good side of gaming. Fair play, being humble in victory and gracious in defeat are the order of the day, along with a barrelful of fun and laughter. In fact that shouldn’t just be the blueprint for a successful clan, that should be the blueprint for the whole of the gaming universe.

What?…….I can dream can’t I?

(Photo credit: microwavedboy, Dan Dickenson)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bulletstorm: overblown bravado or groundbreaking?

As your NPC ally mutters the enduring words “I’m not interested in quantifying how much abuse your ass is built for”, it becomes irrefutably clear that Bulletstorm (although undeniably violent) approaches the FPS with light-hearted imprudence.

However, with titles such as Homefront and Medal Of Honor attempting to star in their own Call of Duty inspired success stories, so called ‘gritty realism’ is now the predominant driving force behind many shooters. It’s a genre that takes itself more seriously than ever before. The military FPS - once only a small sub-section - now dominates the market, inherently influenced by Activision’s goldmine franchise.

Whilst the COD series itself continues to break sales records annually, recent incarnations have been accused of becoming somewhat stale, with very little new additions to the formula. With Call of Duty receiving it own criticism for lack of forward thinking, the ‘COD clones’ tend to repackage the experience in the hope of capitalizing on its popularity. Although this may be a slight generalisation, from personal experience, much of Call of Duty’s fan base is stubborn in regards to adopting another FPS title.

The result is one hugely successful franchise that minimally improvises from year to year, and an abundance of samey, less popular shooters desperate for a piece of the pie. In one other word - uninspired.

Cliff Bleszinski, far from the shy retiring type, has made no secret of his distaste for the generic, modern FPS. His involvement in the clever pre- Bulletstorm marketing campaign - the scathing Call Of Duty parody, Duty Calls - is testament to this.



Of course it’s all well and good for Bleszinski to unload on Call of Duty and its army of clones, but he needs some decent ammunition with which to do so. Enter the aforementioned Bulletstorm (reviewed after the jump).

A month after release and some probing questions surrounding the game can hopefully be answered. Is it a groundbreaking title that defies current FPS conventions, or an immature slug-fest that regresses the genre rather than advance it?

In terms of FPS gameplay mechanics, Bulletstorm certainly brings something new to the table. The score powered skillshot system is a breath of fresh air in comparison to the ‘tin-can shoot’ cover based approach of many other titles. It’s a game that encourages a degree of creativity (and importantly to have an immense amount fun), something that shooters notoriously lack. Rather than squeezing the trigger and wildly spamming grenades, dispatching of enemies in unique and spectacular fashions drastically effects how you approach combat. It’s a kaleidoscopic trip of outlandish make-believe weaponry and cartoon ultra-violence.

No military authenticity here - Bulletstorm revels in it’s own ridiculousness. It’s brash and over the top, but it’s actually an incredibly clever game masquerading as a big dumb shooter.

On the surface, granted, this seems like rather an indefensible point. Shooting mutants in the testicles, feeding them to killer plants, explosive guided sniper rifle bullets, unsubtly titled ‘drilldo’ skill shots - this is unbridled masculine bravado right? It is in a way, yes, but this is not simply in place solely for male titillation.

Bulletstorm is doing what other, more generic shooters are afraid to do. Openly ridicule itself - in this case with unashamed immaturity - yet it is simultaneously proving that it is actually a far more mature FPS than the rest of the bunch. It knowingly lowers the tone, yet heightens the FPS experience beyond the middle of the road standards that many modern shooters lump for out of fear of risk.

So why does it have to resort to going down such a route? Bioshock proved that it is possible to make both an innovative and serious first person shooter with a strong narrative. One thing is for sure though, Bulletstorm is a far cry from Bioshock (unintended use of three FPS titles in that sentence…) and obviously has absolutely no desire to be.

Whilst the latter heavily relies on its expertly crafted storyline and captivating environment, the former pulls out the stops and guns for the sheer entertainment factor. Whilst the narrative is such a key component of Bioshock’s success, in Bulletstorm it truly is surplus to requirements. It could operate, and receive practically as many plaudits without any story whatsoever.

The script is intentionally absurd. Constant ‘dick’ references and hilariously corny one-liners make up the majority of the dialogue. The now infamous “I’ll kill your dicks!” line perhaps summing up the depth of Bulletstorm’s discourse, or rather, the lack of it. I’ve heard people lamenting the game for this very reason; “well, the acting is complete rubbish and the script is awful”. They’re missing the point though, I feel.

Again, Bulletstorm is fully aware of itself, arguably even satirizing poor script writing in games that take themselves far too seriously. We should certainly be laughing with the game rather than at it. In this case, the entertainment value is derived from outrageous action and an innovative gameplay mechanic - nothing more.

Why potentially push the game into the realms of pretentiousness? A mistake that Modern Warfare 2 clumsily made (though by no means affected its success in any way) with its convoluted plot .

This is a title that firmly as good old fashioned fun at it’s heart. While it openly and knowingly sacrifices elements that it realises would detract from the core gameplay (ill conceived scripting for example), it excels in the very department that made videogames so enjoyable in the first place. In this respect Bulletstorm is a mixture of both old and new: pushing a genre in new directions, but with an old school reliance on addictive high-score gameplay and little need for a meaningful storyline.

However, Bulletstorm’s apparent bravado and nonchalant attitude towards violence can quite easily be taken out of context if misunderstood. For the right wing press and disparaging critics, at an uninformed glance, this is a shining example of everything that’s bad about videogames. And admittedly, on the surface, it doesn’t look good.

For the anti-videogame brigade, a title like Bulletstorm provides a veritable stockpile of ammunition. They see a crass hybrid of immature humour and comic violence (in Carole Lieberman’s eyes apparently such games even turn us into depraved rapists…), and as usual, the knives are out before even attempting to understand the wider context.

I posed the question in an article last month - ‘Will Bulletstorm venture into the realms of gratuitous violence?’ Having played it fairly relentlessly since then, I would have to say no, as it‘s not as simplistic or shallow as that. I can quite easily see how it could be misconstrued as being gratuitous, but, Bleszinski, Epic and People Can Fly Studios are certainly not idiots. They've constructed a game that is far more intelligent than it appears, and as a result, is easily misunderstood at a glance (or by those too stubborn to attempt to alter their perceptions).

Beneath the macho, trigger-happy attitude of Bulletstorm there is actually some well implemented satire, clever parody and intelligent game design. Plus, touching a nerve with purveyors of doom and gloom and stirring up a little controversy, is a nice way to get a little extra marketing behind your game. Epic will no doubt have been fully aware of that fact, again, making the naysayer’s look somewhat foolish.

Bulletstorm is not one of the greatest games ever, not by a long shot, but that doesn’t mean to say that it isn’t important. It’s breathed life into an increasingly stale genre, re-instated good old fashioned entertainment over incessant grittiness - and most importantly - there is so much more than initially meets the eye.

Don’t judge a book by its cover? Indeed, and don’t judge a videogame by its title. Although it may be hard to believe at first, there’s more to Bulletsorm than many will give it credit for.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Marvel vs Capcom 3 proves a hit


It's not long since Capcom's Marvel vs Capcom 3 hit the shelves and a report from game tracking service Raptr shows that it is proving a huge hit among fighting fans! Check out our review after the jump.

Stats show that:

  • 12% of gamers have beaten the game on the hardest difficulty setting
  • 11% of gamers have won 5 online matches in a row
  • 9% of gamers have completed the game with every character
  • fewer than 1% have unlocked all Achievements. The average playtime to unlock all Achievements is around 40 hours.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Review: Bejeweled Blitz Live

PopCap Games' gem-busting title recently landed on Xbox LIVE Arcade as part of the House Party promotion and is, without a doubt, one of the most addictive little slices of gaming I’ve ever experienced. Despite the fact that there are still a few question marks regarding the title... primarily, is it worth the 800 MS points it’ll cost you to experience the Xbox version when the same game is readily available to play for free on Facebook?

The game itself needs very little explaining, surely by now just about everyone on the face of the Earth has had a taste of the Bejeweled world, but just in case you’ve missed it, the basic premise of the game is to detonate as many gems as possible and score as big as possible from the multicoloured board you’re faced with. This is done by moving the pieces either horizontally or vertically and matching up three or more gems of the same colour. Bear in mind though, the pieces can only be moved if there’s a three-plus gem match available, making things a little more frantic as you scan the board hurriedly for the next move. Where Bejeweled Blitz really amps up the pressure is by bringing in the timer. Each game lasts a mere 60 seconds and believe me, when you’re struggling to find matches it can feel far less.

The controls are straightforward enough, tap the Y button to move the selected gem up, A button to move the gem down and X and B for left and right. I was settled into this new control method within a couple of games and it actually felt very natural after a few games more.

Alongside the standard Bejeweled mode the Xbox version also throws in Twist mode. In Twist mode instead of moving one gem you now get to rotate four of them either clockwise or anti-clockwise. The goal is the same, to detonate the pieces as quickly as possible and rack up that big score but Twist mode completely changes the way you look at the board in front of you and is a welcome little addition to proceedings.

There are a slightly limited selection of game modes on offer with this title, standard single player, Battle mode (local and over LIVE) and Party mode. Single player is obviously self explanatory and is the same game you know and love from Facebook, albeit without the rather helpful boosts that the Facebook game gives us. Battle mode pitches you against an opponent where the overall winner is determined by score, style and gems detonated - and is one of the most competitive 60 seconds you’ll ever experience, particularly if played locally against a friend or family member.

Party mode is potentially the place you’ll spend most of your time; up to 16 players battling away to get to the top of the pile. Progress is tracked via little bubbles at the side of the screen that rise and fall as you overtake, and are overtaken, by your opponents. The biggest downside to Party mode is that there’s no cut off point and no score total you’re all striving to reach - so in reality the game could basically go on endlesslly, although it is still a good feeling when you reach the top of the bubble meter, regardless of how long you manage to remain there.


All your scores are tracked on leaderboards, so it’s easy to see how you fare in comparison to your friends and the rest of the Xbox LIVE crowd - a vital feature in a game of this type and something else to keep you coming back for more.

All in all there’s one word that perfectly sums up the Bejeweled Blitz experience and that word is addictive. It’s a classic ‘just one more go’ type of game, largely due to the fact that each session lasts a lightning fast 60 seconds. I can admit I’ve popped the game on for a quick go and still been blasting away two hours later. Despite its Facebook brother being free to play I’d still heartily recommend adding this little gem to your games library. But beware, once you start to pop those gems you might never stop.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

For he's a jolly good Fellow: Peter Molyneux

Peter Molyneux - gaming legend, Megabits of Gaming favourite and seemingly the most enthusiastic guy in the industry - was awarded the Academy Fellowship at the 2011 BAFTA Video Games Awards this week. Frankly, it's about time.

The inventor of the God game genre has seen me waste huge chunks of my life manipulating my virtual minions and tweaking the terrain to become an all-powerful deity. Since Populous back in 1989 - a land-levelling God game, where you controlled the environment rather than a single character - his ideas and innovation have captured the imagination of gamers worldwide.

There have been plenty of other landmark titles along the way too, including Dungeon Keeper, Black & White, Theme Park, The Movies, the Fable series and one of my personal all-time favourites, Syndicate.

As a fan, I must admit I thought it quite cool having to pass his Bullfrog offices on a daily basis when I lived in Guildford, UK.

Sometimes criticised for his overpromises and hyperbole, Molyneux acknowledged in his acceptance speech that he had - on occasion - been a little misleading to the press:

"I'd like to thank the press for listening to my stuff and sorry I've slightly overpromised on things on occasion," he said. "I could name at least 10 features in games that I've made up to stop journalists going to sleep and I really apologize for that."

A clearly emotional Molyneux was touched by the recognition for his 25 years in gaming.

"This industry is incredible. Every day I wake up and thank the stars. I love my job so much and really feel like going back home and working harder than I've ever done to really prove that I deserve this award," he said.

Congratulations Peter - now please bring us a Syndicate sequel!!!

(Photo credit: BAFTA)

Megabits of news: weekly roundup

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


iPad/iPhone joins Metacritic ranks

Kotaku says that popular score-aggretating website Metacritic has started to include iPhone and iPad games ratings and reviews, reflecting the growing markets.

Microsoft defends Games on Demand prices
Ever wondered why the Games on Demand service is so expensive through your Xbox 360? Well, Microsoft has shed some light on the pricing, claiming it's all about convenience! Most of the titles can be bought in your local store for a fraction of what MS charges... but that's not the point - Games on Demand is about being able to buy 24/7 without leaving the comfort of your own home, thus the comparatively-high prices, it says.

New Gamefest show announced
GAME stores have revealed plans to launch the Gamefest consumer show in the UK, according to CVG. The first event will be held from September 16-18 in Birmingham.

Motorstorm/Yakuza delays
Following the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan, Sony has announced that it is delaying the release of Motorstorm and Yakuza games. Both games feature cities affected by disasters, says MCV.

Kinect makes all the right Moves

Analyst Michael Pachter says that Microsoft's motion control camera Kinect is outselling Sony's Move by a ratio of 5:1.

Friday, March 18, 2011

One reason the old days were better

Youngsters entering the wide and varied world of videogaming in the last 10 years seem to have it made: eye-poppingly gorgeous graphics, movie quality soundtracks, fantastic stories being told, minimal loading times, 1080p HD, surround sound and a whole multi-player dimension that when I was a kid seemed as likely as riding a hot air balloon to Mars.

I took a brief trip down memory lane today via the quite brilliant site zxspectrum.net, every speccy game at my fingertips, a prospect that 25 years ago would have had me in excitement meltdown but now leaves me warmly nostalgic but ultimately bored. How any of these games managed to hold my undivided attention for a few minutes let alone the weeks and months they did is beyond me. Quick note ‘Lords of Midnight’ the glorious adventure game by Mike Singleton is exempt from the last sentence as it can still keep me gripped even now.

So, on the surface it would seem there’s never been a better time to get aboard the ‘SS Videogame’ and ride it lightspeed to the stars and into whatever jaw dropping developments are around every corner.

But wait…….there’s one thing today's young generation of gamers don’t have, something so precious Golum would’ve given up his ring for it (that one’s for you Dom), something wondrous, something fresh, exciting, brutally funny and..and well….damn near perfect.

The thing the nippers of today are missing from their gaming lives……Dominik Diamond, Sir Patrick Moore, Dave Perry and the utter genius that was GamesMaster!

Once a week for a far too brief 30 minutes gamers throughout Britain were away from their consoles, glued instead to their TV screens in anticipation of what dizzying brilliance GamesMaster would deliver this time.

Running for seven series from 1992 to 1998 it was the highlight of my already well lit week, news, reviews, celebrity challenges, Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat wars and of course Sir Patrick Moore as The GamesMaster himself with his hints and tips, all thrown together in a blindingly brilliant half hour.

For me though the real genius behind GamesMaster was the main man himself, the Master of Ceremonies and Prince of the Pixelated World, Mr. Dominik Diamond. Oozing charisma, quick witted, piss-taking and packing a sexual innuendo for every occasion, the man raised the show from the magical to the downright legendary and Dominik himself remains a Legend in the eyes of many, many thirty-something gamers everywhere. DD I doff my hat to you Sir.

So, while today the kids are coming into our world of gaming at an amazing and exciting time, they haven’t got GamesMaster to guide them along the way, and for that reason it’s 1-0 to the old guys…….Back of the net!

Note from the author: The complete lack of any mention of series 3 & Dexter Fletcher is deliberate.

FINAL EPISODE: Part 1



FINAL EPISODE: Part 2



FINAL EPISODE: Part 3

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

And the 2011 BAFTA winners are...

This evening saw all the big hitters in the gaming industry convene in London, UK, to cheer on (or curse) their counterparts at the 2011 BAFTA Video Games Awards. Irish funnyman, Dara O'Briain, was the host once again waxing lyrical about the state of the games industry and the awesome games seen over the past year.

From Limbo to Heavy Rain, FIFA 11 to Mass Effect 2, and Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood to Super Mario Galaxy 2, there were plenty of hit titles vying for the awards. Here are the winners:


Action - Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
Artistic Achievement - God of War III

Best Game - Mass Effect 2
Family
- Kinect Sports

Gameplay - Super Mario Galaxy 2
Handheld - Cut the Rope
Multiplayer - Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (review)
Original Music - Heavy Rain
(review)
Social Network Game - My Empire
Sports - F1 2010
Story - Heavy Rain
Strategy - Civilization V (review)
Technical Innovation - Heavy Rain

Use of Audio - Battlefield: Bad Company 2
BAFTA Ones to Watch Award - Twang!

GAME Award - Call of Duty: Black Ops (review)

For more about the awards, visit the BAFTA site after the jump.

Review: Fight Night Champion

Some time ago I hit upon the idea of Mea culpa reviews, something the game journalists badly need in order to bring a little honesty to their work and greater trustworthiness to their reviews. The idea was to highlight and explain the vast differences between your preview and your review of a game, if such differences exist, rather than simply pretending that they never existed in the first place. I wrote a Mea culpa review about Batman: Arkham Asylum after my preview (based on the first hour of the game) suggested something far more middling than the absolute cracker it turned out to be.

Which brings us to Fight Night Champion. My preview of the game was far from optimistic, lamenting the lack of gameplay satisfaction in the new punch controls and worrying that the height-and-reach physics of previous games had been neutralised by what seemed to be an unfortunate combination of bad animation and dumbed down controls. So, did I call it? Or do I need to write a Mea culpa review?

I called it. But only just. Every problem I identified in the preview is present in the main game and is just as disappointing here as it was in preview. But I have to admit that the full game offers much more than was apparent during the preview, and a lot of what’s on offer is good enough to raise my opinion of the game somewhat, to the point where I’m genuinely enjoying it, albeit not as much as I enjoyed its predecessor, Fight Night Round 4.

The game’s Legacy mode, in which you take a created or licensed fighter through their career from amateur to (maybe) multiple world champion has received several small but important tweaks. In FNR4 you trained your fighter, building different skills with different exercises, watching their abilities increase at a rocket pace during their early years and desperately trying to stall or compensate for their decline as they grew old. It was a fun and reasonably authentic system, but it back-loaded the game’s challenge, and could be circumvented by the right choice of fighter and playing style.

In Fight Night Champion there’s a different system, one that feels a little contrived but which does a better job of spreading the challenge throughout the legacy mode. Training exercises earn you XP which you can spend on polishing your fighter’s skills, but they also cost you stamina which leaves you dangerously depleted when you get into the ring for real. Balancing your skills and stamina makes the Legacy mode slightly more engaging than it was in Fight Night Round 4, and significantly more difficult as well: playing on the hardest ‘Greatest of All Time’ settting in Fight Night Round 4 was a real challenge, but here? I’ll confess, I found it almost impossible, and quickly compiled what the fight game would call a losing record. If you seek a challenge, Fight Night Champion is for you.

The game’s ‘Champion’ mode is an interesting new addition, one that adds a narrative to the boxing gameplay as you take control of young prospect Andre Bishop and guide him through a career beset by corrupt promoters and personal tragedies. The plot is nothing more than a string of boxing clich├ęs, but they serve an gameplay purpose-you suffer a broken hand that haunts you later when forced to win a fight one handed, you suffer a cut eye and have to win a fight without taking more than a few punches to the cut for fear of the ref stepping in, that sort of thing. It’s a clever idea that works very well until the final fight of the game where you’re set an alternating series of tough or tedious challenges that suck the fun out of proceedings, turn victory into a relief rather than a triumph, and actually make your eventual win feel like an afterthought to the writer’s attempt to add drama.

That’s not the only complaint either-I can’t imagine the engine has been significantly changed since FN4, but as I’ve said before, the ability to excel simply by mastering the speed and reach of a fighter is gone-jabs no longer work to rack up points whilst keeping you on the outside, as even the rangiest fighter seems to throw ‘chicken-wings’ that allow opponents to move in and do damage. In Champion, stylists need not apply, you need to be a counter-puncher to get the most out of this.

Online the addition of gyms and world ranking system break up the way that achievements are awarded rather nicely, but already EA are going to need to patch certain annoying play traits. Where FN4 was beset by haymaker-spammers, here we find block-pumpers and sidestep-spammers. They ruin pretty much every match they’re in, but if you happen to find a match with a sporting player then there’s plenty of fun to be had.

In all, Fight Night Champion is better than it looks at first glance, and is certainly worth playing, but the increased difficulty will turn some players off, while boxing purists will lament its dredging of cliches and overreliance on counterpunching. There’s a lot of fun to be had here, but we’d definitely say this is a ‘rent it’ rather than a ‘buy it’.

*Reviewed on Xbox 360

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Megabits' Pick of Gaming Disappointments

Now let’s be clear, a disappointing game isn’t always a bad game: the fact is a perfectly good game can still fail to live up to an excess of hype, or a gameplay mechanic that looks like a gameshaper can turn out to be an empty gimmick. On the other hand, some games can garner inexplicable praise and high scores despite having no discernible redeeming features. Up at the top end of this list you’ll actually find some games that are well worth playing and merely failed to live up to their reputations. Down near the bottom you’ll find the games that we think aren’t even remotely worth your time no matter what some people might tell you.

Halo ODST
ODST barely scraped onto this list. The fact is, we rather enjoyed the merging of mystery and sci-fi in the single player campaign, and the Horde inspired multiplayer did a great job of slowly ratchetting up the tension. It’s not that ODST is a bad game, it’s a really good one, but no matter how much you prepare yourself for a different flavour, playing ODST still results in a massive grinding of gears as the high-jumping, machine-gunning bombast you expect of Halo game is replaced with a shadowy mystery story that involves picking through the debris of a battle that’s already lost. Forget finishing the fight, this fight finished almost before you turned up.

Killzone 2
Killzone 2 is marked out by great sound and probably the finest graphics seen this generation, and a selection of stand out levels that really get you immersed in the action, so why is it on this list? Mainly because the several hours of really enjoyable gameplay are largely preceded by and in some cases broken up with some fairly tedious warehouse grinds. This is one of those games that reminds us that fun rather than length should be the primary factor in deciding how good a game is. This could have been six hours of brilliance, but instead it was diluted to nearly twelve hours of merely ok.

Madworld
Having tackled the mildly disappointing, we hit the first game that was a genuine letdown. We all know that the Wii’s hardcore gaming potential has been lost in an avalanche of kiddy friendly shovelware, that for every Metroid Prime 3: Corruption there are six games built around waving the Wii-mote at an imaginary pony. The problem has been identified. The solution is less clearly defined, if this insult is anything to go by.

For some reason, Sega decided that the best way to appeal to a more mature audience was to offer them a juvenile product, a mixture of fetishwear and Itchy & Scratchy style ultra-violence. Now its fair to say that more games than not are unsophisticated power fantasies, but there’s a difference between the machine gun wielding slaughter in, say, Halo and the impale-a-guy- while-commentators-offer- lame-innuendo on display here. The former is simplistic escapism, while the latter is revelling in an odd combination of sex and violence. Say what you like Master Chief, he never skewered a Covenant’s head on a traffic sign before throwing them onto an incongruous wall of spikes, and if he did, I’m pretty sure that sex would be the last thing on his mind.

I could be misinterpreting the game, to be fair. The main character insists, Will and Grace style, on being ‘Just Jack’ and there are an alarming number of lycra-clad buttshots. Maybe it’s more camp than twisted? Who knows, but if it weren’t bad enough that the Wii audience waiting for a grown up game were treated to a juvenile one, it’s made all the worse that when divorced of its admittedly cool monochrome looks and exuberant violence, the underlying gameplay of Madworld barely qualifies as mediocre.

Final Fantasy XIII
Perhaps we all need to just get over Final Fantasy? After all, it has been a long time since FFVII, maybe it will never hit those heights again. Still, the series’ first outing on the Xbox360 garnered all sorts of anticipation on all fronts-technological, storytelling, gameplay, how would the Square make the most of Microsoft’s box after all these years on Sony hardware? Apparently by making a linear corridor crawler that teases you with glimpses of an incredible world to explore whilst not letting you deviate from a set path for the first 12 hours. Apparently it turns out to be brilliant after that first grinding crawl. Then again, apparently drowning is quite a euphoric experience after the first 90 seconds of struggling, choking and having your lung lining washed away.

Timeshift
Pause time, speed it up, rewind it...anyone who has played Braid knows how cool a time control mechanic can be, but Timeshift proves that one good gameplay mechanic can’t carry a whole game. Pausing time to heal or steal weapons from enemies is fun, but the head-bending paradox puzzles that you might expect of a time twisting game never really show up, leaving you with a fairly standard shooter that doesn’t have a good enough story or set pieces to compensate for the under-exploited central mechanic.

The Conduit
Yet another Wii title that was supposed to bring some proper gaming to the array of pets and ponies that clog the Wii shelves. Unlike the awful Madworld, The Conduit did at least try to be a proper game rather than a string of gratuitous violence and bad jokes strung together with Wii-mote flailing. While we give it credit for that, alas, it still disappoints even more than Madworld did simply because developers High Voltage had made such explicit promises to provide the Wii with a hardcore game comparable to those found on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Instead we got an ok shooter with an all-seeing-eye device that wasn’t interesting enough to lift the game above the average. We hoped for a shooter to compare with the best on the market, we got a shooter that wasn’t even the best on the console.

Assassins Creed
See this guy? Follow him. Sit near him for a bit. Eavesdrop.Bored yet? Ok, you can kill him. Now do exactly the same thing another eight times. That pretty much sums up the tedium of the first Assassin’s Creed game, but the disappointment is less in the tedium and more in the obvious yet unmet potential. The environments are stunning and the parkour action exhilarating, yet instead of revelling in them between tedious stalk-and-kills we’re restrained by the need to avoid detection by every medieval lawman in the holy land, resulting in a game that unfolds some very enjoyable mechanics then makes you ignore them whilst plodding through olive groves on a donkey. Pah!

Alone In The Dark
It’s easy to see why expectations were so high for Alone In The Dark: The series that pretty much created the survival horror genre adding an open world design to its existing blend of exploring and puzzle solving, plus what promised to be the most lifelike fire propagation physics ever seen in a game, and ones that would be part of the gameplay rather than just a showcase of programming abilities. It all sounds so good, but then you discover the open world exists primarily as a location for some tedious fetchquests, that the inventory system is so cack-handed that only the six-fingered pianist from ‘Gattaca’ would actually have a hope of making a petrol bomb that could exploit those aforementioned fire physics, and traversing the gameworld often involves attempting to drive the undriveable, sometimes against the clock.

Enter The Matrix
This was my first PS2 game. For me, the first game of an entirely new console generation. It should have showcased all power and prowess of all that new processing oomph and expanded memory in a jaw dropping display of good looks and gameplay depth revealed by way of spectacular setpieces. I vaguely recall running through a nondescript gas-filled postroom. There might have been some slow-motion. Seriously, Grand Theft Auto III it wasn’t. Of course, mediocrity doesn’t necessarily make a game a letdown, but Enter The Matrix came out as part of the enormous push for the Matrix sequels, which included animated movies, comic books and an awful lot of frankly embarrassing hype about the intellectual lineage of a film series that features Temeura Morrisson battling robotic squid. If you’re going to make out like you’re a merging of Ghost In The Shell, Jean Baudrillard and The Invisibles, then you need to back it up, and this really didn’t.

Bayonetta
It was strange enough when Bayonetta came out early in 2010 and started picking up review scores like 9/10, 95%, 5/5 etc, but now it’s 2011 and if the numerous end of year awards lists are anything to go by, even 14 months isn’t enough to qualify as critical distance. This pile of tosh is still gathering plaudits the way Colonel Ghaddafi acquires bullet-holed oil refineries. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat it: breadth is not the same as depth. 50 bajillion combos is not the same as 20 or 30 really good ones. Camp dialogue is not the same as arch dialogue. But being treated like witless drooling horndog who’ll abandon all critical faculties when confronted with a flash of digital arsecheek by the people you’ve just given forty quid to? That’s the same as being insulted, and this tiresome button masher will insult you repeatedly.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Review: Marvel vs Capcom 3

Marvel vs. Capcom 2 strikes me as an emotionally polarizing game in the sense that its fans seemingly loved it and its makers seemingly despised working on it. You’d have to loathe the action-packed, explosion-fueled anime violence-fest fighting game you were developing to have included such grating lounge jazz music and the carnival motif stage. That game rather haphazardly threw just about every other set of character sprites from all of the Versus games with no regard to resolution quality or balance. The end result was something of a cluttered, convoluted mess that fans still made themselves play for over a decade.

Despite the dreadful-on-all-fronts audio and how only 3-5 characters functioned on a competitive level (with one being a giant purple robot), people still loved the frantic, super fast, motor-skills-pushing action. And even if you’re the kind of person that thinks Evo is a Super Nintendo RPG about dolphins with razorblades, the game still had the appeal of letting you pit together comic book hero dream teams in a violent cartoon deathmatch. Want to see Wolverine match wits from the mummy from Darkstalkers? If you didn’t before, it’s because your childhood was deprived of Darkstalkers and for that, I feel sorry for you.

Proving that tenacity pays off sooner or later, the people who have spent the last decade lavishly and begrudgingly playing Marvel vs. Capcom 2 have been rewarded with a sequel developed by people that actually seem to enjoy the work they put into it. In fact, it seems like the folks who made Marvel vs. Capcom 3 seem to like that game for some of the wrong reasons. Within the training menu screen, there is a remix of the last game’s “Take you for a ride” theme song. The Sentinel not only makes a return, but returns in its purple form, complete with “strike a dramatic finger poke pose and summon mini-sentinels” super attack. The game’s new announcer has repeatedly threatened to take me for a ride. I don’t think these are the aspects of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 that people look back upon with admiration. Though the parts of that game that people do admirably look back upon fondly are still very present.

You still assemble teams of three heroes to battle someone else’s team of three heroes. The heroes can still throw fireballs the size of the laser blast that destroyed Alderaan. Your teammates can still make appearances in battle to insert their own sets of Alderann-blasting lasers. There are still air combos that garner more hits than most video game user reviews. Shuma Gorath is slated to be downloadable content. So yeah, everything you like about Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is very much present.

The 36 character roster consists of both popular favorites and my personal favorites. You’ll get your Spidermans and Wolverines and Ryus and Dantes and such. But then the game impresses you with unlikely surprises like recent comic book leather freak X-23 or Viewtiful Joe (of Viewtiful Joe and Viewtiful Joe 2 fame). There isn’t an Amingo in the bunch, as nearly every character seems to make sense within the setting.

The characters have similar enough input command sets (almost everything is a quarter-circle motion) as to not make any individual character too inaccessible, but each one feels distinct enough to not be labeled the cheap imitation of a Street Fighter character. Super Skrull fights in a way that you’d expect Super Skrull to fight (which is to say that he could handedly wipe out the Fantastic Four unless they used the power of teamwork to overcome.) MODOK fights in the way that you’d expect MODOK to fight (which is to say that he doesn’t fight well).
Likewise, the controls have been worked in a way to reduce the amount of memorization needed to figure out a character.

Punches and kicks have been stripped down to three different attack strength buttons and a single “launch the sucker in the air” button. Basic combos tend to be executed by rolling through buttons from weak to strong, and thus the intimidation of learning elaborate ten-button sequences is gone. I’d consider myself something of an intermediate-level player, someone who’s competent enough to not mash the pretty buttons and hope for flashy things to happen, so Marvel vs Capcom 3 is perfect for someone of my play level.

Really, the biggest issue I found with the game is that it the purple Sentinel extends his giant mechanical middle finger at beginners. There is no tutorial to explain the various controls and gameplay systems. I didn’t even learn how to tag in and out my partners until a chance finger slip. I’ve been teaching a friend of mine the basics of Street Fighter 4 for about a month now. We played a single session of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and the rapid pace of which Wolverine darted around the screen slashing fools was so overwhelming that she swore off the game after a single round. I’ve since been trying to ease her into concepts like Hyper Combos and chain air combos. It’s a slow process, and I wish the game would do this stuff for me.

Likewise, the game does little to teach players how to up their game to that proverbial next level. The “Mission” mode is similar to the one in Street Fighter 4 in that it gives the player a set combo to learn, but doesn’t present an option to let the AI demonstrate the very combo. Mind you, the internet YouTubiverse does an adequate enough job of covering that base, but You Tube will only do so much to help you at a competitive level. People playing this game online right now are good…really good. Really good as in, they’ll air combo you while eating a bologna and Swiss cheese sandwich good.

I don’t know how imbalanced the game really is, but it seems from my experience that the only recurring character is Albert Wesker (which could have more to do with the competitive scene relating to a trenchcoat-wearing creeper than anything else) so that’s enough of a step up from the Sentinel/Storm/Magneto days of past.
It feels like a lot of the online woes from the game’s launch have been ironed out. You can comfortably search for a ranked game and wind up finding it, a problem that plagued the game early on. And it seems as though the game looks specifically for players of similar win/loss records, and thus there comes a point where you’ll find players of similar expertise (and the occasional Wesker-fueled thrashing). While Super Street Fighter 4 has more robust online options, there’s enough here to last until the inevitable Super Marvel vs. Capcom 3. It’s nice that the option to look for online matches while you play Arcade mode is back, and it’s hilarious how impossible it is to finish a single Arcade mode match without a New Challenger interrupting the proceedings.

About the Arcade Mode; it’s a fighting game arcade mode. You fight computer-controlled opponents of underwhelming intelligence, then you fight a visually impressive but intellectually underwhelming battle with Galactus, then you get two screens and some text’s worth of an ending. I shamefully wasted a lot of time unlocking all of the endings and I can tell you that there are three kinds; “good guy admirably saves the day”, “bad guy is going to take over the world” and “some witty rib on the character”. I would say that you should go out of your way to see how Deadpool, Spider-Man and Hagger’s journey ends, and not too many other characters.
Honestly, I think the best part of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is simply how it allows me to never have to play Marvel vs. Capcom 2 again. Here is a game with a very strong visual consistency (which is to say that you are consistently bombarded with giant laser blasts that look awesome) and a soundtrack that doesn’t have any god-awful jazz music.

Sure, the Sentinel is still kind of way-too-powerful, but this game’s Sentinel seems to exist as a parody of the Marvel vs. Capcom 2 Sentinel, and I’m cool with that. So I think this game works great for people like me that want a version of smarter, more tolerable Marvel vs. Capcom 2. This is a very fast, very energized and exciting can of whoop ass and very different from the current sect of fighting games on the market.

Friday, March 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...

Xbox 360 to outsell Wii

Looks like the Xbox 360 is set to swipe the annual sales crown from Nintendo's Wii. According to analysts, the 360 will have sold more in the year ending March 2011. MCV says this would be the first time the Wii had been outsold in the US.

More woes for the Wii

Further adding to Nintendo's misery, an article on CVG says that a new survey shows that 48% of respondents are leaving their console to gather dust. The report by myvouchercodes.co.uk said that 29% had lost interest in the machine, while 22% has switched to Microsoft Kinect or PlayStation Move.

PS3 finally gets an MMO
Free Realms, the first free MMO for a console, is coming soon to the PS3, says Kotaku. By the end of March you should be able to download the game, customise your character and spend hours exploring the vast gaming world.

GTA V casting call
Finally the much anticipated follow up to GTA IV may be a step closer after a series of job ads emerged for cast members. MCV reports some of the GTA V characters include: "wise cracking FBI agent" Mitch Hayes, "creepy white trash hillbilly" Clyde, "Welsh monk/cult leader/yoga teacher" Brother Adam, "swinger and Californian divorcee" Mrs Bell, "weed evangelist" Ediie, "fat, FPS playing gamer" Kevin De Silva and "Armenian car dealer and moneylender" Harut Vartanyan".

Black Ops is best selling game
According to VG24/7, Call of Duty Black Ops is the best selling game ever with 13.7m sold in the US alone. It's said to be the top-selling game every month since it was released in November!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gaming franchises: are the Halos slipping?

Our consoles are currently graced by a number of what could be described as Triple A titles. Games that have written themselves into the folklore of our gaming World and are as big a part of the fabric of this generation as the consoles that drive them.

From the moment the next installment of one of these eagerly anticipated games is announced the excitement within the gaming community takes hold, and it keeps a vice like grip until, upon release the now deliriously giddy community descend en masse to grab their own piece of gaming's newest Holy Grail.
But, how many, if any, of these gaming giants still warrant the sort of adoration they have bestowed upon them? Well, lets take a look at some of these monster franchises and see how they stand up.

Call of Duty
I’ll get the ball rolling with the phenomenon that is CoD. Big name games don’t come bigger than this hulking beast and you can 100% guarantee that for months after the latest incarnation is released your friends list will be dominated by it. So the big question, is CoD worthy of such devotion? Well, i’d say it probably is…..just. For me the series peaked at CoD4 : Modern Warfare and has been on the decline ever since. The main problem now with the CoD franchise is the wow factor has all but evaporated. Maybe number 4 spoilt us with it’s stunning single player campaign and fresh approach to the multi-player - an approach, I hasten to add, that has kept me personally looking to CoD3 for my multiplayer action, but it seemed to sit well with the majority of players out there.

Now the whole series has become a jaded shadow of it’s former glorious self, the single player campaigns we’ve been dealt since CoD 4 have been forgettable at best and godawful at worst, while the once lauded multiplayer now has the ability to become very old very fast. The maps seem uninspired, and the gameplay can induce deja-vu within seconds. But somehow I think the game is not yet beyond redemption, it’s going to take something special to bring it back to it’s shining best, a single player story that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the epic from CoD4 or a complete overhaul of the multiplayer with an array of big ideas and grand maps to have us drooling over it once more. So Call of Duty 6 is closing on a cliffhanger, our hero is dangling over the precipice on a frayed rope, will they make it or plunge to a, not necessarily, untimely death. Tune in later this year for all the answers.

Halo

On November 15, 2001 a game hit the shelves that placed its developers Bungie on a pedestal, and rightly so.
The game was Halo: Combat Evolved, the one true killer app for Microsoft's original Xbox and a benchmark title for all modern day FPS games. Halo raised the bar for the shooter genre with it’s fast fluid gameplay, lush graphics and iconic Hero. Unfortunately for us gamers Bungie also thought Halo: CE was something special. So much so that they decided the best move would be to release Halo:CE again and again and again. In fact, Bungie have given us a virtually identical gaming experience no less than five times now. Halo 2 can be forgiven of course as it offered us a fantastic multiplayer experience, an experience that was still being enjoyed by gamers up to the point the old Xbox servers closed last year.

But in much the same way as when you sit down to watch an episode of Little Britain, with Halo games you know exactly what you’re going to get. The scenes may change ever so slightly or, as in Halo: Reach, the main protagonist may differ but the outcome is always the same. Reach threw us into the action as part of a squad. Wow, now that’s a new direction. How did it play? Erm…exactly the same as the last four Halo games actually. So I hope we’ve seen the last of this franchise, as wonderful as it was when Master Chief first entered our lives he’s now more than ready to spend his retirement pruning the roses and sucking on Werthers Originals.

FIFA
I want a job on the development team working on FIFA games. Imagine it. Stroll into the office ready to start work on the next thrilling addition to the FIFA stable and stroll out 20 minutes later having decided the best course of action is to release last year's FIFA again. Oh, plus a few minor little additions... you can now be the goalkeeper if you want….great. What will FIFA12 bring? Play the game as the physio? I know let us drive the team coach to the games, wait outside while they play and then drop them back off again. I’m being harsh, I know I am. At it’s core FIFA is still the closest you can get to real football on console. It’s a quite brilliant game, I just question whether we need a whole new full price game where surely an update would have done the job just as well.

So what keeps us buying FIFA games year in year out? Updated squads?…Hmm maybe. Fresh and exciting gameplay changes?…..Not often. Nope, I’d say what keeps us buying FIFA is that all our friends bloody well buy FIFA so if we want to continue to compete against them or alongside them we need the latest incarnation. It’s not that FIFA 11 plays any differently to FIFA 10 or 9, it’s just that it’s there. FIFA does deserve the praise it gets; it’s a superb example of how football games should play and has been king of the football hill for some time now - just please give us gamers £40 worth of new game, rather than the £2.99 we currently get plus a massive chunk of last year's edition. Worthy of our praise?….The game itself, yes. The annual updates, not in the slightest.

Gears of War

One of the Xbox 360's flagship titles, Gears of War made a huge impact.
When Marcus Fenix and his Gears team first came into our lives, all revving chainsaws and kerbstomps, it was a breath of fresh air. Graphically, it gave gamers a glimpse at just how much power was lurking beneath the 360's cool exterior and sonically, it was immense and the gameplay itself was a joy to behold. In Marcus Fenix another iconic figure was born, a character who has become as much a figurehead for Microsoft's console as Halo's Master Chief.

The game brought us some innovation in its cover system and adding a chainsaw to the standard assault rifle was inspired, while the story wasn’t anything to write home about but it still served to drive the game on beautifully. Gears 2 built upon the foundations laid by it’s older brother and raised the bar even further, giving us some utterly wonderful moments of gaming goodness, moments that will live in the memory long after the game is gathering dust on the shelf. The multiplayer side of Gears of War gave us a number of team-based games, that if i’m brutally honest I never really got on with. The problem here for me was that as a latecomer to the original Gears party I’d end up spending 45 minutes of an hour long online session watching other people play, sat miserable in my corner of the ‘Death Room'.

Gears 3 is almost upon us, our senses have already been assaulted by trailers and our anticipation levels have reached 11 with the news of the online beta test, and I must admit I am truly excited about where this franchise is going to take us next. At this moment in time I feel Gears of War is more than worthy of the adulation and praise it reaps from gamers, that could change in the coming months, but Epic would have to really drop the ball for that to happen. I guess time will tell but my optimism is high.

Uncharted

I must be honest here, when it comes to gaming I lean ever so slightly towards my 360. But, when it comes to games, nothing has given me the satisfaction and exhilaration of playing through the first two chapters in the Uncharted franchise. If there is such a thing as a perfect game - and i’m not convinced - then it surely exists within the realms of Nathan Drake's World. Uncharted games take you on a journey that you’ll never forget, capable of captivating an audience from the get go and throwing in a whole Indiana Jones Trilogy worth of excitement, drama, comedy, action and suspense. Couple this with some of the most beautiful graphics yet to have graced console gaming and some perfectly divine gameplay and the recipe for a gaming legend is all in place. Even the online multiplayer that was brought into the franchise via Uncharted 2 is wonderfully addictive, any worries I’d had about it being tacked on were forgotten within a couple of minutes of the action.

If any of the games previous are worthy of the pedestals they currently sit on then Uncharted is beyond all worthiness, it might as well set up home there as it’s in no danger of slipping any time soon. Uncharted is without doubt a game that deserves the hordes massing at midnight outside game stores worldwide to get their mitts on a copy. I know I’ll be there. In fact, I might just start queuing now.

I decided to only cover these five franchises as it began to feel like I was working on a novel. There are others of note though. Killzone still holds its place firmly in the deserved of praise list as do Mass Effect and Battlefield, while the GTA and Fable series I believe have slipped considerably. Only my opinions of course but as my wife keeps telling me…I’m entitled to them…..or did she say I can keep them to myself???